Mets Bludgeon Braves in ST Game 9

For most of the ballgame, it was a 1-1 tie, then the floodgates opened in the 8th inning when the Mets put a seven-spot on the scoreboard.

Final score was Mets 8 Braves 2 as the Amazins’ upped their spring record to 4-5, and dropped the Braves to an Uggly 2-9. Though, the games don’t count until April, so take it with a grain of salt.

Some things I saw …

Juan Lagares threw a laser beam in the first inning to throw out Andrelton Simmons trying to go from first to third on a single — the ball arrived in David Wright‘s glove, on a line, when Simmons was about 30 feet from the bag. Bad decision by Simmons, great execution by Lagares.

Another great throw from the outfield was made by Andrew Brown in the 8th to cut down Matt Lipka at the plate. Just one thing, though — Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki was clearly blocking the plate while waiting for the ball. Isn’t that now supposed to be called as obstruction by the umpire? Here are four photos taken from the TV screen, all of which clearly show Plawecki doing exactly what catchers aren’t supposed to be doing any more:

plawecki-block-1

plawecki-block-2

plawecki-block-3

plawecki-block-4

Plawecki was doing it “old school” — blocking home plate without the baseball, not giving the runner a lane with which to run toward home plate. I don’t point this out to pick on Plawecki, but rather to show what many catchers through the years have been taught to do, and what, now, umpires are supposed to call as “obstruction” (which they should have been calling all along). It will be interesting to see if umpires will continue to neglect to cite the obstruction ruling when the real games begin, and if they do, if managers will exercise their option to request instant replay assistance.

Fun to see former St. Joe’s of Montvale (NJ) star Tommy La Stella in game action; hadn’t seen him since his high school days in the mid-2000s (wow, time flies). La Stella spent a year at St. John’s before transferring to Coastal Carolina, where he had two spectacular years and then was drafted by the Braves in the 8th round of the 2011 draft. La Stella is something of a throwback — a hard-nosed, get-the-uniform-dirty second baseman who sports a solid glove, strong fundamentals, and excellent bat control. He reminds me of what middle infielders looked like when I was growing up — not the biggest / tallest guy on the field, but feisty, gets on base, executes bunts and hit and run, makes contact, runs the bases with brains if not speed, and makes all the plays in the field. In other words, guys like Wally Backman, Bucky Dent, Rick Burleson, Ken Oberkfell, Tommy Herr, Bill Russell, Felix Millan, Bud Harrelson. If Dan Uggla continues to struggle, La Stella — who has never been on any top prospect lists — could force his way into the big leagues. La Stella shredded high-A and AA last year, batting a combined .356 with a .444 OBP through 88 games at the two levels (81 at AA). What he has against him is his age — he just turned 25 a few weeks ago, so time is of the essence. It could turn out to be a great underdog story for him and the Braves.

Josh Edgin, not so good. And hasn’t been so good in quite a while, going back to last year. Unless he improves dramatically in the next two weeks, I can’t see him going north with the big club.

My feelings are similar for Kyle Farnsworth. I know that he had a strong down-the-stretch run with the Pirates last year, but he hasn’t shown me anything yet to suggest that he can still be an effective MLB reliever. His results have been OK, but his process, not so much.

Bobby Parnell made his first appearance of the spring, and, considering it was his first time out, he looked OK. It appears that his neck/back disc issue will not affect him going forward.

Kris Medlen ran a bee-line to the clubhouse immediately after a pitch in the fourth inning; he’s been diagnosed with a right forearm strain. Not good news for Medlen nor the Braves, as that is a symptom of UCL damage.

Speaking of pitching injuries, check back here later in the morning for an audio interview I did with Angel Borrelli. We are going to do regular podcasts titled “The Fix,” during which we discuss pitching injuries and how they can be avoided. Hope you enjoy.

Meantime, what did YOU see in Mets spring training game nine? Post your observations in the comments.

BTW the next Mets game broadcast on TV will be today (Monday) at 1:10 PM on SNY.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Dan42 March 10, 2014 at 6:19 am
    I suspect Plawecki’s block wasn’t called because he was in the act of fielding the ball at the time, and was the one in danger with his extended right leg waiting to be destroyed by a hard slide into it.
    • Joe Janish March 10, 2014 at 11:13 am
      Except, Plawecki intentionally set himself up in the basepath, blocking the plate from the runner, long before the throw was being made. In that first frame above, Brown was just picking up the ball.

      What he was supposed to do was set up himself as a target to the inside of the baseline, giving the runner a clear path to home plate, and only after receiving the ball, would he be allowed to block home. It’s the same at every other base, with every other fielder.

      • Dan42 March 10, 2014 at 12:26 pm
        Like you said, old habits …
        • Dan42 March 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm
          Although if the runner is not there before the ball arrives, does it really matter where the catcher is, as long as it’s not blatant blocking? I still think the catcher’s leg is in a lousy place, a mirror image of Posey when he was injured. Are (were) they really taught to block like that? It looks like an accident waiting for a place to happen to me.
        • Joe Janish March 10, 2014 at 1:19 pm
          “Although if the runner is not there before the ball arrives, does it really matter where the catcher is, as long as it’s not blatant blocking?”

          Well that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? For over a hundred years, this is what catchers did — they set themselves up in front of the plate, blocking the baseline, anticipating that the ball would arrive in their glove before the runner. With the new language, it would seem to me that the catcher could be called for obstruction for doing this.

          How catchers are taught depends on the coach, but, generally speaking, they have been taught to place their left knee facing the runner, so that if there’s a collision, the knee is fairly stable.

        • Dan42 March 10, 2014 at 6:29 pm
          In the last picture it appears that it is the right knee that blocks the path to the plate, which agrees with what I saw in the live broadcast. I think a hard slide into that would not be good for the catcher.
  2. TexasGusCC March 10, 2014 at 8:58 am
    I thought the runner has equal responsibility to avoid the catcher, who like all fielders, has the right to catch the ball? The runner in this instance had a chance to slide feet first into the plate, so it wasn’t a complete block.

    In the minutes following that play, d’Arnaud was being interviewed on TV and explained that if the throw takes you into the baseline, you aren’t obstructing.

    • Joe Janish March 10, 2014 at 11:20 am
      The runner has the right to home plate, as he has the right to any base. The fielder has the right to catch the ball, yes, and this is why collisions happen — at every base.

      I listened to d’Arnaud’s explanation but it didn’t apply to the play at hand, because it was clear and obvious that Plawecki set himself up as a target — before Brown touched the ball — in the basepath, blocking home plate. He’s not allowed to do that. The fact that the throw went into the baseline was because Plawecki was set up there — it’s not like Plawecki had to move to get to the ball, because it was a nearly perfect throw, right on target.

      Where do you see, in this instance, a chance for the runner to slide into the plate? Between his legs? I’m not talking only about the final frame, I’m talking about all of the above four frames — Plawecki is completely blocking the plate, without the ball (until the final frame). I must be missing something because, to me, the photos couldn’t be more clear.

  3. DanB March 10, 2014 at 1:57 pm
    i think you will only see obstruction called when the catcher blocks the plate without the ball. In those circumstances, the runner’s only alternative is to knock over a catcher who is looking at a throw and not the runner.