Monday, January 21, 2019

If Studious Metsimus Had a 2019 Hall of Fame Vote...

On Tuesday, January 22, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be using its speed dial to inform several players and their families that they'll need to cancel any plans they have for the penultimate weekend in July because new plans have been made for them.  Those players who receive 75% of the Hall of Fame vote will be joining Modern Baseball Era inductees Lee Smith and Harold Baines on stage at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, New York.

Last year's class saw a starting pitcher, a closer, three infielders and an outfielder receive their plaques, as Jack Morris, Trevor Hoffman, Jim Thome, Alan Trammell, Chipper Jones and Vladimir Guerrero were immortalized as six of the game's all-time greats.  Don't be surprised if a similar number of hotel rooms need to be booked for this year's inductees.

Fifteen players returned to the ballot this year, after receiving the minimum five percent of the vote last year, but not quite the 75% needed for induction.  Three former Mets (Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield) are among them.  In addition to the 15 returnees, there are 20 first-timers on the ballot, with three of them also wearing a Mets cap at some point in their career.  Those three are lefty long-man Darren Oliver, the underachieving Jason Bay and the winner of the "Wait, He Was A Met?" award, Rick Ankiel, who helped the Mets more as a member of 2000 Cardinals than he did as a member of the Mets in 2013.

According to Ryan Thibodaux and his helpful Hall of Fame ballot tracker, there are 412 ballots out there, with 309 votes needed for induction.  Players will be five-percented off the ballot if they do not receive a minimum of 21 votes.  And by players, I mean Darren Oliver, Jason Bay and Rick Ankiel.  Sorry, guys.  At least you played long enough to get on the ballot.

Had Studious Metsimus been honored with the right to vote, players would have needed 310 votes to be inducted, so if someone like Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds misses the cut by one vote this year, they can file a formal complaint to make my vote officially count instead of it just being a feeble attempt to get me a few dozen page views every January.  Not that I would have voted for Clemens or Bonds anyway.  I'm not a fan of bat-tossing misrememberers or people who try to compete with Bruce Bochy (another former Met!) for the title of largest noggin in baseball.

Here's what would have been Ballot No. 413, focusing on three players I would personally like to see in the Hall, followed by the other seven who would get the "X" mark next to their names on my imaginary ballot.

Baseball Mecca.  (Photo courtesy of the Cooperstown/Otsego County website)

Edgar Martinez

Face it, the only reason Martinez is still on the ballot in his tenth and final year of eligibility is because he played a significant portion of his career as a designated hitter.  How else can you explain a lifetime .312 hitter with a .933 OPS and OPS+ just short of 150 not having a plaque in Cooperstown yet?

The voters of this generation who use the DH argument to foil the case of Martinez are like the previous generation's voters who couldn't bear to see relief pitchers making the Hall.  "If they can't pitch more than a few innings, I can't vote for them," those misinformed voters would say.  But relievers such as Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter (all Hall of Famers) paved the way for the one-inning closer to get recognition from the Hall.  Dennis Eckersley has a plaque in Cooperstown.  John Smoltz's three-and-a-half year period as a dominant closer also helped fuel his candidacy.  Trevor Hoffman got his Hall call last year and Lee Smith just impressed the Modern Era voters.  And who, pray tell, is going to keep Mariano Rivera out of Cooperstown this year, other than Boston bloviator Bill Ballou?

The same people who are now accepting one-inning closers as potential Hall of Famers now need to focus their attention on players who left their gloves at home.  Frank Thomas, who started more than 100 games at first base in just three of his 19 seasons and played in over 1,300 games exclusively as a designated hitter, was a first ballot Hall of Famer.  Why is his lifetime .301/.419/.555 slash line considered worthy of enshrinement and Edgar's .312/.418/.515 isn't?  Is it because Thomas produced the sexy hits (521 HR) and Martinez didn't (309 HR)?  It's true Thomas had 11 seasons with 100+ RBI while Edgar had just six.  But did you know the great Mickey Mantle only had four such seasons?  No one used that argument against Mantle and no one should.  But had he played in the DH era, Mantle's knee injuries would have relegated him to "leave your glove behind" status and then people would be questioning what should have been obvious about him; that he is undoubtedly a Hall of Famer.

Martinez won two batting titles.  He was also a league leader in runs scored, RBI, OPS, OPS+ and finished first multiple times in doubles and on-base percentage.  For seven seasons (1995-2001), which coincided with all of the Mariners' postseason trips in franchise history, Martinez's averages per 162 games were mindboggling.  He produced a .329/.446/.574 slash line.  That's a 1.020 OPS in 1,020 games.  And if that's not good enough, how about his 162-game average of 47 doubles, 32 homers, 123 RBI and 111 runs scored during the seven-year stretch?

There's a reason why the annual outstanding designated hitter award is named after Edgar Martinez.  That's because he was the best at what he did.  And those who are the best deserve to be with the best in Cooperstown.

This mustache should be on Edgar's plaque.  It's Hall of Fame worthy by itself.  (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Larry Walker

Similar to Edgar Martinez, Walker hasn't gotten as much support as he should because of one nagging element.  Martinez has failed to get votes because of the DH factor, while Walker has the Coors Field factor looming over him.

Prior to becoming a Colorado Rockie, Larry Walker was already a good hitter and complete player.  In his final three years in Montreal, Walker had a .294 batting average, .371 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage, averaging 33 doubles, 21 HR, 88 RBI and 21 SB.  He was also an All-Star, won a Silver Slugger Award and two Gold Gloves while in Montreal.  Although those numbers are not quite Hall of Fame worthy, they were still very good.  Then he signed with Colorado and became one of the best players in the major leagues.

In his first season with the Rockies (1995), Walker hit .306 with 36 HR and 101 RBI.  His .607 slugging percentage was second in the league and he helped lead the third-year Rockies to their first-ever playoff appearance.  Year two in Colorado was fraught with injuries, as Walker only played in 83 games but still managed 18 HR, 58 RBI and 18 SB in half a season's worth of games.  Fully healthy in 1997, Walker's career took off into the stratosphere.  Walker's 1997 numbers (.366 batting average, 46 doubles, 49 HR, 130 RBI, 143 runs scored, 33 SB, .452 OBP, .720 SLG, 1.172 OPS) almost looked like they came straight from a video game.  But Walker wasn't done after his phenomenal '97 campaign.  Over the next five seasons, Walker won three batting titles (1998, 1999, 2001), finished second another year (2002) and had a combined .350 batting average over those five seasons.  Basically, he was Tony Gwynn with power and Gwynn was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

In ten years as a Rockie, Walker posted a .334 batting average, .426 on-base percentage, .618 slugging percentage and 1.044 OPS.  Only 24 players in major league history finished with a higher career batting average than what Walker put up in that ten-year span.  Of those 24, the only three who finished with a higher on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS were Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, all first ballot Hall of Famers and all legends of the sport.

Larry Walker played 17 years in the major leagues.  However, because of injuries, he only had four seasons in which he played at least 140 games.  From 1994-2005, Walker missed an average of 44 games per season, failing to play more than 103 games in five of those 12 campaigns.  Despite his multiple trips to the disabled list, Walker finished his career with 2,160 hits, including 471 doubles and 383 HR.  He also stole 230 bases, scored 1,355 runs and drove in 1,311 more.  His combined averages (.313 BA, .400 OBP, .565 SLG) are among the highest career marks of anyone not already in the Hall of Fame, as is his 72.6 bWAR.  And he wasn't just a product of Coors Field.

Walker played in 674 games for the Expos prior to his time in Colorado and 144 games for the Cardinals after leaving the Rockies, which is approximately five full 162-game seasons.  In those 818 games in non-Rockies uniforms, Walker posted an .851 OPS and 129 OPS+, averaging 63 extra-base hits and 21 steals per 162 games.  And those numbers weren't fueled by the thin air in Denver.

All told, Walker was a five-time All-Star, won seven Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger Awards.  He also finished in the top 20 in the MVP vote seven times, winning the 1997 N.L. Most Valuable Player Award.  Not all of his awards and accolades came as a member of the Colorado Rockies, proving that Walker was an exceptional player before and after his time in Colorado.  Simply stated, Larry Walker has earned the right to become the first player with a Rockies hat on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Larry Walker sticks out his tongue to all those who won't vote for him.  (David Seelig/AllSport)

Mariano Rivera

He blew a save in the 1997 ALCS, which allowed the Cleveland Indians to stave off elimination and led to the Yankees' sole postseason series loss in a five-year period.

He couldn't hold a lead in the ninth inning of Game Seven of the 2001 World Series, allowing the Arizona Diamondbacks to celebrate their first and only championship.

He was credited with back-to-back blown saves in the 2004 ALCS, when converting any one of them would have resulted in a pennant for the Yankees instead of what became a curse-ending title run for the Boston Red Sox.

He lost four games to the Mets and allowed runs in six of his final 11 appearances against his crosstown rivals, allowing players such as Matt Franco (1999), Timo Perez (2001), Raul Gonzalez (2003), Damion Easley (2007), Ike Davis (2010), Ronny Paulino (2011) and Lucas Duda (2013) to drive in runs against him.

Clearly, after suffering so much in the postseason and failing repeatedly against the Mets, especially when facing less than legendary players, it's time to give Mariano Rivera a break.  He gets my sympathy vote for the Hall.

Down, but not out (of the Hall of Fame).  (Keith Torrie/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images)

In addition to the marvelous Martinez, the wonderful Walker and the wretched Rivera, these are the other seven players I'd vote for Hall of Fame induction:

  • Roy Halladay:  Some people wonder if he'd have gotten as much support for the Hall had he not tragically passed away in 2017.  Those people probably don't realize that for a ten-year period (2002-11), Halladay was arguably one of the top three pitchers in baseball.  In that decade of excellence, Halladay earned a victory in nearly 70% of his decisions, had three 20-win seasons and posted a 2.97 ERA (148 ERA+) with a 1.11 WHIP.  He also led the league in innings pitched and shutouts four times each and finished first in complete games an incredible seven times.  That's Hall of Fame worthy, even if he's not here to accept the honor.
  • Todd Helton:  Like former teammate Larry Walker, Helton's candidacy will be questioned because of the Coors Field factor.  After all, during his best eight-year stretch (1998-2005), Helton averaged 46 doubles, 33 HR, 113 RBI and 114 runs scored, while striking out just 76 times and drawing 96 walks per season.  That's absolutely tremendous.  Wanna know what his average season was like in road games, otherwise known as games not played at Coors Field?  While wearing road grays during those eight seasons, Helton slashed .298/.398/.520 and produced 277 extra-base hits, drove in 347 runs and scored 337 times.  That's an average of 73 extra-base hits, 91 RBI and 89 runs scored per 162 road games.  In other words, still up in the elite hitter stratosphere.  Even with injuries sapping his power in his later years, Helton still managed to finish in the top 100 all-time in home runs (80th all-time), doubles (19th), extra-base hits (40th), hits (97th), RBI (97th) and runs scored (96th).  There are over 100 hitters in the Hall of Fame.  Helton ranks in the top 100 in many major hitting categories.  You do the math if he belongs in the Hall or not.
  • Fred McGriff:  I hadn't voted for him before, but now I see the error of my ways.  The 1994-95 strike that cancelled the World Series also did a number on McGriff's Hall of Fame candidacy.  Had the Crime Dog played in the 66 games that were cancelled, he likely would have collected the seven home runs he needed for 500 and the ten hits required to get to 2,500.  He also might have approached 1,600 RBI, as he finished 50 short of that lofty total.  A total of 17 players have collected 500 HR, 2,500 hits and 1,600 RBI.  Four of them have steroid suspicions (Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield) and two are not yet eligible for the Hall (Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols).  The other 11 are already in Cooperstown.  McGriff played clean, he played hard and he played consistently well.  He gets my vote.
  • Curt Schilling:  Like Hoffman, he posted an impressive WHIP during an era known for its offense.  From 1992 to 2004, Schilling was the owner of a 1.091 WHIP, while averaging 202 strikeouts and just 44 walks per season.  In fact, of all pitchers with at least 3,000 strikeouts, no one posted a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Schilling's 4.38 K/BB (3,116 K, 711 BB).  And then there's this posteason thing; the one with him going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.968 WHIP in 19 starts.  He's one of the all-time greats.
  • Mike Mussina:  Schilling is considered one of the best pitchers of his era.  Modern metrics says Mussina was a better player, as his 83.0 bWAR puts him ahead of Schilling's 79.9 bWAR.  Mussina finished in the top-six in Cy Young Award balloting nine times and won seven Gold Glove Awards.  And of all pitchers who made at least 500 starts, only Hall of Famers Christy Matthewson, Pete Alexander, Randy Johnson and maybe-someday Hall of Famer Roger Clemens posted a higher winning percentage than Mussina's .638 mark. 
  • Billy Wagner:  It's a shame Wagner hasn't gotten more recognition, as he was far more dominant than 2018 Hall of Fame inductee Trevor Hoffman and 2019 enshrinee Lee Smith ever were.  Hoffman and Smith got the job done as effectively as any other closer who ever lived.  But Wagner would eat a hitter up and spit him out.  Injuries curtailed Wagner's career, but any pitcher who averaged nearly 12 strikeouts per nine innings, four whiffs per walk and finished his career with a WHIP under 1.00 (Wagner's WHIP was 0.998) deserves Hall of Fame consideration.  And I didn't even mention his 422 saves and 2.31 ERA.  Okay, maybe I just did. 
  • Jeff Kent:  Kent was more than just his 1970s porn star 'stache.  He was one of the best hitting second basemen of all-time.  For a guy whose career didn't take off until his age-29 season, Kent finished just 16 extra-base hits shy of 1,000.  The pressures of playoff baseball didn't faze him, as Kent posted an identical .500 career slugging percentage in the regular season and postseason.  And let's not forget his eight seasons with 100+ RBI, the 1,518 runs he drove in for his career and the title of all-time leading home run hitter at the second base position.

Those are my ten Hall of Fame selections.  Some will get in.  Some won't.  And some will continue to wonder why they have to keep paying for a ticket to get in to see their contemporaries' plaques.  (I'm talking to you, Clemens and Bonds.)  As always, some candidates didn't make my cut.  But every player on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2019 had an outstanding career and all of them had qualities that at the very least put them in the Hall of Fame conversation.  Except Rick Ankiel, who needed 14 seasons to reach the ten-year minimum needed to qualify for Hall of Fame consideration.

Who will get in?  And who will be joining Ankiel by buying a ticket for themselves?  That will be revealed on January 22.  Until then, we'll just follow the advice of Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby and just stare out the window, waiting for spring to arrive.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

Studious Metsimus Presents The Happy/Crappy Recap For 2018

Another year is about to reach its conclusion, Mets fans.  Ray Ramirez is still gone, the Wilpons are still reluctant to break open their piggy banks and the Mets are still a fourth place team - something they've been for six of Citi Field's ten seasons.  In other words, the calendar may be changing, but the Mets haven't really followed suit.  Or have they?

Since Noah Syndergaard ended the 2018 campaign with a complete game shutout, some dead weight has been shown the door (Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak), some new blood has been added (Robinson Canó, Edwin Díaz, Wilson Ramos) and a "Familia" face has returned to his old haunts (the Danza Kuduro guy).  We've shed one last tear of joy for Wilmer Flores, and exhaled because new Rockies infielder Daniel Murphy will only be making one annual trip to Flushing instead of three.

There are still quite a few free agents available for the Mets to pass up on.  Just as there are many American League teams who should show some good ol' Junior Circuit hospitality to Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in order to keep them away from the Phillies.

But that's something for 2019.  We're here to talk about 2018 for the final time.  Optimistic Mets fans saw plenty of happy moments in the soon-to-be-over year, while the blue and orange pessimists (and there are plenty of you out there) thought the 2018 campaign was mostly manure.  Let's see what was so happy and crappy about the dearly departed season, shall we?

Two words.  Jacob deGrom.

You can't have a conversation about what made Mets fans happy in 2018 without mentioning deGrom's historic season.  You know the numbers.  1.70 ERA.  269 strikeouts.  And just ten wins in 32 starts.  Some people have compared Jake's 2018 campaign to Bob Gibson's in 1968 and Doc Gooden's in 1985.  DeGrom's season would have been better if it wasn't for those meddling wins.

Both Gibson and Gooden struck out 268 batters in their historic years.  DeGrom fanned one more.

Gibby and Doc pitched to a 1.12 and 1.53 ERA, respectively, in their Cy Young seasons.  The league average ERA in 1968 was 2.99 (or 1.87 higher than Gibson's record-setting mark), while the average N.L. pitcher in 1985 posted a 3.59 ERA (or 2.06 higher than Doctor K's figure).  Jacob deGrom would like Gibson and Gooden to hold his beer, as his 1.70 ERA was 2.32 lower than the league average 4.02 ERA.

Gibson allowed four runs or more in four of his starts in 1968, while Doc saw four men cross the plate in two of his outings in '85.  Only once did deGrom give up more than three runs in a game in 2018, as he ended the year with 29 consecutive starts allowing three runs or fewer, which is a major league record that Gibson and Gooden failed to approach in their stellar campaigns.

Sure, the Mets had breakout seasons from Brandon Nimmo (53 XBH, .404 OBP, .886 OPS) and Zack Wheeler (12-7, 3.31 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 179 Ks) and Michael Conforto returned from his gruesome shoulder injury to post career highs in home runs (28) and RBI (82), but come on.  None of them brought Mets fans out to the ballpark as much as deGrom did.

Every deGrom start was a must-see event, and unfortunately, once the Mets were eliminated from postseason contention (which, contrary to popular belief, was not during the National Anthem on Opening Day), Jacob's starts were the only things Mets fans were looking forward to.

Which brings us to what was crappy about the 2018 campaign.

Two words.  David Wright.

Wright himself wasn't crappy.  In fact, he's arguably the best homegrown position player in franchise history.  But after playing in just 77 out of the Mets' 648 games from 2015 to 2018, Wright finally called it a career after making one final start for the only team he's ever known.

Wright looked to be on his way to a Hall of Fame career before Ray Ramirez, I mean, spinal stenosis got in the way.  One day, he will have a plaque on display in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum.  Maybe the Mets will even retire No. 5.  But knowing the Mets, they'll probably just take the number out of circulation until Kelvin Torve Jr. is ready to be called up.

"Hey, kid!  Have we got the perfect uniform number for you!"

Anyway, the really crappy guy here is Peter O'Brien, the Marlins' first baseman who caught Wright's foul pop-up near the first base stands rather than slipping on an imaginary banana peel in order to give Wright a chance to get one final hit in a Mets uniform.  What is it about the Marlins playing the Mets in New York during the season's final three games that cause such crappy moments to happen?

On that note, I hope someone got O'Brien a copy of "How to Catch Pop-Ups at Citi Field" by respected author Luis Castillo as a stocking stuffer.

That's all she wrote for 2018, which means the 2019 season is just around the corner.  But before you put up one of those new calendars that someone got you for the holidays because they had no idea what else to get you and they've never heard of gift cards, let's pause to give credit to those hardworking Mets bloggers who still find the time to write about their favorite team even though most people have switched over to doing podcasts.

Respected and long-running blogs such as A Gal For All Seasons, Faith and Fear in Flushing, Mets Merized Online, MetsMinors.Net, Amazin' Avenue, Metstradamus, Remembering Shea, The Daily Stache, Mets360, Rising Apple, Mets Plus, Good Fundies, MetSilverman, Converted Mets Fan and Mets Daddy, just to name a few (or 15, to be exact) always have interesting stories to share, day or night.  Check them out some time.  I'd say "tell 'em Ed sent you" but I'm not sure all of them know who I am.

From all of us here at Studious Metsimus Headquarters, which is pretty much just a desk, a computer, a keyboard that needs a new battery and a guard cat (we couldn't afford a guard dog), we'd like to thank you for your continued support of this site and wish you all the best in 2019.  And when I say "we", I'm talking about Ed Leyro (the guy at the desk), Joey Beartran (the roving reporter/culinary expert who would like his computer back so he can order dinner) and Taryn "The Coop" Cooper (who would invent new curse words if I asked her to get a battery for the keyboard instead of just getting it myself).

And remember, Mets fans.  Winning isn't everything.  It's just the thing Jacob deGrom can't do whenever he pitches eight innings of one-run ball.


The Studious Metsimus crew will be at a ballpark near you in 2019.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Joey's Final Letter to Sandy Claus (2018)

In addition to what I ask for in this letter, I could also use a less drafty winter hat.  I almost froze taking this photo.

Dear Sandy Claus,

It's me, Joey Beartran, with my annual letter to you about what I want for the holidays.  Alas, this will be my final letter to you.  It's not because I've found someone else to write to who has a better success rate at giving me what I ask for.  It's also not because of the rumor I heard that you've been sick and had to pass along the keys to your sleigh to Brodie the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  (Although my sources can confirm that this is not a rumor.  Get well soon, you jolly old elf.)

No, the real reason why this is my final letter to you is because I'm no longer a kid.  I'm 14 years old!  Plus, I saw my Studious Metsimus colleague actually putting the presents under the tree last year instead of you, so I put two and two together when I saw that.  Don't worry.  I didn't share that information with my younger siblings.

Despite knowing the truth, I'm still a believer in tradition, so I'm penning one more wish list for you.  If your red-nosed replacement wants to read it with you, please feel free to share it with him.

This time around, the items I ask for won't be as impossible to find as they were in previous years.  So I won't be asking for Travis d'Arnaud to play past the first week of the season or for Yoenis Céspedes to drink more water.  Likewise, I won't demand for 30 pitchers to put on a Mets uniform in 2019 just to surpass last season's total of 29.  I already know no amount of pitchers can hold a lead for Jacob deGrom anyway.

No, my desires are reasonable this year.  As reasonable as it is to expect that Noah Syndergaard won't be traded before Opening Day or that Wilmer Flores won't come back to deliver a walk-off hit against the Mets instead of for them.  So grab one of those blue and orange cookies from the World's Fare Market that hardly anyone ever goes to and hear me out.  It's the least you could do for making us put up with Jose Reyes being on the 25-man roster every single day last season.

I'm feeling melancholy knowing I won't see Wilmer Flores raise the apple anymore at Citi Field.

I'd like a promise that all our prospects won't be traded away to land reclamation projects and players who aren't sure things.  First, our top picks from the 2016 and 2018 drafts were dealt to Seattle for Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz.  Then, rumors have been swirling that Brandon Nimmo and/or Michael Conforto (a.k.a. the Mets' 2011 and 2014 first round picks, respectively) could be shipped off to Miami for J.T. Realmuto.  It's a good thing Peter Alonso was a second round pick or else I'd be worried that he'd be on the trading block.  You can't have a good future if the future is playing somewhere else.

Speaking of Peter Alonso, I'd like to see him on the Mets' Opening Day roster in 2019.  Between his time at Double-A, Triple-A and the Arizona Fall League, Alonso appeared in 159 games, or just about the equivalent of one full major league season.  In those games, he collected 81 extra-base hits (38 doubles, one triple, 42 homers), crossed the plate 108 times and drove in 146 runs.  For the record, no Met has ever produced more than 80 extra-base hits or surpassed 124 RBI in a single season.  If the team wants to save money by not starting his countdown clock to free agency so soon, may I remind the powers-that-be that Alonso might make them a sleigh-load of money in the form of extra ticket sales, merchandising, etc.  Your red-nosed friend won't be needed to light up the sky once Alonso starts to do that with his monster shots.

I'd like you to make sure Zack Wheeler eats the same meals every day, sleeps on the same side of the bed every night and answers all of Steve Gelbs' questions the same way (okay, that last one won't be too hard).  What I'm trying to say is, whatever Wheeler did last year, make sure he doesn't change a thing, especially after finally having his breakout season seven years after the Mets acquired him and five years after making his big league debut.  It's funny that once the man he was traded for (Carlos Beltran) retired, Wheeler finally stayed healthy and became a productive player.  Maybe all we need is for Michael Fulmer to call it a career in Detroit so that Yoenis Céspedes can finally earn that nine-figure salary.

Pssst!  Mr. Met!  Can you run this letter over to Sandy Claus?  And please don't pull a hamstring doing it.

For the 2019 season, I'd like Jacob deGrom to finally get some run support.  That means the Killer Cs (Canó, Céspedes, Conforto) have to hit the way we expect them to.  The Mets went 14-18 in deGrom's starts in 2018.  In eighteen of his 32 starts, deGrom allowed no more than one run.  The Mets found a way to lose eight of those games.  In approximately two-thirds of deGrom's appearances (21 of his 32 starts), the Mets failed to score more than three runs.  Had the team averaged 4.3 runs per game like they did in games not started by deGrom, they would have gone 23-9 in his outings instead of 14-18.  Those nine extra wins would have given the Mets an 86-76 record in 2018 and, more importantly, would have given the team meaningful games in September.  But hey, maybe the team likes empty seats in September.  I know I'm okay with the food lines being shorter when the team isn't playing well.  But I'd be more okay if the hitters came through when deGrom was on the mound.  On a related note, I'd like some Metropolitan Club seats next year so that food can be delivered to me at my seat.

I'd like Mickey Callaway to stop making the occasional bonehead decision or four.  You could chalk up having players batting out of order, not having relievers warming up in the bullpen when they're needed and any other head-scratching moves to his inexperience as a team's skipper.  But he now has a year under his belt.  Those mistakes in judgment won't be so easy to forgive in 2019.  He's not Jerry Manuel, so he can't depend on being gangsta to talk his way out of those errors this year.

Do you remember when we all blamed Ray Ramirez for the team's injuries?  Well, Dr. Death wasn't employed by the Mets in 2018, but players still spent as much time at the Hospital For Special Surgery as they did in the clubhouse.  It's almost getting to the point where they should just rename various wings of the hospital after the Mets players who find themselves constantly walking through the halls.  That's assuming they're able to walk, of course.  Therefore, I'd like to request that the team do whatever it can to help its players stay on the field.  I'd rather buy tickets to see the players on the field, not in the hospital recovery room.  Plus, hospital food is not an adequate replacement for the fare at Citi Field.

Is it true that I get eight days and nights of presents if I light one of these up?

Well, that's it for my final letter to you, Sandy Claus.  To recap, I'd like the team to stop being allergic to keeping first round picks.  I'd also like to see Peter Alonso in April without having to buy a plane ticket to Las Vegas.  Please make sure Zack Wheeler's second verse is the same as the first.  (And don't let Steve Gelbs show him video of the "churro dog incident".  No need for Wheeler to change his eating habits now.)  Take Harry Caray's advice and "let's get some runs" whenever the ace takes the hill.  Tell Mickey Callaway to watch "Moonstruck", especially the scene where Cher slaps Nicolas Cage.  (He'll know what I mean.)  Also, schedule an exorcism to make sure the ghost of Ray Ramirez hasn't been hanging around Citi Field.

Do all that and my retirement as a letter writer to Sandy Claus will be as happy as the one I hope David Wright is having.  (Miss you, Captain.)  Oh, and make sure you don't allow anyone to wear Wright's No. 5.  Willie Mays' previously out-of-circulation No. 24 was already handed to Robinson Canó.  The last thing we want is for the number to go to a journeyman player who's played for four teams over the last seven seasons and can't outhit Mario Mendoza in his most recent campaign but still finds a way to appear in over 100 games in said season.  Ask Jose Reyes what I'm talking about if you don't know what I mean.

Thanks so much for reading my letter, Sandy Claus.  And you too, Brodie, for being such a nosy reindeer.  (I know you were reading it over Sandy's shoulder.)  I wish you both a happy holiday season and hope Sandy makes a full recovery.  After all, I might not be writing any more letters after this one but every once in a while I might need to sit on a jolly old elf's lap to ask for a few things.  Those moments never get old.

Love and Mex Burgers forever,
Joey Beartran

I'll never forget you, Sandy Claus.  I hope your lap is always available to me.  You know, just in case.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Joey and Iggy Beartran Thanksgiving (2018)

Happy Turkey Day from Joey, Iggy and the original Snoop Dog!  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Hello, Mets fans!  We're Joey and Iggy Beartran.  As you know, Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year, mainly because it gives us a chance to pig out and not feel guilty about it.  You know, kind of like the Wilpons not feeling guilty for always leaving their wallets at home every time free agent season arrives.

Iggy and I don't have pockets, so at least we have an excuse not to carry wallets around.  We do, however, have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

So finish off that stuffing, don't hog all the white meat (saying that for a friend) and move away from the TV since none of the football teams you root for are playing today.  Instead, tell your family that you have to leave early to start your pre-Black Friday shopping and then spend a few minutes of your day reading about what we're thankful for.  There's always Cyber Monday for you to actually do that shopping, just like there's always the 2024 season for the Wilpons to sign the best players from the 2018 campaign.

Here we go!

       The Peanuts crew re-enacts what guests are being fed at a Wilpon family Thanksgiving.

Joey:  I'm thankful that the Cy Young Award voters realized that Jacob deGrom was the best pitcher in the National League, despite what his won-loss record said.

Iggy:  And I'm thankful I live in New York and not San Diego, where that one loser who voted for Max Scherzer lives.  He thinks wins matter for starting pitchers.  Of course he likes wins.  After all, it's a win for him that I'm not out there or else I'd have whacked him in San Diego.

Jacob deGrom tips his cap to all who gave him a first place vote; all 29 of you.  (Elsa/Getty Images)

Joey:  I'm thankful our Studious Metsimus colleagues took us to the Show Me State to visit Busch Stadium and Kauffman Stadium.  I now have just six stadiums left to complete my tour of all 30 ballparks.

Iggy:  And I'm thankful we made it out of Missouri alive.  After all, the Mets lost both of the games we attended in St. Louis and we were constantly reminded of the Mets losing the World Series to Kansas City in 2015.  I also got an upset stomach for what passed for ballpark food at Busch Stadium.

Joey was less than satisfied with the potato knish and the Mets' performance in St. Louis.  (EL/SM)

Joey:  I'm thankful we got to see David Wright retire on his own terms.  After two-plus years trying to get back to the big leagues, he was finally able to put on his Mets uniform once again and come off the field a final time after playing his customary third base position during the season's next-to-last game.                   

Iggy:  And I'm thankful David's final press conference didn't go down the same road that Mike Schmidt took during his.

                 YouTube video posted by James Lorenz.  Tears by Michael Jack Schmidt.

Joey:  Finally, on a similar but non-Mets related note, I'm thankful we got to see Adrian Beltre at Citi Field just after he collected his 3,000th hit in 2017.  Beltre recently announced his retirement after 21 seasons in the big leagues, and it was an honor to see a future Hall of Famer in action while he was still on top of his game.

Iggy:  And I'm thankful Chase Utley retired without getting another World Series ring.  Now that he's no longer playing, he'll have plenty of time to touch second base since he still hasn't done that since October 2015.

Newly retired Chase Utley will now only have himself to beat up instead of opposing players.  (Juan DeLeon/Getty Images)

Even though the Mets were less than mediocre for a second consecutive season, the team still gave us plenty to be thankful for.  Class acts like Jacob deGrom and David Wright will always make the Mets easy to root for, even when they're not scoring any runs for deGrom and he doesn't get the wins needed to please Mr. San Diego journalist guy.  I do, however, hope Clueless Joe gets a Hall of Fame vote because there's no way he's voting for Utley and his 1,885 hits to make it to Cooperstown.  Hits matter to dinosaur voters like him.

And that's all for today, folks.  From our family to yours, we'd like to wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.  Please be sure to keep your leftovers refrigerated and the spare keys to your home somewhere our paws can get to them.  After all, writing Turkey Day blog posts can make bears quite hungry!


On frigid days like today, I kinda wish the baseball hot stove was actually a real stove.  (EL/SM)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Magic in Miami: The Marlins' Home Run Sculpture Has Disappeared

Now you see the home run sculpture, now you don't.  (GQ Magazine)

The 2018 season was a year in which the Miami Marlins celebrated their 25th anniversary.  To commemorate the occasion, the team's new CEO and co-owner - as always, we'll call him Dirk Jitters to protect the guilty - decided to field an expansion team just like their 1993 counterparts did.

Mr. Jitters' decision was a smashing success, as the 2018 squad lost 98 games, just like the original Marlins did 25 years earlier.  Of course, that 1993 team also coaxed over 3,000,000 fans to come through the turnstiles, while the 2018 version drew a franchise-record low 811,104 people to Marlins Park.  But negative numbers clearly don't seem to faze Mr. Jitters.  I mean, have you seen where he ranks all-time in the defensive runs saved statistic?

His defensive "prowess" netted him five Gold Glove Awards, a number surpassed by only four shortstops in history (Ozzie Smith, Omar Vizquel, Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger) so why should something like negative one million defensive runs saved (give or take a few runs) tarnish his legacy as a baseball legend?  And on a similar note, why should something like wins and losses matter to a team's CEO/co-owner when there are more pressing matters at hand?

That's right.  I'm talking about the Marlins' Home Run sculpture.

It's been no secret that Mr. Jitters has hated the Miami monstrosity since he started to sign his own paychecks.  In fact, he's wanted to remove the animatronic sculpture called "Homer" - which probably got its name not from the prodigious pokes that Giancarlo Stanton was supposed to hit in its vicinity, but because its colors were reminiscent of Homer Simpson's favorite pastry - ever since his tenure with the Marlins began, right after he decided that the team didn't need the services of Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and soon-to-be N.L. MVP Christian Yelich.

Mr. Jitters had many hurdles to climb to get Homer removed from the mostly vacant stadium, but he finally got his wish.  And according to Miami sports radio host Andy Slater, the sculpture's status as the Marlins' longest tenured, um, thing has come to a sad and barely reported end.

Where the home run sculpture once stood, Mr. Jitters plans to have an area that can fit 400 people who want to pay very little to get into the ballpark and have no qualms about standing for the entire game.  In other words, people who have no access to StubHub and don't mind standing over 400 feet away from where the team's latest Quadruple-A player is striking out at the plate.

It's all part of Mr. Jitters' plan to make the Marlins relevant again.  Which also implies that the Marlins were ever relevant to begin with.  Who knows?  Maybe this is all part of his master plan to get back at the Marlins for denying him a ring in the 2003 World Series.  Or maybe he wants to further alienate Marlins Man for wearing that gaudy orange jersey and visor to sporting events and for getting more screen time than Mr. Jitters ever did making commercials or diving unnecessarily into field level seats to make an otherwise routine catch of a pop-up look more spectacular.

The motives of Mr. Jitters will remain as mysterious as the contents of his gift baskets.  But at least his machinations as Miami's new CEO allowed the Mets to stay out of last place in 2018.  And for those dozens of Marlins fans who come out to the ballpark to cheer on their favorite team, at least the only eyesore they'll have inside the stadium in 2019 will be the players in the home dugout instead of the seven-story sculpture in left-center field.

I guess Mr. Jitters really does care about his new team's fan base after all.

So glad the Studious Metsimus staff will never get the chance to take this photo ever again.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Joey's Soapbox: My 2018 Completely Unbiased World Series Pick

There will be no bias in my World Series pick.  Nor will there be hints in this photo.  I promise.

Howdy do, everyone!  This is Joey Beartran, and we've reached the end of another baseball season, one in which the Mets have been off for the last three-plus weeks and the Yankees got one step closer to their first decade since the 1910s without a World Series appearance.

The New York teams are two of 28 clubs that failed to qualify for the Fall Classic.  The squads that did make it to baseball's final week, however, are ones that have given Big Apple baseball fans many reasons to hate them over the last few decades.

The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers franchises are meeting in the World Series for the first time since 1916, when the then-Brooklyn Robins took home the National League pennant and Yankee fans had no ringzzz to brag about.  It's been so long since the two teams have met in October that even Scott Atchison would have a tough time recalling the events of that Fall Classic, one in which the Red Sox defeated the future Dodgers in five games.

That 1916 championship was the fourth World Series victory for Boston in 14 years and kept Brooklyn from winning its first title.  This year, the Red Sox are seeking their fourth trophy in 15 seasons and the Dodgers are going after their first championship in three decades.

Will history repeat itself a little over a century later?  Or will the Dodgers become the latest team to end a long championship drought, following the Astros from last year (first title in 57 seasons), the Cubs in 2016 (first time winning it all since the Dodgers were known as the Brooklyn Superbas) and the Royals in 2015 (we will not speak of that title)?

Sit back, grab a cold one and read on, since that's the only way you'll find out who will win this year's World Series.  I mean, you're not actually going to stay up to watch these five-hour games with relievers coming in every 20 pitches and umpires going to the replay headsets five times a night as if Angel Hernandez were working the game, are you?  (Editor's note: Angel Hernandez is not an umpire in this year's World Series, mainly because Rob Manfred actually wants people to watch the games.)

The World Series should be fair now that Angel Hernandez has tossed himself from it.  (Matt Campbell/AFP/Getty Images)

World Series

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox steamrolled their way through the American League, winning a franchise record 108 games before disposing of the Yankees and defending champion Astros in the playoffs.  Meanwhile, the Dodgers needed to play a 163rd game just to win the division and then went to a seventh game against the Brewers in the NLCS after defeating the Braves in four games in the Division Series.

Both teams have strong starting pitching, but at least Boston allows its pitchers to go deep into games.  Former Red Sox hero and current Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will usually take out his starting pitcher once he realizes his jersey doesn't say Kershaw on the back.

As far as each team's offense goes, we know the Dodgers' formula.  They either strike out (117 Ks in 11 postseason games) or hit home runs (53.5% of their runs in the postseason have come via the long ball).  Meanwhile, the Red Sox are all about making solid contact, as they've produced 28 extra-base hits and have struck out just 67 times in this year's playoffs.

The bullpen edge clearly moves the needle in the Dodgers' favor, as Kenley Jansen has yet to allow a run in the postseason while Boston's Craig Kimbrel has been watching the "How to Pitch Like Armando Benitez in the Playoffs" video before each appearance.

If the Dodgers can continue to hit timely home runs and be lights out in the bullpen, they'll be fine.  Similarly, if the Red Sox can continue to string together hit after hit and extend their starting pitchers into the late innings, they'll succeed in this series.

On paper, this appears to be a tight series; one that's too tough to call.  But predicting this year's World Series winner is really a no-brainer for me.  And here's why.

Peyton Manning played 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts before moving on to the Denver Broncos after the 2011 campaign.  Manning retired after winning the Super Bowl with his new team four years later.   Similarly, Ray Bourque, who played 21 seasons without a championship in Boston, finally hoisted the Stanley Cup in his last year in the NHL after leaving the Bruins to become a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 2000.  And of course, if you're a player who wants to retire as a champion in the NBA, all you have to do is join the Golden State Warriors and you have a free ride to Titlesville.

What does this have to do with this year's Fall Classic?  Well, the Dodgers have a player who is retiring from the game once the series is over.  He played 13 seasons with one team before moving to L.A. at the trade deadline in 2015.  Now he's trying to go out as a champion, just like Manning, Bourque and fill-in-the-blank Warriors players.  One problem, though.  His name is Chase Utley.  And I'd rather be Fred Wilpon's accountant than the one to say that Utley is going to be the latest athlete to go out on top with a new team.

Plus, the Dodgers just knocked Curtis Granderson's team out of the playoffs.  Then there's that thing about every team with exactly 108 regular season victories going on to win the World Series.  And don't forget that the Red Sox winning their fourth championship in 15 seasons would be the worst nightmare for Yankee fans who have only seen their beloved Bronx Bummers appear in one World Series over the same time period.

But since I'm completely unbiased, I'll just say the Dodgers won't win this World Series because they're not good enough to defeat the juggernaut Sawx.  And because Dave Roberts needs to always be loved in Boston.

Prediction: Red Sox in 5.

Chase Utley will have plenty of time to be horizontal once the Red Sox bowl over his team.  (Stephen Carr/Daily News)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Who's the Birthday Boy? It's Me, Keith Hernandez!

Hello, my friends.  I'm Keith Hernandez.  And today is a special day for me.  You see, today is my birthday.  That's right, all you kids out there.  I'm now 65 years old.

In honor of my 65th birthday, the cast and crew at Studious Metsimus asked me to give you a brief recap of my life.  To be honest with you, I've never heard of Studious Metsimus, but the offer of unlimited Tootsie Pops was too much to refuse.  Plus, they promised me there would be no traffic on the Long Island Expressway so I could make a quick getaway after writing this piece.  How could I pass that up?

Anyway, I was born in San Francisco on October 20, 1953.  Contrary to popular belief, I was not born with a mustache.  The picture you see below is one of my early photos.  Yes, the ladies loved me even then.  Can you blame them?  I mean, look at me!  I'm Keith Hernandez!

Unfortunately, I failed in my petition to get my own name on my Little League jersey.

After my days as a Little League Lothario were done, I was drafted in the 42nd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971.  (Yes, I did go to high school between my Little League days and my high school graduation, but that was an awkward time for me, so I'd rather not talk about it.)  Clearly, the scouts back then were terrible judges of talent if they waited that long to draft me.  Unfortunately, I did nothing to earn that selection early on in my minor league career until I was promoted to Triple-A Tulsa in 1973, where I hit .333 and showed those other kids out there how a real baseball player was supposed to play the game.

In 1974, I hit .351 for Tulsa and was promoted to the big show on August 30 of that year against my hometown San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park.  I reached base three times in my first big league game, drawing two walks before collecting my first big league hit and RBI in the ninth inning off Giants' starter Mike Caldwell.  Unfortunately, we lost that game 8-2, but I let it be known to my teammates and the rest of the league that I was here to stay.

Once I settled in to the big leagues, I made my presence felt in the clubhouse and on the field.  The Cardinals just had to keep me around.  Therefore, they traded incumbent first baseman Joe Torre to the Mets after the 1974 season (more on first basemen being traded to the Mets a little later ... after a few more paragraphs and my first Tootsie Pop).  I was a Cardinal now, and St. Louis was about to see what Keith Hernandez was all about.

It was in St. Louis that I let my trademark mustache grow.  The Gateway City was also where I earned my first Gold Glove in 1978 and my first MVP Award one year later.  (Okay, so it was a co-MVP award that I shared with Willie Stargell.  But in Strat-O-Matic, I kicked Willie's posterior.)  In addition, St. Louis was the place where I claimed my first batting title (also in 1979), my first World Series championship (1982), my first line of... umm ... baseball cards (yeah, that's the ticket) and my first comparison to adult film thespian Ron Jeremy.

If my brother Gary were in this collage, you'd have the original Gary, Keith and Ron.

If you ask me, I don't see the resemblance.   He looks more like Mike Piazza than he does me.  Also, my acting skills are far superior to his.  Was he on "Seinfeld"?  I don't think so.  That was me.  Why did they choose me over him?  Because I'm Keith Hernandez!

Anyway, less than eight months after bringing home St. Louis' first World Series championship since 1967, I experienced one of the saddest days of my life, or so it seemed at the time.  On June 15, 1983, I was traded from the defending world champion Cardinals to the perennial cellar dweller New York Mets.  Shockingly, I wasn't even traded for future Hall of Famers.  I was shipped off to the Mets for Neil Allen, Rick Ownbey (who also celebrates a birthday with me today, but he's four years my junior) and a half-empty box of Tender Vittles.  Even my beloved cat, Hadji, wouldn't be impressed with that transaction.

It was already an insult to me that I was traded to the team known as "Pond Scum" and the "Stems" in St. Louis.  But come on!  Couldn't the Mets have offered some 9 Lives to the Cardinals instead of Tender Vittles?  After all, Morris the Cat was all the rage back then.  I mean, he was the O.G.  (Original Grumpy cat).   I would have accepted a trade for Allen, Ownbey and 9 Lives, not Allen, Ownbey and half-eaten Tender Vittles.  Sheesh!

I guess since the Cardinals already had the Clydesdale Horses, they didn't need another animal in the barn.

Anyway, the Mets didn't do too well after I got traded there.  We finished 68-94 in 1983, but showed some signs of life.  Old punching buddy Darryl Strawberry came up in May and future broadcast colleague R.J. (that's Ron Darling for all you casual Mets fans out there) was called up when rosters expanded in September.

Big Brother didn't come around in 1984 like he was supposed to, but we had our own little Animal Farm at Shea Stadium.  Top pitching prospect Dwight Gooden was called up in 1984 and Davey Johnson became the new Mets manager.  The team responded by going 90-72 and giving the Cubs all they could handle in the N.L. East.  As a result, I was no longer saddened by my trade to New York and only occasionally did I wonder if Whitey Herzog had finished what was left over in the box of Tender Vittles.

After falling short in the N.L. East race again in 1985, we put it all together in 1986.  That was the year I won my second World Series championship and helped bring the first title to Flushing since the Miracle Mets did the same in 1969.  I also paired up with another Ronnie after bringing the trophy home in 1986. 

What?  No Gary?  Fine.  Then we'll just have to make do with Keith and Ron instead.

Just as my tenure with the Mets was coming to an end, I decided I should give acting a try.  I wasn't planning on telling you this, but the Tootsie Pop dangling in front of my face has convinced me to do so.

Did you know that "Seinfeld" was not my first attempt at acting?  Before TV immortality, I wanted to be a movie star.  My time with former actor Ronald Reagan in the White House showed me that if he could be President and a movie star, then I could be a baseball legend and a matinee idol as well, so it was off to Hollywood for me.

I first gave acting a shot when I auditioned for the movie "Major League".  However, it ended up being a bad dream and instead of playing for the Cleveland Indians in the film alongside noted actors Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Dennis Haysbert and Wesley Snipes, I ended up playing for the REAL Cleveland Indians, who were not nearly as talented as their counterparts from this past season.  You know, the team that won an A.L. record 22 consecutive games en route to a second straight A.L. Central title.  Needless to say, it was not a good time to be Keith Hernandez.

There's no way I would've let Roger Dorn get away with not diving for ground balls.

I was injured for most of my time in Cleveland.  Because of that, I only played in 45 games for the Indians, batting .200 with one HR and eight RBI.  You know it wasn't a good season when my Studious Metsimus editor reminded me that I had to write out my home run and RBI totals in words (one and eight) instead of numbers (1 and 8).  Needless to say, I retired after the 1990 season and went back home...

...which didn't last long.  In 1992, I appeared on Episode No. 34 of "Seinfeld".  The special one-hour episode, named "The Boyfriend", featured me trying to date Elaine Benes, but not being able to get past first base because I used to smoke back then.  Another subplot involved me being accused of spitting a magic loogie on Kramer and Newman, when in fact it was my former Met teammate, Roger McDowell, whose mouth shot the viscous projectile from the grassy knoll.

"That is one magic loogie."

My appearance on "Seinfeld" in 1992 and my subsequent cameo in the series finale in 1998 parlayed into several broadcasting appearances for the Mets.  When SNY debuted in 2006, I teamed up with former radio play-by-play man Gary Cohen and analyst/former teammate Ron Darling as the new broadcast team for the New York Mets.  My boothmates and I are also part of Gary, Keith and Ron, or GKR for short.  Together, we've raised money for our favorite charities, such as the Cobble Hill Health Center (for Alzheimer's care) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (hoping to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes).  In addition, we've also focused on helping victims of domestic abuse.  And for all you kids out there, there's nothing funny about domestic abuse.

Fans might know me for my baseball career.  Others might know me for my excellent acting on "Seinfeld".  Some of you might even know me for my Just For Men commercials with Walt "Clyde" Frazier.  Current Met fans certainly know me for my unabashed analysis on SNY telecasts of Mets games.  And in 2017, the rest of the country got reacquainted with me when I offered colorful commentary in the FOX Sports/FS1 studio for that network's pre-game and post-game shows during the postseason.

Today, I'm the author of a memoir with a predictable title.  I'm also Hadji's agent and food provider, as well as a cool follow on Twitter.  (Nearly 84,000 tweetsters who follow @keithhernandez can't be wrong.)

I'm all of those people.  And although I'm a year older today, I'm still only 65 so I have plenty left to accomplish.  Maybe I'll mass produce my Mex Burgers.  Or perhaps I'll go from flashing the leather to wearing it on a broadcast.  Hey, I might even create a fantasy league for Strat-O-Matic players.  (Why haven't I thought of that before?)  Who knows?  One thing is for sure.  No matter what job I have or what position I fill, I'll always be around.  Why wouldn't I be?  After all, I'm Keith Hernandez!

It's not easy being me, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Joey's Soapbox: My 2018 Completely Unbiased LCS Picks

Will the Dodgers' season be dead after their Weekend at Bernie's?  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

What's going on, everyone?  This is Joey Beartran, and we've reached the last hurdle for four teams in their quest to reach the World Series.  As always, the Washington Nationals are not one of the teams participating in the League Championship Series, but we knew that since late September when they were eliminated from postseason contention.  Or perhaps we just knew that because they're the Washington Nationals.

While most of the baseball world waits to see which team will overpay Bryce Harper to underachieve for them, fans of the Brewers, Dodgers, Red Sox and Astros will be focusing on their current squads in the hopes that their favorite players will be soon be dousing each other in champagne while wearing futuristic sting-proof goggles.

For Milwaukee, they're hoping to become the second team to win pennants in both leagues, as the Brew Crew advanced to their only World Series in 1982 as a member of the American League, losing the Fall Classic in seven games to Keith Hernandez and his Cardinals cohorts.  Who was the first team, you ask?  That would be Houston, who represented the Senior Circuit in the 2005 World Series and the Junior Circuit last year.  The Astros are also trying to become the first team since the Bronx Bummers nearly two decades ago to successfully defend their championship.

In Beantown, Red Sox fans who know baseball history are confident that their 108-win team will move on to the World Series, especially since no team with 108 regular season victories has ever failed to take home the crown.  Meanwhile, the Dodgers are trying to win back-to-back pennants for the first time in 40 years.

So who will be raising pennants in their home stadiums on Opening Day 2019?  And which teams will be watching footage of the 2017 and 2018 Yankees to learn the proper way to clean out their lockers at the end of a postseason series defeat?

You can either stay up to watch the four-hour games and then be late for school or work the following morning or you can read on to find out who will win the NLCS and ALCS.  Because, as you know, my predictions are more dependable than Giancarlo Stanton in a clutch situation and they're always completely unbiased.  (Especially now that the Yankees are no longer around.)

National League Championship Series

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Milwaukee Brewers

The Dodgers are playing in their third consecutive NLCS.  The Brewers are playing in their third League Championship Series.  Period.  There's no question that Los Angeles is the more experienced of the two teams.  But will that matter against a team that's won 11 straight games dating back to the regular season?

Los Angeles is the classic all-or-nothing team, as they scored 13 of their 19 runs in the NLDS via the long ball and struck out 35 times in 119 at-bats.  Basically, if you keep them in the park, they'll beat themselves, as evidenced by their .153 batting average in the Division Series when they didn't hit a home run (17 non-homer hits in 111 at-bats).

If you think that .153 average seems pretty low, then the Rockies say, "Hold my Coors Light."

Milwaukee's pitchers limited Colorado hitters to a .146 batting average in their three-game sweep over the Rockies.  Colorado, who hit 210 home runs during the regular season, failed to go deep in any of the three Division Series games against the Brewers.  In fact, the closest they came to hitting a dinger was probably when one of the Rockies' players hit a foul ball into the stands that fell inches away from their mascot.

Dinger has until April to rest up, thanks to Milwaukee's pitching staff.  (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Brewers hit well (28 hits in the three games vs. Colorado), they're patient (16 walks in the NLDS) and their pitching has been dominant since late August, allowing an average of 2.56 runs per game over their last 32 games.  The Dodgers just hit home runs.  And the red hot Brewers' staff should prevent them from doing that in this series.

Prediction: Brewers in 6.

American League Championship Series

Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox

Houston set a franchise record by winning 103 games in 2018.  They also allowed just 534 runs during the regular season, which were the fewest runs allowed by the team in a non-strike shortened season.  Yet despite being arguably better than the team that won it all last year, the Astros will not have home-field advantage over the Red Sox because Boston won five more games during the regular season.  And you know what?

The Astros have the Red Sox right where they want them.

The defending World Series champions had an eye-popping 57-24 record on the road in 2018.  So packing their bags to play in another team's park is probably bad news for the home team, not the Astros.

Also, Boston's bullpen has had difficulty getting the ball to closer Craig Kimbrel, as no reliever who made at least 40 appearances for the Red Sox had an ERA under 3.18.  This is a problem on a team that did not have any starter pitch 200 innings, something the Astros wouldn't know a thing about, as three of their starters (Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole) topped the 200-inning mark.

When the Astros aren't outpitching you, they're bludgeoning you with their bats, as they outscored their opponents by an incredible 263 runs.  No other team was within 34 runs of Houston's run differential.

Boston's 108 wins were impressive, but they fattened their victory total by dominating the bottom feeders of their division (31-7 record against Toronto and Baltimore) and their interleague opponents (16-4 vs. their N.L. victims).  For all you kids out there, that's a 47-11 record against the Blue Jays, Orioles and the Mets' good buddies in the N.L. East, which leaves them with a 61-43 record versus all other teams.  That's a .587 winning percentage against those other squads.  Not bad, but not dominant, either.

Houston was equally good against everyone, especially when they went up against a left-handed starting pitcher.  The Astros were 37-23 versus southpaw starters, winning more games against lefties than any other team in the American League.  On a related note, Boston's top two starters throw baseballs with their left hand.

So do you remember that factoid I mentioned earlier about all 108-win teams going on to win the World Series that year?  Do you also recall that saying, "All good things must come to an end"?  I think the latter applies here.  And I'm not just saying that because I want the 1986 Mets to remain the last 108-win team to win a title.

Prediction: Astros in 7.

Only one 108-win had the teamwork to make the dream work.  Sorry, Alex Cora.  (Jim Davis/Boston Globe)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Joey's Soapbox: My 2018 Completely Unbiased Division Series Picks

Will my crew pick the Brew Crew to advance?  Like I'd give that away in the opening photo.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

What's going on?  This is Joey Beartran, and I'm ready to roll out my picks for the American League and National League Division Series.  And of course, as always, they will be completely unbiased.  That means I won't pick a team because of how they did or didn't do when they played the Mets.  I also won't pick against a team because they just happen to have someone on their roster that may have broken a former Met's leg,  Nope, that would be biased.

I will, however, pick the teams I feel have the best chance to advance to the League Championship Series.  And those picks will be based on pertinent statistics, postseason experience and whether or not they have Curtis Granderson on the team.

So who will move one step closer to the World Series just to have a light-hitting catcher such as Mike Scioscia or Yadier Molina deliver a key blow in the ninth inning?  And who can't seem to get over the events of 1988 or 2006?  (Spoiler alert:  That would be me.)

It's time for me to put my Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder aside and share my picks for the 2018 A.L. and N.L. Division Series.

National League Division Series

Colorado Rockies vs. Milwaukee Brewers

The Rockies and Brewers have no World Series titles and just two Fall Classic appearances in their combined 75 years of existence.  But once this best-of-five series is over, one of the two teams will be four wins away from a pennant.

Colorado wasn't expected to compete with the powerhouse Dodgers for the N.L. West title.  Nor were they supposed to beat the battle-tested Cubs in the N.L. Wild Card game.  But the Rockies did both, and now they might pay for it against the team with the best record in the National League.

Because ace pitcher Kyle Freeland was used in the Wild Card game, he will only be available to pitch once in the Division Series.  And by the time he takes the mound in Game Three, the Rockies could very well be facing elimination.

Colorado is going with Antonio Senzatela as its Game One starter.  Senzatela started just 13 games this season and was wild in his only appearance against the Brewers, walking three and hitting a batter in five innings of work.  Game Two starter Tyler Anderson made 32 starts for the Rockies and won just seven of those starts.  Was he just unlucky like Jacob deGrom in that his offense hit the snooze button whenever he was on the mound?  Not exactly.  Anderson pitched to a 4.55 ERA and allowed a team-high 30 home runs in 176 IP.  That doesn't bode well against a Brewers team that finished second in the National League with 218 homers.

While Milwaukee is feasting on the likes of Homer Happy Anderson and Antonio Send Nutella (autocorrect works in mysterious ways), the Rockies will be facing Junior Guerra and Jhoulys Chacin.  Neither pitcher is a household name or a Cy Young candidate.  But against the Rockies, they won't need to be.

Game One starter Guerra has unreal home/road splits, boasting a 2.48 ERA on the Miller Park mound and a 6.97 ERA away from it.  Where is Game One being played?  In the city made famous by Lenny and Squiggy, of course.  Meanwhile, Game Two starter Chacin became the first N.L. pitcher to make 35 starts in a season since Chris Carpenter in 2010.  Chacin finished the year with a solid 3.50 ERA and a career-best 1.16 WHIP.  And how has he fared in his career against the Rockies?  He's held them to a .203 batting average and .642 OPS.  No other National League team has a lower batting average against Chacin in his career and only the Giants, Diamondbacks and Phillies have a lower OPS.

By the time Freeland takes the mound in Game Three at Coors Field, the Rockies might be staring at elimination.  They'll also be staring at the fearsome threesome of Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw and MVP frontrunner Christian Yelich, who combined to produce 103 HR and 304 RBI for the Brewers.  And they did that without playing half of their games at 5,280 feet above sea level.

In the battle of beer cities, Miller > Coors.  And it's not even close.

Prediction: Brewers in 3.

Did I mention that Curtis Granderson is a Brewer?  Yet another reason to pick them to win.  (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers needed a 163rd game to win their sixth consecutive N.L. West title, or eight fewer than the Braves claimed during their unprecedented run of 14 straight division crowns.  It's no surprise that Los Angeles is in the Division Series.  What is surprising is that Atlanta is joining them, as the Braves entered the 2018 campaign just trying to avoid their fifth consecutive losing season and instead won 90 games after averaging 90 losses per season since 2014.

Los Angeles led the National League in ERA, which is not unusual for a team known for its pitching.  But check this out.  The Dodgers used a whopping 31 pitchers during the season, yet none of them pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, not that Jacob deGrom was going to let any of them compete with him for that honor.  Ninety-year-old Rich Hill was the only Dodger to reach double digits in wins and Alex Wood led the staff with just 27 starts.  So I guess you could say they're well-rested.  It was truly an odd season for the Dodgers' pitching staff.

Their hitters, on the other hand, were the epitome of all-or-nothing.  The Dodgers set franchise records in both home runs (235) and strikeouts (1,436).  But most of their homers came with no one on base.  In fact, their 157 solo shots were more than the total number of homers hit by five major league teams.  So basically, a good pitching staff that isn't susceptible to the long ball and can strike out a batter or ten should be able to handle the Dodgers' bats.

For the record, the Braves allowed the third-fewest homers in the majors (153) and finished in MLB's top ten in strikeouts recorded (1,423).  Just like Chase Utley, this one's a no-brainer.

Prediction: Braves in 4.

Rejoice!  Chase Utley will officially be retired after this series.  (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

American League Division Series

Cleveland Indians vs. Houston Astros

In this battle between the last two American League pennant winners, let's not look at the defending World Series champion Astros and instead focus on the three-time A.L. Central champion Cleveland Indians.

The Indians became the first team in history to have four pitchers strike out 200 or more hitters, as Carlos Carrasco (231 Ks), Corey Kluber (222 Ks), Trevor Bauer (221 Ks) and Mike Clevinger (207 Ks) spent most of the year sending opposing hitters back to their respective dugouts.

On the offensive side, Cleveland produced a trio of 30-HR hitters (Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Edwin Encarnacion) and was also the American League's biggest threat on the bases, producing a league-leading 135 stolen bases.

But there's just one problem with the Indians.  And it's a pretty big one.  Are you ready for this?

Oliver Perez is their best relief pitcher.

The former Met boo magnet made 51 appearances for the Indians in 2018 and produced a 1.39 ERA and 0.74 WHIP.  He also struck out 43 batters while walking just seven.  How did his colleagues in the bullpen fare?  You may want to sit down for this one.

Closer Cody Allen had a 4.70 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 70 appearances.  Six other relievers not named Oliver Perez made at least 30 appearances for the Indians.  All six had an ERA of at least 4.24 and a WHIP north of 1.26.

Basically, if your best option out of the bullpen is O.P., then you're pretty much D.O.A. against a team like the Astros.  It also doesn't help that the Indians' 91-71 record was a product of playing in baseball's worst division, as they went 49-27 against their fellow A.L. Central teams and 42-44 versus non-division opponents.  Needless to say, Houston doesn't call the A.L. Central home.

This series shouldn't be close.

Prediction: Astros in 3.

Playing the defending World Champions would make anyone go prematurely gray.  (William Purnell/Getty Images)

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

I'll make this simple for you without being biased.  The Red Sox became the fourth team in history to win exactly 108 games.  They matched the victory total of the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, 1975 Cincinnati Reds and 1986 New York Mets.  What do those three teams have in common besides the number of regular season happy recaps?  Champagne in late October, that's what.

Had the Red Sox won 109 games instead of 108, there would be no guarantee of a parade because the 1969 Orioles had that many victories and didn't win it all.  (I wonder who did...)  Similarly, if the Red Sox had lost their final regular season game to finish the year with 107 wins, they would have matched the 1931 Philadelphia Athletics' victory total.  The A's lost the Fall Classic that year to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Meanwhile, the Yankees became the ninth team since 1980 to finish the season with exactly 100 victories.  How many championships were won by the previous eight 100-win teams?  It's the same as the number of Washington Nationals postseason series victories.  In fact, five of those eight 100-win teams didn't even make it to the League Championship Series.

So forget about the stats.  Forget about head-to-head records.  (The Red Sox won the season series against the Yankees anyway, in case you were wondering.)  History cannot be denied.  Teams with 108 wins take home the crown.  Teams with 100 wins make plans to play golf during the World Series.

Prediction: Red Sox in 5.

Fenway Park, where Evil Empire dreams go to die.  (EL/SM)