6/25/18

Reese Kaplan -- Remember When Winning Mattered?

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One important aspect of how baseball has changed over the years is that we’re way too intimately familiar with the business side of things.  Granted, when we were kids developing our love for the game we had no concepts of long term financial security, insurance clauses for extended stays on the DL or the total payroll and a team’s profitability.  What we cared about were the players on our home team, winning and them doing all in their power to ensure that winning happened.

Hearken back to the days when you watched a Jerry Koosman or a Tommie Agee or a Tom Seaver.  You didn’t think about what they did off the field or what their families got from their talents on the field.  You only thought about the game, about winning and hanging on every strike and every AB.

That began to change for Mets fans in 1977 when M. Donald Grant and Tom Seaver butted heads over the issue of compensation.  Seaver had approached daughter of team found Joan Whitney Payson, Lorinda de Roulet, with the request to be paid as he should having won three Cy Young Awards already and established as the face of the franchise.  He sought the astronomical salary figure of $225,000 and said to de Roulet that the time had come to cross the $200,000 threshhold.   After all, journeyman pitcher Wayne Garland after a single good season had just inked a 10-year $2.3 million deal.

de Roulet’s exact quote at the time was, “Not over my dead body!”


Well, we all know what happened on that dark June 15th midnight massacre.  Tom Seaver was shipped to Cincinnati for reigning co-rookie of the year Pat Zachry, rookie phenom Steve Henderson, gloveman extraordinaire Doug Flynn and minor leaguer Dan Norman.  (Dave Kingman was sent packing for future manager limping along in his baseball career, Bobby Valentine, and Paul Seibert). 

Fast forward to the state of baseball fandom today and even the most casual observers are intimately familiar with the baseball Winter Meetings, the July trading deadline, the free agent bidding wars and the value now that prospects get over established (read expensive) veterans.  Long before it was fashionable to do so, teams like the Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins perfected this model of developing players and then peddling them to replenish the farm system when they got to the high dollar periods of their careers.

Just like the days of David Wright, I once again feel I’m jousting at windmills suggesting that a team that refuses to spend like a big market team then ought to operate like a small market one and trade Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard to replenish the farm system and address a multitude of problems in other areas while saving future money which, theoretically, could be used to address more problematic positions.

The problem with this approach, of course, is the front office who is categorically afraid to make trades and who has no eye for identifying talent.  One would think the return of Omar Minaya to a front office capacity could help with the latter but we’ve seen no evidence of it thus far. 

The other issue of concern also requires courage.  I’ve pointed out that the Braves (currently in 1st place, I might add), do not have an issue with ballplayers at age 20 or 21 getting the opportunity to play.  The Mets, by contrast, let hitters like Jeff McNeil (age 26), and pitchers like Tim Peterson (age 27) and others whither on the vine for fear they may not be able to conquer the next level.  That won’t change until the front office does.

How I wish I could simply go back to the days when players cared about winning and teams cared about putting a winning roster on the field.  Unfortunately we’re all too aware that baseball is a business and profitability while minimizing risk is, to some, preferable to championships. 

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Las Vegas 4 - Reno 3

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Press Release:

The 51s defeated the Aces, 4-3, in the finale of the brief four-game homestand (Las Vegas wins the series, 3-games-to-1) before a crowd of 2,464 at Cashman Field.

Las Vegas rallied from a 3-0 deficit for the victory and left fielder Zach Borenstein (2-for-3, two walks) delivered a walk-off, two-out RBI double to left field.

The 51s tied the game in the eighth inning at 3-3 on a sacrifice fly by right fielder Patrick Kivlehan (1-for-3).

51s right-hander Drew Gagnon pitched 7 solid innings in the no decision. He allowed 4 hits, 3 runs, walked 3 and struck out 5 on 88 pitches (60 strikes).

Reno right fielder Socrates Brito (1-for-3) hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning.

Las Vegas leads the 2018 Silver State Diamond Challenge Series (Silver Plate Trophy), 5-games-to-4 over Reno (with seven games remaining between the two teams).
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Columbia 5 - Lexington 3

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LEXINGTON, KY – Zac Grotz hurled eight spectacular innings and Columbia blasted four homers en route to a 5-3 win over Lexington on Sunday.

Grotz logged eight fantastic frames, allowed just two runs, struck out six and picked up the win. The righty – signed by the Mets just a week and a half ago – has now logged 15.2 innings in back to back starts and has not walked a single batter.

For the second time in franchise history, the Fireflies whacked four homers in a game:

2nd inning – Raphael Gladu (1st of the season), 400 feet / 103 mph exit velocity

3rd – Edgardo Fermin (5th), 330 feet

4th – Quinn Brodey (7th), 401 feet

5th – Blake Tiberi (2nd), 341 feet

The only other time Columbia (2-2, 36-35) tallied four in a game was on May 24, 2016 (Luis Ortega, Dash Winningham, Ivan Wilson, Kevin Kaczmarski) when the Fireflies stomped Augusta at Spirit Communications Park, 14-2.

Lexington (0-4, 37-35) sliced the lead in half with a run in the third (at the time trailing 2-0). After Cal Jones was hit by a pitch, Brewer Hicklen drove the speedy runner home with a base hit into the left-center field gap.

In the sixth, Lexington had the bases loaded twice, but only came away with one run. It was M.J. Melendez’s infield single that scored the frame’s only run. With no outs, Grotz first struck Nick Pratto out looking and then Seuly Matias lined into a double play.

The team’s traded runs in the ninth, but it was Trey Cobb who shut the door and wound up recording his team-best eighth save of the year.
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6/24/18

Mack’s Apples - Riley Greene, Missing Fans, Peter Alonso, Bad Baseball, Kelvin Herrera

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         Top 2019 Prospects - Riley Greene     OF       Hagerty   
    
           PG Grade: 10 - Riley Greene is a 2019 OF/LHP with a 6-2 180 lb. frame from Oviedo, FL who attends Hagerty HS. Large, athletic frame with square shoulders and long limbs, lean and projectable build with quick-twitch muscle and plenty of physical projection remaining. Ran a 6.81 60-yard dash. Lefthanded hitter, begins with an upright stance and shows nice balance through load and into point of contact. Gets the barrel extended out front with an easy path and generates lots of natural leverage off the bat. Loose hands help drive the ball with ease to all fields, shows present jump and strength but still projects very well moving forward with additional physicality. Named to Junior National Top Prospect List. Very good student. Verbal commitment to Florida.


          Two Million Baseball Fans Are Missing –

           Rob Manfred, MLB owners, players: we have a problem. Some of your ticket buyers are missing. In fact, nearly two million of them.

As we approach the official beginning of summer and the midpoint of the baseball season, attendance is down by about 2,000 per game, or 6.7%, relative to a year ago.

MLB attendance has generally and gradually been declining since its peak of 79.48 million fans in 2007. That was 32,696 per contest. The average per-game figure fell below 30,000 last year for the first time since 2003.


John Sickles on Peter Alonso -

       
    As noted, his error rates have been very high for a first baseman. This issue is a little better this year but not by much, his fielding percentage this year standing at .986.

While you can live with a few extra errors from a player who has good range, Alonso isn’t that type of first baseman; Baseball America for example describing him in their 2018 report as an “uncoordinated, slow-bodied defender” who needs to make significant improvements to be playable. Too many errors combined with poor range won’t cut it.

It should be noted that spring training reports on his glove were positive, one source telling BA that Alonso’s “footwork has improved, and his recognition off the bat has gotten better. . .he has improved on popups and is working on glove-side grounders. His throwing is solid.”

So far those reported improvements are only showing up in a marginal way within the regular season boxscores. Still, all agree that Alonso has worked quite hard at improving his glove and even if the results are not everything hoped yet, he still has a chance to be acceptable down the line.

Bottom line: his defense still needs more work but the offense is definitely real. I’d move him up to a straight Grade B prospect now with more possible depending on how his glove progresses and assuming he continues mashing once he arrives in AAA.


MLB has a bad baseball problem that's only getting worse –

        
   In an era when athletes are bigger, stronger and faster, something has gone dreadfully wrong with our glorious pastime.

Players are striking out more than at any time, an alarming 22.5 percent of all plate appearances. We are on pace for more strikeouts than hits –  18,613 strikeouts compared to 18,136 hits entering Wednesday's non-action.


Grading The Deal: Nationals Nab Kelvin Herrera To Improve Bullpen –

       
    Grade for Nationals: A - The Nationals had the desire to improve the bullpen and they did so. They paid what seems to be an extremely fair cost for said upgrade and they now have him quite a bit earlier than normal. That means Herrera will be around for more innings and provide more value to his team in their attempt to make it back to the postseason in a surprisingly challenging season. If I'm Washington GM Mike Rizzo, I do this deal every time.

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Mike Freire - Playoffs?

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Boy, most Mets' fans are on the edge of being bipolar, aren't they?

A few days ago, the team couldn't score and they sunk to a full ten games below
.500 after a painful loss to the Diamondbacks.  There were articles documenting
that the Mets were the quickest team to go from ten games over .500 to ten games
under .500 in the modern era.  So, we are the best at something?

A few days later, the team has put together a modest winning streak, which included
a couple of exciting wins and an absolute deluge of runs on Monday night, albeit in
Coors Field.  Now, folks are starting to murmur about a "run to a Wild Card" and the
chants have changed from "rebuild" to "stay the course, we can do it".

I will admit that it is much more fun to follow the team and to write articles when
they are winning ballgames.  I also want to "pump the brakes" a little bit, because
I am fearful that a dose of success COULD keep the team from doing what is necessary to properly right the ship for the future (i.e. not necessarily a total tear down, but some level of rebuilding which includes dealing SOME assets, etc).

As of Tuesday (06/19/18), the Mets are 31-38 and still sit 10 games behind the Atlanta Braves, so that is still the longest of long shots (plus there are two other teams between them in the form of the resurgent Phillies and the recently scuffling Nationals). 

Looking at the Wild Card standings, the Mets are 9.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers (first Wild Card) and 6.5 games behind the aforementioned Phillies and Nationals, who are tied for the second Wild Card.  That doesn't even include six additional teams that are between the Mets and the Wild Card leaders who would need to be passed in the standings at some point.  The 6.5 game deficit is the same distance that the team is from being the WORST team in the NL, so they are as close to that low bar as they are to potentially playing in October.  In short, the Mets have dug themselves quite a hole.

But, for grins, what would it take to get into that conversation?

The Phillies and Nationals (tied for the second Wild Card) are both on pace to finish with a record of 88-74, based on their current winning percentage.  The Mets have a total of 93 games left this season, so there is still time to get hot and make up some ground. 

But, in order to get to 88 wins, the team would need to win 57 more games this season!  In other words, they would need to go 57-36 down the stretch to reach the necessary win total while simultaneously passing a large group of teams in the process.  That works out to a winning percentage of .613 or a "100 win pace"
over the course of a full season.

Do you see this team playing that well between now and the end of September?

I am not rooting for failure, but the point of this piece is to not lose sight of what needs to be done in order for the team to consistently challenge for the playoffs.  A few wins in a row shouldn't change the team's overall course of action.





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Lakewood 2 - Columbia 0

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photo by Tom Priddy
Press Release:

COLUMBIA, SC – Joe Cavallaro lowered his earned run average to a sizzling 2.02 on Saturday night at Spirit Communications Park. The righty logged 5.2 innings, allowed just one run, and punched out four batters in his 11th start of the season. Despite the strong effort, the Fireflies dropped the series finale 2-0 to the BlueClaws in front of a crowd of 4,487 fans.

Seven of the nine players in Columbia’s (1-2, 35-35) order recorded one hit, but these were scattered throughout the contest (zero multi-hit frames). The Fireflies best chance to score was in the third inning. Edgardo Fermin led off with a single and extended his hitting streak to a season-high seven games. The 20-year-old advanced to second on a wild pitch and then Hansel Moreno walked. After Raphael Gladu lined out, Blake Tiberi reached on a fielder’s choice (Moreno out at second). Columbia’s scoring threat increased when Ali Sanchez walked and the bases were loaded. However, Jeremy Vasquez grounded out to end the frame.

Josh Stephen drove in Lakewood’s (2-1, 43-29) first run with a single in the second inning. The visitors added an insurance run in the eighth. Quincy Nieporte tripled and plated Colby Fitch. Damon Jones (W, 6-2) was sharp on the mound in his 12th start. The southpaw tossed six scoreless frames and registered three strikeouts.

Columbia’s bullpen continued to display its dominance on Saturday. Taylor Henry pitched 2.1 innings, struck out two batters, and only gave up one run. Aaron Ford silenced Lakewood with a pair of strikeouts during his scoreless ninth frame. The relievers hold an impressive 1.75 ERA over the last 13 games (40.0 IP).
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Hartford 7 - Binghamton 2

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Press Release:

BINGHAMTON, NY – The Hartford Yard Goats won their seventh straight game against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, earning a 7-2 win on Saturday night at NYSEG Stadium. Hartford plated all seven runs in the first three innings, doing so before Binghamton scored once. The start of the game was delayed 33 minutes due to rain. 
For the ninth time in the last 11 games, the Rumble Ponies opponent broke the seal, scoring the game’s first run. With Mickey Jannis on the bump, Forrest Wall drew a game-starting walk, before Jannis whiffed two Yard Goats. Mylz Jones, though, provided the game’s first run by collecting a two-out single to score Wall from second. 

One night after scoring four runs in the fifth inning, the Yard Goats utilized a six-run seven-hit third inning. Hartford would send 10 batters to the plate in the big inning, with the first six reaching on hits. After singles from Roberto Ramos and Jones, Dom Nunez doubled home both baserunners to make it 3-0. The rally continued with back-to-back RBI doubles from Ryan Metzler and Nelson Molina. The string of six straight hits ended when starting pitcher Jack Wynkoop laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up a bag. Wall followed the pitcher’s spot by singling in Molina, making it 7-0 Hartford. 

Jannis (4-2) allowed 11 hits over his 5-1/3 innings, giving up seven earned runs. He struck out five and walked two in his second straight start against the Yard Goats
Wynkoop (3-6), meanwhile, held Binghamton in check most of the night. The only tallies on his card came in the fifth inning in the Rumble Ponies four-hit two-run rally. The Rumble Ponies broke Wynkoop’s shutout by collecting three straight one-out hits – a Levi Michael single, a Kevin Taylor double, and then a run-scoring Josh Allen single. Tomas Nido pushed home Taylor with a two-single to make it 7-2.

Wynkoop tossed six innings and allowed two runs against Binghamton for the second time in six days. He issued two walks and struck out three Rumble Ponies.

POSTGAME NOTES: Binghamton’s fifth straight series defeat…Tim Tebow has back-to-back multi-hit games for the first time this season…Josh Allen finished 2-for-5, his first hits at NSYEG Stadium…Binghamton bullpen has not allowed a run in three games (7.2 IP)…Rumble Ponies sit alone in fourth place for the first time since May 25
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Lakeland Sweeps St. lucie 4-2, 8-3

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (June 23, 2018) – The Lakeland Flying Tigers swept the St. Lucie Mets in a doubleheader at First Data Field on Saturday.

Lakeland won the first game 4-2 and then beat the Mets 8-3 in game 2.

The Mets have now been swept in their last four doubleheaders, all of which have been at home.

Gene Cone was a bright spot for St. Lucie. He went 4 for 8 with two doubles and three RBI across the two games.

In game 1, the Flying Tigers scored three runs on five hits against Mets starter David Peterson in the third inning. Daniel Pinero and Luke Burch notched two-out RBI singles in the frame to extend the Lakeland lead to 4-0.

Peterson settled down and retired 11 in a row to end his outing. He scattered seven hits and three earned runs over 6.1 innings.

Cone provided the only runs for the Mets went he belted a two-run double in the bottom of the third. However, the Mets comeback fell short, as they stranded four base runners across the final four innings and hit into two double plays.

Lakeland reliever Eduardo Jimenez collected a four-out save. It was his league leading 12th save of the season.

In game 2, the Flying Tigers took advantage of walks by Gary Cornish. The Mets starter walked six batters and plunked another. He was tagged for six hits and seven runs in four innings.

The Flying Tigers broke a 1-1 tie and broke the game open with a four-run third inning. All nine batters came to the plate. Kenny Wilson delivered a RBI double and Troy Montgomery knocked a two-run single.

Pinero went 0 for 0 with three walks, a hit-by-pitch and three runs scored. Montgomery went 2 for 3 with a double and four RBI.
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Las Vegas 51s 14, Reno Aces 11 - Alonso 3 HRs

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The 51s defeated the Aces, 14-11, in game three of the brief four-game homestand before a 51s Camouflage Jersey Night crowd of 5,144 at Cashman Field.

Las Vegas rallied from a 11-6 deficit to outscore Reno 8-0 over the final three inning.

51s first baseman Peter Alonso was 3-for-5 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI. He hit a solo homer in the third; a grand slam in the sixth and a two-run homer in the eighth inning.

The last time a Las Vegas player hit three home runs in one game was Travis Taijeron vs. Omaha on August 21, 2015.

Catcher Colton Plaia was 2-for-4, double, HR, 3 RBI, two runs scored.
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6/23/18

RUMBLE PONIES GAME NOTES: Game #73 - Rumble Ponies (35-37) vs. Yard Goats (35-37) - 6:05 PM

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BINGHAMTON RUMBLE PONIES
(35-37), T-3rd Eastern Division, 8.0 GB
(New York Mets)
Hartford Yard Goats
(35-37), T-3rd Eastern Division, 8.0 GB
(Colorado Rockies)


Saturday, June 23, 2018  6:05 PM
NYSEG Stadium  Binghamton, NY
RHP Mickey Jannis (4-1, 4.40) vs. LHP Jack Wynkoop (2-6, 6.30)
Broadcast: NewsRadio 1290 AM WNBF, MiLB.TV

RAMOS & YARD GOATS GRAB SERIES OPENER: Roberto Ramos hit two home runs to help Hartford top Binghamton 6-1 Friday night at NYSEG Stadium. Justin Dunn tossed six innings in his third Double-A start, and was outlasted by Peter Lambert for the second time in a week. The Rumble Ponies lone tally was a Tim Tebow home run.

BINGHAMTON STARTER: RHP Mickey Jannis prepares for his 11th Eastern League start of 2018 and second in a row against Hartford. The knuckleballer gave up one run over six innings on June 17 in Binghamton’s 4-3 extra-inning loss at Dunkin Donuts Park. At the plate, Jannis finished 1-for-1 with a sacrifice bunt. 

TEBOW’S BLAST: Tim Tebow’s fifth home run of the season was sent over the left field wall on the first pitch of the third inning. It was his first longball since May 13 against Erie and all five have been hit at NYSEG Stadium.

GOT YOUR NUMBER: Hartford has beaten Binghamton in six straight games and has pulled into a tie with the Rumble Ponies for third place in the Eastern Division. Binghamton’s only win over Hartford was on May 7, the first meeting of the season.

PRESTINE ‘PEN: The Rumble Ponies relievers have not allowed a run over the last two games. They’ve tossed four innings, striking out six batters without issuing a walk. Tyler Bashlor pitched two scoreless innings in Friday’s loss.

THREE-WAY TIE: Binghamton, Hartford, and Reading are locked a the top of the Eastern League with 70 home runs this season. The Fightin Phils recent string of longballs has pushed them to a six-game winning streak, three games behind Binghamton and Hartford.

STOLEN BASES: The Yard Goats notched three stolen bases on Friday and lead the league with 96 thieves this season. Binghamton, meanwhile, is last in the league with just 21 stolen bases.

DÉJÀ VU PT. 2: For the second straight night, the pitching matchup features a pair of hurlers who met just six days prior. When RHP Mickey Jannis squared off against LHP Jack Wynkoop on June 17 in Hartford, neither Jannis nor Wynkoop earned a decision in the Yard Goats 4-3 extra-inning win. Both starters went six innings, allowed eight hits, and coughed up two runs.

FEED THE FANS: Binghamton’s last win at NYSEG Stadium came as part of a doubleheader sweep on June 3 against New Hampshire. Since then, the Rumble Ponies have posted an 0-4 mark at home and 4-8 on the road. Binghamton has just seven wins in June, fewest in the league. 
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