Scenes from Spring Training: Meet The Mets Part 3

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Press Box View.jpgOver the weekend, the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez said that he overheard another reporter in the press box of the Dodgers’ game say “I hate this job. I want to go work in a factory.”  I suppose it’s possible to get tired of anything, but I’m not sure how you can get tired of watching a game from up in the press box.

They’re not the best seats in the house — a little higher than I’d like — but they’re still excellent.  You can’t get a beer, but there’s free soda and no one is patting you down and finding your hip flask if you’re that desperate for booze. You can’t cheer, but you can snark and complain “Mystery Science Theater 3000”-style, and that’s almost as fun, especially given that the people sitting next to you are likely to get the most obscure and inside baseball references you throw out there.  Really, it’s a sweet, sweet deal, and that’s before you even take into account that the reason you’re up there is because you have a job writing about baseball.  After practicing law for 11 years I’m going to say it would take, oh, 59 years of going to the press box every day before I’d get tired of it.

I got up there early, wanting to make sure I got a good seat.  There were name plates on the tables for the Daily News, New York Times, the Post and most of the other outlets that cover the Mets. One guy was already sitting in the only “visiting press” seat I could see, so I sat in the one marked “visiting PR,” figuring that the Nationals wouldn’t send a public relations guy to a road spring training game.

As it got closer and closer to the game starting, something funny happened: the press box didn’t really fill up. There were five or six Nats’ beat writers there and a couple of New York guys, but the majority of the New York guys I’d been watching all morning didn’t even bother.  Most of them were columnist types and not the ones who would have to write the game story, but I still assumed that they’d actually watch the game.

The last guy to come in was Knox Bardeen of AOL FanHouse.  He sat next to me and we talked all game, bonding over the fact that we’re both Internet guys doing something that print-guys still dominate and the fact that we’re both new to press boxes.  Knox has covered a few Braves games and some NFL, but we’re both green as hell when it comes to the beat and are both taking our first working swings through spring training. I was glad to have Knox next to me all game.  Random observations from the box during the game:

  • Reporters do rise for the National Anthem, but they also heckle the singer. It wasn’t the best rendition you’ve ever heard, but man, tough crowd.

  • The official scorer sat in the same box — not sure if they sit separately at major league parks — and helpfully shouts out pitch counts, scoring decisions and player substitutions to the reporters. The informality of spring training was apparent, however, as some of the writers would tell him when they saw a substitution happening before he saw it or would check his pitch counts against theirs and stuff.  Neat dynamic.

  • It was Oliver Perez’s first outing of the spring.  If it’s any indication of how his summer will go, you may want to sell your “Oliver Perez is going to bounce back in 2010” stock right now.  Nothing on his pitches. He threw strikes, but most of them were hammered.

  • Jeff Francoeuer took five straight pitches from Jason Marquis in the second inning to work the walk. Knox and I speculated that we each would have bet something on the order of $750 that we’d never see such a thing.

  • A couple of batters later Omir Santos hit what would be scored as an inside-the-park grand slam. Regardless, what were Mets thinking not signing Molina? this guy can play.  After that play the Mets had five runs on three hits, which I take as a sign that their 2010 offense will be built around lots of walks and inside the park grand slams. It might not work, but hey, at least it’s a philosophy. If you’re curious, here’s video of the Santos slam. It obviously had more to do with the ball getting caught in the corner and Willie Tavares having a bit of a brain lock, but hey, the scorer’s ruling stands.
  • Francoeur gunned down two runners at the plate during the game.  As you all know I’m not much of a Jeff Francoeur fan, but I’ll always love good baseball 100 times more than I’ll dislike anything about it or anyone in it, and there aren’t many more exciting plays in baseball than someone getting nailed at the plate. On the first one I let out a choked cheer, doing everything I could to not break the “no cheering in the press box” rule.  The second time was hopeless — I whooped. No one seemed to care.
  • Hisanori Takahashi is a non-roster invitee of the Mets, and given the presence of Ryota Igarashi, he isn’t even the most celebrated Japanese newcomer on the team.  But he was simply fantastic yesterday, striking out six in three very efficient innings.  I know very little about the guy and you obviously can’t base much on just one outing, but I was pretty impressed.
  • The press box started to clear out around the fifth inning as the clubhouses open up in the middle of the game during spring training so that the veterans can give their quotes to the beat writers and then take off for the golf course or wherever they’re going.  Why anyone wanted to get quotes from Oliver Perez and his ilk is beyond me, because from my perspective that was about the time of the game things got interesting. Why? Because it was when some young prospects who may actually help the Nats and Mets win a lot of ballgames one day got their chances.
  • First up was the Nats’ other first round pick from last year — Drew Storen — who pitched the sixth inning and got three ground ball outs. He may be closing games for the Nats before the year is done. Then came the Mets’ Ike Davis, who entered the game in the seventh and hit a double off Ron Villone. My granny could probably hit a double off Villone these days, but Davis’ was hit to the opposite field, so technically that makes him a “professional hitter,” just like he said earlier in the day. Not a professional base runner, however. After making it to third, he thought about tagging up on a shallow fly ball, changed his mind about 15 feet towards home and then got nailed at the bag while trying to retreat to third.  But did I mention that he’s tall and hits the ball really, really hard?

The game ended with the Mets winning 6-5. The reporters quickly packed up and made a beeline for the elevator. I followed them, a little nervously to be honest. Why? We were on our way to my first ever gang bang.  Curious? Come back in about an hour and I’ll explain.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Dodgers 5, White Sox 4: Yu Darvish was OK, but not great in his Dodger Stadium debut and his teammates could only manage two runs off of White Sox starter Carlos Rodon, so they found themselves down 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth. As has so often happened this year, however, L.A. rallied. Cody Bellinger singled, Logan Forsythe doubled him in, Austin Barnes singled to put men on second and third and then Yasiel Puig came up to bat and doubled both Forsythe and Barnes in for the tying and winning runs. In so doing, Puig — who has been both hot and a consummate team player of late, will wonders ever cease? — becomes the ninth different Dodger to have a walkoff hit in their ten walkoff wins this year. They’re now on pace for 116 wins, which would match the all-time record.

 

Ok, let us all note right now that four games finished with the final score of 7-6 last night. This is important. This means something.

Brewers 7, Pirates 6: Milwaukee hit five homers yesterday, with Manny Pina‘s two-run shot in the eighth putting them over and giving the Brewers their fourth straight win. Keon Broxton homered twice and Neil Walker and Travis Shaw also went deep as Milwaukee moves into sole possession of second place in the central, a game and a half back of the Cubs.

Royals 7, Athletics 6: Oakland tied it in the bottom of the eighth with a Matt Chapman two-run homer but Alex Gordon hit a go-ahead RBI single in the top of the ninth to give the Royals the win. Here’s A’s manager Bob Melvin after the game, offering comments which basically mirror my internal monologue every time I have to recap a 7-6, 9-8, 10-7 (or something like that) game with lots of lead changes and crap pitching:

“It just was an ugly game all the way around. There was no pace to the game, and it just seemed like one of those games that was just blah.”

I’ve been recapping scores for a decade now and I can say that such games are the hardest to recap, mostly because there’s no great through-narrative. The easiest to recap are ones where a starter dominates. Not the best, just the easiest (“Shlabotnik tosses eight shutout innings, striking out 11 as . . .”). The best are ones are ones with big dumb fights and controversies or bad ump calls or something. Dramatic walkoffs are a close second. I should probably do a post some time with a bunch of bullet points discussing all of the dumb little things about writing these recaps that y’all probably don’t realize. The only thing stopping me is that you probably don’t care.

Mariners 7, Orioles 6: Yonder Alonso hit his first homer for Seattle and drove in three runs, Leonys Martin homered to give the M’s what would be their winning run and Marc Rzepczynski struck out Chris Davis with the bases loaded to end an O’s threat and the game.

Cubs 7, Reds 6: This game had everything. A first-inning grand slam, a stolen base from John Lackey (followed by Lackey getting picked off because he flew too close to the sun, apparently) and a walkoff wild pitch:

Mercy. I mean, really, how often do you see a game end when a catcher can’t handle a throw to the plate?

Red Sox 5, Cardinals 4: Oh, well, more often than I imagined, I suppose:

That was Mookie Betts lining that two-run double off the Green Monster with two outs in the ninth inning, capping Boston’s three-run game-winning rally. Xander Bogaerts opened the ninth with a solo homer. In between all of that, one of the weirdest things I can recall happening went down: Cards reliever John Brebbia was in his motion, when home plate umpire Chris Segal called timeout, negating the pitch and, you assume, messing with Brebbia’s rhythm. It wasn’t because the batter called time and Segal simply granted it too late — that happens a lot. No, it was Segal calling time on his own because “needed a break.” Really. That’s what he said to Mike Matheny when he came out to ask for an explanation. Matheny understandably went nuts and got ejected, saying “it’s not your show.” I’m no Matheny fan, but I’d be just as pissed in his place.

Padres 3, Phillies 0: Clayton Richard had a three-hit, complete game shutout. See: those are easy to write up. That’s really the whole story of the game. Next!

Ah, damn, not the whole story:

Wil Myers‘ feat marks the first time a player has stolen all three bases in the same inning since Dee Gordon did it in 2011.

Yankees 5, Mets 3: Aaron Judge hit a massive homer into the third deck of Citi Field — I’ve been up there, brother, and let me tell you it’s far — and Didi Gregorius broke a seventh-inning tie with a two-run double. I was watching this game at someone else’s house as I had been drafted to babysit their toddler. Observations: (1) it’s been almost ten years since I had a toddler, and no matter how cute and adorable they are (and this one is) I forgot how much is sucks to not be able to turn on a game until the fifth inning or so because of the playing and bedtime rituals and all of that, but I managed it; and (2) being forced to watch a Rick Sutcliffe-called game because you’re in a place where you can’t access your MLB.tv account is a high class problem to have but, buddy, it’s a problem. Lord he’s awful.

Blue Jays 3, Rays 2: Marcus Stroman allowed two runs while pitching into the seventh inning and Steve Pearce homered and scored twice. The Rays have scored two or fewer runs in nine of their past 12 games. They’re 1-8 in those games, which makes a lot of sense.

Rangers 12, Tigers 6: Texas sweeps the three game series thanks to Elvis Andrus‘ four RBI, which included the go-ahead run in the form of a solo homer. Joey Gallo (natch), Nomar Mazara and Adrian Beltre also went deep for the Rangers.

Astros 9, Diamondbacks 5Josh Reddick hit a two-run homer in a four-run eighth inning and Charlie Morton allowed one run in six and a third. The Astros win back-to-back games for the first time in three weeks.

Rockies 17, Braves 2: Well that was a beatdown. Trevor Story had two homers and knocked in six, Mark Reynolds homered and drove in four, knocking four hits in all, and Gerardo Parra added three hits and four RBI. This was only the second-highest run total for the Rockies this year because Rockies.

Marlins 8, Giants 1: Giancarlo Stanton‘s home run streak ended but he still had two hits, scored a run and stole a base, so maybe he’ll now go on some crazy small-ball tear. Tomas Telis drove in three for Miami. Jose Urena allowed only one unearned run over five and three Marlins relievers held San Francisco scoreless for the final four frames.

Angels 3, Nationals 2: Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run homer in the first but Luis Valbuena hit a solo shot for the Angels in the fifth and Cole Calhoun hit a two-run blast in the sixth and that was all the scoring there was. The Angels have won seven of eight and sit alone in the second Wild Card spot in the American League. Who woulda thunk it?

Indians vs. Twins — POSTPONED:

I’ve been loving you a long time
Down all the years, down all the days
And I’ve cried for all your troubles
Smiled at your funny little ways
We watched our friends grow up together
And we saw them as they fell
Some of them fell into Heaven
Some of them fell into Hell
I took shelter from a shower
And I stepped into your arms
On a rainy night in Soho
The wind was whistling all its charms

Travis d’Arnaud’s position in Wednesday’s box score read “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B”

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The Mets had to scratch both Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores an hour before Wednesday’s game against the Yankees due to ribcage injuries, so Travis d'Arnaud — normally a catcher — borrowed David Wright‘s glove and played third base for the first time in his career. He had played some third base in spring training, but as far as an official professional game goes, he’s never been there.

The first two batters the Yankees sent up to the plate in the first inning were left-handed. But when the right-handed Aaron Judge came up, manager Terry Collins swapped second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera with d’Arnaud. It became a thing. The two swapped once more in the first inning, three times in the second, once in the third, five times in the fourth, once in the fifth, three times in the sixth, four times in the seventh, once in the eighth, and twice in the ninth. It worked, as d’Arnaud didn’t have an opportunity to make a play until catching Todd Frazier‘s pop-up for the first out of the ninth inning — as a second baseman. Cabrera had a handful of opportunities, including immediately after having swapped with d’Arnaud.

The Mets lost 5-3. At the plate, d’Arnaud went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly. Cabrera was 1-for-4.

Matt Reynolds and Gavin Cecchini are being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas so the Mets don’t have to do the “3B-2B shenanigans,” as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo put it, again.