I don’t know how long the journey will last, but at least the first step was in the right direction.
Jacob deGrom only went five innings, which is to be expected in this season of true uncertainty which started on March 11th and will continue to be uncertain until a final game of a World Series is actually played. But they were five innings which were of the usual high standards for deGrom (one hit, one walk and eight strikeouts.)
The one pitch that caught my eye, and if you look at the title you’ve probably guessed that I’m going to discuss the three pitches that told the story of the game for me, is a pitch that really didn’t tell the story of the game in a “cause and effect” way, but it was the pitch that assured me that deGrom, after bouts with back stiffness, was going to be just fine. First inning, down 2-0 to Freddie Freeman (welcome back, Freddie … stay healthy dude) deGrom throws a nasty slider that shaved the inside corner like Paulie used the razor to shave the garlic in prison so it could liquify in the pan. Sure, he walked Freeman to complete the at-bat, but that showed me that the ability and the guts to throw that pitch in that situation is still there. Yes, deGrom is from another world. But would the irresistible forces of this planet affect his pitching at all? Nope … not yet.
The second pitch, and this came after Seth Lugo came in and threw two scoreless innings and weaved his way out of trouble, was an 0-1 fastball from Chris Martin in the bottom of the 7th, and one that Yoenis Cespedes crushed to give us the only run of the game. Cespedes has now hit home runs in three straight games, which is funny because the first two games happened in May and July of 2018 (Hooray, momentum!!!) You should know by now that I’m a Cespedes guy, and while I’m willing to keep an open mind on most things, any arguments about Cespedes being a dog will be met with a brick wall. (You’ve been warned.) Remember that this is the first time he’s been healthy not since 2018, but longer than that as he’s has had heel problems for a long, long time. Those are gone. Today he proved he can still hit. What we don’t know is if he can play the outfield, and if he can carry a team. If Cespedes can carry a team the way he did in 2015, we’re in for a fun season … maybe.
The third pitch was the fastball that Edwin Diaz threw to strike out Marcell Ozuna. Diaz got the first out of the inning but had just walked Freeman. So the big ticket closer that was so good in 2018 yet so awful in 2019 had some adversity. How would he react? Was this going to be 2019 continued? Can pictures of fans boo? Thankfully for Diaz, they can’t. And how did he react? By striking out Ozuna on three pitches including a fastball that shaved the outside corner and sent him away meekly. Diaz finished off the game by striking out Mets legend Matt Adams to end it, but his strikeout of Ozuna was a masterful response to the walk to Freeman and, for the moment, wiped away any memories of 2019.
With so many changes in the world over the last few months, it’s nice to know that even in an Opening Day that takes place in late July, the Mets still own the day. It’s a nice bit of normalcy in a crazy world. Hopefully there will be a new normal of continued and sustained winning that certainly hasn’t been normal the last few years. But the good news is that when you account for a 162 game season, the Mets’ record is actually 2.7-0.
Today’s Hate List
A little bit different today, as instead of random players from the other team that do well against us, or even more random players that fit a theme that only I understand, I’m going to throw you some thoughts and general complaints and crankiness about the 2020 season that I have:
- I’m fine with 16 teams in the playoffs this season. 2020 is wacky, so let’s embrace the wacky. The biggest problem I have is that they negotiated this out of nowhere and implemented it at the last possible minute, which reeks of buffoonery. It’s not a great sign for upcoming labor negotiations.
- But please, no more seasons where more than half the teams make the playoffs. I understand the owners want to recoup some money and expanding the playoffs is the easiest way to do it. But for such a long regular season, a 16 team tournament doesn’t work. It works for the NHL because the playoffs are so frantic, where three or four games are happening at once and you can flip from overtime to double overtime to triple overtime. To some extent, it works in the NBA because home court advantage means so much that the regular season still means something. And in both leagues, it works because you have half the regular season games of baseball. Sixteen playoff teams renders a 162 game regular season meaningless, and they’ll regret it when they see their gate receipts and their television ratings sink to the bottom of the ocean. And you’re not going to have a bunch of games happening at once because you know that MLB will try to have these games played concurrently. It won’t be like the Stanley Cup playoffs at all. A good compromise is 12 playoff teams. have 3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5 matchups and give the top two seeds byes. Do it the same way you’re doing it this season. Make the lower seeds win a three game series on the road. Let the regular season mean something.
- The rain delay in the Yankees/Nationals game was unfathomable. MLB has put in tweaks to their rain out rules which keeps the threshold of an official game at five innings (4 and 1/2 with the home team leading), but will let all games that are interrupted short of that to be picked up at the spot of the interruption rather than started over, which is great. But to that end, there’s absolutely no reason to make players congregate in small indoor spaces for longer than a half hour. Waterfalls formed at Nationals Park within ten minutes of the rain delay. When that happens, the game should have been called right then and there. Making them wait two hours, nationally televised game or no nationally televised game, was criminal. Any rain delay that is anything more than a passing shower should end the game, no questions asked. To make games go quicker with runners on second base to speed up the game, and to not amend their rain delay practices, is utterly ridiculous.
- To that end, with no fans in the stands, teams should now have the opportunity to move start times up. I get that maybe you can’t do that with the nationally televised games. But the Indians and Pirates moved up their final exhibition game due to a threat of rain in the area from 7:00 to 5:00. That would never happen because of the fans. But we can’t go. And most of us are working from home. So why can’t teams do that now? Because heaven forbid a local broadcast preempt Pregame Blabber Live Sponsored By Non-Rotated Tires And Your Bank Of Choice so that players can be safe and not have to sit in a rain delay for hours on end? (By the way, AT&T Pittsburgh took the exhibition game off their air because of the time change … why? Did they not want to preempt a poker tournament from 2011? What else is on their air that is so precious at this point?)
- I love the Rays. The Yankees’ biggest issue will be health. The Jays might actually galvanize over playing in Buffalo. I have no idea what to expect from the Red Sox. The Orioles are still terrible.
- The Twins might end the season with the league’s best record. The White Sox are scary. You want a super sleeper pick to make the playoffs? It’s the Royals. (Matt Harvey did not factor into that decision.) The Indians are rebuilding. The Tigers are still terrible, but Spencer Torkelson is a name to remember. (How can you forget?)
- The Astros will be really fortunate to play in front of empty stadiums. The Angels might be the most improved team in the league. The Athletics might slip a little this season. The Rangers will beat Carolina in the first round (oh sorry, wrong Rangers). The Mariners are still terrible, but they’ll have Jarred Kelenic.
- The Braves are still among the class of the division. The Phillies might improve because of Girardi and Gregorius, but I don’t trust their bullpen. If any team has real reason to have a “World Series Hangover”, it’s the Nationals. I don’t think they’ll be that good this year, but big deal. The Marlins are still terrible, but they won’t have the worst record in the league.
- The Reds are going to put it all together this season. The Cardinals are still the Cardinals, but losing Jordan Hicks will really hurt them. I can’t tell if the Cubs are still and up and coming team or if they’re rebuilding. The Brewers have awesome uniforms this season. The Pirates are still terrible.
- The Diamondbacks are the best team you’ve forgotten about. The Padres are the Western Blue Jays. The Rockies exist. The Giants are still terrible, but they have Wimer Flores.
- As for the Mets, they’ve lost Zack Wheeler for good, Noah Syndergaard for this season, and Marcus Stroman for a few weeks, Starting pitching isn’t the strength it once was, which means the Mets are pretty much going to have to win every Jacob deGrom start if they’re going to have any hope. But that doesn’t mean that the lineup, which had Wilson Ramos hitting eighth today for heaven’s sake (and thankfully they came to their senses and hit Robinson Cano sixth) can’t outslug teams when the other pitchers are on the mound. If Stroman doesn’t miss too much time and if the bullpen can lock it down, the Mets can make a lot of noise this season.
- But ultimately, I think this is the Dodgers’ year. They’re talented and angry, a dangerous combination. Don’t concern yourself with Clayton Kershaw’s injury, as he might be the third best starter on this team by season’s end. I don’t see how a team with Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager and Walker Buehler and all the rest of them lose. They’ve been chomping at the bit since it was proven that the Astros and Red Sox were varying degrees of nefarious over the course of 2017 and 2018. It’s now or never for them … until next year.