Former major league player Billy Bean, not to be confused with the Athletics GM, visited Mets camp as a guest of GM Sandy Alderson. Bean, who was the first MLB player to publicly come out as gay, is one of the games leading activists. He now serves as an MLB ambassador for inclusion in the game today. Alderson hoped his story and presence in camp would help stress the importance of bonding with teammates, no matter what your background or personal beliefs may be, this spring.
The thought was there and I tip my cap to Alderson for the effort. But, things took a turn for the worse when a microphone was placed in front of Daniel Murphy.
Murphy has become well-known, especially by team beat writers, for his christian beliefs. His faith is a big part of his life and he has never shied away from saying so in any interview. Thus making him the target of the media yesterday with Bean in town.
Here is some of what Murphy had to say regarding Bean (NJ.com):
“I disagree with his lifestyle,” Murphy said. “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”
“Maybe, as a Christian, that we haven’t been as articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on homosexuality,” he said. “We love the people. We disagree the lifestyle. That’s the way I would describe it for me. It’s the same way that there are aspects of my life that I’m trying to surrender to Christ in my own life. There’s a great deal of many things, like my pride. I just think that as a believer trying to articulate it in a way that says just because I disagree with the lifestyle doesn’t mean I’m just never going to speak to Billy Bean every time he walks through the door. That’s not love. That’s not love at all.”
Murphy was set up for failure yesterday. I understand it’s the media’s job to seek after these sort of quotes and headlines to sell papers. When you take some of Murphy’s words out of context, in so 140 characters, you don’t ge the full gist of what he was actually saying. But what bothered me was that they chose to go after Murphy because of his well documented christian beliefs. They knew Murphy would not shy away from speaking on behalf of his faith. Murphy did what he has always done, and what the media hoped he would do, as he stood there and answered the questions openly and honestly.
We live in a politically correct world today. Especially on a topic as sensitive as homosexuality in America. These days if you don’t agree with someone, you’re the problem. No longer are we allowed to disagree or possess different beliefs. I mean what do you think this is – the land of the free?
For the record, I have absolutely no problem with Billy Bean or his sexuality. Good for him for living his life the way he wants to and doing so in a public manner. Everyone should be able to do the same without fear of persecution. Especially in this day and age.
Bean, who is also a contributor on MLB.com, wrote a piece today regarding his experience with the Mets. It’s worth a read. This is an excerpt from regarding Murphy:
“After reading his comments, I appreciate that Daniel spoke his truth. I really do. I was visiting his team, and a reporter asked his opinion about me. He was brave to share his feelings, and it made me want to work harder and be a better example that someday might allow him to view things from my perspective, if only for just a moment.”
“I respect him, and I want everyone to know that he was respectful of me. We have baseball in common, and for now, that might be the only thing. But it’s a start.”
This is why I have a problem with the backlash Murphy has received in these last 24 hours. The man stood there and reiterated his personal beliefs. He did not commit some hate crime. You didn’t see Murphy protest his presence, refuse to get dressed in the same locker room or participate in anything involving Bean. In fact, he did the complete opposite. Murphy spoke with Bean and got to know him a little bit. If Bean, the man who was supposed to be offended the most by these comments, was able to walk away with respect for Murphy – why can’t everyone else?
We do not have to agree on everything in this country. That’s what is supposed to make America great. We have the freedom to differentiate ourselves from one another with our own personal beliefs.
Feel free to disagree with Daniel Murphy. You have every right to. But don’t hate the man for having a belief different than yours. Billy Bean doesn’t.
Mets radio broadcaster Josh Lewin was a guest on MLB Network’s Hot Stove this morning to talk the upcoming season. Lewin sounded optimistic that the Mets will be able to ride this pitching staff into playoff contention in 2015. One interesting point he made was a reminder that Rafael Santana, the Mets shortstop on the 1986 champion team, hit .218 with one home run in that season. He was quick to remind us that he wasn’t comparing the rest of the everyday players to that roster but rather raising the point that it’s not the end-all and be-all if they don’t start the season with a premier shortstop.
Watch the segment in its entirety below:
The release of the MLB.com pitching prospect rankings should have been a good day for the Mets, and their fans, to boast about their pitching depth. But you didn’t have to look any further than the number one spot to be reminded that the Mets are still playing second fiddle to the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals 20-year-old right-hander Lucas Giolito was named the top pitching prospect in all of major league baseball. Noah Syndergaard, 22, of the Mets followed him in the rankings. Both Syndergaard (6’6″ 240) and Giolito (6’6″ 255) have big frames and are known for their power arms. Syndergaard is expected to start the season in Triple-A and could be promoted to the big leagues as soon as 2015. Giolito has never pitched higher than A-ball and is expected to start the year in Double-A. Although their timetables are slightly different, they will undoubtedly be compared to one another upon their arrival to the major league level.
Much has been made of the Mets young pitching. This is supposed to be the year they start to lead the organization back into relevancy and play meaningful games into late September, and then hopefully October. Although I don’t question the potential in the Mets rotation, the Nationals signing of Max Scherzer not only solidified themselves as the team to beat this year, but for years to come.
Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon is likely to be the Mets opening day rotation. I excluded Dillon Gee from this list because all signs point to him being traded in the near future. Minus Colon, this group is as young and talented as there is in the game. Harvey, before undergoing Tommy John Surgery, looked like a premier pitcher in the game. DeGrom was the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year. Wheeler has struggled with his command but showed his potential as a front-line starter in the second half of the season. Niese is a consistent lefty who provides stability. Colon will be the staffs innings eater who GM Sandy Alderson will likely look to trade come the All-Star break. Thus opening up a spot in the rotation for Syndergaard to make his debut sometime this summer.
Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez are projected to be the Nationals opening day rotation. That has the makings to be Atlanta Braves 1990’s good. In the event one of these starters is traded before the season, a more than formidable Tanner Roark will step right in. Giolito might be the top pitching prospect in the game, but the Nationals feel he is a year away. GM Mike Rizzo is well aware of what he has in Giolito and could be the reason why he would be okay with trading one of his soon to be free-agent starters. One hole that remains on the Nationals roster is their bullpen. Don’t be surprised if Giolito, assuming he continues to progress, is promoted to bolster the pen down the stretch. The more likely scenario would be Giolito joining the rotation in 2016 when a spot opens up due to trade or free agency.
There is no shame in having the second-best pitching prospect in baseball. These rankings are nothing more than someones personal opinion. And at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is how these pitchers perform on the major league level. Despite many off-season rumors of teams asking for Syndergaard, the Mets were unwilling to part with him. They clearly view him as a big part of their future. Only time with tell if Syndergaard, along with the rest of the Mets young pitchers, will be able to out-duel the Nationals rotation in the years to come.
Yesterday we learned that the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be enshrining four players this year. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio will all be making the trip to Cooperstown. There aren’t any surprises in this group, as all four were expected to make the cut.
Despite this being among the largest groups to ever be elected, it can be argued a few others should be joining them. There are clear holes in the HOF voting process and I have some suggestions on how to improve them. They go for both the HOF committee and the writers themselves.
Allow the writers to remove players from the HOF
In fairness to the writers, I know the main fear many seem to have is electing a player into the HOF who is later found to be a known PED user. I understand this fear and feel something needs to be done to put their minds at ease. At the moment there is nothing in place for a player to be removed from the HOF. I believe an amendment (or whatever they would call it) should be asserted which would empower the same group of writers to vote players out under certain circumstances. I’ll leave the discussion as to what those circumstances would be for another time.
I know many would still vote skeptically and rightly so to a degree. But this ultimately should help both sides, as the writers know they have the ability to correct a mistake and a player will not be improperly punished. We already do this with such honors as the Heisman Trophy (think Reggie Bush) in sports, why not the MLB HOF? I know what a high regard the HOF is held in. It is the most prestigious in all of professional sports and this will allow it to remain that way.
Don’t limit votes
A problem many writers complained about this year was the inability to vote for all the players that they wanted to. Because the rules limit voters to no more than 10 players on a ballot some were forced to decide who to leave off. In my opinion, that rule is ridiculous. Either you are a HOF’er or you aren’t. There is no need to have a limit on something like this. I realize the ballots are crowded more than ever before. This is due mostly to inflated recent numbers and questionable past causing many to stay on ballots longer than expected (both problems caused by the steroid era).That shouldn’t be the case forever. But it will for be the foreseeable future.
It forces writers to make decisions that they shouldn’t be asked to make. This unfairly cost players who may be in their final years on a ballot to lose costly votes. Players like Alan Trammel, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines and Fred McGriff are borderline candidates who are not receiving their proper consideration because writers ballots are already maxed out. Time is quickly running out on them with the new 10-year limit.
In his first season on a ballot Carlos Delgado received less than 5% of the votes. This mean he falls below the requirement to remain on next years ballot. I’m not saying Delgado was a sure-fire HOF player, but his career numbers warranted him much more than one season of consideration. If a writer feels only one players deserves a vote, fine, vote for one player. But if they feel there are 15 players who deserve a vote then there is no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to vote for all 15. It’s hard enough to get 75% of the writers to agree on you, removing a maximum number of votes on ballots will not cheapen the HOF.
This one is for the writers. I have a problem with the way some went about using their votes. I’ll be the first to admit that the steroid era has put so much pressure to vote one way or the other for players in question. This has caused many to take a hard stance on letting these players (Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, Sosa, Piazza, Bagwell, Sheffield etc.) into the HOF. In my opinion, there is no right or wrong answer. The only thing I ask is that you be consistent. If you want to vote a known/suspected PED user into the HOF, that’s your prerogative. But, you shouldn’t be making exceptions and only overlooking the past of some. You must do that with all or none of the players in question.
Bonds and Clemens will continue to be the poster boys for this conversation so long as their names remain on the ballot. Neither gained any real traction this year but that could change as next years class is nowhere near as strong. If you are going to use votes on these two then you should also be casting votes for McGwire, Sosa, Bagwell, Piazza, Sheffield and anyone else that falls under this cloud. Whatever stance you choose to take, at least fully commit to it.
The voting process is far from perfect and my suggestions don’t fix everything. But I do know that they help improve what is currently in place. Baseball has always resisted change, on and off the field, but I believe something will be done in the near future to help correct some of the flaws in the HOF voting process.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman knows he still has work to do this off season. Missing the playoffs once in the Bronx? Okay. Two years in a row? Say your prayers that you still have a job. Three years in a row? Let’s just say no one wants to find out the answer to that question.
For me, I would be most concerned with the starting rotation. The Yankees took another blow with the news of Hiroki Kuroda returning to Japan. Since joining the Yankees in 2011, Kuroda has been their most reliable starter. Just have a look at his three year breakdown with the Yankees:
2012: 16-11 (33 Games started) 219 Innings pitched 3.32 ERA
2013: 11-13 (32 Games started) 201 Innings pitched 3.31 ERA
2014: 11-9 (32 Games started) 199 Innings pitched 3.71 ERA
The Yankees also lost Shane Greene (Traded to the Diamondbacks), and David Phelps (Traded to the Marlins). While neither were expected to play an important part in the Yankees future plans, they both figured to be in the rotation mix at some point throughout the year, due to injury or promotion.
The 2015 Yankee rotation projects to be the following:
- Masahiro Tanaka – The Japanese import quickly established himself as one of the games top starters. Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts. He was well on his way to winning AL Rookie of the Year honors and was going to be in the AL Cy Young award discussion before an elbow issue shut him down. After resting for two months, he was able to return briefly in September to show the Yankees he was good to go for 2015. If healthy, The Yankees have an ace for their staff. Tanaka has avoided the three ugliest words in the game, Tommy John Surgery, for now.
- Michael Pineda – After missing all of 2012 and 2013 to injuries, he looked sharp in his 2014 return. Pineda posted a fantastic 1.89 ERA and looked to be a front-end starter in the makings. However, he was only able to manage 13 starts and 76 innings due to continued health issues and a notorious suspension. Hard to say what the Yankees can rely on getting out of a pine tar less Pineda.
- CC Sabathia – 2013 was ugly but 2014 was just down right forgettable for Sabathia, He was only able to make eight starts and posted a 5.78 ERA before suffering a season ending knee injury. The once ace of the staff is now a huge liability on the Yankees books. With three years remaining (The third being a player vesting option that is likely to be picked up) Cashman has his fingers crossed Sabathia is able to reinvent himself. I have him in the #3 slot but that is based on reputation alone. His recent results barely warrant him a spot in the rotation at all. We’ll give him the benefit of doubt that some of his struggles were injury based, for now.
- Nathan Eovaldi – The trade for the young flame thrower was the most surprising move Cashman has made so far this off season. Eovaldi is among the hardest throwing starters in all of baseball. The Yankees desperately needed to get younger, especially in the rotation, and acquiring the 25-year-old helped solve that problem. This will be pitching coach Larry Rothschilds biggest project. Despite consistently clocking one of the hardest fastballs, he also gave up hits at an alarming rate. The Yankees hope that Rothschild can help fine tune this talent and that they found themselves a diamond in the rough.
- Chris Capuano – In my opinion, the Yankees are in serious trouble if they are relying on a full season of Capuano in the rotation. I do like Capuano for what he is and the price was right to retain him. The 36-year-old lefty made 12 starts with the Yankees after being acquired from the Red Sox last year and posted a 4.25 ERA. I would prefer to see him fill the void left by the Phelps and Greene combination – becoming the teams swing man, spending time in the rotation as needed and the versatile arm in the bullpen.
In house help
Ivan Nova – After undergoing Tommy John Surgery last year, he is expected to be ready sometime in May-June. After posting a strong 2013 campaign, he struggled in 2014 before going down for the season after just four starts. It’s hard to have high expectations for a pitcher returning from surgery but he could provide a mid season boost.
Luis Severino – The 20-year-old has quickly made a name for himself and is now the organizations top-ranked prospect. Severino has a fastball that sits in the mid-high 90’s but will still need a little bit more fine tuning in the minor leagues. Although he won’t be with the Yankees come April, he is worth keeping an eye on throughout the season. It’s only a matter of time before Severino is on the mound in Yankee Stadium.
Max Scherzer – The 2013 AL Cy Young award winner took a chance when he turned down a huge extension from the Tigers last off season. But it appears his gamble is going to payoff, he returned with an equally impressive 2014 season and remains the biggest name in this free agency class. Being the top starter on the market doesn’t come cheap these days. The 30-year-old is said to be seeking a 7-to-8 year deal north of $200 million.
James Shields – He has been the poster boy of reliability for starting pitchers. Since 2007, Shields has made 30+ starts and thrown 200+ innings in each season. Although he hasn’t lived up to the “Big game James” moniker in terms of his October performances, he is exactly what the Yankees are in dire need of. There is no injury history to speak of when it comes to Shields and given the question marks surrounding the rest of the staff, Joe Girardi desperately needs an arm he can count on to take the mound every five days.
Cole Hamels – Unlike Scherzer and Shields, he is not a free agent. But, the Phillies are set to go into full blown rebuilding mode and have put Hamels on the market. It has been reported that the Yankees are one of the teams on Hamels list that he would waive his no trade clause for. Hamels has made 28+ starts in eight straight seasons and posted a career low 2.46 ERA in 2014. The 31-year-old has 4 years and $94 million left on his contract with a fifth year option for another $20 million.
At the end of the day, I think the Yankees need to either sign Shields or try to trade for Hamels. Scherzer might be the sexy move, but that doesn’t make it the right move. He is a power pitcher who is now entering the wrong side of 30. The Yankees don’t have to look any further than within their own rotation (Sabathia) to see how the back end of a contract with that type of pitcher plays out.
Shields provides the type of stability that Kuroda gave these past three years. Although he might not have performed in October last year, he did help anchor a staff into October, something the Yanks haven’t done in two years. Given his age and the way the market seems to be unfolding – a 4-year-deal might be able to land him. Even if they have to overpay it’s better to do that than give out the years. That is something Cashman must deter away from doing.
Hamels would be the most ideal fit. He has proven to be as durable as anyone in the game today. Hamels would combine with Tanaka to make one of, if not the strongest, 1-2 punch in all of the American League. He already has a contract in place that while high, isn’t unreasonable given his production. There won’t be any questions about his ability to pitch in New York given he has already proved himself in Philadelphia, a tough town in its own right. Plus he has succeeded in Citizens Bank Park, a field as hitter friendly as Yankee Stadium. The fact that his contract doesn’t have him locked up too far into his twilight years makes him even more attractive.
I don’t know what the Yankees will do. But I do know there are too many questions surrounding that projected starting rotation for Brian Cashman to sit idle.
This time last year we were all asking ourselves – Is David Robertson capable of taking over for Mariano Rivera? The answer was a resounding yes. Now it’s time for Robertson to cash in on his success.
What amazed me most was just how quietly Robertson accomplished this feat. There is no team in all of professional sports that puts more pressure on their players than the New York Yankees. Yet Robertson didn’t falter when it was his turn to step into the spotlight and put together a successful first season in the closer role.
Robertson earned 39 saves with a 3.08 era in 2014. His walk ratio, which is something that had been a problem earlier in his career, saw a slight rise but has been mostly stable for the past three years now. He also saw a rise in his strikeout ratio, 13.4 per nine innings, a very solid number that you look for in closers.
Earlier this week was the deadline for teams to make their qualifying offers to pending free agents. It was questionable as to what the Yankees were going to do with Robertson. Despite his strong season, the Yankees do have a young Dellin Betances to fall back on. The rookie right-hander took the league by storm and has the makings of becoming a closer one day. But the Yankees decided to make Robertson that 1-year $15.3 million qualifying offer, meaning they might not be ready just yet to thrust Betances into that role. Continue reading
From the moment we stepped foot into the stadium the “Der-ek Jet-er” chants had begun; it didn’t take long to realize just how electric this crowd would be all night long. A good portion of Yankee games sellout throughout the season, but you know it’s a special game when everyone is in their seats a half hour before first pitch.
Jeter was given a standing ovation before the game even started when he accepted a donation on behalf of the Yankees to his charity. Then another when he took the field to warmup. Then another after a scoreboard message played a thank you tribute. Then another when his farewell Gatorade commercial aired. Then another when he took his position on the field. Then another when his farewell Nike commercial aired. Then another when he came out onto the on-deck circle. Then another when he finally stepped into the batter’s box. If you didn’t get the hint by now, there was very little sitting at this game.
It became apparent rather quickly that Jeter would once again relish in the moment. In his first at-bat, he roped a deep line drive to left center field, missing a home run by a mere few feet. That left many of us wondering if that would be the highlight of his final game. Jeter hasn’t exactly torn the cover off the baseball this season, would that be his final hit at the stadium?
After the first inning, the game went into cruise control through the seventh. The most entertainment came from the Jumbotron. In between innings former players and coaches would share with their favorite Jeter moments. It was truly remarkable that one man could be in the middle of so many memorable moments in this storied franchise’s history. I applauded for each and every one of these, except for one. When the 2000 World Series highlight reel began, when the Yankees beat my beloved Mets and Jeter was named series MVP, it reminded me of the love/hate relationship I’ve had with Jeter for all these years.
Hate is a strong word, but there were plenty of times when I truly felt hatred towards Jeter. I’m 27-years-old, meaning my baseball memories pretty much started alongside Jeter’s career. In that time, I have seen the Mets make the playoffs all of three times, compared to the Yankees 17. The Mets have become known for public relation blunders, lack of accountability and most notably, heartbreak. Jeter, on the other hand, has stood for the polar opposite.
The man has never made slipped up in the public eye before. Even when a story broke of Jeter giving one night stands a parting gift basketball it was somehow spun in a positive light for the coveted bachelor. It’s hard to walk five feet in Yankee Stadium without seeing a “Yeah Jeets!” shirt or a fan shouting the term of endearment. When it came to accountability? Fuhgeddaboudit. Despite being second only to Bill Belichick in giving the most vanilla interviews, he always stands pact at his locker accepting both the praise and blame following each and every game. You will never hear him throw blame elsewhere; all of it falls on the Captain’s shoulders.
When it comes to heartbreak, Jeter has given the fans very little. He has been a part of 13 division titles, seven American League Championships and won five World Series titles. Sure this is a team sport, and he isn’t solely responsible for those accomplishments, but he played a damn big part in each and every one of them.
Needless to say, my feelings towards him have walked a fine line between hate and envy. I digress, back to last night…
Jeter stepped up with the stage set for a big moment in the seventh. With the bases loaded and the game tied the crowd was, you guessed it, on their feet. Although Jeter didn’t come through with a hit, he did put the ball in play forcing an error on a fielder’s choice, allowing the Yankees to take the lead. This might not have felt like a significant play, but I felt summed up a big portion of Jeter’s career that you won’t find on any stat sheet. He was involved in a game-changing moment. Sure it wasn’t a home run or bases clearing double, but he made something happen on a measly weak ground ball that could prove to be the game-winner. Typical Jeter.
When David Robertson took the mound in the ninth to close out the game, the crowd was more than happy for it to end this way. My friends and I might have been the only four people in the stadium rooting for the Orioles to tie it up. Jeter was due up third in the bottom of the ninth, who wouldn’t want to see him bat one more time? After Robertson surrendered the first home run, we cheered, when he gave up the game-tying home run….we really cheered. At this point, we HAD to be the only non-Oriole fans high-fiving each other. The guys behind us were not amused. One friend quickly stated his bottom of the ninth prediction:
“Single, bunt him over to second, Jeter single to win it.”
We kind of laughed this statement off and gave each other the “imagine?” look in response. Even Jeter can’t be that lucky to have it end like that.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, Jose Pirela started the inning off with a single. Alright, now we’re looking at each other like we might be onto something. Gardner steps up and lays down a perfect sacrifice bunt. At this point, I think the whole crowd was in a state of disbelief that Jeter would be coming to the plate in this situation. It just seemed too good to be true. In true Jeter fashion, he lined a single into right field and drove in Pirela for the winning run.
I mean, wow. Words cannot even begin to describe the emotion running through the stadium at that very moment. The same guys that we aggravated an inning earlier by our blown save celebration were now shaking my buddies in disbelief for predicting this exact scenario.
Jeter was mobbed by teammates and the Yankees used their flair for the dramatics – revealing the presence of Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Mariano Rivera on the Jumbotron, one-by-one, as they waited to greet Jeter. I would say the crowd gave Jeter one last standing ovation, but the truth is I don’t think the fans ever stopped standing or applauding from the moment they arrived.
This went on well after the on-field celebration ended as No. 2 faded away into the dugout, forever.
It was truly a fairytale ending for Jeter, something straight out of Hollywood. You would’ve sworn this game was scripted the way it all unfolded. Jeter might have been the luckiest man on the face of the earth last night, but my friends and I were a close second.