You want to build to October. But you can’t just pick up from October when you start again in April. It’s hasn’t been easy to watch some of the big stories of last year’s final weeks deal with their expectations and get things started on a new season.
The Mets were 2-5, with manager Terry Collins openly admitting he pressed hard for a midweek matinee win over the Marlins to ease the pressure. And the Blue Jays did little at the plate following a 2-0 start, with a four-game losing streak causing plenty of early questions. Meanwhile, the Astros went 3-7 in the first 10 games, as new reliever Ken Giles blew up on the mound.
The Mets had averaged only 2.5 runs per game in their first eight games, and had just two home runs in that stretch. They broke out some Friday in Cleveland with 14 hits and four homers but Collins wrung his bullpen dry and used closer Jeurys Familia for a five-out save Wednesday against the Marlins.
“The perception is that that’s there’s no energy here, which is completely not true,” Collins told New York reporters after the 2-1 win. “That we’re not prepared. That we’re overconfident or we’re not taking things seriously. I heard that and it made me sick to my stomach. I said, ‘We’ve got to win this game. We’ve got to show people we mean business. We couldn’t sacrifice another game.”
The New York media had been relatively tame with the Mets so far. But talk radio had not been.
“I’m not deaf,” Collins said. “I’m not blind. I see how people are reacting. I hear what’s going on.”
In Toronto, Josh Donaldson still looks like last year’s MVP and Jose Bautista is driving pitchers crazy by drawing a dozen walks. Eventually, he’s going to get pitches to hit out of necessity.
Ryan Goins entered Friday with as many extra-base hits (three) as Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin and Chris Colabello combined. Martin hit the weekend 2 for 30, with Colabello just 1 for 19. Tulowitzki, who didn’t hit much after getting traded from Colorado, has a slugging percentage of under .300; it dropped from .471 in Denver to .380 with the Blue Jays after the trade.
Giles said he’s been tuning out the noise. Good thing because he has given up three home runs in four outings and has a 14.73 ERA. He had given up three home runs in 113 outings for the Phillies the last two years.
“There’s no pressure at all,” Giles said. “I’ve got a team that can hit. I’ve got a bullpen that can throw strikes. There’s no pressure on me whatsoever. I just need to figure it out. That’s all it is. I’m not having fun right now. I’ve just got to keep a straight head and just keep going after guys like I always do.”
Shapiro’s past issues
Mark Shapiro is basically under siege for things in Toronto, the latest being the removal/resignation of popular Business VP Stephen Brooks. Andrew Miller is coming from (where else?) the Indians business office to Toronto to replace Brooks and the Toronto media is up in arms about the loss of another Canadian in the front office.
Reviled in his new home, Shapiro is revered in Buffalo from his days with the Indians. The smiles all around on Opening Day provided the kind of feeling the new Blue Jays president/CEO doesn’t get much in his current gig. Still, if you’ll allow me to cross-use a popular phrase from down Washington Street, it should be noted that things weren’t always rainbows and jujubes when the Indians and Shapiro were in Buffalo.
• The Tribe leveraged a possible move to the new Fifth Third Field in Toledo in the early 2000s as a way to get to the Bisons to renovate and expand the clubhouse, weight room, coaches office and batting cages in Coca-Cola Field. Frankly, those things probably needed to be done.
• Shapiro had to put down a near-insurrection at the 1998 Triple-A World Series in Las Vegas when Buffalo veterans were incensed about callups from Double-A getting in the lineup and openly talking about what they were going to do with their winner’s check had the Herd won the series.
One veteran’s wife was a lawyer and she approached me around the pool at Caesars’ Palace, the headquarters hotel for the series, threatening to sue the Indians and get minor-league players to start a movement to unionize. There were a couple very ugly days during what should have been a celebration of the most incredible pennant push in franchise history.
• And in 2007, the Bisons were stunned when top starting pitcher John Koronka was designated for assignment by the parent club on the final weekend of the season for a routine roster move with the Tribe – when he was slated to start what could have been the critical 144th game of the season. As it turned out, the Herd was eliminated in game 143. That mistake was made by first-year Tribe farm director Ross Atkins, whom Shapiro has installed as his GM in Toronto in place of uber-popular Alex Anthopoulos.
It’s like any relationship. There will be ups and down. The Indians were here 14 years, most of them great ones. Shapiro & Co. had to deal with these issues head-on and was able to do so. It will be very interesting to see how he’s able the navigate the minefield of Toronto.
The Yankees scored 35 runs in their first five games even though the temperature at home and in Detroit never got out of the low 40s and a couple games were played in below-freezing temps. Aren’t hitters supposed to be toast in those spots?
Said manager Joe Girardi prior to Tuesday’s series opener in Toronto: “Sometimes you think the cold is an advantage to a pitcher but if they can’t throw their normal offspeed stuff and have command of it, it becomes an advantage of the hitters. We have not had warm days. We had one decent day at home that was in the 50s and it felt like a heat wave.”
Playing under the comfort of a dome, the Yankees scored seven runs in three games. Like John Sterling says, you can’t predict baseball.
Spirit of 73
Credit A’s outfielder Josh Reddick as a master of advance planning.
The A’s play next door to Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors, and Reddick did some cross schedule-checking in January, noticing his team had a day game and the Warriors’ season finale against Memphis was that night. He bought courtside tickets three months ago – and was on top of the action Wednesday night for the Warriors’ NBA record-setting 73rd win of the season.
He wasn’t selling either, even though he could have gotten easily more than $10,000 for his ticket.
“I’m pumped. I realize how crazy it’s going to be,” Reddick told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’ve got my jersey, my Steph Curry shoes, my hat.”
Reddick can even preach about making a Curry-like shot. The A’s took shooting drills on the Oracle floor during a team-bonding exercise earlier this month and a video was posted to the Internet of Reddick making a Stephable bomb from the players’ entry tunnel, just like the real Curry does in warmups many nights.
Around the horn
• The Bisons have already earned a major victory this year over the April schedule. They will have played their entire first 11 games with no makeups for later in the season, having already got in two makeup doubleheaders on the road in Pawtucket and Syracuse. That’s no small victory, given how other IL teams have struggled to play this far.
Syracuse had its first five days wiped out by snow and cold, and played its first two “home” games in an empty stadium at Lehigh Valley (which was still doing final pre-Opening Day prep to the ballpark) to get some in. Lehigh Valley didn’t play for four of its first five days, Toledo for three of its first four, and the Indianapolis at Columbus series was rained out for the first three days before a doubleheader was finally played.
• MLB teams have worn special caps for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but all teams will now go to special uniforms for those days in addition to Memorial Day and July 4. On Mother’s Day, pink will be incorporated into all teams’ jersey logos and lettering while the color of Father’s Day will be blue. Players will also have special hats for All-Star festivities in San Diego, with the pattern starting with the Padres’ mustard and brown of the 1980s.
• Former Canisius College shortstop Sean Jamieson has made his Triple-A debut at Reno of the Diamondbacks organization. The former Oakland draft pick has played the last two years at Double-A Mobile.
• USA Baseball has announced that retired manager Jim Leyland will be the skipper for Team USA during next spring’s World Baseball Classic. Among his assistants will be former big-league players and managers Marcel Lachemann, Lloyd McClendon, Willie Randolph and Alan Trammell. McClendon, a big-league manager for many years in Pittsburgh and Seattle, is back in the International League this season as the manager at Toledo.