So the Mets are fighting with one another

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Francisco Rodriguez headshot.jpgWe saw the the Jerry Manuel-John Maine argument last week and that was fun, but a dustup on Sunday between closer Francisco Rodriguez and bullpen coach Randy Niemann had escaped our notice.

The way I read it on Sunday night — and this came straight from K-Rod in the game stories that were written — was that guys in the bullpen were just roughhousing and having fun (“We were just fooling around . . .we were just kidding with each
other” he said).  I and most everyone else figured no biggie and didn’t mention it.  That’s not really what happened, however:

But two people in the Mets organization confirmed that the confrontation
between Rodriguez and Niemann was indeed a heated one and might have
escalated if other pitchers had not intervened.

The source of the dispute, the New York Times reports, is K-Rod’s overuse. It seems he doesn’t like the fact that Jerry Manuel has him warm up multiple times a game, getting five-out saves, and the like.

My first impulse is to tell Rodriguez to cry me a river. He’s paid a metric butt-ton of money, and if any reliever in baseball should be expected to go the extra mile, it’s him.

My second impulse, however, is to think that Jerry Manuel has probably never had that conversation with him, the constant warmups are thus rather disorienting to K-Rod and he’s not completely sure what’s being asked of him. One way to solve this: have Manuel tell K-Rod that he’s expected to be a Gossage-style relief ace.  I bet if it was couched in those terms he’d dig it.

Of course, all that assumes that that’s what Manuel is doing here rather than simply panicking and calling for his closer to warm up eleventeen times a game.  Which may not be the safest assumption on the planet.

Either way, the Mets should probably remember that everyone loves a winning team that fights among themselves (e.g. the 1970s A’s and Yankees).  No one likes a last place team that does it.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.