Month: June 2021

Braves Shut Out Mets as Stroman Exits Game

By Scott Mandel

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.

Mets injuries: Stroman (hip), Conforto delayed, Lucchesi out | National |  dailyfreeman.com
Joey Lucchesi is out for the season and next season with Tommy John surgery

“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.

Yankees’ Gary Sanchez Swinging the Bat like the Sanchez of Old

By Scott Mandel

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.

Mandel’s Musings: Kevin Durant Can Enter Elite Territory If He Leads Nets to Series Win Over Bucks

by Scott Mandel

The mountain of elites.

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.

Kevin Durant puts on historic performance to lead Nets past Bucks in Game  5, 114-108 - NetsDaily
Nets coach Steve Nash hugs Durant after KD’s historic night in Brooklyn