Mets Game 39: Win Over Cubs
Mets 3 Cubs 2
The Mets won a game yesterday and won a game today, so that’s two in a row. If they win one tomorrow, that’s called a winning streak. It was happened before. So will they jack it up a little? (All apologies to Lou Brown.)
Mets Game Notes
The Wilpons should be thanking an omnipotent being every night for Matt Harvey. Where would the Mets be right now without him? Doing their best to keep from sinking below the Fish, that’s what.
Harvey won his fifth game of the year, though it wasn’t without drama. After allowing two runs in the initial inning, he simply shut down the Cubs — game over — using his trademark mix of well-placed, high-velocity fastballs, curveballs, sliders, and change-ups. The only chance he had of not winning the ballgame came when he exited. I do understand that he had thrown 106 pitches, but if I was a manager managing for a new contract, it would have been very difficult for me to place Harvey’s gem of a ballgame into the hands of Scott Rice and Greg Burke; it’s kind of like serving a Twinkie as dessert after a gourmet meal at Per Se — do you really want to do that? Do you really feel comfortable that dinner will be remembered the way you want it to, after that kind of finish?
As it turned out, the Mets and Harvey still won the game — though, it took a remarkably stupid decision by Cubs third-base coach David Bell to make Terry Collins look smart.
With Darwin Barney on second base, one out, and Scott Rice relieving Harvey, David DeJesus rapped a hard-hit single to shallow right field. Barney got a late start, then stumbled, and was rounding third when Marlon Byrd picked up the ball about 40 feet from the infield dirt. The temporarily insane Bell waved Barney home, and was a dead duck by at least 15, maybe 20 feet, as Byrd threw a perfect strike to John Buck.
I would understand the decision to force the Mets to make the play if, say, the #8 hitter or pitcher was on deck, and there were two outs. But with one out, and the team’s two superstars — Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo — coming up next, I have zero explanation for the move, other than pure stupidity. Hey, people make mistakes, and coaching third base is a lot more difficult than it seems from the comfort of our sofa. But that was a really, really bad decision.
Of course, had Barney been held up, there’s no guarantee that he would have scored to tie the game; the Cubs are just as bad as the Mets when it comes to executing and fundamentals. But it would have been a very interesting ballgame had Bell not suffered vapor lock.
Also fascinating was Barney’s decision to play patty-cakes with Buck, rather than try to bowl him over. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, since MLB has become a league of sissies who are more concerned with hurting themselves and protecting their seven-figure salaries rather than providing Major League Entertainment. I understand that the younger generation of hyper-protected children is fine with this new style of ball, as they have been taught to avoid injury, contact, and risk from the time they emerged from the womb. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about this evolution. Perhaps, five to ten years from now, the NFL will be a touch-football game as well. Whatever. The way I see it, for the insanely obnoxious salaries these men receive to play a little boys’ game, the least they can do is make every effort within the rules to win. That was a situation where Barney had every right to try to clean Buck’s clock, but chose instead to consider the potential bodily harm he might incur. That’s fine — it’s exactly the brand of bland baseball Bud Selig has been promoting for the past 20 years.
Edwin Jackson pitched well but was a hard-luck loser. Stinks for you, Mr. Jackson, but next time feign illness when your opponent is Mr. Harvey.
Is it me, or has Ike Davis expanded the width of his stance by another two feet? I don’t understand how he can remain in that position without pulling his groin, much less swing the bat.
Was anyone else surprised to see Lucas Duda still in left field in the bottom of the seventh, and again in the bottom of the eighth? The reasoning, I’m sure, was that Collins wanted to get Duda another at-bat before removing him. But, considering how difficult it is for the Mets to get wins, and with Harvey on the mound, I would want the very best defense possible on the field with a one-run lead. There may be some statistical analysis proving my gut wrong, but I find defense to be much more important in holding and securing a one-run win. By leaving Duda in there, Collins was essentially saying, “I don’t trust Harvey to keep shutting down the Cubs,” and/or “I don’t trust Bobby Parnell to close out the game.” But, considering he put the fragility of the game in the hands of Rice and Burke, leaving Duda in makes some sense.
Speaking of Burke, it was nice to see him throwing more underhand / Dan Quisenberry-like on most of his pitches. That’s where he needs to be if he has any hope of staying in MLB for more than a week or two.
And as for Parnell, he was impressive, throwing 95-MPH sinkers at the knees. Granted, Anthony Rizzo may have tied the ballgame had the wind been different, but it wasn’t, and Parnell earned his fifth save.
Next Mets Game
The Mets and Cubs do it again on Saturday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. Jeremy Hefner heads to the hill against Scott Feldman.
He was out by the proverbial mile. If it was a close play, okay, but it wasn’t. So, not really, come on, “fascinating,” like it isn’t “fascinating” that a person doesn’t try to race to first on a dropped third strike. Did everyone in the pre-wimp era ram into catchers for the slim chance of them dropping the ball in such cases? Perhaps third base coaches didn’t make such silly decisions then so the opportunity didn’t really come up.
Yes, before wimpy baseball became the norm, if a catcher — or other infielder — was blocking the base, the baserunner did everything in his power to either slide around the roadblock or run through it. Never was it an option to stop and play patty-cakes.
Maybe I’m remembering more because I’m also thinking about the playing I did in college and semipro. I remember very clearly either someone trying to clean my clock at home plate or me running into someone at least once if not twice a week. It wasn’t a big deal, it was part of the game and a player was prepared for it.
Look, I’m not saying that baseball should resemble football. Rather, I want to point out that sometimes, baseball is a contact sport, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as players understand that, know how to protect themselves, and respect each other. It’s when you have this confused mix of approaches, attitudes, and lack of training where things go wrong.
It’s not unlike the virtual elimination of pitchers throwing inside; a batter having some fear of the baseball is part of the game — not because pitchers should be headhunters, but because pitchers are human and therefore prone to mistakes and sometimes that means the baseball makes contact with the batter. But in today’s game, batters have zero fear of the ball, and expect the pitcher to always keep the ball an arm’s length away from the batter. So when there IS a mistake, batters don’t know how to react, and sometimes take it personally (ex. Carlos Quentin).
A fielder — be it a catcher, second baseman, first baseman, whatever — has to be aware that if he chooses to block a base, he is vulnerable to a collision. Similarly, a runner has to know that it is within his right to move that obstacle out of the way — and be trained to do it as safely as possible. Further, there has to be some motivation when the “base” is home plate — a player can’t just quit when he’s so close to putting a run on the board, because ultimately, that’s his job and that’s the end goal, to score a run. There is nothing else more important in the game than scoring, or preventing, a run. To just stop, like Barney did, is inexcusable. He didn’t necessarily have to bowl him over, but he should have tried something, anything, to jar the ball loose or find a way to get to the plate. I’m not a fan of quitting.
Today, however, there is risk of injury every single time there is physical contact at ANY base because the players don’t know what they’re supposed to do, and/or they’re hesitant. It’s like watching All-Star games or the Pro Bowl — everyone is afraid of hurting each other, and as a result, everyone is MORE vulnerable to injury.
Heck, why don’t they just play home run derby?
I’m about Darwin Barney’s size. If you asked me to try to knock a ball out of John Buck’s grip, my only options would be to elbow him in the throat or kick him in the groin. Attempting to find the middle ground between savagery and wussing out would have 0% chance of success. There is no part of my body that I can throw at his large, armored frame that won’t hurt me 10x more than it will hurt him.
25 years ago, the only difference in that play would have been that when Barney gave up, he would have found a more manly-looking way to do it, probably prematurely sliding to a stop at Buck’s feet, or sprinting around Buck and forcing the ump to call him out of the baseline. Neither of which actually look all that manly, if you think about it.
I do think large runners used to collide with catchers more than they do now, but not by much, and even back in the day, half the time it happened it was considered dirty and unnecessary. Remember Darrin Erstad and Johnny Estrada? Yeah, that used to be more frequent. I don’t miss it.
There’s another to the Fosse list. Estrada never recovered. Also, Matheny’s concussion issues, resulting mostly from foul tips and back-swings, were severely worsened by a collision. Farther back I have no personal observations, but most of the olden catchers I look up online were part-time players by age 30 and retired by 33, so I hesitate to assume that the old ways were good for anyone’s health. Guys we’ve never heard of probably got hurt plenty. I’m sure flukey stuff like the Posey play has always happened occasionally. And then there are minor injuries, like the bruised shoulder that ended the last decent hitting stretch of Josh Thole’s career.
Honestly, it’s much harder for me to think of an example of a true, hard collision at homeplate where nobody got hurt. Runner barrels in at full speed, launches self into catcher, collision sends both guys flying, and everyone’s fine? Last I saw was Lonnie Smith and Brian Harper in 1991. J.T. Snow tried it on Pudge in 2003 and no one got hurt, but Snow botched it and got very little force into it.
I remember many collisions involving Mike Scioscia that didn’t result in anyone being injured. I also remember myself getting clocked three times in one game — twice by the same guy, who was slightly larger than me — and no one was hurt. Maybe you don’t remember people not getting hurt as a result of a collision because, well, no one got hurt so why would it be memorable?
Posey is the example I always point to in trying to get people to understand my philosophy. Posey was out of position and made a terrible decision. Why? Because for his entire life, he’s played in leagues that didn’t allow collisions at the plate, or in leagues where they were so uncommon that he didn’t learn the proper procedure. So he never expected the runner to try to make hard contact with him. It’s like being in football practice and the coach says “half speed” and you have the one guy on the field playing full speed, and no one is expecting it, and someone gets hurt.
But instead of teaching catchers the proper way to position and protect themselves, coaches and leagues take the easy way out and change the rules. It’s the same reason I hate the DH — pitchers can’t hit, that makes the game boring, so let’s put in someone else to hit for him all game. Is it so damn hard to teach pitchers to hit, or to teach them enough offensive skills to make a contribution? A guy doesn’t have to be Babe Ruth or even Rick Ankiel, but he can at least be Tom Glavine.
And Buck, I thought you were supposed to be assertive; what’s up with giving in to the idiot reliever who wants to throw a stupid pitch?
The only reason Harvey Day wasn’t wasted is that Rizzo over-swung and the wind knocked the ball down.
I think his assertiveness, game-calling ability, handling of pitchers, and all-around defensive prowess looked a lot better when he was hitting a homerun every 7 at-bats (and when we still had fresh memories of Josh Thole’s inadequacies).
Now that Buck as fallen to Earth offensively, his shortcomings will be all the more glaring. He’s not bad, he’s just not special in any one area. In other words, he’s Kelly Shoppach.
– He’s not armored like a catcher, so edge goes to you
– If you knock the ball loose, you’re safe; otherwise, you’re out
– If you’re out but knock the fielder down, the batter who singled can take second
But no. Baseball custom* has never been about what’s logical or effective. Instead it’s dictated by habit and tradition with a side of machismo.
Remember when Albert Belle tried to break up a DP by running over Fernando Vina halfway between first and second? Belle was villified for that. But if it had happened at home plate, or he’d used his spikes instead of his shoulder, it would have been applauded. Give me a break.
*at least in our lifetimes. Apparently beating each other up for bases and outs was pretty common in the dead ball era. Ty Cobb learned evasive hook slides and aggressive spike-slashes because when he tried to steal head-first, the middle infielders would knee him in the face!
As for third base collisions, no, it’s not advantageous because the runner has to remain on the base or be at risk to be put out. The reason runners can try to bowl the catcher over is because he doesn’t have to worry about over-running home plate. With that in mind, I’m surprised we don’t see more pitchers and first basemen getting knocked over by batter-runners at first base, such as on drag bunts.
We occasionally see now, and used to see more frequently, “hard slides” into second and third base. Remember Eric Davis sliding into Ray Knight? George Brett going into Graig Nettles? Any runner heading into second base on a DP attempt?
And again, maybe you’re still out, but you might buy the runner behind you another base.
I think no one does it because they’re doing what’s expected rather than whatever it takes to win.
If there’s a true and principled defense of collisions at home, then there ought to be collisions at 3rd too.
I guess they’ve split the difference. *shrug*