To get a good idea of how fickle the fates of baseball can be, let’s flash back to July 17: The Yankees had just completed 14-1 and 13-2 routs of the Red Sox to forge a 64-28 record, by far the best in baseball, 4.5 games ahead of the Astros. At the same time, the Mets lost the first of three straight games to the Cubs and Padres that would shrink their National League East to a half-game over the Braves, the smallest since April 12.
Right after that, the Yankees lost Michael King for the season with an elbow injury and Matt Carpenter for at least most of the rest of the season with a broken foot — while Giancarlo Stanton went off to the All-Star Game, won MVP honors, and hasn’t been seen since. By contrast, Buck Showalter’s Mets, bolstered by the trade deadline acquisitions Daniel Vogelbach, Tyler Naquin and Darin Ruff (combined .348 with five homers and 22 RBI entering the weekend) along with the return of Jacob deGrom, have won 15 out of 18 since July 23 to surpass the Yankees with the best record in New York.
After getting off to one of the best starts in their history, it sure did look like the Yankees were on the fast track to get to their first World Series since 2009, with only the Astros and a likely ALCS matchup looming in their path. Now it’s a wonder if Showalter’s Mets might have the better chance of going to the Series.
Even though the Yankees still command a comfortable lead in the AL East, this 7-14 swoon since July 17 cannot be shrugged off as just the dog days of summer. This is not the same Yankee team that dominated baseball the first three and a half months. In 47 games after being picked up off the scrap heap, Carpenter, evoking the myth of Joe Hardy, batted .305 with 15 homers and 37 RBI. There’s no understating that loss, nor the one of King, who had emerged this year as one of the most lethal Yankee set-up men ever. Between them, the Clay Holmes/King back-end bullpen duo had a 1.76 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 92 innings. And it hasn’t helped that King’s loss has been coupled with Holmes suddenly losing his aura of invincibility of late, getting touched up for seven runs in his last five outings.
In regard to the bullpen, a couple of losses last week might have been avoided had it not been for Brian Cashman’s analytics wizards’ infatuation with Albert Abreu, who blew a tie game against the Cardinals on Aug. 7 and a 3-2 lead against the Mariners three days later. Chalk those up to forced errors on Cashman’s part because rookie Ron Marinaccio, perhaps the Yankees’ most effective middle reliever, ordinarily would have been called upon in those two situations but is presently stuck at Triple-A Scranton because he has options while Abreu does not.
Indeed, while the Yankees were scuffling big time on the road in St. Louis and Seattle, there’s been a bugle blowing party nearly every night in Queens to the tune of Edwin Diaz’s “Narco,” and all those GMs (Cashman included) who shunned the old school Showalter for their managerial openings these past couple of years are now seeing the error of their ways. This is a deep, talented Mets team, with a six-deep starting rotation, versatile hitters up and down the lineup and the best closer in the business in Diaz. They are never out of games and most of all, they clearly love playing for Showalter who, in his old (66) age has taken on the role of country philosopher. The clubhouse is loose, confident and in tune with each other.
What has been particularly heartening for Showalter is the performances of his two Latin stars, Francisco Lindor and Diaz, both of whom struggled mightily in their first seasons in New York. “I told Francisco when I met with him last winter that all I wanted him to do was just play the hell out of shortstop,” Showalter said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player who prepares himself for a game the way he does. Diaz? He’s a guy who’s come all the way back from the other side of the mountain, not easy in New York. You can see what he’s made of.”
Showalter has been around long enough, however, to know that the baseball fates can turn quickly on a team. Flyin’ high in April, shot down in May. It’s been an uplifting couple of weeks for the Mets. Beginning Monday: Eight straight road games against the Braves and Phillies.
IT’S A MADD, MADD WORLD
Has there ever been a bigger jerk in baseball than Fernando Tatis Jr.? Bad enough after signing his $340 million contract last year the Padres star goes and breaks his wrist in a motorcycle accident last winter, costing him the first five months of the season. Now he’ll miss the entire season and a whole big chunk of next year after being busted for PEDs Friday. What a colossal waste. …
I’m not sure what this means, but sources tell me the Red Sox were privately, but aggressively, shopping Rafael Devers at the trade deadline, looking for the same kind of prospect haul the Nationals were able to extract from the Padres for Juan Soto. Sure looks like another Mookie Betts scenario unfolding in Boston in which the Red Sox just don’t think they can sign their best player. …
Careening toward their sixth straight losing season and third last-place finish in the last four years, the Tigers last week fired their general manager Al Avila to the surprise of no one. The Cuban-born 64-year-old Avila, who spent 22 years in the Tiger organization, is much respected throughout the baseball industry but there was just no getting around a series of (so far) failed draft picks, bad trades and disastrous free agent signings. First round draft picks from their decision to tank four years ago have either been hurt (pitcher Casey Mize) or in the case of first baseman Spencer Torkelson, center fielder Riley Greene and pitcher Alex Faedo major disappointments. At the same time, Avila got little back in his trades of All-Stars Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Shane Greene and Nick Castellanos. Then last winter in the free agent market he signed Javy Baez for six years/$140 million and lefty starter Eduardo Rodriguez for five years/$77M, both of whom have been miserable flops. As Bill Parcells so famously said: “You are what your record says you are” and Avila could not escape his. …
There is no one who epitomizes this horrible Red Sox season more than Chris Sale who (1) missed the first three months of the season with a stress fracture in his rib cage throwing batting practice in spring training, (2) was unavailable to them when they went to Toronto because he wasn’t vaccinated, (3) suffered a broken pinky finger when he was hit by a batted ball at Yankee Stadium on July 17, and finally went on the IL for good last week when he broke his right wrist in a bicycle accident. “You couldn’t make this up,” said beleaguered Sox GM Chaim Bloom. Sale is in the third year of a five-year, $145M contract in which he’s thrown a total of 48 1/3 innings after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2020. First bad luck now dumb bad luck.
Source: Read Full Article