Did Yuniesky Betancourt cost the Mariners Stephen Strasburg?

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Betancourt Mariners.jpgTom Verducci reminds us today that, but for two games, it would have been the Mariners who would have had the worst record in baseball in 2008 and thus the Mariners — and not the Nationals — who would have had the right to select Stephen Strasburg.  Specifically, going into the final two games of the season, the Mariners had lost 101 ballgames and the Nats had lost 100.  Then something unexpected happened: Yuniesky Betancourt decided to temporarily stop sucking:

That’s when Yuni decided to hit like a young Ken Griffey, Jr. He went 5-for-7 with a walk, two runs and two RBI to lead the Mariners
to 7-3 and 4-3 wins over Oakland. The Nationals clinched the Strasburg
sweepstakes by losing two games to Philadelphia.

Those two
otherwise meaningless Seattle wins changed baseball history. It could be
one of the most costly “collapses” ever to end a season. The Mariners
would be looking at a rotation today with Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee and Strasburg.

That’s a nice story, but as is usually the case, there is more to it.

For one thing, the Nationals were facing the future World Champion Philadelphia Phillies that last weekend. Philly clinched on Saturday, so they had Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and everyone else out there for that penultimate game (and in that Sunday game the Nationals themselves trotted out what was basically an American Legion lineup, thus negating the fact that Philly rested its regulars). Meanwhile the Mariners were playing an Athletics team that was far worse at the point of the season than their overall record suggested, having basically tanked the entire second half.

And let’s not just blame Bentancourt.  Indeed, in the second to last game of the year, several Mariners knocked the cover off the ball: Kenji Johjima had three RBI and Wladimir Balentein and Miguel Cairo of all people each had a couple of RBI.  They got a rare good performance from R.A. Dickey in the season’s last game and Johjima hit the ball well again that day too.  It was a team effort.

At the time I wrote “The final failure of Seattle’s failed 2008 season was winning this game,
thereby ensuring that Washington will get the first pick in next
summer’s draft.”  And, technically speaking that was correct.  But the “failure” had many authors.

And in a larger sense, wasn’t it better for Seattle to go down in a blaze of glory than to have them tank like some NBA team?  I’m not sure I could keep my love for a team that blatantly laid down for a draft pick. Could you?

Report: Mets expect Terry Collins to retire at the end of the season

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The Mets expect manager Terry Collins to retire at the end of the season, sources tell Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. Collins and the Mets haven’t discussed an extension on his current contract, which expires at season’s end.

Collins, 67, has managed the Mets for the last seven seasons. Overall, he led them to a 546-578 record during the regular season and the team twice made the playoffs. The Mets lost the 2015 World Series to the Royals in five games, and lost the 2016 NL Wild Card Game to the Giants.

Injuries are much more to blame for the Mets’ struggles in 2017. After another loss on Wednesday, the Mets fell to 65-87. They will open the final homestand of the season on Friday with three games against the Nationals and four against the Braves. They could be Collins’ last in New York as manager of the Mets.

Reds to extend protective netting at Great American Ball Park

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The Reds announced on Thursday that the protective netting at Great American Ball Park will be extended to the end of each dugout in time for Opening Day next season. The press release notes that the current netting meets Major League Baseball’s guidelines and the new netting will go beyond those standards.

The netting “debate” came back on Wednesday when a young fan was struck in the face by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have done about the bare minimum in installing protective netting, which rightly earned them criticism. Brian Dozier, Todd Frazier, and Didi Gregorius each said yesterday that the netting should be extended. Other teams and Major League Baseball in general received criticism. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, for example, said the relative lack of action on MLB’s part is “morally repugnant.”

Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes that the Reds had already had this idea prior to Wednesday’s incident at Yankee Stadium.