The Buck Stops Here

The Mets used to be the masters of the motto.

All the way back to the 1980s, they came up with some catchy phrases to highlight the season.

They had “The Magic is Back” and “Baseball Like It Oughta Be” to name a few.

In 2013, though, the motto seems to be lost or at least it’s not the in your face like in past years, however if the Mets do decide to come up with one, they may want to look back to the days of Harry Truman for some inspiration.

“Give ‘Em Hell Harvey!” could be one every five days. But that leaves about 125 games to come up with another.

So while the Mets wait for d’Arnaud, they may just say, “The Buck Stops Here.”

John Buck is making his mark on Mets pitchers. His experience and ability to work with Mets pitchers have been felt over the first week of the season. All four starters pitched well, and they all credit Buck for his ability to keep their heads in the game.

He’s unbelievable. I had good catchers in my day,” said tonight’s Mets hard luck starter Jeremy Hefner. “Not to take away anything from (Josh) Thole or (Mike) Nickeas last year, JB has been around the game. He played with those guys last year. I leaned on him tonight. But the way he brings confidence and brings the best out of you. It’s refreshing.

Buck said he learned this art form from Brad Ausmus and Paul Bako  back in the early 2000s. And over the years he learned pitchers, know which ones need the silence and which ones need a good kick in the behind.

“He recognized each pitchers personality and adapted to them,” Hefner said. “He would push buttons when necessary.”

“I had good mentors,” Buck said, “who showed me what the red flags were and how to get the most out of them.”

And Hefner got his kick in the butt in the second inning tonight after giving up his only run – a homer to Greg Dobbs.

But that’s Buck’s specialty. Sure he has some power, but he won’t remind anyone of Mike Piazza. Instead, the Mets have a professional backstop, whose job is to get this young set of arms on the right course, something Buck seems to be very happy in doing.

“Younger guys have a little more teaching involved,” Buck said. “But the young guys we have, it’s more sticking to game plans. It’s not a mentoring type group, instead these are guys who belong here and it’s getting them to stick to the game plan. Obviously, I think they are in that level.”

One guy Buck really clicked with is Matt Harvey, who Buck sees as someone who would click with anyone catching him.

“He’s got good stuff,” Buck said. “So he’s got a lot of weapons when calling a game. It’s obviously why he is so effective.”

Sure it looks like a marriage made in heaven, but we all know Buck is not long for the Mets. He is a stop-gap until Travis d’Arnaud comes up and a few more stinkers by the bullpen like tonight, it may be sooner, rather than later.

However until that happens, the Mets starters, will be very happy to have their final word come from their veteran catcher.

The Buck truly stops there.

Posted under Art Form, Backo, Brad Ausmus, Catchy Phrases, Good Kick, Hard Luck, Harry Truman, Joe Mcdonald, Josh Thole, Kick In The Butt, Mentors, Mets, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Paul Bako, Pitchers, Top Story

2013 Mets Outlook “Waiting for d’Arnaud (and Wheeler too)

Mets fans have not had much to cheer about in recent years and it’s fairly safe to say that even the most optimistic fans of the Amazin’s cannot picture this team competing for a post-season berth this year.

While the team’s 2013 record will probably be abysmal, there is hope down on the farm. The Mets traded their Cy Young Award-winning pitcher RA Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays during the winter s they did not want to obligate themselves to a long-term, multi-million dollar contract to a 39 year-old knuckleball pitcher.

Normally the fans and media would be up in arms against Mets management for thinking yet again like a parsimonious small market team but the reaction was fairly muted. The key reason that everyone seemed willing to take a wait-and-see attitude were two young players the Mets received in return: pitcher Noah Syndergaard and catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

Syndergaard appears to be at least a full year away, and more likely two, from making the big league team. The timetable for d’Arnaud’s arrival in Flushing is more imminent. He would probably have been the Opening Day catcher but the Mets understandably want to delay his ability to demand both arbitration and free agency so they are stashing him away in their Las Vegas AAA team until late spring.

If scouting reports are accurate, Travis d’Arnaud will be the best catcher the Mets had since Mike Piazza served as their backstop from 1998-2006. That doesn’t mean of course that d’Arnaud will be the second coming of Piazza. Most Mets fans will be content if he is as good as John Stearns, a fine catcher who played in Queens from the mid ‘70s until the early 1980s.

Even though he has not played one game in the majors, d’Arnaud must be a pretty good prospect. He came up through the Phillies organization and was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. As mentioned previously, he was the key component in the RA Dickey deal.

Sandy Alderson’s first big move as Mets general manager was obtaining pitching prospect Zach Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants in 2011 in exchange for Carlos Beltran whose contract with the Mets would have expired in two more months anyway. Wheeler is probably ready for prime time right now but he is in the same boat as d’Arnaud. The Mets know that they are not going to be winning anything this year so they might as well have both of those young prospects under their control with less economic rights for them as long as possible.

Mets manager should not have trouble slotting in Wheeler into his starting rotation once he is called up to the Mets from Las Vegas. Johan Santana, who missed all of the 2011 season with shoulder surgery, badly struggled with arm problems following his no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1, 2012. It was the first no-hitter in the Mets’ fifty-year history and it must have angered the baseball gods. Johan was ineffective afterwards as he was pummeled in six straight starts before the Mets decided to put him on the disabled list in August.

Mets executives fantasized that Santana, who would be earning $25.5 million in the final year of his current deal with the Mets, would do what Ponce de Leon couldn’t; namely discover the Fountain of Youth.

Unfortunately that was not meant to be. Santana was understandably treating his left arm, his livelihood, with extreme caution when he reported to the Mets spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida. A frustrated Sandy Alderson groused about his ace not being in pitching shape. Santana, a man of understandable pride, did not take kindly to the criticism and started throwing hard off of the pitching mound probably sooner than he should have.

We’ll never know if Alderson’s stinging comments were to blame but the end result is that Santana reinjured his left shoulder and will probably miss the entire 2013 season. His career is clearly in jeopardy.

The Mets starting pitching staff, while not great is not terrible either. Matt Harvey will be entering his sophomore season and he showed that he was able to dominate hitters with his fastball and curve. Jonathon Niese, who has been basically a .500 pitcher thorough his first three years in the majors. Of course given the Mets’ inept play during that time you can make an argument that Niese has been an All-Star. Dillon Gee missed the second half of the 2012 season with a blood clot in his right arm. Gee was great in 2011 going 13-6 but he struggled in the second half that year, and was mediocre in the first half of 2012. He did inspire confidence in spring training as opposing hitters smacked him around.

Shawn Marcum was a rare free agent for whom the Mets opened their wallets. Marcum has been a very good, though far from dominating, pitcher in his seven-year career with the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers. Marcum was on the disabled list during 2012 with an injured elbow.  During spring training, Marcum’s elbow was fine but his neck wasn’t. Marcum will start the 2013 season where he ended the 2012 campaign–on the disabled list.

If the Mets starting pitching is questionable, their bullpen is even a bigger mystery. Nominal closer Frank Francisco was a disaster last year and this year he starts the season on the DL with an injured elbow. The Mets probably won’t have that many ninth inning leads to protect this year so their bullpen has not received a lot of scrutiny.

Bobby Parnell, who routinely got beaten up like a pinata in the ninth inning, finally showed that he could handle the pressures of the ninth inning late last season and will be the closer for now according to Mets manager Terry Collins. Newly acquired Brandon Lyon, the other “big” Mets free agent signing, should be getting a lot of eighth inning work. The rest of the relief corps are comprised of obscure journeymen such as Scott Atchison, Greg Burke, Scott Rice, and one-time Yankees pitcher LaTroy Hawkins.

Mets fans won’t have to face a summer asking themselves about what will happen to the face of the franchise. In their most significant move of the off-season, the Mets signed David Wright to an eight-year, $160 million contract. Last month, the perennial All-Star third baseman was named to be the fourth captain in Mets history.

Wright has long been the de facto team leader but the official recognition of those skills by Mets management is a smart thing. This year however David may be sounding as if he is auditioning for “Annie” as he will surely spend a lot of time reassuring fans that the sun will come out tomorrow after every loss and there will be a lot of them.

There hasn’t been a lot of good news for Mets with respect to the 2013 season so let me emphasize one very important upbeat note. First baseman Ike Davis is completely healthy. In the past two years Davis has battled both leg injuries and Valley Fever which sapped his strength. Davis is the Mets’ best power hitter in a lineup with little pop so the odds are that opposing pitchers will not give him much to hit. Ike will have to be patient when batting.

Another player who will have to learn the art of patience at the plate is leftfielder Lucas Duda. He reminds many Mets fans of Dave Kingman, a guy who couldn’t field and struck out with great frequency but would occasionally get a hold of a fastball and hit it a country mile. Duda’s lone asset of belting home runs did not make up for his liabilities last season and he was sent down to the Mets’ AAA Buffalo Bisons farm club.

An argument can be made that Daniel Murphy is the best pure hitter in the Mets lineup. He missed most of spring training with a mysterious injury but appears to be OK now. Given the Mets’ puny offense, manager Terry Collins has no choice but to accept Murphy’s fielding errors at second base in order to have his bat in the lineup. In fairness to Murphy, he has worked hard at the position and is not the egregious liability out there that many feared.

There was a lot of anger emanating from Mets fans at the end of 2011 when the team chose not to make their star shortstop and free agent-to-be, Jose Reyes, even a nominal offer to stay in Flushing. The Mets may have been awful last year but no one could fault Reyes’s understudy, Ruben Tejada, who did a fine job both in the field and on offense last season. Tejada struggled at the plate this past spring however.

A lot has been written about the flimsy Mets outfield. Lucas Duda will be in left while 35 year-old veteran Marlon Byrd, who was suspended for 50 games in 2012 for using a substance that Major League Baseball frowns upon, will be in right. Not much is known about centerfielder Colin Cowgill who is a castoff from the Oakland Athletics. At least Whitestone native and Molloy High School alum Mike Baxter is still on the team and he should see a lot of playing time.

The Mets are excited about Jordany Valdespin who can play both infield and outfield positions and who possesses home run power. Valdespin though is frequently guilty of poor decision-making in the field and at the plate. He became an easy joke for comedians during spring training when he was hit by a fastball in the groin and was not wearing proper protection.

The Mets will surely improve in the coming years but the odds are that current manager Terry Collins will not be around to enjoy them. Collins has done as good a job as can be expected with the limited talent that he has had available. Nonetheless attendance and interest in the team has been down and the odds are that Mets CEO Fred Wilpon, and his son, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, will want to have longtime manager-in-waiting, as well as a member of the Mets’ 1986 World Series-winning team, Wally Backman, at the helm next year.

As Terry Collins and most Mets fans know, life is not always fair.

Posted under Aaa Team, Amazin, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Dollar Contract, Knuckleball Pitcher, Late Spring, Lloyd Carroll, Mets Fans, Mid 70s, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Ra Dickey, Roy Halladay, Scouting Reports, Second Coming, Top Story

Sportsbeat “Piazza Opens Up”

It will be interesting to whether Mike Piazza’s just-published autobiography, Long Shot (Simon & Schuster) will sway some of the crotchety members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who did not vote for him for the Hall of Fame to do so next year.

Mike states that he did indeed take supplements but they were completely legal at the time. It is hard to criticize an athlete who wants to perform better for purchasing products at the local GNC that anyone else can. He categorically states that he has never taken an illegal performance enhancing drug.

While his detractors will dismiss his denials, Mike has always had a keen knowledge of how everything that you put into your body has either a harmful or beneficial impact in the long run based on my conversations with him over the years. I learned about the benefits of wheat grass from him and he discusses health foods in his book.

Piazza admits that he is still tortured about not slugging it out with Roger Clemens after getting beaned by him in a regular season game and then famously having a broken bat tossed at him in the 2000 World Series. In a bit of self-deprecating humor, Mike writes “Roger is a big guy and I did not want to have my ass kicked in by him.” Mike, of course, is a pretty big guy in his own right but what I think what he was getting at is that he did not want to risk a career threatening injury in a fight.

He nicely pokes fun at the baseless rumors about his sexuality by saying that if he were gay, he’d be gay all the way and not hiding behind Baywatch babes and Playboy playmates.

While Clemens, steroids, and of course, the gay rumors are what will fascinate lazy sports talk show hosts and sportswriters, Piazza  peels back the curtain on life in the big leagues probably as well as any former player since Jim Bouton wrote Ball Four and Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally.

He gives fascinating insight into the  O’Malley family’s final days, and the Fox Corporation’s earliest, as owners of the Dodgers and how that coincided with his demands for a new contract which got him dealt to the Marlins and a week later to the Mets. He also writes about how Lenny Dykstra and other members of the Phillies were willing to cave into the owners’ demand for a salary cap during the 1994 baseball strike.

On a lighter note, Mike talks about a bizarre breakfast he had with Fabio during his Dodgers days as well as how a girl named Christina broke his heart when he first came up to the big leagues.

I get the feeling that even if the Mets could have signed centerfielder Michael Bourn without forfeiting a first round pick in the 2013 draft they still wouldn’t have done it.

The NHL season really is underway now that the Islanders are back to their losing ways.

Toy Fair, the annual four-day Javits Center trade show of all things play, had a nice retro feel in a lot of ways. In a high tech world we’re everyone is on a computer or some mobile device seemingly 24/7, old school toys and games as Slinky, Etch-A-Sketch, Booby Trap, Fiki Football, and Monopoly were attracting a lot of attention from retail buyers and the media.

Techno-Source and Fremont Die were showcasing competing board games, NFL Rush and NFL Game Day.  Poof was exhibiting its Pro Gold Football which while made of foam closer resembles the traditional pigskin than it does a Nerf product.

Mets fans who want to kick something in frustration may want to order the oversized waste paper basket with their favorite team’s logo from Fremont Die.

Mattel is getting ready for Wrestlemania at MetLife Stadium with its latest line of action figures of World Wrestling Entertainment stars as CM Punk, John Cena, Paul “Big Show” Whyte, and The Miz as well as past WWE greats as Shawn Michaels and the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

Two fun board games introduced at Toy Fair were Cover Your Assets (a tongue-in-cheek nudge at one per centers) and a tough trivia game, Kwizniac.

A San Diego company, Wow Wee, came up with the clever idea of turning an iPad into an easel with the cleverly named Artsee that allows you to unleash your inner Picasso.

Kate Upton once again graces the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. For some reason, SI editors decided that they had to send her to Antarctica for a bikini shoot. It’s good to see my Time Warner stock dollars at work.

Two weeks ago SI held their annual New York launch so that the models could appear on CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman and meet with members of the media.

Katherine Webb, the reigning Miss Alabama, who achieved greater fame when ESPN announcer Brent Musburger seemed to pay more attention to her than to her boyfriend, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron, during the 2013 BCS Championship Game.

Webb told me that she was upset that Musburger diverted attention from the Crimson Tide’s back-to-back championships but clearly she was a beneficiary of his obsession. Webb refused to answer my query as to whether Musburger spoke to her after the brouhaha. A flak whisked her away when I followed up with her thoughts about whether good looks run counter to the American fantasy of egalitarianism where ability, and not genetics, should determine success.

Jessica Perez, who received a degree in psychology from Hunter College and worked in a Biopsychology research lab, was clearly the most educated swimsuit model. She would like to pursue an acting career but admits that her dad wants her to go to grad school.

Alyssa Miller was a high school soccer player in the LA suburbs and told me that she was a tomboy growing up. Alyssa got off the best quip of the night. “I always thought that I would appear in Sports Illustrated as a player, not a swimsuit model.”

New Orleans’ next big event following the Super Bowl will be the annual New Orleans Jazz Festival scheduled for the first week of May. MSG Entertainment/Cablevision CEO James Dolan and his band, JD and the Straight Shot are among the headliners.

Fashion Week Recap

   New York Fashion Week is starting to resemble Super Bowl week. Just as football is almost an afterthought during the week leading up to the NFL’s big game, so it is that designers showing off their latest wares for the marketplace are a minuscule part of the NYFW proceedings.

It was not so long ago that IMG and their chief corporate sponsor, Mercedes-Benz, were synonymous with Fashion Week, particularly when Bryant Park was the epicenter of the action. Since IMG moved their tent uptown to Lincoln Center, they have lost some of their mojo.

IMG and Mercedes-Benz used to give out vouchers for sizable goody bags to journalists when they would pick up their credentials. That perk ended over a year ago. The end result is that a lot of writers  who used to refer to the semi-annual seven-day celebration of New York couture as Mercedes-Benz Week now call it New York Fashion Week. Frankly, I can’t blame them.

This has certainly delighted a bevy of corporations who want to be identified with the latest in style but did not want to pay IMG’s asking price for the honor of showing their goods at Lincoln Center.

Not that anyone has to hold a fund-raiser for IMG. They were still able to hold onto such long-time sponsors as DHL, Fiber One snack bars, Maybelline, TREsemme, Fiber One, and American Express. The credit card/financial services company nicely offered complimentary organic juices and bags of dried fruit to visitors to the big tent at Lincoln Center.

Whitestone-based Glaceau cut a deal with IMG to have Smartwater replace Diet Pepsi as the official beverage. Among the other new exhibitors on 62nd and Columbus were creative greeting card manufacturer, Papyrus, electronics giant Samsung, and cable’s Style Network.

The Daily Front Row is the oversized glossy that is printed just for Fashion Week. The DFR, which to its immense credit covers Fashion Week with a much needed sense of humor, celebrated its tenth anniversary with both a bash at the Hudson Hotel and by hosting the two-day Daily Style Sessions at the chic Stone Rose Lounge at Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center.

The Daily Style Session had a more varied mix of corporate exhibitors than IMG had at Lincoln Center. Former Bravo reality star Jill Zarin showcased her line of jewelry, while Flutter, an optical company, was displaying its line of fashionable reading glasses. It was one of the rare times at Fashion Week where an older demographic was recognized.

Food and drink were a big part of the Daily Style Sessions. Yoplait Yogurt smartly used the event as a way of launching its 100- calorie Greek yogurt line, while Lyfe Kitchen, an L.A.-based high quality frozen meals purveyor gave out samples of its soups and entrees.

Coconut water has become a popular drink because it’s not very caloric and yet is very tasty. Vita Coco is the Coca-Cola of the industry and it wants to say that way. That’s why they are a New York Fashion Week fixture as the company freely gave out sample containers of its various flavors.

Robyn Youkilis, whose first cousin is new Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis, is a well-known nutritionist and she was promoting her Bella Nutripro juicer by letting guests try vegetable tonics she prepared using it.

For those wanting a little alcohol, Disaronno-based cocktails were served.

The Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau hired a pair of massage therapists to give complimentary ten-minute sessions for attendees. The Miami CVB was smartly promoting the fact that many of its spas give great discounts during summer when tourism slows down there.

Nolcha, a company that promotes smaller designers, held its lounge at Yotel, the hip hotel just on the periphery of Times Square at 42nd Street and 10th Avenue. Among the brands who were present were Kind snack bars, Foco coconut water (it seems like every week there is a new coconut water company), and Rusk hair care products. HOH Watches, a company that makes high quality timepieces at affordable prices, and was founded by Forest Hills High School alum Lawrence Leyderman, also had a booth at Nolcha.

Even technology companies capitalized on New York Fashion Week. Both Dell and Hewlett-Packard took over suites at Lincoln Center’s Empire Hotel to show visitors their latest line of laptops whose screens could be detached and used as tablets. H-P also threw a party honoring the cast of Lifetime’s “Project Runway,” whose designers use their laptops.

Duracell’s Powermat is a flat charging device that can refresh batteries for numerous “smart phones” at once. A company spokesman said that it will have a new Powermat in April that will be able to charge Apple’s iPhone 5.

In this age of full-service Internet shopping websites such as Amazon and Ideeli.com, it makes sense that there should be a site dedicated to selling luxury goods at prices well below most brick and mortar retailers. LXR.com executives were at the Empire Hotel to explain how they are able to sell slightly used or imperfect upscale products at bargain prices.

Posted under Baseball Writers Association Of America, Baywatch Babes, Beneficial Impact, Benefits Of Wheat Grass, Clemens Steroids, Fox Corporation, Gay Rumors, Gnc, Jim Bouton, Keen Knowledge, Malley Family, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, O Malley, Playboy Playmates, Self Deprecating Humor, Show Hosts, Sports Talk Show, Top Story

Espo’s Trivia Challange: David Wright

He’s already at or near the top of so many Met All-Time offensive categories they could someday name the entire list of hitting categories in his honor, so there’s no telling where David Wright will end up at the end of his newly signed eight-year deal worth some $138 million.  Wright is now the all-time team leader in Hits, Runs, Doubles, RBIs, Total Bases, Extra Base Hits, Multi-Hit Games, Walks, Sacrifice Flies, and was second in At-Bats, and Average.

Wright will be wearing that number 5 Met uniform for a long time, and he can now challenge a team record once thought insurmountable  – the 17 years in uniform held by longtime Met Ed Kranepool, and his well-earned record for games played (1,831).

Until then, and for now, this month’s inaugural Sportsday Mets trivia challenge is dedicated to Wright and his all-time accomplishments with those who occupy the lists ahead or behind him.

 

1. Just behind Wright and Kranepool, with exactly 1,300 hits in a Mets uniform is:

A.   Cleon Jones
B.   B. Bud Harrelson
C.   C. Darryl Strawberry
D.   D. Jose Reyes

2.     Nine Mets have at least 1,000 hits on their Mets ledgers.  Rounding out the Top Ten is this popular Met with 997 hits:

A. Mookie Wilson
B. Howard Johnson
C. Edgardo Alfonzo
D. John Olerud
3. Wright leapfrogged several ex-Mets to now top the all-time Walks category, and dethroned this Met for the No. 1 spot, who had earned 580 free strolls to first:

A. Ed Kranepool
B. Bud Harrelson
C. Darryl Strawberry
D. Mike Piazza

4. In the quirky, but important category of Multi-Hit Games, Wright passed this Met, who had 385 MHGs, as the new leader:

A. Ed Kranepool
B. Cleon Jones
C. Keith Hernandez
D. Jose Reyes

5. Wright was, and is still, third in all-time team slugging percentage.  The leader in this category remains:

A. Darryl Strawberry
B. Mike Piazza
C. Carlos Beltran
D. Frank Thomas

6. It became widely known in the Mets Universe that Wright became just the third Met to reach the 200 home run level, behind Strawberry (252), and Piazza (220).  Just behind them, at 192, is:

A. Dave Kingman
B. Ed Kranepool
C. Howard Johnson
D. Carlos Beltran

7. Wright’s speed on the bases this year earned him the No. 5 slot in all-time stolen bases, way behind all-time leader Reyes, who copped 370 bags.  Wright passed this rather fast Met in the process, who had 152 steals:

A. Ron Hunt
B. Lee Mazzilli
C. Lenny Dykstra
D. Bud Harrelson

8. In the also important category of On-Base Percentage, Wright is locked in at fourth, and we’ll ask if you can put the top three in this category in the correct order, who boast OBPs of .425, .391, and .387:

A. John Olerud, Dave Magadan, Keith Hernandez
B. Keith Hernandez, John Olerud, Dave Magadan
C. Dave Magadan, Keith Hernandez, John Olerud
D. John Olerud, Keith Hernandez, Dave Magadan

9. If you’ve been following Wright’s career, you might know that among National League teams, the Mets third baseman owns his highest batting average (.378) against this club:

A. Atlanta Braves
B. Cincinnati Reds
C. Los Angeles Dodgers
D. St. Louis Cardinals

10. True or false: David Wright has a higher batting average in Citi Field than he had at Shea Stadium.

ANSWERS:

1. D
2. B
3. C
4. D
5. B
6. C
7. B
8. A
9. C
10. False, At Shea: .318, Citi Field: .283

 

 

Posted under Bud Harrelson, Carlos Beltran, Cleon Jones, Darryl Strawberry, David Wright, Edgardo Alfonzo, Espo, John Olerud, Jose Reyes, Mhgs, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Offensive Categories, Sacrifice Flies, Slugging Percentage, Sportsday, Top Story, Trivia Challenge

Bay Goes Bye-Bye

It is fitting though that Bay ends his Met career this way, literally getting a severance package, much in the same way Sandy Alderson ate the contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.  In a lot of way Bay’s two tenures as Met property represents all that has gone wrong with this franchise since Mike Piazza skied out to Bernie Williams to end the 2000 World Series.

As an Expo prospect he is gobbled up by one of Steve Phillips’ classic assembling spare parts deal for infielder Lou Collier in March of 2002.  In July, he is packaged in the Bobby Jones to San Diego trade in another classic “Steve Phillips love stockpiling relievers” transaction.  Which was probably for the best, would Bay have blossomed here a few years later with Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran around?  Possibly, but in 2002 the Mets, and Phillips, were clearly in the mindset of retooling on the fly and going after anyone that had a bit of value to them.  So clearly anyone with potential, save for the true gems of the organization (save for a certain highly touted pitcher in August of 2004), could be the object of a trade for someone of either major league talent, or AAAA talent to fill out the Met roster.

Interestingly enough, Jason Bay wound up being traded along with Oliver Perez over a year later as the Padres picked up Brian Giles from the Pirates.  With the Pirates of course Bay blossomed, winning the NL Rookie of The Year in 2004 and being selected to the NL All-Star Team in 2005.  In the meantime, the Mets weren’t making fans feeling like Bay was “the one that got away” as offensive production, specifically from the outfield, was pretty much set with Carlos Beltran.  While yes having Bay offsetting the decline of Cliff Floyd and having an ancient Moises Alou around, would have helped, not having his production was not the reason for the Mets to lose the 2006 NLCS or collapse in 2007 and 2008.

Moving on, Bay would be part of the three team trade that saw Manny Ramirez sent to LA, and Bay to Boston.  Perhaps it was the band box that is Fenway Park that further inflated Bay’s offensive production in the 2009 season, but the free agent to be was considered to be one of the big ticket items heading into the winter of 2009.  And so Jason Bay becomes a shining example of Omar Minaya’s flawed way of roster building.  A 5 year, back loaded deal that was sure to be a headache if things went south in a hurry.

This was a staple of Minaya’s big ticket moves and one that consistently proves how flawed Minaya was as a general manager.  While yes, the Mets needed a big bat, but the Mets were moving into a ballpark that was already being perceived as a hard place to play for a slugger.  Still, the deal would be made, and while injuries plagued Bay’s 2010 season, it was clear that Bay’s offensive numbers were inflated a bit by playing in more offensively friendly ballparks.

And so after three rather underwhelming seasons, and apparently not much of a trade market for his services; the Mets have decided to cut their ties with Jason Bay, making him an unconditional free agent.  Of course in an effort to provide the Mets with roster budget flexibility, the money owned for the remaining two years of Bay’s contract ($21 million) is being deferred over a short period of time.  While it would have been advantageous to see if Bay could have produced in Spring Training, and then early in 2013 and turn him around (even though it was that kind of thinking that both got Bay to and from the Met organization back in 2002), it is probably for the best, and just like the eating of the Castillo and Perez deals, a sign that the Met current regime doesn’t like mistakes to linger more than they have to.

Going forward, well there really isn’t much to discuss as the middle of the road, between 65-70 wins outlook for 2013 seems very much like the outlook for 2012.  While from all accounts Jason Bay is a good guy, but who knows if his lack of production was affecting the clubhouse, sometimes slumps can be contagious.  And it is better to have a middle of the road season with a group of youngsters vying for outfield spots (and hoping Lucas Duda learns to have someone else move furniture for him) rather than a veteran looking to rebound from disastrous seasons.

Posted under Bernie Williams, Brian Giles, Carlos Beltran, Cliff Floyd, Infielder, Jason Bay, Lou Collier, Luis Castillo, Mike Piazza, Moises Alou, New York Mets, Nl All Star Team, Nl Rookie Of The Year, Offensive Production, Sandy Alderson, Severance Package, Steve Phillips, Top Story, True Gems

Ten Years Later, 9/11 Remembered at Citi Field

Flushing, NY -The lilting strains of a clear female voice singing “God Bless America” was heard throughout Citi Field as scenes of players on many major league teams standing at attention were shown on the big screens in the ballpark. As the film came to a close, chants of “U.S.A.” emanated from all corners of the stadium. Thus, began the special Remembrance Ceremony at Citi Field on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack.

The devastation in lower Manhattan caused by the hijacked planes that were crashed into two towers of the World Trade Center ten years ago were the next scenes on the giant screen that jarred the eyes and the minds of those watching.

As the horrifying pictures were shown, the sound of pipes and drums were heard as a corps of uniformed musicians marched onto the field. Following the pipes and drums were a color guard. Representatives of each of New York City’s uniformed services, the First Responders, marched onto the field in time to the stirring music. The families of Tuesday’s Children carried a huge American flag into the outfield,

Ballplayers of the past and present joined the procession. Heading the lines of march were returning members of the 2001 Mets, John Franco, a native New Yorker, and Mike Piazza, whose winning home run on September 21, 2001 ignited Shea Stadium and let the world know the United States of America would not be destroyed, physically or emotionally. A large contingent of current Mets and Cubs joined Tuesday’s Children to help them hold and then unfurl the 300’ by 100’ American flag. Joining Franco and Piazza were other members of the 2001 Mets, Edgardo Alfonzo, Joe McEwing, Steve Trachsel, Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile. Other Mets alumni in the procession were Rusty Staub, Matt Franco and John Olerud.

With the processions ringing the field, lights within the stadium were dimmed and those on the field and in the stands were asked to light the electronic candles they were given. At that point, Marc Anthony, another New York City native, gave an emotional rendition of the national anthem, as he did at the first sports event that place in New York City after the national tragedy on September 21  at Shea.

The procession of important personages then marched off the field to end the moving and dignified remembrance ceremony.

The ceremony was especially meaningful to many in the stands as the Mets distributed complimentary tickets to New York City First Responders and their families and to members of the United States military to attend the ceremony and game.

Several of the former Mets shared their thoughts and their emotions with reporters during the game. Piazza shared his thoughts of a decade ago, “It’s definitely painful thinking and reflecting about that weekend. That week changed my life. It made me realize how important family and love is.” Of his own role, he commented, “It’s very humbling. I’m very blessed to have come through that situation. We know who the real heroes in life are, the First Responders. They ran into buildings knowing they would never come out.”

John Franco, born in Staten Island, has recently moved several blocks from Ground Zero.  Of his new neighborhood, he reported, “It’s just amazing how it’s all just come together, how it’s rebuilding.” Franco gave credit for leadership to then Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who was in the stadium broadcasting for ESPN, “This is the guy you want to be in a foxhole with. He led us not only on the field, but off the field. He was relentless. We just followed him.” Of praise for the team’s efforts during that period, he remarked, “We were a little band aid on a big wound.”

Posted under Color Guard, Edgardo Alfonzo, Electronic Candles, Giant Screen, Horrifying Pictures, Joe Mcewing, John Franco, John Olerud, Matt Franco, Mike Piazza, Native New Yorker, New York Mets, Pipes And Drums, Remembrance Ceremony, Robin Ventura, Rusty Staub, Shea Stadium, Steve Trachsel, Tenth Anniversary, Todd Zeile, Top Story

This post was written by Howard Goldin on September 12, 2011

Tags:

Do The Right Thing Mets And Retire No. 8

With all the Madoff talk, lawsuits, minority buyers, and New Yorker article talk surrounding the New York Mets, it would be hard to believe the club could every do the right thing.

But now the opportunity is staring them right in the face.

Officially retire Gary Carter’s No. 8.

With the news coming out today that “The Kid” has malignant tumors in his brain, the best way of showing Carter how much everyone cares during his fight. Carter was a key cog of the 1986 club, who meant so much to Met fans during his five years in Flushing, so an on the field celebration of his career would be a way of giving back.

If Carter starts to feel well enough to get to New York, this would be the ultimate pick me up for the Hall of Fame catcher. Any type of cancer is not easy to deal with, but brain cancer is the worst.  The best way of keeping his spirits up would be keeping his mind off the disease and show him how much he is loved.

Carter was a special player for the Mets. Without him, the young pitchers, like Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, and even Doc Gooden to an extent, don’t develop as quickly. No Carter means no World Series in 1986, even with the stacked lineup for the Mets.

And the club knows that. No. 8 has not been issued since 2002, the year before Carter when into the Hall – when Matt Galante wore it. If Carter was inducted as a Met, then the club would have retired his number, but because he went in as an Expo – and rightfully so – there was no number retirement ceremony that summer, only a ceremony to honor “The Kid.”

But No. 8 stays dormant, much like Mike Piazza’s No. 31 and even Willie Mays’s No. 24. You can probably expect the Mets to retire 31 someday – in fact I was told it is on the eventual agenda for the franchise – and 24 probably will stay dormant as long as Rickey Henderson is away from the club.

Yet, there has been no explanation about No. 8. The Mets should just retire it or reissue it, instead of keeping it in some sort of limbo.

And if they want to retire it, this year is a perfect opportunity. Being the 25th anniversary of the 1986 club, the Mets can bring back the whole team for one last hurrah. They can retire No. 8 for Carter, while giving the whole team a day in their honor. An added bonus for the club would be a sellout crowd at Citi Field, something that’s a rarity these days, helping the Wilpon coffers as they try to pull out of the financial mess.

It would be win-win for the Mets and frankly the right thing to do.

With Mets management acting like the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight these last few years, this is an opportunity to gets some good baseball related public relations for the club.

More importantly, though, it’s the right thing to do.

Here’s Mookie Wilson’s reaction on Gary Carter.

Posted under Brain Cancer, Cog, Do The Right Thing, Doc Gooden, Hall Of Fame, Joe Mcdonald, Malignant Tumors, Matt Galante, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Number Retirement, Pitchers, Retirement Ceremony, Rickey Henderson, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Top Story, Type Of Cancer, Yorker Article

This post was written by Joe McDonald on May 27, 2011

Tags: , ,

Now Bud Must Step In

Last month Commissioner Bud Selig took an unprecedented step in taking over the Los Angeles Dodgers, because of the actions of owner Fran McCourt and released this statement:

“Pursuant to my authority as Commissioner, I informed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt today that I will appoint a representative to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations of the Club.  I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the Club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball.”

At the time, I wrote in Mets Inside Pitch Magazine that the Wilpon’s situation is different, as the Dodgers were not a liquid asset because of McCourt’s divorce with his wife Jamie and also the beating of Brian Stow on Opening Day created an unsafe environment at Dodger Stadium, because of McCourt’s negligence in replacing at head of security.

Yet, after the New Yorker article that came out yesterday, it is time for Selig to take the same actions against the Wilpons.

Sure the Wilpons are still looking for a buyer for up to 49 percent of the club and the only beatings at Citi Field come with Met losses, but after reading the 11,000 word piece by Jeffrey Toobin, it is clear that by trying to clear his name in the Madoff lawsuit, Fred Wilpon is damaging  the future of the New York Mets, on the field and in the pocketbook.

Wilpon gave Toobin unprecedented access, because he felt that this would tell his side of the story and Wilpon will look like an everyman to world – an innocent victim, instead of a conniving thief. Instead the opposite happened, as the owner of the Mets ripped his three biggest players saying Jose Reyes wasn’t worth “Carl Crawford” money, David Wright is not a superstar and that he was a “schmuck” for signing Carlos Beltran.

Nevermind the fact that Reyes, Wright and Beltran fall right behind Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry as the best position players in Mets history and forget the fact that there was some truth to what Wilpon said as well, because no player is worth Carl Crawford money, Wright has never carried an offense like Piazza did, and yes, he was a schmuck for paying Beltran that type of dough.

The fact is once Wilpon said it as the owner of the club, he immediately devalued the franchise. When Sandy Alderson tries to trade Reyes and Beltran, he may not find as big of returns for the two players and Wright, the face of the franchise, may just want to bolt in two years in Wilpon is still owner of the club.

Further that with Irving Picard, who is treating this case like a war against the Borg, sitting in his captain’s chair and telling his underlings to “Make it so!” every time a new piece of evidence comes across his desk. Last week, we find out Picard alleges the Wilpons look to purchase fraud insurance, there will probably be more coming out in the next few weeks. And each and every time, Wilpon digs in, making it more and more difficult for the Mets.

And as things get more difficult, decisions will be made based on the lawsuit and not baseball relation actions.

It’s that reason why Selig needs to step in, as the situation is spinning out of control. Alderson can easily move up to run the organization, taking the Wilpons totally out of the equation. Until this suit is settled with Picard, the Wilpons need to step away from the club to fight for their reputations and let the baseball professionals run things.

A month ago, Selig did it with the Dodgers, now he has to do it with the Mets.

Posted under Carlos Beltran, Commissioner Bud Selig, Darryl Strawberry, David Wright, Dodger Stadium, Frank Mccourt, Fred Wilpon, Innocent Victim, Joe Mcdonald, Jose Reyes, Liquid Asset, Los Angeles Dodgers, Major League Baseball, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Positio, Top Story, Unprecedented Step, Word Piece, Yorker Article

This post was written by Joe McDonald on May 24, 2011

Tags: , ,

Home Runs Ruin Mets Extra Inning Affair

Men and women of the military were honored by the New York Mets at Citi Field before their game with the San Francisco Giants Tuesday evening and the team wore patriotic hats. And it looked like it would go the Mets way in the ballgame just like it was at Shea Stadium 10-years ago when baseball returned after the events of September 11, 2001.

Carlos Beltran got the Mets off to a good start with a three-run home run in the first inning, his fourth of the year. Mets starter R.A. Dickey struggled with his knuckleball as the Giants scored four runs in the third inning. Ike Davis hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning as the Mets took the lead again, 5-4.

But the Mets could not capitalize later on when they had a chance. Dickey (1-3) allowed six runs and did not get the loss. The bullpen gave it away in the 10th inning, when Taylor Buchholz had his season high 8.2 scoreless inning streak snapped when Aubrey Huff hit a solo home run to right, this after closer Francisco Rodriguez got out of a jam without allowing a run in the ninth.

That was the difference as New York, in their second straight extra- inning game lost to the Giants 7-6 in 10 innings. Brian Wilson, National League saves leader of the Giants notched his ninth save with his only mistake a single by Jose Reyes in the bottom of the 10th.

“I made a mistake with a ball I threw right down the middle,” said Buchholz about the 10th home run allowed by the Mets pitching staff in the seventh inning or later. It was a different ending from that September evening at Shea Stadium in 2001, when Mike Piazza hit the game winning home run that beat the Atlanta Braves.

The Mets were 2-12 with runners in scoring position, 3-for-28 in their last two games and left the bases loaded in the ninth. There was not much to say in the clubhouse afterwards after another disappointing lost. Because the next two games they will see NL CY Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and 2-1 lefthander Jonathan Sanchez.

So it won’t be an easy task for the Mets the next few days as they face two of the top pitchers on the Giants staff that were a nucleus to their 2010 World Series championship.

Mets manager Terry Collins addressed that issue before the game. “If you are going to win you have to face the best,” he said. “You have to take care of business,” he commented about Tuesday’s Giants starter Mike Fontenot who did not figure in the decision. “Worry about Lincecum tomorrow,” he said.

However, Collins has to be concerned about Dickey. Other than the first inning where he retired the Giants in order, it was another start at home where he struggled. “I didn’t have a good knuckleball,” said Dickey. “I wanted to get the team a win. There were some things I regret not doing.”

He commented that the first pitch knuckleball could have been more effective or he could have, went with that pitch more often against a Giants offense that is struggling. They entered the game 28th in baseball in runs scored and their seven runs were the most since scoring eight on April 18th against Colorado.  Dickey went 11-9 last season and was the most effective starter on a Mets starting pitching staff that struggled.

So on an evening when the Mets honored members of the military, also distributing 4,000 tickets to military members and their families, they hoped for a different outcome.   They hope for better results against Lincecum Tuesday evening and send (2-2) Chris Capuano to the mound.

Notes: Jason Bay will not be with the team again Wednesday who is on a paternity leave to be with his wife for the birth of the couple’s third child… Angel Pagan, on the disabled list with a strained oblique pull, went 1-for-5 in an extended spring game in Port St. Lucie Florida and could return by Friday when the Mets face the Los Angeles Dodgers….

Jose Reyes reached base all six times at the plate with three walks, a double and two singles, the three walks tied a career high… Beltran with a double also got his 188th as a Met and moved into sole possession of seventh place on the Mets all-time list, one ahead of Darryl Strawberry,

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Bottom Of The Inning, Carlos Beltran, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Francisco Rodriguez, Inning Game, Knuckleball, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Scoreless Inning Streak, September 11 2001, Shea Stadium, Top Story