Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, June 1.
On a team playing as badly as the Mets have done this season it wouldn’t be surprising if the players started pointing fingers-and there’s a lot to point at. Anarchy has ruled since Noah Syndergaard, their stud pitcher refused to take an MRI mandated by his employer and as a result suffered an injury that will in effect ruin his season if not ending it entirely. Yoenis Cespedes has spent more time on the golf course than on the field and there’s no timetable for his return following his latest setback. Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilmer Flores have been embarrassments at shortstop and third base respectively, and Jose Reyes is substandard at either position. Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson haven’t been hitting and Michael Conforto stopped hitting around the time the Mets’ PR machine started to campaign to have him written in on the All-Star ballot. You could even point fingers at manager Terry Collins, saying he’s too old and should have been pastured before now. But finger-pointing in Mets’ Nation reached a new low last night that didn’t even happen on the 1962 Mets who went 40–120. After yet another humiliating loss to a lower-eschelon team, this time a 7-1 beatdown by the Brewers, the Mets’ mascot known as Mr. Met gave the finger to Mets’ fans at Citi Field. The team issued an apology and the person playing Mr. Met will be polishing up his resume this morning and checking out indeed.com in search of another source of income.
Mr. Met has existed since well before the San Diego Chicken and the Philly Fanatic made it hip to be a mascot. Not all mascots go over too well–anybody remember the Mariner Moose? Humorist Dave Barry has donned the uniform of PK (Penalty Kick) for a Miami soccer team and has solemnly promised to never do so again if he is asked to. Mr. Met, a man with a baseball for a head appeared at the very first Mets’ game, April 11, 1962 in St. Louis. He could be seen on the 1963 Mets’ yearbook, game program and scorecards while the Orange and Blue still toiled at the antiquated Polo Grounds. The first real live Mr. Met appeared in 1964 when Shea Stadium opened. A team employee was the original Mr. Met. He was phased out from 1976 until 1994 but has been a presence in Flushing since then. Now his face appears on Mets’ Money, script that can be used to buy Mets’ merchandise. His face appears where Washington, Lincoln and Hamilton appear on standard banknotes. He can even be rented out for private parties-or he could until last night. Up until now his record has been unblemished. He appeared with Mrs. Met and though they didn’t last, at least he didn’t appear with any restaurant waitresses or pick up a DUI charge. He made a number of commercials for ESPN in decades gone by. Incredibly, he has been elected to the Mascot Hall of Fame although his name will now appear with an asterisk following last night’s debacle. (or maybe not) It’s hard to get removed from any Hall of Fame no matter what you do.
The truly funny part of the whole thing is, my brother-in-law and I were going to a AA baseball game and he must have spent 15 or 20 minutes unsuccessfully searching for his Mr. Met hat. We were going to see the local Trenton Thunder (AA Yankees) and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (AA Mets.) For decades Binghamton was just the Mets, the B-Mets or the Baby Mets. They had their ups and downs but even on a down year they were one of the few bright spots in a dismal small city. Other than the Binghamton Mets, all the city offers is Saranac beer and a unique dish called a “Chicken Speedy,” served locally and nowhere else too my knowledge. We boarded a bus to go to the game without my brother-in-law’s hat only to find out the game featured a Hat Giveaway promotion. Hats were given out which had the Thunder logo but could be reversed to show a Mets’ logo. The team’s promotions department embrace the fact that Trenton is close enough to New York that both Yankees’ and Mets’ fans might come see the minor leaguers play. Some 2 to 3 thousand were there, though the official attendance was listed as a higher figure than that. The game was played at a much more brisk pace than most major league games. In 2 hours and a half the Mets had beaten the Thunder 5-3 in an exciting game. The Mets had a 2-0 lead when we all stood up for the 7th-inning stretch. Their starter Corey Oswalt was cruising. But in a flash he had run out of gas and the Thunder had put up 3 7th-inning runs. In the 8th though, the visitors use 2 Thunder errors to plate two runs to make it 4-3. With nobody out and a man on first, Mets’ catcher Tomas Nido hit as sure a double play ball as you’re likely to see. But in AA you can’t count on the fielders making plays a major leaguer can make in his sleep. The Thunder second baseman booted it and all hands were safe, as the late Mets’ announcer Bob Murphy would have said. With the bases full Matt Oberste and Kevin Kaczmarski singled making it a 4-3 Mets’ lead. Nido, hitting in the 3 position reached on another error in the 9th, this time an error made by third baseman Miguel Andujar. Kevin Taylor singled home Nido for the final margin of victory. At 28-18 the AA Mets have a far better record than either the major leaguers or the AAA Mets in Vegas.
Along with a full slate in both the minors and the majors, college baseball’s postseason begins its next stage. 25 years ago the regionals were played in late May, usually ending either on Memorial Day or the day before and the College World Series would be played the next week. Now, the regionals just begin today, with the super regionals starting in a week’s time and the College World Series after that. That will run almost up against the major league All-Star break, which is insane. Tomorrow at Noon the St. Johns Red Storm play Vanderbilt in the Clemson regional. In a double elimination the winner of that game probably faces Clemson. In all likelihood St. Johns will turn to Jeff Belge, the pitcher who I wrote about in this space in the last couple of weeks. He has lost most the use of one eye owing to two childhood accidents, and still hits 94 MPH. You may imagine I want to follow his progress if he appears in the tournament-and considering the wear and tear on pitchers in this format he probably will. As for the majors, Oakland and Cleveland will be ready to start by the time you’re reading this. The Indians send out Corey Kluber in the hopes that he’s over the back trouble that put him on the DL last month. The Brewers and Mets wrap up their series at 1:10 in Flushing. The Mets hope Zack Wheeler can do far better than Jacob DeGrom did last night leading them to defeat. At 1:45 Eastern the Dodgers and Cardinals meet in St. Louis. At 3:40 the Rockies face the Mariners in Seattle. The rest of the schedule is under the lights. The Orioles welcome Boston after taking 2 of 3 from the Yankees. Last night the O’s got 4 in the third and 3 on an Adam Jones home run en route to a 10-4 demolition of the Yankees. Before that series the O’s had lost 7 in a row. Now after Tanaka tanked last night’s game, CC Sabathia faces the twin demons of a potent Jays’ offense (they’ve won 8 games out of 9) and exceptional Canadian beer and whiskey. He’s won 3 straight, the first such streak in 4 years which says a lot about the difference between, say the 2008 CC and the one lumbering to the mound now. The D-Backs turn to Zack Greinke whose only loss in May was in his last start. His mound opponent in Miami is Jeff Locke, acquired from the Pirates. Ironically Locke’s last start was the night before the death of star pitcher Jose Fernandez which sent the Marlins scrambling for pitchers. The only late game features the Twins and Angels in Anaheim. The Twins hope for anything positive after a 3-game beatdown at home by the Astros following their 15-inning loss this past Sunday to the Rays.