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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: September 18, 2021 12:54 pm PDT
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Even billionaires must have a learning curve when it comes to baseball. Money cannot solve all problems.

Steve Cohen or @StevenACohen2 as he is known on Twitter is learning some hard lessons lately.

Learn is the key word. Will he learn? He had better learn from his mistakes in 2021 or Mets life isn’t going to be as special as all the Mets fans thought it would be when Cohen purchased the team from the Wilpons.

While the 60-63 Mets have fallen off the face of the NL East earth, the Yankees have found the secret sauce to winning and it involves a balanced baseball approach as they have won nine straight. Imagine that a baseball approach.

More on the Yankees later in The Story.

This should have been a cakewalk of a season for the Mets to win the mediocre NL East. It should have been a breeze. Nobody was really any good in the division, and the Mets had a straight shot to the playoffs.

Instead, the Mets have again fallen on their face and to make matters worse, Cohen sent out a tweet last week that did not go over well in the clubhouse – you can be sure of that – and it should not go over with the fans as well because it really indicates a lack of baseball knowledge from on high.

Here is what Cohen wrote, criticizing the Mets hitters.

It’s hard to understand how professional hitters can be this unproductive. The best teams have a more disciplined approach. The slugging and OPS numbers don’t lie.’’

He is the owner. He is entitled to his opinion. Numbers don’t lie, but this is more than numbers.

Hall of Famer Jim Palmer is entitled to his opinion, too. And he immediately responded to Cohen’s tweet with a tweet of his own. Here is what Palmer tweeted.

“U let “your’’ Gm fire Chili Davis, Tom Slater in May. And then I had to read the nonsense about the new hitting coaches were going to tell your underperforming hitters to be more selective. Like Chili didn’t tell them that. Only perpetuates lack of accountability for the hitters.’’

God bless Jim Palmer.

I wrote it at the time that the Mets made a big mistake firing Chili Davis and Tom Slater. Dealing with both men through the years, I was extremely impressed with their no agenda approach to help their hitters. It wasn’t about them, it was about helping their hitters. The first week of May the two coaches were fired.

The acting GM Zack Scott was pushed up the ladder when the other GM Jared Porter had to be fired before the season started. Scott hasn’t exactly overwhelmed me so far, and the fact that he did not go heavy on acquiring pitching at the trade deadline was another bit of underwhelming maneuvers by Scott.

The Mets knew at the time that Jacob deGrom was having arm issues. The Mets were so spoiled by deGrom’s greatness that they assumed he would bounce right back and carry the freight as they say on the MLB website.

DeGrom is still out.

Welcome to The Show, Steve Cohen.

Then Scott made a rookie mistake, criticizing Mets players for not being compliant with the medical staff’s recommendations. “In some cases you can have the best plan and if the plan’s not followed, that’s not going to necessarily yield a good result,’’ Scott said.

I’ve been around ballplayers long enough to know that if there is pushback on a medical or rehab plan it’s because the players are suspicious of the plan. Jim Cavallini is the director of the performance and sports science for the Mets so perhaps some Mets aren’t as gung-ho on the plan. Either way, the bottom line is the Mets have had a lot of injuries and of course, their ace, deGrom will be out until mid-September with forearm tightness.

Mets hitters have not come out of their funk. Scott went to Hugh Quattlebaum for hitting answers because he is friends with his brother Gus Quattlebaum – VP of pro scouting with the Red Sox. Scott came from the Red Sox. Quattlebaum is an analytics-based hitting coach.

Going back to June 20th, the Mets are 23-34 as they have let the division slip away to the Braves. Mets hitters are in a collective funk as the Mets are 1-8 on this current West Coast swing. Over the last eight games the Mets are 9-for-72 with RISP.

The Mets have lost three straight to the Dodgers and 24 of the last 28 after Saturday’s 4-3 loss at Dodger Stadium. The game ended with Pete Alonso striking out with the potential tying run at second, making the Mets 0-for-9 on the day with RISP. In the first three losses to the Dodgers the Mets are a combined 1-for-18 with RISP.

Getting hits with runners in scoring position has been difficult all year for the Mets. With RISP they are 23rd in average with a .239 mark and 24th in OPS at .698. With runners on base overall, the Mets are 28th in average at .227 and 25th in OPS at .703.

They are not close to getting the job done.

Max Scherzer struck out J.D. Davis to end the fifth with the bases loaded, a 96 mph fastball right down Vin Scully Avenue.

The Mets' J.D. Davis reacts at the plate after striking out with the bases loaded during the fifth inning of a game against the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Saturday. Credit: AP/Alex Gallardo

That strikeout prompted BallNine buddy Kyle Farnsworth, who pitched 16 years in the majors to tweet, “Not sure why the hitter doesn’t shorten up his swing against the caliber pitcher Scherzer is and just put the ball in play in that situation. Nah, let’s just take an aggressive swing.’’

Situational hitting is unknown to these Mets, maybe that’s what @StevenACohen2 should have tweeted. Other former major leaguers “liked’’ Farnsworth’s tweet because that was such a great point by Farnsworth and gets directly back to the style of hitting the Mets are attempting under Quattlebaum. It is not working with RISP. The Mets are essentially throwing up Zombie at-bats, sometimes looking totally clueless as a fastball cuts the plate in half as if they never expected to see a fastball.

Their big off-season acquisition Francisco Lindor has been hurt and has been underwhelming at the plate when he does play, with a .228/.326/.376 slash line. That’s kind of embarrassing for someone who is making $341 million over the life of his contract. The Mets did trade for Lindor’s buddy Javier Baez and he is out with back spasms. During his 10 games with the Mets his slash line is .171/.216/.343.

Those are the hard, cold numbers. Both players could be back in the lineup Sunday.

Cohen said when he purchased the team he wanted his Mets to be like the Dodgers. “I like what the Dodgers are doing,’’ he said at the time.

Well, Steve, there’s a long way to go and not just because the Dodgers are coming off their first World Series title since 1988. The Dodgers have extreme depth and have been winning with Mookie Betts sidelined for the second time since the All-Star break with right hip inflammation due to a bone spur.

The Dodgers did not sit still at the trade deadline, they went out and got Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals. Turner is such a difference maker and it is showing up in every game against the Mets as he rounds the bases in a flash. He scored from first two days ago on a double that would have sent 99 percent of the players to only third base. He made scoring from first base look easy.

Trea Turner #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers slides home safely in the top of the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 10, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Here is something else Turner does, something the Nerds don’t recognize. By him being on base, Dodgers hitters simply relax. Whenever he is on base he is in scoring position and if he happens to be on second or third then it’s just a question of the hitters playing pepper to get the run home. I have noticed the Dodgers cutting down their swings just to make contact with Turner on base.

You know, the situational hitting that is so important to the game.

What’s amazing to me is the Mets continue to be beat by fastballs. They are just not ready for the fastball. No one is struggling as much as Dom Smith, whose slugging percentage has dropped from .616 in the short season of 2020 to a stunning .365 this year.

Turner makes hitters better. They don’t even have to be that disciplined. They just have to put the ball in play somewhere, anywhere.

On Saturday in the Dodger win, Turner made it home on his own, blasting a home run in the first inning off lefty Rich Hill, the pitcher the Mets acquired at the trade deadline. Albert Pujols followed with another solo home run as the Dodgers jumped out to a 2-0 lead. They never lost the lead. The third-place Mets continue to lose ground in a division they should have won easily, especially with the Braves losing Ronald Acuna Jr. for the season.

As for the other NY, NY team, the Yankees have completely turned it around and credit to them for winning nine straight. And they have done it by going to some time-tested results instead of trying to re-invent the game. They finally balanced the lineup, adding lefties Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo. Rizzo’s acquisition lit a fire under Luke Voit so now it is the best of both worlds with Voit and Rizzo. Just as importantly, and something I’ve been screaming at for two years, they finally have stumbled into a true shortstop in Bronx native Andrew Velazquez who is only playing because Gleyber Torres is out with a thumb injury.

Andrew Velasquez (right) has been a spark plug during this Yankees run.

The Yankees are more athletic as well using a little more Tyler Wade. The table is being set more for the big hitters and Rizzo has added a level of professionalism and desire to win. The struggling Clint Frazier also is out, as is catcher Gary Sanchez – so the Yankees have upped their defensive game at catching with Kyle Higashioka. The starting pitching is solid with Nestor Cortes Jr. baffling hitters, Jameson Taillon mixing a strong two-seamer and four-seamer and Gerrit Cole returning to action and form.

Said Cole on Saturday, “Even in our darkest moments, we thought we were better than what our record was.’’

For Yankees fans this is all fun to watch, and it will have to continue to get the Yankees to the playoffs and then have post-season success.

Aroldis Chapman doesn’t look right, but Zack Britton has looked better of late. Noted one scout, “Britton can’t just throw his sinker because his sinker is not as good. He’s got to throw his little slurve breaking ball and he has to mix his pitches. He can’t throw his sinker at the bottom of the strike zone and run it out and get behind every hitter because it’s not as nasty a sinker as it used to be.’’

Cole clearly has helped guide Taillon so that shows good communications amongst the pitchers and sometimes that is more beneficial than having just a young pitching coach offering input. It’s as if Cole is the pitching coach, which is a good thing.

The scout made this interesting comment regarding Aaron Judge. “Judge has cut his swing down.’’ Cutting the swing down makes a difference.

“Velazquez plays with a little bit of energy,’’ the scout said. That was something the Yankees desperately needed from that position. “He’s a plus runner, he’s not a bad fastball hitter and he actually has a little bit of power.’’ In other words, Velazquez does baseball things when a lot of players aren’t doing baseball things these days.

“If you change your culture of entitlement,’’ one veteran talent evaluator told me about the game in general and not any specific team, “hold people accountable, teach them how to work every day, you can have success and you need to start doing that in the minor leagues.’’

Of course the Yankees cannot make too much of beating the Twins, their personal punching bag, but they have won 21 of the past 26 games. The signs are good for the Yankees now. Late August and September are not the best evaluation months, though. Some teams have clearly run out of gas and are going through the motions.

The Mets will have to see if they have such a Yankee run in them to close out the season. It doesn’t look good. Mets fans have been down this road too often. And yes, Mets fan @StevenACohen2 has been down this road many, many times as a fan but this is his first time as Mets owner.

It’s a much different world.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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