Jerry Manuel vows to make the Mets work on fundamentals

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Jerry Manuel.jpgWhen it comes to spring training evergreen stories there aren’t many more venerable than “best shape of his life” and “Player X spent the winter working on a new arm angle to get on top of his breaking ball” pieces. After those, however, you have to go with “Manager X plans on emphasizing fundamental baseball this spring” rebop. According to Allen Barra, this year it’s the Mets singing that tune:

Looking for bright spots as the Mets pitchers and catchers report?
Here’s one: Jerry Manuel has vowed to put his team through a starter
course in fielding fundamentals.

Two observations:

  • The major leagues is a bit late to be teaching anyone fundamental baseball. The best way to ensure good fundamental baseball at this level is to, you know, get guys who are fundamentally-sound baseball players and use them a lot; and
  • As Barra notes, the the Mets are likely to realize a dramatic improvement on defense simply by having Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes back on the field.  Query: is Manuel clever/devious enough to be aware of this, plant some “I’m emphasizing fundamentals” stories in the press and then later try to take credit for the inevitable improvement brought on by Beltran and Reyes being back?

Probably not. He’s got more to worry about than silly spin games. But part of me likes to think of Jerry Manuel trying to play the angles in advance of what could be an ugly summer in Queens.

José Ramirez’s 17-pitch at-bat kickstarts Indians’ five-run comeback in ninth inning

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With his team trailing 8-3 to begin the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Astros, Indians third baseman José Ramirez eventually won a 17-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, ripping a double off of the wall in right field. The Indians would go on to score five runs on seven hits to tie the game against Giles and Hector Rondon. Ramirez almost won the game in his second at-bat of the ninth inning, but first basebamn Yuli Gurriel made a terrific diving catch on a line drive otherwise headed for the right field corner.

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record for the longest at-bat last month, seeing 21 pitches against the Angels’ Jaime Barria. The Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez sfaw 20 pitches from the Indians’ Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, which was the previous record. Kevin Bass saw 19 pitches from the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1988. There have also been five 18-pitch at-bats from Brian Downing, Bip Roberts, Alex Cora, Adam Kennedy, and Marcus Semien.

Sunday’s game wound up going 14 innings. The Astros pulled ahead 9-8 in the top of the 13th on a solo home run from Evan Gattis. However, the Indians’ Yonder Alonso responded with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 13th to re-knot the game at 9-9. Greg Allen then lifted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Indians a 10-9 win.

After Sunday’s effort, Ramirez is batting .292/.389/.605 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks third across baseball behind Mike Trout (4.4) and Mookie Betts (4.1). They’re the only players at three wins or above.