A reminder in the Wall Street Journal this morning that the Mets — playing solid enough baseball that talk of the wild card is not delusional — have some hard decisions to make. And not just with Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes. That’s because, as all Mets fans know, if Francisco Rodriguez finishes 55 games this year, his $17.5 million contract option for 2012 is triggered. And right now he’s on pace to finish 61.
On some level you have to think that Sandy Alderson was hoping that events would take care of themselves, and that either the Mets’ competitive situation would be such that there wouldn’t be as many save opportunities and/or meaningful games — or that K-Rod wouldn’t be effective enough — to where it would make baseball sense for him to finish 55. But that hasn’t been the case, and as of now there is no plausible reason to change his usage pattern.
So absent a serious July swoon, the Mets are kind of damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If they keep him, they’re on the hook for an intolerably large financial commitment to K-Rod next year (or a union grievance if they alter his usage pattern for purely financial reasons). If they shop him — again, assuming they’re still playing good baseball — they’re basically saying that 2011 doesn’t matter and will be accused by some of waving a white flag due to their serious lack of green.
I would still think the latter problem would be the better one to have. Haters (i.e. the talk radio and tabloid crowd) are gonna hate anyway. You gotta think long term and you can’t worry too much if someone gets some short term mileage off of some disingenuous white flag talk (disingenuous because the same ones who would offer it would go crazy if commitments to K-Rod prevent the Mets from making an offer to Reyes).
But that doesn’t make the short term any easier. And I’m kind of glad I’m not in Sandy Alderson’s shoes and don’t have to deal with the contractual mess that was left for him to clean up.
In a show of good sportsmanship, the Cleveland Cavaliers have moved their championship ring ceremony start time back to 7 PM EDT to avoid conflicting with the start of the World Series opener on Tuesday. The Indians are set to host Game 1 at Progressive Field on October 25, while the Cavs will open the 2016-17 NBA season against the New York Knicks at the nearby Quicken Loans Arena, preceded by a ceremony recognizing their first franchise title.
In the event that the Indians clinch a World Series title, it’ll be the first time Cleveland has seen two championships in the same calendar year since 1948, when the Indians’ last Series title came on the back of the Cleveland Browns’ All-American Football Conference championship against the Buffalo Bills. The same was true for the Dodgers in 1988, when their World Series win against the Athletics coincided with the Los Angeles Lakers’ 11th championship, while Chicago has yet to see a multi-title year among their NBA, NFL, and MLB franchises.
Regardless of the Series’ outcome, Cleveland fans will get the chance to revel in one long-awaited championship win on Tuesday before watching the beginning of a nail-biting conclusion to another long-awaited playoff run. The Cavaliers are scheduled for 7 PM EDT on October 25, while the Indians will take the field at 8 PM EDT.
If any team can turn a six-day rest period into an advantage, it’s the Indians. The club polished off their pennant race with another injured starter and an overtaxed bullpen, as Trevor Bauer exited in Game 3 of the ALCS with a laceration on his right pinky finger, leaving the bullpen to shoulder 16 innings through the last three games of the series. On Friday, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported that injured starter Danny Salazar could rejoin the rotation in the World Series, though he’ll need at least one more simulated game before Terry Francona determines whether or not he’s fit to return for the team’s last postseason push.
Bauer, who has been under the close watch of hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, told the press that he feels confident that he’ll be ready for a World Series start when the final showdown commences on Tuesday. Keeping the wound bandaged is not an option during games, and Bauer said that Dr. Graham decided against additional stitches to keep the laceration from re-opening. Instead, they’re banking on extra days of rest to heal the cut naturally. Should Francona pencil the right-hander into the lineup for Game 3 or 4, he’ll have had 10-11 days to rest his finger between starts — just a hair under the seven games Bauer said he was prepared to pitch.
Salazar, too, has been preparing for a World Series showdown. He’s scheduled to pitch three innings of a simulated game this weekend, and if it goes well, it could land him a spot in the starting rotation alongside Bauer, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and newcomer Ryan Merritt. Salazar has been sidelined since September 9 with a right forearm strain, and even after undergoing a rigorous throwing program over the last several weeks, any kind of comeback is expected to be curbed by a strict innings limit. Francona has been understandably tight-lipped about his World Series roster, but he hasn’t yet nixed the idea of utilizing Salazar out of the rotation, provided the right-hander remains healthy for another week or so.
The Indians have had to remain flexible throughout their seven-game playoff run after weathering injuries to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, pushing their rotation through several games on short rest and relying heavily on Andrew Miller and Cody Allen‘s one-two punch in the ‘pen to clinch more than a few postseason victories. While history doesn’t always favor the first team to secure their league’s pennant race, an extra week of rest should only benefit Cleveland’s beleaguered pitching staff.