Month: July 2019

Mets’ Matz Pitches First Complete Game Shutout of his Career, Five-hits Pirates

by Scott Mandel

Go ahead, Mets fans. You can dream a little more after tonight’s gem thrown by current number four pitcher in the Mets rotation, Steven Matz, as he pitched the first complete game shutout of his career, beating the Pirates on a masterful five-hitter, 3-0.

Matz may soon become the number two starter, behind Jacob deGrom if the Mets follow through on the rumors flying around this team they will soon be trading Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler by Wednesday’s trade deadline.

But, keep dreaming. Your Mets have now won nine of their last 13 games and four in a row. Their record is 49-55, just six games below .500, aka, mediocrity. They have passed two teams in the wild card race, with just four teams ahead of them. They are six games behind that last wild card slot and, as you may recall, that is not a number that cannot be overcome.

The Mets are viewed, especially by some in the media, as sellers instead of buyers as the trade deadline approaches but, the achilles heel of this team, its pitching, has righted itself since the All-Star break. In the 13 games since then, the Mets own the best E.R.A. in baseball, at 2.62. The bullpen, since 82-year old Phil Regan became the new pitching coach, has become nearly lockdown, with the exception of Jeurys Familia, who remains an important work in progress. All this has led to a 9-4 record, since the mid-summer break.

Mets manager, Mickey Callaway, doesn’t think they’re out of the race to the post-season yet, nor should he.

“I think we can get on a run, here,” said Callaway. “We’re pitching and we’re hitting and we are playing good baseball. Let’s just keep playing and see where it ends up. I like this team when it’s playing on all cylinders, as we imagined it in spring training.”

Matz pitched the most efficient game of his career, staying away from the full counts that have plagued him since he reached the majors. He finished off the Pirates in just 99 pitches.

“He was executing all four of his pitches,” Callaway said. “I thought his cutter/slider was the best I’ve ever seen. He was just tremendous in every way.”

After the game, Matz looked more relieved than usual.

“This is what I try to do every game,” Matz said of his first complete-game shutout as a pro, “so it was good to finally do it.”

Matz was backed by home runs from Michael Conforto, his 19th, and J.D. Davis, starting in left field with Dom Smith placed on the injured list with a foot issue.

Conforto blasted a homer into the second deck in right field

Matz also introduced a new pitch in his arsenal – a slow curve ball. His velocity on the pitch ranged from 78 to 82, and kept Pirates hitters off-balance. Perhaps, another influence of Phil Regan, or even Jason Vargas, today’s pitcher, who has mastered the technique of slow curve balls.

If Matz does move up to the number two slot in the Mets rotation, it will mean two things. The Mets have given up on the season, having traded their present pitching assets for futures. Or, that Matz has finally put together all of his potential and is realizing his talent.

Does it all change the front office’s thoughts about trades? That remains to be seen but, with this team finally playing in-synch with its talent, keep dreaming, Mets fans.

Football Giants’ Quarterback Battle Between Daniel Jones and Eli Manning Underway

By Michael Eisen


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Daniel Jones was standing at a podium answering questions from reporters today when Kurt Warner approached a Giants acquaintance and said, “he’s so much like Eli.”

“It’s amazing,” Warner said after Jones’ news conference had concluded. “Even some of the phrases he uses remind you of Eli (Manning). You talk about what you see on film and some of their mannerisms as players, but it’s crazy. You hear them talk and it’s like ‘Oh my gosh!’ These guys are like the same guy, it’s just Eli 15 years younger. It is fascinating. But again, not a bad guy to model yourself after, from a lot of different standpoints.” 

Warner, a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, is hardly the first observer to note that Jones, the quarterback chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft, is similar in comportment, demeanor and throwing motion to Manning, who is preparing for his 16th season as the team’s starter.

Jones is eventually expected to succeed Manning. That made Warner’s presence fraught with symbolism, because the Giants haven’t changed quarterbacks since 2004, when Manning, then a rookie, replaced Warner. The Giants were 5-4 but had lost two games in a row and three of their last four. Tom Coughlin, then in his first season as the Giants’ head coach, was looking to the future.

“I think Tom Coughlin’s approach was, ‘We’re not a great football team,’” said Warner, who visited the Giants’ training camp in his capacity as an NFL Network analyst. “That doesn’t mean something can’t happen, but is it better to kind of start the future and to start building and get our young quarterback ready for that run two years from now and three years from now. We got seven games under our belt that were rough games, but to be able to handle that and work through that no doubt sped up the curve for Eli so he was ready earlier, and obviously it played out well for their (two) championships.

“When Tom brought me in, he told me, ‘It’s not because Eli is better. It’s just because this is what we have to do.’ It wasn’t like every day I was going, ‘I’m better than Eli.’ That’s not the scenario here. I just have to accept it, and help where I can help, and compete where I can compete and hope I get another chance. I think that made it different. I give Tom so much credit, because he looked me in the eye and told me, ‘This is why. It’s not fair to you. You’ve got to deal with it.’”

Warner joined the Giants knowing he was holding the position until Manning was ready, and his stay here would almost certainly be short. The Manning/Jones situation is different, because the former is the greatest quarterback and arguably most popular player in franchise history. No one has played and won more games in a Giants uniform.

“All that stuff has to come into play,” Warner said. “…there’s a lot of dynamics, but I think there’s a lot more flexibility with this situation because of who Eli is and the ability to really kind of let this thing play out instead of sit there and look for the first opportunity to get Daniel – I don’t think the Giants are going to be doing that. I think it can help ease the situation a lot more than a lot of these situations where teams are just looking for that first opportunity to say, ‘Hey, let’s put him in.’”

Giants coach Pat Shurmur has not publicly specified how he will divide the quarterbacks’ training camp snaps.

Warner played six seasons for St. Louis before joining the Giants. He led the Rams to Super Bowl XXXIV, where he threw for 441 yards and two ‘;touchdowns and was named the game’s MVP in a victory against the Tennessee Titans. Two years later, Warner threw for 365 yards, but the Rams were upset by New England in Super Bowl XXXVI. After leaving the Giants, Warner began a five-year stint with the Arizona Cardinals that included a loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII in which he threw for 377 yards and three scores. Warner was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2017.

Jones has said several times that he is trying to learn all he can from Manning, which is likely one reason mentor and protégé often seem so similar. Warner said he and Manning had a different kind of relationship 15 years ago.

“The weird situation with me and Eli was, Eli had Peyton (another first overall draft choice who also won two Super Bowls), Eli had Archie (his father, who was an NFL quarterback for 13 seasons). So it was kind of a little bit different dynamic for me, because first of all, I didn’t want to jump in and be like ‘Hey Eli’ when he has these great minds and football players there to help him. And you remember Eli when he was a rookie. Very quiet. He didn’t say a whole lot. He was kind of cerebral and took it all in. More than anything, you just offer different things. You watch film together. But I didn’t push the envelope with him like I did with some of the other guys, just because I knew he had the resources. It was always like, ‘Hey, if you ever need anything from me, I’m more than happy to help you.’ But I’m also respectful of the idea that a phone call away from one of the greatest quarterbacks that ever played, or a dad that played in the league and that understands it as well. So a little different dynamic than I think a lot of guys when you have a veteran and a young guy.” 

Although he played just one abbreviated season with the Giants, Warner has always spoken fondly of his time here, and of Coughlin.

“I wanted to play as many games as I could, not to stay the starter for the Giants for the long term, but to parlay that into another opportunity for myself,” Warner said. “With Eli, you always want to be able to go out on your terms. You want to be able to dictate, and what you realize in this business is, you can have a bad half, you can have a bad game, you can have a couple of bad games. That doesn’t mean you can’t play anymore or you don’t turn it around and then all of a sudden you have a great season. That becomes the hard part. When you’re entrenched as the starter, you get the luxury to have a bad game, or bad season or whatever that is. When you’re a starter and there’s a guy right behind you, you don’t always get that luxury if you go through a (rough) period.”

Warner’s season in Giants blue gave him an understanding of how Manning and other veteran quarterbacks feel with a highly-touted youngster on their roster.

“It’s always hard,” Warner said. “No matter what, or no matter how confident you are, you understand the dynamics of the situation. When you’ve got an icon like Eli from this organization, that there’s a different factor there that goes into it. But when you’re the veteran guy, and you know there’s a guy behind you that’s eventually going to play, it was always one of those things where you had to fight not playing worried about making a mistake. Or getting tight and playing differently than you did before. Most guys are never going to tell you that. But it’s the way it is. You go, ‘How long is my leash? If I have a bad game, is that it? If I have a bad half, is that it?’ That becomes the hard dynamic. Go play. You’ve got to play your game and let it play out. If you don’t, you’re not going to hold the job for very long anyways.

”I don’t know how it plays out with an icon like Eli, as opposed to, for instance when Eli and I were together. I knew it was just a matter of time. So I’m trying to hold onto it for 16 games. That’s all I’m trying to do, because I know two years is going to be tough. But a lot of times, that’s the situation. You’re just going, ‘How many games can I get out of this?’ Almost to prove to somebody else that I can play, because chances of me getting this job and keeping it when they’ve got a guy behind me is slim to none.”

No one knows exactly how the Giants quarterback situation will develop in the coming months and years. But it will be very interesting to watch.

Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu was Baseball’s Best Free-Agent Signing in 2019

by Scott Mandel

DJ LeMahieu continues to be the very best free-agent signing in Major League Baseball, prior to this 2019 season.

With Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the two players considered the jewels of the free-agent market before this season, procuring record-breaking, practically-lifetime contracts that are virtually untradeable to another team because of their length and expense, it’s LeMahieu, as low-profile as a player could get, who is quietly leading the New York Yankees.

LeMahieu leads the American League in hitting, leads the Major Leagues in Runners in Scoring Position efficiency, and plays Gold Glove defense at three positions for the New York Yankees. And, his team is dominating the American League in ways they haven’t done so since their last championship season, 10 long years ago.

The two-year, $24 million contract LeMahieu signed with the Yankees is among the best deals Yanks’ G.M., Brian Cashman, has ever negotiated. And, when you compare his current production to that of Machado and Harper, LeMahieu is an absolute bargain, by 2019 standards.

Machado, who signed a 10-year, $300 million contract (repeat that to yourself a few times. I bet the astonishment doesn’t disappear) is hitting .268 along with an on-base pct. of .337 and a slugging pct. of .511. He’s hit 25 homers for the Padres and driven in 68 runs. Nothing to sneeze at, even at his $30 million annual salary.

Harper, 26 years old, procured himself, with the help of baseball’s super agent, Scott Boras, a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies, who are now stuck with him for the length of the contract, which has 12 !/2 years remaining on it. He’s hitting .258, with 17 homers and 70 r.b.i’s. Again, very good production, even if Harper has turned himself into a .250 hitter with an uppercut.

LeMahieu is clearly in the conversation for the Most Valuable Player award in the American League, where he never played previously. A career-long National Leaguer, for this player to come to a new franchise in a new league, facing pitchers he mostly had never seen before, his .338 batting average is astonishing. LeMahieu has 15 homers, 70 r.b.i’s, an on-base pct. of .383 and a slugging pct. of .528.

He’s outhitting those other guys by 70 and 80 points, respectively. He’s making 40% of Harper and Machado’s salaries. All he does is show up every day and quietly impacts the game on both sides of the ball. Suffice to say, the Yankees wouldn’t be leading the American League’s East Division by nine games if he wasn’t on the team.

Image result for dj lemahieu
LeMahieu has been the Yanks’ best clutch hitter this season

LeMahieu had another outstanding game, two nights ago, with three hits and a walk. He also showed his defensive versatility with fine plays at both third base and first base, after taking over for Luke Voit, who was hit in the face with a pitch in the fourth inning.

LeMahieu said he’s getting “more and more comfortable” at playing multiple positions.

“He made some special plays at first and a real good play at third,’’ manager Aaron Boone said after the Yankees beat the Rockies 11-5 on Saturday. “Wherever he goes, he plays it like a Gold Glover.”

Mets Star, Dwight Gooden Arrested Again for DUI

Report from the New York Post

Addled former Mets ace Dwight Gooden was arrested Monday night for driving under the influence after heading the wrong way down a one-way street in Newark, NJ — just weeks after another DUI bust involving cocaine, sources told The Post.

The legendary ex-pitcher known as “Doc” — who has been in and out of rehab for years for drug and alcohol addiction — was a mess when he was picked up near Ferry Street in the Ironbound section around 11:10 p.m., sources said.

“He’d pee’d himself,” a source said, adding that Gooden told cops at the scene that he was diabetic, although it’s unclear if he is.

Gooden was taken to University Hospital in Newark.

The incident was only the latest sad turn for the 1985 National League Cy Young Award winner, who led the Mets to their most recent World Series championship in 1986.

While battling his addictions, Gooden, 54, has had numerous brushes with the law along the way, including in 2010, when he crashed his car in Franklin Lakes, NJ, while under the influence — and driving his then-5-year-old son, Dylan, to school.

Gooden’s most recent previous bout with law enforcement occurred June 7, when he was nabbed by Holmdel, NJ, cops for allegedly driving erratically. Officers later found two small ziplock baggies in his car containing suspected cocaine.

The former pitching great’s trials with substance abuse thwarted his Hall of Fame dreams, which had been fueled by such stellar moments on the field as his no-hitter in 2000 while with the Yankees.

According to the website Celebrity Net Worth, Gooden has $200,000 to his name.

Jim Bouton, Star Pitcher of Yankees in Early 1960s, Dies at 80

by Scott Mandel

Saddened to learn of the passing of one of my favorites, Jim “Bulldog” Bouton, an excellent right-handed pitcher for the Yankees in the 60s. Bulldog, who came over the top on all of his pitches, always lost his cap on the follow-through after firing fastballs. He won 21 games in ’63 and 18 more the next season. 

Jim pitched a memorable game three in the 1963 World Series for the Yanks in ’63 in a duel against Don Drysdale of the Dodgers. Drysdale pitched a three-hit shutout in a 1-0 victory, Bouton giving up just four hits for the Yankees. The only run scored in the first inning on a walk, wild pitch and single by Tommy Davis that bounced off the pitching mound.

Bouton won both his starts in the 1964 World Series. He beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 with a complete-game six-hitter on Oct. 10 on a walk-off home run by Mickey Mantle, then won again on Oct. 14 at Busch Stadium, 8-3, backed by another Mantle homer and a Joe Pepitone grand slam.

Jim was a big-game pitcher but he will always be more famous for writing the best baseball book ever, Ball Four, which changed the sport and how it was covered, off the field, when he secretly chronicled his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots. The notion of what goes on in the clubhouse shall remain in the clubhouse was blown to bits by Bouton’s hilarious recollections of his Yankee years. Mickey Mantle, in particular, didn’t forgive Bulldog for many years for sharing Mickey’s late night escapades with the world. The Yankees never invited him back for Old-Timer’s Days. They should have. 

Jim Bouton

Rest in peace, Bulldog. Jim was 80 years old. Thanks for making a kid’s earliest years as a baseball fan exciting.