Craig Calcaterra

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Daniel Murphy isn’t Bill Buckner, but is history repeating itself all the same?

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NEW YORK — History wasn’t repeating itself perfectly, but it was tracking closely enough for the Mets. At least for a while.

In 1986 the Mets lost Game 1 of the World Series by one run, lost Game 2 by six runs and won Game 3 by six. This year they lost Game 1 by one run, lost Game 2 by six runs and won Game 3 by six.

Right on track, yes?

The 1986 Mets won Game 4 behind two homers from Gary Carter. On this night’s Game 4 the Mets got two homers from Michael Conforto. I don’t believe in signs, omens or nonsense like that but that is, at the very least, a good bit of synchronicity. If we played that pattern out long enough we’d see some big disastrous, Bucknerian error from Eric Hosmer in Game 6, but thanks to Daniel Murphy‘s disastrous error in the eighth inning the Mets may not even get to a Game 6.

To be clear, Murphy letting the ball hit to him off the bat of Hosmer was not a Bill Buckner moment. Buckner’s error was in what would’ve been the clinching game in extra innings. This was in the eighth and the Mets, even if they had won, would have to play tomorrow and then again on Tuesday. And it’s not like it’ll have the same sort of impact as Buckner’s play either given that more people were probably watching various college football games this evening than this game. The lack of similar leverage and cultural fragmentation will render this more of an “oh yeah” moment than an “I remember where I was” moment. This was just everyday clown shoes. It’s also worth noting that if it wasn’t for Murphy’s heroics in the NLDS and NLCS, the Mets wouldn’t even be here.

But there is one comp to 1986’s Game 6 that is worth making, and that was the losing team’s bullpen decisions. Bullpen decisions that were quite opposite in form, but equivalent in effect. While Buckner was the goat, in 1986 Red Sox manager John McNamara left reliever Calvin Schiraldi in way, way too long in most observers’ eyes, allowing that game to go into extra innings in the first place. In this game, Terry Collins might’ve done better if he followed McNamara’s lead.

Before the game, Terry Collins was asked about why he used Jeurys Familia in a blowout in Game 3. He said that he wanted to get Familia some work given that he hadn’t pitched in two nights. Then he said, “we don’t have that many more games to play, and he’s a big, strong guy that has to pitch. So I thought one inning wouldn’t hurt him, and he didn’t use that many pitches so he’ll be ready tonight.”

If he’s so big and so strong, why not use him for two innings to protect a one-run lead in Game 4? Why start with Tyler Clippard in the eighth to walk two guys, forcing Familia to come in and get five outs instead of six? After tonight’s game Collins said “we talked about going two innings with Jeurys, but we might not have had him tomorrow.” When asked if Familia pitching in Game 3 affected the decision to have Clippard start the eighth tonight Collins said, “yeah, a little bit.”

I suppose “big and strong” has its limits.

As it was, Familia had to come in with two men on. He induced the grounder that Murphy flubbed to allow the Royals to tie the game and that gave Familia one of the tougher blown saves you’ll see. Two singles later and, in a nice little recovery, a nifty Daniel Murphy-led double play that ended the inning, perhaps it was academic. Ned Yost wasn’t taking any similar chances. After grabbing that lead he decided that getting cute with setup men wasn’t the smart play and called Wade Davis in for a two-inning save. And, because he’s amazing, Wade Davis saved it. The Royals now possess a commanding 3-1 lead and can wrap this business up in Game 5 on Sunday night.

History doesn’t really repeat itself. Time is not actually a flat circle. And if you look at the definition of the world synchronicity, you realize that the coincidences it attempts to describe only appear to be related. But after thinking so much about 1986 lately and after seeing how this game was unfolding before the eighth inning, you have to wonder if we saw some temporal weirdness here. Patterns being followed and then the streams being crossed.

Whether whatever is happening is a repeat and whether, if it is, it’s tragedy or farce is probably in the eye of the beholder.

Josh Donaldson, Bryce Harper win the Hank Aaron Award

Josh Donaldson
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NEW YORK — Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson and Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper are the winners of the Hank Aaron Award for their respective leagues, Major League Baseball has just announced. The award is given to the best offensive player in each league. It is voted on by a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron, with a fan voting component added on as well.

Harper led the National League in homers, On-base percentage, slugging, OPS, OPS+ and runs, with a line of .330/.460/.649 with 42 homers. Donaldson led the AL in hits, RBI and total bases and had a line of .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers and 123 RBI. Both Harper and Donaldson are likely to win their respective leagues’ MVP Award.

Donaldson’s choice as the MVP is defensible and likely appropriate given his outstanding defensive contributions, but from a purely offensive perspective it’s a pretty close call between he and Mike Trout. Trout had a higher average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Trout walked more and the same number of homers. Donaldson was a better base runner this year and had more plate appearances. Harper, however, was head and shoulders above everyone in the NL offensively speaking.

Of course, given the electorate involved and the presence of a fan vote, it’s not reasonable to assume a straight statistical analysis to decide the matter.

Ned Yost: ‘We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve, too’

Ned Yost
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NEW YORK — Last night, before Noah Syndergaard buzzed Alcides Escobar‘s tower, he teased it by saying he had “a trick up his sleeve.” Then came the pitch and the beefing and all of that.

Ned Yost met the press just now before Game 4 and, when asked about the Syndergaard pitch, Yost said “we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve, too.” When asked specifically if that meant that a Royals pitcher would throw at a Mets hitter tonight, Yost said “no.” Which is exactly what he’d say even if they had plans to do that, but never mind. I’d make sure you have your TV on for the first pitch of this game all the same.

Expanding on the pitch to Escobar, Yost kept referring to it as Syndergaard throwing “under his chin.” Which, as we discussed last night, seems exaggerated. It was inside, but it wasn’t even in the batter’s box. “There’s a lot of different places you could throw that ball if you didn’t want to throw a first-pitch strike,” Yost said. When asked where Yost thinks it is appropriate to throw a pitch in such a way to keep a hitter off balance he talked about moving a batter’s feet, throwing inside but not up high, as throwing at someone’s head could seriously hurt someone or end his career.

And Yost is right about that. But a day later I still don’t think that Syndergaard’s pitch was out of bounds, even if his postgame bravado laid it on a bit thick. He had a first pitch fastball dude at the plate and he threw a pitch that made him think. Not under threat of violence, but under the distinct possibility that the pitch may not be hittable.

Heck, I hope Steven Matz throws an eephus pitch to Escobar to lead things off tonight. Or throws it at those temporary VIP boxes on either side of the plate. Hitting Joe Torre? Now THAT would send a message. Not sure what the message would be, but it would certainly send one.