Did I mention that both trains are hurtling down the mountain, and both conductors have lost control of the brakes?
The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies met Monday in Philadelphia in the first game of a four-game series, and the big news wasn't so much the Phillies' winning 13-7 to snap a seven-game losing streak as it was off the field, where these two teams continue to make headlines for the wrong reasons.
Buster Olney reported that sources within the Mets organization said the team's front office has dictated pitching changes at times this season -- something generally viewed as a no-no within the game, even as front offices and behind-the-scenes analysts are more involved than ever in setting lineups. As Buster wrote:
Under Sandy Alderson, who was fired as general manager of the Mets last year, the manager was left to make in-game decisions. Sources say that has changed under Brodie Van Wagenen, who is in his first year as general manager of the Mets, with directives being forwarded to manager Mickey Callaway through clubhouse staff.
After the game, Van Wagenen denied the reports that he has been involved in in-game strategy, other than communicating with the training staff. A New York post story mentioned a specific game on June 1, when Jacob deGrom was removed from a game while dealing with a hip cramp.
Meanwhile, before the game, Phillies GM Matt Klentak told reporters that Kapler's job is not in jeopardy:
"I'm very well aware of all the criticism right now of the manager, the coaching staff and of certain players," Klentak told reporters. "I understand why it's happening. When a team goes through a stretch like we've gone through in the last couple of weeks, people are going to ask a lot of questions. My view right now is that the wrong thing to do is to point a finger at any one person and say, you are the reason this is happening."
Because we're talking about New York and Philadelphia, and because both teams made a big push to go all-in for 2019, Callaway and Kapler are under bigger spotlights than most managers. The media coverage in those cities is more intense and more opinionated than what most teams face. In a sense, both of these second-year managers still have to prove themselves -- vote of confidence or not.
Callaway was a successful pitching coach with the Indians, but managing is a different test. He lost his cool on Sunday in a confrontation with a reporter, and after Monday's reports about front-office interference in game managing, the New York post headline on Mike Vaccaro's column read, "Mickey Callaway is the Mets' sad puppet."
"It is one of the narratives that nourishes Mets fans constantly as they try to figure out if their baseball team is a contender or a pretender, dueling roles they seem to inhabit on an inning-by-inning basis sometimes," Vaccaro wrote. "Mickey Callaway is a manager on a hot seat for a reason, because his team loses more than it wins and because, often as not, he makes decisions that are unconventional at best, inexplicable at worst."
As Vaccaro asked, however: Are they even Callaway's decisions?
Maybe more to the point, do the decisions look bad because the Mets' bullpen -- as constructed by one Brodie Van Wagenen -- owns a 4.75 ERA?
As for the Phillies, one of the controversies brewing around town has been the perceived lack of hustle at times from Jean Segura and Cesar Hernandez. Wrote Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
In the court of public opinion, however, Kapler has been found guilty of failing to discipline players for lack of trying, with shortstop Jean Segura and second baseman Cesar Hernandez being the worst offenders. Fans wanted them benched for failure to hustle. Kapler opted to handle the situation via communication. Klentak said he supported Kapler's handling of those situations.
"We work for the Philadelphia Phillies and we need to give the Phillies the best chance we have to win," the general manager said. "To penalize the other 24 guys on the field by benching one and not putting our best lineup out there is not the right thing to do."
OK, all that sounds like a legitimate issue. But perhaps the bigger issue is that the Phillies supposedly built an offensive powerhouse, yet they rank 10th in the NL in batting average, ninth in OBP, 12th in home run percentage and ninth in runs per game. Maybe the bigger issue is that Segura has a .272 OBP in June and Hernandez a .284 OBP.
Maybe all it takes is one game. Segura went 4-for-6 and Hernandez 3-for-5 in Monday's win. They hit four home runs (three off Steven Matz) and fanned just two times. Maikel Franco, who has also struggled in June, hit the big go-ahead knock, getting the green light on a 3-0 count:
The Phillies are 40-38. The Mets are 37-42. Kapler is apparently safe. Callaway, hired by a different general manager, remains on a very hot seat.
The best athlete in the game? The Diamondbacks beat the Dodgers 8-5, scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth to break open a 4-4 tie. (Imagine if the Dodgers had a better bullpen.) Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw both allowed four runs in six innings, so it wasn't exactly a classic pitchers' duel between two future Hall of Famers, but Greinke did do this:
Greinke is hitting .306/.342/.667 with three home runs (six of his 11 hits have been for extra bases) to go with his 3.08 ERA. He hit a respectable .234 last season, hit .328 for the Dodgers in 2013 and has a stolen base this year after swiping three last season. He has won the Gold Glove five years in a row. He's also having his best year at the plate at age 35, when most position players these days are rapidly declining as hitters. He's an amazing player, not just an amazing pitcher.
Yankees tie record: The Yankees beat the Blue Jays 10-8, and Aaron Hicks' three-run homer in the fifth was not only the big hit of the game but also allowed the Yankees to tie the 2002 Rangers' record of 27 consecutive games with a home run. That Rangers team featured Alex Rodriguez (57 home runs) and Rafael Palmeiro (43 home runs) and led the majors with 230 home runs (though only one other player reached 20 home runs).
The Yankees will face Clayton Richard on Tuesday. He has allowed five home runs in 25 innings and has more walks than strikeouts. Wild prediction: The Yankees will break the record.
Phillies go deep four times in win
Phillies batters took Steven Matz yard three times, then former Met Jay Bruce piled on another solo home run to make it 13-7.