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Jastremski: Little things propelling the two best teams in Baseball

I know a baseball season is all about perspective.

When you play 162 games, it’s important not to get too low or too high regarding the state of affairs for your team.

However, it’s almost the end of June. That’s three plus months of baseball this season.

The Yankees have the best record in the sport. The Mets have the second best record in the sport.

It’s been well documented here, on my podcast and on my television appearances how enjoyable this has been for me!

To put the NY Baseball perspective in some context. So far, the Yankees are on pace to eclipse the win mark set by the record setting 1998 team.

For the Mets, they’re off to their best start since the 1986 season.

Fair to say 1986 and 1998 worked out pretty well for the Mets and Yankees respectively.

Look, I’m not telling you a Subway Series is a foregone conclusion yet.

There is a long way to go, but we can safely say, both NY baseball teams are really good.

Yes, they’re talented, but I’ve noticed a specific difference in both the 2022 Yankees and Mets compared to some other versions over the years.

The Yankees and Mets both have this in common, they’re doing the little things very well.

The Yankees a year ago were the ultimate boom or bust team. They relied on the homerun entirely, they couldn’t run the bases, couldn’t field their position and couldn’t hold a lead.

If you’ve watched the Yankees at any point this year, you’re seeing a totally different brand of baseball.

The base running and defense is drastically better and it’s made a difference in their record.

For the Mets, the last two seasons hitting with runners in scoring position was an absolute nightmare.

The Mets couldn’t buy a big hit and in reality, it probably cost them trips to the postseason each of the last two years.

The offensive approach implemented by Buck Showalter and hitting coach Eric Chavez has required the Mets at times to get back to basics.

That approach has delivered top notch results.

Look, the Mets added some terrific hitters. Mark Cahna and Starling Marte for starters, but up and down the lineup, the approach at the plate is flat out better.

The Mets have done a masterful job all year of putting the ball in play and as a result of that, it has highlighted some of their opponent’s deficiencies.

No need to apologize for them, just take advantage.

Winning baseball can seem obvious at times, but it’s more than meets the eye.

The little nuances of the game that evaded the Yankees and Mets over the last two years have been mastered so far this season.

Little things lead to big things and a whole lot of wins around town these days…

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify/Apple Podcasts. You can watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight after Mets postgame on SNY.

Mets fan makes impressive homerun snag

Ridgewood/Queens dad finds faith in fatherhood, baseball

Alan Alcantara, 31, made the impressive grab during the New York Mets game last week with his one-year-old child in his arms.

Alan Alcantara’s view from center field was a familiar one.

The Dominican-born 31-year-old grew up playing baseball, continuing through high school and even recently playing center field for three years for his job’s softball league.

He grew up watching Sammy Sosa, emulating the batting stance of Ken Griffey Jr., and idolizing his favorite player, Pedro Martinez.

But when the Ridgewood resident found himself in section 140 at Citi Field last week, just beyond the center field wall, he was without a glove and instead holding his one-year-old son, Levi.

The first inning home run hit by the Mets’ own Starling Marte was hit over the wall, and although Alcantara didn’t catch the ball on the fly, he positioned himself to catch the ball off the bounce after it ricocheted off the center field void between the Home Run Apple and his seats.

“I saw the ball coming off the bat,” Alcantara recalls. “It was a split-second decision to get up on the rail.”

The 431-foot moon shot to center field was hit 107.2 miles per hour off Marte’s bat, finding its way into Alcantara’s outreached arm, while he was standing on the side railing of his seats.

He says he’s been asked multiple times why he didn’t put his child down before attempting to catch the ball, but he says everything happened in “about two or three seconds.”

“My first thought was, let me stand up right away to see if I can catch it, so it doesn’t hit my family,” he added.

Alcantara, a church administrator at the Transformation Church in Ridgewood, happened to be at the game as part of an annual tradition with his co-workers. Families, volunteers, directors of ministries and even the church’s senior pastor — who Alcantara says is a huge Mets fan — were in attendance the night of Tuesday, May 31.

The bonding experience became a tradition last year, he says, as a way for the church’s congregation to regroup and celebrate life amid a global pandemic.

Alcantara, a father of two and soon-to-be three, says he received a flood of text messages from relatives and friends in his home country, who later saw the video clip of him catching the home run ball. A friend of his, a Pastor from Colombia, told him that he saw the replay of the catch while he was in the airport.

“I literally couldn’t pay too much attention to the game after [the catch],” Alcantara said.

The Mets would go on to defeat the Washington Nationals that night by a score of 10-0. They currently sit atop the NL East standings and have posted a 38-19 record through the first 57 games of the season. Only the 1986 Mets, who would go on to win the World Series that year, have posted a better club record to start the season.

During the pandemic, the Transformation Church pivoted to streaming their live services online, enabling the church at 16-40 Hancock Street to reach a larger audience than before, Alcantara says. Attending the church since he was 16, and a staff member for the last three years, Alcantara says that the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the church’s local membership.

“We saw a lot of deaths within our members’ families,” he says. “There was a time when our pastor did so many funerals in one week, it was crazy.”

Transformation Church started as a Hispanic church before opening up english-speaking services about a dozen years ago, in an attempt to reach the American-born youth whose parents were also Hispanic.

“They understand Spanish, but not fully,” Alcantara, a graduate of Baruch College, said. “We want them to understand the word of God.”

Migrating from the Dominican Republic at 13-years-old, Alcantara has called Ridgewood his home for nearly two decades now. In addition to preaching the gospel and coordinating Sunday services, Alcantara helps the church hold annual food drives around Thanksgiving to aid local families.

“We want to be able to put our faith into action, not only preach the word, but also live it out and help people because it’s part of the gospel,” he added.

With Father’s Day right around the corner, Alcantara took his brief viral moment to celebrate the dads who are present in their child’s life.

“I want to thank the fathers for all the work you do for your kids,” he said. “I know sometimes we go unseen, but God sees it, and your kids do as well, and they will thank you for it.”

Jastremski: No Max, No Problem For Now…

About a week ago, there was a collective sigh across Met land.

Top of the 6th inning. Ace pitcher Max Scherzer was on the mound up to his usual tricks against the St. Louis Cardinals lineup, then all of a sudden… a gut punch.

Max Scherzer gesturing for the trainer and removing himself from the ballgame put every Met fan on alert.

The prized ace and difference-maker grimaced in pain. What could it be?

Did Mets fans think the worst? Of course, they did, and honestly who could blame them.

It’s part of being a Mets fan, after all just look at what has transpired with Jacob deGrom over the past year.

Thankfully the news on Scherzer was not the worst-case scenario.

Scherzer hurt his oblique. They’re tricky, he will miss around 6 to 8 weeks, but it’s not a season-ending injury.

That said, I wondered following the news how the Mets would respond down two aces.

So far, they’ve been at the top of their game.

On Thursday, the Mets overcame an Edwin Diaz blown save which in reality was the end result of bad defense, and turned that into a Pete Alonso signature walk-off homer moment.

Sunday, the Mets found a way to win yet another series against the Colorado Rockies with some clutch hitting, quality pitching, and top-notch defense.

It’s closing in on Memorial Day weekend which is one of those milestone markers in the baseball season to evaluate progress.

So far, everything about the 2022 Mets season has been a joy to watch.

The team plays hard, they have a ton of grit and unlike the teams of the last few years, they find ways to win.

The 2020-2021 Mets found ways to lose.

The 2022 Mets find ways to win.

Is that the direct result of Buck Showalter’s presence? Well, his leadership most certainly plays a role, because his approach to the game is easy to see all over the Mets team.

The Scherzer injury would have been a convenient excuse for a tailspin.

Not for the 2022 Mets. Not now at least.

It’s the end of May, but the more you see of this baseball team, the more you like…

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday evenings on the Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. You can also watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.

Mets complete combined no-hitter, second in team history

The New York Mets completed the 315th no-hitter in Major League history on Friday night.

In a combined effort of five pitchers from the team, the 3-0 victory was just the 17th combined no-hitter ever. There have only been two combined no-hitters that involved more pitchers, and the 159 pitches thrown in Friday’s no-hitter are the most for any no-hitter since pitch counts have been tracked since 1988.

Starter Tylor Megill pitched five innings, throwing a total of 88 pitches before being pulled. The bullpen would take over, with Drew Smith, Joely Rodriguez, Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz completing the second no-hitter in team history.

The only other Mets’ no-hitter performance was by Johan Santana on June 1, 2012, in a 8-0 rout of the St. Louis Cardinals. Friday night was the first no-hitter against the Phillies since Josh Beckett no-hit them for the Dodgers in 2014.

It was the team’s first “black out” uniform game of the year, with an announced crowd of 32,416 fans.

On offense, Jeff McNeil hit a two-run single in the fifth inning off Aaron Nola, and Pete Alonso followed with a homerun in the sixth inning.

As of press time, the Mets are 16-8 — good for best in the National League, and three games up on the second-place Miami Marlins in the NL East.

Despite walking six batters over the course of the game, the group of pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts on the nights, and most importantly, allowing zero hits.

Mets honor late Tom Seaver at home opener

The New York Mets unveiled a statue in honor of Tom Seaver on their home opener last Friday.

Seaver, a Hall of Famer and considered to be one of the greatest Mets players ever, passed away on August 31, 2020.

The 3,200 pound statue stands 10 feet tall and features Seaver in his iconic drop-and-drive delivery from the pitcher’s mound. It is located to the right of the Home Run Apple in front of Citi Field.

Seaver’s widow, Nancy, their two daughters, Sarah and Anne, were in attendance for the pregame ceremony. Seaver’s grandsons, Thomas and Tobin, threw out the ceremonial first pitches prior to the start of the game.

Prior to the first home game of the season, the Mets honored and recognized fallen NYPD officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora, who tragically lost their lives in the line of duty in January.

“Tom led us to our first championship,” said team owner Steve Cohen. “He transformed the Mets, he transfixed New York and won the hearts of Mets fans.”

The Mets would go on to win on Friday 10-3 over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Currently, the Mets are 7-3 ahead of their first doubleheader of the season on Tuesday, April 19.

New York, New York: It’s early, but for the Mets, the ‘Buck’ stops here

It’s only two weeks into the 2022 baseball season, but the look, the feel and the vibe around the entire Mets franchise just feels different.

Different in a good way.

There’s a sense of energy, direction and just overall positive vibes across the board surrounding the team.

Ownership makes a big difference, but it has a certain trickle down effect.

One of the things I expected from Steve Cohen the minute he took over the Mets was to see him hire the best and brightest people to lead.

It was a hallmark of Cohen’s Wall Street tenure and I figured it would follow into his next venture, the New York Mets.

Cohen found the perfect caretaker for his franchise in Buck Showalter.

I know a lot of the new school folks love to make the argument that the manager doesn’t matter much, but take a look at the Mets.

The Mets just flat out feel different under the guidance of Buck Showalter.

The team is playing a cleaner, crisper brand of baseball.

Yes, the Mets are getting some outstanding pitching to start off this year.

However, the good feelings of the state of the franchise go well beyond that.

Look at the Mets franchise player Francisco Lindor. A year ago, Lindor was a lost puppy.

Between the rat/raccoon fiasco and joining forces with his buddy Javy Baez on the thumbs down charade, Lindor acted like a player unaware of the gravity of playing in New York.

Two weeks into the year, he looks like a different guy.

Do I think Buck Showalter has had a significant impact on the way, Lindor has handled himself on and off the field?

Absolutely.

With Mickey Callaway and Luis Rojas, I had many moments wondering about the leadership and the direction of the Mets franchise due to the inexperience in the dugout.

With the way the Mets are handling their business and performing on the field, it sure seems like the team has taken on the personality of their new manager.

If that ends up being the case for 162 games, the Mets are in for one whale of a season.

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York on The Ringer Podcast Network every Sunday & Thursday plus my Ringer Gambling Podcast every Tuesday & Friday on Spotify/Apple Podcasts. You can watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.

With the 2022 Baseball season upon us, will both NY teams be October bound?

At the end of spring training, hope springs eternal for a whole lot of baseball fans itching to see their favorite team in action.

It’s terrific knowing that the expectations for both NY Baseball teams should be pretty darn high going into this year.

The Mets did a fabulous job of winning the backpages this winter.

They acquired the best pitcher on the market, Max Scherzer. They acquired one of the most exciting outfielders in the game, Starling Marte. Oh and they hired one of baseball’s best managers, Buck Showalter.

On paper, the Mets could not have drawn up their offseason any better.

However, you don’t win division titles on paper.

The Mets already have a major headache on their hands with their ace Jacob deGrom.

The same ace that missed the entire second half of last season is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. So much for Jake being in the best shape of his life!

The Mets can survive deGrom’s absence for the first two months of the season, but if they want to win a championship, they need him.

It would be nice to see the 300 million dollar man Francisco Lindor step up in a big way in his second full season in Queens.

Lindor is a star player, but last year for a good majority of the season, he didn’t play like one.

If the Mets are going to win the NL East, they will need a bounceback season out of Mr Smile.

For the Yankees, they didn’t win the back pages of this offseason the way the Mets did.

It by no means was a sexy offseason for a team that is coming off back to back disappointing seasons.

However, the Yankees are a better team going into 2022 than they were going into last season.

For starters, defensively they should look much better behind the plate and at shortstop.

Offensively, a full season of Anthony Rizzo and the addition of Josh Donaldson should provide an element of toughness that was lacking for most of last year.

GM Brian Cashman mentioned after the Donaldson trade that the Yankees were lacking an edge, I hope Donaldson helps provide one.

The Yankees will be better offensively, because in addition to Donaldson and Rizzo, Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu can’t be any worse than what they were last season.

In a loaded American League East, the Yankees can’t have lackluster campaigns from Torres and LeMahieu.

They also need to answer a pretty simple question. Who will be the #2 starter behind Gerrit Cole?

Luis Severino has the stuff to do it. He’s been an All-Star before. However, he has not started a full season of games in 4 years.

If the Yankees win the AL East, we will be talking about a Baby Bomber resurgence for both Torres and Severino.

It’s an exciting time to be a NY Baseball fan. Both teams are interesting and expect to win.

If we are not talking about two playoff teams at the end of September, something went horribly, horribly wrong across the board.

For now, let the games begin…

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts.

You can also watch me nightly at 11 PM on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.

Pol Position: Mandatory for some, but not for others

NYC Mayor Eric Adams claims that his recent decision to lift the COVID-19 vaccination mandate is an attempt to bring back the city’s illustrious “nightlife” that “the city that never sleeps“ is and has always been known for.

“We’re going to keep our nightlife industry thriving, a $35.1 billion industry. By putting our home teams on equal playing fields we increase their chances of winning and that has a real impact on our city. It’s not just fans in the stands, it’s people in the stores. Every time a championship or a game is played here it’s a boost of $11 million into our economic impact during the playoff season,” Adams said in his press conference. “Expanding this exemption, which only applies to a small number of people, is crucial.”

While the announcement comes just in time for the upcoming NBA playoffs and MLB 2022 season, many New Yorkers are in an uproar that Hizzoner is caving in to the pressure from celebrity holdouts, including Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets and Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, who have both expressed their disinterest in taking the vaccine which many city workers have been forced to take at risk of losing their job.

NYC Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said that this sends the wrong message to the city that athletes and celebrities making millions of dollars each year are exempt while so many others have been losing their jobs.

“This exemption sends the wrong message that higher-paid workers and celebrities are being valued as more important than our devoted civil servants, which I reject. This is a step away from following sensible public health-driven policies that prioritize equity,” Speaker Adams said.

In the Mayor’s defense:

The entertainment industry was one facet of New York City living that experienced a significant blow from the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of people lost their jobs when concert venues and arenas were shut down due to the virus.

Stagehands and union employees who put in the work to ensure that these concerts and events were able to function properly have been out of work for a very long time, and are eager to go back.

Since the mandate was enforced many performances scheduled to take place in New York City have been canceled or postponed indefinitely.

According to a report made by NYS Comptroller DiNapoli last year, employment in arts, entertainment and recreation declined by 66 percent as of December 2020, representing the largest decline among one of the City’s most valued economic sectors.

While there are many who are opposed to the Mayor’s recent announcement, it’s important from the standpoint of economic recovery to bring back these institutions where so many people have traditionally been employed.

Vendors, security, and stagehands have all had to go without work, and two years later, several have had to make difficult decisions in order to make ends meet.

In defense of the mandate:

The mayor’s kowtowing to the demands of rich ballplayers who refuse to observe the mandate enforced on city employees may allow for there to be a 2022 MLB season but it could lead to rifts between the city and municipal workers that feel they were strong-armed into falling in line with the vaccine requirement.

Healthcare workers were the most impacted by this requirement. When the mandate first came into effect, many of the essential workers who helped treat the sick at the start of the pandemic suddenly found themselves in a predicament. Many felt they were made to choose, risking their jobs by holding out on taking the shots.

Earlier this week, The New York Post spoke with an unvaccinated Harlem resident who was sent home from her job as a waitress at Citi Field because she didn’t want to get the shot. According to the Citi Field employee, Elissa Embree, she hasn’t been vaccinated because she had two miscarriages and is worried that the vaccine could possibly increase her risk for another.

“I’m not as important as a Met is, because a Met will fill Citi Field, which fills the coffers of New York,” Embree said in the article. “They don’t care about little ol’ me, who pays middle-class taxes. The elusive ‘they’ don’t care that I have been out of work and that I have been at my breaking point.”

While the CDC states that there is no definitive evidence showing that the COVID-19 vaccine causes any such fertility problems, her overall frustration with the franchise echoes the remarks of numerous other NYC workers who have been pushed out of their job due to the mandate.

Presently, more than 1,400 NYC municipal workers lost their jobs for refusing to take the vaccine.

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