- Posted: 8:31 AM, May 8, 2012
1. Immediately after the Mets’ terrific victory in Philadelphia last night, SNY’s Bob Ojeda mentioned the players’ “swagger.” For sure, the Mets are playing like a confident group so far, matching the personality of their manager Terry Collins. Five of their 16 victories have come in the ninth inning or later.
The question is, can “swagger” last for an entire season? Or is there a direct correlation between “swagger” and, say, effective relief pitching? Or does quality bullpen work result from a positive mindset?
There’s something to be said for a team’s collective mental strength, even if it can’t be quantified. That’s why teams take seriously the hiring of their manager.
Yet discussions of swagger bring to mind talks of a player being “clutch” – not surprisingly, since the two are connected. Players like Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds have displayed that you’re not clutch until you’re clutch, that it’s not a steady quality as is, say, a strong throwing arm or the ability to hit lefty pitching. The skill can sway wildly.
Maybe the Mets can keep this going, and if they do, their mental state will and should be given credit. But sometimes, as Freud allegedly said,a cigar is just a cigar. If the Mets stay in contention for the entire season, then their players probaby would deserve more credit for hard work than anyone would for swagger.
2. The Phillies began yesterday dealing with an issue from Sunday night’s action, as Cole Hamels surprisingly confessed to drilling Nationals uber-prospect Bryce Harper as a “Welcome to the big leagues” moment. Major League Baseball responded by suspending Hamels for five games, and prior to that announcement, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo ripped into Hamels good. It’s fair to wonder whether this issue will surface when this budding rivalry resumes May 22 at Citizens Bank Park.
What made this situation so unusual was Hamels’ surprising candor. While it’s appreciated on an entertainment level, Hamels violated baseball’s unspoken code of, well, what should remain unspoken.
As you can tell by the comments of the Phillies’ authority figures, manager Charlie Manuel and GM Ruben Amaro Jr., they seemed more perturbed by Hamels’ words than his actions. Which makes sense. Whether you approve or not, pitchers intentionally hitting batters with baseballs is a way of life. It’s less prevalent than it once was, but it still exists. There seems to be very little, if any, interest within the industry in truly trying to eradicate that.
3. Mets fans will remember Guillermo Mota, and probably not very fondly. If you look at the 2007 Mets’ page on Baseball-Reference.com, you can see that Mota’s WAR was -.8. In other words, he was so bad (while making $1.8 million) that he was worse than your proverbial minor-league replacement, someone like the Yankees’ Cody Eppley. He was truly the '07 Mets' least valuable player.
Mota missed the first 50 games of that ’07 season because he was serving a suspension for failing a test for illegal performance-enhancing drugs. And Major League Baseball announced yesterday that Mota, now with the Giants, had failed another test and would serve a 100-game suspension. As per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Mota is appealing, but he has to start his suspension in the interim.
This is the first instance of a big-league player hitting “Strike two” and paying the full price on baseball’s plan -- Manny Ramirez failed a second test last year, only to retire, then return this year with a 50-game punishment -- and I have to say, it feels insufficient to me, from a visceral standpoint. Do players really need to fail three illegal PED tests before the game boots them for good? I wouldn’t mind seeing the penalty structure changed to 50 or 100 games for a first offense and then lifetime suspension for the second offense.
Would that happen? Probably only if there is a string of two-time offenders, giving off the appearance that players aren't that concerned about the second penalty. Which doesn't seem likely, based on the infrequency of failed tests since 2005.
--Have a great day.