Never have I appreciated defense in baseball as much as I do this season.
Watching Asdrubal Cabrera – why did I know nothing about him until this year? – cavort at shortstop (and in the dugout) has been an absolute treat.
(Parenthetically, I am enjoying the mere fact of Gary Sanchez, without even having the time or psychic energy for the Yankees.)
What a fun September for both New York teams, no matter how they ultimately do in their wild-card pursuits – action every day, scoreboard-watching every day, crowding out U.S. Open tennis and soccer and any other sports that might happen to be in season.
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Saturday Update: Defense played a huge role Friday night as Mets did it again in Atlanta -- down, 4-0, winning, 6-4, with some defense from an improbable source.
Skipper Collins used Loney and Flores in logical switches and needed a first baseman in the eighth. Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez were curious who would get the call – and it was Eric Campbell, in the minors since the end of May.
Never known for defense, Campbell stopped one smash in the eighth and another smash in the ninth – “protecting the line in the late innings,” as Hernandez often says.
Campbell is a big guy out of Boston College with a nice attitude, crowded out by more talented players. He saved a game. With his glove. Will we remember those plays in October, or next year?
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Cabrera has been a revelation all year. People are saying how much José Reyes has revitalized the Mets, but in my opinion the Mets were already a better team with Cabrera at shortstop this season.
They have currently won nine of 11 after the comeback Friday. I have not seen the Mets improve so drastically on defense since 1964 (How’s that for dropping a season on you?) when Roy McMillan came over from the Braves. Suddenly, balls that got through for two-plus seasons were being handled smoothly. The Mets still finished last, but they were, finally, respectable, at times.
I never paid much attention to Cabrera in his peregrinations from Cleveland to Washington to Tampa Bay. There are lots of Cabreras and lots of shortstops. But from the first day, he has been terrific.
Recently, Cabrera he gilded his hair. Nice touch. He hits and fields and has appointed himself the greeting committee when a teammate else hits a home run, lifting the helmet off the slugger’s head.
And when it is Cabrera who hit the homer, René Rivera does the honors. Rivera is a career backup, so good defensively that he has been assigned to a quorum of starters. What a joy to watch him throw to second, call signals, take control of jittery pitchers.
Cabrera and Rivera are part of the Latinization of the Mets, a very positive sign, from players who know and respect and love the game. They are leaders the way David Wright and Michael Cuddyer were last year.
Cabrera leads his own way. He acknowledges the fans, a great idea in Big Town. In one game, he made a catch near the stands and patted the head of a kid in the first row.
In another game, he backed up Reyes on a tricky roller past third, and dove to third base, beating the runner. When Cabrera came out for the next inning, my grown son, sitting behind third, applauded, and Cabrera understood it was for him, and tipped his cap, showing all of that golden hair.
The man is not a hot dog, in ball player parlance, but he certainly is a master draftsman, with a flair.
The Mets have also improved at first base with James Loney and second with Neal Walker until his back went out. You could make the case that Reyes is better at third base than the gallant Wright.
Plus, Terry Collins, the dandy little manager, is now one of the best managers the Mets have ever had.
This team has never quit on Collins. Never. I personally quit at least twice this season. Now the Mets are winning with starters up from the minor leagues. I thank Cabrera and his dugout mates for another long and enjoyable season.
9/8/2016 08:05:33 pm
During the time that the Yankees were winning AL pennants year after year, they always talked about defensive strength up the middle--catcher, double play combination and center field.
9/9/2016 08:57:03 am
Alan, thanks, you're exactly right. The first year I covered a few Yankee games was 1960. Casey talked about Maris -- not the homers but the way he always, always, threw to the right base from RF, and the way he always, always, made the right decision on running first-to-third.
9/9/2016 03:27:44 am
And when the Mets make the playoffs my sons and I will need to set alarms for 3AM baseball here in Israel. Looking forward to another fall season without much sleep.
9/9/2016 09:00:08 am
Mendel, nice to hear from you.
9/9/2016 12:38:27 pm
Agreed that it is a comfort to have a team that fields well consistently, and it has been a key part of what has kept them close an allowed them to make a run, despite the injuries to the starting pitchers and key position players. And certainly, it helps as they juggle substitute starters to know the infield has their back.
9/9/2016 02:10:50 pm
Josh, it's a valid point., The brass should have factored in that Murphy was not necessarily hot in those last six weeks but was somewhat of a different hitter because of Kevin Long, the hitting coach.
9/9/2016 02:20:55 pm
Two years, 1947 and 1948, in a row the Yankees and the Red Sox entered the final series of the season with the Yankees needing a sweep each time.
9/9/2016 11:33:40 pm
Just in: Mets 6, Braves 4, in Atlanta's home stadium, with the last playoff position on the line mainly between these two (for today, anyway); come from behind, it didn't look good for a long time. Contributions from everyone and a never-give-up attitude that possesses every play on the roster the moment they are put on the roster. What a wonderful team! What a wonderful post about them!
9/14/2016 05:33:38 am
this is nice article.
9/14/2016 05:29:52 am
this is nice
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.