Craig Calcaterra

New York Mets manager Terry Collins watches batting practice before a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday, April 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
Associated Press

How can you have a “must-win” game in April?


Still sort of wondering about that Mets game yesterday. They won, which is cool. But the circumstances of the win and the stuff surrounding it all is a head-scratcher.

After the game, Mets manager Terry Collins said “Huge win! That’s one we had to have!” And then added “We couldn’t sacrifice another game. Had to win this game to get ourselves going again.” Which I would normally take as sarcasm — a reaction to panicking members of the media, who we mentioned earlier in the week — but in this case he was apparently serious.

Serious by his acts in the game, for one thing. He used reliever Jim Henderson in the seventh inning in a day game after a night game in which he threw 34 pitches on his reconstructed shoulder. Henderson’s velocity was off and he got into trouble, but other relievers got him out of it. Then he used Jeurys Familia who, in addition to being sick this week, has been used a lot. And he went with him for a five-out save. Those words were not sarcasm, then. He really considered the Marlins on April 13 to be a must-win game.

Which, OK, he’s the manager of a pennant-winning team, he can approach a game any way he wants to. But what is vexing here is that, apparently, he considered this a must-win game not because of what he saw in the situation, but because of what he heard from that same, often hysterical New York media. Here’s Collins:

“The perception is that there’s no energy here, which is completely not true. That we’re not prepared, we’re overconfident or we’re not taking things seriously. I heard that last night, and it made me sick to my stomach that people actually think that this team that accomplished what they did last year would have any semblance of that type of makeup. So I said: ‘You know what? We got to win this game today. We got to show people we mean business here.’ And that’s why I did what I did with Jeurys today.”

I’m not sure how to read that in any way other than “the media said we look bad, so I showed them.” He turned a getaway day game against the Marlins into a “must-win” and pushed the redline on a couple of relievers to do it. Which is an absolutely remarkable thing to do simply to shut the media up. A thing, I think, that can only really happen in New York.

Phillies pitcher Daniel Stumpf suspended 80-games for PEDs

Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Daniel Stumpf walks to the dugout after being pulled from the game during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

We get minor leaguer suspensions all the time, but it’s not often we see major leaguers popped for PEDs. A major leaguer got popped today, however: Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Daniel Stumpf.

Stumpf has received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The Phillies just issued a statement saying that they “are disappointed to hear today’s news of Daniel’s violation.”

Stumpf has only appeared in three games this year, allowing three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. The 25 year-old rookie was taken in the Rule 5 draft from the Royals and thus would’ve had to stay on the major league roster all season or else be returned to Kansas City. Now half of that time is accounted for.

Alex Rodriguez’s slow start is getting attention

New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (13) reacts after striking out against Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ during first inning AL baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press

Alex Rodriguez has started out slowly. He’s 3-for-22 with a homer and eight strikeouts. No one buries a player for a slow first week — or at least no one should — but Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York would like to remind us of A-Rod’s slow start:

Just imagine if this were a year ago. If Alex Rodriguez began the season with only three hits in 22 at-bats. If his average were only .136 after a week of the schedule had passed. If he were still perceived as an MLB outcast, there would be cries to cut him, that he can’t play without the juice and probably countless other accusations.

Marchand goes on to say “Let’s be clear: No one here is drawing an early broad stroke . . .” but he is TOTALLY doing that. Or at the very least making up for the fact that he couldn’t make such a broad stroke last season when everyone on the planet was waiting to pounce and never got the chance to.

I don’t know if A-Rod is done and if this year will be a lost one for him. He’s 40, and 40-year-olds who play super well aren’t terribly common. But I do know that “40 year-old can’t hit anymore” will be a way bigger story if and when it happens to Rodriguez, because some people really want to be able to write that it has happened to Rodriguez. Indeed, they wanted to do it last year.