For today’s installment of “The Plus In Mets Plus”, we have a writer that has truly become a fan favorite. Michael Baron, formally of JustMets.net and MetsBlog.com, has been on the Mets scene for a while now, and today he was kind enough to join us to answer some of our pressing questions.
- First off, can you give us a brief synopsis of who you are in case someone doesn’t know?
Until 2016, I covered and wrote about the Mets for both SNY.TV and MLB.com. I have written an endless number of features, conducted countless interviews and Q&As with players, coaches and front office personnel, and provided analysis for news and events surrounding the team during that time. In addition to written content, I have produced digital content both photographically and in video, live blogging in both content sets at times over the years.
- While the Mets aren’t in great shape right now, this isn’t the first time people have been worried about the state of the team, and they are only 1.5 games back of a postseason spot. How worried are you about the current state of the Mets?
I don’t get worried anymore. It is what it is with the team to me. To me, whether they succedd or fail, the emotion is more black and white to me. I am happy when they do well, disappointed when they fail.
In their current state, it’s a little confusing. It feels like they should be further back because their hitting has struggled so badly, but closer to the Nationals because Washington has kept teams around in the divisional race once again. But here they are, 1 ½ games out of a Wild Card and somehow hanging in with next to no offense. From that perspective, it’s somewhat of a relief, but I just don’t know that they have the capability of emerging as a front runner in a race. That’s based on a simple observation of their dysfunctional offense, their consistent willingness to play short on their roster everyday, and the dependency on their key relievers every single day. Eventually, this just isn’t sustainable, even though the Mets have been mostly a .500 ball club since the beginning of May.
Does one bat change that? Does a reliever change that? It can only help. But in the case of the offense, I am just not sure one player will make Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, etc better situational hitters. I see philosophical problems and problems with their approach. All you have to do is look at the swings they take with runners in scoring position – it’s not really anything that’s really hidden.
- There is a lot of finger pointing going around on various social media sites, but little to no solutions are being offered. What do you think the Mets could do this season to turn the season around?
Play better. The talent is here to win a championship. But they just haven’t played well for the better part of three months. As I said before, it’s not one player, and it’s not one player who is going to come in here and change the direction of the offense. It is going to have to come from within. Until that happens, expect more of the same.
- Obviously, a lot of injuries have occurred this season, with Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera being the only two players that haven’t missed substantial time. Which injured player do you believe the Mets miss the most?
I think the Mets are really missing the leadership of David Wright. He always brings order to chaos, leading by example on and off the field, regardless of performance. He’s a presence, a role model, and a mentor to so many on the club. That he can’t play and hasn’t been around a lot has cost the team in that area.
But they’re also missing Lucas Duda’s presence in the lineup. He is a very underrated part of this lineup, presumably because he’s so streaky. But adding his 30 home run bat would create more protection for the other players in the lineup, and probably relax them a bit to keep them from pressing in key spots.
- The Trade Deadline is a few days away, and like last year, the Mets could use a few acquisitions. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t think the Mets will be able to make a huge move like they did last year. Do you agree with that notion, or do you think that the Mets could make a trade?
It depends on how a huge acquisition is defined. When you think about it, a relief pitcher isn’t the sexiest of acquisitions, but look at what Addison Reed has meant to the club over the last 11 months. He has single-handedly reshaped the bullpen, and has therefore been a “huge move” for this front office in that time.
Now, that doesn’t mean they don’t need offense. They do, and moreso than a reliever. But getting the right kind of player could prove to be a huge move for this team. That guy may not be a 30 home run guy, but he may be a .350 on-base guy, a guy who can be better situationally than the one he replaces. But that’s on the front office to identify and acquire.
- The Washington Nationals have had a fairly impressive season, but one could say that the Mets have a considerably better rotation and bullpen, and while the Nationals have a better offense, it’s not the best offense in the league (eighth in the National League in team batting average.) Do you think the NL East is becoming out of reach, or do you think the Mets have a good chance to do what they did last year and have another August rally?
The Nationals don’t really have a considerably better offense when you take everything into account. They’re Daniel Murphy and a bunch of struggling hitters. The Mets are Yoenis Cespedes and a bunch of struggling hitters.
The difference to me, as I keep harping on, is situational hitting, and an ability to get the big hit when they need it. They’re hitting almost 50 points higher with runners in scoring position – they’ve scored 90 more runs with RISP than the Mets and have 46 more hits and 53 more walks. Just imagine if the Mets were league average or even slightly below in that department – they would be running away with this division, potentially.
I don’t think the Mets should be scoreboard watching at all, whether its for the division or the wild card. They need to be focused on being better than a .500 club, which they have mostly been (actually, slightly under) since May 1. When they gain some momentum and start playing well consistently, then they can see where they are in both races.
- I’ll ask you the typical which pitcher is best question: If the Mets make it to the one-game wild card, which Mets ace would you start and why?
Today, the Mets would need to have Jacob deGrom out there. He has shown an ability to grind games out even when he’s not at his best, and right now, he is the best pitcher on the staff.
- Are you worried about David Wright’s injury going forward?
Yes. He is suffering with two significant problems with his spine. I think his neck injury is less concerning than it is being made out to be as long as he has no spinal bruising, but in the end he continues to miss significant time year-after-year with problems with his legs, and his back. It’s unfortunate because he is a true ambassador to the Mets and the sport, has gone through thick and thin with this franchise, and he deserves better than the hand he has been dealt. I hope he can come back, stay on the field, and be a positive contributor after this injury.
- Finally, I have a different question. Considering this weekend is Mike Piazza weekend, do you have a favorite Mike Piazza moment?
The home run he hit on September 21, 2001 is a signature moment in his career, but I feel like that’s kind of cliché. One of the greatest moments I can remember aside from that is his home run against Terry Mulholland to complete the 10-run inning comeback against the Braves in June, 2001. I also remember him hitting a monumental home run to the mezzanine against Randy Johnson, although I cant remember if that was in 1999 or 2000.
Also, the day he showed up in May, 1998 was a defining moment for both Mike and the franchise.
10. How can someone connect to you via social media or see your content?
We highly suggest following Mr.Baron on these accounts, and we would like to thank him for responding to the questions presented.
“The combination of our increased attendance coupled with the retirement of Mike Piazza’s number brought to light the need to enhance the visibility for all of our retired numbers, which were frequently obstructed in their previous location.” – Statement from the Mets organization
Ultimately, this is a smart move. It allows for the numbers to be seen for the first time since 2011, and the Mets have used the old wall space for ad space, as Cholula Hot Sauce and M&M’s have inserted their corporate logos where the numbers used to be. Thus, this truly is a win-win.
I’m still very un-sure what I want for the future of MetsPlus. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to integrate some non-Mets articles into the site, but still keep the core focus of the blog on the Mets.
For the most part, that is what I have done, but there is still a lot of un-published content that is sitting on the shelf (some Mets, some not Mets), and there is a lot of published content that isn’t really great stuff. Now, I’m going to reveal my upcoming plan for MetsPlus.com and what a viewer coming to this site is going to expect:
1) Until the End of the Postseason/Season – No changes, at least for now. The offseason is a great time to re-evaluate, and I’m going to need all of it to figure out how I’m going to re-energize MetsPlus.
2) Late Oct until Early Dec – Site goes down for “Renovation”. Yes, it’s just a website, but I want my website to look strong and professional. Instead of having a pedestrian appearance, MetsPlus will temporarily be “closed” per se, until it’s re-launched in early December (or earlier, hopefully).
3) Early Dec- Relaunch with the Winter Meetings. This year, I’m hoping to attend the annual Winter Meetings, this year held in the Nation’s Capital. The Winter Meetings would be a great spring board for MetsPlus, and I’m targeting that week as the re-launch date.
4) 2017 and beyond – New Content on a New Platform? I certainly want to create new content revolving around my daily interests, but to be honest, while most of them are Mets related, a good amount of them aren’t, and MLB.com is not the best platform for that. While that doesn’t mean I plan to leave, I disagree with some of MLB.com’s marketing tactics, and I’m not too fond of the un-controlable advertisements that come up on the side of my website.
Thank you for your understanding and continued readership.
The MLB Urban Youth Academy has been supporting youth Baseball for a while, and through their MLBlog at molburbanyouthacademy.mlblogs.com, they allow kids of all ages to read up and enjoy playing America’s greatest game.
Today, here are summer tips for playing Baseball in the heat:
Academy Parents and Members,
The Athletic Training Staff would like to alert you to the upcoming changes in weather for the upcoming week. As you may have noticed on the local weather reports, we are beginning a heat wave in which the temperatures will be in the high 80’s to low 90’s. This is a significant change from the past weeks.
We are taking this time to alert you to the possibility of dehydration and heat illness not only for the upcoming week, but for the remainder of the summer months.
To prevent any heat related illness due to dehydration, the athletic training staff is recommending that all members hydrate properly for all outdoor activities. Proper hydration begins before you show up at the academy. For best results it is recommended that you increase fluid intake a day or two in advance of outdoor exercise. The best fluids to reduce…
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On January 6, 2016, Mike Piazza was welcomed to immortality when he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association. The Hall of Fame sat down with Mike in New York City just hours after he was introduced to the world as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2016. This is a portion of that interview.
As most of you know already, the Columbia Fireflies are the new Single-A affiliate of the New York Mets, moving over from Savannah and Historic Grayson Stadium to Columbia, South Carolina, a city that hasn’t had Baseball for over 12 seasons.
Last summer, it was announced that the team was going to be called the “Fireflies” and that they were going to use neon green and navy blue as their color scheme. As I mentioned a few months ago in my first post, I absolutely love this scheme, as it is very underused in Professional Baseball, and it is fairly original.
Their home ballpark is “Sprint Communications Ballpark”, named after Sprint Communications, and designed by Populous, otherwise known as HOK Sports Venues, and quite honestly, this was the only corporate branding I saw. Literally. There were only six wall advertisements (which were all bunched together, to make the wall look clean), and there were four advertisements around the scoreboard, and one Budweiser sign is right-center.
I cannot tell you how enjoyable it was to watch a ballgame in a stadium that didn’t have 25 ads on the wall and who knows how many around various parts of the park. This is truly a rarity around MiLB stadiums. After all, when I went to Long Island to see the Independent Long Island Ducks, there were over forty, yes FORTY advertisements, and the independence from advertisements didn’t end there. Instead of the “Foxwoods Casino Club,” it was the “Club Lounge,” instead of the “Party City Dance Cam,” it was just the “Dance Cam.” Very nice.
Of course, this is their inaugural season, and this might not always be the case, and this wasn’t the reason I came to Columbia, but I thought it made for a good baseball game experience.
Now, to that main event, the game. The Fireflies were playing the Delmarva Shorebirds (to all of those about to search up “Delmarva,” I’ll save you thirty seconds, it’s a large peninsula on the East Coast of the United States, occupied by most of Delaware and portions of Maryland and Virginia, and are the Single-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, and they play in the South Atlantic League, which splits it’s season into two portions. Basically, you can make it into the postseason if you win the first half or the second half.
The Fireflies are 41-48 with both parts of the season combined, and are now 5-13 in the second half. While the postseason doesn’t look like a reality in their inaugural season, attendance has been pretty good, they average around 3,000 fans per night, and they’ve sold a considerable amount of season tickets.
If you are ever in Charleston, Greenville, Charlotte, Durham, Myrtle Beach or any other area in the Carolinas or northern Georgia, I really suggest attending a Columbia Fireflies game. It’s a very good atmosphere, and the fans are pretty into the game. Additionally, they many different seating types throughout the ballpark. There is a berm in left and right center, a table setup down the left field line by the bullpens, and best traditional seating throughout the ballpark, including 16 luxury suites and a 7,000 square-foot Club Lounge (which is air conditioned, which is quintessential considering temperatures reach 100 degrees in the middle of the summer).
For those with kids, there is a play area by the left field foul pole. I’m not entirely sure what it is called, but there are inflatables, fun games, and a big blown up “Mason,” the mascot of the Columbia Fireflies, which kind of reminds me of the Phillie Phinatic in Philadelphia.
I didn’t take a big look around the concourse, but it seemed that all of the traditional ballpark fare, in addition to some local eats were available. As far as shopping, the Mason Jar Team Store was one of the biggest minor league team stores I’ve seen around. There is plenty of helpful staff that is ready to help. Additionally, if you are not in the area, there is an online shop on their official website here.
If you have any questions about the Fireflies, email me at Niko@MetsPlus.com, or tweet me @NikoMetsPlus, or contact the Fireflies directly through their website.
For the fifth time, I’ll be attending the Triple-A All Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina, home of the Charlotte Knights, Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
Since 2011, my family and I have taken a yearly vacation to the host city of the Triple-A All-Star Game, and we have discovered the country so much better.
Here is a list of the cities I’ve visited since 2011:
|2011||Salt Lake City, Utah||Home of the Salt Lake Bees (LAA)||Spring Mobile Ballpark||3-0
|2012||Buffalo, New York||Home of the Buffalo Bisons (NYM)||Coca-Cola Field||3-0
Pacific Coast League
|2014||Durham, North Carolina||Home of the Durham Bulls (TB)||Durham Bulls Athletic Park||7-3
|Home of the Omaha Storm Chasers (KC)||Werner Park||4-3
(NOTE: I skipped the 2013 Triple-A All Star Game in Reno, Nevada, due to the Major League All-Star Game being held in Citi Field)
By and large this has been a fun yearly tradition that I have been blogging about since 2013, and I look forward to continue blogging about it this year in Charlotte!
Even though Independence Day was yesterday, the Mets had one of the best comeback victories in franchise history that gave them their fifth consecutive win, the focus of the majority of the twitter accounts I follow is the incident(s) that surrounded credited ballhawk Zack Hample.
For those that are not aware, Zack Hample, a so-called “professional ballhawk” who averages around 10 Baseballs per game, thanks to numerous tricks like the glove ball trick, wearing numerous t-shirts of different teams to increase chances of getting balls thrown at him, and he has caught numerous commemorative baseballs, like the final homerun at Shea Stadium, and as everyone knows, Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit, which he documents on his blog, The Baseball Collector, which is another popular MLBlog.
To be completely honest, I’ve been reading Zack Hample’s blog for a while, and I’ve always been a little skeptical. In 2010, when I was eleven years old, I was sitting in the Pepsi Porch, and came 2+ hours early to catch batting practice. Zack did not give any balls to other kids, or me, but to completely honest I wasn’t very upset or mad at him, I just thought he was weird. Lately, however, he seems to be more flexible with his baseballs, and gives them away to kids, teens and even adults that want one. However, it’s important to note that all of this happens on-camera, as if he is trying to clean his image and make sure the public sees it. (which is ten times better than not giving any baseballs)
Last week however, Deadspin wrote an article criticizing Zack for throwing a fit and claiming someone body-slammed him when trying to get a Baseball. One thing led to another, and Zack was trending on Twitter with the handle #ThingsBetterThanHample.
This however was only the appetizer, the main course was Hample’s decision to attend the Fort Bragg game in North Carolina.
If popular British newspapers are writing about this incident, I honestly don’t know how he’s going to step out of his house tomorrow, let alone ballhawk at a future game.
However, I want to point out a few things about Zack and his ticket before you fire up your pitchforks.
#1- Zack was NOT the only guy in the stands that wasn’t supposed to be there
I’m positive about this one. The reason MLB made it so clear that tickets to DoD members were non-transferable was to scare away some of the black market ticket scalping, but I guarantee you that Zack was one of many spectators that had no connection to anyone that served in any branch of the military, and while that’s not good, it’s what happens at every single event, and while I don’t believe Zack’s story about getting them from “a friend of a friend”, if Zack didn’t go, the ticket wouldn’t have gone to a disabled veteran who has always loved Baseball since he or she was a little child, it would have gone to another lowlife that bought the ticket from the guy that won a lottery for tickets, and wanted to make some profit.
#2 – Zack’s main problem was promoting that he was at the game, not actually going to the game.
Going to the game for Zack was just another instance of doing something that in retrospect was probably stupid, but would be enjoyable in the moment. I think we’ve all had those moments. I for sure have, but Zack took it one step too far by promoting it. While this example is much more serious that breaking into a private event, imagine stealing a purse at a department store, because you really want the limited edition purse that is in stores for one-day only. You steal the purse, but instead of quietly taking the purse and never mentioning it, you videotape stealing the purse, and then take pictures of it when you get home and post it all over Social Media. This is what Zack did. If he created a fake account under an alias, got in, grabbed a ball, and then left, he would have been able to have a ball, get no press, and then in two years time, he could display the ball on his website if he really wanted to. Think about it, let’s pretend the Civil Rights Game of 2014 was only for decedents and children of people that were present in Birmingham in 1963. Would you remember today, in 2016, that tickets for that game two seasons ago was reserved for special individuals? I wouldn’t, and even if I did, if he came up with what sounded like a valid excuse, would anyone really care or be skeptical? No. Zack fed wood into his own fire by posting tweets and sharing images. He’s not dumb, he knew that it was a risk to attend in the first place, so the only possible reason he tweeted out images was for self-promotion.
#3- While donating 1,100 dollars to AMVETS is great, and way more than I could ever give, the way he did it was wrong.
Before I explain this one, I want to say that I’ve made many mistakes in my life, and when I screw up again and people on Twitter bash me, it’s usually justified. People make mistakes and put their own foot in their mouth. I did it after a Mets Pirates game in June, and there is nothing better than a sincere apology. Just say you are sorry, step back for a few days, and get back at it after things get better. The incorrect thing to do is to push that what you are doing is correct and that you aren’t at fault. @BigDavesRants, a popular Mets twitter account, summed up Zack’s charity donation very well, when he said that publicly flaunting about your donation hours after a big mistake is like saying “I’m a good boy, right?”. Don’t get me wrong, that donation will go to the right place, and ultimately it’s more money that most people bashing Hample would give together, but the donation would have been considerably better if it was a bit more confidential.
This post was fairly un-nescesary, and not related to the Mets at all, but with all of the fanfare and the criticism flying all over social media, I wanted to chime in. If you find this article, just know it’s my opinion, and wether or not you agree with it is up to your discretion, and I respect your opinion whatever it may be. I won’t be promoting this article, as I feel a lot of outlets are posting there thoughts on Hample to gain clicks, whereas I just want my thoughts to be on the record.