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)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Joey's Soapbox: My 2018 Completely Unbiased Wild Card Game Picks

Remember, these are completely unbiased picks.  So this photo of me at gorgeous Coors Field is just a total coincidence.

Hey, everyone!  This is Joey Beartran, your furry fearless forecaster.  And just like you, I'm only now starting to recover from the David Wright Kleenex Fest this past weekend at Citi Field.  It's sad that the Captain's career is over, just like it's disappointing that the Mets are not in the postseason for a second consecutive campaign.

Because the Mets are emptying out their lockers instead of packing for an October road trip, that means we all have to watch teams in which we have no interest competing for a championship that has eluded our squad for nearly a third of a century.

Some of those non-Metsian teams were forced to play a 163rd game to determine who would get the chance to celebrate a division title and who would have to play in the same do-or-die game the Mets lost the last time they made the playoffs two seasons ago.  The Cubs and Rockies both lost their 163rd and final regular season games, forcing them to play in a 164th and first postseason game against each other, with the loser not getting a chance to play in a 165th game.  Meanwhile, the Yankees and A's already knew their wild card fate for some time, allowing them to prepare for the inevitable Yankee defeat.  (Oops, I should've said "spoiler alert".)

As your prescient prognosticator, it's my duty to share my knowledge of what's going to happen in the American and National League Wild Card games.  And hopefully, I won't spoil anything for you too soon like I did in the previous paragraph.  (On an unrelated note, don't you just love the photo of me at the top of this post?  Looks like the photo of a winning ballpark, doesn't it?)

National League Wild Card Game

Colorado Rockies vs. Chicago Cubs

Well, leave it to the Rockies to get so close to winning their first division title only to kiss it goodbye in their 163rd game.  Then again, the Rockies are no strangers to making it to the playoffs as a second-place team.  They've now qualified for the postseason five times in their quarter century of existence, with every appearance coming as the No. 2 team in the N.L. West.  Meanwhile, the Cubs surrendered the N.L. Central crown in their 163rd game but still made the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season; the first time they've ever done that in their long history, which dates back to 1876, or the year Scott Atchison was born.

The Cubs won four more games than the Rockies did during the regular season and have far more playoff experience than Colorado does.  Chicago manager Joe Maddon has taken his North Siders to the playoffs four times, immediately on the heels of taking his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, to the postseason on four occasions.  Maddon has also won more pennants (two) than his counterpart, Bud Black, has managed postseason games (one).  And you can always expect the crowd at Wrigley Field to be raucous, especially in a do-or-die game.

Cole Hamels
Everything seems to suggest that the Cubs should easily dispose of the Rockies in the Wild Card game.  Colorado has to overcome a playoff-tested opponent managed by a potential future Hall of Famer.  They also have to play 4,683 feet closer to sea level than they're used to.

But the Rockies have one key advantage over the Cubs.  Colorado doesn't have Cole Hamels on their payroll.  Chicago does.  And really, that's all that matters to me.  Because no team that feels the need to fatten Hamels' wallet should ever be allowed to advance in the postseason.

Prediction: Colorado will advance to the NLDS.

American League Wild Card Game

Oakland A's vs. New York Yankees

The Yankees were expected to run roughshod over the rest of the American League this season.  They didn't quite do that, finishing eight games behind the rival Red Sox in the A.L. East.  Meanwhile, Oakland was expected to sell off their players at the trade deadline after a disappointing start.  Instead, they added pitchers Edwin Jackson, Shawn Kelley, Mike Fiers, Fernando Rodney and some guy named Jeurys Familia and went 63-29 in their last 92 games to comfortably secure the second wild card spot.

A's versus Yankees usually doesn't end up well for the team from the left coast.  The two teams have faced each other three times in the postseason (1981, 2000, 2001).  New York emerged victorious on each occasion.  (I have a selective memory, so I'm choosing to ignore what happened in the World Series in 1973.  If I ignore it, then it didn't happen.)

It's not just in baseball where New York takes care of Oakland in postseason affairs.  On December 29, 1968, the New York Jets defeated the Oakland Raiders in the AFL Championship Game on their way to their first and only Super Bowl title.

If it seems like no one can remember the last time Oakland defeated New York in anything (remember, 1973 never happened in my mind), that's because no one was allowed to see it when it happened.  I mean that literally, not figuratively.

Ever hear of "The Heidi Game"?  On November 17, 1968, the Jets held a 32-29 lead over the Raiders with under a minute to play.  The NBC television network was broadcasting the game, but because they were obligated to show the movie "Heidi" at 7:00pm, the game did not air to its conclusion and the football-loving audience instead saw the first few minutes of "Heidi" instead of two touchdowns by the Raiders, which turned an apparent New York victory into a bitter 43-32 defeat.

Sheldon, you're no Heidi.
The Heidi Game will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in less than seven weeks.  I can't think of a better way to celebrate that special moment in sports history - one in which no one saw a team from Oakland defeating a club that calls New York home - than by having the A's ending the Yankees' season, hopefully without TBS switching off the game to show reruns of "The Big Bang Theory."

Prediction: Oakland will advance to the ALDS.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Three-Run Leads Are a Recipe For Disaster For the Mets

"You know what, Mickey?  My high school sweetheart, Sandy Koufax, never blew a three-run lead." (R. Schultz/Getty Images)

Good baseball teams know how to hold leads when they have them.  And as a team's lead increases, the odds of ending the game with a happy recap usually increase as well.

That is, unless you're talking about the 2018 Mets.

The Mets lost Saturday night's game to the Miami Marlins in 11 innings.  New York dropped the 4-3 decision after taking an early 3-0 lead.  If that kind of result sounds familiar to you, you're not alone.  In fact, just minutes after the walk-off defeat was complete, I was asked this question on Twitter.

I can't confirm if the Mets have set some kind of record for losing games after holding a three-run lead, mainly because I'm lazier than the average blogger, but thanks to, I can say that the Mets have lost an incredibly high percentage of games in which their opponent had to erase a deficit of three or more runs.  But before we get to that, here's a little background research.

For the Mets to lose a game in which they held a three-run lead, that implies that they had to score at least three runs.  (Duh!)  And in their 66 losses to date, they were held to fewer than three runs a total of 36 times.  For all you kids out there, that's a lot of defeats in which the Mets couldn't have possibly held a three-run lead.

So that leaves just 30 losses in which the Mets could have been up by three runs.  You would think that given the fact that I only had to go through two-and-a-half dozen boxscores, I would find maybe five or six instances in which the Mets lost after they had taken a three-run advantage on their opponent.  If you thought that was the case, then clearly you haven't been following the 2018 Mets closely.

Here are all the games so far this season in which the Mets gave us temporary pleasure by taking a three-run lead before reminding us that they're still the 2018 Mets.

  • April 16:  Mets lead Nationals, 6-1.  Lose 8-6.
  • April 21:  Mets lead Braves, 3-0.  Lose 4-3.
  • May 26:  Mets lead Brewers, 3-0.  Lose 17-6.
  • May 27:  Mets lead Brewers, 4-1.  Lose 8-7.
  • May 29:  Mets lead Braves, 4-0.  Lose 7-6.
  • June 9:  Mets lead Yankees, 3-0.  Lose 4-3.
  • June 20:  Mets lead Rockies, 4-1.  Lose 10-8. 
  • June 27:  Mets lead Pirates, 3-0.  Lose 5-3.
  • July 3:  Mets lead Blue Jays, 5-0.  Lose 8-6.
  • July 27:  Mets lead Pirates, 3-0.  Lose 5-4.
  • Aug. 5:  Mets lead Braves, 3-0.  Lose 5-4.
  • Aug. 11:  Mets lead Marlins, 3-0.  Lose 4-3.

The Mets have lost 30 games this season in which they scored at least three runs.  And in a dozen of those contests - that's an incredible 40% of the defeats - they held a lead of at least three runs.  It's so unbelievable, even Tom Glavine would be devastated by it.  (His former team, the Atlanta Braves, have no problem with the Mets' generosity, as they've engineered three of those 12 comebacks.)

Do you remember earlier when I said that good teams know how to hold leads?  The 2015 National League champion Mets - otherwise known as a good team - lost just six games all year in which they held a three-run lead.  This year's squad has doubled that total with 48 games still left to play.

On Sunday, less than 24 hours after suffering their 12th defeat in a game where they held a lead of at least three runs, the Mets defeated the Marlins, 4-3.  How did they manage to hold the lead in this game?  It's simple, really.  They never allowed their lead to reach three runs at any point in the game.  If only they had followed that formula all year.