This is the first season in the modern era of Major League Baseball in which all teams play each other. It really is time to find an easy way to increase the national appeal of a sport that is more regional in focus. However, some of the matchups still seem a bit odd.
Check out the current Mets home record with series against the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. Sure, the Mets gave up pennant racing a month ago, but the American League West's version is thriving in Flushing.
“Hey, you're done with those dog days,” said Rangers manager Bruce Bochy, who has watched a race or two. “You see a little over 30 games.”
Rangers spent 140 days with at least a first-place stake until they lost for the ninth time in ten games on Sunday. The Mariners, baseball's hottest team since early July, overtook Texas to take the lead, just behind the defending champion Houston Astros.
“We were in first place for many months – it's good that what happened to us happened,” said Martín Pérez, who defeated the Mets in Monday's Texas 4-3 win with relief. “You look down and you have to come back up.”
Of course, the Mets had already played their part in influencing the AL West league lead prior to this week, sending Max Scherzer to the Rangers and Justin Verlander to the Astros before the Aug. 1 close. Both were successful in their first five starts and shared a 7-2 record with an earned run average of 2.72.
The Mets won't play the Astros again, but they welcomed Scherzer back with a tribute video Monday. Scherzer — who smiled into the scoreboard camera after it played — did his job for the Mets, but never expected to leave that job half done. He was 20-9 for the team and had signed until 2024.
“We have settled in here, we liked it here, we enjoyed our time here,” said Scherzer before batting practice on Monday. “We thought we had a great organization. It was something like, “Make sure we try to win 2024,” and for that I was actually trying to use the no-trade clause.”
Scherzer reiterated that he waived the clause because the Mets insisted they were scaling back near-term ambitions. He said he appreciates the honesty of owner Steven A. Cohen and general manager Billy Eppler, who won a top infield contender in Texas' Luisangel Acuña.
On the other hand, there is nothing to prevent Cohen from turning around. Would anyone be shocked to explore the starting player market this winter with Aaron Nola, Blake Snell and Julio Urías available as free agency? More precisely: Would Scherzer be surprised?
“I don't know,” he said. “I'm not going to speculate on that.”
In any case, Scherzer has moved on and is trying to do with Texas what he did with the Washington Nationals: win the first World Series title in franchise history. The Rangers have lost twice — to Bochy's San Francisco Giants in 2010 and to the St. Louis Cardinals next fall — and have invested heavily since falling to 102 losses in 2021.
Midfielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien signed a combined $500 million deal ahead of last season; both were great. And when free-agent prices faltered last December — Jacob deGrom underwent surgery by Tommy John in June and Nathan Eovaldi was out for six weeks with a forearm strain — Rangers switched to Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery.
“Seeing the commitment — the first season break for bats and the second season break for guns — is really promising for me as a player to be part of the bad team and now to be part of the good team,” said first baseman Nathaniel Lowe, whose Single with two outs and two runs in game nine on Monday made the difference for Texas.
“They are committed, financially and performance-wise, to meeting the needs of the organization. Some organizations may be waiting, under budget, or have certain caps on what they think they can get out of the group, but it feels like there is no cap for this group.”
Scherzer felt the same way shortly after his transfer from the Mets. But a shaky bullpen and the batsmen's recent problems with runners in goal position have tested Rangers.
“I got traded and thought, ‘I've never seen a team that's higher than high,'” Scherzer said. “We won eight games in a row, we were really beating people – and then suddenly we were on an eight-game losing streak and we were being beaten. And that's baseball, you're never as high as you think you're never as low as you think. We're at a point now where we're like, ‘Okay, let's see who we really are.'”
The schedule will soon normalize for the Rangers, who only play AL teams in September and will face the Mariners seven times in their last ten games. Until then, Rangers are hoping for victories like Monday's, their first win of the entire season, in which they won from eight innings down from behind.
And really, said Bochy, things could get a lot worse. With a record of 74-57, the Rangers have already won more games than all of last season – and they still have two more against the ailing Mets.
“Look at where we are this year and look at where the club was last year. Which one do you want?” Bochy said. “So you have to enjoy it. That's what we're playing the game for.”