Category Archives: Baseball

Minnesota Twins vs. New York Mets: A Fan Perspective

Tuesday night, in what could have been the last game in the Metrodome, the Minnesota Twins fell behind the Detroit Tigers 3-0. They came back. They fell behind in extra innings and came back again before scoring in the 12th to win.

I watched the game on television, but I had already seen a different version of it in person. The Mets, needing a win on the final game of the regular season last year — the final at Shea Stadium — to force a one-game playoff, lost at home. It was the second straight year my beloved Mets were in that situation and lost.

So if I said I wish I were a Minnesota Twins fan, could you blame me?

The Mets, who, despite their 145 million-dollar payroll, the second-highest in baseball, haven’t made the playoffs the last three years and only once since 2000. The Twins are a playoff team this year, their fifth postseason trip this millennium, in spite of their 67 million-dollar payroll, the eighth lowest.

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota’s manager, has held the position since 2002. I don’t watch Twins games regularly, but in my opinion, he’s one of the best, if not the best, skipper in baseball. He’s come in second in Manager of the Year voting four times and it would be hard to argue that anyone does more with less. I can’t speak personally on his in-game strategy, but to be as successful as his teams have, he’s got to be doing something right.

During Gardenhire’s tenure, the Mets have had four different managers. The only one who could hold a candle to Gardenhire is Bobby Valentine, who took an overachieving bunch to the World Series in 2000. Jerry Manuel, New York’s current skipper, showed promise taking over for Willie Randolph last season, but still couldn’t stop a late season slide. This year, he didn’t bother enforcing fundamentals.

The Twins and Mets differ on the field as well. David Wright, the face of the Mets franchise, is a great player and role model. I could mention some of his disappointing offensive numbers this year to try and expose him as overrated, but I can’t do it. He is an All-Star , no question about it, and has a great attitude.

Outside of him though, it’s hard to find a generally likeable everyday player. Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes don’t fit the bill after they spent most of 2009 on the disabled list with mystery injuries. (Which reminds of yet another difference between the Mets and the Twins: the medical staff. From the clubhouse trainers all the way up to the surgeons, the Mets have a joke of a staff. I know nothing about the Twins staff but I still know it’s exponentially better than the Mets’.)

Along with Wright, the only player living up to the big expectations is Johan Santana. He’s tough, ultra-competitive, fearless — everything you could ask for in an ace. Of course, he pitched for Minnesota for the first eight years of his career before coming to New York in 2008.

The Twins, at least from an outsider’s perspective, have highly likeable stars — guys like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Mauer is an in-state product and a front-runner for the MVP this year. Morneau has already won the award, but you’d never know it. Both have been with the Twins their entire careers.

Listen, I know some of these characteristics I’ve described are inherent differences between big market and small market teams; but not all of them. There is no reason why the Mets can’t have a competent medical staff, for example. There is no reason why their highest-paid players can’t perform like the stars they supposedly are. There is no reason why the Twins could overcome a seven-game September deficit while the Mets blew the same type of lead in 2007.

The fact remains, of course, that I don’t really wish I were a Twins fan; I’m just jealous. I will be a Mets fan for life, which is why I hope they can adopt some of the qualities — heart, fire, sensibility — that make the Twins such a success.

New York Mets Season Ticket Prices Reduced for 2010

I’ve written letters to the New York Mets before, as you may know. Yesterday, the Mets sent me a letter. Well, not me. They sent it to my dad, a Mets season ticket holder the past two seasons.

The main point of the letter is simple: Season ticket prices will be reduced by an average of 10% next season, with some being reduced by more than 20%.

Good news, right?

Of course, unless the recipients of the letter don’t plan to buy next year. Could you blame them if they didn’t? As the letter states, “Everyone at the Mets…shares your disappointment with the 2009 season.”

Before current season ticket holders make up their minds though, I think they should wait for the second letter promised by the Mets. The one that will outline how they “plan to improve the ball club through a combination of player signings, trades, enhanced player development and continued commitment to one of the highest player payrolls in Major League Baseball.”

But if this highly-specific plan isn’t enough for you, middle-aged season ticket holder, there’s always the Mr. Met Dash on Sunday!

New York Mets season ticket holder letter

David Wright Suffers Concussion

Well, that’s the last of ’em.

With David Wright suffering a concussion after being hit in the helmet by a fastball in this afternoon’s game against the San Francisco Giants, it became official: Every one of the New York Mets’ star hitters have gone down with an injury.

Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes have already missed most of the season (in addition to pitchers such as JJ Putz, John Maine, and Billy Wagner). Wright, the face of the franchise, was the sole survivor.

But earlier today at Citi Field, Wright took an 0-2 pitch off the left side of his head, sending his helmet flying and his body to the ground. He was clearly dazed as the Mets trainers helped him to his feet and into the clubhouse.

It has since been reported that Wright suffered a concussion, the severity of which is not yet fully known. But it doesn’t matter if it’s mild, serious, or somewhere in between.

Wright needs to be shut down for the remainder of the season.

It might be a hard pill for Mets executives to swallow. After all, if ace Johan Santana wasn’t pitching, Wright was the only reason to show up at Citi Field this season. Unless, of course, you love overpriced pulled pork sandwiches.

Despite the strange season Wright is having–105 strikeouts and only eight home runs–he was unquestionably the top player on the team, leading the healthy players with a .324 average, 55 RBI, 74 runs, and 24 stolen bases.

Wright has carried the offense for nearly the entire season, and his numbers must be analyzed knowing that he’s had little protection in the lineup.

The Met offense has been lackluster with Wright; one can only imagine how bad it will be without him. But a glance at the standings will tell you that sitting Wright for the rest of the season is inconsequential. The Mets sit in fourth place in the division, 12 back of the leader. There are seven teams and 10 games between them and the top spot in the Wild Card.

In other words, the Mets won’t have to worry about the last regular season game ending in heartbreak for the third straight season. They are all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason.

Therefore, what are the pros to Wright returning in 2009? Other than ticket sales, there are none. Ryan Church, now with the Atlanta Braves, had a concussion last season, and the Mets badly mishandled the situation, allowing Church to fly cross-country and do some light running way too soon after the injury.

The Mets medical staff is already viewed as a joke, as seemingly minor injuries have turned into months and months of missed time. One minute a guy is coming out of a game with leg cramps. Four days later he’s on the DL.

The team and the training staff has a chance to make the correct decision this time, though, by keeping Wright out of action for the rest of the season. After all, there are only seven weeks left.

Mets fans can only hope nobody else goes down in that time.

Open Letter to the New York Mets


Dear New York Mets,

As you probably know, you have a game tonight, a nationally-televised game no less. (I say “probably” because at times this season it seems you are unaware that you’re competing in an actual game.) I write to you because so far this season you’ve done nothing but embarrass yourselves and, in turn, your fan base, while playing on the national stage. Perhaps tonight will be different.

First, let’s recap what you’ve done so far in 2009.

May 2, at Philadelphia Phillies, FOX: Oliver Perez walks six in 2.1 innings and Sean Green walks in the winning run in the tenth. Mets lose, 6-5.

May 17, at San Francisco Giants, ESPN: Mike Pelfrey balked not once, not twice, but THREE times. Two of them led directly to San Fran runs, as the Mets lose 2-0.

June 28, vs New York Yankees, ESPN: More Sunday Night Baseball embarrassment, as Francisco Rodriguez walks Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded in the ninth, giving the Yanks an insurance run they wouldn’t even need as Rivera locked down his 500th career save. Mets lose, 4-2.

There are other bad, nationally-televised losses, but not bad enough to say they were embarrassing. But I think these three should suffice.

In all fairness to you, the New York Mets, you’ve played pretty terribly on regular, locally-televised games too. I mean, that time you dropped the pop-up to lose the game and the time you missed third base to lose the game—neither of those were on national TV. So maybe this is just how you play.

But make no mistake about it: It’s a lot worse when it happens on FOX or ESPN. We Mets fans get enough crap from Yankees fans—we don’t need to hear it via e-mail and text message from Tigers, Red Sox, and Dodgers fans, too.

So maybe tonight you could not embarrass yourselves. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t even have to win. You can lose; that’s fine. Just don’t lose in an absurdly laughable way.

Please.

Sincerely,

New York Mets Fans

P.S. You know what, do whatever you want. I don’t think I’m going to watch.

MLB All-Star Game: Home-Field Advantage, Streaks, and the DH

Last night in St. Louis, the American League defeated the National League 4-3. It was the AL’s fourth straight one-run win, but far more impressive is that it was their twelfth straight All-Star Game victory. The AL has not lost since 1996!

The thing is, the mid-summer classic is known for long winning streaks. The National League won 19 of 20 from 1963-1982, during which they had win streaks of 11 and eight games. The AL won 12 of the first 16 games, starting with the first-ever contest in 1933.

Even with all these long streaks, the overall record is very close, with the senior circuit posting a slightly better record of 40-38-2.

Perhaps it’s the designated hitter, a more talented team, luck, or a combination of all these factors that has led to the American League’s recent dominance. Just don’t be surprised if the NL goes on another long winning streak in the near future.

Speaking of the DH…

Why isn’t there one in every All-Star Game? Does anyone want to see Roy Halladay hit? No, but last night he did since the game was in a National League ballpark. Now I’m not in favor of the DH, but if you’re going to have it, why not use it in the one game it makes perfect sense?

The trend in recent All-Star games is to get as many players into the game as possible, so this would help the managers do that. Fans watch the game to see the star hitters hit and the star pitchers pitch.

I don’t expect Bud Selig to come up with what would be an overwhelming well-received rule change, but perhaps the next commissioner will.

Home Field Advantage?

While the use of the DH is rarely discussed, the debate over whether or not the All-Star Game should determine home-field advantage in the World Series rages on.

I don’t feel strongly about this one way or the other, but if I had to choose I’d say I’m in favor of the current rule. Anything that might make the players take the game more seriously and, in turn, produce a more competitive game, is fine with me. But is it fair that, say, a guy like Heath Bell, last night’s losing pitcher and member of the last-place Padres, contributed to the NL not getting home-field advantage in this year’s Fall Classic?

No it’s not, but is it a big deal? There have been six World Series’ since the All-Star game has been “meaningful,” and while the American League has had home-field advantage in all six, they’ve only been victorious three times. So far, no real advantage.

Interleague Play: Time for MLB to Make Changes

I was at the first Mets-Yankees game back in 1997 at Yankee Stadium. There was excitement in the week leading up to the games as sports talk radio, local television, and newspapers hyped the match-up, dubbing it the “Subway Series.” That anticipation led to a louder-than-usual crowd at the Stadium, as over 56,000 witnessed Dave Mlicki pitch a shutout and lead the Mets to a 6-0 victory.

Flash forward to 2009 and nobody cares anymore.

Sorry if that’s as startling as a Gary Sheffield foul ball into the third base seats, but it’s true.

Simply put, the Subway Series, and interleague play in general, has run its course. It’s time to get back to a more traditional schedule, or at least reduce the frequency of tired “rivalry” series’.

Here are three ways to do this:

1. Get rid of all interleague games

…and shorten the season. The baseball season is too long. This year, the regular season goes all the way until October 4th. Game One of the World Series is scheduled for October 28th. A potential Game Seven would be November 5th.

You thought last year’s Fall Classic was cold and wet? Imagine if the Twins reach the World Series once their new outdoor stadium is completed next season. There’s nothing like Minneapolis in November! They have a humidor for the baseballs in Colorado; they’d need a de-icer for Minnesota.

By cutting the season to somewhere between 147-154 games, the playoffs won’t go into late October and each regular season game will become just a little bit more meaningful.

Of course, a shorter season means fewer tickets to sell, and owners won’t go for making less money.

Likelihood of this Occurring: 1/10

2. Get rid of all interleague games…

…but replace them with intra-league match-ups, preferably divisional games. So instead of Cubs-Royals, you get an extra Cubs-Cardinals series. Instead of Phillies-Blue Jays, you get Phils-Mets.

This doesn’t shorten the season but at least interleague play disappears. Attendance would presumably rise as fans care more about intra-divisional rivalries than seeing a mediocre team from the other league.

It would also make the schedule a lot fairer within the divisions. Look at the Mets: Is it fair that they have to not only play the Yankees every year, but they have to play them SIX times?

This year, the East divisions were matched up against each other, so it was only three extra games. But in other years, it means the Mets have to play a franchise which, since interleague play began, has always fielded a very strong team. Instead of a series apiece against say, the Royals and Indians, the Mets get two against the Yanks.

No big deal over the course of such a long season though, right? Tell that to Mets fans, who’ve watched their team miss out on the playoffs by one game each of the last two seasons.

Likelihood of this Occurring: 3/10

3. Reduce the number of interleague games

Not ideal, but owners would be more likely to compromise and go along with this. There is a general assumption amongst MLB fans that interleague play is extremely popular, but attendance at these games is skewed.

Eric Rosen of Beyond the Box Score did some analysis that shows interleague play draws only about a .4% increase in attendance, or roughly 100 tickets per game.

His research factored in that interleague games were often played on weekends and during prime baseball months (June and July). This is how interleague play gets its attendance advantage; not through legitimate fan interest.

Perhaps owners will soon realize that fans are no longer captivated by the 12-year-old gimmick and eliminate, or at least reduce, the number of interleague games. Maybe the true rivalry series’ could be reduced to one series per year.

I don’t know when some form of these changes will take place, but I’d be shocked if interleague play looks the same in five years as it does now.

Likelihood of this Occurring: 6/10