This was the first season in the modern era of Major League Baseball that all teams played each other. It is, in fact, an easy way to increase the national appeal of a game that tends to skew regional. A few more matches seem a little more strange.
Consider the Mets’ current homestand with series against the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. Sure, the Mets dropped the pennant race a month ago, but the American League West version is thriving in Flushing.
“Hey, you’re over those dog days,” said Rangers manager Bruce Bochy, who watched a couple of races. “You’re looking at more than 30 sports.”
The Rangers spent at least 140 days in first place until Sunday, when they lost for the ninth time in 10 games. The Mariners, the hottest team in baseball since the start of July, passed Texas for the division lead, with the defending champion Houston Astros close behind.
“We’ve been in first place for months — it’s good for that to happen, what happened to us,” said Martin Perez, who beat the Mets in relief in Texas’ 4-3 win on Monday. “You look down, you have to come back up.”
Earlier this week, August traded Max Scherzer to the Rangers and Justin Verlander to the Astros to make an impact in the AL West standings. 1 before the trade deadline, of course, and the Mets did their part. The two thrived in their first five starts, combining for a 7-2 record with a 2.72 earned run average.
The Mets won’t play the Astros again, but they did welcome Scherzer on Monday with a tribute video. Scherzer — who smiled at the scoreboard camera after the play — did his job for the Mets, but didn’t expect to quit the job halfway through. He is 20-9 with the team and is signed through 2024.
“We settled in here, we loved it here, we enjoyed our time here,” Scherzer said before batting practice Monday. “We thought we had a great organization. It’s like, ‘Make sure we’re trying to win in 2024,’ and that’s what I’m trying to use the no-trade clause for.
Scherzer reiterated that he waived the clause because the Mets insisted they were backing off their short-term ambitions. Owner Steven A. acquired top infield prospect Luis Angel Acuna from Texas in the trade. He said he appreciates such honesty from Cohen and general manager Billy Eppler.
Again, there’s nothing stopping Cohen from leading the way. Would anyone be shocked if he explores the market for starting pitchers this winter with Aaron Nola, Blake Snell and Julio Urias in free agency? More to the point, will Scherzer be surprised?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not going to speculate on that.”
Either way, Scherzer stepped up, trying to do with Texas what he had done with the Washington Nationals: win the first World Series title in franchise history. The Rangers lost twice — to Bochy’s San Francisco Giants in 2010 and the St. Louis Cardinals the following fall — and have invested heavily since sinking to 102 losses in 2021.
Middle infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Siemian signed for $500 million before last season; Both were fantastic. When last December’s free-agent gifts suffered — Jacob deGrom had Tommy John surgery in June, and Nathan Ewald missed six weeks with a forearm strain — the Rangers traded for Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery.
“To see the commitment — the first off-season for the bats and the second off-season for the arms — being part of a bad team and now being part of a good team is reassuring as a player in my shoes,” he said. First baseman Nathaniel Lowe had a two-out, two-run single in the ninth that made the difference for Texas on Monday.
“They’re high on addressing organizational needs, money-wise and effort-wise. Some companies might wait or fly under budget or have certain caps where they think they’ll get out of the group, but it feels like there’s no ceiling for this group.
Scherzer felt the same after his trade from the Mets. But a shaky bullpen and hitters’ recent struggles with runners in scoring position have tested the Rangers.
“I got traded and thought, ‘I’ve never seen a higher team,'” Scherzer said. “We won eight games in a row and we were really tearing people apart — and then all of a sudden, we’re down eight games and we’re getting beat. That’s just baseball, you’re never as high as you think you are and you’re never as low as you think you are. ‘Well, that’s who we really are.’ We’re at a point now where we’re like, ‘Let’s see.’
The schedule will soon normalize for the Rangers, who play only AL teams in September and face the Mariners seven times in their final 10 games. Until then, the Rangers hope to build off wins like Monday’s, their first win all season after eight innings.
In fact, Bochy suggested, things could be much worse. At 74-57, the Rangers have already won more games than they did last season — and they have two more games against the fading Mets.
“You look at where we are this year, look at where the club was last year, what do you want?” Bochi said. “So you have to enjoy it. That’s what we play for,” he said.