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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: December 6, 2022 7:46 pm PDT
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BY KEVIN KERNAN

Back in 2015 when the Mets were headed to the World Series for only the fourth time in their franchise history, in June of that year, there was a purchase that shook the art world.

A 1947 Albert Giacometti sculpture titled “Pointing Man’’ was purchased for $141.3 million, the most ever paid for a sculpture sold at auction.

The Pointing Man must have been pointing at a bank.

 

The man who purchased “Pointing Man’’ is trying to point the Mets back to the World Series for the first time since 2015 – owner Steve Cohen.

I tell you all this because “What’s Up’’ believes the Mets, with all of Cohen’s money, will do their best to land Juan Soto from the Nationals in a trade.

Get him now for this postseason if possible before the August 2 trade deadline.

As for the Nationals trading within their division, if it’s the best deal out there, they have to make that trade – and the Mets have the minor league talent to get such a deal done – plus the Mets also have the money to take on a contract the Nationals want to dump in left-hander Patrick Corbin.

It’s a win-win for the Nationals in a most difficult situation. They won their World Series with Soto, they currently stink and need to rebuild, and Soto turned down a $440 million, 15-year deal so it is time to move on to the next phase.

Boras always makes these kind of deals with owners – not GM’s – and right now Cohen is an owner who deals with Scott Boras which is another plus for the Mets.

With the price tag so high and so few teams in the financial field for such an expensive star – a baseball work of art – who is only 23 and can be a free agent after the 2024 season, the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers seem like the three-team race for Soto.

Juan Soto, “Pointing Player’’ would be the centerpiece of Cohen’s baseball art collection that includes another expensive addition who used to be with the Nationals: Max Scherzer at $43.3 million a year for the next three years.

Boras always makes these kind of deals with owners – not GM’s – and right now Cohen is an owner who deals with Scott Boras which is another plus for the Mets.

Cohen plays in a much different ballpark than other owners and has the money to get this crazy deal done. The Dodgers have the money and certainly the Mets cannot afford to let Soto go to Los Angeles to be a thorn in the Mets side for the next 10 years. The Dodgers remain the class of the National League. No, Cohen can’t let that happen. He can’t let the Dodgers get even better when he has the opportunity to get the player.

As for the Yankees, I don’t see them having Aaron Judge and Soto on the same team for the long haul. If they lose Judge, Soto will soften the blow, the Yankees don’t like to trade away their own young talent. Soto is there for the Mets. Plus, Cohen is the kind of owner who loves to show off his art and his baseball team. He’s a Mets fan. How many owners are actually fans of their team? True fans?

Nationals Juan Soto wins the Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium on July 18, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Sure, other teams can get in on the Soto action, but will they then have the money to build around Soto? Again, the Dodgers can do that, the Yankees can do that too, but Hal Steinbrenner could not even sign his own superstar who is seven years older than Soto, his own work of art in Judge, who leads all of baseball in home runs and can play centerfield too. The Yankees offered Judge that big contract before the season but where was a big deal three years ago when Judge would have signed long term if given the right contract?

The Yankees let it play out and here we are Judge is a free agent at the end of the season. That’s life.

If Cohen lands Soto he beats the Yankees at their own game, a game they used to dominate. If Cohen lands Soto he keeps the Dodgers from having a centerpiece bat for the next 10 years to go along with all their other talent. The Cubs have the money, too, but they are a long way off from success and their ownership got rid of good players like Anthony Rizzo.

If Cohen lands Soto, Mets fans will forever be on his side and revere him, something all art owners adore, they will flock to his Citi Field “gallery’’ to see the Soto exhibit.

In 2016, it was written that Cohen owns over a billion dollars in art. Adding this biggest baseball piece to his collection would be priceless for the Mets and their fans.

New York Mets owner Steven A. Cohen attends the Tom Seaver statue unveiling ceremony before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on April 15, 2022 in New York City. All players are wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. The Mets defeated the Diamondbacks 10-3. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

WHAT’S UP with all the Tommy John surgeries in the MLB draft? There were 10 pitchers who have already had Tommy John surgery in the first 60 picks. I remember GMs telling me seven years ago they were going to get to the bottom of the Tommy John issue. Guess they are still looking. Pitch counts clearly are not the answer. That’s why it was so interesting to listen to Justin Orenduff discuss his Delivery Value System, DVS. Teams need to look into this instead of just talking about pitch counts, while they are at it, a closer look at the use of the weight room is in order too.

As for position players, this was a legacy draft, good to see so many children of former players getting selected in the first round, including first pick Jackson Holliday and No. 2 pick Druw Jones. Through the years AMBS would see Matt Holliday and Andruw Jones pitching to their kids on major league fields. Nice to see the result of their hard work and congratulations to all draft picks, stay healthy and play the game right.

WHAT’S UP with the money-grabbing All-Star uniforms? For the second straight year tradition was thrown out the window by MLB in its almighty greed. The All-Star Game used to represent the coming together of the greatest players in the game for their respective leagues and it was a treat to see all the different team uniforms mingled together on the bench or on the field for the American League and the National League. It was about team. Can’t have that anymore. Instead of just making a special All-Star warm-up jersey that could be worn during batting practice that could be marketed, there has to be a special All-Star uniform to sell.

Steve Garvey posted a wonderful picture on Facebook this week that shows the NL team on the bench in all their uniform glory in 1979 at the Kingdome in Seattle. There sat the Dodgers’ Davey Lopes and Garvey, the Pirates’ Dave Parker, the Reds’ George Foster, the Padres’ Dave Winfield and Bob Boone, Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt of the Phillies, all in their colorful own uniforms, All-Stars, all together on the same team. It was a sight to see. Now it is just another marketing stream of glitzy unis to sell. AMBS used to love to watch the introductions with each player tipping his home team cap to the crowd. Back in the day a trip down the Jersey Shore was usually in order during the All-Star Game and you could walk down any street and listen to and see the game through all the screened porches, good times long gone. Lee Mazzilli hit a pinch-hit home run in the eighth to tie that 1979 game 6-6 as the NL scored in the ninth to win, 7-6 with Bruce Sutter pitching the last two innings for the win. Watch it on YouTube for the raw emotion and NL and AL pride that used to be the centerpiece of the game.

Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on as his son Jackson Holliday watches one of the All-Star FanFest activities at the Anaheim Convention Center on July 12, 2010 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

WHAT’S UP with all the bad defensive play going into the break? The Cubs and Red Sox were particularly dreadful in the fundamentals of the game. Looks like a long time before either team will be back in the World Series again. The Curse of Chris Sale continues to saddle the Red Sox as he is now out with a fractured pinkie on his pitching hand. That’s bad luck. What’s not bad luck is the incredible sloppy play of both the Cubs and Red Sox. Both teams have loyal fans who will come and watch just about anything that is thrown on the field, but you would think the Red Sox and Cubs would at least respect the game and not mess up such simple plays as rundowns, balls batted back to the pitcher, base-running mistakes and all kinds of routine plays gone bad. That’s a lack of focus on the players, upper management, and managers David Ross and Alex Cora. Ross and Cora respected the game too much to let this happen on their watch.

WHAT’S UP with the Padres not developing and keeping their own position-player All-Stars? The Padres begin second half play Friday against the Mets at Citi Field. The Padres need to hit if they are going to hang on to make it as a Wild Card team. Their season got off to a terrible start with shortstop Fernando Tatis fracturing a wrist in a motorcycle accident and undergoing surgery, an avoidable injury that hurt all his teammates. When Tatis does return, he should move to centerfield. The team that AMBS used to cover during his time in San Diego has lost 18-of-29 and are 21st in OPS at .690 and their OPS at home is .640; only the A’s are worse and ironically Bob Melvin thought he was escaping the A’s and coming to a much better offensive team. A lot of this tracks back to the Tatis injury. The Padres are not built to succeed in their home ballpark.

A big part of the Padres problem is inherited pieces not valued as much as they should be valued and that takes patience. GM A.J. Preller, a media darling, is at the top of the list for getting rid of home-grown talent since taking over in 2014. The Padres have traded home grown All-Star talent like Trea Turner, Max Fried, Ty France, David Bednar, Emmanuel Clase and Corey Kluber. Kluber was traded in 2010, ancient history but the others are all fairly recent. At least in Bednar’s case the Padres got back Joe Musgrove but Max Friend was part of the Justin Upton deal, Trea Turner was a link in the chain for the Wil Myers extravaganza, Ty France, a 34th round piece of gold, was dealt for Austin Nola. Bednar was a 35th rounder. So the Padres have traded some All-Star pieces.

Amazingly Tony Gwynn is the last home-grown position player that became an All-Star as a Padre. Hard to believe and Gwynn was selected in the third round of the 1981 draft only because GM Jack McKeon insisted that he be drafted in that spot. Gwynn had gone under the radar because he played basketball at San Diego State and would join the baseball team later in the year. McKeon saw him double in an exhibition game against the Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium and the rest was history, eight-time batting champ and Hall of Famer, not to mention a 15-time All-Star.

Quiz question: Gwynn was known as a basketball player. What football player was taken six slots before the Padres scooped up Gwynn?

The 1979 NL MLB All-Star Team.

WHAT’S UP with the Astros consistency? A big part of the Astros success is Justin Verlander’s return from Tommy John surgery. To me, Verlander is the closest thing that MLB has to Tom Brady, except Verlander was a much higher draft pick. There’s a Padres connection here, of course, there always seems to be a Padres connection. Verlander was the second pick of the 2004 draft, chosen by the Tigers. The Padres had the first pick and went with Matt Bush. That’s what the owner at the time wanted to do with his money.

After missing the previous two years with Tommy John surgery, Verlander leads the majors with 12 wins at the break and owns a 1.89 ERA and is also a New York killer. He is 2-0 against the two New York teams and over 15 innings has given up only one run. He is succeeding by pitching to contact, or as I like to call it, pitching.

The Astros success also has a lot to do with producing their own talent to fill in holes. They signed pitchers Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier all in 2015 as amateur free agents. Slugger Yordan Alvarez they stole from the Dodgers in the 2016 trade for Josh Fields, and Alex Bregman was the second pick of the 2015 draft. Shortstop Jeremy Pena who replaced Carlos Correa, was a third round draft pick in 2018 and Kyle Tucker who replaced George Springer was also a first round pick back in 2015, three slots after Bregman, so with all the signings and draft picks, 2015 turned out to be quite the year for these Astros, who play the Yankees right after the break.

WHAT’S UP with Home Run Derby being selected as an All-Star Game tie-breaker? Thankfully that did not happen. As a baseball friend said to me about the plan to have a Home Run Derby to break a tie in the All-Star Game after nine innings: “Why does the Commissioner and the players hate playing so much?’’

That’s a fair question but in this world of shortcuts, that is where we are in baseball and life. It’s all about the shortcut. MLB, for the most part, continues to overlook high school players in the draft as only 44 of the first 300 picks were high school players. Kind of strange because so many pitching arms are kind of used up in the college experience.

WHAT’S UP with all the mic’d up segments in the All-Star Game, it was a bit much and the only one that was interesting was the back and forth between catcher Jose Trevino and pitcher Nestor Cortes because it was pure baseball, how to attack the hitter and as Trevino said, “The ball is giving me information.’’

Great point. Read swings, read the information the ball tells you, and you will be a better pitcher and catcher.

Quiz answer: John Elway was selected by the Yankees.

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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