Been percolating a lot of thoughts about the Bisons' season and last night's Fan Appreciation Night debacle against Rochester. Been quite an interesting day on Twitter as well, as I woke up to see Bisons starter Collin McHugh tweaking me on the Twitterverse last night and numerous Mets fans from New York piling on.
(Classy McHugh note was this thank-you to the fans. McHugh had another strong outing and is a thoughtful guy with a great blog you should all take a look at. But if he wants a long career in New York, I would hope he would not try to argue points with the likes of John Harper of the Daily News or Mike Vaccaro of the Post. Especially when 15,000 people are hooting and booing the team the night before, like we saw here last night).
Mets manager Terry Collins made this point last night after the game in Philadelphia and it applies to the Bisons too: "When you don't hit, it looks like you don't care. That's just the nature of the game. When you don't hit, there's no action going on. It looks like you've folded it up."
Collins' team hasn't. I still wonder about Wally Backman's group. They're 20 games under .500 since May 31. They're 10-18 in August. They don't hit at all with runners in scoring position, hence the malaise Collins referred to.
But this is a lot more than a tough performance as McHugh tried to say. It doesn't take much to run out groundballs hard. It doesn't take much to think about hitting situationally at the plate. Doesn't even take much to do little things like line up for the national anthem and look like a team like Rochester did (and so many MLB teams do), or even have a coach at first base when an inning is starting. Umpires have been waving guys out there for a while now.
Even Backman seemed worn by the end of this trainwreck. On an inning-ending play last night where Jordany Valdespin was clearly safe, both to the naked eye and on replay, the manager simply jogged into the dugout when 15,000 people might have expected some fire and brimstone.
(An aside: None of my comments are rooted in any media issues. Fans too often assume a critical writer has been blown off during interviews, so let's make this clear for the record: Mets-era players, coaches and managers have been nothing but professional with the media in all four years they've been in town. Backman has been terrific. We now return to our programming).
C.J. Nitkowski, the 39-year-old trying to revive his career as a situational lefty, also tweeted to me in response to Backman's assertion he's not ready for the bigs (LOOGY is his term for lefty-on-lefty reliever). Nitkowski pitched scoreless ball in his first seven outings here and allowed only two runs in his first nine before back-to-back blowups that pushed his ERA from 2.79 to 9.53. In New York, he'll never pitch to that many right-handed batters. Backman said he needed him last night because McHugh was on an innings/pitch count. It made for some ugliness in that ninth inning. He shouldn't have been put in that spot. It's not what he'd see in MLB.
I've been pretty clear for 14 months that this Mets-Bisons marriage was not going to last. Fans in New York keep crushing me with "it doesn't matter if you win in the minors" comments and that's bunk. The Cleveland Indians were here from 1995-2008, going to the Triple-A playoffs nine times and the MLB version seven times (and were last-weekend eliminated in the bigs two others years).
The Tribe got here two years after winning a Triple-A title in Charlotte with Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez on the roster. Two years later they were in the World Series. They put 21 postseason all-stars in Buffalo in those 14 years. The Mets put exactly none. Their players don't win in the minors and they certainly won't win in New York.
Brian Giles flew 3,000 miles from San Diego earlier this month to get inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. How many current Bisons were in the dugout watching? Almost none. How many Mets-era Bisons stand out as Buffalo Hall candidates? Maybe Jesus Feliciano and Val Pascucci. Maybe not even them.
Memo to the Bisons: The front of the jersey said "BUFFALO" last night. Too many guys worried about what it said on the back. Just not a good scene the last four years. And a really bad way to go out in front of the home folks.