Sports Beat – Defending Bobby V

Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine stirred things up when he complained that the Yankees did not reach out to their community in the days following September 11, 2001. There is little argument that Yankees players and ownership did reach out to responders and to those whose lives were uprooted at the time.

Bobby was probably still steaming about a 2004 HBO Sports documentary, “Nine Innings From Ground Zero,” which spent the lion’s share of the time concentrating on the Yankees playoffs and seven-game nail-biting World Series loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fall of 2001 and how that helped cheer up New Yorkers needing a diversion. The Mets barely rated a three-minute mention in it from what I remember even though Valentine and his players spent a lot of time preparing boxes of food and supplies. Shea Stadium was used as an emergency center for first responders because of its sizable parking lot which Yankee Stadium lacked.

I spoke with Mets outfielder Mike Baxter about his memories of that cataclysmic day on the twelfth anniversary of 9/11. “ I was in an Advanced Placement Psychology class at Archbishop Molloy High School when the planes hit the World Trade Center. No one could believe what was happening,” the Whitestone native recalled.

Just in case anyone was starting to forget about terrorism in 2013, the Boston Marathon bombing was a jolting reminder. The evil allegedly done by the Tsarnaev brothers did not escape the attention of the National Football League. Fans are now prohibited from bringing most bags into stadiums as the NFL will only allow transparent bags for your necessities.

This is a case of overreaching in my opinion. Why can’t security personnel check all bags as they have done in the past? Evildoers will always find ways to commit nefarious acts even with see-through totes.

New Jersey Devils press box announcer Richard Nashmy was ahead of the curve and created a line of durable, thick-polymer clear vinyl tote bags in various sizes a few years ago. If you are planning on going to a Jets or Giants game this year you should check out his company’s website, www.carryitclearly.com.

It’s another meaningless September for the Mets. The fact that they never really had any post-season aspirations this year is the least of their problems. Even if Matt Harvey, David Wright and Ike Davis had stayed healthy the entire season the best that Mets fans could probably hope for would have been third place in the NL East. Nonetheless the weakling lineup that the Mets put together for their four-game series against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field during their last homestand was arguably the most impotent in their history. The Nats did not break a sweat in sweeping the Mets but that wasn’t what was humiliating. During the four games they hit a total of 13 homers while the mighty Mets hit a grand total of 0.

It is no wonder that CBS Radio executives have had their fill of the Mets and were delighted to announce that the Yankees would be replacing them next year on WFAN. The Yankees have always been the more popular team in New York and the Mets’ ineptitude since 2006 has only widened the gap.

Some are wondering about whether CBS is making the right decision since the Mets appear to have more exciting young talent than an aging Yankees team does. My answer to that is to ponder the following. If someone offered you $10,000 to invest in a long-term stock fund, would you choose one that was run by Hal Steinbrenner, Lonn Trost, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman or one that was headed by Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson?

The Jets are probably not going to make the playoffs this year but rookie QB Geno Smith has given Gang Green fans a flicker of hope. Yes, he throws occasional interceptions, misses open receivers, and stays in the pocket holding the football a bit long at times, but he is exciting to watch. He led the Jets to that fluke Opening Day win against Tampa Bay when Bucs defensive end Lavonte David stupidly hit him out of bounds with scant seconds left on the clocks and the Jets were out of timeouts. That late hit penalty set up Nick Folk’s 48-yard game winner.

Although the Jets lost as usual to the New England Patriots a few days later, the score was close (13-10) and Smith was every bit the equal of his counterpart, Tom Brady, that night.

While Jets fans are probably thrilled with Geno, it still would have been better if Mark Sanchez were healthy. When head coach Rex Ryan writes his memoirs he will have to reveal why he put Sanchez into the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game with the Giants when the Jets had their third stringers in there. It is not surprising that Sanchez got hurt in that situation and will probably miss the entire 2013 season.

The recently concluded Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week always brings out some sports celebrities. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire are regulars. Two weeks ago OKC Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook made the fashion scene as he was undoubtedly trying to elevate his profile for commercial endorsements.

My favorite moment from Fashion Week was being greeted by a pair of Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders at the GBK Lounge at the Empire Hotel. The girls were modeling their new skimpy uniforms that were designed by Vera Wang.

Fox Sports 1 has done a nice of getting out of the ratings gate strong. The wannabe chief competitor to ESPN raided Bristol for a pair of its popular female personalities, Erin Andrews and Charissa Thompson. Both ladies are fine sports anchors but there is no doubt that Fox executives are hoping that the “babe factor” will deliver male viewers. Will Sage Steele be jumping ship next?

Posted under Archbishop Molloy High School, Arizona Diamondbacks, Bobby Valentine, Hbo Sports, League Fans, Lloyd Carroll, Manager Bobby Valentine, Mets Outfielder, Mike Baxter, Molloy High School, National Football League, New York Mets, Nine Innings, Placement Psychology, Psychology Class, September 11 2001, Shea Stadium, Thick Polymer, Top Story, Transparent Bags, Twelfth Anniversary, Yankee Stadium

Mets Sweep D-backs and Complete Successful Homestand

New York- So much for talk that the New York Mets could not hit the home run at Citi Field, or win many ballgames in their home park. After their 8-4   win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Easter Sunday, taking a three-game sweep, the Mets have won four consecutive games after taking the final game of the three- game series that started the stand earlier this week against the Houston Astros.

And this season high winning streak, the longest since last September 13-16 of last season, was done with good pitching and timely hitting. Plenty of two out hits and getting Jason Bay back in the lineup seemed to propel the offense. Jonathon Niese (1-3) pitched seven solid innings, snapping a six-game losing streak in the series sweep Sunday, and Mets starting pitching in the six games went 6-0 innings or more.

Plus the Mets offense produced three more home runs Sunday, two by David Wright and one from Jason Pridie. It was the first Major League round tripper for Pridie. The 27-year old center fielder was called up from Triple-A Buffalo Friday when Angel Pagan went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle.

So what has transpired in the past few days? Good pitching and hitting will win ballgames, and all of a sudden Citi Field has become home run friendly for the Mets. It has the team riding with optimism as they head for a six game trip to Washington and Philadelphia on Tuesday. And their most effective starter in the young season, Chris Young comes off the disabled list and will open game one of the series against the Nationals.

“It’s really good,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. When the Mets were 5-13 earlier in the week, and with the worst record in baseball, Collins was frustrated and concerned but said, “I promise you it will get better.” It certainly has improved because David Wright has also come around at the plate. Carlos Beltran went 9-for-23 with a home run and three RBI in six games, Ike Davis reached base four times Sunday and had three home runs, two doubles and six RBI in the six games.

In the streak New York scored 27 runs and outscored the opposition 27-10. “I think the brightest sign has been our starting pitching,” added Collins. “It’s really stepped up here and gotten us to where we need to get to. I think you see a difference in the bullpen where they can just pitch to certain guys. I think it makes everyone more comfortable.”

The pen found itself a bit when Collins used the combination of rookie Pedro Beato, the veteran Jason Isringhausen and closer Frankie Rodriguez to close the door when the Mets had the lead in three of the six games. Sunday, Collins went with D.J. Carrasco who gave up a run in the eighth, Tim Byrdak and Ryota Igarashi. He credited the use of starters Chris Capuano and R.A. Dickey out of the pen in Atlanta on the last road trip as to a reason why starters Capuano and Dickey had success this week.

“We got some really big hits, two-out hits and that makes a difference,” he said. His team scored five two-out runs in the series finale with Arizona, and the day before had six two-out runs. And Wright has been a major catalyst of the resurged offense. His second home run Sunday, fifth of the season, came with two outs and no runners in in the fourth inning that gave the Mets an 8-1 lead.

New York scored two runs off Arizona starter Armando Galarraga (3-1) in the first and four more runs off him in the third. In the past four games, Wright has home runs and he credits the starting pitching for the 4-2 homestand. “We’ll go as far as our starting pitching carries us,” he said.

His home run in the fourth was high and got over the fence on the left field line and right of the pole. “He’s tireless and when you hit the ball hard things are going to happen,” explained Collins regarding how Wright came around in the six games. “Even though I wasn’t getting good results I was getting good at bats,’ said Wright who also had a multi –home run game against the Diamondbacks last season on July 30th.

Niese retired the first six Arizona hitters in the lineup and had good command with the fastball. He gave up six hits and three runs, of which two were earned. Collins and pitching Coach Dan Warthen said he was rushing his pitches in three previous starts. “Rushing is probably a good word to describe the problems,” said Niese. “I thought I’d take my time today.”

New York also hit two more doubles.one by Beltran and at least one in 21 of their 22 games, fourth in the majors. So of the ball is not going over the fence at Citi Field, there are the extra base hits that led to runs on the homestand. The Beltran double, on his 34th birthday would lead to one of the four runs in the fourth inning and he started all six games.

Four guys can cause damage in the lineup. Collins said Beltran. Wright, Davis and Bay are capable of doing that every game and also Jose Reyes is the catalyst leading off. It has led to optimism this week. But as Collins said, “There is a long way to go. Washington plays well and the Phillies are the Phillies.”

Yes, Collins looks forward to Tuesday. Now the determination is, can the Mets continue the momentum as they leave their sudden friendly confines of Citi Field?

Notes: After the game GM Sandy Alderson said the team optioned Carrasco to Buffalo to make room for Young to make his start Tuesday….Alderson also said that for the moment Dillon Gee, who got the win Saturday in game two versus Arizona, would not be sent down, though it is not determined if he will be in the rotation with the return of Young….

And Alderson said, catcher Ronnie Paulino will stay on the disabled list as he is still sustaining problems with an oblique muscle pull while rehabbing down in Florida.

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Posted under Arizona Diamondbacks, Ballgames, Carlos Beltran, Center Fielder, Consecutive Games, David Wright, Final Game, Game Losing Streak, Game One, Game Series, Game Sweep, Game Trip, Houston Astros, Jason Bay, Left Oblique Muscle, New York Mets, Niese, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on April 26, 2011

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Mets Rip Off Second In Row

Friday night in his fifth outing of the season Mike Pelfrey became the ace the New York Mets expected at Citi Field. Against the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he had an unsuccessful 0-5 career mark, Pelfrey had his command and he did it not feeling well on the mound. But his seven innings of good pitching helped the Mets get their second consecutive win, 4-1, as New York took the first game of a three-game series.

He overcame a first inning jam with one out and runners on first and third. And to Mets manager Terry Collins, that was impressive. “That first inning set the tone for the whole club,” said Collins.  He would pitch seven good innings and an Ike Davis go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning that was reviewed was enough to get Pelfey (1-2) his first win of the season.

Palfrey gave up five hits and a run, walked two and struck out four. The command on his fastball and use of other pitches got him through the evening as he fought a stomach ailment that developed prior to the game. Said Pelfrey, “While in the pen, I said, ‘I’m just going to throw strikes. I don’t feel great. We’re going to grind through this and we’re going to get through it.’”

“If he continues like this I don’t think there’s any question he will continue to get people out,” said Collins. Pelfrey used a variety of pitches including the sinker and the fastball to perfection. “He had a great game,” added Collins.

The bullpen tossed two scoreless innings, including a perfect eighth from Jason Isringhausen. Francisco Rodriguez got his third save with a scoreless ninth walking two and striking out one. Isrinhausen has become the new man for the Mets out of the pen in late innings now that Bobby Parnell is on the 15-day disabled lit.

“He’s not afraid and he’s making the pitches,” commented Collins about the veteran Isringhausen who was a spring training invite and was signed to a minor league contract before being called up. “He’s going to be big for us,” he said.

And for the second consecutive game Davis got the home run, the second go-ahead home run for the Mets in consecutive games. At first the ball hit by Davis to center off eventual loser Esmerling Vasquez (0-1) was ruled a double that hit above the orange line on the black wall. Collins asked for a review and it was ruled a homer, his third of the season and team leading 16th RBI.

Prior to the home run, the improved Diamondbacks pen had not allowed an earned run in the last six games. Starter Joe Saunders who entered the game with a 0-2 record was shutting down the Mets allowing two hits and a run in six innings. Saunders, making his first career start against New York felt he had enough to stay in the game but Arizona manager Kirk Gibson stuck with his decision.

“It was my decision and it didn’t work out,” he said about pulling his starter. “I accept that.” Saunders was pulled after walking David Wright and after Davis struck out twice. “I’m just a little mad at myself,” he said about the walk to Wright.

Added Saunders, “As a pitcher and competitor out there you don’t want to come out of there. And up until the walk to Wright, and eventual home run to Davis, Saunders was able to set down a Mets team that came into the game hitting .212 against left handed pitching.

“I knew about their problems hitting,” he said. “When the weather is like this you have to go after the guys and be aggressive.”  It was the first Mets win in the opening game of a series at home this season. Carlos Beltran went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and in his last 13 games is hitting .333 with seven RBI and it was the Mets first victory in which they trailed following the sixth inning.

The return of Jason Bay to the lineup has added a spark of optimism who follows Carlos Beltran batting fifth. “We knew one-to six from spring training was going to be pretty good,” said Collins as Bay adds a different dimension to the order.

But the key is Pelfrey, and for the first time this season two good back-to-back pitching outings from Mets starters as Chris Capuano got the win the evening before in the series finale with Houston.

Notes: Righty Dillon Gee (1-0) gets the start Saturday afternoon in game two of the series…. Angel Pagan was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique and outfielder Jason Pridle was called from Triple- A Buffalo. Pridle got the start in center and went hitless in three at bats…

Catcher Ronnie Paulino on a rehab assignment with Buffalo left the game Friday night after five innings with a strained left oblique… Henry Blanco, one of three catchers on the Mets roster last season returned to New York as a member of the Diamondbacks.

The 40 year-old, veteran said he was disappointed that the Mets did not renew his contract, however he has adapted to his new surroundings. “They are a great bunch of guys in here,” he said about his new team. “I miss it here, but it is a good situation for me and my family,” and the Diamondbacks welcome his veteran leadership.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Arizona Diamondbacks, Bullpen, Career Mark, Fastball, First Game, Francisco Rodriguez, Game Series, Mike Pelfrey, New Man, New York Mets, Palfrey, Parnell, Scoreless Innings, Seventh Inning, Spring Training, Stomach Ailment, Top Story, Win 4

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on April 23, 2011

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The Return of WallyBall

This was where Wally Backman wants to be most.  Where he “oughta be”, as the slogan used to go.  Twenty-five years later, those simple words still hold true.

Those old enough to remember New York’s championship in 1986 celebrated his return.  They appreciated his nine years with the Mets, which included a .283 career batting average and 106 stolen bases, both Top 10 numbers on the franchise’s all-time list.

In the interim, Backman had bounced around as a minor league manager, most notably winning a Southern League title with the 2002 Birmingham Barons (the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) and the Sporting News’ 2004 Minor League Manager of the Year, upon leading the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Lancaster Jethawks squad (A) to an 86-54 record.

But, within 96 hours after he was tabbed as the Diamondbacks’ manager later that year, all hell broke loose.  Reports surfaced that Backman’s recent history included several legal and financial issues.  Management -obviously embarrassed for conducting a less-than-stellar background check- retracted its offer and promptly axed him before the week was over.

Still, he continued to persevere.  In 2007, Backman led the South Georgia Peanuts, an independent team, to the South Coast League’s inaugural title.  The following year, he was with the Joliet JackHammers of the Northern League.

In November 2009, Backman was chosen to take the Brooklyn Cyclones into their 10th season.

That began on Friday, with a come-from-behind 5-3 victory in Staten Island.  A 1-0 record was, at the least, a good start.  At the most, it pushed his highly anticipated managerial debut at MCU Park that much closer.

“I am thrilled and grateful to be coming back to the Mets’ organization,” Backman said when he was introduced as manager.  “The greatest days of my professional career were spent here in New York, and I have always felt a special connection to the city.  Brooklyn is a major minor-league team, and I know the borough’s fans are – like me – intensely passionate about baseball and about winning.”

Backman knows how baseball in this town is supposed to be played.  After all, he epitomized the player who maximized his ability, and never -ever- cheated his audience.  His return to the metropolis was, at first, a curious one because Jerry Manuel’s tenure as Mets’ skipper was in jeopardy;  now it is lauded for what it actually is -a chance for young men to learn the right way to play the game.

By chance, this is where he had received his start after New York drafted him 16th overall in the 1977 Draft.  Fresh out of Aloha High School in Orgeon, the 18 year-old newbie hit .325 over 69 games for Little Falls, then a New York-Penn League affiliate.

Thus, it was inevitable that when the 50 year-old former second baseman emerged one-half hour before Saturday’s opening pitch, fans alongside the Cyclones’ dugout cheered wildly.  Instantly, Backman was besieged by autograph seekers.

“The fans haven’t changed,” he said, after Brooklyn won its second straight over the rival Yankees, 9-6, which drew a franchise record crowd of 9,888.  “It was a good reception; even better that we got the win for them.”

Do not be fooled by the nine runs.  Staten Island committed five errors, which produced a wild line score of 6-7-5.  Only five of the Cyclones’ runs were earned, lending even more credence that WallyBall will be very much in play over the summer.

“I was told, from Day One, that -when the wind blows in- a ball hit to rightfield is not going anywhere,” Backman noted.  “We will have to manufacture runs here.  We don’t have a lot of power guys, so we’ll have to hit-and-run, and move guys over.  And, try to force the defense to make some mistakes.”

After all the miles in between, he is finally back home -to a place where everyone knows his name, as that famous lyric goes- and doing what he likes to do.  And, at this moment, it doesn’t get much better.

John Buro covers the New York Mets for Examiner.com.

Posted under Arizona Diamondbacks, Background Check, Birmingham Barons, Boro, Brooklyn Cyclones, Career Batting Average, Chicago White Sox, Georgia Peanuts, Independent Team, Issues Management, Joliet Jackhammers, Lancaster Jethawks, Minor League Manager, Minor League Team, New York Mets, Professional Career, Recent History, South Coast League, Sporting News, Th Season, Top Story, Twenty Five Years, Wally Backman

This post was written by John J. Buro on June 21, 2010