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

The Song Remains the Same in Queens

The faces have changed but the story is still the same.

It’s no longer the Omar and Jerry Show, but the Sandy and Terry Hour, yet it plays out with the same results and the jokes are falling just as flat.

Not to mention the punch line that’s still shines right on the fans.

Yes, hope and change has turned into more of the same at Citi Field with the continual news of Ike Davis’s incredibly hurting ankle. After being examined today, it’s just not getting better, and now he may have to miss the season if the next three weeks show no improvement.

“We’re hopeful that over the next three weeks he will progress to running,” general manager Sandy Alderson said. “If that is not successful, then there may be some consideration about doing some surgery on the ankle. Right now I don’t see him coming back anytime soon. … Basically over the next three weeks he’ll progress to hopefully running. And if he can’t tolerate the running, then we go to Plan B.”

No one wants to see Plan B, as it means the Mets will lose their best power threat in the lineup until 2012, ultimately crippling any hope of a Met Wild Card this year.

All of this comes on the heels of Jose Reyes not wanted to negotiate a new contract until the season is over, almost assuredly allowing him to test the free agent market.

It’s just another day at the ballpark for these New York Mets who now should expect the worst and be surprised when something better happens. It makes you wonder if Fred Wilpon made some sort of Faustian deal with the devil for the 1986 World Series and now the franchise if paying the price.

Think about it. Almost exactly 20 years after the ball went through Buckner’s legs, Carlos Beltran looked at strike three and it went all downhill from there.

Two collapses, botched firings, mishandled injuries, K-Rod punching out an old man and let’s not forget a man named Bernie Madoff. It’s just been a litany of bad news. Heck, Billy Joel can write an updated version of “We Didn’t Start The Fire” with everything that happened in Queens.

Just when it seemed like the Mets turned the corner with the hiring of Alderson and Terry Collins, it just continues on and on. It doesn’t matter if Alderson is uber-capable, on days like today, he sounds like Omar Minaya, albeit in a fluent, lower key tone and Collins can be as fiery as Earl Weaver. With his best players on the shelf, he’s going to have as much success as Jerry Manuel.

That’s why it’s hard to buy into these Mets. No matter how much good will they inject, the other shoe is there ready to drop…

…And drop and drop.

Tomorrow, David Wright’s injured back is scheduled to be checked. Is there anyone out there expecting it to be healed? With the way things are going, you may expect another break to mysteriously show up.

And Alderson will be there delivering the news, with the same disappointment in his voice Minaya had before him.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted under Billy Joel, Carlos Beltran, Collapses, Deal With The Devil, Faustian Deal, Fred Wilpon, Free Agent Market, Heck, Joe Mcdonald, Jose Reyes, Litany, New York Mets, Plan B, Sandy Alderson, Top Story, Wild Card, World Series

This post was written by Joe McDonald on June 22, 2011

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Alderson Introduced As New Mets GM

Sandy Alderson had an auspicious debut as the new General Manager of the New York Mets Friday afternoon at Citi Field. There was the presence of a baseball veteran, knowledge and experience that obviously made an impression to Mets ownership during the interview process.

And, Alderson, 62, who at one time built the Oakland Athletics teams that played in three consecutive World Series  from 1988-1990, and won the championship in 1989, may be what the Mets need. The immediate impact to slowly begin the process of getting the Mets back to playing baseball in October, though that may take some time.

Alderson is not a new kid on the block and has his own style. That was addressed when the question was asked about how his style would be different from his predecessor Omar Minaya.  “One of the things I like about a job like this is you have to act,” said Alderson.

And act he will. With financial flexibility, to make the Mets a contender again and not being the second team in town to the New York Yankees. Though during the course of his introduction to New York, there was no mention of the cross-town Yankees. Just a commitment to be in the free agent market every year, and not immediately in 2011

He stressed more than once about the job being fun, that baseball was entertainment, and not like Minaya, constantly talked about his job being, a  collaborative effort with ownership, the players and scouting departments.

“All the elements are here, a great area to be, and great fans,” said Alderson about why he took on the opportunity of a four-year contract through 2014 with a club option for 2015.

There is a lot of work to be done from financial flexibility, player personnel, to the hiring of a new manager. There are some candidates to succeed Jerry Manuel that Alderson has in mind. But the managerial situation will begin in a few days so Alderson can have one in place for the upcoming GM and winter meetings that plans a process for the upcoming season.

There is optimism at Citi Field as a new regime takes over. And that word of Collaboration that was so often mentioned will begin in the front office. Alderson saw that happen in his four years as CEO of the San Diego Padres where he led them to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2005 and 2006 and recently working as a special consultant to the Commissioner of Baseball for Latin America.

Alderson, the 13th GM in franchise history reminds many of Frank Cashen, the Mets Hall of Fame inductee who reshaped the organization and built a championship team in 1986. On Friday that renewed spirit of seeing those days again in Flushing Queens came when Alderson spoke.

But every Mets fan knows hope has always been eternal. Since the Cashen years there have been three close opportunities at bringing the prized trophy home. More so, a 2000 Subway World Series loss to the Yankees when Steve Phillips was the GM, and the 2006 NLCS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals under Minaya, a series that every Mets fan refuses to forget.

Will Alderson succeed in what Omar Minaya could not do the past few years?  “There is hope now,” said longtime Mets season ticket holder Eddie Lopez who sat at a table in back of the Caesars Club. “Minaya was around to long and he (Alderson) brings something to the table,” he said.

Lopez was one of the many season ticket holders that were invited to the welcome party because the Mets fan base is so important. The new ballpark, the fans, something also that Alderson reiterated in his remarks that was another reason why he took the job.

“Getting back to being a general manager was something I wanted to do under the right circumstances,” he said.  So whatever Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon said to Alderson during the interview process had to be the right circumstance.

It did not work under Minaya, even though he had the liberty to spend money. But you get the feeling there will be no favoritism played, no favors granted to player agents that Minaya had close ties with. The roster comprised from trades and a restructured scouting department that brings in homegrown talent.

Will there be an immediate turnaround?  It will be difficult turning it around in 2011 because the Mets are committed to $130 million in payroll.  Alderson won’t have the liberty to spend but plenty of roster decisions to address. Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, who get some of that payroll, and what to do with the bad image and contract of closer Francisco Rodriquez who was recently reactivated.

Alderson is just settling in. He would not provide much as to who or what for 2011, again hiring a manager he can work with is the first priority. But what every Mets fan wants to know, are our troubles and agonizing days of losing coming to an end?

Time will tell as there is hope. Jeff and Fred Wilpon did not have that concerned look, like they did a day after the season ended three weeks ago when they relieved Minaya and did not bring Manuel back.

This time the Mets hierarchy got it right bringing Alderson to New York.

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Posted under Auspicious Debut, Club Option, Collaborative Effort, Consecutive World Series, Contender, Cross Town, Financial Flexibility, Free Agent Market, Friday Afternoon, Kid On The Block, Mets Gm, New Kid On The Block, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Omar Minaya, Predecessor, Sandy Alderson, Top Story, Winter Meetings, World Series

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on October 30, 2010