The Mets accuse R.A. Dickey of “becoming too absorbed with his new celebrity”

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We’ve noted all the back and forth between R.A. Dickey and the Mets. It’s a hard negotiation. The part that tickles me the most is where, yesterday, the Mets made it clear that they were not pleased by Dickey going after the Mets in the press. Because they’d never do that, right?

The Mets, meanwhile, have mounting concerns whether all of Dickey’s off-the-field endeavors could impact his on-field results or his standing in the clubhouse if the perception is that he has become too absorbed with his new celebrity.

Congratulations, Mets: not only are you trashing your own player — the most popular one on the team, mind you — but you’re just friggin’ wrong about it.

Because while, yes, Dickey has been in the news a lot lately, it’s not like he’s out there attention whoring and becoming a diva or anything. Unless you count doing things like raising awareness of child sexual abuse as him becoming “absorbed with his new celebrity.”

Hey Mets: because Dickey is 38 and because he still has a year on his contract at a low rate, you have the advantage in the actual negotiation.  But you’re not going to win the P.R. war with Dickey, guys, and you have no reason whatsoever to get involved in one, so cut it out.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.