John Harper

New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith hits a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning at Citi Field. (Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith hits a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning at Citi Field. (Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

First things first: I wouldn't trade Dominic Smith.

I love his bat and he's looking surprisingly comfortable in left field, to the point where I don't think he'd be a liability even as an everyday player in that spot. 

Tags: Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, John Harper
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Sep 30, 2018; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) walks off the field after speaking with an umpire in the third inning against the Houston Astros at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)
Sep 30, 2018; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) walks off the field after speaking with an umpire in the third inning against the Houston Astros at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

After Travis d'Arnaud had stunned Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees on the greatest night of his baseball life, the type of night the Mets gave up on waiting for, Buck Showalter had an interesting take that served as a reminder he's available to manage next season. 

In Queens, perhaps? 

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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)

Now that Brodie Van Wagenen has made his concession speech, admitting that his "come get us" bravado resulted in "they came and got us," the Mets can officially move on to the brainstorming portion of the schedule.

That is, everything they do over the final two and a half months should be with a vision of 2020 and beyond in mind, rather than trying to squeeze the most possible wins out of a lost season. 

Mostly that means getting answers to as many questions about the future of this team as possible. I'd start with these 10: 

Tags: Amed Rosario, Anthony Kay, Dominic Smith, Jason Vargas, Jeff McNeil, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Seth Lugo, Todd Frazier, Wilson Ramos, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Jun 28, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) is congratulated after hitting a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)
Jun 28, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) is congratulated after hitting a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

In making calls for a Wilson Ramos column last week, I heard a comment from a scout that in some ways summed up Brodie Van Wagenen's misguided attempt at assembling a win-now team in his first attempt as a GM.

"The Mets need to figure out who they are," the scout said.

He explained that for a team that believed its strength was a dominant starting rotation, the Mets needed a defense-first catcher who could enhance the abilities of the starting pitchers -- not a defensive liability like Ramos.

Tags: Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, Jason Vargas, Jeff McNeil, Jeurys Familia, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Steven Matz, Todd Frazier, Wilson Ramos, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Jun 19, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) and New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) score in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)
Jun 19, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) and New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) score in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

It seems hard to believe now, with the Yankees on a pace to win 105 games, that they lost series to the Orioles, Tigers, and White Sox in getting off to a 6-9 start amidst fears that injuries might wreck their season before Memorial Day.

Since then they've gone a mere 51-22 to establish themselves as the best team in the American League, getting unexpected contributions from the Urshelas, Tauchmans and Maybins of the baseball world that have made this more of a feel-good season than seemed possible with such huge expectations.

As such, any midterm review has to start with GM Brian Cashman, who created all this depth and versatility, as well as the most formidable bullpen in baseball, partly by spreading the Yankee money around on the likes of D.J. Lemahieu, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and others, rather than going all-in on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, J.A. Happ, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Luke Voit, Miguel Andujar, John Harper
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Jun 26, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a single against the Toronto Blue Jays in the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
		
		 (Noah K. Murray)
Jun 26, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) hits a single against the Toronto Blue Jays in the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Back in March I picked the Yankees to win the World Series against the Nationals, and thanks largely to Max Scherzer's spectacular June, broken nose and all, I've still got a chance to be right on both ends, as the Nats have come storming back from the dead.

In truth, as the season reaches the All-Star break, a Yankees-Dodgers World Series looks more realistic, and that would be great for baseball -- two glamorous franchises renewing October hostilities for the first time since 1981.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Jun 20, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) celebrates with second baseman Jeff McNeil (6) after hitting two run home run against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports (Kamil Krzaczynski)
Jun 20, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) celebrates with second baseman Jeff McNeil (6) after hitting two run home run against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports (Kamil Krzaczynski)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Back in March I picked the Yankees to win the World Series against the Nationals, and thanks largely to Max Scherzer's spectacular June, broken nose and all, I've still got a chance to be right on both ends, as the Nats have come storming back from the dead.

In truth, as the season reaches the All-Star break, a Yankees-Dodgers World Series looks more realistic, and that would be great for baseball -- two glamorous franchises renewing October hostilities for the first time since 1981.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, John Harper
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New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Citi Field. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Citi Field. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

If the Mets decide to trade Zack Wheeler in the coming weeks, which seems very possible, they'd want to make a deal similar to the one when they acquired him originally, back in July 2011 for free agent-to-be Carlos Beltran.

Tags: Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Jun 8, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets catcher Wilson Ramos (40) in the dugout prior to the game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)
Jun 8, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets catcher Wilson Ramos (40) in the dugout prior to the game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Mets might be prepared to deal Zack Wheeler this month, but their priority at the trade deadline ought to be trying to undo their mistake of signing Wilson Ramos last winter by finding a team that will take him off their hands.

Ramos has been worse than expected defensively, more immobile than the Mets imagined when they signed him to a two-year, $19 million contract after first trying to trade for J.T. Realmuto, and then deeming free agent Yasmani Grandal too expensive.

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Wilson Ramos, John Harper
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May 1, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Edwin Diaz (39) reacts after giving up a home run in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds 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 relief pitcher Edwin Diaz (39) reacts after giving up a home run in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The two worst pitches Edwin Diaz threw in his ninth-inning meltdown on Thursday were 0-2 fastballs that missed their intended location badly, leading to a home run and a double by Maikel Franco and Scott Kingery, respectively.

In some ways that glaring absence of fastball command seemed to sum up the saga of Diaz, a phenomenal young closer for the 2018 Mariners who has been anything but automatic in his first year with the Mets.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, John Harper
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 (Adam Hunger)
(Adam Hunger)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

You can hear it in Brian Cashman's voice. He feels as if he has been defending his belief in Gary Sanchez forever, going all the way back to the day 10 years ago when the Yankees signed him as a chubby 16-year old.

So the GM can get a little worked up if you ask about his catcher, especially these days as Sanchez has rebounded from his sub-par 2018 season in a big way, sitting second in the American League in home runs and playing defense at an All-Star level.

Best catcher in baseball? Cashman reaches to find even higher praise, in a general sense, invoking the "U" word that in recent years was more commonly associated with one Kristaps Porzingis.

Tags: Gary Sanchez, John Harper
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May 21, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) watches play against the Washington Nationals from the dugout at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)
May 21, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) watches play against the Washington Nationals from the dugout at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

As bad as it got for the Mets on Monday, a night when they desperately needed to change the Mickey Callaway conversation, the outcome against the Phillies might have been different if they weren't so stubborn about hitting Robinson Cano third in the lineup.

In truth, based strictly on performance, Cano shouldn't be playing at all, considering the Mets have a guy hitting .339 whose natural position is second base.

If only management trusted what it had seen from Jeff McNeil over three months last year, then maybe the Mets wouldn't be in this bind, hoping against hope that Cano isn't as over-the-hill as he has looked so far in 2019.

Tags: Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, John Harper
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New York City, NY, USA; General view of Citi Field between the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
New York City, NY, USA; General view of Citi Field between the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

It sounds new and innovative. In addition to a newly promoted pitching coach and a bullpen coach, the Mets have added a "pitching strategist," to quote Brodie Van Wagenen, to individualize game plans every day for every pitcher, based on the latest in analytical trends and information.

However, according to multiple sources, it's not really all that new either in baseball or the Mets' organization. 

Two sources, in fact, said that previous pitching coaches Dan Warthen and Rick Peterson, whose tenures spanned the period of 2003-2017, both did such work, using video and analytics, as part of their job. 

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Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The public obsession with adding an elite starting pitcher isn't going away until a deal gets done at some point, but it shouldn't overshadow the magnificence of what the Yankees are doing these days, playing at a remarkably high level in all areas of the game. 

Consider that while winning six straight games they've outscored their opponents by a whopping 47-17, with the last four of those games against the Rays and the Astros. 

And to think, Giancarlo Stanton has barely been a factor yet since returning earlier this week, and now Aaron Judge is back as well, beginning Friday night. That plus newly-acquired Edwin Encarnacion riding shotgun for the big boys and, oh by the way, Gary Sanchez slugging at an MVP-level once again.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Chad Green, Dellin Betances, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, John Harper
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New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom pitches during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. (Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom pitches during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. (Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

After an ugly loss in which their all-too obvious flaws were exposed, the Mets suddenly find themselves 8.5 games behind the streaking Braves, and perhaps on the precipice of another lost season.

In June. Again.

Last year they went 5-21 in June to make the rest of the season feel more like an exercise in garbage time. This month hasn't spun out of control quite yet, as the Mets are 6-9 as of Tuesday. But at 34-38 they are only a few games better than their record at this time last year.

Tags: Amed Rosario, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Wilson Ramos, 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 |

During the offseason, the Braves were the least active of the presumed four NL East contenders, seemingly to their detriment. In short, it seemed they lost the winter.

Except that doesn't matter so much considering they the best young talent in the division, including May call-up Austin Riley, Atlanta's version of Pete Alonso as a difference-making rookie slugger.

Also, when they save your best move for June, signing Dallas Keuchel to bolster the starting rotation.

Tags: Anthony Swarzak, Atlanta Braves, Bryce Harper, Dominic Smith, Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, Jason Vargas, Jeurys Familia, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Philadelphia Phillies, Robinson Cano, Washington Nationals, Wilson Ramos, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Mar 17, 2019; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Ryley Gilliam (81) delivers a pitch in the eight inning of a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports (Sam Navarro)
Mar 17, 2019; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Ryley Gilliam (81) delivers a pitch in the eight inning of a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports (Sam Navarro)

The starting rotation, healthy and being pushed to pitch deeper into games lately, still offers the possibility of carrying the Mets toward serious contention. No matter what, though, the bullpen isn't deep enough, even presuming that Edwin Diaz gets his act together.

And somehow Brodie Van Wagenen needs to reinforce it.

Making a trade is the most obvious way, but there will be a limited number of quality relievers on the market, and the Mets' farm system is thin on top prospects, in part because Van Wagenen included Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn in the Diaz/Robinson Cano trade last fall.

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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 |

Only a few days after refusing to budge on Dallas Keuchel's asking price, Yankees brass had to recoil in horror watching James Paxton get lit up in the Subway Series, as a troubling question hovers over an otherwise feel-good season in the Bronx.

That is, does this team have an ace?

Paxton's left knee problem, which cost him three weeks on the Injured List, seems to be impacting the quality of his stuff, judging by his performance Tuesday night.

Tags: James Paxton, John Harper
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A general view of New York Yankees batting practice prior to the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
A general view of New York Yankees batting practice prior to the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at George M. Steinbrenner Field. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Baseball scouts are always going to have difference of opinion on amateur players, particularly at the high school level where so much of evaluation is about projecting what a kid will be in 5-10 years. But rarely is the difference as wide as it seems to be in the case of Yankees' first-round draft pick Anthony Volpe

Some scouts, as Yankees' scouting director Damon Oppenheimer noted on a conference call this week, see Volpe, a New Jersey high school shortstop, developing into an Alex Bregman or Trevor Story-type impact player in the big leagues. 

Two New Jersey-based scouts, meanwhile, told me that while they love Volpe's baseball instincts and his "hard-nosed" style of play, they don't see high-ceiling skills that teams usually look for in first-round draft picks.

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Mets first-round pick Brett Baty at 2019 MLB Draft. (Mark Flamini/SNY)
Mets first-round pick Brett Baty at 2019 MLB Draft. (Mark Flamini/SNY)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

It was after midnight when a long-time scout of amateur talent finally had a couple of minutes to get on the phone, as the first day of the MLB Draft was coming to conclusion. I wanted to talk to this guy because it was only a few days ago that he had touted Brett Baty as one of a few players he was hoping his team would select. 

"He's about as dynamic a hitter as I can remember seeing when you consider his combination of power and pure hitting ability," the scout told me then. "I think he'll be there and he'd be a great get."

Turned out Baty wasn't there when that scout's team picked, because the Mets grabbed the lefty-slugging high school third baseman from Texas with the 12th pick Monday night. 

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Edwin Diaz, Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Amidst the wreckage of Wednesday night's devastating defeat for the Mets, Pete Alonso had a spectacular night in Los Angeles, as his two home runs tied him with Mark McGwire at 19 for the most ever by a rookie before June 1.

Oh by the way, Dom Smith raised his batting average to .370 with a 3-for-5 night in his first start in left field.

Make no mistake, there is no dilemma here, at least as it applies to first base: Alonso is the real thing and should be the Mets' middle-of-the-lineup slugger for the next decade or so. He has a chance, if healthy, to someday surpass Darryl Strawberry as their all-time home run leader.

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, John Harper
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If you want a reason to believe the Mets have a big run in them over the next few months, I'm here to tell you that nobody in the majors has a better No. 4 starter than Steven Matz right now.

I know, I know, that won't mean much if Nos. 1, 2 and 3 don't raise their games to meet expectations of dominance, but presuming that Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler's best days are ahead of them this season, Matz's success could indeed prove meaningful.

In any case, the point is: Who saw this coming, anyway?

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Feb 3, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Former MLB pitcher David Cone sits court side during the game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center. Indiana Pacers won 114-100. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
		
		 (Anthony Gruppuso)
Feb 3, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Former MLB pitcher David Cone sits court side during the game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center. Indiana Pacers won 114-100. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports (Anthony Gruppuso)

It's no surprise that David Cone has become a great listen as a Yankees broadcaster. He is unique in his ability to translate analytical data -- the language of modern baseball -- in a way the average fan can appreciate, and still relish the telling of anecdotes about the human side of the game, often in self-deprecating style.

For much the same reason, Cone was a delight to cover as a player throughout his career. Indeed, he was a thinkinman's pitcher who offered great insight into his craft, but also a player with a rebellious streak who challenged authority at times, enjoyed speaking his mind, and believed a pro athlete should be accountable publicly in good times and bad.

Even if that once meant having to explain how he rather famously allowed two runs to score while arguing with an umpire about a call at first base. Yep, there was Cone at his locker that night in Atlanta some 30 years ago, sheepish grin and all, owning up to his brainlock.

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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)

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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