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What’s on Tap: Previewing Monday’s action

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Almost a full slate of games on this Monday night. The only teams off are the Phillies and Nationals, who start a three-game series in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, and the Brewers and Cubs, who also open a three-game set in Chicago on Tuesday.

The Diamondbacks played a crazy 13-inning game with the Pirates on Sunday night. They lost 12-10 in 13 innings, but fought valiantly with two runs in the eighth and ninth innings to send the game to extras. Then, when the Pirates scored twice in the top of the 12th, the D-Backs responded with two runs of their own. They ended up using 10 pitchers: eight to pitch, one to pinch-hit (Zack Greinke), and one to pinch-run and play left field (Shelby Miller). Starter Robbie Ray lasted only three innings, forcing the bullpen to cover 10 innings. One wonders if the D-Backs’ bullpen will be running on empty during Monday night’s series opener at home against the Cardinals, starting at 9:40 PM EST.

A strong seven-plus-inning outing from Greinke would go a long way. He has turned things around in his last two starts after allowing 11 runs in 10 innings in his first two starts as a Diamondback after signing a six-year, $206.5 million contract in December. He pitched into the eighth inning against the Padres on April 15, then limited the Giants to a lone run in 6 2/3 innings last Wednesday.

The Cardinals will send Jaime Garcia, who is having a great season, out to the mound. He’s 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA and a 26/8 K/BB ratio over 20 innings. One of those starts included a complete game one-hit shutout, with 13 strikeouts, against the Brewers on April 14. When Garcia is healthy — which isn’t often — he’s one of the best starters in the game. Unfortunately, the 29-year-old lefty hasn’t been able to accrue more than 20 starts in a season since 2011.

The rest of Monday’s action…

Chicago White Sox (Miguel Gonzalez) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EST

Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Chris Archer), 7:10 PM EST

Boston Red Sox (Rick Porcello) @ Atlanta Braves (Julio Teheran), 7:10 PM EST

Cincinnati Reds (Raisel Iglesias) @ New York Mets (Noah Syndergaard), 7:10 PM EST

Oakland Athletics (Kendall Graveman) @ Detroit Tigers (Jordan Zimmermann), 7:10 PM EST

New York Yankees (Nathan Eovaldi) @ Texas Rangers (Cesar Ramos), 8:05 PM EST

Cleveland Indians (Danny Salazar) @ Minnesota Twins (Tommy Milone), 8:10 PM EST

Pittsburgh Pirates (Jeff Locke) @ Colorado Rockies (Chad Bettis), 8:40 PM EST

Kansas City Royals (Ian Kennedy) @ Los Angeles Angels (Garrett Richards), 10:05 PM EST

Houston Astros (Doug Fister) @ Seattle Mariners (Taijuan Walker), 10:10 PM EST

Miami Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Ross Stripling), 10:10 PM EST

San Diego Padres (Drew Pomeranz) @ San Francisco Giants (Madison Bumgarner), 10:15 PM EST

Former Mets minor leaguer describes organization as ‘toxic’

New York Mets
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The Mets were one of many teams to recently release a slate of minor leaguers. Teams normally cut players at the end of spring training, but since baseball was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, that was pushed back a bit. Teams are also facing worse economic conditions as a result of not playing games. Along with MLB’s desire to reduce the number of minor league teams — which, thanks in part to the virus, it will get — seeing a bunch of minor leaguers released from their contracts was an inevitability.

One of the minor leaguers the Mets released was pitcher Andrew Church. The right-hander was selected by the Mets in the second round of the 2013 draft. He made it to Triple-A at the end of the 2016 season and would spend parts of the ensuring three seasons there while also battling injuries.

Now out of his contract, Church made an Instagram post in which he criticized the Mets’ organization, suggesting that they exposed him to high injury risk and continued to make him pitch through injury. He described the organization as “toxic.” The full post, including additional words he posted as a comment on his post:

Please read to understand my true feelings.
Today I got released by the NY Mets organization. The people on the other end of the phone had nothing but good things to say and I appreciated that very much. Anyone that has seen me play and compete knows that I lay it all on the line no matter what. Every practice, every game. I am a competitor, a true warrior. It’s in my DNA. From the outside looking in, my baseball career probably raises a lot of questions. Why did you retire and come back? How come your numbers aren’t very good if you were that dedicated? I have always kept my opinions to myself out of respect for the organization I signed a contract with. But now that it’s officially over with them I’d like to say some things. One of the main reasons I retired was to keep myself from expressing how I felt. I was bitter, frustrated, and angry at the Mets organization. I felt my competitive nature was being taken advantage of. They knew I would never say no to competing and would fly me around to fill in for anyone that got injured. I realized this wasn’t in my best interest when my delayed flight finally landed in the 3rd inning, and I was on the mound in a AAA baseball game for the first time, without any warm up throws. My UCL originally tore that night. Instead of seeing a doctors like I asked, they sent me back to High A to pitch in the playoffs. When I told them I couldn’t I was made out to be the bad guy. Then the next year, they made a mockery of our team by putting a celebrity on it to sell more tickets. I saw players lose their jobs because of it. We weren’t playing to win, we were playing to make everyone else money. Not the players. We never saw a cut. Well, allegedly that one player did. I think people are starting to understand that more now but they didn’t in 2018 when it was happening again. I was fed up. I spent my whole childhood honing in my passion and anger, to not let it get out of control, but it was and I was going to explode. So I took the opposite direction, I bottled it and silenced myself. I took some time away and cleared my head. Continued in comments..

Baseball has always been the only constant in my life. No matter if I’m active or not I will always play. It’s my release. I asked to be reinstated in 2019, when a new player development regime took over for the Mets. I honestly think they are making strides to be a better organization, but the culture that has been built for decades within that organization is toxic. Filled with snakes and bottom feeders trying to elevate their professional careers at the expense of the players, with no remorse. I hadn’t pitched in a competitive game in over a year, but they needed a filler because someone got hurt the night before. I took a red eye flight, to one stadium, a 7 hour bus trip, another flight, and a taxi to the stadium I would be pitching in. Again I was in a AAA baseball game with no worry about my well being. I lost my drive to perform for an organization who continuously treats us as pawns in their chess games. Especially when the ones doing it, don’t know what it takes to be a baseball player. And some must’ve just forgotten. Ignorance is a scary thing. We see it in mainstream society too often. Ignorance with power and a lack of empathy is, in my eyes, the scariest of all evils. Thank you to all the players and coaches who had the passion and drive to empower each other and push the game forward. Fuck you to everyone who wasn’t. You have no place in professional baseball.
To my future, you all know I can’t stop. And I get scary when I’m motivated. Watch out! CarveNation

The “celebrity” Church alludes to is Tim Tebow. Tebow was a college football star who had a brief and ultimately unsuccessful NFL career that ended after the 2015 season. Despite not having played baseball since his junior year of high school, the Mets signed Tebow to a minor league contract. His debut season in 2017 was as bad as people predicted, as he hit .226 with a .656 in 126 games between Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie. Last year, Tebow was arguably the worst overall player in the minors as he hit .163 with a .495 OPS over 77 games. Despite this, Tebow remained with the Mets, even getting an invitation to spring training ahead of the 2020 season.

As for the injury stuff, it’s shameful that the Mets did that to Church, and he is right to speak out about it. But the Mets are certainly not the only organization that treats its minor leaguers poorly. There are many more Churches out there who have had their careers derailed or ended by organizations that saw them not as people, but as means to an end. This has been reflected in myriad ways, including the insistence on paying them below-poverty wages and skipping out on paying them during a pandemic.

It’s a shame what the Mets made Church go through as he chased his dream. Kudos to him for speaking out. Hopefully Church and the recent wave of releases inspire players to speak out about their poor treatment in the minor leagues.