Blame Canada

It’s always fun to go to bed with the Braves down and wake up to a win. After an extremely long rain delay, and near-apocalyptic haze up and down the Eastern Seaboard thanks to the nefarious Canadians – I blame Nardwuar — the game started around 9:00pm, which is no longer prime time television here in the Remington household.

Nice Recovery

Bryce Elder had, in some ways, one of his most impressive performances yet. After the extremely long delay, he ran into a ton of trouble in the third inning, allowing twin two-run homers to Francisco Lindor and to Pete Alonso. No shame in giving one up to Alonso, who leads the world. But Alonso decided to rag the rookie after his bomb, yelling, “Throw it again!” Elder says he didn’t hear it, but it galvanized the fanbase after the win, and became a meme overnight. Elder recovered to get the third out of the inning, and proceeded to face the minimum over the next three innings, keeping his team in the game, preserving the pen, and ultimately setting the stage for the offensive comeback in the bottom of the sixth.

The Braves’ first run came off the bat of Ozzie Albies, who hit a solo shot in the second. Remarkably, Ozzie has hit eight homers in just 181 PA against lefties. The trouble is, that’s about all he can do against them; he has a .178 ISO against lefties, but the trouble is, he has a .190 average and .260 OBP against them. That was all the offense mustered till the sixth, when the heart of the lineup did exactly what it’s supposed to do: Matt Olson worked a leadoff walk, and then Riley and Murphy followed up with back-to-back doubles. After the Mets relieved their starter, Carlos Carrasco, and the reliever recorded two quick outs, Marcell Ozuna contributed the third double of the inning, and Orlando Arcia brought him home with a sharp single up the middle that the second baseman couldn’t corral. In the eighth, Ozuna hit an RBI groundout.

Quo Vadis, Michael Harris II

I really don’t intend to write anything complimentary about Marcell Ozuna; his off-field DUI and domestic violence put me permanently in the “get him off my team” camp. But aside from Alonso’s bench jockeying, the postgame narrative appears to be that Ozuna’s hitting a lot, and Michael Harris II is not hitting anything.

I’ve written a lot about Harris over the past year, including a long comment on a thread a few days ago. To summarize: we all knew at the end of the year last year that his plate approach was shaky and unless he could control the zone better, he was in for a tough sophomore season. He has indeed raised his walk rate and lowered his chase rate this year, though some of the gains he made in his first month have eroded as his slump has deepened.

The team really only has three options:

  1. If he’s actually hurt (or, perhaps, not fully recovered from his injury early in the year), put him on the IL.
  2. If he’s overwhelmed by the pressure of the Show and needs a chance to work on his mechanical issues away from the spotlight, send him back to the minors.
  3. Let him play.

It’s often impossible to know whether a player is nursing an injury, but we currently have no reason to assume that option 1 is in play. Option 2 very much is, however: yesterday, the Blue Jays optioned Alek Manoah to the minor leagues, a year after he finished third in the Cy Young vote.

As I wrote a few days ago, I continue to think that letting him play through it is the best option – he has shown the ability to make adjustments while playing at a high level, and his makeup and composure are high enough that I trust him to be able to work hard without losing complete confidence in himself.

But if the team believes that the only way for him to make the adjustments he needs is to return to the farm, then that is what the team must do. The overriding consideration must be his long-term future success. As I wrote in the offseason: “Pitchers are going to throw him junk in the dirt until he learns to lay off and take the walk. Jeff Francoeur never did.” Francoeur never got sent back down to the minors, and it harmed his career. He also didn’t show the ability to adjust on the fly that Harris does, nor the baseball intelligence that Harris has. So I think Harris needs a lot of patience.

But if his coaches decide that a trip to the farm is the bitter medicine he needs, after watching him press all season and struggle to adjust to his first major adversity as a professional ballplayer since his initial promotion to SIngle-A in 2019, then that’s what will have to be done.