With all due respect for the great sportswriters of the often-silly New York Post, my personal hero of that sports department is the non-politically correct, opinionated, tough-talking (but fair), worldly Staten Island-based buddy of mine, Phil Mushnick.
Phil used to be the “media guy” for the Post’s sports section, the television and radio columnist commenting and critiquing on how sports is covered by the talking heads as well as the print media. But, he’s spreading his wings a bit lately and has been producing a column with broader strokes. You may not always agree with what Phil says, but he says it with great aplomb, and doesn’t really care if you don’t agree with him. He’s authentic. The real deal.
A few years ago, Phil wrote a scathing piece about the hip-hop superstar, Jay Z, who had become a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. Mushnick had a problem with Mr. Z’s misogynistic, racist lyrics in his songs, those lyrics providing Mr. Z with the funds to become an NBA owner. The firestorm of negative reaction from the public was enormous. How dare a writer reproduce the actual lyrics of “99 Problems,” the big song off of Mr. Z’s 2004 album entitled, The Black Album, as Mushnick chose to do, an action backed by his editors at the Post.
I wrote a piece defending Mr. Mushnick’s right to express his opinion, and how correct his opinion about Mr. Z’s lyrics was. Phil’s point of view, among many, was that Jay Z making millions of dollars on the back of misogyny and racist messaging ran counter to the mission of the National Basketball Association. Or, it should have run counter. Phil questioned which way the NBA was going to attract fans if someone like Jay Z could become a high-profile team owner.
Mushnick got my number from a mutual colleague and called me at home, thanking me for the support at a time his career might have been hanging by a thread. Ten years later, Mushnick is still at it, and that’s a good thing.
Here’s a recent piece of Mushnick’s. We’d love to hear what you think.
So, I’m watching the White Sox vs. Astros American League Division Series game this afternoon. It was Game 2 of the best-of-five series. I was even complimenting (in my own head) how great this MLB Network broadcast team was handling the play-by-play and the color commentary.
In the booth today were three great professionals who not only know what they’re doing, they have unparalelled passions for the game of baseball.
The play-by-play man was the veteran Bob Costas, among the most knowledgeable and erudite of broadcasters in the country. Alongside Costas was Buck Showalter, long-time major league manager and Jim Kaat, former star pitcher in the big leagues and a veteran behind the mic since his retirement 38 years ago at age 44 from a near-Hall of Fame career during which he won 283 games.
In the very first inning, White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada, a Cuban native, was up to bat when Showalter recalled knowing Moncada had the potential to be a superstar when he first scouted him, as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Moncada eventually signed with the Red Sox and was later traded to Chicago. Showalter said, “After the first time I saw him in the big leagues against us, I looked around the Oriole dugout, like, ‘Do we have one of those?'” said Showalter.
Kaat replied: “Get a 40-acre field full of them,” a remark that reminded some viewers of the unfilled promise by the U.S. government that the newly freed slaves would receive parcels of land as recompense for serving as slaves, an offer that was later rescinded by the acknowledged racist president in the post-Civil War era, Andrew Johnson.
At that moment, I took a deep gulp, convinced I had certainly mis-heard Kaat’s comment.
“Kitty,” who has been one of the most respected and well-liked members of the baseball community for 60 years, could not possibly have said what I thought he said in comparing the muscular physique of Moncada to the slaves of the 1860s in America.
As it turned out, Kaat had said what I thought I heard. In the fifth inning, he read an apology, on air, saying, “I want to add a little break here. In fact, I need to read this right now, because earlier in the game when Yoán Moncada was at the plate in an attempt to compliment the great player, I used a poor choice of words that resulted in a sensitive, hurtful remark. And I’m sorry.”
And that was the end of that.
But, in this era of cancel culture, I have a suspicion Jim Kaat will be paying a deeper price for his mistake. Will the MLB Network fire him in the next day or two or chalk it up to human error, a simple mistake from a professional who has never been known to make racist references.
My guess is, it’s bye bye, Jim “Kitty” Kaat. He will be sent out, cancelled into retirement. And that would be sad. Even if we are living in an era of cancel culture. Sometimes, even decent people make big and small mistakes.
You know that old cliche and ongoing excuse losing teams always invoke – We lost a game tonight we should have won? The Giants have been using that old saw for almost a decade, now, and 2021 looks like more of the same. Other excuses/detachments from reality are also expressed as:
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I saw some good things out there.
We have a lot to build on.
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…..
The Giants don’t have a pass rush. They don’t have an aggressive defensive secondary, they lost their best offensive lineman and captain for the season with a gruesome broken leg from a unit considered by many as the worst in the National Football League.
When does basketball season start?
The Redskins, eh, I mean, the WTF’s or is, WFT’s, controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The backup quarterback for the “Team,” Taylor Heineke, shredded the Giants for 325 yards passing, with the gift of all the time he had in the pocket to play pitch and catch with his receivers.
The final score was 30-29 on a field goal with zero seconds on the clock but who cares. The football season is over for the Giants and Giants fans. The pressure cooker in New York is going to be turned up on Giants head coach, Joe Judge, whose teams have shown more than a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot with the kinds of mistakes professsionals are not supposed to be making. Dropped touchdown passes in the end zone, offsides penalties with seconds to go and the Giants up by two points moving the Team five yards closer to field goal range.
It’s terrible to have any hopes or dreams if you are a Giants fan. Pretty soon, John Mara will call Giants general manager, Dave Gettleman to send him into his retirement. Gettleman has had three seasons to improve the offensive line and, the team’s record. He hasn’t been successful at either objective.
NEW YORK – The Cardinals arrived from the Midwest late Sunday after a few solid performances back home, some strong starring roles that got lauded regionally, and had three days in the city, right as Broadway reopened, to seize what they craved — their big break.
Written out of the playoff script just weeks ago and stuck in the wings as, at most, an extra, they made the most of their moment on the Citi stage and put on a show.
They made it here. Can they make it anywhere?
The Cardinals, suddenly the scene-stealers in this wild-card dramedy, hit four home runs Wednesday, Lars Nootbaar robbed another at the wall, and they completed a sweep of the New York Mets, nailing their lines in an 11-4 victory at Citi Field. The series sweep was a first for the Cardinals at the Mets’ current ballpark and first in Queens since 2001. With Cincinnati’s loss Wednesday to Pittsburgh, the Cardinals moved 1 ½ games ahead of the receding Reds for the National League’s second wild-card berth.
The Cardinals leave the Big City in their best position in the standings in months and playing their best baseball of the year.
“Ultimately, the best baseball is when you’re doing it all together,” manager Mike Shildt said. “You’re getting the hitting, consistent at-bats. You’re getting the quality pitching. It’s just about doing it all together at one time.”
The Cardinals started fast Wednesday and finished strong. They had a five-run lead before starter Jon Lester threw a pitch, and by the end of the eighth the Cardinals had stacked on four solo homers. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, who have both mused about having their swings in harmony at some point this season, hit a homer each in the seventh inning. Harrison Bader, back home and relishing every moment, hit a solo homer in the fourth. After touching home, he gave high fives to his mother, father, and Uncle Joseph, who were seated by the on-deck circle.
Edmundo Sosa put an exclamation point on his eventful evening with a homer in the eighth for the Cardinals’ 25th run of their three-day visit.
The Cardinals’ shortstop had a role in almost every scene. He singled in the first inning and his break from the base on Bader’s floating single to center allowed him to score from first. In the second, he stole a hit with a back-to-home plate catch, cradled fundamentally with two hands, of course. He committed an error later and upstaged that with a homer. Sosa played with such exuberance, and his multi-tasking personified how the Cardinals played all series. They smothered the Mets defensively. They added on late.
“He’s representing that mindset of keep going, let’s keep going, you can’t have enough,” Shildt said. “You’ve got to be hungry.”
If Sosa had a night, the leading players in the lineup had an awakening.
Only a few times in cameos, if ever, have the Cardinals had Arenado, Goldschmidt, and Tyler O’Neill performing at the same time. O’Neill’s recent move in the lineup, sandwiched now between Arenado and Goldschmidt, has animated the offense — but mostly in solo acts. Arenado provided the key runs that downed the Reds. O’Neill brought home the winning run in consecutive games against the Dodgers. They held a concert in Queens. The Cardinals’ trio went 16-for-40 (.400) with four homers. They had six RBIs in the first eight innings Wednesday to give them a dozen for the series, and they scored 13 of the Cardinals’ 25 runs. With Sosa playing his part and the lineup driving the plot, the twist came in the seventh.
The bottom of that inning was a snapshot of the series and the impossible time the Mets had getting by, over, around, or through the Cardinals’ defense.
Veteran lefty Andrew Miller did not retire a batter, and while that invited the Mets’ best chance to erase the Cardinals’ hearty lead it also put in motion the moment that would drop the curtain on it. Shildt pulled Miller in favor of his fireman T. J. McFarland, and to get a second inning from him swapped rookies in right field. Nootbaar entered and Dylan Carlson exited — simply because he made the final out of the previous inning. What dramatic timing.
Two batters and two outs later, the Mets still had two runners on and two-time Home Run Derby champ Pete Alonso at the plate. Alonso connected for a high, soaring ball out toward right field.
At the start of each series, coach Willie McGee takes the outfielders on a tour of the outfield wall — throwing balls up against the fences and padding to see the caroms. They trace the angles of the warning track, and here Nootbaar was again, racing back toward the deepest facet in right of Citi Field’s irregular outfield wall.
“It gave us a couple of more feet of breathing room,” Nootbaar said. “That’s always nice.”
He used it.
He needed it.
Nootbaar jumped at the wall and pulled what would have been a three-run homer back for a third out. Bader hopped in center as if making the catch with Nootbaar. Arenado jumped into the air at third once he saw Nootbaar had it. The third baseman then watched the replay on the scoreboard — and if he squinted he could see that Nootbaar had his tongue out as he made the leaping catch.
“We have little league pictures … with my tongue out,” Nootbaar said. “I could never find a good action shot of myself. So that’s always been that thing. It’s natural. I wish I didn’t do it.”
Before they got the glove, the Cardinals had plenty of bat. Not wasting a New York minute, the Cardinals were three batters into the game when O’Neill delivered a two-run double. That lead grew to 5-0 by the time Lester (6-6) took the mound, and it gave him license to be aggressive in the strike zone. In six innings, the lefty did not walk a batter and used the Mets’ eagerness against them for seven strikeouts in earning his 199th career win. For the fifth consecutive start, Lester allowed two or fewer earned runs, and while the Mets nicked him for two homers, the lack of walks meant they never had a rally going. All three runs came in different innings.
Three runs almost came on one swing.
Javier Baez, Lester’s teammate for years at Wrigley Field, took a mighty swing in the fifth and sent Lester’s pitch to straightaway center. With two on, the ball seemed to have the distance to score three. It traveled about 406 feet and would have if not for Bader standing and jumping at the wall near where it reads, “408 feet.” The runs, the catches, the sweep, the wild-card lead left only one more thing for the Cardinals to do in their visit to New York.
They had to get a slice.
Bader was chomping on two as he came into the postgame interview.
“New York style pizza is delicious. New York style pizza — it’s just good for the soul,” Bader said, folding two slices together, cheese to cheese. “You earn the sandwich.”
According to national baseball columnist, Bob Nightengale, the Dodgers payroll is now above $300 million since adding Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals to their mix of players.
The Nationals, who handed those two star players to the Dodgers for four unproven prospects, now has a payroll of $128.16 million, less than half the Dodgers.
In baseball, there is a luxury tax which kicks in at $210 million for team payrolls. It was installed a quarter century ago to achieve a semblance of competitive balance between large market teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Neuvo York Jankees vs. the small-market teams like the Kansas City Royals and the Fred Wilpon-owned New York Mets which could never compete, financially with the big guys. (The Mets have since become a big market team with new ownership).
The Dodgers have the highest payroll in the sport, by far, at $275 million, or, $65 million over the salary threshold. This means the Dodgers will be paying a luxury tax in the range of 40% of that $65 million or, an additional $26 million, pushing the Dodgers overall payroll expense north of $300 million.
The Kansas City Royals’ payroll is $127 million. The Miami Marlins payroll is $58 million, a fifth of the Dodgers. Even the Yankees, who somehow convinced the Cubs and the Rangers to pay the remaining 2021 salaries of the recently acquired Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo (not the dead gangster) have not exceeded the $210 million salary threshold, as they regularly used to do when George Steinbrenner owned the team.
Enough said about parity in major league baseball under its current commissioner, Rob Manfred. It’s more like a parody.
It seems the Dodgers, a baseball brand name with an unusually spotty ownership history, are more interested in purchasing a World Series championship than competing for it on the field. The franchise was owned by the Ebbets Family during the early Brooklyn years and sold to the O’Malley family in 1945, which ran a steady and stable ship for 53 years. Walter O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles in 1958, holding onto ownership until 1998, when his son, Peter, who inherited the team upon his father’s death, sold the Dodgers to Rupert Murdoch, a criminal in so many ways, and his Fox Entertainment Group. Fox Sports, using the Dodgers games as tv programming for their stations, held onto the team for only 5 years before they sold it to another crook, Frank McCourt, who was forced by the Lords of Baseball to divest himself of the Dodgers in 2012 because of nefarious business acts, like embezzlement of the team’s earnings for personal gain. Now, something called Guggenheim Baseball Management (not a lot of flare in that name, is there?) which bought the team out of bankruptcy court owns the famous franchise, which has been run like a circus since the mid-90s. Guggenheim consists of such esteemed baseball people as Billie Jean King, Magic Johnson, Peter Guber (the movie producer), Stan Kasten (former NBA executive with the Atlanta Hawks), and some money guys. Tommy LaSorda must be spinning in his grave.
They may not know anything about baseball but apparently, they know how to buy players for a stretch run.
But, that’s okay, These geniuses at Guggenheim are paying an alleged serial rapist, Trevor Bauer, a star pitcher they acquired in free agency before this season, a whopping $32 million not to pitch because sometimes, bad people and bad organizations get what they deserve.
Matt Harvey is enjoying a bit of a renaissance so far in the second half of the season.
The Orioles’ veteran right-hander has not allowed a run in two starts (12 innings) since the All-Star break. Harvey also managed consecutive scoreless starts for the first time since August 2015.
“Obviously, everybody knows when it is and it’s there, but really, my job is to go out and prepare for each start and see what happens,” Harvey said. “I haven’t put up very good numbers other than the previous two and to really be a target or whatnot, but at the end of the day those decisions aren’t mine and I can’t really worry about them.
“My job is to go out and win ball games for the Orioles, and luckily I’ve been able to do that the last two, and I’m going to continue to do that from here on out.”
On July 18, Harvey (4-10) threw six scoreless innings of three-hit ball with two strikeouts and one walk, throwing 48 strikes with 26 balls in a 5-0 win against the Kansas City Royals. He earned his first win since May 1 at Oakland, snapping a 12-start winless skid during which he went 0-9 with a 10.20 ERA (51 earned runs in 45 innings).
Harvey earned a bear-hug from Orioles manager Brandon Hyde after he left the game. Hyde knows Harvey has the mechanics to have dominant outings, but he is still experiencing some challenges from being limited as a pitcher during the last couple of seasons.
“There was a hug in the dugout just because he wants to go deep in the game and he wants to get back to the form that he was in 2012-2015, and he works extremely hard at it,” Hyde said. “He’s disappointed with not going deeper in games and the fourth and fifth inning issues he’s kind of had. I think a lot of that is physical, too. The year layoff, the weird year he had the year before, injury stuff. But for him to get an extended period of rest and go out and really keep his pitch count down, for me that’s the huge thing with our starters.
Harvey’s next start was equally impressive.
Harvey threw six scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory against the Washington Nationals July 24. He allowed just one hit with four strikeouts and no walks.
Harvey’s ERA has fallen from 7.70 on July 24 to 6.65 as of July 27.
He is becoming increasingly more comfortable on the mound.
“I think the last time I had this many starts was 2018 in a continuous year, so it was definitely good to physically have the break,” Havey said. “And then obviously when you feel like it’s so close and you go out and one inning here and there gets the best of you, it gets a little mentally draining, as well.
“So, I think definitely being able to just kind of flip the switch and just really pretend I’m starting fresh and trying to concentrate on being out there every fifth, sixth, seventh day, whatever it is with all these off-days, and just trying to win as many games as I can for this team and really just kind of start over and flush what happened in the first half.”
Harvey signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Orioles prior to the season. There was speculation that the Orioles would try to flip him at the trade deadline if he thrived in his new environment.
The idea seemed far-fetched just two weeks ago, but now Harvey could have some value.
After this up and down season, he’s prepared for anything.
“My job is to go out and prepare for each start and see what happens,” Harvey said. “I haven’t put up very good numbers, except for the previous two starts, to really be a target. But at the end of the day, those decisions aren’t mine, so I can’t worry about them.”
Of the six New York Yankees players who have just been diagnosed with Covid, evidently, not all of them were vaccinated. We cannot find out who they are because of privacy laws concerning personal health disclosure but, suffice to say, the rules of the road in 2021 regarding concern for the health of one’s co-workers’ health, if not for their own, have changed. Viruses do that sort of thing, especially the deadly kind.
On Thursday, general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that the Yankees had three positive cases and three that were pending. All six were later confirmed to be positive. The six players — Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes, Wandy Peralta, Aaron Judge, Kyle Higashioka, and Gio Urshela — were placed on the COVID-19 list.
These athletes live together every day, on the field and in the sweaty, steamy locker rooms. They travel together and they go out for food and a few pops together after games. It says here, the audacity of not doing whatever they can to protect their teammates is grounds for some form of dismissal from the organization. It may be permanent or temporary but it should be designed to help the team retain its ability to field its players for the games that fans are paying exorbitant amounts of hard-earned cash to attend. And, to watch the best players play, not minor leaguers.
Those players who have chosen to not be vaccinated, for whatever personal and legitimate reasons they may have, should no longer be allowed in the locker room or on the field. They should continue to get paid for some period of time, but not for the length of their entire contracts. The courts can handle that one. But, giving these potential carriers and spreaders of a deadly virus means they cannot be allowed anywhere near their place of work until they decide to get vaccinated. I would think this topic is creating enough acrimony within teams, especially among those who are supporting families consisting of elderly and young people, for it to be a regular debate.
It is time for management and player’s association leaders to get together on a policy. In all professional sports. And, that goes for amateur athletics, as well.
Freedom is a right but it comes with rules, too. You cannot drive a car without being licensed. You cannot travel overseas without a passport. You should not be able to enter public spaces without a mask or, proof of vaccination, Otherwise, you are a public safety risk.
Rules matter. So does basic consideration and concern for fellow human beings in times of collective danger.
As if the Mets pitching staff hasn’t suffered enough injuries to last an entire season, another shock to their increasingly fragile system took place tonight at Citi Field when number two starter, Marcus Stroman had to leave the game against the Atlanta Braves in the second inning with what the team was calling “left hip soreness.”
Stroman lasted just the first frame before leaving three pitches into the second inning. He asked to remain in the game, but was clearly uncomfortable, unable to follow through on his warm-up pitches, and told manager Luis Rojas he may have hyperextended something in his hip after a pitch in the second inning.
“He wanted to stay in, but I think it was wise to come out,” Rojas said after their sixth setback in eight games. “Just be cautious. You can hurt something else.”
As for the game itself, which almost took on a secondary role after Stroman’s sudden departure, the Mets could only manage two hits in being shut out by Charlie Morton and the Braves, 3-0. One of the hits, an infield single, was by a pinch-hitter, Jared Eickhoff, who also happens to be a new pitcher added to the staff. Rojas also was forced to use another pitcher, starter David Peterson, as a pinch-hitter, a sure sign the roster was significantly short-handed tonight.
For the first-place Mets, still four games in ahead of the second-place Brave, they are already perilously close to a developing dire pitching scenario after losing their fifth starter, lefthanded Joey Lucchesi, to Tommy John surgery and two key relievers, Jeurys Famiglia, with a hip impingement and Robert Gsellman, a torn latissimus dorsi muscle (two months) over the past two days. If Stroman is out for an extended time, it could be devastating.
“We have to wait and see,” Rojas said of Stroman, who got tested for strength and range of motion in his hip after the game. “I think we may have caught it before it was something worse.”
Stroman was replaced by Yennsy Diaz. Right. Who is Yennsy Diaz seems a fair follow-up question.
Diaz, after giving up a walk and a single, served up a meatball fastball on a platter to Dansby Swanson, who deposited the ball into the left centerfield stands for a three-run home run in the top of the third. Braves up, 3-0.
The bullpen came in for the Mets and essentially shut down the Braves’ potent office. Diaz gave up that homer but after that, Drew Smith, Adam Loup, and Trevor May closed the door on any more runs. Unfortunately, the Mets offense couldn’t figure out Carl Morton, who struck out 11 Mets in his seven inning stint. It was as feeble a display from the Mets bats as we’ve seen all season.
As for the Mets pitching staff, it looks like they may have to make a transaction or two if they want to stay in the post-season race.
Noah Syndergaard isn’t expected back until September following a setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Carlos Carrasco is still not throwing off a mound, and has yet to appear in a game this season after tearing his right hamstring during spring training. Jordan Yamamoto is only tossing lightly, and isn’t eligible to come off the 60-day IL until late July due to a shoulder injury. Prospect Thomas Szapucki has a 7.11 ERA for Syracuse this month.
And, of course, everyone associated with this team takes a deep breath every time Jacob deGrom takes his turn on the mound.
“I think, realistically, we’re still in June. It’s not even July yet, so we’re still looking at a market that, the prices tend to be pretty high until you get closer to that deadline,” acting general manager Zack Scott said before the game. “I’m on the phone a lot still trying to see what is out there, what’s available to us and figure out what the acquisition costs are for any players.”
Veteran Jerad Eickhoff threw four shutout innings in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader, giving the Mets one possible option moving forward. They claimed hard-throwing right-hander Robert Stock off waivers from the Cubs on Tuesday and sent him to Syracuse. A reliever, Stock could at least help fill the void left by Gsellman.
Acting G.M. Scott will have to work his magic, above his pay grade, to save this Mets season from spiraling out of control.
Whatever one thinks of Yankees catcher, Gary Sanchez’ career ups and downs, his statistical averages, taken over a 162-game season, are comparable to the numbers put up by the greatest catchers in baseball history.
Sanchez’s career productivity has had as many ups and downs as the Yankee Stadium VIP elevator, except with that elevator, you know what floor you’re going to by pushing the buttons. With Sanchez, over his seven year career, no one in American League history has reached 100 home runs for a career as fast as Sanchez did, reaching that spectacular achievement in his 355th career game. He has hit over 30 home runs twice, made two All-Star teams before his 26th birthday, and is considered to have the best throwing arm among catchers in the sport.
More so, let’s look at how Sanchez compares to the game’s greatest offensive catchers over the past 75 years or so. Johnny Bench, considered the benchmark at the position over the past 50 years and a Hall of Famer, averaged 29 home runs, 103 runs batted in, and had an OPS of .817 over a 162-game schedule, a full season ofmajor league baseball. Yogi Berra, another great Hall of Fame receiver from the 1940s through 1965, averaged 27 homeres. and 109 rbi’s over 162 games, with an OPS of .830. These two players were the cream of the crop, at the catching position. How does Gary Sanchez compare? Over 162 games, Sanchez is averaging 43 home runs, 106 runs batted in, and has an OPS of .822. His production with a bat in his hand not only is equal to the greatest offensive catchers in the game’s history, it is exceeding those who came before him.
But, Sanchez has not had a perfect career, as his seasons hitting under .200 have also been marked by more strikeouts than hits in a given season as well as inconsistent defensive deficiencies behind the plate, struggling to block pitches in the dirt, frame strikes for his pitching staff, and lacking the “soft hands” found in the skill-set of top of the line defensive catchers, who tend to save more runs which leads to more wins.
His struggles have been so obvious that Yankee manager, Aaron Boone, inserted career backup, Kyle Higashioka, into the starting lineup during the playoffs last year, essentially taking Sanchez’s job during the most important time of the year, the post-season.
It has also led Yankee brass to wonder privately if it is time to move on from Gary Sanchez, especially the “bad” version of the player. The problem is, when Sanchez goes on one of his offensive tears, it can last a month or two and, he can literally carry this team on his shoulders with his offensive firepower.
Then, there are the times when his sheer talent teases Yankees brass and fans, alike, with majestic 450-foot home runs, solid defense and great throws down to second base catching runners trying to steal the base. The contrast between the two Sanchez’s is stark but, when he is performing at his optimal levels, he produces in a manner most long-time observers have not seen from baseball catchers over the last century or so.
After starting out this season, over the first month batting well below .200, the Yankees catcher has morphed into the younger Sanchez, who terrorized American League pitchers with his perfect home run swing and his ability to “barrel-up” pitches with solid contact. Over the past 25 games, dating back to the end of May, Sanchez is slashing .294/.345/.667 for an OPS of a whopping 1.012. And his .333/.391/.905 slash line in the last week has been crucial to the Yankees’ 5-1 record against the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics. Especially considering that both Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres are slumping.
There is constant chatter on sports talk radio and in the print media about the 28-year old Sanchez never reaching his full potential. Many have suggested, at this moment of his latest hitting streak, now is the time to trade him when his value is rising high, once again. That is a debate Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has been having with himself and with his staff for three years, since Sanchez began to falter badly, both offensively and defensively.
But, make no mistake, among major league catchers, past or present, very few have come close to the sort of offensive output Gary Sanchez has shown, over a full season.
All players tend to be a little streaky but the Yankees would love to see Gary even out or shorten some of those down periods during a typical season. The inside word has been about trying to get him to focus a little more, pitch by pitch (on both sides of the ball) than he has in the past.
And he’s only 28 years old. So, the debate rages on whether to stick with him or cut bait. It says here, Sanchez will hit 40 homers for another team if he’s traded. Why not let him do it in the Bronx.
It’s exclusive real estate in the NBA. You cannot just buy land on it, you have to earn it.
Tomorrow night, when the Brooklyn Nets take the floor in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, this will either turn Kevin Durant into a landowner in the rarified air of the mountain or, his legacy will remain, just another case of a great player who couldn’t push his injured or undermanned team across the finish line, like LeBron or Jordan or Bill Russell did.
If Durant somehow wins this semi-final series by carrying the supporting players on the Nets on his back to the next round without the injured James Harden and Kyrie Irving, it will be nothing short of miraculous. But for elite performers in sports, miracles are supposed to happen.
A series win vs. the Bucks and Durant can begin to pour the foundation on his piece of real estate, next to LeBron and Jordan and Russell. An NBA championship and he can permanently move into his “place” on the mountain of elites.
The Seattle Mariners won a baseball game last night over the Cleveland Indians. Who cares, right? Well, if it turns out that this game was a precursor for what baseball fans may be looking at for the next decade or more, New York Mets fans may end up caring more than they would like.
When they see how the Mariners won, with several contributions from former Mets prospects, Mets fans can only hope it will not bring on a terrible case of a disease specific to longtime fans of the Mets called FPTSD (Fregosi Post Traumatic Stress Disease).
Seattle received excellent starting pitching from one Chris Flexen, a 26-year old former Mets pitcher who mostly was unable to pitch past the second innings of games he started as a Met because of underwhelming velocity and poor command of his pitches, a deadly equation for a major league pitcher. Last night, Flexen pitched into the 6th inning allowing only five hits and one run. He improved his record as a reliable Mariner starting pitcher to 4-1, lowering his earned run average to 3.46 in seven starts for the Mariners. His stat line as a Met included a record of 3-11 and an earned run average of 8.07 in 27 games. In 68 innings pitched for the Mets, he allowed 91 hits. The light appears to have turned on for Flexen since leaving the Mets. Or, maybe it’s the coaching/confidence building Seattle offers that the Mets could not?
The game was saved by Rafael Montero, the former Met fireballer who was going to be the next Pedro Martinez, except he never developed confidence in his ability at the major league level, as a Met. Coincidence he has discovered it, elsewhere?
Sam Haggerty, Another highly rated Mets minor leaguer, has turned himself into a useful utility player in the majors who can play several positions. Haggerty went 2 for 3 last night, doubled, scored two runs, while playing right field.
Last but not least, the most frustrating event of all for Mets fans was the performance of outfielder, Jarred Kelenic, the 21-year old former Mets #1 draft choice in 2019 who was traded along with lefthanded starting pitcher Justin Dunn in exchange for the steroid-suspended Robinson Cano and erratic closer, Eduardo Diaz.
Kelenic started the second game of his big league career, going 3 for 4, with two doubles and a home run, driving in three runs, while leading off and playing left field. The precocious 21-year old is ranked as the second best prospect in the entire sport by Baseball America, the respected rating/scouting service, so his performance and projection of future performances of similar results are not a surprise. The kid is a five-tool player who can hit, hit for power, run, field, and throw at the highest levels. No surprise of his ability. What may be the bigger surprise is when the Mets decided they could acquire Cano, who was being paid $30 million dollars per year and Diaz ($10 million) for two very young and talented players, who also happened to be making the major league mininum salaries of $600,000 each.
The Mets’ loss may turn into baseball’s gain as the sport may be looking at its next superstar in Kelenic but that is little consolation for poor Mets fans. The previous Mets mgmt. team, led by Fred Wilpon, his son, and Brodie Van Waggenen, were not known for being the savviest of wheeler dealers. But these recent transactions, trading young players with potential stardom in front of them for a decade or more is going to lead to nightmares among their fan base.
Trading young Nolan Ryan for the over-the-hill Jim Fregosi in 1971, 50 years ago, left deep scars in the collective psyche of the Mets fan base. Those scars have been passed down generations. Mets fans certainly may not wish anything bad on young Jarred Kelenic but they also hope he doesn’t turn into the kind of Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan turned into. Deep down, though, Mets fans expect this kid to be baseball’s next big thing and have their noses rubbed in it with every great season the kid has. It’s just the way things are, around the Mets. They’re used to this.