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Of Rats & Raccoons

I’ve learned over the years that when it comes to the New York Mets, expect the unexpected. Last week was one of those weeks that kind of had it all.
It started on Tuesday, when the Mets fired hitting coach Chili Davis after scoring a bunch of runs on Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia.
The timing was strange. After all, we are only 20-plus games into a 162-game season. But when you hear about a fake hitting coach named “Donnie Stevenson” (actually Pete Alonso alias), and you combine that with a slow start for a bunch of key Mets, sometimes a minor change at hitting coach happens in an organization.
It wasn’t fair to Davis. But whether it was his old-school hitting mentality that didn’t sit well with the Mets front office or a new owner itching for a change and some big wins, it was quite a way to start the week.
Little did I know the drama for the New York Mets was just beginning.
Friday night’s come-from-behind win against the Arizona Diamondbacks was overshadowed entirely by an argument that “may or may not have happened” in the hallway leading to the Mets locker room.
Clearly at the end of the 7th inning, something was off between Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil.
It was obvious watching numerous Mets players run into the dugout at the end of the half-inning that something was going down between the middle-infield duo.
After the game, the explanation from Francisco Lindor was very bizarre. He said the brouhaha was the result of a rat or raccoon scurrying around.
It was comical to listen to Lindor and, to a lesser extent, McNeil try to spread the fairy tale.
It doesn’t take a baseball genius to figure out there was clearly a disagreement between McNeil and Lindor. But guess what? That’s okay.
Here’s a dirty little secret: not every teammate loves one another. At times there are fights and disagreements.
Sometimes two guys blowing off a little bit of steam ends up being the best thing for the team. I’d rather hear about two guys putting it behind them and not about rats or raccoons, but hey, that’s me.
I didn’t love the way Lindor handled the situation on Friday night, but the reality of the weekend is that the argument seemed to bring out the best in the two scuffling teammates.
Lindor hit a game-tying home run on Friday night and McNeil homered on Saturday night, propelling the Mets to victories against the Diamondbacks.
The release of pressure by putting it all behind them is maybe the spark to get them both playing better and more relaxed this season.
The Mets will need Lindor and McNeil to deliver big if this team hopes to win a division title.
You could say the same about Jacob deGrom, who we learned on Sunday will have to spend some time on the Injured List.
It’s only the first month of the season, but we’ve had a little bit of everything from the Mets standpoint.
Fired coaches, phantom coaches, injuries, rats and raccoons, but also a winning record.
Strange times, winning times. Go figure.

You can listen to my new podcast New York, New York on The Ringer Podcast Network every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday night. Download and Subscribe on Spotify and Apple.

A Different Draft

For one of the football teams in town, the draft provided little-to-no drama, playing out the way you thought it would a week ago.
It was the worst-kept secret for the last two months that the Jets were selecting Zach Wilson out of BYU as their next quarterback.
Wilson’s baby face and outward charisma will be touted in commercials and on billboards across the Big Apple in the months ahead.
Media attention for a rookie quarterback in New York City is par for the course, however the plan of attack for the Jets in building around this particular rookie quarterback is drastically different than the way they built around their prior rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold.
The Jets did a terrible job of surrounding their last quarterback with offensive talent.
Clearly, Jets general manager Joe Douglas wanted to avoid the mistakes of the past. The Jets traded up for an offensive tackle in the middle portion of the first round.
They drafted a wide receiver in the second round, and they added a running back in the later rounds.
The message from top to bottom was simple: we are going to do our best to set up a rookie quarterback in the best position imaginable.
Can I tell you for sure that in five years the Jets will be a competent, well-run organization? Of course not, but the plan in place is certainly set up for success.
For the other football team in town, the drama was all about a draft-day narrative that was squashed for good after Friday night.
In the days leading up to the NFL Draft, Giants general manager Dave Gettelman heard a pretty basic critique of his draft day strategy: “when will Dave Gettelman trade down in a draft?”
It was a fair question considering that Gettleman in his years running both the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants has never traded out of a draft pick to accumulate more assets.
In 2021, it seems like hell may be freezing over. Dave Gettelman not once, but twice traded down.
When the Giants missed out on the chance to land Alabama standout wide receiver Devonta Smith, the team made a practical move.
The Giants identified the Chicago Bears as a quarterback needy team and worked out a deal to acquire the Bears first-round pick next year plus additional assets.
In addition, the Giants found themselves in a similar position in the second round of the draft. They traded back with the Miami Dolphins and picked up their third round pick next year.
The Giants landed Florida Wide Receiver Kadarius Toney and Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari, who should both fill obvious needs for the team.
It’s a win-win for the Giants, because they are also set up next year with a bundle of draft picks, a bundle of draft picks that could be used to build around Daniel Jones or to land the franchise’s next quarterback.
I look forward to grading these draft results in the years to come, but I know this, draft day was certainly done differently in New York this time around.

You can listen to me on my new podcast “New York, New York” on the Ringer Podcast Network which can be found on both Spotify & Apple Podcasts.

Pair of Pocket Aces

Three-plus weeks into the 2021 Major League Baseball season, it’s fair to say there are plenty of questions about both local teams.
We’ll save that list for another day.
But know this: we are lucky to watch the two best pitchers in baseball every fifth day at the absolute peak of their greatness.
Over the weekend, the brilliance of both Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole was on full display, and boy was it fun to watch!
Jacob deGrom has been dominating hitters since his first start at Citi Field back in 2014.
His resume has him in the conversation as one of the greatest Met pitchers to ever put on the uniform.
Tom Seaver will always be the gold standard as far as that honor, but there is a very good chance we are talking about deGrom as the second greatest Met pitcher ever.
deGrom has thrown a lot of gems over the last seven years, but Friday night might have been his very best performance.
He threw a two-hit, complete-game shutout, striking out 15 Washington Nationals batter and retiring 19 straight.
It may sound crazy, but deGrom’s stuff has gotten better over the last few years.
He’s topping 101 mph on the gun, and the off-speed stuff has become even more nasty.
deGrom’s last three years will go down as one of the most dominant individual runs we have seen from a New York athlete in quite some time, and his career is pointed towards a bust in Cooperstown.
He’s the best pitcher in baseball and seems to be getting better and better.
On the other side of town, the Yankees have an ace that is the second best pitcher in the sport. Trust me, there’s no shame in that.
Gerrit Cole was paid over $300 million to deliver at the highest of levels for the Yankees.
He was paid to lead the rotation and to be ace of the staff, to matchup with whoever the opponent threw against the Yankees.
Saturday night was one of those heavyweight pitching performances. Cole matched up with the reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. In the battle of aces, Cole outshined Bieber.
He threw seven innings of one-run baseball, striking out 11. Cole’s quest for perfection is a joy to watch every fifth day.
It was pointed out during the broadcast on YES that he is the pitching version of former Yankee Paul O’Neill.
I never really saw the comparison until Saturday, but then all of a sudden it clicked.
Cole’s quest for throwing the perfect pitch every single time, and showing frustration when he doesn’t, certainly equates to the hitting style of one of my all-time favorite Yankees.
The Yankees have a lot of questions this season, but the performance of Gerrit Cole is certainly not on that list. He’s been worth every penny so far in his tenure.
It’s sure nice to know that every fifth day as a New York baseball fan, you’re going to get a chance to watch a dominant hurler.
We get the opportunity to watch Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole every fifth day. As my guy Larry David would say, “pretty, pretty, pretty good!”

You can listen to my new podcast “New York, New York” on the Ringer Podcast Network every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday night on Spotify and Apple.

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