Baseball

Mandel’s Musings: Cashman/Yankees Playing a Dangerous Game with Aaron Judge, Yankees Fans, and the 2022 Season

by Scott Mandel

The incompetent general manager of the New York Yankees, Brian Cashman, is playing a very dangerous negotiating game with Yankees fans, Aaron Judge’s career trajectory and marketability, and with his own career as Yankees G.M. when he publicly announced the Yankees offer to Aaron Judge.

Judge, the star outfielder and best player on the sports’ most famous franchise, is also one of the two or three faces of the sport across the country along with Mike Trout and I don’t know who else. Suffice to say, Aaron Judge has been a very popular guy and a great player.

Judge and his agent chose to reject the Yankees last offer which, according to Cashman was for $234.5 million over eight years. Broken down, the Yankees deal would’ve Included paying him the $21 million arbitration request he asked for instead of $18 million, then adding seven years and $213.5 million, an average annual value (AAV) of $30.5 million for the last seven. That contract would have taken Judge, who turns 30 later this month, to age 36, a number when most baseball players, especially sluggers, are past their prime (unless your name is Barry Bonds or Nelson Cruz, who may have their own little secrets to longevity and peak performance).

An excellent offer, on surface, isn’t it?

Except that Aaron Judge, one of the faces of the sport, is also one of the top five players in the game. Even if you want to debate it, there is nobody who would not put him in the top 10.

So, Aaron Judge turned it down. Unless the Yankees up the offer, he will become a free agent on the day this current season ends. He is gambling $213.5 million he will stay healthy and productive this season then go into free agency when 30 major league teams will have the opportunity to sign him. If Judge plays very well this year, there will be a bidding war amongst the Yankees and a handful of other wealthy clubs (sorry Kansas City and Oakland) for his services.

But, by sharing the Yankees offer to his most popular and best player with the public, Brian Cashman has not only disrespected Aaron Judge but has turned a large chunk of the Yankees fan base against Judge. Last night, the right fielder struck out with two men on base, late in the game. Instead of the typical booing, borne out of the frustration of not getting the runs in, there were thousands of additional “editorial” comments ringing through Yankee Stadium related to Judge turning down the big money deal.

“Come on, you bum. $30 million ain’t enough money for ya?”

The Bronx crowd was, all of a sudden, getting on their favorite son. Being booed is part of being an athlete, especially in NYC, but Aaron Judge has never been booed. He is just one of those guys who is likable (and marketable) in every way. And accessible.

Brian Cashman and Yankees management (we see you hiding behind Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner) is the reason. They are strategically instigating a fan reversal against their best player and asset in order to cover their own rear ends, which has not won a championship in 12 years. It’s going to backfire, significantly.

We are at game number four of the 2022 season. The Aaron Judge story has been the biggest and most constant one coming out of Yankee land. It’s going to be distracting for the team, distracting for the player, and distracting for the 50,000 fans who show up for the games. The manager, Aaron Boone, had to take questions from the press after the game last night. Not about the game but about Aaron Judge’s contract. This could turn into a season killer.

Cashman and Steinbrenner, have they been doing for the last decade plus, have screwed up again.

Below is a graph of the top 20 highest paid players in baseball, on an AAV basis. Where would you place Aaron Judge on this list? Judge and his agents clearly put his AAV above that of the Yankees offer, which is $29.5 million per year for seven years.

Below is our list of the 20 largest contracts in MLB history by average annual value (AAV). Please note that if a player was already under contract and signed an extension, only the new money counts.  For our list of the 20 largest contracts in total dollars, click here.

1.  Max Scherzer, Mets: $43,333,333.33.  Free agent contract signed November 2021

t-2.  Mike Trout, Angels: $36,000,000.  Extension signed March 2019

t-2.  Gerrit Cole, Yankees: $36,000,000.  Free agent contract signed December 2019

4.  Carlos Correa, Twins: $35,100,000.  Free agent contract signed March 2022

t-5.  Stephen Strasburg, Nationals: $35,000,000.  Free agent contract signed December 2019

t-5.  Anthony Rendon, Angels: $35,000,000.  Free agent contract signed December 2019

7.  Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks: $34,416,667.  Free agent contract signed December 2015

8.  Francisco Lindor, Mets: $34.1MM.  Extension signed March 2021

9.  Trevor Bauer, Dodgers: $34,000,000.  Free agent contract signed February 2021

10.  Nolan Arenado, Rockies: $33,428,571.  Extension signed February 2019

11.  Justin Verlander, Astros: $33,000,000.  Extension signed March 2019

12.  Corey Seager, Rangers: $32,500,000.  Free agent contract signed November 2021

t-13.  Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: $31,000,000.  Extension signed March 2014

t-13.  David Price, Red Sox: $31,000,000.  Free agent contract signed December 2015

t-13.  Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: $31,000,000.  Extension signed November 2018

16.  Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: $30,714,286.  Extension signed January 2014

17.  Mookie Betts, Dodgers: $30,416,667.  Extension signed July 2020

18.  Jose Altuve, Astros: $30,200,000.  Extension signed March 2018

19.  Jacob deGrom, Mets: $30,125,000.  Extension signed March 2019

t-20.  Manny Machado, Padres: $30,000,000.  Free agent contract signed February 2019

t-20.  Max Scherzer, Nationals: $30,000,000.  Free agent contract signed January 2015

Mandel’s Musings: Hey Baseball Negotiators, Go *^)& Yourselves!! Don’t Ruin My Summer!!

By Scott Mandel

I have a short but sweet message for baseball’s negotiators.

Go fuck yourselves.

Your combination of incompetence and planned delay of the 2022 baseball season is preventing me from watching Max Scherzer pitch for his latest team, the Mets.

I want to see how the 21-year old outfielder, Jared Kelenic, purportedly the next Mike Trout, does in year two with Seattle.

This snarky commissioner, Rob Manfred, was seen practicing his golf swing seconds before shutting down negotiations and announcing baseball season would not start on time.

I’m curious whether the Giants can repeat their unbelievable 2021 season.

‘I need to see if Mike Trout will get injured again, railroading a Hall of Fame career, or will Trout get back after another injury-dominated 2021 season to play the game as if he was born to play baseball.

I don’t know where free agent shortstop Carlos Correa will end up but I’d like to find out.

I can’t wait to see If there is a courageous manager/pitching coach who will train his starters to go 6 2/3, every night. C’mon Buck, I know that’s you.

I want baseball to dispense with the stupid analytics-based shift and let legitimate base hits go through to the outfield.

I’m tired of the best players in the game hitting .240 with 38 home runs and 190 strikeouts in 400 at bats.

I want to see if corner outfield arms become legitimate throwing arms again because they’ve sucked for years. It’s embarrassing to watch major league left fielders, playing shallow, barely reach home plate trying to nail the runner tagging up at third or scoring from second base on a bloop single.

I want to see speed and small ball come back to the game. You’ve got kids out there who can hit the ball 500 miles and steal 40 bases. Let them steal bases and go 1st to 3rd.

We liked watching Rickey Henderson play baseball. There’s a couple a dozen bigger, faster, stronger Rickey’s out there, now, with that skill-set. Let the talent flow. This is not a game of specialization.

And, most important of all, stop making the game so mechanical and unattractive to young fans, I mean, very young fans, like I was when I first started watching baseball at age 5 with my old man. Make 5-year olds love the game, instead of their video games. Make it fun for them to get outside with their little baseball gloves and wiffle ball bats and learn about baseball.

Otherwise, you may think you are negotiating to save your own bank account but you are actually ruining the game’s popularity with the very folks who pay your exorbitant salaries. The FANS. And their PARENTS. Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Short-term thinking.

So baseball negotiators, if this upcoming 2022 season doesn’t give me 162 games, go fuck yourselves. I mean it, go fuck yourselves and while you’re at it, fire that snarky asshole of a commissioner with the horrible golf swing.

Sincerely,

Your Struggling to Remain a Fan but Still Passionate About It

Mets Begin Fade from Post-Season Contention as Cardinals Sweep Series

by SCOTT MANDEL

Cardinals Mets Baseball
St. Louis Cardinals’ Harrison Bader (48) celebrates with Paul Goldschmidt (46) after Goldschmidt hit a home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)Frank Franklin II

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.”

Mandel’s Musings: Yankees Lose Six Players to Covid Protocol – Not All Were Vaccinated

by Scott Mandel

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.

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.

Steve Cohen, Lifelong Mets Fan (and Billionaire) Takes Over Franchise

By Scott Mandel

Today, for Mets fans, begins what they hope and believe will be viewed someday, as the golden age of the New York Mets Baseball Club. With the transfer of ownership of the team from the Wilpon/Katz families to one Steve Cohen, a financial whiz on Wall Street with a net worth of $14 billion, Mets fans are rejoicing as if Cohen had just defeated Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States.

In a wide-ranging Zoom press conference this afternoon, Cohen laid out his plans for the franchise. If his words and goals are true, the Mets, struggling for decades as an undercapitalized professional sports team in the city of New York, will no longer be limited by the silly question, “So, how much will that cost us?”

Cohen is now the richest owner in the sport, possibly the wealthiest individual owner of a sports franchise in the world. If Cohen wants to sign a free agent because he believes that player is the difference between winning a championship or not, he will not get out-bid.

New Mets owner, Steve Cohen during today’s zoom conference

“If I don’t win a World Series in the next three to five years — I’d like to make it sooner — but if I don’t do that, I would consider that slightly disappointing,” Cohen said. “We are a major market team” that “should have a budget commensurate with that.”

“I’m essentially doing this for the fans,” Cohen said. “When I really thought about this, I can make millions of people happy. What an incredible opportunity that is. That’s how I’m thinking about this. I’m not trying to make money here … it’s really about building something great, building something for the fans, winning and I just find this an amazing opportunity and I’m so excited for it.”

Astros’ Cheating Won’t be Easily Forgotten by Major Leaguers

By Scott Mandel

Baseball is burning. Opposing players are pummeling the Houston Astros as the fallout from their cheating scandal refuses to dissipate, and fans are frothing for vengeance after the players involved were spared from discipline by the league. Commissioner Rob Manfred is trying to wrap his arms around it all only for the anarchy to keep expanding. Every day is something new. Saturday, it was bad tattoos. Sunday, the commissioner will talk and try to explain how this all unfolded on his watch. Monday, if it came out that the Astros used furtive earpieces or Bluetooth buzzers or a robust artificial-intelligence operation to gain an advantage, it would surprise absolutely nobody.

There is no order. Just pure, distilled chaos.

It’s not going away any time soon. This is a reality every person involved should learn to understand sooner than later. Not because this is some media creation that thirsts for the mother’s milk of controversy and giddily gawks at the overnight transformation of Major League Baseball from the league of Charlie Chaplins into a full-flavored copy of the NBA, where no sacred cows exist. No, this is now about something much more primal: survival.

The tentacles of baseball’s cheating scandal are long and abundant. All of the Astros players, past and present. Their front-office members. Their opponents. Manfred and his associates. The MLB Players Association. Team owners. Fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch. Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran, both of whom lost managing jobs on account of their involvement. It is a wide swath of characters with competing interests and self-preservation in mind, each with a story to tell. Already those involved are trying to game the timing, to ensure that their version does not find itself lost amid the morass of takes.

The prevailing narrative Saturday came from Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, who originally declined comment through a team spokesman and then granted a wild interview to MLB Network in which he told the reigning National League MVP to “shut the f— up,” reiterated that the Astros’ 2017 World Series title was not won through ill-gotten gains and introduced the world to Jose Altuve ‘s unfortunate collarbone tattoo.

A quick backgrounder, since that last sentence sounds like a Mad Lib: Los Angeles Dodgers star Cody Bellinger unloaded on the Astros on Friday, a day after the beginning of their mea culpa tour turned disastrous, by saying Altuve “stole” the American League MVP award from New York Yankees star Aaron Judge in 2017 and that the Astros “stole the ring from us” by beating the Dodgers for the 2017 championship. Bellinger was the latest player to flout the game’s long-held omertà and unload a shotgun into the barrel in which the Astros swim these days. Dragging the Astros is the sport within a sport.

Correa decided to come clean with something that data compiled by an Astros fan named Tony Adams had seemed to show: Altuve did not like when his teammates banged on a trash can adjacent to the dugout to alert him of the coming pitch type. Adams logged more than 8,000 pitches from home games during the 2017 season and heard trash-can bangs on 13.2%. Of the 866 pitches to Altuve, there were bangs on only 24 — 2.8%.

MLB punishes Astros

“For [Bellinger] to go out there and defame Jose Altuve’s name like that — it doesn’t sit right with me,” Correa said. “‘Cause the man plays the game clean.”

Knowing the data, and having been told by another player on the 2017 Astros that Altuve did not engage regularly in the trash-can scheme, I had asked him Thursday to explain why.

“I know your question,” Altuve said. “I really appreciate your question. It’s good. But I want to take this as a team. I think we’re all at the same level right now of feeling the way we’re feeling about doing what we did. I’m not here to say you and you more than you and you. We’re a team. I’m not saying this today. I always say this is a team. And if we are something, we all are something.”

For all of the fallout from that day, particularly after owner Jim Crane’s contraction of foot-in-mouth disease, Altuve’s answer stood out as not just sincere but commendable — the sort of thing other players in baseball in different circumstances would respect and the rare instance, in this whole scandal, of someone not obviously acting in his own self-interest. Altuve could have absolved himself. He could have gone full Shaggy. He instead subjected himself to the fusillade of condemnation that would come.

Because it’s true: He didn’t stop it. No one did. And that’s a question the players lobbing grenades at the Astros ought to ask themselves, too. If they truly plumb the depths of their self-awareness, how many believe they would not simply be conscientious objectors as the data suggests Altuve was but entirely blow up a scheme being used by a team barreling toward 101 wins?

Social media vs. MLB

How the internet helped crack the Astros’ sign-stealing case.

What the Astros did was clearly cheating, clearly wrong, clearly a black mark on their championship. It is also naïve to think less hubristic versions of sign-stealing weren’t going on elsewhere and that had those been accelerated the players would have put a stop to them.

The defiance emanating from the Astros’ clubhouse, even after their apologies, is coated in this let-he-who-is-without-sin-cast-stones mentality. Correa besmirched Bellinger for suggesting Houston was cheating for the last three years, saying it occurred only in 2017. Ken Rosenthal immediately corrected him, saying Manfred’s report said the Astros had stolen signs in 2018, too. Correa danced around this, landing ultimately on a judgment of Bellinger daring to vilify Altuve and the Astros: “With me, that doesn’t sit right.”

The problem, of course, is that the moment the Astros decided to start banging on trash cans, they forfeited any sort of moral authority that allows them to differentiate between right and wrong. They might as well have KICK ME stitched across the backs of their jerseys instead of their last names, and it’s because of their collective action. So as satisfying as it feels to try and speak into existence this notion that their championship isn’t irreparably tainted, to drop F-bombs on the haters, to stand up for Altuve like Altuve stood up for him and the rest of the Astros who did think enough of the trash-can scheme to use it for months, it runs the risk of sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Correa’s defense stretched past aggrieved and into comedic during his denial that the Astros had used wearable buzzers during the 2019 season to signal the coming pitch. Bellinger and Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez had questioned why, after Altuve hit a walk-off home run to send the Astros to the World Series this year, he did not want his jersey ripped off. First, Correa said, Altuve’s wife had expressed discomfort with it when he and Kemp unclothed Altuve earlier in the season.

“The second reason that he don’t want me to talk about this, but I’m gonna say it, is because he’s got an unfinished tattoo on his collarbone, right here, that, honestly, looked terrible,” Correa said. “It was a bad tattoo. And he didn’t want nobody to see it. He didn’t want to show it at all.”

A bad tattoo. Welcome to baseball in 2020.

There’s more to come. There’s always more with this Astros story that drips out with all the efficiency of a broken faucet. The coming days, weeks, months will teem with more details, explanations, facts. Manfred’s report looks more and more like a Polaroid that needs to be shaken. The manifold characters all have their versions of the story to tell. There are reputations to be salvaged, careers to be saved, sides to be taken. This is the just the beginning.

It’s never too early to start or join a fantasy baseball league for the 2020 season.

The next step is Manfred addressing the media Sunday in North Port, Fla. As commissioner, the sport’s well-being ultimately falls on him. And while the ultimate fallout of the scandal is unclear — is it, in a perverse way, actually driving interest to baseball, or does the stench of misconduct have the opposite effect? — he must answer for his role in it reaching this point, where a new fire smolders every day.

And rest assured, potential arson abounds. What will Beltran, slimed and smeared, say when he speaks out? How will MLB, if at all, punish the Boston Red Sox, whom they’re investigating for stealing signs in 2018? What will the punishment for Cora, who is expected to be suspended, be? How can the MLBPA preach solidarity when its members attack one another on the daily? Will others join former MLB pitcher Mike Bolsinger and a daily fantasy player in filing lawsuits against the Astros and the league? Who will speak out next? What will he say?

In a week, spring-training games begin. The Astros will play the Washington Nationals, who beat them in the 2019 World Series. Across the sport, eyes will be trained on the game to see if Nationals pitchers intentionally throw at Astros hitters. Houston manager Dusty Baker tried to preempt any retaliation Saturday, asking MLB to do all it can to prevent premeditated beanings. It only served to draw the ire of those who see the inevitability of what is to come: a pitcher who dots an Astros hitter with a fastball to send a message that what they did is indefensible will receive a longer suspension than any of the Astros did for their indefensible acts.

Yes, baseball is burning, and nobody — not the Astros, not Manfred, not the rest of the players — can stop it. Only time will slow it, and until then, as baseball’s cheating scandal metastasizes, as it dirties all it touches, remember that what caused it in the first place will guide its direction going forward: the choices of individuals looking out for themselves.

Mets’ Pete Alonso Named National League Rookie of the Year

by Scott Mandel

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso tonight was named the 2019 National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).

Alonso received 29 of 30 first-place votes and garnered 148 of a possible 150 voting points. He is the second Mets position player (also, Darryl Strawberry in 1983) and sixth player in club history overall to win the award. Four Mets pitchers have also been named Rookie of the Year: Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Dwight Gooden (1984) and Jacob deGrom (2014).

The 24-year-old put together one of the greatest offensive seasons ever by a rookie, setting numerous Mets and major league records. Most notably, he became the first Met and first rookie to lead the majors outright in home runs, swatting a major league rookie-record 53 blasts.

“I am so grateful to the Baseball Writers’ Association for their recognition,” Alonso said. “I’m truly blessed and humbled to be part of a group of some of the best to ever play the game. This season was the most special time I’ve ever had on a baseball field. I’m extremely thankful to the Mets for allowing me the opportunity to prove myself at the major league level this year. I can’t wait to get back to work in the spring and make a push for the postseason in 2020.”

Alonso was a three-time NL Rookie of the Month honoree, taking home the award in April, June and September. The only other players to win three NL Rookie of the Month awards are Jason Bay (2004) and Juan Soto (2018).

In addition to setting Mets club marks for home runs, extra-base hits (85) and total bases (348) in his first major league season, Alonso also established club rookie records for hits (155), RBI (120), runs scored (103), at-bats (597), plate appearances (693), games played (161), slugging percentage (.583), OBP (.358) and OPS (.941). He tied the club rookie record with 72 walks.

“Pete’s historic rookie season created great memories and thrilled Mets fans all year,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said. “We are very proud of how he represents our fans, teammates and the organization on and off the field with his energy, enthusiasm and passion.”

Alonso became the first rookie position player in Mets history to be named to the NL All-Star team. He was the first rookie to win the Home Run Derby outright as well, defeating fellow rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the final round. In the Midsummer Classic, he went 1-2 with a two-run single and a stolen base, making him the first rookie with multiple RBI in an All-Star Game.

“Pete was a joy to watch all season long for our passionate fans as well as all of us in the organization,” Mets Executive Vice President and General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “We’re so proud to see his on-field results match his tireless work ethic.”

Alonso led the NL in extra-base hits, was second in total bases, third in RBI, sixth in slugging and seventh in OPS. He led all qualified rookies in games played, hits, home runs, RBI, OPS, extra-base hits, runs scored, walks, total bases and slugging percentage.

Alonso will receive the award during the 97th Annual New York Baseball Writers’ Dinner on January 25, 2020 at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel.

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Mets Needed Thor to Come Up Big, Now Tonight is a Must-Win Game

By Scott Mandel – SportsReporters.com

Mets’ Noah Syndergaard on nightmarish start: ‘When you get your s— kicked in like that, it gives you a different perspective’

Noah reflects on bad start00:01:40Noah Syndergaard reflected on the 10-7 loss and said he let the team down and got his “S— kicked in”.

The Mets needed Noah Syndergaard at his best on Wednesday in a crucial game against the Cubs, but the right-hander’s outing was nothing but disastrous. 

Syndergaard, who had dazzled in his eight second half starts, was the victim of some poor defense and poor luck in the Cubs’ six-run first, but he also left hittable pitches in the zone. 

Jason Heyward went down swinging to start the inning, but things quickly went downhill from there. After Nicholas Castellanos was hit by a pitch and Kris Bryantsingled, Javier Baez grounded a slow-roller to short that Amed Rosario underhanded into shallow center field, allowing the first run to score.

Then, after a Kyle Schwarber RBI double, Addison Russell blooped a perfectly placed single into right, scoring two more. Ian Happ then provided the final two runs of the inning with an opposite-field two run homer.

Things didn’t get any better for Syndergaard in the second. Bryant lifted what should have been an easy out to shallow left, but miscommunication between Rosario and J.D. Davis allowed the ball to drop in for a double.

Two batters later, Schwarber slammed the Cubs’ second home run of the night, extending the Cubs’ lead to 8-1.

Through the first two innings, Syndergaard allowed eight runs (seven earned), on seven hits. He walked three and struck out two.

“They capitalized on every mistake that I made, and it just seemed like tonight when it rains it pours,” Syndergaard said after the game. “When you get your sh-t kicked in like that, it gives you a different perspective on things. Definitely a terrible feeling. I’m disappointed in myself. I had the opportunity to go out there and do something big tonight, and I let the team down.”

Mickey Callaway stuck with Syndergaard in the third, but with two away, Castellanos blasted the Cubs’ third home run, ballooning the lead to 10-1. The Mets did battle back to make things interesting, but they ultimately lost the game 10-7, dropping further back in the Wild Card race.

“Obviously a few plays weren’t made,” said Callaway afterwards. “He battled, left some pitches middle, they made him pay. They didn’t miss the ones that were big mistakes. Some of the credit has to go to their offense. It’s still hard to hit even when a Noah Syndergaard makes mistakes. But he just couldn’t get into rhythm. Off night for him. He’s been pitching so well, and we know that our rotation is one of our strengths. Just an off night for one of our starters.”

Syndergaard’s night ended after three innings, allowing a career-worst 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits. It was the first time in his career that he allowed three home runs in a start. 

by Scott Mandel

The Mets are for real.

The naysayers were saying a couple of weeks ago, when the Mets were on their hot streak after the All-Star break that this team would come back to earth when the schedule became “challenging,” The naysayers said the Mets are cleaning up against the dregs of the National League but wait till they have to play the Braves in Atlanta, and the Indians.

Last night at Citi Field, the Mets, who are 25-10 since the All-Star game was played, faced a Cleveland team that has been streaking up the American League Central division, to within two games of the Minnesota Twins. They are also managed by Terry Francona, considered by many to be the best in the game at his job. Francona’s teams are always prepared and play to their talent level, often times, above it.

“It’s August, but playoffs started today,” J.D. Davis said after the Mets started a critical nine-game homestand in style with a 9-2 win over the Indians on Tuesday at Citi Field.

But, last night, it was the Mets, considered sellers just a month ago as their season had spiraled out of control as they fell 11 games out of a wild card playoff slot, dominated the Francona-led Indians in ways they are not used to being dominated.

In front of a wildly excited home crowd, Davis and Michael Conforto hit home runs, Steven Matz spun another solid start into the seventh inning giving up just three hits to a potent lineup, and Joe Panic and Todd Frazier chipped in as the veteran role players they are to lead the Mets to a 9-2 win, beating Indians ace, Shane Bieber.

The Mets are playing the game on all cylinders, right now, with their entire roster contributing to this playoff push.

“To beat Shane Bieber in the first game to start off this homestand, to energize the fans, put ourselves in a good position to win a series against these guys is what we set out to do today,” Conforto said.

“They’re relentless,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said, referring to the Mets hitters. “Timely hitting, a key big hit usually starts it — Conforto’s homer — and then you get to their lesser pitchers and you add on. That’s what good teams do.”

Matz continued his metamorphosis since he was banished to the bullpen in June for 10 days. He’s been a different pitcher. In 16 starts, he had a 4.95 ERA and was 5-6 before his temporary stint in the bullpen. In his last seven starts, he has a 2.81 ERA and a 3-1 record. Not bad for a fifth starter.

“You just learn from your mistakes early on,” Matz said. “It’s not anything crazy. Instead of trying to feel for what I have out there, it’s being a little more aggressive in the first inning, and that’s helped.”

The Mets moved to a season-high five games over .500, at 65-60, and closed to within two games of the Chicago Cubs for the second wild card position. They remain three games behind the Nationals for the first wild card.

The season schedule favors the Mets in a big way. Of their remaining 37 games, 25 are home games. The Mets, with the second best home record in baseball at 35-21, have more home games remaining than any other team in the sport. They like their chances to use these games to make the post-season.

“We have to have that playoff mentality, that playoff atmosphere that every game counts,” J.D. Davis said. “Especially [with] the hole that we dug ourselves into. I think the elephant in the room is we got a lot of home games, but a lot of games against playoff teams. This is our playoff time. We have to play well and we have to come out ready to play.”

Say it, Mets fans. Your team is officially in a pennant race, with 37 games left to the season. Who woulda thunk it, just a month ago?