One week down and a season to go.
The Mets limped home after a disappointing first week on the road wounded and reeling, with a 3 and 4 record after being swept out of Milwaukee by a cumulative score of 26-7.
Is it panic time? No, far from it, but not what Mets fans expected when the owner spends a record $374 million or thereabouts for a star-studded team with high expectations.
The bats still hadn’t gotten past first gear and the arms were not up to speed yet either, not when you’ve got one $43.333 million dollar future Hall of Fame hurler still searching for his Cy Young form, and the other $43.333 million dollar future Hall of Fame Cy Young collector already on the shelf with armpit inflammation, it can cause concern.
Did splitting up a team’s worth of starters throughout WBC rosters slow things down? Perhaps, but it certainly added questions to the team’s future when star closer Edwin Diaz went down for the count stupidly celebrating a win by his WBC club Puerto Rico.
That changed everyone’s role in the bullpen, and perhaps the experience of having three sharp arms with previous closing experience in the pen will sustain itself at least until the trading deadline, but Adam Ottavino proved in Milwaukee that isn’t necessarily a sure thing.
He did, however, make amends on Opening Day, shutting down Miami with a scoreless seventh and two strikeouts in the team’s rebound 9-3 win over the Fish.
Tylor Megill, who went from spring training cut to the starting rotation thanks to injuries to starters, in particular, Justin Verlander and his cranky armpit, held the Marlins to just three hits in his six shutout innings, with three Ks.
Manager Buck Showalter was impressed with his fill-in starter, who, you may recall, pinch-hit for Jake deGrom last year on Opening Day at Citi Field to break the seal on that season.
“He got a lot of counts in his favor,” said Showalter postgame. “He’s solid, commands a lot of pitches in the strike zone. (It was) not an easy day to pitch (with the wind). I like the fact he was in attack mode and got us off the field. I’m proud of him. It was a tough day to pitch and he answered the bell.”
Getting back to the WBC for a moment, a noble and fun exhibition series with international stakes inspiring interest in baseball throughout the planet, there was much consternation after Diaz killed his kneecap jumping up and down in a celebratory group hug.
Should the WBC remain a spring training event? Is there any other time of the year when the 20 or so countries participating would benefit and not interfere getting the major leagues ready for a season?
There is. It’s called November, a week or so after the World Series concludes. But MLB doesn’t want to go up against the NFL, or even college football in that month, so maybe there isn’t a better time. And would the players, after having just endured a six-month marathon of a season, and spring training, and perhaps a month of postseason intensity, even want to participate?
Surely some would, perhaps many, as there was tremendous interest by a couple of hundred players to represent their countries in the postseason-like atmosphere. And don’t forget that baseball history is filled with ballplayers spending their winters participating in other leagues, exhibitions, or even moonlighting to rake in a few extra bucks, including the great Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
But that was then, many moons ago, when salaries were on a much lower scale, but here’s a thought worth considering…
Send the WBC to Hawaii!
Yes, what player wouldn’t want to take their family on a postseason vacation to Hawaii in November. And all they had to do to “pay” for it was play a few extra ballgames, compliments of MLB. Such a deal!
Between the domed stadiums in the Far East, and good weather ballparks in the Southern states, the last rounds could be played in Hawaii and scheduled to not conflict as much with the NFL and other alternatives and could be a win-win for baseball.
Baseball for Thanksgiving? What a concept!
By the way, in case you hadn’t heard, because Diaz’s injury occurred during the WBC, MLB is picking up the tab on Diaz’s 2023 salary. How about that! Uncle Stevie Cohen saved a few bucks, arguably reluctantly due to his absence from the bullpen, but that gives the Mets some bonus money to spend at the deadline for needed reinforcements.
As if they needed an incentive to spend money? Right.
As an aside to that, Diaz received one of the largest ovations during the introductions on Opening Day. After every other player and staff member had been introduced, Diaz slowly hobbled on crutches to the stop step of the dugout to a rousing welcome, so all is forgiven by Mets fans, a Citi Field “hug” of applause in anticipation for return of the trumpets next year.
Opening Day at Citi Field arrived with the usual fanfare, and innovations such as a newly built humongous centerfield scoreboard, and the elimination of that quirky cutout in right field that now holds additional seating.
But the most important new addition involved finally honoring the late Bob Murphy, the team’s longtime broadcaster. A new “retirement” disc is now hung in the left field rafters, with the image of a microphone, and hanging next to the one honoring Ralph Kiner.
Murphy called Mets games for 42 seasons, much longer than any other team broadcaster, from 1962-2003, first on both television and radio – along with Kiner and their first partner in the three-headed booth, Lindsey Nelson – and later exclusively on radio beginning in 1982. That’s why the team’s radio booth is named in Murphy’s honor.
Mets fans that go back to the very beginning will surely recall that very first radiocast from St. Louis on April 11, 1962, when Murphy introduced the expansion club to a New York area audience. He had that distinctive diction, an ever-so-gentle drawl from his Oklahoma roots, and a flair for a positive outlook regarding everything about baseball.
Former Mets broadcaster Gary Thorne has said “Murph felt that the game was be enjoyed and he sought out the joy in that day’s game to bring to the fans.”
It was Gary Cohen who recently noted the absence of recognition for Murphy when it came time for the Mets Hall of Fame Committee to convene. Murphy had been a member of the Mets Hall of Fame since 1984, but they had never placed a disc in Shea Stadium or at Citi Field in his honor.
Kiner’s disc went up in Citi Field in 2014 after he passed away earlier that year at the age of 91.
“I felt it was totally appropriate that Ralph be honored (with a “retired” disc), but if so, Murphy should be honored the same way,” Cohen voiced. “It was an oversight. Clearly, if Ralph was up there, Murph should have gone up there, too. I’m glad it finally happened.”
Murphy also was honored by the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown with the Ford C. Frick Award in 1994 for broadcasting excellence, and was remembered by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2002.
To help honor Murphy on Opening Day, Murph’s adult children helped toss out the ceremonial first pitch. Kelly, Kasey and Brian Murphy threw to Mets legends Mookie Wilson, Tim Teufel, and Turk Wendell.