The Mets are imploding

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The losses are bad enough — New York has dropped nine of twelve games and have gone from a half-game down on June 27th to 6.5 down as of this morning — but now the clubhouse is starting to get ugly:

Alex Cora is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

The veteran utilityman, miffed by the laughter inside the Mets’ clubhouse after last night’s 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks, fired venom in the direction of Mike Pelfrey and reporters who were joking at the pitcher’s locker.

Cora spouted an expletive in Spanish and raised his voice in the direction of Pelfrey and re porters as he de parted the clubhouse at Chase Field.

“A little respect, please!” Cora snapped. “They stuck it up our [butts].”

I imagine that, in light of this little outburst, people will start saying that the Mets’ chemistry was somehow disrupted recently, be it because Carlos Beltran came back or Oliver Perez is hanging around or Jeff Francoeur was benched or whatever.  Don’t buy it.

Cora’s little outburst is about a team that probably only figured to be .500 to begin with crashing back to Earth, not about some disruption in The Force or bad eggs or anything else.  It’s textbook “only winning teams have good chemistry” stuff, and it wouldn’t be rearing its head right now if the team were still winning.

Pelfrey’s laughter isn’t the problem. It’s his dead arm.  Bad chemistry isn’t hurting this team. Bad play is.  It’s that simple.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.