Sports Beat “Jay gets his day”

Bobblehead doll giveaways have long been popular promotions at ballparks. Normally the souvenir is a likeness of a current or former player. Tomorrow the Mets will probably have what has to be a first as they will be giving all who come to Citi Field a bobblehead of their longtime public relations director Jay Horwitz.

I have known Jay since 1980. Yes, we’ve had some disagreements over the years and some of the arguments have been heated, but to Jay’s credit, he has always been willing to listen; hasn’t held grudges; and most importantly, has given me the access that I need.

There is no doubt that Jay will be enshrined into the Mets Hall of Fame when he retires but that won’t be for another 30 years. Congratulations, Jay!

The most important aspect of Jay Horwitz Bobblehead Day is that a portion of the ticket revenue will be earmarked for the Hope Shines for Shannon Foundation. Shannon Forde, a St. John’s University alumnus, has been working in the Mets media relations department for 20 years. In 2012 she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. The costs associated with fighting that insidious disease are staggering. Amazingly, Shannon continues to work with enthusiasm and vigor while raising a family.

The National Hockey League announced that a pair of games involving the three local teams will be played at Yankee Stadium during Super Bowl week. The Devils will play the Rangers in one game while the Islanders take on the Blueshirts in the other. The Rangers will be the visiting team in both contests.

It makes sense that the Devils game would take place at Yankee Stadium since it’s located very close to the GW Bridge, I find it disgraceful that the NHL has turned up its nose at Citi Field.

While I understand the economies of scale of having two games at one venue, Citi Field is adjacent to the Islanders’ Nassau/Suffolk fan base. Queens has more Islanders fans than any other borough including Brooklyn where the team will be moving in 2015. It also would have created more buzz for the NHL to utilize both of New York’s ballparks.

The US Open gets underway at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Monday but you can catch some quality tennis there today and tomorrow for free as the US Open Qualifying Tournament for a number of wild card spots will be taking place.

The PGA Tour makes its annual stop in our area as the Barclays Tournament will take place at Liberty State Park Golf Course today through Sunday. There will be free shuttle buses running from the Pavonia PATH stop in Jersey City.

Posted under Blueshirts, Director Jay, Economies Of Scale, Fan Base, Forde, Grudges, Gw Bridge, Hall Of Fame, Insidious Disease, Lloyd Carroll, National Hockey League, New York Mets, No Doubt, Public Relations Director, S University, Stage 4 Breast Cancer, Ticket Revenue, Top Story, Two Games, University Alumnus, Yankee Stadium

Capuano Hurls two-hitter as Mets wait for Irene to pass

Some of the New York Mets coaching staff and players who live in low lying areas of the New York metropolitan area planned to stay at Citi Field the next few days as Hurricane Irene approaches New York City. Hours before the Mets started a scheduled three-game series with the Atlanta Braves, the club announced that afternoon games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday afternoon had been postponed because of the approaching category 1 hurricane. The two games will be rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on September 8.

“I am going to head inland a little bit and head to high ground,” said Chris Capuano moments after he pitched a career best game, shutting out the Atlanta Braves 6-0 in the one game suspended series. New York hopefully will resume play Monday afternoon at Citi Field against the Florida Marlins, a twin-bill from a previous rain out, a four-game series in three days.

As the Mets made plans heading to higher grounds, there was a buzz in the clubhouse. Capuano (10-11) struck out a career high 13 Braves, retired 22 of the first 23 Braves. He threw 122 pitches and did not allow a walk, a two-hit shutout and best pitching effort from a Mets pitcher this season.  It was the Mets first win on a home stand this season, after going 0-10, a big league record.

“A fun game to watch, he certainly deserved it,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. The manager was watching the pitch count. Had Capuano got a man on in the ninth he was ready to remove him. The 33-year old, and All-Star with Milwaukee in 2006 has recovered from two previous Tommy John surgeries, and Collins did not want to do anything to ruin the evening. Capuano did not allow a runner get on base until Dan Uggla got a broken bat single leading off the fifth inning.

He was asked about the pitch count. “I purposely kept not looking,” said Capuano who had great command of his off-speed pitches all night. “It was exhilarating to get that last out,” he said about the last pitch, ending the game that saw Michael Bourn strike out a fourth time. “I wasn’t conscious of the no-hitter,” he said before Uggla got the hit.

New York, as has often been the situation this season with two-outs, scored two runs in the fifth inning on a single from Nick Evans and on two-run doubles by Justin Turner and one from Lucas Duda in the eighth, one of his three hits. “He’s earned it,” commented Collins about Duda and his role in the lineup batting cleanup in right. “The confidence is there. He’s grown into a player we all thought he would be.”

But the talk was about Capuano who faced one batter over the minimum. “He’s been a good pitcher for us,” stated Collins. However, Capuano has been a hard luck pitcher having quality starts in seven of his last 14 outings, is third best in strikeouts per nine innings, and had another no-decision in a Mets 11-0 loss against Milwaukee On August 20th.

“The first two innings he made a statement and he had good rhythm tonight,” said catcher Josh Thole who was packed and ready to ride out the impending storm upstate in upstate Binghamton with his wife. Starter Dillon Gee was also planning to take the ride with him.

Ruben Tejada had three hits, and scored on the Evans single in the fifth that broke a scoreless tie, followed by a Thole RBI single. Tejada was going to wait out Irene at a nearby Holiday Inn by the ballpark with family in town from his country of Panama. The starting shortstop has become a consistent hitter since getting the start when Jose Reyes went down again with an injured hamstring on August 8th.

“Better safe than sorry,” said Capuano regarding the next two games being cancelled because of the storm, “you can’t take any chances.”  The Mets can only hope the high pitch count did not hurt their starter as Collins took a chance.

NOTES: Braves starter Tim Hudson (13-8) lost to the Mets for the third time this season and allowed 11 hits, the most since 2008… Jason Bay sat out the game with a jammed right shoulder and is expected back in the lineup Monday…Reyes is also expected back in the lineup Monday after going 1-for-3 in another rehab start up in Binghamton and Collins said he would rest Reyes often to keep the hamstring healthy for next season…

Before the game New York selected the contract of Right hander Miguel Batista from Buffalo (AAA) and placed outfielder Scott Hairston on the 15-day disabled list. Batista, the 40-year old veteran started the season with St. Louis and is widely remembered as being a major part of the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks World Series championship team that defeated the New York Yankees.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Afternoon Games, Atlanta Braves, Category 1 Hurricane, Fifth Inning, Florida Marlins, Fun Game, Game Series, Higher Grounds, New York Mets, Rich Mancuso, Shutout, Tommy John, Top Story, Two Games

Mets Get To Mo and Win in 10th

The final three games of the cross-town New York interleague Subway Series with the Mets and Yankees centered on the shortstops. The Yankees Derek Jeter was rehabbing in Trenton for his return Monday in Cleveland. His backup, Eduardo Nunez had to sit down Sunday with a tight right hamstring after going 7-for-8 in two games with a homer and three doubles.

And then there was the Mets’ Jose Reyes who earlier was elected to start at short for the National League in the All-Star game July 12th. Diagnosed with tightness and a Grade-1 strain of his left hamstring, Reyes watched as Yankees shortstop Ramiro Pena, filling in for Nunez, made an error in the ninth that would enable the Mets to eventually score and tie their game with the Yankees.

And it was Pena, with his second error of the game with two outs that set up Jason Bay to get his fourth career walk-off hit in the 10th, as the Mets managed to avoid being swept by the Yankees with a 3-2 win with many of the 41,513 fans still in attendance at Citi Field.

It was that type of series for the Yankees and Mets with shortstop issues, and the Yankees winning the season series 4-2. Both concluded their interleague play portion of the schedule, the Yankees going 13-5, the Mets 9-9. The Yankees head to Cleveland for a brief three-game series and the Mets to the west coast for a road trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco before the All-Star break.

And they hope their starting shortstops will be available to conclude the first half of the season. “Just a little bit of a strain, I mean nothing big,” commented Reyes who sat on the bench and watched as Bay got the winning hit off Yankees losing pitcher Luis Ayala (1-2). “I know we’re going to take it one day at a time and see what happens. But it’s real good news. Today when I got up I felt even better than yesterday so that’s very good news.”

However, Mets manager Terry Collins is being cautious. Reyes, who leads baseball in hitting, hits, multi-hit games and triples, will want to play and not miss the All-Star game, his 12th. He, in essence is a leading candidate for the National League MVP and no doubt a catalyst and most valuable player for the Mets. ”The doctors did not want him to play today and we will take this one day at a time,” said Collins. The manager also said Reyes was making the five-hour trip to Los Angeles and it all depends on how his shortstop feels before making a determination for Monday.

The Yankees were 46-1 this season when leading after eight, primarily because of their bullpen and The Mets, 1-35 after eight. But that seemed to mean nothing when Mariano Rivera tried to close the door in a tight game. Prior to the ninth, Yankees starter Freddy Garcia handled the Mets for seven innings. On a full count with two outs Bay walked and went to third on a Lucas Duda single. He came home with the tying run when Ronnie Paulino got hold of a 1-2 Rivera pitch and hit the ball through the right side.

It may have been the best game for Bay as a Met. He has not been productive and missed most of last season after sustaining a concussion going after a ball and hitting an outfield wall at Dodgers Stadium. “I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs,” commented Bay about the walk and game winning hit. “It was nice, A, to be in that spot, and B, to come through. It was great.”

Coillins, in particular could have not been happier for Bay and his team. “I just said, ‘nice going’”, he said when greeting Bay after the game. “It’s nice to see this guy smile. Nobody cares more to help this team than Jason Bay does. And about his team showing resiliency, “They play, they take blows and just come back.”

The Mets broke a three game slide. The Yankees had their seven-game winning streak stopped. But there was concern for Mets starter R.A. Dickey who left after five innings due to tightness in his left buttock area. General Manager Sandy Alderson expects Dickey to make his next start, but as always with the Mets, especially after a win against the Yankees, there had to be something to calm the optimism.

“It’s a big relief,” said outfielder Carlos Beltran, regarding the news about Reyes possibly not being out for the long run. Beltran also was elected to play for the National League All-Stars and said it all about Reyes. “We depend so much on him.”

Notes: Angel Pagan went 0-for-10 in the series and let a ball get hit by Robinson Cano get by him in the 10th that went for a triple. Francisco Rodriguez was able to strand two that got the Mets to their half of the inning….It was Rivera’s fourth blown save of the season and he was also selected for his 12th All-Star team…

The Yankees trailed and tied the game in the fifth with a Robinson Cano double, the first hit off Dickey and Nick Swisher got the RBI single…The start of the game was delayed for 89 minutes as rain was in the forecast, though not one drop fell until the seventh inning. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, “It was a frustrating loss for us.”

Girardi complained that the delay did not give enough time for Garcia to warm up and he said it was miscommunication about the start time caused by the delay….The Yankees optioned right handed starter Ivan Nova to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre setting up the return of righty Phil Hughes who was on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. The justification, Nova would get more pitching time at Scranton because the Yankees would have no need for a six-man rotation…

The combined three-day crowd set a Citi Field attendance record of 125,575…Dickey was 5-0 in interleague starts since joining the Mets last season…Yankees got the 2-1 lead in the eighth with a Brett Gardner triple off Jason Isringhausen and sac fly RBI from Curtis Granderson.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

Posted under Better Than Yesterday, Cross Town, Day At A Time, Derek Jeter, Game Series, Interleague Play, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes, Luis Ayala, Mets, New York Mets, News Today, One Day At A Time, Ramiro Pena, Shortstops, Subway Series, Three Games, Top Story, Two Games

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 4, 2011

Tags: , ,

Home Is Not Sweet For The Mets

FLUSHING, NY – Maybe the first New York Mets home opener on a Friday since the 1995 season would make a difference. The 50th home opener, third at Citi Field, had the same result as the season closer last October, a loss to the Washington Nationals. The 6-2 loss to the Nationals Friday reminded many in the chilled sold out crowd of 41,075 that this could be a long season.

A reminder because the Mets did not hit, and pitch and that was so reminiscent of what was seen often at Citi Field in 2010.  The debut of new manager Terry Collins got off to a good start with a warm welcome from fans in pre-game introductions. The loudest ovations went to new pitcher Chris Young and for Hall of Fame Broadcaster Ralph Kiner who threw the ceremonial first pitch.

And starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (1-1) got a loud ovation. But that changed because his knuckleball was not effective after he split a nail on his index finger in the first inning.  Dickey was one of the bright spots for New York last season, but in his two starts he has walked eight batters in 11 innings including the five he issued against the Nationals.

“I’m not going to say the split nail led to the every walk,” commented Dickey. He walked a run in the fifth after the Nationals loaded the bases on three consecutive one-out singles. The fifth walk was a career high for Dickey. “It was just very tough to get the feel,” he said about the control issue due to the nail that he claims will not hinder his next start.

But Dickey was not the only issue the Mets encountered in their season debut at home. What bothered fans, as was so often the case last season was the Mets ineffective ability to drive in runs. Coming off a season opening 3-3 road trip, the Mets have lost three straight, the pitching staff has given up 27 runs, and in the last two games they are 1-17 with runners in scoring position including the ten they stranded Friday.

Frustrating for the fans in the early going, but not for the new manager who commented, “I am a long way from being frustrated.” But on opening day, an unusual 4pm start that lasted into evening, this was not what Collins would have wanted especially coming off an 11-0 loss to the Phillies on the last game of their trip the day before.

When Washington’s Ivan Rodriguez hit a two-run single to right that broke his season beginning 0-12 start, off Mets reliever Bobby Parnell that was followed by an RBI ground ball from Ian Desmond, the remaining crowd that had enough of the chill decided to call it a night. That was the deciding blow, the three-run eighth that ruined a season opener.

“We have to shake it off and do better than that,” said Collins. It is so early to be in a panic mode but if Collins does not see his team bounce back in the next few days then it could get frustrating. There was a point in the game when Collins and the fans loved a rejuvenated Jose Reyes. He dived to his left in the fifth inning and started an inning ending double play with the bases loaded that kept the game close.

Though few people give the Mets a chance to be competitive this season, a bright spot could be Reyes who may not be around by September. The financially strapped Mets may not be able to afford a new contract for their home grown shortstop and he could be traded depending on where the Mets are situated by late July.

But that is another issue for a later date. The focus will now be how resilient this team is with an early season losing streak of three games. And to forget about a home opener that took away optimism for any type of respectable season. The Mets fell to 31-19 in their home openers, 1-2 at Citi Field.

“We’ll score some runs and those guys will get on base,” said Collins about Angel Pagan, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Ike Davis who went a combined 2-for 15 at the plate. Washington starter Jordan Zimmerman (1-1) coming off Tommy John surgery in 2009 gave up two runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. The Nationals pen then closed the door with the committee role manager Jim Riggleman is using.

“We walked to many guys that put us in a hole,” said Collins.  He added his team will get better. His predecessor Jerry Manuel always said they would get better. But as every Mets fan knows, it did not get better.

A fresh start at Citi Field that did not get better in the later innings and when Dickey left the game it led to many questions for the next day. “Nobody in here is hitting the panic button,” said Dickey. “We are going to stay focused.”

But the question is will Mets fans stay focused if this first home stint of 2011 does not go their way?

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Batters, Hall Of Fame, Index Finger, Knuckleball, Loud Ovation, Mets Home Opener, New York Mets, Opening 3, Ovations, Ralph Kiner, Rich Mancuso, Road Trip, Runners, Season Debut, Starting Pitcher, Top Story, Two Games, Warm Welcome, Washington Nationals

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on April 9, 2011

Tags: , , , ,

The Mets Go Off The Deep End

Leave it to the Mets to take the heat off the New York Knicks.

Just hours after Basketball Rasputin Isiah Thomas fell on his sword, the Queens Carnival re-opened at Citi Field.

After a tough loss, where Manny Acosta gave up a game-winning grand slam to Melvin Mora in the eighth inning, leading to a 6-2 loss, things just got ugly.

Amid a few players grumbling about the team’s commitment to win, closer Francisco Rodriguez went off the deep end. Apparently feeling he should have had the ball with two outs in the eighth, the closer was having none of it after the game, getting into a fight with his father-in-law in the tunnel outside the Met Clubhouse and snapping profanities at reporters who were looking for a quote from the 28 year-old.

“Did I (bleeping) pitch?” K-Rod responded as reporters approached him. “Did I (bleeping) pitch? Then I have nothing to say to you.”

Rodriguez was then approached by Kristie Ackert of the Daily News, who asked him a question and was told to mind her business by the volatile stopper.

Afterwards New York City Police and Mets security went into the back to question K-Rod, who was then charged with third-degree assault (a misdemeanor) and held overnight in the Citi Field police station.

Meanwhile his father-in-law was taken to Flushing Hospital with bruises and lacerations on his face after being punched by K-Rod.  He was treated and released.

So now the Mets are one game under .500, not winning two games in a row since June 22nd and 23rd, with a closer in the can and no stopping this free-fall.

Now you can’t blame Jerry Manuel for Rodriguez’s reprehensible actions, but you do have to wonder about his moves. With the season on the brink why didn’t he bring K-Rod in during the eighth inning? Manuel said he didn’t want his closer to pitch in the eighth after going the night before, but that just seems foolish. Without last night’s win, it won’t matter what Rodriguez does in September as those games just won’t count.

Alas, it seems like Manuel has lost his clubhouse. While there are player who seem to really care about winning, such as Angel Pagan, Chris Carter, David Wright, and obviously K-Rod, there are others who see this as a job where they will get paid no matter if they win or lose. Add Manuel’s care free style into the mix and you can see why the Mets are falling apart.

For lack of a better term, the Mets need a “hard-ass”, someone who will not tolerate a losing attitude. Every time the Mets were good, the team had a manager who didn’t tolerate losing. The players feared Gil Hodges, although that was a very different time and Davey Johnson allowed a lot to go on as long as they players won.

And remember when Bobby Valentine took over the club? He cleaned house dumping the prominent players he felt were not committed to winning.

The Mets need that again. A strong willed manager will force each player on the team into a commitment of winning. Obviously Wally Backman fits that bill, but the team seems content to allow him to win his Penn League championship.

It’s time to act, though, and Manuel’s welcome has worn out. As a lame duck, the players don’t have the same respect for him, knowing he won’t be around next year. Bring in Backman, who may jumpstart the team. At least it will keep the Mets interesting, hopefully keep the closer in line and we can all go back to making fun of the Knicks.

Posted under Ackert, Acosta, Bruises, City Police, Degree Assault, Eighth Inning, Flushing Hospital, Francisco Rodriguez, Grand Slam, Isiah Thomas, Joe Mcdonald, Lacerations, Melvin Mora, Mets, Misdemeanor, New York Knicks, New York Mets, Police Station, Profanities, Season On The Brink, Third Degree, Top Story, Two Games

This post was written by Joe McDonald on August 12, 2010

Mancuso: Mets End A Bright First Half

Four days from now for the New York Mets to think about what is ahead for the remaining 75 games. At the All-Star break they are 48-40 and four games back of the second place Atlanta Braves in the NL East.  They will take it, so will their fans.

An accomplishment because last season at the break the team was 42-45, in fourth place trailing first place Philadelphia by 6-1/2 in the standings. The Mets know they are contending, and know extra help is here with Carlos Beltran coming off the disabled list and making his season debut in San Francisco Thursday evening,

Though Beltran, out since surgery on his right knee, does present some type of dilemma for manager Jerry Manuel. Well sort of, four outfielders and three spots. Someone will have to sit among Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur.

The plan, according to Manuel is to bat Beltran fourth, a spot currently held by the rookie Ike Davis who will be dropped to the sixth spot. And you can’t sit Pagan down, the Mets most consistent hitter who got another three hits Sunday as New York took the final game over Atlanta salvaging their three-game series.

So what will be the situation when the Mets reconvene Thursday for an 11-game three- city trip that also takes them to Arizona and Los Angeles, a trip the Mets say is crucial as the second half begins. The Mets proved to be a good team at home, 30-16 but their fortunes away from Citi Field not as good at 18-24.

“We didn’t want to go onto the break the way we played the past few days,” commented Manuel after another pitching gem by his ace Johan Santana, which ended the first half on a positive note. New York looked lethargic at the plate the past two games against the division leading Braves, and their other pitcher with first half success, Mike Pelfrey, on Saturday once again could not get past the fifth inning.

But Beltran passed through the Mets clubhouse prior to the finale Sunday, afternoon and Santana gave the team an added lift, more so optimism for a good second half. Nothing but a spot for October baseball is what the Mets want. And they believe with Beltran healthy, and the usual second half success of Santana will get them there.

Francoeur was told by Manuel that he would most likely be regulated as a bench player. Occasionally he will get the start in right, that is, if Pagan hits a tailspin and all indications are that’s not going to happen. Pagan is healthy and shows continually, he is a key offensive cog at the beginning of the lineup.

“It’s not my decision,: commented Pagan about the lineup decisions Manuel has to make, He finished the first half with a string of four consecutive multi-hit games and batted .484 with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs since July 4th in a seven game span.

Pagan added he would like to stay in the lineup. Manuel only indicated that Beltran will get the start and Francoeur will probably sit for the moment, but there is every reason to believe that there will be a platoon of Francoeur and Pagan. Jason Bay, who sat down Sunday, on his bobble head give-away day has been an offensive disappointment but his multi-million dollar contract leaves him in the lineup.

It is no problem for Francouer, He will go with the plan, and the return of Beltran will not disrupt a Mets clubhouse that has good chemistry and has looked forward to his bat back in the lineup.  You heard the comments from the players and realize how important it is to win.

“We’re not satisfied to be three or four games out of first place,” said David Wright who entered Sunday tied for the National League lead in runs batted in with 65 and starts at third base for the NL all stars.  “Our goal is to win the division. There is need for improvement.”

Santana has improved and has thrown shutout baseball the last two starts. The fastball is back and it is helping his other pitches. Now the Mets need to get Pelfrey back into form and with R.A. Dickey and Jonathan Niese having good first halves, perhaps GM Omar Minaya will try and get another starter,  to, compliment them before the trading deadline.

There is the possible return of pitchers Oliver Perez and John Maine from the disabled list, one or the other could be going to the pen. It has been the pitching that has put the Mets in this position of contention and they would like it to stay that way.

With or without Francouer in the lineup, they know what lies ahead in the coming weeks and months. Jose Reyes also is a part of the plan and needs to stay healthy as that catalyst in the lineup.

“Obviously it’s a good problem we have, it’s a good thing to see,” said Francoeur about Beltran. A good problem for this clubhouse if indeed, Beltran stays healthy and shows signs of once again being the run producer that the Mets have lacked since April.

Francoeur said he will do his part when he is in the lineup to make sure “this team wins.”  So do the rest of these New York Mets who feel they are on the footsteps of their first postseason since 2006.

Beltran won’t hurt their chances and neither would a platoon of Pagan and Francoeur. Now if Bay can finally find his home run swing the way Santana rediscovered his fastball.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Carlos Beltran, City Trip, Fifth Inning, Final Game, Fortunes, Four Games, Game Series, Jason Bay, Jeff Francoeur, Johan Santana, Mancuso, Mets Clubhouse, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Nl East, Outfielders, Reconvene, Rich Mancuso, Season Debut, Top Story, Two Games

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 12, 2010