The Mets and Cardinals played an epic game last night. Kinda.

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Mets Cards scoreboard.jpgEpic may be too strong a word, because make no mistake about it kids: this was 20 innings of some really, really dumb baseball. But you know what? I’m going to
give it a “so-bad-it’s-good” rating. There were so many head scratching “I-can’t-believe-what-I-just-saw” moments that, eventually, it reached the point of the sublime.  Let’s cover the highlights:

  • The winning pitcher was a closer. A starter got the save. The losing pitcher was a backup outfielder. While one guy threw a no-hitter in baseball last night, the Mets pitchers actually threw more combined no-hit innings. It was just one of them nights.
  • The managing here was pretty bad. The worst: in the bottom of the
    19th, trailing 1-0, Tony La Russa put on a pair of Bad Idea jeans and
    called for a steal — or maybe it was a hit-and-run, but either way it was terrible — with Ryan Ludwick on first base and Albert Freakin’
    Pujols at the plate. You know, the Albert Pujols who happens to be the
    best hitter in baseball. Ludwick was out, after which Pujols hit a
    double which would have easily scored Ludwick, and then Yadier Molina
    singled in Pujols. The game could have ended there, but alas it was only
    tied, and on it went to the 20th.
  • Position
    players Joe Mather and Felipe Lopez pitched — the first time two
    position players have pitched in the same game in 20 years — despite
    the fact that Kyle Loshe and Brad Penny probably could have gone an
    inning for St. Louis (Lohse did play left field, though). And heck, even if you’re going to pitch a position player, why not leave Lopez in there? He actually had better stuff than Mather did.
  • Jerry Manuel called for a bunt against Mather in the 19th for reasons I
    still can’t comprehend. And it was with Jose Reyes on first base and a catcher who had played all 19 innings thus far behind the plate and who had to have been totally gassed. You don’t take the bat out of Albert Pujols’ hands, but it seems like you can try to steal with Luis Castillo at the plate with your best baserunner on first and a guy — Mather — with no pickoff move or velocity on the mound.
  • That said, the Mets never really even got to Mather, scoring both of their runs off him on sac flies.
  • K-Rod was the only Mets pitcher in 20 innings to
    give up a run, yet he
    got the win, which means that the next guy who says that wins are the
    mark of a good pitcher is gonna get a talking-to.
  • Mike Pelfrey pitched
    the 20th for the Mets and got the save, which means he now leads the
    team in wins and saves.

But you know what? For as bad as some of this game was, and
for all we’ve said recently about game length, there was a certain
shambling glory to it. A baseball game went 20 innings in seven hours, last night, most of that
time with it being tied 0-0, and multiple astounding things occurred.  I have to say that I loved it.

Best of all: John Maine pitches for the Mets tonight with no bullpen to help him.  Should be fun!

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.