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Behind the Plate Column: Mixed reviews for Phils, Yanks and Mets

Are you happy with the Phillies’ play through their first full week of the season? If you are a Mets’ or Yankees’ fan, are you frustrated or satisfied?

Welcome to Behind the Plate, my weekly column dedicated to a weekly roundup of the Phillies, Mets, and Yankees, as well as other nuggets of the game, such as history, fantasy leagues, and relevant issues.

Some Spice in the local dishes

... Through the first nine games, the Phillies, Mets, and Yankees had some mixed reviews.

The Phillies got off to a horrific start in Texas, and things didn’t brighten when they took a trip to Yankee Stadium. They have managed to work their way back on some solid footing by taking two of three against Cincinnati in the opening homestand. Yet, they are 3-6 with a National League low 30 runs scored and a run differential of -22.

The Mets also had some tough times in Milwaukee, being outscored 26-6 after they won their first two games in Miami. Like the Phillies, they gained some solace by taking two of three at home against Miami and evened their mark at 5-5 to start the week. Top prospect catcher Francisco Alvarez has joined the club, and one has to wonder if it is a premature panic move.

The Yankees have been hit with a series of injuries early on, primarily with their pitching staff. They have taken two of three from the Giants, Phillies and Orioles, and Aaron Judge is earning his money. They’ll begin the week with a 6-3 mark, three behind the red-hot Rays.

Opening Acts

... The Tampa Bay Rays were undefeated through their first nine games (9-0), as they continue to be baseball’s most least respected teams.

The Atlanta Braves were atop the NL East with a 7-2 mark, and once again have a plethora of some of the game’s top prospects. It is amazing what Atlanta has done with its farm system in the past 20 years.

Milwaukee and Pittsburgh already have a good battle waging for the NL Central, and they could be two big surprises this season. Also, keep an eye on the Twins, who top the AL Central with a 7-2 slate, one also that isn’t surprising.

Beat the Clock

... According to a recent Associated Press report, the average time of a game has dropped by 30 minutes, stolen bases have doubled and batting average has increased by 16 percentage points compared to last year’s opening weekend.

The average time of a game was 2:38, down from the average of 3:08 a year ago. In the first year of restrictions on defensive shifts, the .246 batting average for nine-inning games was up from .230 over the first four days last year, when many games were played in cold and wet weather. Left-handed batting average increased to .232 from .229 in last year’s first four days (, WHILE) the right-handed average went up to .254 from .230.

That ‘93 season

... This season will mark the 30th anniversary of the Phillies’ 1993 run to the World Series. That lunch-pale, blue collar “Macho Row” group of Jim Fregosi certainly has their share of highlights and lowlights, ending with Torono’s Joe Carter’s epic game-winning homer.

At this point in the season in ‘93, the Phils were 4-1 after a 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs that evening at the Vet. John Kruk hit a pair of homers off Mark Morgan, and Terry Mulholland worked eight strong innings allowing three hits and one run with six strikeouts. Mitch Williams came on in the ninth to record his third save, as he struck out the side.

The Phils got off to a 15-5 start, and they never took their foot off the pedal as they stayed in first place all season to finish with an overall 97-65 record. They posted a 52-29 mark at home, and 45-36 on the road.

Curt Schilling headed a staff with Mullholland, Tommy Greene, and Danny Jackson (remember him?). Mike Williams – who we may have forgotten – Ben Rivera and Jose DeLeon – whom they acquired from the Cardinals late in 1992 – proved to be invaluable depth in the staff.

We all liked to watch the unpredictable nature of Williams, but Roger Mason, David West, and Larry Anderson helped secure the ‘pen.

If you recall, Kruk had 14 homers with a team-high 111 RBIs that season, and Darren Daulton had a team-high 24 homers with 105 RBIs. In the infield, it was Kruk, Mickey Morandini, Kevin Stocker, and Dave Hollins. Lenny Dykstra, Milt Thompson, and Jim Eisenreich were the starters in the outfield. Pete Incavigilia, Wes Chamberlain – once considered the next superstar of the franchise - and Mariano Duncan solidified the bench. Duncan was one of the more valuable players on the team for his versatility. Future GM Rubern Amaro was an effective pinch-hitter.

You can’t forget catcher Todd Pratt and infielder Kim Batiste, who both had their moments.

Unfortunately, Fregosi, Daulton, West, and coaches John Vukovich, Mike Ryan, and Johnny Podres have left us for the great dugout in the sky. Yet, this Phillies’ bunch should always be celebrated for the brand of hard-working baseball they brought to all of us.

Taking a Different Path

... Unlike the Phillies, the Mets trudged their way through a 53-109 season between managers Jeff Torberg and Dallas Green.

It was a year that saw Eddie Murray, Jeff Kent, and Bobby Bonilla in the lineup with Bonilla leading with 34 homers. Murray hit 27 homers with 100 RBIs, and Kent added 21 homers and 80 RBIs.

It was also Vince Coleman’s last year with the team, and the fleet outfielder still managed to steal 38 bases.

On the mound, Dwight Gooden struggled through a 12-15 record, a precursor to his future issues that forced him to miss all of the 1995 season. Bret Saberhagen and Frank Tanana had hoped to revive their careers, but they were mediocre at best.

This was a season that was part of a restructure toward their run later in the decade.

On the other hand, the Yankees had a better run than their city counterparts.

The Bronx Bombers finished second with an overall 88-74 record under current Mets’ manager Buck Schowalter.

Catcher Mike Stanley – if you’re a true fan, you remember him – had 26 homers and 84 RBIs, and Don Mattingly had 17 homers with 86 RBIs.

Former Catasauqua star Pat Kelly was at second base, and Wade Boggs handled third. Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams were in the outfield.

Steve Farr was the closer, and ex-Phillie Bobby Munoz was also in the bullpen. By the way, Tanana, who was 7-15 with the Mets, ended the season in the Bronx.

Pick Your Fantasy

... As far as fantasy picks, it is still early in the season. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll offer my choices as some of the possible better choices for your fantasy leagues.

For starters, taking the Phillies’ Trea Turner is the no-brainer. He is projected by several outlets as the No. 1-3 player in the game. You should be in good shape with pitchers Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, who both should keep the club in contention. My early sleeper pick is lefty starter Bailey Falter, who had generated plenty of chatter.

Take a flier on outfielder Nick Castellanos. He had an off-year last season, and should return to form as one of the league’s most productive outfielders. Keep an eye on catcher J.T. Realmuto and third baseman/first baseman Alec Bohm, who should move into a bigger offense (OFFENSIVE) role with Rhys Hoskins out of the lineup.

As far as the Mets and Yankees, it’s safe to have Pete Alonso, Justin Verlander, and Francisco Lindor for the Metropolitans, while (AND LIKEWISE) Aaron Judge, D.J. LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres. (FOR THE YANKEES).

The Pitcher, Not the Injury, Everyone Forgot

... Every season, there seems to be a handful of players who are either coming off or suffering from Tommy John surgery.

But who was Tommy John? The lefthander, or baseball’s “bionic man,” began with the Cleveland Indians before he joined the Chicago White Sox in 1965. He was traded to the Dodgers in 1971 for Dick Allen. John had a successful stint with the Dodgers – incurring his injury in 1974 and missing the ‘75 season – through 1978. He was signed as a free agent by the Yankees for the 1979 season and also had stints with the Angels and A’s. John’s final season and 26th season (CAME) with the Yankees in 1989, and (HE) was their opening day starter at age 45.

As the season progresses, I will look to address as many issues as possible. Your thoughts are always welcome @phillyjets.jm@gmail.com