Your Moment of IBB Zen
The New York Mets had a bad day today. Obviously, headlining that bad day was having to pull Noah Syndergaard in the second inning. Every thing the Mets have been doing with Syndergard in recent months, every single thing, is just weird.
First, you might recall, Syndergaard showed up for spring training by announcing that — buoyed by his offseason diet of venison sausage and buffalo meat — he intended to THROW HARDER this year.
Syndergaard averaged 98 mph with his fastball last year.
Now, admittedly, this might be just me but if my 24-year-old superstar, the franchise pitcher in my organization, the hardest throwing starter in baseball, announced his intention to throw harder, well, I might call him to the office, have New York’s best chef prepare the most venison sausage ever made, and very casually, making sure it seemed to fit in the conversation, say: “Hey, Noah, how about you do not throw harder?”
And: “ARE YOU CRAZY?”
And also: “DO NOT THROW HARDER. YOU THROW HARD ENOUGH. DO NOT THROW HARDER! DEFINITELY NOT HARDER. DEFINITELY.”
It’s possible the Mets did this, I don’t know. And, yes, you have to give free spirits like Syndergaard the freedom to be themselves. Where is the line? Well, again just me, but I have the line right about where Noah Syndergaard talks about throwing harder. If the Mets did mention that to him, well, it didn’t get across. Syndergaard came out of the shoot and, yep, he was clearly throwing harder. His fastball was up closer to 99 mph, his slider was up more than a mile per hour, his changeup was up two mph. He pitched great. But … Danger Will Robinson.
Then, earlier in the week, Syndergaard was scratched from a scheduled start because, and this might be hard to follow because it’s a technical term, he had a “tired arm.” I realize that these things are dumbed down for our benefit, but I don’t feel super comfortable with the prognosis for a $300 million commodity being, “yeah, his arm is just kind of tired.” I mean, there are doctors involved here, right? This isn’t just three Mets fans sitting around …
Fan №1: Yeah, the arm’s just tired, it will be fine.
Fan №2: The arm’s pooped. What are you gonna do?
Fan №3: I had a cousin with a zonked arm like this one. His arm was just bushed, you know, wiped out, fatigued, and then he took his arm on a little vacation to Tahiti. Three days, Good as new.
To be fair, the Mets apparently wanted to send Syndergaard to get an MRI so that they could get a little bit more information on the arm’s tiredness, but Syndergaard refused.
“I can’t strap him down and throw him in the tube,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. This may be true. But put a little venison in there …
Anyway, three days passed, and they pitched Snydergaard on Sunday, pitched him based on Snydergaard’s self evaluation of “Feels great!” Syndergaard promptly came out, threw six 99 mph pitched and five more 100 mph pitches in the first inning. The Nationals scored five runs. After one batter in the second, Syndergaard grimaced in pain and left.
This is terrible stuff, not just for the Mets but baseball fans everywhere — Syndergaard is as much fun to watch as anyone in the game. You hope the MRI (assuming he gets one) doesn’t show anything too bad, you hope he’s back pitching very soon. But I think the lesson here is that somebody — whether it’s the Mets, his agent, his family, somebody — has to remind Noah Snydergaard that while he might FEEL invincible, he’s not invincible.
All of which is a bit downer, so let’s get back to our intentional walk moment of Zen. Fifth inning, Nationals up 10–5 already, and Trea Turner doubled to lead off the inning. After Jayson Werth flew out, up came Bryce Harper.
The Mets intentionally walked him.
Now, um, well, a few things. One, strategically, what are you doing Terry Collins? You are down five runs. You’re going to have to piece together a bunch more innings with your bullpen because Syndergaard is hurt — putting runners on base is not conducive for getting through innings. Also, the next hitter happened to be Ryan Zimmerman, who is leading the major leagues in home runs. Now, yes, Zimmerman will slow down, and he’s not as good as Harper, and he’s a right-handed hitter but … surely you must be joking. And no, I’m not calling you Shirley because Shirley would not have walked him. Not Shirley Jones. Not Shirley MacLaine. Not Paul Shirley.
Trivia time: Guess how many times (within five) that Roger Maris was intentionally walked the year he hit 61 home runs.
Collins sort of got away with this disastrous intentional walk — Zimmerman grounded out to third, moving the runners up. Now it was second and third, two outs, and you know what I’m going to say.
Collins intentionally walked Daniel Murphy to load the bases.
Now, um, you know, um, I don’t really know what to say. Anthony Rendon was hitting behind Murphy. At that point in the game, Anthony Rendon had gone three for three with two home runs. No, admittedly, three at-bats is not even enough to be a small sample size, and there are good reasons for a manager to not allow a player’s performance in that game affect overall decisions.
But you know what? The baseball gods are merciful. Sometimes, they let managers get by with ill-advised, and even baffling decisions. But you can’t just keep mocking them.
Rendon promptly did this:
That’s a double off to the top of the scoreboard wall — a couple of feet away from his third home run — and three runs scored and that, friends, is your intentional walk moment of Zen.
Trivia answer: You probably have heard it —this is a classic trivia question — but Maris intentionally walked zero times in 1961. That’s what happens when you have Mickey Mantle hitting behind you (unless Terry Collins is managing). But the key to the trivia question is this: If you’re going to ask it, always put (within five) in parentheses. That tends to throw people.