Karpin’s Korner: At the 1/4 Pole, Division Fireworks, Hoss

There was no denying the 2020 baseball season would be bizarre, but let’s look at how the locals have fared a quarter of the way through this shortened, 60-game season.

The Yankees are not going 45-15. Losing 3 of 4 to the Rays in St. Pete showed that this Yankee “juggernaut” is going to have a little bit of a tougher time than what was being projected by the pundits.

The Yankees went 9-1 in their first 10 games but after five losses in their last six, the record now stands at 10-6. The urgency to finish first in the AL East has lessened because a second place finish guarantees a playoff spot and winning the division does not provide any distinct advantage over the runner up. It’s hard to imagine that the Yankees cannot finish ahead of Toronto, Baltimore and a refurbished Red Sox team.

Barring an unforeseen collapse, the Yankees will be in the playoffs, but in Tampa, the Yankees offense was dormant against the Rays’ staff and that is a red flag. The series exposed an offense that is still too reliant on the long ball, lacks in fundamentals and features too, too many strikeouts.

Consider what happened in Friday night’s 1-0 loss. In the 7th inning of a scoreless game, Gary Sanchez struck out with two out and the bases loaded. Mike Tauchman (who many think should be playing everyday) doubled to lead off the eighth inning but he made the first out trying for third on a ground ball to short. You can’t make mistakes like that at this level, particularly against your prime competitor.

If you don’t think batting averages matter, consider these eye-opening BA’s from a few of the regulars: Aaron Hicks .211, Gleyber Torres .157, Sanchez .103, Brett Gardner .206. What do these averages mean? It means that these hitters are dragging the offense down.

As long as he’s healthy, Torres will come around. Look out when he does. Hicks is not a given and Gardner looks like someone who is showing that he’s 36-years old, but what if Sanchez doesn’t come around. The Yankees would have a big decision to make after the season is over. Do they stick with Sanchez on the hope that he would finally live up to his offensive potential, or do they attempt to cash in on the trade value that he would still have (thanks to being 27 years old) during this upcoming off season. I thought the Yankees made a mistake letting Austin Romine walk and that may yet pan out.

Having the DH rule in effect allowed the Mets to get Yoenis Cespedes back in the lineup. The plan was for Cespedes to eventually get back to playing left field but in the meantime, J.D. Davis and Dom Smith were sharing the playing time. The versatile Jeff McNeil was at third while Robinson Cano was hitting well and playing second base, but he got hurt. That gave Andres Gimenez a chance and he’s taking full advantage of it. The 21-year is really good with the glove and so far, he’s shown some early success at the plate.

Davis has gotten a chance to play third base and has shown more defensive ability than McNeil at that spot. Davis is also showing that last year’s offensive production was not a fluke. I thought acquiring Davis was one of Brodie Van Wagenen’s best moves as Mets’ GM.

Pete Alonso was going to struggle but he’s really out of whack mechanically. He’s jumping at the ball and pitchers are taking advantage of his being over anxious at the plate. It’s not coming as easy for him this season as it was last season. I also think that his focus shifted so much to his defense, that he took his offense for granted a little bit. Remember how he said he “wants to win a gold glove.” He’ll come around but don’t expect the “off the charts” numbers until he learns to make the proper adjustments.

The Mets still have the great Jacob deGrom but they still have problems defensively in the outfield.

Even with the expanded playoff system, the Mets slow start has given them less of a margin for error. Hypothetically speaking, it’s going to take a minimum of 30-32 wins to make the playoffs. Don’t forget, there’s no guarantee that any team will play 60 games, so the more wins you can compile early on, the better off you’ll be if a post season is played.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” could be the subtitle of this year’s baseball season. That adage is more than applicable as we’ve seen evidence of bad blood between the Rays and Yankees this past weekend, along with the fracas between the Astros and A’s on Sunday.

With the shortened schedule, you’re playing a much larger percentage of divisional games. That means a team is only playing 20 of 60 games outside of the division and will not see many other teams in their league at all this season.

That has only enhanced the notion of payback for the Astros’ cheating scandal. Earlier this year, Houston had an incident with the Dodgers. Sunday it was the A’s. There are 10 other teams in the American League that Houston will not see this year, unless they meet in the playoffs. Those teams would like their chance at revenge so this notion of payback will carry over into the 2021 season.

I am old enough to remember Horace Clarke during his years with the Yankees.

Clarke (aka Hoss) was a very nice man who took unfair criticism for being an average major league player during a time when the Yankees were not very good.

The switch-hitting infielder was the replacement for an underrated Yankee in second-baseman Bobby Richardson, who retired after the 1966 season. Clarke was an average defensive infielder with a rap for not “hanging in on the double play.” Some say Clarke’s number of double plays turned are pretty good but remember, he played many years behind Mel Stottlemyre who was known as a ground ball pitcher because of his great sinker.

His claim to fame was breaking up three, potential no-hitters in the 9th inning in the span of one month.

If he played on some of the better Yankee teams, Clarke would have been perceived as a better player.

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