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

Stars Shine At Citi

The prelims were over and it was time for the main event.

The 2013 All Star Game, the 84th Mid-Summer Classic since a sportswriter in Chicago named Arch Ward brainstormed the idea in 1933, was met with great fanfare last night. With 39 first time All-Stars on both squads, an All-Star record among others set, the players were as eager to participate as were the sellout audience that filled Citi Field.

By the way, it was the 84th All-Star Game, even though its been just 80 years since the first one, as two games were played per season from 1959-62. And it was before TV execs took over, as both games each year were played in daylight!

Mets starter Matt Harvey broke the ice on this new classic at 8:19 P.M., just minutes after legendary Mets hurler Hall of Famer Tom Seaver threw out the first pitch to the other Met All-Star, David Wright.
Harvey first serve resulted in a double down the right field line by the Angels’ Mike Trout.

It wasn’t a pretty first inning, as Harvey next plunked the Yankees’ Robinson Cano on the knee. Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was soon sent in to pinch run. Harvey then settled down by striking out reigning Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera swinging. Harvey got out of the inning unscathed by punching out Toronto’s Jose Bautista swinging.

Harvey became the first Met to start an All-Star game since Doc Gooden in 1988, and one of only 11 pitchers to start an All-Star Game in their home park. This list includes Roger Clemens in 2004 (Houston), Pedro Martinez in 1999 (Boston), Whitey Ford in 1960 (Yankee Stadium), Don Drysdale in 1959 (LA Coliseum), and Carl Hubbell in 1934 (Polo Grounds).

As the starter, Harvey got to complete two shutout innings. He sat down David Ortiz and Joe Mauer on flyouts and got Adam Jones swinging.

And Harvey’s All-Star appearance creates a Mets connection factoid as the answer to a future trivia question. The last time the Mets hosted an All-Star game in 1964, and the only time it was held at Shea Stadium, the Mets’ first elected starter to the lineup was second baseman Ron Hunt. The Harvey-Hunt connection? Both wear/wore #33!

Wright led off the second against Chicago’s Chris Sale and grounded to third.

The Mets’ team captain also captained the Home Run Derby held the previous night. He didn’t fare well there, either, accumulating just five home runs in his first round appearance. Cano preceded Wright with just four longballs.

Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes topped Washington’s Bryce Harper with a final round comeback to win the annual Home Run Derby crown. Cespedes wowed the sold out audience with a blazing first round set of 17 homers, many of which reached the rarely struck third deck in Citi Field’s left field.

This was the ninth All-Star Game to be played in New York, which gives the Big Apple the title for most All-Star Games hosted. The Mets’ original home, the Polo Grounds, layed out the figurative red carpet for the second game in 1934.

Prior to this year’s celebrated exhibition, the National league held the all-time edge, 43-38, with two ties, the most famous of which going back to 2002 in Milwaukee, when both teams ran out of pitchers in extra innings. The AL, however, has been prevalent more often in the past 25 games (18-6-1).

Ex-Met Carlos Beltran was met with mixed cheers and boos during the introductions, but mostly cheers with his first at-bat. He grounded out and singled in his two at-bats.

Harvey spoke midway through the game about his appearance and his touch of wildness which found cano’s knee.

“Obviously, that was the last thing I wanted to do was go out there and possibly injure somebody. I apologized and made sure he was okay. I think he understood it wasn’t intentional.”

As for the whole All-Star experience, it lived up to Harvey’s expectations. “It was, absolutely. It was so much fun. Just being in the locker room with all the guys, the Red Carpet in New York, starting. I don’t think you could have dreamed of doing something like that. It was a tremendous honor and something I’m very thankful for.”

The highlight for Yankees fans was seeing their hero, Mariano Rivera, come in to “close” the eighth. The stadium gave him a very unique introduction/sendoff in his last All-Star Game. First, you heard his music, “Enter, Sandman.” The entire field was devoid of players or personnel. Mariano Rivera trotted in from the bullpen to thunderous applause. And even all the players in the NL dugout came to the top step and applauded.

Rivera began warming up with just a catcher until the rest of his AL mates joined him halfway through. And with typical resolve, Rivera settled his inning one-two-three, with groundouts from Milwaukee’s Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez, and the Cardinals’s Allen Craig was retired on a liner to left.

The only odd thing about seeing Rivera was that it was the eighth, and not the ninth, since the AL was leading, 3-0, at the time.

Texas Rangers’ closer, and Long Island native, Joe Nathan, drew the assignment of closing it out for the AL in the ninth.

AL skipper Jim Leyland admitted it was a predetermined plan to get Rivera into the game, even if it wasn’t his usual ninth inning stint.

“For obvious reasons,” Leyland said after the game, “in case something freaky happened in the eighth and they scored some runs and there wouldn’t have been a ninth, I brought him in for the ninth.”

And he didn’t want to infuriate any Rivera fans in case he “messed up.” “I wanted to make sure I was going to get out of here alive tonight,” Leyland joked.

The AL made up for losing the last three All-Star games as Nathan put the 3-0 win “in the books.” The NL was held to just three hits. AL fans are happy they now get home field advantage in the World Series.

Rivera, perhaps more so as a “lifetime achievement award,” was named the game’s MVP, and was handed the keys to a brand new Corvette.

As always, Rivera was humble and respectful in the postgame conference. Surrounded by family, he was grateful and thankful for the win. “That’s the most important thing.”

He was not surprised by the eighth inning appearance, as Leyland had notified him before the game that he was getting no matter what.
Warming up on a lonely field, however, felt odd.

“That’s not baseball,” Rivera commented, but not in any demeaning way. “It felt so weird, all alone with my catcher. At that moment I didn’t know what to do, so I thought just (to keep warming up).”

Along with All-Star teammate Torii Hunter, Rivera gave the team a pre-game pep talk.

“I just said it was a privilege and an honor to play with them. This was my 13th All-Star team. I said, enjoy it, cause it goes so quick.”

And just like that, the 84th all-Star Game went by so quick and is now history. next year, the 85th Mid-Summer Classic will be played in Minnesota.

It’s a Home Run

The 2013 Home Run Derby was won by Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes, who banged out nine home runs in the final round to surmount Washington’s Bryce Harper for the annual crown.

Eight participants battled the heat and humidity to thrill the sold out crowd at Citi Field. Local products Robinson Cano, both captains of the their respective AL and NL HR lineups, didn’t fare as well. Cano clipped just four home runs in the first round. Wright clobbered five.

Posted under Andy Esposito, Carl Hubbell, Doc Gooden, Don Drysdale, Game Even Though, Joe Mauer, La Coliseum, New York Mets, Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver, Top Story, Tv Execs, Whitey Ford, Yankee Stadium

Optimism again for NY Mets with another season home opening win

Perhaps when the New York Mets opened the 2013 season at Citi Field Monday afternoon they resembled teams of the past. One could say the 1982-83 teams at Shea Stadium are comparable, significant, because that became the building block to the championship year of 1986.

When the first pitch against the San Diego Padres was thrown the announced sell-out crowd of 41,053 had that optimism, but the Mets are years away from making an impact in the standings, and that was before all-star pitcher Johan Santana went down again with a season ending injury to his shoulder.

Santana has probably thrown his last pitch as a Met, and there are doubts the two-time Cy Young Award winner will resume his career. His highlight in New York was that 134-pitch no-hitter, and first in franchise history last June 1st at Citi Field. And speculation is that outing may have ruined his shoulder.

Regardless, Santana is no longer the ace of what is now a young and promising pitching staff. Jonathon Niese got the Opening Day nod, a task he prepared for weeks ago when manager Terry Collins informed the left hander that the job may be his.

New York scored seven runs in three innings, and the effective start by Niese led to an 11-2 win over the Padres. It was the Mets 20th win in their last 22 season openers at home.

“The adrenaline was pumping, I’m not going to lie,” said Niese who went 6.2 innings, on two runs, striking out four in getting his first career opening day win. Niese also helped himself at the plate tying a career high with two hits. He also had an RBI single in the second inning and scored in a three-run Mets fourth.

It was so reminiscent of the first half Mets of last season. They scored nine runs with two outs, and went 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position.  The clubhouse faces have changed, Collins is a lame duck manager, and a full house certainly helped the adrenaline and the rest of these 2013 New York Mets.

The new captain, David Wright had two stolen bases and drove in a run. This was an opening day win that fueled optimism after that dismal second half of 2012 that led to a fourth straight losing season for the Mets.

“So far, so good,” commented Wright who said he was sure to make the Opening Day roster after sitting out the last weeks of spring training with injuries to his rib cage.

Added Wright, “It was good to bust out offensively and get some breathing room for Jon.”

New York also got contributions from Ruben Tejada, who made his second consecutive home start at shortstop. Tejada doubled to left in the second inning, advanced to third on a bad throw and scored on the first single by Niese. The Padres’ Edinson Volquez once again was ineffective against the Mets and his five losses against New York are tied for the most against any team in his career,

“A good start is important, the spring is over,” said Tejada who struggled in 21 exhibition games, going 5-for-52. Collins approached him towards the latter part of the spring campaign and there was talk of not bringing him back to New York and to get extra work at Triple A, Las Vegas.

And the new faces contributed. Marlon Byrd with two RBI singles and the temporary and new catcher John Buck, in the middle of most of the rallies that saw New York put four more runs on the board in the seventh. The acquisitions of GM Sandy Alderson resemble those Mets teams before the 1986 championship season.

They can quickly become fan favorites, but to do so, as in the past, there has to be consistency. Byrd and Buck had RBI singles in the third inning.

“It definitely helped me settle in a little easier,” said Buck who will eventually sit down when the rookie Travis d’Arnaud arrives, a key player in the deal that saw Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey leave town.

Maybe the biggest impact was the new man in center field, 26-year old Collin Cowgill. The leadoff hitter won the job with a good spring and hit his first career grand slam home run off Brad Bach in the seventh.

“Just a humbling experience today,” he said. “This is a good clubhouse and everyone here can contribute to something nice.” Mets fans have heard that in the past, but the unexpected does happen during the long course of a 162-game schedule.

Just ask Collins, who once again said, “It is day one. We have a long way to go. One thing we want to do is establish credibility to our fans.”

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted under Adrenaline, Citi, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Full House, Johan Santana, Lame Duck, Last Pitch, Left Hander, New York Mets, Optimism, San Diego Padres, Seven Runs, Shea Stadium, Top Story

Sports Beat “The Wright Decision”

David Wright’s productive 2012 season was a rare bright spot for Mets fans. With one year remaining his current pact with the Mets, David picked a good time to finally feel at home at Citi Field, a place where he had struggled for the first three years of its existence.

Mets owner Fred Wilpon was quoted in New York Magazine as saying that David Wright, while a good player, was not a superstar. Wilpon may have been right in his assessment but the reality is that his woebegone organization had no choice but to re-sign him to the most lucrative contract in Mets history. Had the Mets traded David Wright, Citi Field would have resembled the ghost town that Shea Stadium was in the late 1970s following Tom Seaver’s departure.

For better or worse, David Wright is more than just a fan favorite; he is the face of the organization. No one sells more Mets jerseys and t-shirts than him. It is obligatory for Wright to hold a lengthy press conference on the state of the Mets after every single game. No matter how awful things are going for our Flushing heroes, David always says something reassuring to the faithful about how things will get better.

I am not sure if it was a coincidence but the Mets inked a deal with Wright just a few hours after the lowly, small market Pittsburgh Pirates spent $17 million to pry catcher Russell Martin away from the Yankees. It would have been both humiliating and insulting for the parsimonious Pirates to spend big bucks on new talent while the Mets count their pennies watching their name players go elsewhere.

The death of Marvin Miller, the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, last week at age 95 did not receive the attention that it should have. Marvin is the man who was singlehandedly responsible for the economic freedoms and high compensation that big leaguers enjoy today and which were but a pipedream for them 40 years ago.

Ironically, the high salaries and free agency led to more public interest in the sport and thus higher ticket prices, licensing fees, and billion-dollar television contracts for the owners. Of course, the owners and old guard members of the Baseball Writers Association of America refused to accept that notion and that’s why Marvin Miller was never inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Washington Wizards general manager, and former Forest Hills High basketball star, Ernie Grunfeld normally never misses an opportunity to return home. His awful team had a 1-12 record when they came into town last Friday night to play the Knicks and that had to have influenced his decision to skip the game. “He made the right call!” laughed Knicks rookie forward Chris Copeland who played well in his team’s easy win.

“Seven is better than six!” beamed Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill following his team’s 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Hill was basically admitting that the game was an absolute stinker with the only saving grace being that Gang Green came out on top.

QB Mark Sanchez was pulled from a game for poor play for the first time in his four-year career as a Jet by head coach Rex Ryan. Following the game, Ryan admirably refused to throw Sanchez under the proverbial bus by simply stating that he thought that his understudy, Greg McElroy, could provide a spark in the second half. McElroy did look sharp leading the Jets to the go-ahead touchdown and driving them down the field again when the clock ran out in the fourth quarter.

Ryan claimed that he wasn’t concerned that Mark Sanchez was still an awful passer in spite of a good job by both his offensive line and running backs, and preferred to give credit to the opposition. “The Cardinals make a lot of quarterbacks look bad,” he said. I think that Rex was being a bit too charitable towards him.

The Travel Channel debuted a new series Tuesday, “NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns.” The show is similar to the cinema verite premium cable documentary series as HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and Showtime’s “The Franchise.” What makes this show different is that it peels back the curtain for sports fans to see the countless things that are required to get the Cleveland Browns from city to city. Team travel secretaries are among the many unsung heroes in the world of professional sports and it’s fascinating to watch all that they have to do to make sure that things go off without a hitch.

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin is enjoying a terrific rookie season and is one of the most exciting NFL players to watch. Bayside High School alumnus Dorson Boyce is hoping to be taking hand-offs from him next year. Boyce was signed by the Redskins this past summer but has spent the year on the injured reserve list.

Three cheers for both Showtime and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions for helping to revive boxing in New York. Madison Square Garden was for years the Mecca of boxing but over the last thirty years, Las Vegas, and to a lesser extent, Atlantic City have played host to the big fights. Last Saturday’s twelve-round WBA super welterweight championship bout between fan favorite Miguel Cotto and Austin “No Doubt” Trout was the biggest pugilistic battle Madison Square Garden has hosted in years. The fight was a good one as the slugfest went the distance with Trout winning a unanimous decision over Cotto.

It seems as if every boxing card that involves fighters that have even the vaguest name recognition wind up on pay-per-view cable. That means just a cadre of hardcore boxing fans watch and the sport fails to grow. Showtime had the Cotto-Trout bout as part of its regular Saturday night programming last week, and it plans to do the same with its next marquee fight from New York, a twelve-round super lightweight championship fight between up-and-coming Danny Garcia and veteran Zab Judah that will take place at the Barclays Center on February 9.

New York Rangers center Brad Richards has managed to keep very busy in spite of the lockout that has been imposed on players by the team owners of the National Hockey League owners. He organized Operation Hat Trick, the charity game that took place in Atlantic City over Thanksgiving weekend, and is trying to do the same here in the New York area to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Richards, like his teammate Henryk Lundqvist, enjoys men’s fashion and has just inked a deal to be a model and spokesman for UNTUCKit, a dress shirt company that encourages guys to wear their button-downs over their belts instead of tucking them inside, hence the brand name.

Liquor companies routinely hire athletes to serve as endorsers. Ty Ku, Japan’s best known sake manufacturer, has gone a slightly different route by hiring Bravo’s no-nonsense “Millionaire Matchmaker,” Patti Stanger. Then again, dating can frequently be a contact sport!

At a press event to promote both Ty Ku and her new book, “Become Your Own Matchmaker” (Atria), Stanger spoke about how she spent her formative years in Beechurst and her fond memories of PS 193.

Sake, incidentally, is a rice-based, wine-like spirit, that contrary to popular belief, should be served cold rather than heated according to Ty Ku officials.

The holiday season is a favorite time for a lot of us to get away. If you want warmth but don’t want to pay exorbitant Florida and the Caribbean hotel rates, two cities served by JetBlue, Long Beach, California and Las Vegas, Nevada offer very pleasant albeit not tropical weather, and it’s considered off-season for both places so they won’t break your budget.

Long Beach is connected to Los Angeles via mass transit through the Blue Line as well by freeway and it’s only a 15-minute drive to Disneyland. Most of Long Beach’s hotels cater to business travelers and since the holiday season is notoriously a slow time in that area, leisure travelers can snap up bargain deals from the big name chain hotels such as the Hyatt and the Renaissance.

Las Vegas, which is generally unbearable from June through September, is an easy place to enjoy during the holiday season. The Venetian and the Palazzo Hotels are promoting  “Winter in Venice” that will run through January 6.  The hotels will have light shows, waterfalls, outdoor skating rinks, and top-tier dining at their over 30 restaurants. Package deals begin at $149 per night. A Las Vegas competitor, the Cosmopolitan, which is famous for its intriguing commercials that run during NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” is offering a $150 credit on hotel amenities if you book a three-night stay.

JetBlue has just begun service from JFK to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a town that has been shamefully under-served by the airline industry. Albuquerque is a charming southwest town and it’s only an hour drive to Santa Fe, a city renown for its arts. Albuquerque is also a short drive to New Mexico’s Rocky Mountain ski resorts. If you want to enjoy a balmy winter sun, drive two hours south to the college town of Las Cruces. You can also play golf anytime of the year without having to make reservations days in advance in Las Cruces.

Posted under Baseball Players Association, David Wright, Economic Freedoms, Fred Wilpon, Ghost Town, Lloyd Carroll, Lucrative Contract, Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Players Association, Marvin Miller, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Pipedream, Pittsburgh Pirates, Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver, Top Story

Pigs Finally Fly: The Mets Get Their First No-Hitter

A popular saying to describe something very unlikely to occur is “that will happen when pigs fly.” Until last Friday night the Mets had never had one of their pitchers, a group that included such luminaries as Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, and Frank Viola,  toss one of baseball’s very special accomplishments, a no-hitter. Pigs must have been flying somewhere near Flushing on June 1 because ace pitcher Johan Santana finally ended the hex by tossing a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals, the best-hitting team in the National League no less, by a score of 8-0 at Citi Field.

While a lot was understandably made of this first in Mets history what went unsaid was that there hadn’t been a major league no-hitter thrown in Queens since the late Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, Bob Moose, threw one against the Miracle Mets on September 20, 1969 at Shea Stadium. Undaunted, the Mets went on to win the World Series less than a month later.

Mets manager Terry Collins mixed euphoria with concern at his press conference following Santana’s accomplishment. At his pre-game meeting with reporters Collins said that he wanted to limit Johan’s pitch count to around 110.

Santana missed all of the 2011 season and a great deal of the 2010 campaign recovering from shoulder surgery so the last thing that Terry Collins wanted was to have a situation where he tax his star pitcher’s harm past the 110 boundary. Collins is also well aware that Santana earns $22 million per year and the last thing that the financially troubled Mets needed was for him to lose more time out of uniform. It would have been the textbook definition of a Pyrrhic victory for Collins to have Santana pitch a no-hitter and then have him wind up on the disabled list.

The Mets manager had taken a lot of heat two weeks ago for removing David Wright from a game with the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field because he did not want to risk having his team’s star player injured after a beanball war had broken out. Mets reliever DJ Carrasco plunked Brewers slugger Ryan Braun so Collins wisely figured that the Brewers relief corps would retaliate against Wright in the bottom of the inning.

Wright was livid about Collins’ mollycoddling of him and it was clear that Terry understood David’s viewpoint. There was no way that Collins was going to take Johan Santana out of a game where he could make history unless Johan himself wanted to be removed. From his post-game demeanor it wouldn’t have been surprising if Terry Collins was secretly rooting for a Cardinals player to get a hit after Santana went past the 100-pitch mark in the game so that he wouldn’t be faced with a wrenching decision. Santana wound up throwing a very taxing 134 pitches.

The Mets manager could have been off the hook had umpire Adrian Johnson made the right call when former Mets star Carlos Beltran hit shot over the third base bag in the sixth inning that was ruled a foul ball. A replay showed that the ball did in fact hit the line and Beltran should have had a double.

The Mets may have earned some karma from the baseball gods with respect to Carlos Beltran when they saluted him with a video montage of highlights from his seven-year tenure with the Amazin’s prior to the game. The crowd roared its approval and Beltran responded in kind with a tip of his hat.

Mets outfielder and Whitestone native Mike Baxter made a sensational catch on Yadier Molina’s screeching line drive to rob him of a double in the seventh inning. Baxter smashed into the wall and was lying on the ground for some time afterwards. He was removed from the game but X-rays taken afterwards were negative. He was at his locker following the game and told the media that he had merely suffered a bad bruise.

Rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis took over for Baxter in left field and the following inning he saved the no-hitter when he raced in for a bloop fly ball hit by Cards’ second baseman Tyler Greene. Mets fans’ hearts were racing when they saw shortstop Omar Quintanilla, who was subbing for the injured Ruben Tejada, go full throttle in the other direction for Greene’s pop-up. Omar said afterwards that he heard Kirk call him off at the very last second. With so much on the line, as well as a very loud crowd, it was completely understandable how communication could have been garbled between them. In past years, Santana would have lost the no-hitter on that play and one or both of the players would have been injured in a collision. Not on this night however.

The Mets bullpen earned a rare night off but they were clearly on standby. “We tried to stay inconspicuous but we had someone ready from the sixth inning on,” revealed Mets reliever Bobby Parnell in the clubhouse following the game.

Santana clearly benefitted from the return of catcher Josh Thole who had just come off the disabled list a few hours earlier after enduring a concussion three weeks earlier. Thole certainly called a good game for Johan as the Mets pitcher did not shake off any of his signs.

As if there wasn’t enough drama, rain was working its way up the I-95 corridor Friday night. The Washington Nationals had already canceled their game while the Phillies were in a lengthy rain delay in Philadelphia. Former Mets general manager Jim Duquette who was working in the radio booth subbing for Josh Lewin said that he and Howie Rose were sharing weather forecasts with the fans as the game went on. “Everyone knew that if play was stopped even for a few minutes, Johan would be removed from the game,” he said. He went on to add that he and Howie made a conscious decision to start talking about the possibility of a no-hitter in the sixth inning.

As the late Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy used to say, “The weatherman certainly cooperated with the Mets!” After all of the Mets’ bad fortunes over the last few years their fans finally had a great memory from Citi Field.

Posted under Ace Pitcher, David Wright, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Johan Santana, Lloyd Carroll, Luminaries, Milwaukee Brewers, Miracle Mets, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pyrrhic Victory, Shea Stadium, St Louis Cardinals, Star Player, Textbook Definition, Tom Seaver, Top Story

The NY Sports Day Interview: Gary Carter

Editors Note: This interview was conducted on August 4, 2004 and NYSD is reprinting it after the passing of Gary Carter today.

Back in 1989, I was a freshman in college and went to an early April game at Shea Stadium. After New York lost to the Phillies, my buddies and I waited by the player’s entrance for the Mets to come out. Car after car sped out of the lot – Darryl Strawberry almost hit someone – but we waited. Finally, when it looked like there was no one left and we were going to leave, a car stopped and Gary Carter rolled down the window. He signed autographs and answered some questions for the faithful who waited.

I mentioned that story to Carter after I interviewed him last week at Keyspan Park. He smiled and said, “It seems that those times haven’t changed. I was outside for 20 minutes earlier tonight doing the same thing.”

That is what the Hall of Famer is about. He is a man who gets it. Besides the stellar numbers, the Kid takes care of his many fans, which many players do not these days. The former catcher didn’t have to do this interview, but he did and it gave me a great thrill to interview one of my favorite players from my youth. So here is the NY Sports Day interview with Gary Carter as we discuss his time with the Mets, Montreal and his future in managing.

NY Sports Day: Are you going to be managing Brooklyn next season?

Gary Carter: I don’t know that. The reason is that it was asked me if would I be possibly available. But that doesn’t mean that’s where it’s going to be for next year. (The Mets) are just trying to get all their ducks in a row and they will make the decision. They know that I am interested in managing and it’s going to be somewhere. I just can’t say exactly where.

NYSD: So when you start managing, what skipper in your past will you style your managerial style after?

GC: I think everybody has their own style. I like Dusty Baker and all the managers I played for were all instrumental in providing an opportunity for myself. The biggest thing is that each one was different. Gene Mauch was a hard-nosed disciplinarian. Bob Kehoe, my minor league manager, was a great guy and was wonderful. He was a different type of manager than Mauch was. Each guy I learned different things from.

To be a manager, there is a lot that goes on because you are handling 25 guys and 25 different personalities. I think it’s also important to surround yourself with very good coaches. This organization has a bunch to choose from. I don’t know who they would want to be with me or whatever. My whole purpose is to help the organization to win. That is really what the bottom line is. If it eventually works out to be at the Major League level, the game has changed.

All I would want from any player is to go out and play hard; keep it fun; try to be enthusiastic and make it so that each game is a new game. You try to avoid the slumps and tough times, but a lot has to do with the makeup of the team. I think the manager has a lot to do with the make-up of the team. You want to create some discipline, but you also want to be able to create a winning atmosphere. Keep everybody up. That is very difficult for 162 games or down in the minor leagues it’s 140 games. It is basically a situation that day in and day out, you want to stay on top of things and keep all the players inspired. I think that is really the biggest part for the manager. And then you have attending to the press, the fans and everybody else. If you got a good pitching coach, you allow your pitching coach to handle the pitchers. If you have a good hitting instructor and all the other coaches – there is about six coaches on the Major League level – and you allow them to do their jobs. If they do their jobs, it makes it a lot more easier on the manager.

NYSD: Back when you were playing with the Mets, can you give me your top five moments?

GC: First of all would be winning the ‘86 World Series. Second one would be my very first game in a Met uniform and hitting a walk off home run against the Cardinals and Neil Allen. I would also have to say that ‘88 was also a very special year. Unfortunately losing out to the Dodgers who went on to win the World Series. That was another year we should have won, but ‘88 was a great year. I would have to say my last at-bat at Shea Stadium where I got a double off John Franco when he was with the Reds. I got a standing ovation because there was speculation that I would probably be gone at the end of the year. And probably my return to Shea honoring me for being inducted into the Hall of Fame- that coinciding being inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

NYSD: When you started the rally in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. What was going through your mind at that particular at-bat?

GC: What was going through my mind was that I didn’t want to be a trivia question – that’s kidding. I didn’t want to make the last out and I always maintained the theory – it’s not over ‘til it’s over. I just went up there with the feeling of confidence and doing the best I possibly could and I was able to come through. Then Kevin Mitchell followed and then Ray Knight. Before you know it the ball went through Buckner’s legs and we had won Game 6. To me, I just go up there and remember my career. It was never a grind. It was an enjoyment. It’s amazing to think 18 years and how quickly it passed. I just went up there and said there was no way we should lose this World Series. I did everything to keep us alive.

NYSD: In the ‘86 playoffs you won Game 5 off Charlie Kerfeld. You were in a really bad slump. Did you do anything different in that at-bat compared to the rest of the series?

GC: No and I didn’t think I did anything different that entire series. It was just one of those things. Facing a guy like Mike Scott, who was tough as nails and cheating his ass off, I couldn’t hit him. They had a couple of other good pitchers. Nolan Ryan. Bob Knepper was throwing good. The relievers were outstanding. It was one of those series. When they walked Keith Hernandez to pitch to me, I got a little bit of vengeance by being able to come back and drive the ball up the middle.

NYSD: When you were in Montreal, what was your favorite moment being a Montreal Expo?

GC: There were a lot of great moments. When we won the second half (in 1981) and clinched it at Shea Stadium, knowing we were going to the playoffs for the first time playing the Phillies. Also the ‘81 All-Star game, when I chosen by the fans. I got my first starting role. That’s an individual thing. There is nothing better when you win. I remember us being in a pennant race in ‘79 and ‘80. To me that’s what it was all about. When we finally got to the playoffs; played the Phillies – beat them – and then lost it to the Dodgers, it was frustrating. Montreal gave me my opportunity. My very first game was against the Mets. I remember my first hit was off Jon Matlack and my second hit was off Tom Seaver. Everything else was golden after that. Once you get to the Big Leagues, that’s everybody’s dream and once it happens you want it to continue. You want it to continue forever. Sometimes all good things come to an end.

It ended in ‘92 for me, but that’s why am anxious to get back in the game full time. I love it. I have a great passion for it and would love to see the kids of today be successful.

NYSD: What was your reaction when you got the call from Jack O’Connell from the Hall of Fame?

GC: Overwhelmed, thrilled, relieved, all of the above. It was six-year wait and finally ended on a good note. I called all my family member and the first one was my father. Unfortunately 18 days later he passed away. At least he knew I was in. My father was my coach and he played both roles after my mom passed away. I was just glad it happened when it did.

NYSD: Do you think that one day your No. 8 will be retired by the Mets?

GC: I don’t know that. I say we may have to win another championship or two. We’ll see.

NYSD: You seemed like a natural for the broadcast booth and you were one after you retired. Why did you stop?

GC: Well, I just didn’t get fulfillment out of it, like I do with coaching. I love working with the players. It seems like they are very receptive of it. I love to see the progress and I love to see a lot of things. The broadcasting was only going to be a temporary thing. I did four years with the Marlins and three years with the Expos. I really wanted to see if that was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t get the enjoyment of coming to the ballpark and strapping the uniform on.

The (other) reason I also did it was my family. It gave me the opportunity to coach my daughter in high school. It also allowed me to stay at home and I didn’t have to move my family. Now I have been out of the game 12 years. I have been fulfilled the last four years as a roving catching instructor and I enjoy it immensely. My kids have grown now. I have been to their weddings. I have been at all their graduations. I saw my daughter play at Florida State and all those things. Now, it’s time to move on.

NYSD: How are your knees? Are you having another operation?

GC: Nine times and I am having my left knee done August 12th and my ankle. I tore a ligament in my ankle July 4th. I am having my right knee replaced. Other than that they are doing wonderful. (smiles).

NYSD: Gary, thank you very much. It’s been a thrill.

 

Posted under August 4, Autographs, Brooklyn, Buddies, Darryl Strawberry, Ducks In A Row, Dusty Baker, Freshman, Gc, Interview One, Keyspan, Managerial Style, Mets, New York Mets, Nysd, Phillies, Shea Stadium, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on February 17, 2012

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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

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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

Baseball Reacts To The Death of Bin Laden

PHILADELPHIA – There was the chant from the 45,000 fans, Sunday night at Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia. They repeated “U-S-A! U-S-A!, as the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies continued to play a baseball game on a Sunday evening in early May. The game on national television, ESPN, at this point in the season meant more for the Mets who were trying to snap another brief but significant three-game losing streak.

We got word in the press box, through the technology of social media, and the on the press box televisions, that Osama bin Laden had been killed as the Mets were at bat in the top of the ninth inning. Fans checked their phones, and media in the press box went to the CNN and Fox News web sites to verify what was going on.

It was that type of night in Philadelphia, and another memorable one for the Mets as it pertained to the events of September 11, 2001.  “Probably a night I will never forget,” said Mets’ pitcher Chris Young who was back in the training room after pitching seven strong innings.

“I got chills hearing that crowd,” he said, as once again, baseball and the New York Mets were a part of history. “It’s a historic night and a great victory for the United States,” said Young. He wasn’t on the Mets team, neither were any members of the current roster when baseball returned at Shea Stadium 10 days later after the attacks of September 11.

However, as news reverberated around the stadium, and into the ears of the players, coaches, and manager, the events of that night of September 21, 2001 were recalled. Once again baseball was being played but the events taking place were more important.  The Mets and Phillies, rivals in the National league east, just like the Mets and Braves in that game when baseball returned 10 years ago, were no longer rivals.

“This is a good win for us and obviously a huge win for America tonight,” said Mets manager Terry Collins in his post- game press conference with the media. Collins did not immediately talk about the game. The Mets would win in 14-innings, maybe not as dramatic to the Mike Piazza home run at Shea Stadium that beat the Braves that night, when baseball became the healing process for New York City and all of America.

Collins heard the chants. “You almost want to stop the game,” he said. “You almost want to just stop the game and have that girl come and sing another beautiful rendition of ‘God Bless America,’” he said. But the game did not stop. And up in the press box, the media continued to monitor how it all unfolded.

They, too, got caught up in what was now more than reporting about a baseball game. It was news again, historic, as America finally got retribution and took down the most sought after mass murderer of this era. Baseball was still being played but those who lost their lives in New York City, Washington D.C. and in Pennsylvania, the brave military and uniform service personnel, and all who have been a part of this mission, they, were the story this evening.

Baseball was being played as scheduled. The military mission to end this 10-year hunt of searching, capturing, or killing bin Laden on the same night was a coincidence. And the Mets happened to be around this story again, the New York impact where the events of September 11, 2001 were mostly captured.

This was no longer going to be a night when the Mets snapped their latest losing streak and not a story about the Mets avoiding a three-game sweep by the first place Phillies. It was about America, and all the victims, and heroes of that tragic day of September 11, 2001.

And when David Wright of the Mets scored on a double hit by Ronnie Paulino in the top of the 14th inning, for the go- ahead run, there probably weren’t that many still tuned into the game on ESPN. They were watching the network news feeds and determining where do we go from here?  Are the threats against America over?

Probably not we were saying up in the press box. We will still have to be scanned before going into the ballpark, and be conscious of threats to our security. The implications will always be a part of our lives due to that tragic day of 10-years ago.

And for one night again, baseball was a part of the story. Except this time we were not the victims and America stayed strong. Some of us at times wonder why at the ballpark, in particular every seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium, do we stand and sing the words, “God Bless America?”

It won’t be questioned again next week at Yankee Stadium, or this week at Citi Field. Baseball was significant for America 10-years ago and again Sunday night May 1, 2011. We cheered what was going on the playing field and more so for those who help keep us protected.

Most of all, we never forget the victims of September 11, 2011.

Email Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

Posted under Baseball Game, Chills, Citizens Bank Ballpark, Cnn, Fox News, Game Losing Streak, Game Press, Mets Team, National League East, National Television, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Philadelphia Phillies, Phillies Baseball, Rich Mancuso, September 11 2001, Shea Stadium, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on May 2, 2011

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