Weekly Roundup: Takeout Slides, Chipper Predictions, and Prayers for Maverick

MLB/Union Closer to 2B Takeout Slide Rule Change: I ranted in a January 27th post about how the league still hasn’t done a damn thing to rectify the 2B takeout slide problem. Well it seems they heard my complaining. Now that Ruben Tejada has finally shed his walking boot and Jung Ho Kang is making big strides in his daily physical therapy, the league has finally made some alleged progress. Heck, according to Buster Olney’s report, the Union and MLB claim they may make real changes before the season begins. Olney said they want to make sure runners “touch the base or make an effort to touch the base”. The planned rule change is meant to “improve safety” while maintaining “players’ aggressiveness”. In addition, they are still debating whether slides in question can be reviewed by instant replay.

So to recap, the current 2B slide rule essentially says the runner should be close enough to touch the base. The proposed new rule would say the runner must attempt to touch the base, and it wouldn’t discourage aggressive slides. I can really see the differences in the rules. Sounds like a groundbreaking reform that will really change the sport. And of course they don’t want umpires to be able to review these types of slides because it may slow down the games. This is going to go well. I will reserve judgement until the final rule is published but needless to say I’m skeptical. If it goes anything like when they changed the home plate collision rules, we are in for a long season full of confused players, managers, and umpires.

Chipper Predictions: Chipper Jones in a radio interview this week said the Mets are his early season favorite to win the World Series. Larry is really something else. From the Mets archrival to the team’s biggest booster. After the Chase Utley takeout slide he came out and ripped Chase a new one. Now he’s endorsing the Mets as future 2016 World Champions? And it’s not like he’s unemployed and endorsing the Mets from his couch. He literally works for the Braves. He just got hired as a special assistant.

He’s got to be working an angle. Still trolling us after all those years of crushing the franchise. It started with him naming his kid Shea. Now he’s taking it up a notch by pretending to be our biggest fan. I completely understand why Chipper would love our team. It’s designed exactly like his 90s Braves squad. A potential juggernaut built around young pitching. However, I think Chipper’s “love affair” with the pitching rich Mets is kind of like Eli Manning’s “love” for his brother Peyton. Right now, Chipper has the championship swag like Eli did before last week’s Super Bowl. So he’s “rooting” for the Mets like Eli was “rooting” for Peyton. The Mets are just a similarly designed team with aspirations to be as successful as the 90s Braves. We want to win 14 consecutive division titles like the Braves did between 1991 and 2005. We want to advance to the World Series 5 times like they did in the 90s. But the second we win one lone championship like Chipper did with the 1995 Braves, his cheerleader routine will stop. If we ever found a way to win two, Chipper could have twins named Citifield and Shake Shack, and he still wouldn’t get his championship mojo back.

Pray for Maverick (and Wright): Sandy Alderson conducted an interview with Steve Serby of the NY Post. First off, in the interview Sandy talked about how he was diagnosed with cancer four days after the Mets clinched the NL East last season, and he is still undergoing chemotherapy. The guy is a front office legend and clearly tough as hell. I hope the Wilpons actually give him some time off this season so he can recover instead of making him face the relentless media day in and day out. But it’s more likely the Wilpons remain in the panic room they had built in 2008 after Madoff was arrested and just let their lackey John Ricco deal with the press. Either way, pray for Sandy.

And while we are at it, pray for David Wright. Sandy said he hopes David and his titanium spine can play 130 games next season. Honestly, I will take anything we can get from David. 100 games would work for me. Quite frankly, we’d be better off keeping Wright cryogenically frozen until 2017 when the NL institutes the DH so he can take that job full time. Although considering our trainer Ray Ramirez can barely administer an X-Ray, I’m not sure I’d trust him to handle the freezing procedure.

Two New Cubans: This week, two new Cubans defected from the motherland. 31 year old 3B Yulieski Gourriel and 22 year old SS/OF Lourdes Gourriel Jr. were supposedly two of the top players remaining in Cuba. Are they brothers? Noooooo…….Yes!!!!

These two brothers are expected to be impact players in the major leagues. Pretty much like every Cuban player that has defected to date. The older brother Yulieski is supposed to have an immediate impact while the younger brother may need some minor league seasoning. It’s hard to complain about the Mets lack of interest in Cuban players considering we just signed the best one in the business. That being said, John Ricco should have a welcome party on standby in Florida, and we should be signing every Cuban player that comes ashore. Especially a Cuban star that plays 3B considering Wright is our biggest question mark. But I’m sure he’ll just wind up a Yankee as they are one of the teams rumored to have interest.

Clippard Departs, Mejia Promptly Banned: I wrote earlier this week about the departure of Tyler Clippard for a 2 year deal in Arizona. And of course, four days later Jenrry Mejia is promptly banned from the game for life due to a third positive PED test. Mejia getting banned for life makes too much sense. Things were too quiet in Mets land. It was inevitable that the first bad thing of 2016 was going to happen. I also think it’s hilarious that at the trade deadline we acquired Clippard and immediately afterwards Mejia received his second steroid suspension. And now once again, Clippard’s move and Mejia’s suspension happen simultaneously.

Mejia wasn’t part of the team last year, and we replaced Clippard with Antonio Bastardo, so I suppose our pen will be fine. But it still isn’t good that two relief options for 2016 have evaporated in one week. And speaking of Bastardo, he has to be next on the Mets steroid watch list right? He’s been suspended before, and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see our primary set up man go down for a second time.

Royals Plan Two World Series Celebrations: The Royals announced this week that they plan to have a World Series celebration in both games against the Mets to start the season. Banner raising the first game and then ring presentations on night two. Really just rubbing our faces in it. Well that’s just perfect. At least this doubles the chances for former Royals Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto to catch the ceremonies on TV. But in all seriousness, screw the Royals. I hope this fires the Mets up and helps them keep their eyes on the ultimate prize.

Minor League Notes: This week the Mets signed Roger Bernadina to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. He may play all 3 outfield positions but he’ll never fill the void left by Triple A Vegas legend Kirk “3 Dingers” Nieuwenhuis.

Also, the Texas Rangers have officially signed former Met Ike Davis to a minor league deal. Oh how the mighty have fallen. From first round pick to Quadruple-A All-Star. I’m not sure how smart it was for him to take the deal considering Texas is just over an hour flight from Arizona where he contracted his Valley Fever. Although I suppose he had no real choice. Maybe another fresh start will finally cure him of the Valley Fever aka Mets disease. Nothing worked for Jason Bay, but perhaps there’s still hope for Ike. Not bloody likely.

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Weekly Roundup: Clippard Scurries Off; Cry Baby Owners Hate Sharing


Clippard Scurries Off To Arizona: Well after more than 6 months of darting along the subway tracks, battling pigeons for food scraps, and being chased by stray cats, Tyler Clippard (aka Rat-Face, aka Splinter) has officially departed New York City for Arizona where he’ll now need to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, coyotes, and other dangerous desert predators.

Clip was arguably one of the most unusual free agent cases this offseason. Other than Darren O’Day (2.31 career ERA) and Joakim Soria (2.58 career ERA), Clippard had the best resume of any reliever available. Yet he had to settle for a 2 year deal. We saw O’Day sign a 4 year deal, Soria sign a 3 year deal, and Tony Sipp sign a 3 year deal. Even Ryan Madson, who was never as effective as Clippard in his career and had been out of baseball from 2012-2014 due to injury, scored a 3 year deal. Yet for some reason teams were scared away from Clippard because his K/9 was slightly down in 2015 along with his velocity in September. I guess the experts have their reasons for being down on Clippard, but I wish him the best. He had a bad World Series but so did the entire Mets team.

Cry Baby Owners Hate Sharing: There were a lot of articles written last week about all the “concerns” MLB owners have with the number of teams that are “tanking” and how it negatively impacts the integrity of the game. The owners want to put a stop to it and plan to talk about it during the next collective bargaining negotiation and blah blah blah.

Translation: The owners of big market MLB teams don’t like sharing revenues with small market teams that are rebuilding.

First of all, “tanking” in baseball is not a real thing. Unlike the NBA and NFL draft, the MLB draft doesn’t have the same top heavy talent distribution with a diminishing overall player value as you get lower in the first round. Ken Griffey Jr. was the first number 1 overall selection in the draft to ever get elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Second, the Astros have seemingly become the poster child for the success of MLB teams that “tank” because they had the worst record for 3 straight seasons (2011-2013) and then made the playoffs last season. As a result of their horrendous stretch from 2011-2013, the Astros drafted Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, and Brady Aiken first overall in three consecutive drafts. Correa may wind up being one of the best position players in the league. That being said, Mark Appel just got traded for reliever Ken Giles and the Astros never even came to terms with Aiken on a contract. So it’s hardly fair to attribute their success last season to their “tanking strategy”.

Finally, we all need to stop living in a fantasy world. This has nothing to do with “tanking” and everything to do with the big market teams being bitter that they can no longer buy the top young talent in the draft. Remember how the system used to work? No? Well before 2012 there wasn’t a rigid slotting system with spending caps. So the most talented players would demand extremely high bonuses that were loosely regulated under league rules. As a result of that, players represented by agents like Scott Boras would frequently make their bonus demands known before the draft and the small market teams that had high picks would literally pass on the top talent because they could not afford to meet their contract demands. A prominent example was in 2004 when Jered Weaver, a consensus top 3 pick fell to the big market Angels at 12 because of his anticipated bonus. Small market clubs like the Rays, Brewers, Rockies, and Pirates all passed on him.

In order to rectify this competitive imbalance, Major League Baseball negotiated a slotting system in 2012 that assigned teams spending caps according to where they pick in the draft. Just like that, the league made it impossible for big market teams to buy the draft. And now that the best talent is consistently and appropriately being selected at the top of the draft board, the big market owners want to turn to…ping pong balls.

They say, “The draft isn’t working! Let’s just toss away the entire system and make it a lottery!” After all, that’s the only way they’ll have a chance to get that precious top slot money.

It’s a complete joke. If tomorrow the owners were allowed to stop sharing revenues with the small market “tanking” teams, the complaints about the integrity of the game would cease overnight.

Final Mets Notes: It was reported last week that smokeless tobacco could be banned from Yankee stadium and Citi Field this season. Great. The last thing we need is Matt Harvey having nicotine withdrawal fits on the mound come April.