Major League Baseball allowed Virginia Tech tribute hats in 2007

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I’m still shocked at Major League Baseball’s refusal to allow the Mets to wear NYPD and FDNY caps in last night’s game against the Cubs.  I’m still curious to hear some rationale from Joe Torre apart from some regurgitation of baseball’s rule against allowing teams to wear unofficial caps.  And there needs to be another reason because sometimes baseball does allow unofficial caps.

As Marc Carig reminded us this morning, four years ago the Nationals were given formal approval to wear Virginia Tech caps following the shooting rampage that occurred on Virginia Tech’s campus, leaving 32 people dead and 25 injured. As Carig himself reported at the time, those caps were obtained, just hours before the game, from sporting goods stores in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. But their use was officially approved by Major League Baseball.

If that was OK, why not the Mets’ request? My cynical side looks at Joe Torre’s reference to the fact that all teams wore caps with little flags on them and wonders if there are less-innocuous reason than “it’s a unanimity thing” for baseball’s refusal. Like, for example, the fact that one of baseball’s merchandising partners is selling caps with the little flags on them. Did some vendor object to there being something that takes away from the 9/11 cap?

I hope that’s not the case. I hope that this is all really Major League Baseball being myopic and tone deaf. Because if this was really all about making sure that the Mets didn’t take away a marketing opportunity for one of its business partners during last night’s telecast, it would be pretty sad indeed.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.

Steven Matz to skip next spring training start with elbow issues

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Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.

Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.

Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.