Sports Beat “ Mets fans shouldn’t panic”

      Although it was a foregone conclusion that Mets ace pitcher Matt Harvey would need Tommy John surgery to repair damage on his pitching elbow and miss the entire 2014 season, many Mets fans on social media along with a good  number of sportswriters were acting as if they had just learned that the sky was falling. You would have thought these folks were expecting a parade down the Canyon of Heroes next November if Harvey were part of the Mets rotation in 2014.

      The success rate for Tommy John surgery is reportedly over 90%. Given Matt Harvey’s competitive nature, which probably breeds the arrogance that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, I fully expect him to be as good, if not better, when he returns to the mound in 2015.

       Starting pitching is not really a problem for the Mets the way their anemic offense is.. Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, and the incredibly underappreciated Dillon Gee. Carlos Torres came out of nowhere to pitch fairly well when Harvey got hurt back in August. Veteran Daisuke Matsuzaka was putrid in his first three starts with the Mets and then became unhittable. Fellow scrap heap pickup Aaron Harang pitched decently as well. They both merit serious consideration to be part of the 2014 Mets pitching staff.

The Amazin’s should also invite former ace Johan Santana to spring training assuming that he has not signed with another team now that his extremely lucrative deal with the team has finally expired. Santana missed the entire 2013 season recovering from shoulder surgery.

At this point Mets fans should be more worried about whether closer Bobby Parnell will be able to be his old self after he underwent neck surgery in August. Parnell visited the Mets clubhouse the last week of the season wearing a neck brace and said that he lost nearly thirty pounds. He said that his wife would have to do all of the driving between Queens and their off-season home in North Carolina.

The Mets bullpen was stretched quite thin last season and if the fourth and fifth starters turn out to be question marks in 2014 the team will have no choice but to fortify their corps of relievers.

The most pleasant relief pitching surprise for the Mets last year was the performance of 41 year-old LaTroy Hawkins who completed his 17th big league season. Hawkins was superb as both a setup man and as a closer after Parnell was placed on the disabled list. He was also a go-to guy for the media in the clubhouse as well as a mentor to younger pitchers. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson should reward him with a new contract with a salary upgrade.

*****

You have to wonder if Dusty Baker’s days as manager of the Cincinnati Reds were numbered when the Mets took two out of three games from them on their final road trip. The Reds were fighting for a playoff berth and dropping the series to the Mets helped cost them home field advantage for the wildcard game. The Pirates beat them 6-2 in that game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park last Tuesday. Three days later the Reds fired Baker.

Paleyfest is an annual celebration of television shows that is normally held in Los Angeles. Given the large amount of television shows that are now being filmed here these days, Paleyfest made its New York debut last weekend at the Paley Center for Media which used to be known as the Museum of Broadcasting.

One of the shows that was feted was CBS’s Tuesday night procedural “Person Of Interest” that films a lot of its outdoor scenes in Queens and uses Long Island City’s Silvercup Studios for a number of its interior shots. The star of the series is Jim Caviezel who plays a mysterious ex-CIA agent who now acts as a guardian angel to the unsuspecting whose lives are in danger.

Caviezel’s big break came in a 1999 time-traveling film, “Frequency,” that was filmed in Astoria and had the 1969 Miracle Mets run to a World Series championship as a backdrop. The movie also looked at the lives of New York firefighters. “We used a lot of real-life NYFD members as consultants. Sadly, fourteen of them were killed in the line of duty on 9/11. I am still in touch with many of their family members,” Caviezel told me last Thursday.

New York Comic Con, the annual Javits Center comic book convention that makes its return from October 10-13, is further emulating its San Diego namesake, by becoming the place for television networks to showcase both recently debuted shows and those that will be coming on the air in mid-season. New York Comic Con has always been a rendevous spot for wrestling fans to meet their heroes from yesteryear. Among those who will be appearing this year are Hulk Hogan, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Jim “Hacksaw” Duggan, and Mick Foley.

Current World Wrestling Entertainment personality Mike “The Miz” Mizanin made an appearance at an unusual venue for him, the CSE Sports Marketing Symposium that brings out the movers and shakers of the sports business world such as NBC Sports CEO Mark Lazarus, Brooklyn Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, NFL senior vice president and Queens native Frank Supovitz, Sports Illustrated president Mark Ford and Gillette’s head of sports marketing, Greg Via. “The Miz” entered the conference room as if it were just another WWE arena for him as he stayed in villainous braggadocio form. “This conference isn’t adjourned until I say it is!” he boomed into a microphone. Mizanin then easily shifted out of character as he talked about the financial commitment the WWE is making to the Susan G. Komen Foundation whose mission is to fund research that will eradicate breast cancer.

The Brooklyn Nets held their 2013 media day last Monday and a huge throng of press came out primarily to hear what former Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Garnett showed a quick wit by reminding everyone that the “only reason (he put six o’s in front the world “only”) that he came to Brooklyn was to win a championship.” He also said that he had not spoken to Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony since their run-in last spring when he enraged him by saying that his wife, La La, smelled like Honey Nut Cheerios. I still have no clue what that means.

Paul Pierce, who played his entire fifteen year career in Boston, thanked the Nets organization for helping with nearly every aspect of relocation such as finding a home, schools for his kids, as well as medical professionals for his family.

Nets center Brook Lopez, the longest tenured member of the team, admitted that he couldn’t remember the last time that his team beat the Miami Heat. (They’ve lost 17 straight games to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Company) but agrees that the Nets need to beat them at least once during the regular season before anyone can truly start thinking of them as a potential NBA champions. Brook said that he was thrilled that old Nets head coach, Lawrence Frank, is back as an assistant to current head coach Jason Kidd.

Strangely enough Jason Kidd did not choose to speak with the press on Nets media day. My biggest concern when he was named Nets head coach was that he wouldn’t be comfortable schmoozing with the press which is a key part of the job. They have not been allayed.

Sports Illustrated showed a nice sense of humor by having its perennial swimsuit issue cover girl Kate Upton pose with Atlanta Braves siblings BJ and Justin Upton for the cover of last week’s baseball playoff preview issue. Kate was described as their “long lost cousin” on the cover.

WFAN’s Mike Francesa got priceless publicity this week through a YouTube parody created by Bill Buchanan who goes by the clever pseudonym Mike Zaun (I am surprised he did not choose Mike Dupp however.) Buchanan got in British redcoat regalia and did a spot-on impersonation of what Mike Francesa would have been like had he been doing radio in 1776 and the American Revolution were a sporting contest. “The rebels have no chance to win but if they want to have a chance they had better trust Benedict Arnold,” imagined a colonial Francesa who dismissed callers who supported George Washington’s guys.

When a current day caller asked Mike about the parody on Friday, he stayed in character and denied any knowledge of it claiming that he has never watched YouTube. My guess is that Francesa was merely remaining in character which he never deviates from on the air. When I have run into him outside of the WFAN studio he is far more approachable than his egomaniacal on-air persona. I have a feeling that privately Mike was laughing loudly at Buchanan’s video.

If you are looking for a good long weekend fall destination, Cooperstown, New York, home the National Baseball Hall of Fame, is a good choice. The rates at the historic Otesaga Hotel and its sister property, The Cooper Inn, are a fraction of what they are in the peak summer months. It’s a fine place to watch the fall foliage as well as enjoy some tasty apple cider from the many farms of central New York State.

The semi-annual Spa Week will be running from October 14-20 and many of the best spas in our area offer a variety of services such as massages for $50. For a listing of participants, log onto www.spaweek.com

Speaking of massages, give Greenwich Village’s Jade Hotel credit for attracting out-of-town participants for the November 3 ING New York City Marathon with packages that include pre-race pasta binges for dinner and post-race massages that should be welcomed by anyone who has just run over 26 miles.

Posted under Lloyd Carroll, New York Mets, Top Story

This post was written by Lloyd Carroll on October 11, 2013

Sports Beat “Mets Finish Third”

The Mets’ 3-2 come from behind victory last Sunday afternoon at Citi Field to close out the 2013 season meant that the team wound up in third place in the National League East with its 74-88 record. That wasn’t a cause for anyone to be popping champagne in the clubhouse but considering that many believed that the Mets would be battling the penurious Miami Marlins all season for the cellar this was a major accomplishment. Hardly anyone predicted that the Mets would finish ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies. Of course that is more of an indictment of an aging, overpaid ,and underperforming Phillies squad than it is a tribute to the Mets.

Nonetheless Mets manager Terry Collins, who rightfully received an extension on his contract Monday, sees finishing third as an important launching point for the 2014 Mets. “I told Sandy (Mets general manager Sandy Alderson) after we swept the Phillies down there last weekend that we were going to overtake them in the standings. This is important to us,” Collins said in his post-game press conference proudly.

It is a credit to Mets fans that Citi Field was sold out Sunday as one of the greatest players in the franchise’s history, Mike Piazza, was inducted in the team’s Hall of Fame.

Prior to the game Piazza, always the epitome of class, took the high road when asked about that other Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Even though he wasn’t named in the infamous Mitchell Report or in any Congressional hearings for using illegal steroids as a player, too many voting  members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) have taken a “guilty until proven innocent” approach to Piazza and other hitters who should be automatic inductees such as Jeff Bagwell.

“It’s a process and I understand that. It took Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio three times to get elected,” he told the media. I believe that Mike is right. Time should be an ally for him.

Last Friday the Mets brought a number of their top prospects to Citi Field for the Sterling Awards ceremonies that honor the best players in their farm system.

Allan Dykstra, a strapping 6’5″ first baseman who played for the Binghamton Mets, said that he was not related to disgraced former Mets centerfielder  Lenny Dykstra who served prison time for engaging in fraud. “I have never been contacted by Jim Cramer for stock market advice,” he said with a laugh.

Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are the two top Mets pitching prospects. Noah admitted that he was nervous about meeting the New York press while Rafael said that he will try to learn English in his native Dominican Republic this winter.

*****

Congratulations to Mets second baseman and leftfielder Eric Young, Jr. who led the National League base stealing title with 46 stolen bases. It is a shame that the running game has gotten less important in the big leagues for reasons that I can’t fathom.

Two Mets minor leaguers who were not summoned to Flushing for Friday’s Sterling Awards were Savannah Sand Gnats outfielder Brandon Nimmo and Kingsport Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini. Both are former first round picks in the amateur draft for the Mets. Hopefully that is not a red flag about their future chances of making it to the big club.

Kingsport Mets pitcher Robert Whalen was thrilled to be among the honorees. “I grew up a Mets fan in the Poconos. My dad is from Flushing while my mom grew up in Woodside,” he told me.

“Daily News Live” which is broadcast on SNY weekday afternoons at 5 PM is an occasional guilty pleasure for me. The show features select members of the News’s sportswriting staff. One writer who I have never seen on that show is Peter Botte who never shies away from asking the necessary tough questions at press conferences. He is also a fine writer.

Speaking of the Daily News, their local baseball columnist Andy Martino did a fine job subbing for SNY’s Kevin Burkhardt when he was doing an NFL telecast for Fox Sports a week ago.

Kevin Burkhardt has been doing in-game reports as well as pre and postgame work on SNY telecasts since the Mets cable home debuted in 2006. His NFL workload has increased significantly in recent years. My guess is that Fox Sports will work him into their baseball broadcasting team next spring. Kevin told me that he expects to be back on SNY but it wouldn’t surprise me if he is doing bigger and better things sooner rather than later.

Mets fans will miss the post-game giveaways that companies have to promote their products. I stocked up on Wise potato chips, Klondike ice cream bars, and bottles of Nesquik. I have to admit that chocolate milk, whether if be Nesquik, Hershey’s, or just fat-free milk mixed with Bosco Syrup brings out the little kid in me.

I am beginning to think that the Giants may not make the NFL playoffs.

Somehow Larry Ellison and his Oracle team’s victory in the America’s Cup did not seem to trigger an outburst of chest-thumping national pride. I guess yacht races are not appreciated by the hoi polloi. So Larry, in your honor I shout “USA!” USA!” “USA!”

“Saturday Night Live” made its season debut last weekend with six new cast members who are trying to replace such stalwarts as Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader. The show wasn’t very good but longtime SNL viewers should treat the next five or six shows the way sports fans treat preseason games. You have to let the cast and its writers experiment and make their share of  mistakes.

One positive is that Beck Bennett, best known for those terrific “It’s Not Complicated” AT&T ads in which he solicits opinions from pre-K kids, is part of the new SNL troupe. The big negative is the lack of ethnic diversity in the cast of new players.

NBC won a rare head-to-head matchup with CBS last Monday at 10 PM in a battle of new shows when its “Blacklist,” which is clearly inspired by “Silence of the Lambs,” easily bested CBS’s “Hostages.” It wasn’t that the majority of TV viewers favored “Blacklist” star James Spader over “Hostages” leading man Dylan McDermott. It’s just that “Hostages,” which deals with a rogue FBI agent who wants the President to die, requires the viewers to commit to all 15 episodes since each week’s episode picks up where last week’s ends. On the other hand each episode of “Blacklist” stands on its own and therefore you can still enjoy it even if you miss the previous week’s show. CBS may learn a painful lesson that cable viewers commit more to their favorite shows on a weekly basis than broadcast network watchers do.

Ski Magazine named Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort as its top resort for the upcoming snow sport season.

Most people know that aloe vera is used for healing a variety of skin problems. What is not as well known is that aloe vera can be enjoyed as a beverage that contains many amino acids and anti-oxidants that boost health for both one’s digestive and immune systems. A Dallas company, The Aloe Source, has produced a tasty drink, Strawberry Kiwi Aloe Vera Nutritional Drink, which purports to have all of these benefits.

Last week I mentioned that the fall is a time for a number of interesting festival and expositions that take place in New York City. I neglected to mention that both the 51st annual New York Film Festival and the cutting edge music showcase, the CMJ Festival, are taking place this month.

Posted under Lloyd Carroll, New York Mets, Top Story

This post was written by Lloyd Carroll on September 30, 2013

Piazza Still Nos. 1 & 31 In Hearts Of Mets Fans

You could make a case that Mike Piazza will forever be the Mets fans’ equivalent of Mickey Mantle, again evidenced today as the likely future Hall of Famer was formally inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame at Citi Field.

In a year where the Mets again struggled on the field and at the gate, the five-year old ballpark was filled to capacity, with standing room only tickets sold – a very rare occurrence these days – as the now 45-year-old former Met became the 27th inductee into the Mets Hall of Fame, and its third catcher, following Jerry Grote (1992 Inductee) and Gary Carter (2001).

The gratitude and platitudes flowed like a river, with Piazza graciously returning the love rained upon him by the boisterous gathering, with not only hundreds of fans arriving at the ballpark wearing Piazza jerseys and other related gear, but with the Mets adding to the fashion of the day by handing each fan a black jersey style t-shirt bearing Piazza’s name and number as they entered.

“They say you can count your true friends on one hand,” Piazza proclaimed during his brief pre-game acceptance speech, “and this is where you are,” an acknowledged direct reference to the fans as he held up one index finger.

The feeling was mutual.

Before the ceremony, Piazza told the press what the fans sincerely meant to him. “From the start, the fans taking me under their wing was truly special, and can’t put it into words. The word is just grateful. Truly a special connection. I attribute it to my faith in God, my family… the love and support was overwhelming.”

As for the reference and comparison to Mantle, Piazza might be the guy, or at least in the same conversation with Darryl Strawberry, and the eventual all-time go-to Met, David Wright.

Longtime Yankees fans have never lost their love for Mantle. He was power incarnate. One of baseball’s all-time best, and he had that extra “it” factor that also oozes from Piazza, handsome, charisma overflowing, and the ability to follow through when it was needed most.

New York City will never forget what Piazza was able to do for the Mets, for baseball, and the city of New York in that first game back following the horrible terrorist attacks on the city and the nation on Sept. 11, 2001. In that first game ten days later, Piazza crushed a home run to beat the Braves that allowed the city to breathe again, to acknowledge that we were injured, but can still respond and prevail.

It was the only game in the long managerial career of Braves skipper Bobby Cox where he later admitted he didn’t mind losing. It was the game where both teams followed the pregame introductions with unprecedented hugs and handshakes between both squads around second base.

“That home run was awesome,” Piazza exclaimed in a pregame presser, “and I was so glad to be able to execute in what I attribute to the power of prayer. I was so blessed. To have a moment like that in a week of despair. It was a miracle.”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg recognized the moment in an official Proclamation that named this day Mike Piazza Day in the City of New York.

In 2004, Piazza and Mets fans enjoyed a personal moment when the popular backstop eclipsed Carlton Fisk with the 352nd home run of his career – as a catcher, and the greatest total of home runs from the catching position. The rest of Piazza’s 427 home runs came as a DH, as a pinch-hitter, or from those dark days when he was asked to play first base, an experiment that did not fare well. Piazza’s eventual career total of 396 home runs as a catcher continues to rank first in baseball history and likely will remain so for many, many years. Catchers, generally, are not home run hitters.

Established in 1981, the Mets Hall of Fame has been welcoming members on an irregular basis ever since, with their plaques now formally installed in the Mets Museum located near the entrance of the Jackie Robinson Rotundra. At Shea Stadium, members were honored with a bronze bust, which were originally on display on the Diamond Club level. Some of which still exist in Citi Field – Gil Hodges’ bust inside the entrance of the Press Gate, Tom Seaver’s bust at the third base entrance, and Casey Stengel’s bust also at an entrance on the third base side.

A five-man committee meets each year to determine if – and only if – any former members of the team and front office deserve such an honor. The Committee is comprised of Mets Media Relations VP Jay Horwitz, original Met Al Jackson, longtime Mets beat writer Marty Noble, and longtime broadcasters Gary Cohen and Howie Rose.

Rose again served as the MC for the on-field ceremonies.

The Mets also honored longtime scout Harry Minor with the team’s Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award. Minor began a career in baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947, and scouted for the Mets from 1967 to his retirement in 2011. Minor knew which prospects had “trouble with the curve” and helped shape four pennant-winning teams and two World Championships.

Joining Minor and Rose on the field to honor Piazza was Mike’s family, his wife, Alicia, his young daughters, Nicoletta and Paulina, his brothers, Tom, and Vince, Jr., and his parents, Veronica, and Vince, Sr.
Also on hand were previously inducted Mets Hall of Famers and former teammates John Franco, Keith Hernandez, Ed Kranepool, Doc Gooden, Ed Charles, Bud Harrelson, Rusty Staub, Mookie Wilson, and Edgardo Alfonzo.

One of the accolades Piazza shared with the stadium was a kudo to “The Fonz.”

“I used to say to myself, if it wasn’t me up there with the game on the line, then I wanted it to be Fonzie.”

Congratulating Piazza via a video feed from the MLB TV studios in New Jersey was Al Leiter. “Mike, congratulations…” said Leiter, beaming. “I remember when we made the trade, I was on the phone with Johnny Franco and some of the guys and we were like 12-year olds going, “We got Mike Piazza! We got Piazza!”

“I remember that first game at the end of May. I was a like a little Met fan growing up. I had the pleasure of being in the locker next to you for seven years, and know what you meant to this organization. And I can’t say enough how proud I am of you and our friendship which continues to this day. Congratulations.”

Piazza almost committed a faux pas during his acceptance speech. He generously thanked Mets management, and also noted former Mets owner Nelson Doubleday, Jr. – who was principally responsible for bringing Piazza to the organization – but if you were at the game or watched the broadcast, you might have been puzzled when Piazza said thanks to Doubleday, “who is no longer with us.”

Don’t worry, Mr. Doubleday is very much alive, and Piazza knows that, he just meant no longer with the team. As Mark Twain once mocked, “Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Originally, in 1998, when Piazza had been traded by the LA Dodgers – the team that drafted him in the lofty 62nd round of the 1988 Amateur Draft (purportedly as a favor toe family friend, Tommy Lasorda) – the Florida Marlins, the media asked Mets owner Fred Wilpon if he was interested in acquiring Piazza. Because it was almost a given that the Marlins were going to turn him around at some point in another deal.

Wilpon essentially said, “We already have a good catcher,” in part due to the baseball rule that says don’t covet players on other teams, and a reference to then steady and popular backstop Todd Hundley.

But it was Doubleday who recognized the star power and batting power of Piazza, and basically told GM Steve Phillips, “Get Piazza.”

The deal was consummated on May 22, 1998, with the Mets sending Preston Wilson (Mookie’s boy), Geoff Goetz, and Ed Yarnall to Florida for Piazza, who already had been the Rookie of the Year in 1992, and a six-time All-Star.

Only Wilson became a player of any significance, and ironically, is a member of the Marlins’ broadcast team these days.

The rest is Mets and baseball history. Piazza later signed a seven-year deal with New York ($91 mil) that gave him baseball’s biggest player deal at the time, and something Piazza also acknowledged on his day of recognition.

“If it wasn’t for my agent, Danny Lozano, playing a hard line with the Dodgers, I might never have come to New York.” The fans howled with that thought.

By the numbers, Piazza finished a 16-year career in 2007 with 427 home runs, 1335 RBIs, a .308 average, slugging at .545, and on-base of .377. For his eight years with the Mets, No. 31 slugged 220 homers (third on the team’s all-time list, behind Straw and Wright), banged in 655 runs, scored 532 runs, picked up 1,028 hits, and had a .296 avg.

If you’re worried about if and when Piazza makes it to the original Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and whether or not he wears a Met or Dodger cap on his bronze plaque, fear not. It is the management of the Hall that makes those decisions now, and they generally go wherever the player made his most significant contributions.

Piazza played in more seasons as a Met than as a Dodger (8 to 7), played in more games (972 to 726), had more home runs (220 to 177), and more RBIs (655 to 563). Need any further evidence, your honor?

But that Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is still a question mark. In the last election, Piazza’s first time on the ballot, and where no player made it to the required 75% nominations for election, the 12-time All-Star received just 57.8% of the vote. Not bad, and it keeps him on the ballot, but it is a process Piazza gladly welcomes.

“The process is a beautiful thing as well,” Piazza said. “Yogi (Berra) had three ballots. Joe DiMaggio had three ballots. If I’m blessed to get to be put in one day, I will be honored, but it’s out of my hands.”

As for the future, Piazza noted he’s very busy doing nothing. Plays a lot of golf. He keeps him in a competitive edge. With two young daughters and a baby boy, Marco, just two months old, he’s just dad now. But maybe about 18 years from now…

“I’m going to teach (Marco) how to hit, and the rest will be up to him.” And he joked to team COO Jeff Wilpon, “I’m going to give you first crack at him, but he’s not going to come cheap.”

We’re sure Mets fans are looking forward to the day, Mike. Congrats to a very worthy Hall of Famer.

Posted under Andy Esposito, New York Mets, Top Story

This post was written by Andy Esposito on September 30, 2013

Sports Beat “Self-absorbed Matt”

In yet another dreary Mets season Matt Harvey gave Mets fans a number of thrills this season such as pitching two scoreless innings as the starting pitcher in the 2013 All-Star Game played at Citi Field this past July. You would have to go back nearly 30 years to Dwight Gooden’s heyday to find a Mets pitcher who could dominate opposing hitters at will.

He was such a big story that Jimmy Fallon used him for a hilarious “man in the street” bit to see how many New Yorkers could recognize him. ESPN Magazine put him on the cover in the buff for its July “body issue” while Men’s Journal ran a feature on him that made it clear that he was thoroughly enjoying the trappings of being a handsome, young New York celebrity.

Last month Mets fans’ collective spirits took a dive when it was diagnosed that Harvey’s pitching elbow suffered a tear and that it was probable that he would miss the 2014 season. It would be a certainty if he elected to have surgery something that he understandably is hoping to avoid although it seems inevitable that he will need a procedure.

Given that Harvey has been a hero to beleaguered Mets fans, combined with the fact that his future is clearly in jeopardy, many of the media who cover the team have been reticent to report that he has been rather unapproachable in the clubhouse for a good chunk of the season and that you were lucky to get a one-word response to questions if he did deign to talk to you.

Harvey’s arrogance would certainly have gone unreported by me had he not made a jerk out of himself last Wednesday when he agreed to be a guest on Dan Patrick’s NBC Sports Network Show. Instead of answering Patrick’s questions about his pitching arm issues, Harvey insisted on shilling, rather inarticulately I might add, for the cellular telephone chip manufacturer, Qualcomm. Dan understandably skewered him after the interview was over.

In contrast, McDonald’s did things right last Tuesday when it brought in Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz for a press event at their Times Square restaurant to promote their new Mighty Wings snack. Cruz is a commercial endorser for McDonald’s but he gamely took questions about the Giants’ 0-2 start from the attending press.

The personable Cruz is one of the few Hispanic sports to land a bevy of national endorsement deals. He has done TV and magazine ads for Time Warner Cable, Gillette, and Advil as well as raking in big bucks from Nike for wearing their apparel. Even the great Mariano Rivera never landed the lucrative corporate contracts that Victor Cruz has.

New York City’s official tourism bureau, NYC and Company, owes  MLB scheduling committee and the good folks from the Bay Area a lot of thanks. Thousands of visitors from Northern California came to New York this past week for the sole purpose of seeing the Giants play the Mets at Citi Field (the Mets’ accounting department was delighted since the place would have been a ghost town otherwise) and the Yankees in the Bronx.

The Queens Economic Development Council, which had a booth at the US Open, to inform visitors of what Queens has to offer, should do the same in front of Citi Field. Queens has terrific restaurants that are just as good, if not better, and far less expensive than those in Manhattan. Yet the vast majority of out-of-town visitors attending a sporting event don’t know that. If nothing else, the QEDC should be visible when the Phillies come into play the Mets next year because a lot of fans drive in from Philadelphia and its suburbs to see their team at Citi Field. They have already paid the high parking charges so they might as well get their money’s worth by walking over the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge to Flushing and try one of its many fine dining establishments.

It wasn’t that long ago that the San Francisco Giants drew even fewer fans than the Mets do for a game. A great deal of the credit for the turnaround has to go to the team’s CEO, Lawrence Baer, who was instrumental in getting AT& T Park built in San Francisco and then putting together a team that won two World Series in the last three years. Baer is the rare baseball executive who enjoys schmoozing with the media and with fans. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon could learn a lot by observing him. Perhaps Jeff’s dad, Mets owner Fred Wilpon, could make a call to Baer to arrange for Jeff to have an internship with him.

I asked Baer about the team that plays across San Francisco Bay from his, the Oakland Athletics, and their quest to get a new stadium. Baer and the Giants are not happy that the A’s want to move south to San Jose where the Giants have a minor league team there and they consider it to be their territory. The city of San Jose is suing Major League Baseball for their attempts to prevent the A’s from moving there.

Baer could not comment on this pending litigation but he did not disagree with my assessment that the A’s would be better off building a new ballpark on Oakland’s sizable waterfront that is well-served by mass transit. The A’s would be rolling the dice moving 50 miles from their current home in the hopes of tapping into the Silicon Valley corporate world.

The Mets’ cable outlet, SNY, made a big deal in advance of Jerry Seinfeld’s guest analyst gig last Tuesday night that lasted a paltry four innings. Except for one joke about surgeon to star athletes Dr. James Andrews who gets a lot of press attention even when he just offers an opinion, Jerry did not bring much to the table. Seinfeld, a  Queens College alum, did not meet with the media and his bodyguards got him out of Citi Field as quickly as possible by interacting with as few people as possible.

Under Armour, the Baltimore-based sports apparel company, continues to chip away at Nike’s dominance in the marketplace. St. John’s University announced this week that Under

Armour will be the official supplier of uniforms for its sports teams for the next six years.

With both leisure time and disposable income becoming increasingly more difficult for Americans, destination and resorts are competing harder for attention. California’s San Luis Obispo County took out a booth at the GBK Lounge in Manhattan’s Empire Hotel during Fashion Week while the Puerto Rico Tourism Company did the same at the US Open. Last Monday, the Blue Lagoon Resort in Iceland, the European country located closest to the USA, held a reception for travel agents and the press in midtown Manhattan.

The weather is still warm and sunny but we all know that the cold weather isn’t far behind. Ski Vermont, the private consortium that markets that state’s many ski resorts, was in town Thursday week to promote the fact that nearly all of the resorts there will be offering bargain lodging and ski lessons in January to beginners. Many ski lodges, including Killington and Stowe Mountain will be making their own snow as early as November. Sugarbush is offering an unlimited ski pass without any blackout dates to those under 30 for $299. The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe (yes, the same von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame) still offers the best in cross-country skiing and they are opening an Austrian lager brewery. They hope to ship can and bottles to retailers all over the world by next year.

Consumer Reports is great when it comes to comparing high ticket items such as cars, computers, and refrigerators, and on occasion they touch smaller priced items. If you want to find out the best-rated in everyday items such as snacks, paper goods, soaps, oral care products, and cleaning supplies, log onto www.productoftheyearusa.com . A research company, TNS, surveys a scientific sampling of 50,000 consumers to get the results.

Posted under Cellular Telephone, Chip Manufacturer, Dwight Gooden, Heyday, Lloyd Carroll, Man In The Street, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Qualcomm, Scoreless Innings, Shilling, Starting Pitcher, Top Story, Trappings, Word Response

The Real Reason WFAN Dropped the Mets

The Mets have no one to blame but themselves.

Not just for another season in the red, their fifth consecutive season below .500 – way below .500 – but for the recent decision by WFAN, their official flagship radio station of the past 26 years, to not renew their contract to carry Mets games to make a deal with their crosstown rival Yankees.

Essentially, WFAN filed for a divorce.

Of course, any corporate decision made anywhere in this country, arguably the world, is ruled by money, but in this case it was also hinged by wins and losses. As in mostly wins by the Yankees, and losses by the Mets.

WFAN waved goodbye because for the past 26 years, the Yankees have won way more games than the Mets, and that translates to more money in the till, but more so, the Yankees have played way more games in the postseason than the Mets, and that’s where the really big bucks accumulate. More games – more postseason games – means more airtime, more commercial time, more revenue, more exposure overall, and so on.

When the Mets season is over, as it has been frequently in the last half-decade with the final pitch of the regular season, they’re left with filling airtime at night with the likes of Steve Somers. Now who doesn’t like schmoozing with Steve Somers, we grant you, an infectious listen, no doubt. But if you’re in the postseason, as the Yankees generally are – even with this season’s conclusion in doubt – those extra games can rake in much more revenue than The Schmoozer (sorry, Steve).

There are some who might believe that WFAN switched because Mike Francesca, their popular afternoon host, is an unabashed Yankees fan, but nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Miked Up has been a Yankee rooter his entire life, and certainly the entire 26-year run of the Mets “on the FAN,” but that didn’t initiate any contractual changes during this time.

No, it’s always about the Benjamins, as they say, and this was no exception.

In 1987, when WFAN came into existence, inheriting the Mets from the reincarnated WHN 1050 AM station, station execs gladly welcomed Mets games into their programming, bracketing the games with longer than was the norm pre and post-game shows while promoting the games literally 24 hours a day as the nation’s first all-sports radio station.

And they said it wouldn’t last!

Actually, they said that about ESPN, too, the first all-sports television station – that launched in 1982 – and now both formats have spawned hundreds of copies.

In a way, you could say ESPN TV gave birth to WFAN radio, but that’s another story.

In 1987, the Mets were the “It” team, the toast of New York, the World Champions of baseball. These were the Doc and Darryl, Keith and Carter, Mookie and Wally Mets. They were on the back pages. They were on the front pages. Sometimes for the wrong reasons, but that’s another story, too. Still, they were the water cooler team of New York.

They Yankees? Yeah, they were good, too, but no matter how many games they won, or how many batting titles and other individual achievements they could muster, they could never find their way into the postseason, despite the heroics of Don Mattingly, the antics of Dave Winfield, and the legs of Rickey Henderson.

WFAN was so enamored with having the Mets that they threw the switch from being WHN to WFAN, from frequency 1050 AM to 660 AM at Shea Stadium on July 1, 1987. Legendary radio host Don Imus, was given the honor of pushing the button, or whatever it was that actually zapped over to the new location on the dial.

Imus was a holdover from the previous regime at WNBC, which held the 660 frequency for many years. His morning show gave The Fan immediate gravitas, humor, and headlines.

And by the way, in case you have forgotten, or never knew, it was Imus who nicknamed Chris Russo, the Mad Dog. One morning, during one of Russo’s wild and crazy rants, Imus proclaimed, “You’re like a mad dog!” It stuck. So next time you listen to the doggie on satellite radio, know where that came from.

So here we are, about two weeks left to go in the season, and the Mets are without a radio home for 2014. But fear not, baseball audiophiles. Mets exec Jeff Wilpon announced immediately after WFAN officially said adios that negotiations were under way with a new radio partner for ’14. You could say the lead horse in the race is WEPN, the radio version of ESPN in New York, but nothing is definite yet, and there could be a dark horse candidate.

WFAN is a 50,000Watt radio station, the strongest signal the government will allow. There are a total of seven such stations in New York Metro, among them WEPN, WABC (a former Mets residence at the very beginning, from 1962-63), WCBS AM, WINS, WOR, WBBR, and WQEW.

In the recent Arbitron ratings “book,” as it is known, three of those stations made it to the Top Ten, including WFAN, WINS, and WCBS AM. In fact, the FAN made a very strong showing, coming in at No. 10 overall, with a 3.8. That means 3.8% of the radio audience listens to the FAN during the course of a week, and that includes all shows and games. WEPN, by comparison, rated just a 1.6.

However, in the all-important category of listeners aged 25-54, the demographics brought this competition a little closer, with the FAN again topping EPN, 5.5 to 2.9.

Those are radio’s stats. Those are their batting titles, win totals, and ERA. Those are the numbers that sets the ad rates, and everything else hinges off of that.

So if the Mets switch allegiances to ESPN does that mean their ratings will suffer? Perhaps a bit, but not necessarily because of the switch to a different radio station.

It’s still all about the wins and losses.

And one last “by the way.” WFAN switched from handling Jets games to Giants games some years ago for the exact same reason they just courted their new girlfriend in the Bronx.

ADDENDUM: METS RADIO HISTORY

In what will be their 54-year history next year, the Mets will have made eight radio station switches. They started on WABC (1962-63), then made their first association with WHN (at the time a country music station, by the way) from 1964-66. They jumped to WJRZ from 1967-71 (which leads to an interesting trivia question regarding what station Mets fans first heard them win a World Championship in 1969). It was back to WHN from ’72-74, then another migration to WNEW AM from ’75-’77. The WMCA “Good Guys” broadcast Mets games ’78-’82, and it was back to WHN from ’83-87 until Imus “pushed the button.”

Posted under Airtime, Andy Esposito, Benjamins, Commercial Time, Corporate Decision, Extra Games, Fifth Consecutive Season, Flagship Radio Station, Mets Games, Mike Francesca, Miked, New York Mets, No Doubt, Pitch, Postseason Games, Real Reason, Schmoozing, Sorry Steve, Top Story, Yankee

Sports Beat “WFAN Boots Mets”

There has been a lot of guessing as to which station will broadcast the Mets next year with the ESPN or WOR being the most likely suitors. While either outlet would probably pay the Mets the $6-$7 million that WFAN was, there may be a more profitable alternative for the team.

Mets executives should look into buying broadcast time on WBBR (1130 AM) which has a strong 50,000-watt signal. Local sports fans have gotten to know WBBR as the place to hear their favorite team if there is a conflict such as when ESPN is broadcasting a Knicks game and there is a Rangers game taking place as well or when WFAN is broadcasting a Devils game and the Nets are playing simultaneously.

By purchasing the time from WBBR, the Mets can keep all of the advertising revenue that they can generate. It would also help if they could have a winning season for a change.

In a season full of low points, the Mets may have reached a new low on Sunday in a game that they wound up winning. The Mets’ offense was its usual anemic self against the Miami Marlins who have a far worse record than the Mets. There was no score going into the bottom of the twelfth inning.

Shockingly, the Mets loaded the bases with nobody out. Certainly even they would find a way to finally get a run across. That quickly appeared to be wishful thinking as Zach Lutz hit into a weak force play at the plate and the following batter, Andrew Brown, did the same. Instead of boos there was derisive laughter coming from the stands. I have heard many sarcastic  Bronx cheers at a ballpark but I can’t remember hearing so many fans laughing at their favorite team as if they were watching a Mel Brooks movie. Fortunately catcher Travis d’Arnaud hit a ground ball that snuck past the shortstop’s glove for a game-winning single to spare the Mets further humiliation.

After the game I asked manager Terry Collins if his team’s offensive ineptitude and the fans’ chuckling was dispiriting. “Well, we had four rookies in the lineup today and you have to look at the process. For example, if they are working the count and swinging at good pitches,” he said. It is hard to blame Collins for setting the bar as low as possible given the talent that he has at his disposal.

Davey Johnson, who was the manager when the Mets won their second and last World Series championship in 1986, and is currently the Washington Nationals manager will be leaving from that post at the end of the season. Although he is 70, Johnson insists that he is not retiring and would like to manage in the Australia. “I have always been intrigued by Australia and I have never been there,” he told me.

Johnson was an early adapter of using computers to assist in making strategic baseball decisions. “I studied those old programming languages FORTRAN and COBOL,” said Davey who has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Trinity University. He offered a sympathetic laugh when I told him of the frustrations that I had with those old keypunch input cards that FORTRAN required back in the late 1970s.

PBS broadcast a superb documentary last week on Billie Jean King to coincide with the 40th anniversary of her “battle of the sexes” match against 55 year-old Bobby Riggs that was held at the Astrodome in Houston. The United States Tennis Association had a terrific exhibit on the match that truly put women’s tennis on the map at the American Express pavilion at the recent US Open.

It is a long season so Giants fans should not despair that their team lost the Manning Bowl last Sunday and are now 0-2. Now if they lose next week in Charlotte to the Carolina Panthers I give Big Blue fans permission to start panicking.

The general consensus was that the Buffalo Bills, who have more serious quarterback issues than even the Jets do, would be the one team in the AFC East that the Jets would finish ahead of in the standings.

The Bills are not going to be pushovers when the Jets face them at MetLife Stadium this Sunday. Like the Jets, they lost a close one to the New England Patriots and this past Sunday they edged out Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, 24-23.

Jets QB, rookie Geno Smith, by very definition, is a work in progress. He is going to have to get more receptions from wide receivers Stephen Hill and Clyde Gates, neither of whom has proven to be a big playmaker. It would also help if Santonio Holmes’ foot was healthy this Sunday.

The annual New York Bar & Restaurant Show held at the Javits Center, always one of my favorite trade shows to attend, rebranded itself with a new name this year, the Holiday Buying Show. The majority of exhibitors are small spirits companies that are looking to make a name for themselves such as a Greek liquer company, Ya Mastiha, and a Minnesota- based alcohol manufacturer, Phillips Distilling.

There was no shortage of vodka companies. Golia, a vodka made in little-known Mongolia, is trying to establish name recognition by having lounges at both the Prudential Center for New Jersey Devils games and at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center for Flyers and 76ers contests. My favorite-named liquor company was Balls Vodka whose owner, Yoav Sisley prides himself on being a big sports fan.

Every year it seems like New York Fashion Week is less about clothing and more about celebrities and lifestyle products. For example, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who is one of the NBA’s elite players, was visible at a number of runway shoes. While he may sincerely enjoy the world of fashion my guess is that he wants to raise his profile for corporate endorsement consideration before the NBA season gets underway. He is well aware that he is at a disadvantage playing his home games in the NBA’s smallest market.

Among the other companies that set up splashy booths around town during Fashion Week were Pilot Pens who showed off their erasable gel rollers, Ebay; Pinch Me, a company that purports to send free samples to those who give them data over the Internet; Birchbox, a subscription service that delivers a monthly surprise box of products for men and women; and Skinny Girl, one of many low calorie energy health bars that try to get recognition at Fashion Week. And of course, as per tradition, Mercedes-Benz showed its latest models at Lincoln Center.

New York Fashion Week is normally the kickoff of autumn festivals in New York. Coming up next week is Advertising Week. That will be followed by New York City Wine & Food Festival, the CMJ Music Festival, New York Comic Con (which is not related to the famous summer San Diego entertainment confab although like its West Coast counterpart does cover a lot of pop culture), and a pair of television festivals, Paley Fest and the New York Television Festival.

Posted under Advertising Revenue, Broadcast Time, Force Play, Lloyd Carroll, Mel Brooks, Mets, New York Mets, Rookies, Shortstop, Top Story, Watt Signal, Weak Force, Wor

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

The Mets Shined After 9/11

Editor’s Note: This Story First Appeared in the September 2011 issue of Mets Inside Pitch.

The day started out nice. In fact it was a great day to walk my new puppy.

As many dog owners know, once a puppy gets its shots you need to walk it until it does its business outside. Some days it took five minutes and sometimes it took considerably longer.

On September 11, 2011, it took my new dog, Isabella, 45 minutes to… well, you know, and by the time I got back to my apartment in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the World Trade Center was already on fire.

At that time, I was not an intrepid reporter, rather a stock broker struggling through the Internet bubble bursting, trying to eek out a living on Wall Street the best I could. Working in Midtown, my route to work took me past the Trade Center everyday as I got off the bus downtown and then took a subway up to 42nd street where my office was located.

Of course, back then I was a Met fan, a bigger one than I am now, since working in the industry peals back the shiny layers of fandom. And because I am who I am, I was not only a Met fan, but the lightning rod guy who all the Yankee fans in my office chose to pick on after the World Series.

Of course I didn’t get into the office that day. Rather, after I took Izzy home and saw fire on TV, I wisely chose to keep away, watching the events unfold on the television, while seeing the smoke from the Twin Towers rise above the sky overhead outside.

Baseball was the last thing on my mind, and it’s safe to say, the last thing on anyone’s mind. During that day and the ensuring weeks afterward, the events of the terrorist attacks were front and center. Unless children’s television is your forte, all you had was news to watch on the tube. The stock market was closed for the week, and of course baseball was canceled.

And it was a scary time too. The next day, bomb scares in the city were as prevalent as any rumor and  any crazy was taken seriously. Grand Central Station was evacuated, and forget about even getting to lower Manhattan as the ruins of the Trade Center still smoldered in the distance.

It was so bad that it made you wonder if life would ever get back to some sort of normalcy.

Over in Queens, the Mets were busy with the large Shea Stadium Parking lot becoming the staging area for many of the rescue operations.

The Mets were on the road in Pittsburgh during the attacks and stayed there as events unfolded in those first few days.

After the first week, life found a way to regain some sense of normalcy. The stock market opened on September 17th and my office tripled. The main operations building for my firm was located at One Liberty Plaza and that was obviously closed.

And television started programming again. David Letterman made his famous late night broadcast that day and of course baseball started back up.

The Mets stayed in Pittsburgh and switched was supposed to be a home series with the Pirates on September 17th, the first games played since the attacks.  The Amazins were hot making a late season surge after floundering for most of the year. The September run was interrupted when the terrorists attacked and no one knew how that would affect the club.

That night showed many why America was so great. The Pirate fans were actually supporting the Mets. “I Love New York” pins were handed out to all the fans and the Mets decided to wear the baseball caps of the police, fire department, Port Authority and other jurisdictions of heroes that lost members the week before.

In the relative scheme of things, the game didn’t matter, but the Mets won that game 4-1 with John Franco getting the win and the New Yorkers won again, 7-5, the next night backed by a Mike Piazza home run in the eighth.  They swept the Buccos the following night, 9-2 (Go Dickey Gonzalez!), on the 19th setting the stage for the return home that Friday, Sept. 21.

No one knew what this game would mean. Would it just be another regular season game or will the Mets rise higher to the occasion. To cap things off, the club was playing the Atlanta Braves that night, their hated rivals who were en route to another Division title.

Like most of you, I watched the game on TV. That night, there was a collective telethon held on every other station for the victims of the attacks. So this really was the only game to watch.

And it was proper that it was a baseball game. America’s Game. New York’s Game. If football is considered an allegory to war, then baseball is an allegory to life. And nothing is more normal than a baseball game being played in the city.

The Mets, to their credit, did it right. Bagpipers came in and played patriotic music. Mark Anthony presented the National Anthem and Diana Ross crooned God Bless America and Liza Minnelli sang New York, New York. Not a dry eye in the house.

Something  else occurred that night which has never prefaced a baseball game before or since.  The teams lined the bases during the pregame tributes, much like an Opening Day or Postseason ceremony.  But as the National Anthem ended, and the teams broke ranks, instead of returning to their dugouts, both teams gathered around second base, and it wasn’t to initiate a brawl.  They hugged, they shook hands, and exchanged pleasantries, wishing each other’s families well during that fearful time.

And to top things off, even noted Yankee fan and then Mayor of New York Rudy Guiliani received a standing ovation, something he noted was different from any of his other visits to Shea.

Yet as official scorer Joe Donnelly yelled out the time for the first pitch, everything seemed to return to normal. And when Piazza hit that eighth inning homer off Steve Karsay, it lifted the spirits of the city taking its first step back from the terrible tragedy.

And the players knew it was important. Chipper Jones remembered the day recently at Citi Field.

“I didn’t mind [losing] a bit,” said Jones to reporters. “I think each and every one of us will tell you if there’s been one game in our entire careers that we didn’t mind losing, it was that one. You just felt like divine intervention was in New York’s corner that day. We didn’t mind it a bit. We thought it was our duty to go out and take a city and a country’s mind off something terrible that had happened. If it was up to us to go entertain people for three hours, then that was our way of giving something back.”

Sure the Giants opened their season with a ceremony; the Yankees flew the World Trade Center’s flag during the World Series and Mark Messier was introduced on the Garden Ice with a fireman’s hat. But none of those had the impact of the Mets that week. They embellished themselves

Baseball is just a game and in terms of life and death, it really doesn’t matter who wins or loses. But 10 years ago, the Mets and their game played an important part of the healing of New York. No amount of championships can top what the club did that week. They did their part to bring the city back and after September 21st, things started feeling better in the city.

Posted under Bay Ridge Brooklyn, Dog Owners, Fandom, Grand Central Station, Internet Bubble, Intrepid Reporter, Isabella, Joe Mcdonald, Last Thing On My Mind, Lightning Rod, Mets, Midtown, New York Mets, Peals, Puppy, Puppy Dog, Scary Time, Stock Broker, Stock Market, Top Story, Twin Towers, World Series, Yankee Fans

Dice-K Makes Mets Brutal To Watch

You have to hand it to the Mets. Never before has a team crushed the souls of a fanbase like this. In three short days, this went from a season of hope for next year to one of apathetic despair.

But I present to you:

Monday: Matt Harvey gets an MRI and has a tear in his UCL. With Tommy John surgery probable, the hope turns to saddness.

Tuesday: General manager Sandy Alderson trades Marlon Byrd and John Buck for a prospect and a player to me named. Sadness becomes apathy.

Wednesday: If there are any Met fans left who care, Dice-K’s brutal performance pretty much killed that with his 4 1/3 inning masterpiece, which left the sparse crowd looking for lighter fluid and matches. Anyone who watched wanted to immolate themselves.

The Mets are proving the Beatles wrong. It can get much worse. Only two players on the Opening Day roster were in the lineup tonight – Ike Davis and Justin Turner – the rest are retreads or graduates of the Backman Baseball School of Nevada.

I am all for seeing what the young guys can give you, but a month of this? There’s no power, the bullpen is shaky at best and sure there are three good starters in the rotation, but Dice-K is unwatchable and the Mets signed Matsuzaka to prevent Carlos Torres from starting.

Maybe the Mets can bring back Stave Trachsel. That could work.

Or how about this: James Blake is retiring from tennis. He’s a New York Mets fan. He’s in shape and used to the pitching motion.

And did I mention he has some time on his hands.

How about the Mets sign Blake to be the No. 5 starter. At least the team would be interesting and you will get some play about an ex-tennis player on the mound.

Heck, you may open up a new market.

It couldn’t get much worse. Right now, Dice-K’s starts are where baseball joy goes to die.

In all seriousness, the Mets need to keep interest over the next month. They can’t have another September spring training, looking at who will make the team in 2014. Terry Collins job depends on it.

Remember, Collins is signed just through season. By almost all indications, he will be back, but if the Mets really are brutal over the next 30 days and he loses the clubhouse, they may look in another direction.

Furthermore, you have to wonder how much damage the Mets will do to some of these young players if they are exposed to the losing environment.

Young prospects should bring hope and energy, but if there’s no one to lead, it may hurt them even more.

Sure the Mets need innings and yes they need to save their young arms. At the same time, the organization needs to promote a winning atmosphere.

Starting Matsuzaka every five days is not going to do that.

It’s actually sad to see Doc Gooden’s 16 donned by two former pitchers this year.

Where have you gone Dr. K? Flushing turns its lonely eyes upon you.

Posted under Baseball School, James Blake, Joe Mcdonald, Lighter Fluid, New York Mets, Retreads, Sandy Alderson, Season Of Hope, Tennis Player, Time On His Hands, Tommy John, Tommy John Surgery, Top Story, Trachsel

Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson Press Conferences

Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins Press Conferences today from Citi Field after the Mets traded John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pirates.

 

Posted under Citi, Mets, Nbsp, New York Mets, Sandy Alderson, Sounds of the Game, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on August 27, 2013

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