Why Is The National League East The National League Least?
ALSO: AGING LEFTIES ARE LEAVING THE GAME
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Did you know…
Better late than never: today is the day the Dodgers are retiring the No. 14 worn by newly-elected Hall of Famer Gil Hodges . . .
Another newly-elected Hall of Famer, David (Big Papi) Ortiz, estimates he’s signed more than three million baseballs . . .
Ortiz, a Dominican, was so excited on the day countryman Pedro Martinez was enshrined that he had two home runs and seven RBI in a Red Sox victory . . .
After narrowly missing a home run in his last at-bat for San Diego, Robinson Cano was released for the second time this year . . .
The Braves have added infielder Joe Dunand, an infielder waived by Miami who also happens to be the nephew of Alex Rodriguez . . .
If his two-year suspension stands, Trevor Bauer will be out $60 million . . .
New Mets starter Chris Bassitt, the pro tem ace of the staff, throws six pitches . . .
Congratulations to Roger Clemens, whose son Kody is now an infielder with the Detroit Tigers . . .
Waite Hoyt was in the Hall of Fame before he was in the Hall of Fame. A Hoyt oil painting called “Retired” was hanging in Cooperstown before the pitcher was elected. An accomplished artist, Hoyt was a member of the Cincinnati Art Club . . .
Ellen Dietz, a secretary in the Mets farm department in 1965, left the struggling expansion team to enter a convent . . .
A Cleveland promotion backfired so badly that it was halted mid-game. On July 23, 1965, the team sold thousands of three-foot plastic horns for a dollar apiece. With 30,132 fans in the ballpark, the decibel level was so painful that team president Gabe Paul cut off sales during the game. “We sold horns for the first and last time,” he said.
When Warren Spahn filled in for Leo Durocher on ABC’s Game of the Week in 1965, his debut was rained out after two batters. Luis Aparicio and Russ Snyder of the Orioles hit singles before the skies over Tiger Stadium opened.
Why Is There No Competition in the National League East?
By Dan Schlossberg
I finally figured out the National League East: the Mets are playing like the Braves while the Braves and Phillies are playing like the Mets.
At least, that’s how the 2022 race looks when compared with the 2021 version.
The Mets, even without injured pitchers Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, can do no wrong. Their new managers makes the right decisions. Their once-horrid defense now catches and throws with precision. Their bullpen is suddenly reliable. And even the no-names promoted from the minors (see Nick Plummer) produce the minute they reach the majors.
As for Atlanta, it seems the Braves have found a myriad of ways to lose. Matt Olson, a Gold Glove first baseman signed to succeed departed free agent Freddie Freeman, can’t catch anything more than a cold. Adam Duvall, last year’s National League RBI leader, has lost his power. Marcel Ozuna shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near left field.
The pitching is equally pathetic, often doling out more walks than strikeouts. Charlie Morton is showing his age. Nobody in the bullpen can hold a lead. And the Braves never met an extra-inning Manfred Man they didn’t allow to score — even in Friday night’s 3-1, 10-inning win at Coors Field.
Amazingly, Philadelphia is worse. With the possible exceptions of the injured Bryce Harper and the fading J.T. Realmuto, they don’t have a player worth his salt at a single defensive position. Harper has an elbow issue that restricts him to DH duty, while second baseman Jean Segura has a fractured finger likely to keep him idle for at least three months (see you in September).
The Phils spent lavishly and foolishly in the free agent market, resulting in an outfield that has Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at the same time. It is not a situation that satisfied manager Joe Girardi, who wound up with a pink slip Friday.
Zack Wheeler’s frustration is also obvious — every time he pitches. Aaron Nola is only a fraction of his former self. And Corey Knebel is completely unpredictable as closer.
Shall we go on?
At the rate things are going, the pitching-rich Miami Marlins might finish ahead of the flailing Phils. It’s doubtful that the Washington Nationals will, however, even if Juan Soto starts hitting like Juan Soto. Their pitching is just too horrendous, though Stephen Strasburg is certain to help when he returns sometime in the next few weeks.
Looking ahead, the Braves face a much easier schedule than the Mets. Plus they know they’ll soon get slugger Eddie Rosario, starter Mike Soroka, set-up man Tyler Matzek, and closer Kirby Yates off the injured list.
Atlanta also has a winner’s pedigree, with four straight NL East crowns and a world championship to show as proof of talent. Plus Brian Snitker, the league’s oldest manager and the team’s longest employee: 45 straight years.
It will no doubt be interesting to see what the trade deadline brings. While Steve Cohen might be content to rest on his money bags, the other four clubs in his division will be doing their best to make his second half unpleasant.
The Braves might even succeed, since their play during the first two months of this year nearly parallels what they did in 2021. A year ago, they didn’t even hit .500 until Aug. 6, then caught fire and played like the second coming of the 1914 Miracle Braves.
With three straight wins through Friday night for the first time this season, they are finally gaining ground on the Mets, who lost two straight at Dodger Stadium. The deficit is still big but it’s shrinking.
No matter what happens, it certainly figures to keep fans entertained.
Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch, national baseball writer for forbes.com, and author of 40 baseball books. Contact him by e.mail at email@example.com.
Veteran Southpaws Won’t Follow Moyer Model
By Dan Schlossberg
Aging lefthanded starters, once hot commodities in baseball, seem to be a threatened species.
Just this week, J.A. Happ retired and Dallas Keuchel received his unconditional release from the Chicago White Sox.
Unlike Jamie Moyer, the soft-tossing southpaw who nearly celebrated his 50th birthday in the majors, Happ has decided to play dad after finding few takers during his free agency. At the same time, Keuchel finds himself back in the free-agent field for the second time.
The latter signed a three-year, $55.5 million deal with the Chicago White Sox before the 2020 season and had a great year, finishing with a 1.99 ERA that earned him a fifth-place showing in the American League’s Cy Young Award voting that fall.
But he’s been in free-fall ever since.
Once a ground-ball master, Keuchel posted an unsightly 5.28 ERA last year and a 7.88 mark – with as many walks as strikeouts – during a 2022 stint that included eight starts.
Any club that signs him would owe Keuchel only the pro-rated MLB minimum of $700,000. The White Sox would be on the hook for the rest.
Happ happened to spend parts of 15 years in the majors, pitching for both good and bad clubs.
“It got to the point where it was Opening Day, and I turned the first game on, and I talked to my wife, Morgan, and said ’What are you feeling?’ She just kind of looked at me and said, ’A little anxiety.’
“I wanted to turn it on to see what I felt, too, and I didn’t maybe feel what I needed to feel in order to think I wanted to keep doing this. I felt like that was a sign, like ’OK, it’s time to go.’
“Even though I had put the work in to be ready if the right situation came, I felt like it was time to move on and be a dad and dive into the kids. … It was emotional — something I didn’t expect. I called my agent that day, right after we turned that game on, and said, ’I think this is it.’
In Happ’s best year, 2016, he was 20-4 for the Toronto Blue Jays. But his 162-game average, according to Baseball-Reference.com, was 13-10.
Keuchel, still just 34, also had a 20-win season – a rarity in these days of pitch counts and five-man rotations. A workhorse who averaged more than 200 innings a season, Keuchel won a Cy Young Award in 2015, while pitching for the Houston Astros, and had a career ERA of 3.86.
In addition to the Astros and White Sox, he also spent half a season in Atlanta, where he split 16 decisions and pitched less effectively as the 2019 season wore on.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Braves sign him again as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Other possible suitors include the Mets – with Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom sidelined – as well as the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Padres.
Yadi Malina gave up two home runs and a total of four runs while moping up the Cardinals’ 18-4 win over Pittsburgh May 22 . . .
All of a sudden, slow-starting Red Sox slugger Trevor Story cleared Fenway’s Green Monster five times in four days . . .
Erstwhile Red Sox ace Eduardo Rodriguez, signed to a five-year, $77 million pact, left the Tigers-Rays game in the first inning May 18 with the Detroit trainer . . .
Thanks to a small tear in his right elbow, defending National League MVP Bryce Harper has been nothing but a DH for Philadelphia since April 16 . . .
Houston had never had a five-homer inning before gopher-prone Red Sox righty Nathan Eovaldi coughed one up a few weeks ago . . .
Actor Tony Perkins, who portrayed Jimmy Piersall in Fear Strikes Out, was a natural left-hander who had to learn to throw righthanded for the 1957 movie . . .
Jeffrey Leonard had extra incentive to win Most Valuable Player honors in the 1987 NL Champpionship Series: agent Tom Reich convinced the Giants to add a clause to his contract that he’d get a $50,000 bonus if he won that award . . .
Lou Piniella, known for his fiery temper, once unleashed a five-minute clubhouse tirade after a bad game. After Spanish-speaking utility infielder Jackie Hernandez asked him in English how it was going, Piniella repeated the outburst in Spanish.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.