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Morning Digest: Girardi, Reyes, Add to Wild Card Drama on Final Day



By Mike Silva ~ September 29th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest.

Yesterday night started with a typical media fake outrage talking point in the Jose Reyes batting title controversy. Regardless of the fact that players before Reyes have sat out to protect their stats, somehow the New York media found it offensive that Reyes elected to bunt for a hit to start the game, and then take himself out to protect his .337 batting average. It’s a non-story that is made into a story because of the need to fill up 24 hours of print, radio, television, and electronic media with individuals who are incapable of producing good content.

Terry Collins did the right thing by adhering to Reyes’s request. If the organization sees this as selfish, then address it by not bringing him back next year. Collins responsibility is to the 25 guys in the locker room, which Reyes is a major part of. Watching the team’s reaction after the game it didn’t appear the move was a divisive one. Let’s not forget that neither the Reds nor Mets were playing for anything of significance. Reyes has been through a lot the last two years due to various injuries. Winning the batting title was historic since it was the first time it happened in Mets history, and it put a stamp on a career offensive year. I am sure Peter Greenberg, his agent, will make a point of this accomplishment during free agent negotiations.

The real move that had impact and should raise suspicion happened in Tampa last night. Leading 7-6 in the ninth inning, Joe Girardi turned to Cory Wade to close the door instead of Mariano Rivera. The obvious reason for this is to rest Rivera for the opening of the playoffs on Friday. If you dig into the numbers, Girardi still could have done right by his closer and the integrity of the pennant race. Rivera pitched a third of an inning on Tuesday for a total of 11 pitches. Girardi could have warmed him up and had him on a pitch count. Today is an off day for the Yankees so Rivera was going into Friday rested.  Instead, he left it in the hands of a reliever that was actually property of the Rays until the Yankees plucked him off waivers in June. The two-out home run by Dan Johnson was improbable, regardless of the pitcher, but it opened up a whole debate about staying true to the pennant race.

The Red Sox can’t blame Girardi and the Yankees for going home. They did a good enough job blowing their Wild Card lead throughout the last month. Let’s not forget they were a strike away from making all this a moot discussion. They do have a right to ask the Yankees to play Game 162 as close to normal as possible without damaging their playoff hopes. I can’t go crazy over starting Dellin Betances, or using relievers throughout. The wacky postseason schedule forces a manager to be careful with his rotation. Offensively the Yankees kept their starters in, who accumulated 7 runs. I guess Girardi felt that was enough, but finishing it with Rivera, even for one out, was the right thing to do.

I don’t believe the Yankees did this purposefully. I do think they are extremely careful with their aging closer. Remember, he skipped the All Star Game because of tricep soreness. I don’t think one out or 15 pitches was going to make him unavailable for Friday. If it did, then the Yankees might have problems for the postseason.  Don’t forget the fact that Rivera had a 4 day layoff before his appearance against the Red Sox.

What will talk radio here in New York rail about? It would have been Reyes if not for the wild night of baseball. It won’t be Girardi as the Yankees largely get a pass in this town. Perhaps they earned it winning 5 World Series the last 15 years. Somehow I still think Girardi and the Yankees dropped the ball.

***

Those that say last night proves adding an additional Wild Card would hurt the drama of the pennant race just don’t get it. Did you see how engaged the nation was in these four games? When was the last time you saw that much chatter nationally about baseball the last week of September? It might have been the best regular season night the sport has had in my 25 years of watching it.

Engaging more cities with a “winner takes all” type of scenario will only grow interest. Adding a second Wild Card team will give cities that have been baseball dormant, like Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Kansas City, an opportunity to be part of the show. You probably won’t get Yankees/Red Sox drama, as they will likely be fighting for home field and the division, but it opens up more possibilities. Perhaps 4 to 6 teams are in it on the final day. You could have six to eight games that mean something.

Putting emphasis on the division gives 162 games more validity. The only way to do that is add the additional Wild Card teams. I don’t think you will lose what we saw last night, as a matter of fact, you will add to it.

***

NYBD contributor Joe Delgrippo reminded me last night that Reyes sitting out for the batting title is not new. As a matter of fact, he pointed out the Ty Cobb-Nap Lajoie race of 1910.

Before the 1910 Major League Baseball season, Hugh Chalmers of the Chalmers Automobile Company announced a promotion in which a Chalmers Model 30 automobile would be given to the batting champions in both leagues.

At the start of the final day of the 1910 season, Ty Cobb held a slim lead in the race for the American League batting title, just a few percentage points ahead of the Indians Nap Lajoie. While Cobb did not play in the Tigers final two games of the season, Lajoie played in two successive games on the last day of the season for the Indians. Because Cobb did not have a plate appearance, his batting average did not change finishing with an average of .38507. However, Lajoie hit safely eight times in the Indians’ doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns. With eight hits in eight at-bats, Lajoie finished the season with a .384 batting average (227 hits in 591 at bats).

Browns’ manager Jack O’Connor had ordered rookie third baseman Red Corriden to play on the outfield grass. This all but conceded a hit for any ball Lajoie bunted. Lajoie’s final at-bat resulted in a wild throw to first base, which was scored as an error. After news broke of the scandal, the issue was brought to American League president Ban Johnson, who declared all batting averages official, and Cobb the champion (.385069 to .384095). The Chalmers people, however, awarded automobiles to both Cobb and Lajoie. Cobb ultimately won the Chalmers Award in 1911 in his best year, hitting .420.

In 1978, a discrepancy was discovered in Cobb’s career hit total, and the story was broken by The Sporting News in April 1981. Initially recorded at 4,191 (still the total on MLB.com), researchers say that a Detroit Tigers box score was counted twice in the season-ending calculations. The statisticians gave Cobb an extra 2-for-3. Not only did this credit Cobb with two non-existent hits, it also raised his 1910 batting average from .383 to .385. As Lajoie is credited with a .384 average for the 1910 season, the revised figure would have cost Cobb one of his 12 batting titles and reduced his career average to .366.

***
Great tweet from Jimmy Traina of Sports Illustrated as the Red Sox are 6-18 since Bill Buckner starred in Curb Your Enthusiasm.


Love it. RT @Lucas8429: @JimmyTraina Curse of Bill Buckner? Sox went 6-18 after Buckner’s Curb episode aired…Thu Sep 29 11:51:14 via Echofon

***

Funny how the character of the Red Sox is questioned by Sean McAdam over at CNSEE.com 

Epstein said “there were a lot of factors,” to the disastrous September, but didn’t want to offer specifics in the immediate aftermath of such an emotional loss.

Perhaps tellingly, he sidestepped a question about the makeup and character of the team, noting that this wasn’t the time for such impromptu analysis.

But perhaps that’s worth further examining. For weeks, numerous veteran players insisted that the team would correct itself in time, as if a playoff appearance was a birthright. They reacted incredulously to questions about their shrinking lead, haughtily pointing out that they still controlled their own destiny.

McAdam was on WFAN with Mike Francesa the other day and talked about how some players are “more concerned with their stats.”

Why was this not talked about in August when they had a huge lead? Why was this not talked about when they were beating the Yankees like a drum earlier in the season?

I am all for character in the clubhouse. It’s important, but it can’t be used as a scapegoat anytime a team doesn’t perform down the stretch. Are we to assume that Atlanta also lacks character?

The Red Sox had pitching issues that were caused by injuries. When you start to rely on pitchers 6 through 8 regularly there is a problem. The Yankees got 33 starts from their ace; the Red Sox got 30 each from Beckett and Lester. Add another 3 to either of those individuals and you may be singing a different tune.

No one thought the bullpen was poorly constructed. Daniel Bard was every bit as good as David Robertson until September. Jonathan Papelbon had an ERA of 1.00 in the second half.

Perhaps they could evaluate how they are keeping their pitchers healthy; that’s fair. But to fire Epstein or Francona for this just reeks of scapegoat. The Boston media doesn’t take kindly to their teams losing. I fully expect them to focus on scapegoats and character. In reality, they should just accept the fact the Red Sox were probably not good enough. That would show me something from their scribes.

***

Mike Francesa made an appearance in the WFAN booth with Howie Rose and Wayne Hagin. Mike did a good job, but couldn’t help but be at his highly inaccurate best. Read the details over at Sports Media Watchdog

***

Think the Wilpon clawback lawsuit is a dead issue? Think again. You should not make any judgment on this case unless you are first reading Howard Megdal’s analysis.

He recently wrote a piece in Capital New York about Judge Rakoff’s decision and how it doesn’t mean good news for the team:

 The problem for Fred Wilpon and the other Sterling partners who own the Mets is that while the news is somewhat good, it likely isn’t nearly good enough to remove the risk that they’ll ultimately lose the team. The problem for Mets fans is that while the news is bad, it likely isn’t nearly bad enough to force an immediate sale of the team, leaving the club in limbo for a while longer.

***

The Mets response to the Newark fiasco shows how dysfunctional they are. How can you ignore and not call back a top official with a Major League Baseball team. This blurb about the Mets response tells you all you need to know about their reactive nature when it comes to public relations. They are always a step late and fall asleep at the wheel:

Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost said that he called Mets officials about a week ago, and inquired about a one-year waiver for Newark.

“Then I called back – because I hadn’t heard from them – and was specifically told that in exchange for a one-year waiver in Newark, they would demand territorial rights (for a minor league franchise) in either Long Island or Connecticut,” Trost told the Daily News on Tuesday.

“I said, ‘Permanently?’ They said, ‘Permanently.”‘

Fifteen minutes later, Trost says, he called the Mets again, and declined their proposal.

As Trost recalls it, he continued communicating with the Mets about Newark, and later offered, “a quarter of a million dollars, plus the same rights I was requesting – a one-year waiver whenever they needed it. I was told no.”

According to one source with knowledge of the talks, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office contacted the Mets to press the issue, but was unsuccessful in changing their stance.

They should have known two things:

1) This would have come out and they would look bad. They were reactive on the PR front.

2) By ignoring the initial call they appear to be sidestepping the issue and not negotiating in good faith.

Again, I see no reason why a deal couldn’t be worked out. You have the Governor of New Jersey involved. Don’t you think this would have curried good favor in the long run? Not a bad thing to have when your Q-Rating is in the toilet thanks to Bernie Madoff.

I think the Yankees offer was fair. The Mets negotiating strategy was not.

This is coming from me who isn’t exactly a fan of the Yankees gulag mentality and Lonn Trost.

To read my thoughts on this the other day you can click here.

***
The Long Island Ducks won Game 1 of the Atlantic League Championship Series over York 1-0 to take a 1-0 lead. Mike Loree was the winning pitcher. Loree is a great story as he made it part of his Pittsburgh contract to pitch for the Ducks at the end of the season. He started the year in Long Island and won the Atlantic League Triple-Crown for pitchers.

You can read the story here.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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4 Responses to Morning Digest: Girardi, Reyes, Add to Wild Card Drama on Final Day

  1. Ralph C

    On Girardi I think he will get a pass here and he should. It’s not as if he put Scott Proctor in to start the ninth and told him to groove two pitches and hand Tampa the game. Corey Wade is not Mariano Rivera but he has been good this year-he was one strike away and threw a horrible pitch-give Dan Johnson some credit. Also, when was the last time a team-really in any sport-who had clinched a playoff spot tried hard in a regular season finale? The only recent example I can think of is the 2007 New York Giants and even there, they admitted they held back some plays. The Red Sox have nobody to blame but themselves for this.
    Adding another wild card to each league is a good idea but it is odd that how earlier in the month everyone was claiming that this was going to be a horrible September, all the races are over, etc. Then, just like that, two of the greatest comebacks in regular season history.
    One more thing: if Girardi really goofed here, he would be getting killed by the media. Seriously, it seems to me most everyone in the NY media is either highly indifferent to him or hates him other than Michael Kay.

  2. 86mets

    There is one thing to consider about the whole Reyes taking himself out controversy. Back when Cobb and Lajoie were battling it out for the title the players made, what, 1/20th of what Reyes and Braun are making. Fans didn’t have to shell out a full weeks pay to see their favorite player (that’s tickets and parking only, not counting concessions). So, in a sense, fans wanting to see Reyes possibly for the last time were cheated when he took himself out of the game. After all, baseball is for the FANS, not the players, right? Don’t the people who pay hundreds of dollars to get into a ballpark have a right to see their favorite player play at least 1/2 the game and not 1 inning and then he’s gone? In all this controversy I’ve read very little about how the fans were cheated. Was Reyes really not guilty of being selfish and cheating the fans? A big portion of their ticket/concession purchases go to pay his salary so don’t they deserve better?

  3. Stu B

    @86Mets: Reyes taking himself out is not about the fans, who have no right to complain. Purchasing a ticket entitles you to watch a MLB game played by 2 teams, NOT to watch a specific player or players. Everyone knows that a late-season game can be meaningless and that some players sit out or are pulled early for various reasons. If you can’t enjoy the game because a certain player doesn’t play, then too bad for you. Caveat Emptor (Let the buyer beware)! Buy a ticket or don’t, but don’t whine after the fact.

  4. tnt1528

    1 if jeter did it instead of reyes ,there would be praise……2 the second wild card eliminates all the excitement of weds. games and makes the collapses of both teams meaningless.

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