Remember back in October how the players, umpires and Major League Baseball announced that they were going to meet in order to address the increasingly sorry state of umpiring? OK, that’s my characterization, I suppose the umps viewed it differently. Anyway, after a delay of several months they finally met yesterday.
“We had a productive exchange about a range of issues of concern to players, umpires and the commissioner’s office,” union head Michael Weiner said … Attending for MLB were executive vice presidents Joe Torre and Rob Manfred, senior adviser Frank Robinson and senior vice president Dan Halem.
“Just a conversation about areas of mutual concern,” Manfred said.
The biggest area of concern in my view is not necessarily blown calls. Those are bad, but they are merely a case of human error. Replay would fix a lot of that, but Bud Selig has made it abundantly clear that ain’t happening any time soon.
No, the biggest issue is the demeanor of umpires and their increasingly confrontational behavior when they screw up a call or if their authority is questioned. This is, in turn, compounded by the fact that the Commissioner’s Office has shown time and again that it has no interest whatsoever in disciplining umpires or, at the very least, being transparent about such discipline so as to instill confidence in their system. Players and fans are increasingly exasperated, and rightfully so.
There is no word coming out of this meeting on any action dealing with any of this, so the problems are probably going to continue. And if they again wait six months after another ugly incident occurs to address it, I fully anticipate that any sense of urgency will be once again lost and they’ll have a nice little meeting that does nothing.
Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is heading to the bullpen, according to comments made by club manager Mickey Callaway on Saturday. As predicted, Harvey doesn’t appear to be taking the news particularly well, going so far as to tell Callaway that the decision has him “at a 10 with being pissed off” and that he’s motivated to prove himself as a starter.
It’s been rough going for Harvey this spring. After missing significant time to a shoulder injury last season, the 29-year-old righty returned to the mound with a lot left to prove. He pitched to an 0-2 record in four starts, issuing 14 runs, four home runs and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. It’s been a while since the Mets have seen anything better out of their starter — he hasn’t turned in a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015 and hasn’t pitched well enough to earn an All-Star berth since 2013 — and now it appears they’re at the end of their rope.
At this point, the Mets insist that the shift is a temporary one. While Callaway has helped successfully convert several starters to the bullpen, including Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, that’s not the plan for this veteran right-hander. Instead, both the team and Harvey seem to view the change as a way to clear up any mental blocks Harvey may be encountering on the mound. “We know he’s healthy,” assistant GM John Ricco told reporters. “He’s feeling good. Then you get to, is this a little bit of a mental thing, a confidence thing? One of the things we talk about is getting him into the ‘pen, where he can have success in short spurts, get that confidence back and really let it go and get back to being a guy who can dominate the way he’s shown in the past.”
Harvey will be eligible to pitch out of the bullpen on Tuesday, when the Mets are scheduled to kick off their next road series against the Cardinals. As for his replacement, left-hander Jason Vargas will resume his role in the rotation when he comes off the disabled list next Saturday.