“BULL” ALLEN, FAR LEFT, (with JohnVorperian).MR. ALLEN, WPTV’S VOICE OF BASEBALL PAST AND LINDSEY NELSON, VOICE OF THE ORIGINAL NEW YORK METS ON OPENING OF SPRING TRAINING THIS WEEK AND 2024 PROSPECTS OF THE NEW YORK NINES FROM THE UPPER DECK AT AL LANG FIELD, IN ST. PETERSBURG FLORIDA
WPCNR VIEW FROM THE UPPER DECK with BULL ALLEN & LINDSEY from SUNNY FLORIDA. FEBRUARY 11, 2024:
“Hello everybody, this is Lindsey Nelson along with The Great “Bull”Allen from Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg Florida and it is a pleasure to have the Voice of Baseball’s Past of WPTV with me to look at the New York Yankees and the New York Mets of 2024.”
“It is great to be talking baseball with you again, Lindsey in Al Lang Field home to the Yankees and the Mets Spring Trainings 84 years ago. I brought the Yankees back to baseball hungry fans in New York and you introducing the first New York Mets to the New York fans for the first time.”
“This old park brings that magical first year back to me,Bull. Fans were starved for National League ball and our first telecasts back to the New York from Old Al Lang Field just got them so excited the National League was coming back to of all places the Polo Grounds. You know, Bull, spring training games as you mentioned in last week’s column, are great. Hopes are high. Even if you lose games they do not count. And we in the booth, Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy knew our new Metropolitans might be bad, but not as bad as they were.”
“I had the same experience with the Yankees in 1964 and 1965, Lindsey. We were used to being the best in baseball, even though the Dodgers beat us in the 1963 World Series. The team thought it would bounce back in 1964 when Yogi managed the Yankees, his first management job. The papers were all over him during the season, saying he lost control of the club and the team was not playing up to par. When Yogi chewed out Phil Linz for playing the harmonica on the team bus, on the way back to the airport after a doubleheader loss in Comisky Park, it sort of ignited the team.”
“Bull it’s great up here in the stands again reminiscing and thinking about the new season, but after watching the Mets last season, I can’t help but compare that disappointment of Buck Showalter and the team picked to win in 2023 finishing well behind having a dismal July and August and never getting a run going, to the Yankee season of 1965 when the old bats did not hit. The pitching declined and with a new manager Johnny Keane, again failing. Showalter being dismissed. What did you think of how the Mets are looking at this point? Did Showalter suffer first season lack of rapport with the players?”
“Well Lindsey, I am shocked the Mets did not go after some of the hot free agents that were available, and at this point, they are bringing in a new manager who has never managed in the big leagues, but who did coach for the Yankees. He appeared very likable and press friendly during his introduction, but talked little specifics about what needs to be done when he was introduced by the President of Baseball Operations, David Stern.
Reporters went easy on him. When two women reporters, asked him specific questions as to what needed to be changed that he and Stern were working on that. Asked what the weaknesses were he said he was still evaluating with Stern.”
“Bull, what did you see about the Mets big disappointment last season?”
“Lindsey, they reminded me a lot of the way the New York Mets lost so many games. The bullpen failed they only had 34 saves last season. Leads were lost due to fielding lapses at the worst possible time.
Scherzer and Verlander had major problems adjusting to the new pitch clock, because they were deliberate pitchets. Scherzer developed arm trouble. I believe because they were deliberate pitchers in the pre pitch clock and pre 9 seconds to hit days, they could do their psychological game with the hitters. They lost that edge with the pitch clock.
The entire staff had terrible control, they issued 595 walks in 1,461 innings pitched, the staff walk frequency was 25th among the 31 teams in baseball, a walk ratio of almost 3 walks per inning. What does this tell me? When they went to the bullpen to hold the lead after the starter left, they most liked walked their way into situations that coughed up leads. Those two starters Sherzer and Verlander are no longer there. The Mets needed and are apparently hoping for holdovers to step it up and a resign of a Yankee pitcher who had a bad arm last year.
Sterns was responsible for rebuilding the Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers mainly through trades. So he may be seeing how the hitters rebound.
Pitching. The Mets have no bullpen The most saves was 14 held by two pitchers Adam Ottavino and David Robertson, but Robertson is gone. Who is going to save? You cannot have one closer guy. They need to develop two.
The Mets hitters hit 215 homeruns, tenth of 31 teams, but only scored 717 runs, 20th in the big leagues, and 20th in on-base percentage.
Fielding is something else, don’t you think, Lindsey?”
“Bull, when I did the New York Mets first season back in 1962, they became baseball’s story because of the way they let games get away. Bad fielding, especially in the late innings cost them games. The New York Mets of 2023, expected to reach the World Series, their collapse in July attracted just as much attention to their collapse as the original New York Mets attracted under an aging Casey Stengel as manager in 1962.
In an uncanny way, the Mets of 2023 did not throw to cut-off men, costing important runs. The baserunning was not only slow but notoriously unaware of the number of outs. The fundamentals broke down. When the New York Mets entered the second half, the big hitters failed in the clutch. They did not move the runners. Like the New York Mets of 1962, they appalled the fans with the way they let games slip away. “
“Lindsey Nelson the voice of the New York Mets, I have to agree. I never saw a team that should have been so good, contending to the end, go wrong so soon in the season. Was it chemistry?”
“Bull, I think that it had a lot to do with the manager. In 1962, the Mets were managed by Casey Stengel who was hired for public relations. He charmed the press and made the Mets lovable and it became a status symbol to bring posters to the games saying, “We love the Mets,” and “Marvelous Marv,” I could not believe how losing became an attraction. But, Casey was known to fall asleep in the dugout.
Brooklyn Dodger fans bereft of their Dodgers, loved their Bums because they came so close every year, but the old Dodgers were good for a decade until they won in 1955. It was heartbreak for those fans, that is why they loved the old Brooklyn Dodgers. And hate for the mighty Yankees uptown.”
“So you think the Mets had a manager problem with Mr. Showalter last season, Lindsey?”
“Bull Allen, you have said the Yankees had a manager problem all last season, too. But we can get to that next. Showalter is a professional manager and a good one, but he cannot build a fire under a team. He has managed good teams to good records, but he treated them like professionals, expecting them to come through. He was not a fiery Billy Martin. He was not a demanding manager like Ralph Houk, who led an aging Yankee team to pennants in 1961,1962 and 1963 and managed pitching tremendously.”
“Another thing, Bull Allen, the Mets were dealing with players who may be too focused on their performances that caused little things like failing to move the runner, failing to get a runner in from third with less than 2 out. When you make the big leagues you have to know the game is a team game everybody has to do their part. You may have a Big Bopper but he has to know when to Bop and when to put the ball in play on the ground to advance an inning or a run, or have the ability to situation-hit. That is why your Mets, scored less runs with all those homeruns. Trying to hit it out every time leads to strikeouts, and they struck out a lot. What do you think about Aaron Boone, Bull, you have long been critical of his management.”
“Lindsay, we’ve been tearing Mets performance last season to shreds because the formula did not work. The on-field performance did not work out and the hitting did not work out and they could not make a run.
The same thing happened to the Yankees, but in my opinion, it is the inexperience of Aaron Boone in handling the bullpen, combined with the foot injury of Aaron Judge in L.A., and he never came back with the same power. But if Boone had not worked 4 relief pitchers every game because starters could not go more than 5 innings, they might won a lot more games.”
“Bull – that is a striking observation! “
Mets and Yankees not getting the most out of their talent, their pitching, their bullpens for two different reasons. The Mets for expecting their team to perform and the two top pitchers strangely ineffective, perhaps due to the pitching clock, and the manager expecting professional performances from the hitters used to hitting homeruns and coming through, and a breakdown in fielding at the worst times. I also cannot remember Showalter ever turning over a buffet in the clubhouse or closing a door, (because there are no longer any natural back to back doubleheaders) but I am watching from up here in Heaven doing games in the Eternal League of all the hall-of-famers.”
“Lindsey it is a pleasure working this spring training preview with you in the catbird seat as The Old Redhead used to say, and it is time for me and you to stop tearing the Mets apart and take I look at the Yankee problems, have they solved them?”
“Bull, I could not agree with you more. Aaron Boone is duplicating the Joe
Torre school of pitching management: Leave starters in too long when they do not have it then go to bullpen in the sixth, or even the 5th inning.
“But even when the starters are pitching well, and they reach a pitch count due to this new practice of not wearing out arms. But Boone does not seem to realize (I am sure he does) if a relief pitcher warms up every day but is not used or is used he’s pitching say 50 pitches or more in a one inning stint. If you come in the next day that is more pitches. So the third day in a row he is up to perhaps 200 throws a week the equivalent of 3 complete games. That I believe is why the Yankee bullpen was notoriously prone to saving a game one day and blowing leads twice in a week. By pulling pitchers and running in a “bullpen consist” of the same names everyday in succession after the fifth—that the bullpen does not work consistently.”
“Mr Nelson, that is very insightful. Comparing the Yankee daily bullpen parade as a “Bullpen Consist,” a railroad term, is brilliant. Now I agree some pitchers say can warmup with 20 pitchesl If they throw 20 more in an easy inning, that’s 40 pitches If they appear three days in a row, boom that’’s 120 and that’s with a short inning. So you wonder about that. The Yankee starters were notoriously inconsistent with the exception of Derrick Cole. The best game he pitched was a 2-0 win complete game in August. I think that was the only complete game the Yankees had. Two top pitchers went out with injuries. They are expected to come back this year. Will they? But the bullpen needs two dependable closers and starters to go longer.”
“You know Bull, the question is Judge, he now has another slugger added behind him. Can Judge regain his homer production to get that Maris-Mantle “Swings of Fear” back — like 1961?”
“It depends on pitch selection, Lindsey the hitters cannot strike out as much as last year. They have to put the ball in play, as John Sterling and Suzyn Waldan pointed out all summer long.
The new hitting coach has to work on that.
The Yankees could not score runs the second half of the season. But since the pitching and bullpen are so sketchy, something the Yankees did not fix over the winter, adding another big bopper, and no starting pitchers, relying on last year bad arms to come back is crossing your fingers. They have to win tight games by not leaving pinstripes on the bases. Letting Kiner-Falefel go – the player who always got hits when he had to shows the Yankee tunnel vision, saying all season the hitters will hit, but noooooo they did not.”
“Lindsey Nelson, Voice of the Original New York Mets, The Yankee problem was similar. In the second half of the season they fell out of First Place and never even fought back to get into the playoffs. Their manager got mad at the press, but not at his team.
They had the same season as the Mets.
“Bull Allen, always a pleasure talking the coming baseball season with you. But really I wonder if the Mets with their new manager who has never managed in the major leagues, are about to experience a repeat of the Yankee hiring of Aaron Boone to replace Joe Girardi?”
“Don’t remind me. Girardi was a great manager. The players played for him. The pitchers pitched. Boone could not rally a team for a stretch run and the management did not acquire new hitters or pitchers to start driving in men on the base paths and getting people out without starting an inning with 2 bases on balls.”
““Bull Allen, always a pleasure talking the coming baseball season with you. When every team and every fan has hope.”
“Yes, and God forbid they do not go to automatic pitch calling next.”
“Bull, I was trying to end this program in a positive way.”
“You’re right Lindsey Nelson, Voice of the Original Mets. It happens every spring!