Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mets Are Not Sitting On The "Dock of the Bay" With Cuddyer

The Mets had quite the "off season day" yesterday.

Not only is Jacob deGrom named the National League Rookie of the Year (the first for the Mets in 30 years) but they sign a free agent that won't fall under the "here we go again" category.

You're gonna get your cynical Met fans who will never believe that the team ever makes a good signing, who will compare it to to every free agent bust from Jason Bay to Chris Young, but this one will be different for a number of reasons.

His numbers won't blow you away and you'll probably say that the Mets overpaid which brings us back to "here we go again", but this time, "here we go again" is finally, "here we go forward".

The Mets needed an outfield bat.

The Mets got an outfield bat that not only serves their short term purpose and enhances their offense with more than just numbers, but also leaves them one big move "short" of putting out a solid everyday lineup.

There are a lot of fans (like my longtime colleague Rich Mancuso who wrote this piece for New York Sports Examiner)


who will point to the fact that Cuddyer only played 49 games last season due to injuries.

For most of his 14-year career, Cuddyer has stayed on the field and I hear 'ya that he's 35 years old, but again, his impact will not be measured solely in numbers.

For a very long time, I've felt Cuddyer has been one of the most underrated players in baseball. He's a fundamentally sound player, and despite his high strikeout totals, he knows how to cut down his swing and get a run in from third with less than two out.

Cuddyer is a very dangerous hitter when he's ahead in the count and doesn't fail many times to take advantage of those situations.

Of course, the strikeouts rise when he's behind in the count, but he's a very good situational hitter, despite the "K's".

You slot Cuddyer into the five hole and he offers protection for Lucas Duda, especially against left handers who will have to throw a few more fastballs to avoid facing the righty,

Oh, did I forget to mention that he plays first-base and plays it pretty well (15 errors in 14 seasons) which offers some depth at that position.

What's notable here is that the front office bypassed the draft pick, signed a player who brings intangibles that have been lacking at CitiField in recent years, and completed a big step one of the off season blueprint.

"I think it's a big addition for us", David Wright told 3balls2strikes.blogspot.com "In my opinion he's one of the most underrated players in the game. He's won a batting title and his #s speak for themselves but he's a terrific competitor and a great guy. It's a perfect fit for us and I'm really pumped."

Now comes step two and that's finding a shortstop.

There has been some talk that the Mets are showing interest in Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki but I wouldn't go there.

You talk about not being able to stay on the field and Tulo is the "poster boy". He's also coming off major hip surgery.

Tulowitzki will earn $20 million dollars a year through 2020 with a team option of $15 million for 2021 or a $4 million dollar buyout.

Step 2a is finding a leadoff batter.

Jose Reyes would solve both needs but the Blue Jays may not be willing, and who knows if the Mets would be willing to go there again.

Alexei Ramirez would be an interesting addition but could he be a steady presence at lead off?

If they keep Daniel Murphy at two, then 3-7 would look like, hopefully a healthy Wright, followed by Lucas Duda at clean up; Cuddyer at five, Curtis Granderson would hit sixth and Travis d'Arnaud at seven. That's a very nice balance of alternating left handed and right handed hitters, which can put pressure on even the deep bullpens around the league.

If the Mets acquire a shortstop who doesn't bat lead off, then maybe you have to give Juan Lagares an extended look in the top spot in the order.

The Mets need a shortstop who's at least a solid fielder (Ramirez) and pretty good hitter, and that could lengthen the lineup even more.

The front office is on the clock this off season and so far, they're on the way to meeting that deadline of February 2015.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Goes Around, Came Around for World Series Participants

Payback is a "bitch" and both the Giants and Royals got some last night in game seven. For San Francisco, it came after a little over 52 years, while for Kansas City, theirs took 29 years and was more painful.

In the ninth inning of game seven of the 1962 World Series, the Giants had runners on second and third with two out. Hall of Famer Willie McCovey ended the game by lining out to second baseman Bobby Richardson in one of the most exciting endings in the history of the Fall Classic.

There was the thought of "what if McCovey's shot (which was an absolute "bullet") was an inch to the right or left of Richardson".

There was the debate of why the Yankees even pitched to the left hand hitting McCovey when there was an open base at first, but the roadblock was Orlando Cepeda, an equally dangerous right handed hitter on deck.

And in a classic case of "what goes around, comes around", before McCovey's at-bat, Willie Mays doubled down the right field line, but Matty Alou, who was on first, was held at third, as Yankees RF Roger Maris hustled to get the ball back in quickly.

"Should the Giants have sent Alou that time?" is a question that will never be answered while the question of "should the Royals have sent Alex Gordon with two out against the Giants?" will also provide debate fodder for years to come.

We'll never know but that's what makes baseball different from any other sport. These debates will last a lifetime.

Another "What Goes Around Comes Around".

While the key defensive play of the '62 game was made by the Yankees second-baseman, the key defensive play of the game was made by the Giants second-baseman Joe Panik when he turned a spectacular (and replay delayed) double-play to snuff out a potential rally in the fifth.

Which leads me to my Royals WGACA play.

In the 1985 World Series, the Royals benefited from an umpire's missed call when 1B ump Don Denkinger ruled Jorge Orta safe at first on bang-bang play. Replays showed Orta was clearly out but the call changed the complexion of the inning and Kansas City scored twice to win game six in walk off fashion and force a seventh game and eventually win the Series.

Last night, the Royals thought they avoided the double play started by Panik as Eric Hosmer was called safe at first after a head first dive.

For the first time in Series history, a call was reversed, the Giants had the double-play and the rest is history.

In baseball, what goes around seems to come around in a bizarre sort of way.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Do You Know My Buddy, Derek Jeter?

I had a dream last night. I was walking on the street with Derek Jeter and I ran into an ol’ friend

“Howie?…….is that you…..oh my god, is that?….”

“Hey!!!, it’s been a long time. How have you been? Do you know my buddy, Derek Jeter”….

“Is that really Derek Jeter?”

“Yes it’s really him, we’ve known each other since, uhh, 1996 I believe, right buddy?”

“That was a great season. You won the AL Rookie of the Year Award and the Yankees won the World Series.”

“You were there?”

“Yeah, that was great, right Derek. I was in the winning locker room with you and the guys, getting splashed with champagne, I was so happy for you and myself. Here I was, in the World Series, winning locker room of my favorite team, that I grew up with, getting soaked with champagne”

“Wow, that must’ve been great. I know we haven’t seen each other in a long time, a lot has happened since then”

“A whole lot. Hey Derek, remember the time you dove into the stands. Your face was a mess but you played the next night at Shea against the Mets”

(I playfully push Jeter) “Yeah, yeah, I get it, my face is always messed up”

“I remember that game. I was watching it on TV”

“Derek was in the first game I ever scored”

“When was that?”

“1998, I got a chance to score my first game and the rest is history. Hey Derek, I don’t know how many times I’ve written your name into the box score”

“Looks like you guys have a good relationship”

“Well, there’s been some times that the relationship was strained. Hey Derek, you were pretty pissed at me with the “E” I called on you eight years ago in that game against Baltimore”

(All 3 men laugh)

“That call was a firecracker for sure. Hey buddy, I had to call it on you, it’s in the rule book”

“What call was that?”

“It was a pop up in the infield. Derek and Alex Rodriguez converged on it but it dropped and I called an error on A-Rod. Someone came up to me and said Jeter may have bumped Alex and according to the rule book, he should be charged with the error, so I made the change an inning later. Derek didn’t know about the change until after the game and we had a little “pow-wow” about it. I ended up getting my name in a number of the papers, there was a column written by Wallace Matthews, you remember that Derek. Wally wrote it like you were trying to intimidate me, ‘button-hole me up against the wall, right”

“You’re like a celebrity”

“Well, not really but a couple of years ago, Ian O’Connor wrote a book called “The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter” and he interviewed me about that incident and wrote it in the book”

“You’re shaking your head Derek, what’s wrong? You didn’t like the book, uhh”

“He didn’t authorize the book so I can understand it a little bit, but people want to know about you, buddy”

“You get your name in the paper, I’ve heard your name mentioned on T-V by Micheal Kay. That’s gotta be pretty cool”

“Yeah, it’s nice but Derek can be a pain in the neck for the scorers”

“Why is that?, does he confront you on any calls?”

“Only that one with A-Rod but, you hit so many of those little dribblers and damn, if you don’t hustle down the line every freakin’ time. Most times the scorer has to call a hit and there are some out there who believe we favor you on the calls”

“Were you the scorer when Derek got his 3000th hit?”

“No, my colleague, Jordan Sprechman worked that game. I had enough problems with hit #2987”

“What do you mean?”

“In 2011, Derek was in pursuit of his 3000th hit and he was 14 shy of the milestone when the Yankees hosted the Red Sox. Derek hit a chopper towards the middle that Marco Scutaro backed up on and then threw the ball to first in the dirt. Adrian Gonzalez couldn’t pick it, Jeter reached and, to the despair of many, I called it an infield hit”

“They thought it should be an error”

“A number of people did. Bob Raissman wrote an article about how the scorers in town are dealing with Jeter's run to 3000 and he happened to call me the next day. I also got into a heated argument on-air at Sirius XM with Chris Russo”

“You could write a book”

“Maybe one day but I still need the job”

“(Laughs) yeah, I guess that would cause a problem”

“What’s that buddy, you gotta go. Already? It’s only been 20 years. Okay, I get it, you gotta leave. Well, I’ll be seeing ‘ya”

and then, I woke up and realized, hey, he is leaving