The home team taking batting practice on the field has become increasingly rare. That’s one of the main things Buck Showalter has noticed since coming back to a managerial role after three years away.
“That’s one of the biggest changes I’ve seen,” Showalter declared. “I miss walking around and talking to the bullpen guys in the outfield. I think a lot of it has to do with the facilities inside being so much better now.”
With so much importance being put on player performance data now, which is a major difference between the league that Showalter managed in during the 90s and early 2000s, the entire thinking around the once-daily ritual has changed.
“You look at batting practice as an entertainment feature as opposed to, ‘Are you getting the best out of getting ready for the game?’ Is it smart to come out after a four-hour night game and take BP for a day game the next day when it’s 95 degrees?”
Other things have gone the way of the dodo bird as well, but Showalter does not mourn the death of every derelict tradition.
“You could ask why they don’t take infield and outfield,” he said. “Well, it’s kind of been proven that it’s stupid, because you’re getting your arm ready three times. You’d get your arm ready for batting practice. Then you’d go inside, come out and get your arm ready for infield. Then you’d go inside, get cold again and then get it ready for the game. That was proven to be a really bad idea.”
From a human standpoint, the lack of pregame interaction has made things a little weird for the 66-year-old skipper.
“It’s made my job harder as far as communication, because I don’t have that avenue every day to get out there and talk to them. It’s kind of like computers and cell phones. You don’t have to talk to human beings as much anymore. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”
BIG DRIP ON THE HORIZON
Tylor “Big Drip” Megill could wind up being a sneaky X-factor for the Mets as they close out the regular season and move into the great postseason beyond.
Megill, who made nine starts for the Mets earlier this year before a shoulder strain derailed him, made his first rehab appearance on Thursday. It marked the first game action for Megill since June 16, when the Milwaukee Brewers ran roughshod over him.
The Mets are planning to bring Megill back to the big-league club as a reliever. Thursday’s outing for the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies saw him strike out the side on 19 pitches.
“It’s tough because he hasn’t really had a background in it,” Showalter said of Megill’s transition to the bullpen. “You have to ask yourself what is he most likely going to be asked to do for you here. You also have to take some precautions because you’re doing something different with him than he’s ever done.”
Showalter said he expects Megill to take a day or two off before pitching again, at which point the Mets will evaluate how close he is to MLB-ready.
THE DOG DAYS ARE OVER
Any player who just endured a tough month of August — Pete Alonso is that guy for the Mets — now has to leave that behind and gear up for a potential playoff-clinching month. Showalter was asked how much to worry about a player going through a slump when it does hit in August, a difficult time of year for any baseball player.
“Whoever it may be, whether it’s Pete or Francisco [Lindor], there’s an ebb and flow to the season. There’s good days and bad days. But this is really hard to do, what they’re doing. Winning a major league game is hard. Hitting, I mean guys are throwing 100 miles per hour in Double-A now.”
There is some solace, Showalter said, in knowing that the people the players spend the most time with are also the people who can relate to them the most.
“You’re always trying to find that fine line between empathy and sympathy for what they do. The only people that really understand what they’re going through every day are the other people in that locker room.”
The beauty and curse of baseball, of course, is that there’s almost always another game waiting tomorrow. How a person prepares for that will vary, but the goal is always the same.
“It’s about winning that game that night,” Showalter stated. “There’s an obstacle in your way. Whether it’s Washington or the Dodgers. Just go post up. You don’t have ‘I’m going to take this week off. I’m not going to make the road trip.’ We don’t have that option. Just post up, man.”
Alonso posted up sturdily on Friday night, going 1-for-3 with a walk and the tie-breaking home run in the sixth inning that propelled the Mets to victory.