John Harper

San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees in the second inning at Oracle Park. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)
San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees in the second inning at Oracle Park. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)

Let the Madison Bumgarner sweepstakes begin in earnest after the Giants' lefty delivered the most compelling reason this season to believe that he can still be an October difference-maker for any number of teams, the Yankees obviously being one of them. 

More than ever the belief around baseball is the Giants are going to trade Bumgarner come July to kick off a needed rebuild. The question for weeks has been how much teams would be willing to give up as his stuff seemed diminished by age and two injury-plagued seasons.

Against the Braves on Thursday afternoon, however, Bumgarner's fastball, cutter, and curveball were crisp enough to produce 17 swings-and-misses, his highest such total since September of 2016, when he was a few weeks away from slamming the door shut on the Mets' postseason with a four-hit shutout in the wild-card game.

Tags: James Paxton, Luis Severino, John Harper
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Pete Alonso fell behind in the count, 0-2, in the eighth inning Tuesday night, fouling off and then swinging through high fastballs at 98 mph, so the power vs. power showdown seemed to favor Tanner Rainey, a 26-year old rookie called up from the minors a few days ago.

As a National League scout said Wednesday, "I wouldn't have bet on Alonso at that point. Lately he's been getting pitched tougher and he's been chasing up in the zone a little more, which is normal for a young guy when he goes through his first rough patch.

"But I'll tell you, the more I see of him, the more impressed I am -- especially in a big spot. He's hit a lot of big home runs in the late innings, and after a while you start to think it's not an accident."

Tags: Pete Alonso, John Harper
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May 17, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) reacts in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports (Steve Mitchell)
May 17, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) reacts in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports (Steve Mitchell)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter | : Benching Robinson Cano against the Marlins on Saturday wouldn't be a cure for everything that is wrong with the Mets these days, not even close. 

But for a manager whose neck is on the line it might be the only way he can make a statement that he's going to demand better from one of his so-called leaders. At the very least it would be an indication Callaway is willing to make his players accountable rather than always telling them everything will be all right. 

Above all, it would be an acknowledgement that these Mets are at a crisis point in this season already, and he's not going to just sit around waiting to get fired.

Tags: Miami Marlins, Robinson Cano, John Harper
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May 13, 2019; Farmingdale, NY, USA; Tiger Woods on the ninth green during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bethpage State Park - Black Course. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports (Peter Casey)
May 13, 2019; Farmingdale, NY, USA; Tiger Woods on the ninth green during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bethpage State Park - Black Course. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports (Peter Casey)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The roars from Bethpage Park on Thursday are bound to be loud enough to resonate all over Long Island. Heck, they might even be loud enough to make you think Zion Williamson announced he's pulling an Eli Manning, declaring it's New York or bust. The Draft Lottery be damned.

If only.

Yes, sometimes it seems that sports bring nothing but bad news for New York anymore. What do we have to do to claim a "W" these days, nevermind end this ongoing championship drought of our various pro teams?

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New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu is congratulated in the dugout as he scores a run during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu is congratulated in the dugout as he scores a run during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Gio Urshela, the surprise star of this season, may personify the success of the next-man-up Yankees, but even with all of his big hits, he's not the team MVP to this point. D.J. LeMahieu owns that unofficial title, so clutch and consistent that his play prompts an intriguing question:

Could a non-slugger win the AL MVP Award in this launch-angle era when the only way most hitters even consider beating the infield shift is by going over it -- way over it?

Tags: Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, John Harper
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May 10, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) is greeted at home plate by catcher Wilson Ramos (40) and center fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) and right fielder Michael Conforto (30) after hitting a grand slam home run against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
May 10, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario (1) is greeted at home plate by catcher Wilson Ramos (40) and center fielder Brandon Nimmo (9) and right fielder Michael Conforto (30) after hitting a grand slam home run against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter | : It was billed as a four-team horse race that anybody could win, perhaps the most competitive division in the Majors this season. But as the contenders reach the quarter-pole this weekend, the NL East is hardly living up to the hype.

The race could still go to the wire, but with only the first-place Phillies over .500 as of Saturday, the division is certainly weaker than expected, with the Mets, Braves, and especially the Nationals all playing less-than-scintillating baseball.

Bad bullpens have been the common denominator -- though the Phillies' pen has been much-improved lately -- leaving open the possibility one of these teams takes the leap to sign Craig Kimbrel.

Tags: Atlanta Braves, Jeurys Familia, Miami Marlins, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Philadelphia Phillies, Robinson Cano, Washington Nationals, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Brodie Van Wagenen
Brodie Van Wagenen

Two weeks ago the Mets seemed to have no need for Jed Lowrie. No room, either. Now, suddenly, with the free-agent infielder finally ready to play, his new team is hoping desperately he can provide exactly the type of offensive spark Brodie Van Wagenen had in mind when he signed him.

For that matter, as badly as the slumping Mets need Lowrie to deliver offensively, it's fair to say Van Wagenen might need it even more.

There is plenty of blame to spread around, obviously, as this team has fallen off a cliff in going 4-10 over the last couple of weeks, beset by problems in all phases of the game.

Tags: Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Diaz, Jeff McNeil, Jeurys Familia, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, John Harper
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Yankees LHP Zack Britton (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
Yankees LHP Zack Britton (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees didn't flex their financial muscles in the most obvious way last winter, passing on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but they nevertheless bought themselves a luxury item that few other teams in baseball can afford:

A $27 million sixth-inning reliever.

And a $39 million seventh-inning reliever, oh by the way.

Tags: Aroldis Chapman, Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, Dellin Betances, Jonathan Holder, Luis Cessa, Luke Voit, Seattle Mariners, John Harper
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Apr 30, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) hits a game winning walkoff sacrifice fly against the Cincinnati Reds during the tenth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Apr 30, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) hits a game winning walkoff sacrifice fly against the Cincinnati Reds during the tenth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Even as his bat has cooled a bit, the raves keep coming for Pete Alonso as he continues to make believers throughout the baseball community, not only with his missile-launches but also his advanced approach at the plate that makes him much more than an all-or-nothing slugger.

That rare combination earned him recognition last week as the National League's Rookie of the Month for April, as well as comparisons via the MLB Network to the likes of Mark McGwire, Buster Posey, and Justin Turner.

Tags: Pete Alonso, John Harper
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May 1, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) throws the ball against theCincinnati Reds in the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports  (Noah K. Murray)
May 1, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) throws the ball against theCincinnati Reds in the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

On most any other night it would have felt like the sky was falling at Citi Field. A day that began with the news of Jeurys Familia going on the 10-day IL with a bone spur ended with their not-so-bulletproof closer, Edwin Diaz, giving up a game-losing home run for the second time in three nights.

Suddenly the bullpen problems that forever seem to haunt this franchise are back again, to the point where exasperated Mets fans are ready to take up a collection if it will convince the team to sign Craig Kimbrel, the still-available All-Star closer.

And yet if anything could calm the chaos it was the sight of Jacob deGrom taking the mound against the Reds and reclaiming the dominance that flat disappeared for three starts in as stunning a slump as you'll ever see.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, Jason Vargas, Jeurys Familia, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees in the second inning at Oracle Park. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)
San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees in the second inning at Oracle Park. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

So Gio Gonzalez is a Milwaukee Brewer, finally, and it appears that Dallas Keuchel's asking price would still have to drop considerably for either the Yankees or Mets to consider signing him.

Yet it's a good bet that both local teams will be in the market for another starting pitcher come the July 31 trade deadline.

Tags: Clint Frazier, Domingo German, Edwin Diaz, J.A. Happ, Jacob deGrom, Jason Vargas, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard, Robinson Cano, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees in the second inning at Oracle Park. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)
San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees in the second inning at Oracle Park. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

So Gio Gonzalez is a Milwaukee Brewer, finally, and it appears that Dallas Keuchel's asking price would still have to drop considerably for either the Mets or Yankees to consider signing him.

Yet it's a good bet that both local teams will be in the market for another starting pitcher come the July 31 trade deadline.

Tags: Clint Frazier, Domingo German, Edwin Diaz, J.A. Happ, Jacob deGrom, Jason Vargas, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard, Robinson Cano, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Feb 23, 2019; Fort Myers, FL, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman being interviewed prior to the game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports (Douglas DeFelice)
Feb 23, 2019; Fort Myers, FL, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman being interviewed prior to the game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports (Douglas DeFelice)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

It was past midnight, Wednesday p.m. into Thursday a.m., and the Yankees hadn't begun their comeback in Anaheim yet that would lift them to a sixth straight victory, as they are defying all odds with a lineup that GM Brian Cashman calls "our 'B' Bombers."

Not as in Baby Bombers, of course, but rather Plan B.

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, CC Sabathia, Clint Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton, Tyler Wade, John Harper
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Apr 22, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) argues a strike call and is ejected by home plate umpire Mark Carlson against the New York Mets during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)
Apr 22, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper (3) argues a strike call and is ejected by home plate umpire Mark Carlson against the New York Mets during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Bryce Harper's first ejection as a Philadelphia Phillie worked out nicely for the Mets, allowing them to deal with someone named Roman Quinn for two potentially important at-bats instead in a 5-1 win.

But in the long run it might have been a night the Phillies will remember as a tone-setter for the season and, to some degree, the Harper era, after Jake Arrieta called out the $330 million man for getting tossed, and basically said it's time he grows up.

Tags: Bryce Harper, John Harper
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Apr 17, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil (6) hits a single during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports (Bill Streicher)
Apr 17, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil (6) hits a single during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports (Bill Streicher)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

As Jeff McNeil is already making it clear that last year was no fluke, that he's going to hit in the big leagues, and probably for a long time, he's become a favorite topic of conversation among scouts.

Part of it is his throwback approach, choking up on a knob-less bat, making contact to all fields, which appeals to the purist nature of scouts who for the most part have disdain for the home run-or-strike out style that is so prevalent in today's game.

Tags: Jeff McNeil, Todd Frazier, John Harper
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Mar 28, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) throws to the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Mar 28, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) throws to the Washington Nationals during the fourth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

There was bound to be panic among Mets fans, no matter how the news was delivered that Jacob deGrom was going to get an MRI, but in retrospect it sure seemed the ballclub raised the panic level higher than necessary with what appeared to be some level of miscommunication.

After all, how could anyone not think the worst when Mickey Callaway announced Friday afternoon that deGrom was being scratched from his Saturday start, and heading back to New York for an MRI on his elbow -- immediately, it seemed.

Over the next hour or so, however, Brodie Van Wagenen released a statement providing important context, saying deGrom felt better after getting treatment from the medical staff on Friday, and wouldn't be getting that MRI until Monday, while staying with the team in St. Louis for the weekend series against the Cardinals.

Tags: Jacob deGrom, John Harper
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 (Adam Hunger)
(Adam Hunger)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter | : By the time the clubhouse opened to the media, some 20 minutes after the Yankees finished off a kick-em-while-they're-down sweep of the Red Sox, the place looked and smelled like the aftermath of a Fourth of July fireworks show.

Turns out it was the aftermath of a dance party instead, complete with a fog machine and strobe lights, which apparently has become the Yankees' standard post-win celebration in this young season.

Only extra-heavy on the fog for this one.

Tags: Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, J.A. Happ, John Harper
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Brodie Van Wagenen (Matthew Cerrone, MetsBlog.com)
Brodie Van Wagenen (Matthew Cerrone, MetsBlog.com)

If the Mets are going to be this careful about protecting Edwin Diaz, refusing to use him in the highest of high-leverage eighth-inning spots Monday night against the Phillies, then there's only one way to justify such caution:

Go sign Craig Kimbrel. And do it quickly before someone else does.

It's the obvious take, I know, and it might make for a touchy situation as to who gets the ninth inning if the Mets actually were to sign him.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jeff McNeil, Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman, Robinson Cano, Seth Lugo, John Harper
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 (Rob Schumacher)
(Rob Schumacher)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

As someone who was forced to retire from his sport while still an elite athlete due to spine-related injuries, few people in the universe could relate to Tiger Woods' winning the Masters on Sunday quite like David Wright

As such Wright had planned his Sunday afternoon/evening to make sure he was in front of his TV at home in Virginia. 

Only he hadn't planned on the tournament organizers moving tee times up several hours to avoid late-day rain. So as Tiger was teeing off at 9:20 a.m., Wright and his wife, Molly, were getting ready to take their two young daughters to see Paw Patrol Live, a sold-out event the girls had been talking about for weeks. 

Tags: David Wright, John Harper
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Pete Alonso (SNY)
Pete Alonso (SNY)

Pete Alonso's cruise missile in Atlanta Thursday night was the talk of the baseball world for a couple of days, from Bobby Valentine comparing it to the "most incredible" home run he ever saw Mike Piazza hit, to a scout saying "I think it might have landed in Augusta" if the ball hadn't splashed into the scenic water-backdrop high above the center field wall.

For Mets scouting director Tommy Tanous, however, it was nothing new, even if it did result in a barrage of some 30 text messages on his phone while he was scouting a high school game in Florida.

"My phone blew up from my area scouts," Tanous said Friday. "We get excited when one of our guys does something like that. I saw it later on the highlights, and it was quite a shot, but I've seen it before. I saw him hit them like that in college. He's a scary dude."

Tags: Pete Alonso, John Harper
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Apr 4, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; New York Yankees pitcher James Paxton (65) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports (Mitch Stringer)
Apr 4, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; New York Yankees pitcher James Paxton (65) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports (Mitch Stringer)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

While predicting greatness for James Paxton in the Bronx, John Smoltz offered high praise that Yankee fans actually might find insulting on Wednesday.

Paxton failed to get out of the fifth inning against the Astros on Wednesday night in Houston, in what was his first big start for his new team. And Smoltz' comments came hours before the lefty gave up five runs in 4.1 innings, as the Astros completed a three-game sweep of the Yankees.

Tags: James Paxton, John Harper
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Luis Severino
Luis Severino

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Brian Cashman has been talking up Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Luis Cessa collectively as the under-the-radar cure for everything that ails the Yankees pitching plans. Well, now we'll find out whether he really believes that.

Or is the Yankee GM already plotting a way to trade for Madison Bumgarner?

Tags: Domingo German, Luis Cessa, Luis Severino, John Harper
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New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway takes out pitcher Zack Wheeler in the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. (Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway takes out pitcher Zack Wheeler in the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. (Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports)

There are ways to explain away Zack Wheeler's disappointing start to his season, from getting "fastball-happy" in his first outing to being a bit out of whack mechanically at home Sunday, when he walked the ballpark.

Furthermore, there were just enough good innings amidst the wreckage, featuring an electric fastball and solid secondary stuff, to believe that Wheeler could right himself quickly and begin living up to the high expectations he created with his spectacular second half in 2018.

But as an NL scout who was at Citi Field on Sunday said, when I asked him on Monday to evaluate Wheeler's latest start:

Tags: Wilson Ramos, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Mar 28, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) walks back to the mound after surrendering a two-run home run to Seattle Mariners shortstop Tim Beckham (background) during the third inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports (Joe Nicholson)
Mar 28, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) walks back to the mound after surrendering a two-run home run to Seattle Mariners shortstop Tim Beckham (background) during the third inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports (Joe Nicholson)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

A week into the season, the Yankees are decimated by injuries, not hitting much, and their intimidating closer doesn't look quite so intimidating.

Yet, compared to the Red Sox, they're having the March/April of their dreams.

Tags: Didi Gregorius, Luis Severino, Miguel Andujar, John Harper
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Apr 4, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) pitches against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Apr 4, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) pitches against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

On a day when he allowed but one hit over six innings and took a loss against the Nationals only because his sleep-deprived teammates couldn't muster any offense, Noah Syndergaard nevertheless sounded downright exasperated that he can't find the feel for his slider.

As in his once-unhittable slider, the pitch that could take him back to the top of the mountain among major league starting pitchers, right there with Jacob deGrom

Syndergaard even referenced a specific slider, and a rather famous one, that he threw in Kansas City three years ago at a seemingly unthinkable velocity, convincing everyone who saw it that he had multiple Cy Young Awards in his future.

Tags: Noah Syndergaard, John Harper
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FreeAgent_Treated
FreeAgent_Treated

On a day when 21-year old Ronald Acuna Jr. became the youngest player ever to sign a $100 million contract, as major league teams continue doling out piles of money in unprecedented fashion, a veteran of baseball's labor wars nevertheless saw the trend as a triumph for the owners.

Ex-Met and Yankee David Cone, in fact, pointedly recalled a speech that Curt Flood -- the pioneer of free agency -- gave to a subsequent generation of players in the 1990s that ultimately would go on strike in 1994, forcing the cancelation of the World Series that year.

"Curt told us back then, 'don't let them put the genie back in the bottle,'" Cone recalled at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. "That was his quote. And I have to say, they're getting it back in a little bit. She's got a couple of legs back in the bottle."

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FreeAgent_Treated
FreeAgent_Treated

On a day when 21-year old Ronald Acuna Jr. became the youngest player ever to sign a $100 million contract, as major league teams continue doling out piles of money in unprecedented fashion, a veteran of baseball's labor wars nevertheless saw the trend as a triumph for the owners.

Ex-Met and Yankee David Cone, in fact, pointedly recalled a speech that Curt Flood -- the pioneer of free agency -- gave to a subsequent generation of players in the 1990s that ultimately would go on strike in 1994, forcing the cancelation of the World Series that year.

"Curt told us back then, 'don't let them put the genie back in the bottle,'" Cone recalled at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. "That was his quote. And I have to say, they're getting it back in a little bit. She's got a couple of legs back in the bottle."

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Mar 28, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) is congratulated by left fielder Michael Conforto (30) after hitting a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Mar 28, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) is congratulated by left fielder Michael Conforto (30) after hitting a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

MGM National Harbor Hotel and Casino is only about 10 miles from downtown Washington D.C., and, well, you'd have to think Brodie Van Wagenen was at least tempted to take a cab ride Thursday night and hit the gaming tables.

When you're hot, you're hot, right?

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, Robinson Cano, John Harper
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Mar 28, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) is congratulated by left fielder Michael Conforto (30) after hitting a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)
Mar 28, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) is congratulated by left fielder Michael Conforto (30) after hitting a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Mills)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

MGM National Harbor Hotel and Casino is only about 10 miles from downtown Washington D.C., and, well, you'd have to think Brodie Van Wagenen was at least tempted to take a cab ride Thursday night and hit the gaming tables.

When you're hot, you're hot, right?

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, Robinson Cano, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter | : Since 2017, the American League could make the claim of having the best three teams in baseball: the Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees. Two of them have won championships, and, well, it almost feels inevitable the third will cash in this season.

Yes, I realize it's not a terribly bold prediction picking the Yankees, but the talent gap between the haves and have-nots is so great in baseball these days that I couldn't find a surprise pick I could sell as believable.

I do have the Nationals finally breaking through in October, minus Bryce Harper, and I actually considered predicting a Subway Series, after scouts came away impressed with the Mets in Spring Training.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Jacob deGrom, James Paxton, Jason Vargas, Jeff McNeil, Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard, Peter Alonso, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter | : Since 2017, the American League could make the claim of having the best three teams in baseball: the Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees. Two of them have won championships, and, well, it almost feels inevitable the third will cash in this season.

Yes, I realize it's not a terribly bold prediction picking the Yankees, but the talent gap between the haves and have-nots is so great in baseball these days that I couldn't find a surprise pick I could sell as believable.

I do have the Nationals finally breaking through in October, minus Bryce Harper, and I actually considered predicting a Subway Series, after scouts came away impressed with the Mets in Spring Training.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Jacob deGrom, James Paxton, Jason Vargas, Jeff McNeil, Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard, Peter Alonso, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Aug 28, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) smiles during the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports (Patrick Gorski)
Aug 28, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) smiles during the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports (Patrick Gorski)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The story wasn't going to go away, even if the two sides had wound up tabling negotiations until next off-season. 

Because regardless of whether the Mets could make a case that it was good business to wait on Jacob deGrom's contract extension, Brodie Van Wagenen's player-first mantra was going to ring hollow if they didn't "pay the man, already," as Noah Syndergaard demanded on Sunday. 

So if Syndergaard's commentary was the proof the organization needed to fully understand all of this, well, good for him. 

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, John Harper
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Jacob deGrom and Brodie Van Wagenen
Jacob deGrom and Brodie Van Wagenen

All along, Brodie Van Wagenen and Mets ownership had to know this Jacob deGrom contract impasse could explode into a firestorm with the potential for clubhouse reverberations.

Maybe they weren't counting on contract extensions becoming all the rage throughout Major League Baseball this spring, making the Mets look as if they're behind the curve in dealing with not only deGrom but other core players such as Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler.

At the very least, however, they should have known how intently deGrom's teammates would be watching to see if he got the extension he wants and deserves.

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, John Harper
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New York Mets left fielder Michael Conforto connects for a two-run homer against the Miami Marlins during a spring training game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets left fielder Michael Conforto connects for a two-run homer against the Miami Marlins during a spring training game at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Fearing that free agency might never be quite the golden goose it was before analytics seemingly devalued just about everyone this side of Mike Trout, MLB players are suddenly signing team-friendly contract extensions faster than Brandon Nimmo runs to first base on a walk.

So why haven't the Mets taken advantage of the opportunity?

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Jacob deGrom, Luis Severino, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Mar 18, 2019; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a two run triple during the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)
Mar 18, 2019; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a two run triple during the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)

So now we know Mike Trout, baseball's first $400 million man, almost certainly won't ever be bringing his talents to the Bronx, and in a sort-of-related matter, Aaron Judge is currently sporting a rather insane 1.061 slugging percentage in the Grapefruit League, hitting extra-base rockets all over Florida. 

How is it related? Well, with Trout agreeing to a 12-year, $430 million contract extension with the Angels, it's only natural to ask: when do the Yankees lock up Judge?

I'd say the sooner the better, before he wins the AL MVP award in 2019 and his price begins to climb toward Trout territory.

Tags: Aaron Judge, John Harper
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Jacob deGrom (48) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Jacob deGrom (48) Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

The idea of a five-man starting rotation for the ages, as predicted by John Smoltz, among others, is but a memory now, with Matt Harvey gone and Steven Matz more mediocre than elite since his rookie season.

But the Mets might still have the best Big Three in baseball, if Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard all pitch with the dominance expected of them. 

How far can that take them? Pretty darn far, if their history is any indication.

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred gestures while speaking during a Major League Baseball owners meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) (Ben Margot/AP)
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred gestures while speaking during a Major League Baseball owners meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) (Ben Margot/AP)

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's desire for more action and less dead time in baseball is at the heart of the rules changes that were announced on Thursday, and with that in mind, here are the three I believe are most noteworthy:

1) The three-batter minimum for relievers, which goes into effect in 2020, and makes for intriguing strategy decisions as well as fewer late-inning pitching changes.

2) A 28-man September roster, as of 2020, which will finally bring an end to the ridiculous practice of essentially having unlimited substitutions in the final month of the season.

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Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred gestures while speaking during a Major League Baseball owners meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) (Ben Margot/AP)
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred gestures while speaking during a Major League Baseball owners meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) (Ben Margot/AP)

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's desire for more action and less dead time in baseball is at the heart of the rules changes that were announced on Thursday, and with that in mind, here are the three I believe are most noteworthy:

1) The three-batter minimum for relievers, which goes into effect in 2020, and makes for intriguing strategy decisions as well as fewer late-inning pitching changes.

2) A 28-man September roster, as of 2020, which will finally bring an end to the ridiculous practice of essentially having unlimited substitutions in the final month of the season.

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Best of Tim Tebow 00:01:02
Tim Tebow is done with Spring Training at the Major League level. It was definitely an eventful spring for the outfielder.

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Two-plus years into the Tim Tebow experience -- or is it experiment? -- the outfielder's most notable accomplishment in baseball circles has been turning widespread cynicism about his motives into blanket appreciation for his commitment.

After all, the former Heisman Trophy winner, and now TV star/football god in SEC country, has ridden minor-league buses all over the eastern half of the country for two seasons, making only incremental progress toward prospect status, and still Tebow perseveres.

And so even notoriously hard-bitten major-league scouts preface their harsh analysis of the player with praise for the person.

Tags: Tim Tebow, John Harper
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Feb 25, 2019; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; New York Mets shortstop Andres Gimenez (72) plays the field during a spring training game against the Houston Astros at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports (Jasen Vinlove)
Feb 25, 2019; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; New York Mets shortstop Andres Gimenez (72) plays the field during a spring training game against the Houston Astros at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports (Jasen Vinlove)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Andres Gimenez ranged deep and far to his left, well into the outfield grass to field Gabriel Guerrero's hard-hit ground ball, and then with quick feet and a strong arm he made a difficult play look remarkably easy.

So much so that I felt compelled to text a scout who was at Friday's Mets-Marlins game in Port St. Lucie and ask for a comp:

Tags: Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Robinson Cano, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Tom Seaver is the living, breathing embodiment of the 1969 Miracle Mets, so the news that he has dementia is bound to cast a pall over this summer's 50th anniversary celebration of that championship team.

The Hall of Fame pitcher won't be able to attend the ceremony at Citi Field, and while the Mets on Thursday said they plan to honor him in his absence, there's no way to avoid the sense of sadness that prevails when the one guy everyone wants to see will be missing.

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Is Gio a good fit for Yankees? 00:00:41
Andy Martino argues that Gio Gonzalez is not the right pitcher the Yankees need to replace CC Sabathia or Luis Severino to start the season.

On a day when Brian Cashman addressed the Yankees' first mini-crisis of the year, I thought it was revealing that he left the door open to acquiring another pitcher, even as he made a point of expressing confidence in his depth.

"I can't rule anything out," he told reporters in Tampa, "but the main focus is what we've got."

That could just be his way of saying he'll only jump in on Dallas Keuchel or Gio Gonzalez, the two most attractive unsigned free-agent pitchers, if their price falls to a bargain level...

Tags: CC Sabathia, J.A. Happ, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, John Harper
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Two-man race heats up for Mets 00:01:17
Both Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith are having good springs, so the question becomes a little bit tougher, who makes the Opening Day roster?

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Dominic Smith is the feel-good story in Mets' camp, hitting ropes to all fields and so far making the case the Sandy Alderson regime gave up on him too quickly, sticking him in the outfield mostly so Wilmer Flores could play first base.

Meanwhile, Pete Alonso -- not Peter -- is the guy whose at-bats are must-watch moments in Port St. Lucie. He hits the highest, most majestic home runs since Darryl Strawberry was launching moon-scrapers (or hitting the roof in Montreal on occasion) as anticipation builds for the rookie's arrival in New York.

Tags: Dominic Smith, Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Pete Alonso, John Harper
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New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird doubles during the third inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird doubles during the third inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Dominic Smith is the feel-good story in Mets' camp, hitting ropes to all fields and so far making the case the Sandy Alderson regime gave up on him too quickly, sticking him in the outfield mostly so Wilmer Flores could play first base.

Meanwhile, Pete Alonso -- not Peter -- is the guy whose at-bats are must-watch moments in Port St. Lucie. He hits the highest, most majestic home runs since Darryl Strawberry was launching moon-scrapers (or hitting the roof in Montreal on occasion) as anticipation builds for the rookie's arrival in New York.

Tags: Dominic Smith, Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Pete Alonso, John Harper
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Jul 31, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) runs home to score on first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) first inning single against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)
Jul 31, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) runs home to score on first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) first inning single against the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)

Within an hour of the news the Bryce Harper saga was finally over, a gambling website, BetOnline.ag, sent out an email offering updated odds on the state of the NL East, essentially declaring the Phillies as heavy favorites to win the division.

With Harper on board, signing a 13-year, $330 million contract, the site's odds on the Phillies winning the NL East went from 2-1, a number that already made them co-favorites with the Nationals, to 5-4, or practically an even bet. 

That feels like way too much of an overreaction, especially in a division with four legitimate contenders, including the Mets. 

Tags: Bryce Harper, Edwin Diaz, Peter Alonso, Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos, John Harper
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 (Adam Hunger)
(Adam Hunger)

PORT ST. LUCIE - At his locker, Zack Wheeler is talking about his impending free agency, but don't get the wrong idea. He might be the hungriest guy in the room, having been forced to watch at home in Georgia, recovering from Tommy John surgery, when the Mets made their surprise run to the 2015 World Series.

He wasn't even back for the late-season surge in 2016 that netted a wild-card berth.

"I've never won, so I really want to win," Wheeler was saying. "And I want to do it with these guys. Our pitching has been talked up for so long now, I just want to do it and have some fun. Winning in New York, you can't beat it."

Tags: Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Brodie Van Wagenen (Matthew Cerrone, MetsBlog.com)
Brodie Van Wagenen (Matthew Cerrone, MetsBlog.com)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter | : PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A couple of hours after Todd Frazier had officially joined Jed Lowrie as an early injury casualty, GM Brodie Van Wagenen stood in the sun, Ray Bans on, making the case to reporters that he'd essentially accounted for just this possibility.

"This was part of the design," he said, "to make sure we had versatility and depth to cover whatever comes our way."

That's certainly one way of looking at it, and indeed the new GM made a point of addressing depth this offseason to protect against injuries in ways the Mets had not the last couple of years.

Tags: Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Todd Frazier, John Harper
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New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard poses for a photo on photo day at First Data Field. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard poses for a photo on photo day at First Data Field. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

West Palm Beach, Fla. -- Scouts wondered why Noah Syndergaard was trying to turn himself into more of a sinkerballer last year than a flamethrower capable of blowing hitters away with high heat?

Now, Syndergaard admitted he's on a mission to be more of a true power pitcher again in 2019.

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Feb 21, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) poses for a photo on photo day at George M Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Feb 21, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) poses for a photo on photo day at George M Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

TAMPA, Fla. -- Nobody has created more buzz early in Yankees camp than Adam Ottavino. Aaron Judge singled him out as the one free agent he was most pumped to see his team sign. Hitters whiffing against him in a simulated game a few days ago spoke as if they'd never seen a nastier slider.

And manager Aaron Boone only half-kiddingly said hitters are sometimes more relieved to be done with an at-bat against Ottavino than ticked off after a strikeout because his slider is such a wicked pitch.

Tags: Adam Ottavino, John Harper
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Feb 14, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Feb 14, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

TAMPA, Fla. -- So why didn't the Yankees sign Manny Machado?

On Friday, GM Brian Cashman answered that question in detail for the first time, speaking for some 30 minutes to reporters on the field here during a workout at about the same time Machado was being introduced in San Diego.

Through all the verbiage, he made perhaps three most significant points:

Tags: Troy Tulowitzki, John Harper
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