The Benefits of Tanking: How deGrom and the Mets Should Learn from the Sixers, Angelina, and Octomom

As you likely know, Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is in the midst of an epic season in which he has a .97 WHIP, 1.85 ERA, and 173 strikeouts in 22 starts (one of which he left after one inning, due to rain/injury).  This has put him in a tight race with the Nationals’ Max Scherzer for the National League Cy Young Award.  Of course, I should also mention that deGrom has all of 5 wins (5-7 record) this season.  Thus, he is on pace to earn a total of 7 or 8 wins.  Even if one looks at the Mets’ team record in deGrom’s starts (which leads into my view on how MLB should change its wins stat), one will see a sub-.500 record for deGrom and the Mets.

Image result for degrom
Via CBSSports.com

As a result of all this, what course of events over the next eight weeks would be most optimal for both deGrom’s Cy Young candidacy and his legacy?  I believe the best result for him would be to endure more of the same stuff that has happened for the first four-plus months of this season: more and more outings in which deGrom earns a loss while pitching 7 or 8 innings of 1-run ball.  While that would be bad for the Mets overall, it would be the best thing that could happen to deGrom.  Hear me out here…

Max Scherzer has 15 wins this season and is a safe bet to reach 20.  If deGrom maintains his own current pace toward 7 or 8 wins, Scherzer will destroy deGrom in the “Wins” department.  This occurrence would prop up the vitality of the “Poor poor Jacob deGrom” storyline.  Cy Young voters would likely ignore the “Wins” totals altogether.  The stat is already of waning importance to voters, and voters would use the 12-13-win gap between Scherzer and deGrom to a) provide the ultimate proof that the “Wins” stat is silly and b) stamp deGrom’s 2018 season as the ultimate “dominant season on a terrible team”.  As long as deGrom maintains his strong ERA edge and beats or comes close to Scherzer in strikeouts, Jake should earn the Cy Young Award with the help of the two aforementioned thoughts of voters.

What happens though if the Mets somehow bring deGrom 8 wins between now and the end of the season?  I know that a team regularly starting Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, and Wilmer Flores is unlikely to win 8 games period the rest of the season, but let us play “What if?” anyway.  In this hypothetical situation, deGrom would end the season with 13 wins.  That sounds good at first thought, but deGrom would now have a win total that is closer to representative of his 2018 performance.  In actuality, he likely will have pitched well enough to have earned 20 wins with 26 of the 29 other offense/bullpen combinations in baseball.  That said, the deGrom pity party would nevertheless be much smaller if he has 13 wins, compared to if he has 7 or 8 wins.  The gap between 13 wins and Scherzer’s 20 wins is small enough to make the “Wins” mark a legitimate factor in the Cy Young voting.  At the same time, Scherzer will have earned 7 more than deGrom.  All of a sudden, many of deGrom’s pity votes will change to Scherzer votes as the “Wins” debate is ironically legitimized.

Image result for scherzer
Via BeyondtheBoxScore

Meanwhile, if deGrom ends this season with 7 or 8 wins, baseball fans and writers will remember his season forever.  Someday, when deGrom’s name appears on the Hall of Fame ballot, voters will be quick to add 12 wins to his career “Wins” total on the grounds of “He should have won 20 games in that legendary 2018 season”.  This would be true even though many modern-day starters have great seasons that result in only 13 to 16 wins, due to lack of bullpen/offensive support.  This is why, if deGrom actually makes it to 13 wins this year, future Hall of Fame voters will not “tack on any wins” when analyzing his career.  Therefore, deGrom would lose out on “7 wins” in the minds of many voters, who would likely be overly generous in pretending an 8-win season is a 20-win season.

Anyway, this way of thinking might seem crazy to you, but it demonstrates one of the basic principles of life in the 21st Century.  You are better off having extreme misery than minor inconvenience.  Extreme misery sells, while nobody cares about minor inconveniences.

For example, would you rather give birth to triplets or octuplets?  Well, first off, I give major props to the woman birthing either.  That said, it is a lot of money and work to raise triplets.  It should cost an exorbitant amount of money and work to raise octuplets, but you are also 90% likely to get your own TV show if you have octuplets.  That TV show will give you a whole lot of money which will allow you can make ends meet.  If you have 3 kids, nobody is giving you a TV show…or money.  You have to take care of those three kids on your own.  Therefore, it might indirectly become easier to raise octuplets than triplets.

Actually, this “extreme misery sells” concept is the whole premise of reality TV.  As another example, Angelina showed up on Jersey Shore: Family Reunion this season looking like a complete mess.  Not a big deal.  Not super-memorable.  However, she then had a “period-sh!t” on TV, and, all of a sudden, we were blessed with the most memorable moment of the season.  Being a garden-variety complete mess was a minor inconvenience for Angelina, but I would like to think that having the entire world remember her as being “period-sh!t girl” is extreme misery….except for the fact that she has stayed much more relevant, famous, and (therefore) rich because of it.  Extreme misery pays off.

Basically, this extreme misery is just “life tanking”.  For years, the 76ers knew that they were not good enough to compete for NBA Championships, so Philly was better off losing to earn better draft picks.  Now, the team is good and ready to compete for championships.  Was Angelina really that different from the Sixers?  Had Angelina been merely “normal-level trashy”, it would have been like having “only” triplets”, deGrom winning 13 games this year, or the Sixers churning out a few #8-seeds and non-lottery draft picks.  Instead, Angelina showed that she could “trust the process” by doing the “period sh!t”, something that 99% of women would not want to do in front of even one other human, much less the whole country.  The action was memorably disgusting but led her back to fame and money.  Angelina was not going to use success to earn fame or fortune, so she tanked her way to fame and fortune.

Therefore, if the Mets want to earn deGrom a Cy Young Award and augment his Hall of Fame credentials, they should put the worst-possible lineups on the field every time deGrom makes a start.  In other words, the Mets can continue doing EXACTLY what they have been doing for deGrom for four months, and deGrom will achieve his “extreme misery” and his Sixers/Angelina/Octomom payoff in the form of a Cy Young Award.  Keep trusting the process, Jake and the Mets.

Mickey Callaway is Going to Be One-and-Done

Like Michael Kay, I too do not like talking about whether or not people should be fired.  It is tough for someone to lose his/her livelihood, and I do not like to go there.  At the same time, I am OK discussing whether or not I think somebody WILL be fired. That brings us now to a discussion of the New York Mets’ manager.  At this time, I would be completely shocked if Mickey Callaway returns to manage the Mets in 2019.  I know that it seems harsh to fire a manager after only one year on the job, but there are three major reasons why I expect Callaway to be let go.

1)     He is not a good manager: Let us start with the most obvious reason.  The job of baseball manager has two main components – strategy and leadership.  It would appear that Callaway struggles with both.  In terms of strategy, there have been far too many times when Callaway has made indefensible decisions.  I am not talking about leaving a starting pitcher in for one batter too many or one batter too few; I am also not talking about using his closer when he should not or using a non-closer when he should use his closer.  We criticize all managers about these decisions any time said decisions do not work.

No, I am talking about the obvious mistakes.  For example, in June, the Mets faced the Pirates at Citi Field.  In the Top of the 9th with 2 outs; first base was open, and the Pirates’ closer Felipe Vazquez was on deck.  It should have been a no-brainer to intentionally walk the batter, so that Vazquez would have to hit.  The Pirates had a lead, and it was a given that they would leave Vazquez (who had entered in the 8th) in the game.  Most of the time, there are fair arguments on both sides in baseball, but there was no valid case to be made against the intentional walk here.  Unfortunately, Callaway chose not to walk the guy.  That was bad.

Throw in times when Callaway has botched double-switches and the time when the Mets batted out of order, and one can make a strong case that Callaway is bad with strategy.  (I will admit that the “batting out of order” thing is a bit of a Rorschach test.  Had a good manager like Joe Maddon or Bruce Bochy overseen this gaffe, we would have laughed but not blamed the manager.  However, because it happened to Callaway, we assume that it was Callaway’s fault.)

Image result for mets bat out of order

As for leadership, I think Callaway is in worse standing there than he is with strategy.  It is conceivable that Callaway can improve from a strategic standpoint.  After all, he was previously a pitching coach in the American League; thus, the bulk of National League strategy was irrelevant to him in years’ past.  Unfortunately, leadership is a more difficult ability to change – typically you are either a good leader, or you are not.

Let us be clear.  I very very rarely criticize a manager’s (coach’s) leadership in any sport.  I think it is laughable when fans say things like, “The manager/coach has clearly lost the clubhouse/locker room”….as if we have any idea what is going on in those rooms.  These critics are the people who see a physical error and blame the manager.  Seriously, when the Yankees were 5-5 in April, I heard a guy call WFAN and claim that Aaron Boone was a bad manager because someone on the Yankees (I think it was Gregorious, but I am not certain) had made an error.  If I ever get to the point where I blame individual physical errors on the manager, please euthanize me.

However, it is reasonable both to blame managers for players’ mental errors and to believe a players-turned-announcer’s analysis that a manager has “lost the team”.  This is where Callaway finds himself in deep trouble.  I have never heard the Mets’ TV announcers – Gary, Keith, and Ron – show the same amount of disdain for a manager that they do for Mickey Callaway.  The disdain is never directly stated, but it is obvious.  A textbook example came during Wednesday’s 5-3 Mets loss in D.C.  Jose Bautista swung and missed for Strike Three, and the ball bounced to the backstop.  Bautista did not run and was called out.  Gary Cohen voiced his displeasure for Bautista’s stationary response, and Darling responded by saying that he was not surprised.  Darling explained that the Mets have not run out dropped third strikes all year long.  During Cohen’s and Darling’s dialogue, the disdain was obvious by the tones of their voices.

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Similarly, a few weeks ago, Keith Hernandez appeared on Mike Francesa’s show.  Francesa asked Keith if he thought Callaway was a good manager, and, in standard Francesa form, the question was long-winded and insinuated Francesa’s thoughts that Callaway was overmatched (either leadership-wise or strategically).  Keith responded with only “I expect Mickey to be the Mets’ manager next year.”  It was the ultimate case of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  A damning comment from Keith….and yes, one that runs contrary to the basic premise of this article.

Anyway, the Mets have made many mental errors this year, such as Wilmer Flores not throwing home in Wednesday’s eighth inning.  Unlike with physical errors, a mental mistake is at least partially the manager’s fault.  A manager should do his best to ensure that all players know what to do in all situations.  Of course, players can make mental errors even if the manager has adequately prepared them to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, there have been too many mental errors for this year’s Mets for one not to wonder if the manager is partially to blame.  There have also been too many times when the Mets do not hustle.  Again, for that, it is fair to look toward the manager.

Does this mean that Callaway has lost the clubhouse?  On my own, I cannot say that.  However, there have been enough allusions from Gary, Keith, Ron, and even Nelson Figueroa (SNY Studio) that Callaway has no control over the team.  3 of those 4 were Major Leaguers, and the other has been around Mets teams for 30 years.  When they say that Callaway has “lost the team”, I believe them.

2)     The Mets need a scapegoat for this awful season.  If a team has an unexpectedly terrible season, there usually needs to be a scapegoat.  As the old adage goes, you cannot fire the whole team, but you can fire the manager.  Note that I wrote “unexpectedly” in the first sentence of this part.  The Mets lost 92 games last year, which is terrible.  When a team has a terrible season, it is usually reasonable to expect the next season to be terrible as well.  Fairly or not, though, most people viewed the 2018 Mets differently.

While people were not readily predicting the 2018 Mets to be a playoff team, most people assumed that 2017 would prove to be an aberration because Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets’ starting-pitching staff minus Jacob deGrom spent most of 2017 on the disabled list.  Therefore, it seemed reasonable that the 2018 Mets would be at least a .500 team and would be in the running for the second Wild Card.  Unfortunately for Callaway, Cespedes will end up spending most of 2018 on the DL as well, and the stats since the start of 2015 show that the Mets are much much better with Cespedes than without him.  At the same time, deGrom, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler have essentially been healthy all year to this point.  Noah Syndergaard has been healthy for 2 of the 4 months.  Seth Lugo has been healthy as well, and he made a few starts early in the season before moving effectively to the bullpen.

In a way, Callaway has actually been hurt by the fact that the starting pitching has done well this year.  We all hoped that the Mets’ pitchers would be better and healthier this year than last year, and that has been the case.  Therefore, the fact that this pitching success has led the Mets to a 44-61 record ends up making it worse on Callaway than if the pitchers had all been terrible.  Had the pitchers been terrible and/or hurt, we would likely be blaming the pitchers (who were terrible and/or hurt last year, pre-Callaway).

Many modern “Moneyball” people say that a manager does not matter.  I am a moderate in this debate.  When a team is 44-61 as the Mets are, not even Gil Hodges nor Tony LaRussa would not have made the team a playoff team.  The Mets are terrible primarily because they have bad players – especially position players.  That said, I think that the difference between a good manager and a bad manager is somewhere between 6 and 10 wins over a full season.  While any manager can and should rely primarily on all available statistics to guide his decisions, a good manager is also able to take advantage of knowledge like: which reliever says he has “good stuff” today, which batter had great batting practice today, which normally-good player is in a funk today because of a fight with his girlfriend, which player is feeling sick today, etc.  A good manager rarely loses games because his players make mental errors or do not hustle.  A good manager’s tough decisions end up correct more often than not.

It would seem that none of the previous paragraph applies to Callaway.  Thus, given that we are 2/3 of the way through the season, maybe the Mets would have 6 more wins with a better manager.  That would mean a 50-55 record, which is actually a world of difference from 44-61.  It would give the Mets a chance to finish over .500.  More importantly, it would make the Mets feel that they are on the way back after the disastrous 70-92 2017 season.

I would love for the Mets to sign Manny Machado next year, but I know it is not happening.  The Wilpons can try to sign several players who will make the Mets much better in 2018, or they can bring in a new manager.  If the Wilpons do the latter, they can preach a change of culture, accountability, etc.  Which option is better?  I would absolutely prefer better players, because that can make more than 6 to 10 wins worth of difference.  However, which is cheaper?  Bringing in a new manager.  That is the biggest reason why I expect a new manager in 2018.

3)     The Mets wreck their managers by not letting them appear on WFAN or ESPN Radio.  This needs to be said.  Most Mets fans think of Mickey Callaway as a buffoon, partially because we never get to hear our trusted sports-radio hosts – Francesa, Kay, LaGreca, Evan Roberts, Boomer, etc. – interview the guy.  The Mets do not let their personnel speak on radio stations other than 710 WOR, and, in so doing, they set up their managers for failure.  If we were able to hear Callaway be interviewed on a weekly basis, we would hear his answers to some of our questions.  Oftentimes, we think people are misguided until we hear them provide their actual rationales.  Unfortunately, we do not get this air time with Callaway.  All we get is plenty of hosts deservedly ridiculing him for saying, “We are going to love our players…”.  This is why Callaway could truly benefit from first-hand WFAN/ESPN Radio time.

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OK, maybe Callaway would not give us much more in hypothetical WFAN/ESPN interviews than he gives us in his postgame press conferences, but there is a multiplier effect in play.  Radio hosts are nicer when discussing people who are guests on the show than when discussing people who are not.  It is human nature.  This does not mean that the radio hosts have not spoken ill of Joe Girardi nor Aaron Boone at times.  However, hosts will give those guys the benefit of the doubt, because they have working relationships that lead the hosts to assume the best from the managers.  When have you heard any sports-radio personality give Callaway the benefit of the doubt?  It never happens, because the hosts do not have relationships with the guy.  This hurts Callaway.  There is never any positivity about Mickey Callaway when it comes to sports radio, and that influences fans’ perceptions.  The Mets ensure that their managers receive primarily negative radio coverage.  Not only is this bad for Callaway, but it will also hurt his replacement as Mets manager in 2019.

I know that Keith expects Callaway to be back next year, but I think this post is way too long for that to be the case.

The Most Miserable Person in the World

This year’s MLB All-Star Game was a rather ho-hum affair.  We are less than a week removed from the game, and most MLB fans could not today recite a single memorable occurrence from that game.  Meanwhile, the most newsworthy All-Star Game occurrence was the revelation that Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader had tweeted misogynistic and homophobic things while he was in high school.

First off, obviously it is extremely inappropriate for a person to make such tweets.  That said, who is the person who dug up these tweets on the day of the All-Star Game?  There are only two possibilities, one commendable and one deplorable:

Possibility #1) A vindictive ex-girlfriend or ex-friend was “getting back” at Hader.  I really hope this was the case.  Maybe there was a time where Hader cheated on a girl, and she decided to get her revenge when he was on the biggest stage of his life.  Maybe Hader “stole” a girl from a friend, and the friend similarly decided to get revenge during the All-Star Game.  Either way, if the aggrieved party was aware that a) these tweets existed and b) Hader has/had a promising baseball career, said party might want to wait until the perfect time to unveil those tweets to the world.  This way, the party could maximize the damage to Hader’s career.  The perfect time was, of course, during the All-Star Game.  Very few people outside Milwaukee knew much about Josh Hader before Tuesday.  However, to reveal that an All-Star had once made those inappropriate tweets would be a big story, even if the name “Josh Hader” was not exactly a household name.  Therefore, the All-Star Game was the perfect time to release the tweets and thus to give Hader the most notoriety.

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Photo via Sporting News

Possibility #2) One of the most miserable people in the world dug up this tweet from the past and released it on Tuesday for the sole purpose of making Hader miserable.  Again, the tweets are inexcusable, but, as a high-school teacher, I also know that high-schoolers say, do, and tweet dumb things from time to time.  The whole point of going to school is to learn – not only academically, but also socially – so that one can live a responsible adult life.  I have taught many students who matured greatly over their high-school careers, and the last thing I would want to see is to have their careers tarnished by stupid things the students tweeted while they were in high school.

At the same time, I am sure there are miserable people out there who pore over the social-media accounts of every person who suddenly gains even a modicum of fame.  This way, these scavengers can try to wreck the person’s fame, even if the person is a good person.  By all accounts, Josh Hader has been an upstanding adult who tweeted inappropriate things as a high-schooler.  Why try to wreck the guy now, unless you are a miserable, miserable person?

If “Possibility #2” is the correct answer, then the person who uncovered these tweets surely drives in the left lane of the highway at 50 miles per hour and uses a urinal next to the only other occupied urinal when there is a line of open urinals.  What a miserable, miserable person.

A Less Familiar View on Familia

On Saturday, the Mets traded closer Jeurys Familia to the Oakland Athletics.  As we Mets fans close the book on the Familia era, I would like to make the case that he was a much better postseason pitcher the average Mets fan thinks he was.

Most often, when analyzing how good a player/pitcher somebody is/was, it is valid to look at the player’s career cumulative statistics.  While stats never tell the full picture, a large enough sample size of statistics does not lie either.  That said, for Jeurys Familia, we clearly do not have a large enough sample size to judge his postseason career on his cumulative save totals.  Familia is 5 for 8 in postseason save chances.  Thus, he has three career blown saves in the postseason.  Additionally, those three blown saves came in the World Series; thus, four of his past five postseason appearances yielded three blown saves (all in the World Series) and a loss in the 2016 Wild Card game.

Image result for familia blown save world series
Photo via Amazin’ Avenue

However, the guy has all of 13 career playoff appearances.  With a number that small, it is more logical to examine his performance on a game-by-game basis than a cumulative basis.  At the same time, it is worth noting that his playoff ERA is 2.30, and his playoff WHIP is an incredible .638!  Those two numbers should give you pause when deriding the guy’s playoff career.  More importantly, let us examine his 13 playoff outings:

  • 2015 NLDS Game 1 at Los Angeles: Familia pitches 1.1 innings with and retires all four batters he faces. He enters a 3-1 game in the 8th with two outs and a runner on base.  At Dodger Stadium in this instance, many pitchers might struggle, but Familia does not.  Familia is unfazed by the pressure and dominates.
  • 2015 NLDS Game 3 vs. Los Angeles: Familia retires all 3 batters he faces in the 9th The inning begins with the Mets leading 13-4.  After Erik Goeddel allows the first four batters to reach base, Familia comes on to stop the bleeding and preserve a 13-7 win.  This is a low-pressure situation, but he is perfect nonetheless.
  • 2015 NLDS Game 4 vs. Los Angeles: Familia pitches a perfect Top of the 9th to keep the Dodgers’ lead at 3-1. The Mets lose the game, but Familia remains perfect for his postseason career.
  • 2015 NLDS Game 5 at Los Angeles: If you are a real Mets fan, you think after this game, “Oh my God, we might have our Mariano.” It is a winner-take-all game, and Familia pitches perfect 8th and 9th innings at Dodger Stadium with the Mets clinging to a 3-2 lead in the game.  If Armando Benitez, John Franco, Braden Looper, Billy Wagner, or Francisco Rodriguez is the Mets’ pitcher this night; I think the Mets lose the game.  Fortunately, Familia has ice water in his veins and finishes off one gem of a pitching performance for the Mets (6 gutty innings from Jacob deGrom and a solid relief inning from Noah Syndergaard).
  • 2015 NLCS Game 1 vs. Chicago: Ho-hum: Familia records his third postseason save of more than one inning (1.1). This time, he does allow a hit, but he nevertheless preserves a 4-2 win for the Mets and Matt Harvey, who pitched 7.2 innings.  (Side note: With all of the ridiculously short starting pitchers’ outings in the 2016 and 2017 postseasons, it is refreshing to remember that the Mets’ starters routinely pitched at least 6 innings and often more during the 2015 playoffs.)
  • 2015 NLCS Game 2 vs. Chicago: Ho-hum again: Familia records his first easy (in my opinion) save of the postseason. He allows 1 hit over 1 inning in preserving a 4-1 Mets win.  Even Trevor Hoffman probably could have converted this save.
  • 2015 NLCS Game 3 at Chicago: Another easy one: Familia pitches a perfect ninth to finish off a 5-2 Mets win.
  • 2015 NLCS Game 5 at Chicago: Familia earns the right to be on the mound as the Mets clinch their first pennant in 15 years. He pitches a scoreless 9th and walks one batter.  The Mets win 8-3.

 

Therefore, as we presently stand, Familia has put together 8 scoreless appearances with only 3 baserunners allowed.  He is 5-for-5 in save opportunities, with 3 of those saves being more than one inning long.  Anyway, back to the log.

  • 2015 World Series Game 1 at Kansas City: Familia enters in the 8th inning with the tying run on base. Familia records the last out of the inning but allows a game-tying solo homer to Alex Gordon in the 9th  Thus, Familia’s line is 1.1 innings, 1 ER, 1 baserunner (the homer), 1 blown save.  It is the first blemish on Familia’s postseason record.  The Mets lose the game in 14 innings.
  • 2015 World Series Game 3 vs. Kansas City: Familia pitches a perfect 9th to preserve a 9-3 Mets win and to give the Mets their first win of the World Series. In hindsight, people criticize manager Terry Collins for using Familia with a 6-run lead.  On one hand, Collins used Familia with a bigger lead in Game 3 of the NLDS, and Familia looked no worse for wear in Games 4 and 5 of that series.  On the other hand, this World Series appearance represents Familia’s 10th postseason appearance in three weeks.  Thus, fatigue is likely becoming a bigger factor.  How does Familia respond going forward?…
  • 2015 World Series Game 4 vs. Kansas City: Familia pitches 2/3 of an inning (8th inning), allowing an unearned run and two hits. This is where the raw stats do not tell the story.  Mets fans know the story.  Familia enters in the Top of the 8th with the Mets clinging to a 1-run lead.  There are runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out.  Eric Hosmer hits a ground ball to second baseman Daniel Murphy.  At worst, this should be a 4-3 ground out that puts runners at second and third with 2 outs.  Instead, Murphy makes an error, allowing the tying run to score.  Somehow, this alone already counts as a blown save for Familia.  It is ridiculous that baseball scoring credits the run to the previous pitcher but the blown save to Familia, but I digress. There are now runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out and a tie score.  Familia allows two hits, and the two runners ultimately score (second being an unearned run charged to Familia).  Mets lose 5-3.

 

Sure, Murphy’s error is not solely responsible for Familia’s two hits allowed.  That said, Familia enters the game and induces the groundball he needed.  Had there then instead been 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs and the Mets up by 1, things might go differently than with first and third, 1 out, and a tie game.

  • 2015 World Series Game 5 vs. Kansas City: It is silly that Familia was given a blown save in Game 4 for allowing the inherited runner to score on Murphy’s error. It is criminal that Familia is given a blown save in the upcoming scenario.  Mets fans know this one very, very well.  Familia relieves Matt Harvey with the tying run on second and nobody out in the Top of the 9th.  Familia induces consecutive groundouts.  The first moves Eric Hosmer from second to third.  The second groundout is 5-3, with David Wright throwing the ball over to Lucas Duda.  Of course, Hosmer ends up following Wright and scoring the tying run on the play.  Familia then induces a third-consecutive groundout.
Image result for familia blown save world series
Photo via Slate.com

Therefore, Jeurys Familia allows three consecutive groundouts and earns a blown save.  Baseball’s rules are ridiculous.  Anyway, as we exit the 2015 postseason, we should remember Familia as being a great postseason pitcher.  Yes, he technically blew three saves, but two were fully or partially because of errors…and one was because baseball’s “blown save” crediting is silly.  In truth; over 12 playoff appearances, Alex Gordon’s Game 1 (WS) homer and the two KC hits after Murphy’s error opened the door were the only negatives on the guy’s record.  Familia had a stellar postseason and was instrumental in the Mets making it to the World Series.

However, after Familia’s unlucky-13th postseason appearance, many Mets fans retroactively decide that Familia is a bad postseason pitcher.  Of course, in this last appearance, Familia enters a scoreless game in the 9th inning and allows two baserunners before allowing Conor Gillaspie’s game-winning homer.  This is easily Familia’s worst postseason moment.  Unfortunately, it is his last Mets postseason moment, but let us not forget that the guy was actually a fantastic postseason pitcher for most of his Mets career.

I Can’t Decide If This Is a Good Idea or Not

At the Home Run Derby, Bryce Harper showed us why he may be worth $400 million dollars come the offseason. Hitting 8 home runs in 47 seconds is not something most normal people can do. Not even the power aspect, but the fact he wasn’t even getting tired? Usually people have to break after a couple swings that deep into the contest, just to take a breathe.

He looked like human version of this gif:

fail world series GIF by Looney Tunes

But something else interesting happened that night that I think should be considered, or at least discussed:

I really cannot tell if this is a good idea or not. On one hand, how cool would it be to see some of the top pitchers throw as hard as they can to a poor catcher who will have to ice his hand until the next year when he has to do it all over again. On the other hand, this is basically writing off the rest of the season because Tommy John might as well be a lock for one of these guys. It’s only a matter of who will fall victim to the injury.

So there’s a question to be answered: Is it worth it?

For sure, all-time records for hardest ball thrown would be broken in this contest. Guys totally gearing up with everything they got to be crowned the “hardest thrower in baseball”. We’d see 104, 105, and maybe even the untouched 106 MPH. But, we could also see some young arms derail their career very early.

Another side to argue is the chicken and the egg, “which came first” question. If a player slumps after the Home Run Derby, was that just bound to happen based on the premise that everybody falters at some point in the season, or is it guaranteed that because the player was dipping and jacking for an hour on a Saturday night that the rest of his season is screwed. It’s hard to tell. Similarly, if a pitcher gets injured from throwing his hardest, which ideally he’s doing two to three times a week regardless, isn’t there a chance he was already hurt and this contest might have put him over the edge? Again, difficult to pinpoint.

Bottom line, if you came here for an answer, I don’t have one. As I stated, I have no clue if it’s a good idea. There’s a good amount of pros, and a good amount of cons.

I’d love to see more action on All-Star Weekend. All baseball has is their version of the Dunk Contest. A little more diversity and appreciation for players with other skills would be cool to see for the die-hard baseball purists. Show me the fastest runner, let me see which duo can turn the fastest double play, who’s got the best arm from the outfield, which guy has the best baseball IQ. If baseball has a problem marketing their players, giving all of them more of a chance to perform on the big stage is a great opportunity to let everyone know their name. But at the risk of a potential injury, who knows what the right call is. I guess it should fall under the same category as the Home Run Derby…enter at your own risk.

 

Nobody Cares About Pitchers’ Wins Anymore, So Let’s Make a Change

The quickest way to get me to “check out” of an intelligent baseball conversation is to discuss a modern-day pitcher’s win-loss record as a major factor in how good the pitcher is.  In an era in which good pitchers routinely exit games with a third or more of the game left to play, pitchers simply do not earn enough decisions to make the “wins” statistic pertinent. 

Given that most baseball fans place little relevance on the “wins” statistic, we might as well try to improve the stat, and I have one good way to do this.  The official scorer of a game should be given discretion to award a win to a starting pitcher any time that both of these criteria are met: a) His team has won the game.  (Obviously)  b) He has pitched at least five innings.

You might be wondering, “Nice work, Mike.  It has been that way since Doubleday invented the sport.”

True, but I have removed the third criterion, that which requires a pitcher to be the most recent guy on his team to have thrown a pitch as of the moment his team takes the lead.  This is my big change.  This rule is an anachronism.  It was created in the 1800s when pitchers routinely pitched complete games.  Additionally, it was not until the late 1980s and early 1990s that managers started to remove pitchers who were pitching well.  Before that time, managers did not worry about pitch counts or fatigue.  If the pitcher was effective, he was remaining in the game. 

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As a result, there were relatively few cases in which a pitcher would pitch very well but not receive a decision.  In modern baseball, it is commonplace for a pitcher to exit a game in the 6th or 7th inning while clinging to a 2-1 or 3-1 lead or losing 2-1 or 3-1.  Of course, this means that bullpens have 3 or 4 innings to blow that 2-1 lead or 3-1 lead.  It also means that bullpens have 3 or 4 innings to keep deficits within 2 runs.  In either of these cases; if a team takes the lead to stay while a reliever is in the game for this team, which pitcher is most responsible for the team’s victory?  More often than not, it is the starting pitcher. 

Why not allow the starting pitcher to earn the victory in any case where he is the pitcher most responsible for the team’s win?  Let the statistic measure what it is supposed to measure.  If a bullpen coughs up a lead, but that teams wins anyway; why should the mediocre reliever earn the win?  By the same token, if three relievers pitch one shutout inning apiece to keep their team down 3-1, it seems to me that the guy who threw 6 innings of 3-run ball should earn the win if his team comes back in the end.  In fact, Jacob deGrom gave us a textbook example of my philosophy on Friday night against the Rays.  He pitched 8 innings of 1-run ball, left with the game tied at 1, and watched as Jose Bautista’s walk-off grand slam in the 9th inning gave the Mets a 5-1 win.  Jeurys Familia pitched 1 inning that night and earned the win, but that should be deGrom’s win.  Jacob was the pitcher most responsible for the Mets’ win, so he should receive credit for it.

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Of course, this is not my first time recommending a change to baseball.  Therefore, I know there is sometimes disdain for me trying to change things in a sport with many purists.  Therefore, I have two additional points before the angry mob comes for me:

1)     If you are worried that this change will inflate “Wins” numbers compared to guys’ totals in the past, stop trying to make intergenerational comparisons.  The pitchers from olden days will always be better than the modern-day guys because the past guys threw so many more innings.  With all the bullpen decisions that these current starters render, plenty of these games will become losses.  Therefore, the “Wins” totals from olden days will continue to stay well above the modern-day totals.  Remember that the modern-day pitcher also forgoes more wins than olden-day pitchers did to both injuries and sub-5-inning starts.

2)     If you do not like that the official scorer has discretion, be aware that he/she already has some.  The official scorer is, in fact, allowed to award a win to a relief pitcher who said scorer thinks has contributed more to the victory than the guy who was on the mound when his team took the lead.  The only caveat is that it is that the scorer must hand the win to a reliever, not a starter.  Perfect example: June 30, 2000: Second-best Mets game that I ever attended.  Mike Piazza capped the Mets’ 10-run 8th inning with a go-ahead homerun.  The official scorer gave the win to Armando Benitez, who came in for the 9th inning, as opposed to Eric Cammack, who was on the mound to finish the Top of the 8th.

 

Thus, official scorers already have some discretion.  I think it makes sense to give them a little bit more.  This would not make “Wins” a perfect stat for discussing pitchers’ greatness, but it would at least move the stat in the right direction.

Six Basic Rules for Calling Mike Francesa

As you New York sports fans know, the legendary Mike Francesa returned to WFAN in May.  I have actually found him to be much more delightful to hear in this second go-round than during the last few years of his first WFAN stint (which ended in December).  I think that the 5 months off gave him time to recharge and become a happier human.  Plus, as I have mentioned in the past, I think that 5.5 hours, which Francesa used to do, for one host is a ridiculous amount of time.  Now that he has to deal with only 3.5 hours, I think he is much saner and thus more enjoyable.

At the same time, it remains a valid expectation that any guy who calls his show will feel worse about himself after the phone call.  I know that I lack the spheres to call his show, but I do feel I have enough experience as a listener to provide advice to those who do wish to call his show.  Before I unveil these six pieces of advice, allow me to warn you all of the following.  There are three general ways in which Mike Francesa will respond to callers:

1)     The “You Are Lower Than Dirt” response: Mike will not even give your thought the time of the day, because it is the dumbest thing he has ever heard (or at least the dumbest thing he has ever heard since the last dumbest thing he has ever heard – which likely happened 15 minutes prior).  Mike will either hang up on you, mutter to Monz something along the lines of “Can you believe he waited on the line for an hour to say that?”, or keep you on the line for 15 minutes so that he can ridicule you with follow-up questions, each of which is more hostile than the previous.  Sometimes, these Francesan responses are warranted, such as when he responded to a caller predicting a Jets/Patriots tie for that night’s game (Pats actually won 45-3).  Sometimes, it is not – such as if a caller suggests making the Wild-Card Playoff a Best-of-3.  Mind you, Francesa and I both dislike this “Best of 3” idea.  However, it is not a cockamamie idea, and the premise of the show is to fill 3.5 hours with sports talk.  Thus, it seems silly to me to belittle a caller with such an idea.  Francesa feels the opposite of me in that respect.

2)     The “One Upper” response: Once in a while, a caller will actually make a smart comment that Francesa has never said.  Therefore, Francesa’s ego will require that he takes the comment a step farther so that he can take ownership of the quote.  He is the sports-talk equivalent of the great Kristen Wiig character, Penelope.  For example, if you call and say, “Mike, I think Bernie Williams was the most underrated Yankee of the past 30 years, because he didn’t last long enough to be part of the Core Four”, he might actually like your thought.  However, he wants to receive credit for the thought, so, within a minute, it is entirely possible that there is now a “Core Five” including Bernie.  All Francesa’s idea.  (Quick Note: It is my actual belief that Bernie is underrated for the very reason that I have stated.)

3)     The “I’m Gonna Zig When You Think I’m Gonna Zag” response: This is the one that must drive callers the most nuts.  Sometimes, Francesa will span 5 callers making the same response, waiting for callers to accept his idea.  Then, once a caller (say, Caller 6) finally accepts Francesa’s response, Mike flips the script and argues the other side.  For example, it is widely-known that Francesa wishes the Yankees had not traded for Giancarlo Stanton.  (Side note: this is probably partially because he spent his last month at WFAN in the fall stating that the Yankees would never get Stanton.)  Thus, it is possible for this scenario to unfold: 5 callers make their case that the Yankees would be better with Stanton, and Mike refutes all of these callers.  Then, when the sixth caller says, “Mike, I don’t know what these guys are thinking.  The Yankees missed the World Series by one game without him and are just not the same now that he’s here.”, I fully expect Francesa to say, “Come on now, these callers have good points.  The guy is a former MVP and homerun champion.  Of course, there’s a place for him on this Yankees team.  The team has already won a million games with him this year.”  Great stuff!

OK, enough preamble.  Now, for the main event.  Here are my six pieces of advice for calling the great Mike Francesa.

1)     Do not ask multiple questions.  His brain is not capable of handling two questions.  Never in all my years listening to his show have I heard him successfully answer multiple questions from the same caller.  Therefore, if you ask two questions, either a) he will answer only your second question (tough luck if your first question was better) or b) morph the two questions into one ridiculously silly question that you would never in a million years ask.  For example, if you ask him who the Yankees should target at the trade deadline and also ask him how he thinks the Cowboys will do in 2018, there is a decent chance you are getting a 5-minute lesson on why the Cowboys are not trading Ezekiel Elliott.

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2)     Have a woman call for you.  Quick note: If you are a woman, you may call for yourself.  OK, now that we have cleared that up, let me cut to the chase.  Anyone who says that chivalry is dead should listen to Francesa.  He is a million times kinder to ladies than he is to men.  If you want to suggest that the Mets should trade the Yankees Jacob deGrom for Ronald Torreyes, Francesa’s response will make you never want to leave your house again (if you are a man).  However, if you let a woman call, he will actually analyze the deal rationally and respectfully before nevertheless acknowledging that the Mets would never in a million years do the trade.

3)     Do not ask for a prediction.  This goes for anything – a game, a series, or a championship.  Mike will make predictions only when he chooses to do so.  If you try to force a prediction on him, he will become as angrily flustered as a kindergartener trying to do long division.  This especially goes for single baseball games, and Mike does have a point.  The results of single baseball games are too random for accurate predicting.  That said, if you try to elicit a prediction, you might get a classic “You’re asking me to make a prediction?  Honestly, I haven’t thought about it yet.  I really haven’t” rant in which he repeats those same three sentences for three minutes.  However, sometimes you do get lucky, and, in said rant, he actually makes a prediction.  “Honestly, I haven’t thought about it.  I really haven’t.  I mean, I like CC’s chances going up against a Blue Jays lineup that hasn’t hit lately, but I can’t make a prediction.  I haven’t thought enough about it.  Do I think the Yankees will win tonight?  Yes I do.  I am confident that they will win handily, but I just haven’t thought about the game.  I can’t predict what is going to happen in one game.”  That is a Francesan response right there.

4)     Do not ask him trivia.  I really could have merged #3 and #4, but I chose to drag things out to please our esteemed BTB advertisers.  That said, I advise Francesa’s callers to stay on the straight and narrow.  Mike always wants you to ask questions only about the specific topic he is discussing.  If you ask him trivia, he will show you utter disdain, and his response will be the same as in #3 but in regard to trivia, not a prediction.  That does mean though that you could get 5 minutes of him guessing answers while simultaneously saying he is not going to answer the question.  Classic.

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5)     Do not ask him hypothetical questions.  Again with the simple brain thing.  The other day, I heard someone call him up and ask if he would give up Gleyber Torres in a trade if it were a given that the Yankees would win the 2018 World Series.  For any other show, that is a smart call.  Do you take the guaranteed championship this year while giving up a potential perennial All-Star, a guy who could likely you bring you multiple championships anyway?  It is a great conversation piece, but Mike’s brain cannot handle that stuff.*  As a result, he answered the call by saying repeatedly that you can never guarantee that any move will bring a championship.  Thanks, Mike.  Glad you’re here.

*Note: When Mike interviews a guest whom he greatly respects (Jim Nantz, Bill Simmons, Troy Aikman – for example), his brain can handle anything.  Mike is actually quite smart, but he is selective about when he turns on his brain.  If Bill Simmons were to ask Mike the Gleyber question, Francesa would likely reply, “That is a great question, Bill.  It really is a great question.  I’d take the trade though.  Even the Yankees have to pick the guaranteed championship over the prospect of several others.  You have to take the free title.  You have to do it.”  Remember though: if you, the random caller, asks this question, you are getting the stupid answer from the previous paragraph.

6)     Under no circumstances should you ask him about hockey.  Obviously, in the regular season, he will go to the next call immediately.  In the playoffs, you will get the most basic of hockey clichés.  Yes, it is annoying that true hockey analysts speak mainly in clichés, but I like to know that the clichés are coming from a person who knows hockey, not from a guy in Francesa who speaks occasionally to Ed Olczyk and Pierre McGuire.  When the Rangers are in the playoffs (Joyously, this occurrence did not come to pass in 2018), expect Mike to say “Rangers need to show more passion”, “Rangers need to score more”, or “Lundqvist needs to make some big stops”.  That is all.  Tremendous insight.

This ends my tutorial on how to call Mike Francesa.  No, I will not be the one calling his show.  I remain a “no time, long time” listener to sports radio.  If I ever do garner the courage to call a show, I will definitely call Joe and Evan.  They are the best combination of sports knowledge and personality on New York sports radio.  I would have to be several calls deep into my career before I call Francesa, but, if I ever do, I will make sure to follow these six rules.