Throughout Major League Baseball, the stories of the week were umpires conducting random searches they prefer not to be conducting, player rage, and gamesmanship (the last of which took place right here in the National League East.) Let’s reflect on that, among other things in the MLB NL East.
NEW YORK METS
The Mets split a four-game series with the Braves and it was more of an accomplishment than it looked given that they needed to scramble to find starting pitchers for the three games after Jacob deGrom’s victory on Monday.
Veteran Jerad Eickhoff was recalled from Syracuse and pressed into service in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader and provided four shutout innings in the club’s 1-0 loss. Rookie Tylor Megill pitched admirably in his big league debut on Wednesday. The Mets also lost Joey Lucchesi to Tommy John surgery, Robert Gsellman to a lat strain, and Jeurys Familia to a hip impingement.
Joey Lucchesi's MRI revealed a significant tear in his UCL.
— SNY (@SNYtv) June 22, 2021
To make matters even more concerning, Marcus Stroman left Tuesday’s start with a hip issue of his own. Fortunately (for now), the subsequent MRI showed nothing out of the ordinary and he’s expected to make his next start.
On a positive note for the Mets’ offense, they are just Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis away from having their full complement of offensive players as was intended before the season started. Jeff McNeil was back in the lineup on Monday; Michael Conforto on Wednesday.
If the Mets plan to make a legitimate run in 2021, they will need to address their pitching depth at the trade deadline or sooner.
As predicted on Monday, the Nationals continued their torrid streak by sweeping two from the Phillies and winning the opening game of their series in Miami against the Marlins. Kyle Schwarber hit another home run on Wednesday and two more on Thursday bringing his season total to 21. In addition to the spark they’ve gotten from Schwarber after moving him to the leadoff spot, they’ve gotten excellent pitching from top to bottom.
Kyle Schwarber is Mr. June and we're going to need a calendar shoot, like, yesterday.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 24, 2021
The Phillies series was eventful with the umpires adhering to the new mandate to randomly check pitchers to see if they have foreign substances on their person and Phillies manager Joe Girardi used that as an opportunity to try to rattle Max Scherzer. As detailed below, it did not go well.
With Thursday’s win, the Nationals are at .500 and within 3.5 games of the first-place Mets.
Apart from the opening game of Monday’s doubleheader against the Mets when they were facing deGrom, the Braves had ample opportunity to take three of four against the limping and injured team they’re chasing in the standings. But they didn’t. Then, after the Mets series, they traveled to Cincinnati for a four-game series with the Reds and lost the opener 5-3.
Without Ronald Acuña Jr. because of lower back soreness, the Braves’ outfield against the Reds consisted of Ehire Adrianza (31-year-old journeyman); Ender Inciarte (now more of a fourth outfielder at best and defensive replacement in center field); and Abraham Almonte (another 31-year-old journeyman who’ll be a 32-year-old journeyman in two days – happy birthday!)
This and the shaky bullpen are major problems. If they’re without Acuña for an extended period, their injuries put them in worse straits than the Mets. And they’re not even in first place.
Ronald Acuña Jr. still has back tightness, will get another day to rest and see if he's ready Friday. Heredia (wrist) is available to pinch-hit tonight.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) June 24, 2021
The focus has been on manager Girardi asking the umpires to check Scherzer for illegal substances twice in the same game. According to Girardi, Scherzer going to his hair several times during the game was “suspicious.” What’s really suspicious is that Girardi has not only failed to evolve from why the Yankees chose to move on from him and seems to have regressed to Joe Torre-style nuisance gamesmanship in trying to irritate the other team. This went out of fashion two decades ago and it’s one of the old-school strategies that can stay there.
It drew the ire of Scherzer and the Nationals bench, made Girardi a running joke, and obscured the club losing two more games to the Nationals and staggering through June. The final game of the series on Wednesday was even more galling than the histrionics between Girardi challenging the Nationals roster to a fight as the Phillies blew leads of 5-0, 9-5, and 12-11 before losing 13-12 when closer blew the game.
Is Girardi trying to get fired?
The season isn’t half over and he’s had a dugout confrontation with Jean Segura, has battled the media by refusing to disclose information, and had this latest incident with Scherzer in which he appears to be unraveling.
After being checked for sticky substance 3 times tonight, Max Scherzer stared down Phillies Manager Joe Girardi while walking to the dugout. Girardi then left his dugout and had some words for Scherzer, which led to Girardi being ejected.pic.twitter.com/3laApv2YdR
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) June 23, 2021
Always tightly wound, Girardi’s penchant for holding a baseball between the palms of his hands forever appeared to be a precursor to him crushing it in a fit of teeth-grinding, plugged up rage teetering on the crown of his skull exploding with bone, brain matter, blood and chunks of flesh engulfing everyone within a 30-yard radius like Peter Brady’s science project volcano.
The team’s play is one thing. Bluntly, the roster is not particularly good and that’s not his fault. However, one of Girardi’s attributes, when he was hired (by the previous front-office regime), was that he maximized the talent on his rosters and almost invariably brought them in winning between five and 10 games than they logically should have based on talent level. That has not been evident with the Phillies. His contract is only guaranteed through 2022 and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski did not hire him making it an easy change without it being a reflection on him.
Should the club continue to play so poorly and Girardi’s behavior stays on its bizarre, self-immolating path, he will not last the season.
They have a four-game series with the Mets in New York, including Friday’s doubleheader. Getting swept might push Dombrowski to make a move.
With Thursday’s loss to the Nationals, the Marlins have lost four straight and eight of 10. They’re 9.5 games out of first place and 12.5 games from a Wild Card spot. In the final week of June, CEO Derek Jeter and GM Kim Ng need to accept reality and start considering which veterans they want to retain and think will be present when the team is ready to make a move toward contention and which have more value to them as trade bait.
— Bally Sports Florida & Bally Sports Sun (@BallySportsFL) June 25, 2021