Baseball returns to Montreal next spring with Blue Jays-Mets exhibition (Big League Stew)

If a Major League Baseball team ever returns to Montreal, a pair of exhibition games between the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets scheduled for next spring at Olympic Stadium will be considered a key moment.
No major league games of any kind have been played in Quebec since the Montreal Expos moved and became the Washington Nationals after the 2004 season. No question, there’s a hard-core group of fans who would support a new team in Montreal, which was an expansion city in 1969, a full eight seasons before the Blue Jays came into being. The bigger questions involve building a new and permanent ballpark.
Even if a new team isn’t coming to Montreal any time soon, the Blue Jays see games in Montreal as a way to gain more fans throughout Canada, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet . These exhibition games have been in the works since 2011, a brainchild of Jays president Paul Beeston. He’s also like to set something up in Vancouver on the West Coast. Of course, having a second major league team in Canada wouldn’t hurt the Jays, who are hosting an announcement regarding the spring exhibitions on Tuesday.
But the bigger hook for Montreal would be getting a team again:

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The Pittsburgh Pirates About to End the Stench of 20 Losing Seasons (Yahoo! Contributor Network)

COMMENTARY | The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates clinched a winning season, they did so by winning the National League East by beating out the Montreal Expos by nine games in 1992.

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Nationals-Mets Preview (The Associated Press)

The last time the Washington Nationals had a pitcher win his first four starts of a season, it was 16 years ago and they were the Montreal Expos.

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A Slam-Bang Opening with More on the Way

The Mets won on Opening Day, 11-2.

No surprise there, of course they won on Opening Day, as they have been doing so consistently the past 40 years, continuing their mastery of season debuts with the major’s best winning percentage (.654) and an overall mark of 34-18 on Opening Days. And this after losing the first eight Opening Days in franchise history, including the legendary Championship season of 1969, when they welcomed the Montreal Expos to the big leagues with an 11-10 loss.

Can you believe it? They’re 34-10 since that loss to the first Canadian club on Opening Day. They’ve won seven of their last eight openers, and are 20-2 in their last 22 opening days at home, another good reason why tickets to the day the Shea family presents the horseshoe-shaped flower arrangement to the manager go for a premium.

New centerfielder Collin Cowgill reinforced his growing legion of fans and chants of “More Cowgill” with his seventh inning Grand Slam against the Padres in the icebreaker. The only other Met to slice a Grand Salami on Opening Day was Todd Hundley back in 1995, in Colorado against Billy Swift.

And it is certainly not much of a shock to learn Cowgill is the only Met to hit a Grand Slam in his Mets debut.

The other Met to earn a headline of distinction, other than starter Jonathon Niese, who was good, but not great with a 6.2 inning stint (four hits, two earned runs, 2 walks, and four strikeouts), was new Mets pitcher Scott Rice, who made his major league debut after toiling in the minors and professional baseball for 14 years. What a long strange trip it had been for Rice, 31, a lefthanded California native, who had worn system uniforms for the Orioles, Rangers, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies, and Cubs, plus several teams in Independent leagues, including the Long Island Ducks.

Amazingly, and understandably, Rice had a few butterflies when he first exited the bullpen for his ninth inning appearance, but he also enjoyed a level of comfort which enabled him to hurl a clean inning with two strikeouts.

“Being with the team all through the spring, I just felt really comfortable,” Rice told the media after the game. “But once batters step in, it’s baseball. So I went out there and just tried to stay relaxed.”

The experience was made that much more special with his father in the stands.

“My dad has been the reason why I played baseball growing up,” Rice added. “He basically taught me the fundamentals and everything I know about baseball. He’s the guy I called after every outing. It’s nice that he was able to be there. It’s just as rewarding for him as it is for me.”

Mr. Rice now has a special souvenir for the trophy case, the baseball which ended the game and his son’s major league debut.

The mastery over the Padres continued in Game 2, as exalted sophomore Matt Harvey looked Goodenesque in the first three innings with five K’s and no hits.

His first appearance continued with a dynamic seven-inning shutout stint, with 10 strikeouts, one hit, and just two walks (94 pitches/63 strikes).

The Harvey Era is just warming up. But…

Manager Terry Collins took him out more so due to the blustery 44 degree weather than his pitching performance.

“He was freezing,” Collins remarked. “Under the circumstances, he threw an unbelievable game.”

When asked about Harvey’s overall ability, Collins was equally complimentary.

“His work ethic is unbelievable. He’s got all the skills. He has plus stuff, an outstanding changeup, and still throws 97, 98. Has command of the fastball.”

And his desire is off the charts.

“No question he enjoys the stage. He likes to be out there. He likes to compete. You don’t say you want to be the best there is unless you’re willing to pay the price.”

Lucas Duda maintained his spring training habit of hitting a few home runs, and launched a two-run blast in the second, his first home run of the year.

John Buck duplicated the feat with a two-run shot of his own in the fourth, scoring Duda, who had doubled to right preceding the new everyday catcher.

Ike Davis extended the home run barrage with his first of the year, denting the Shea-Bridge with a two-run arc in the fifth.

Bobby Parnell closed out what turned out to be a sloppy three-run ninth (not of his making) in a non-save situation for the eventual 8-4 victory, and just like that, the 2013 Mets were 2-0.

You can never tell until the games are played, but the Mets have a chance to get out of the gate with a gallop in April, as their first six games, and 13 of their first 16 games are against teams expected to finish below .500. Then again, the Mets are predicted to finish below .500 as well, but their spring showings have been impressive. If – and there’s the big IF – their starting pitching is as good as advertised, and the bullpen pours water and not gasoline on potential flare-ups, then the potential is evident for a healthy first month.

There’s also back-sliding in the forecast as well, with a resurgent Philadelphia, a money-stuffed Los Angeles, and the new powerhouse Washington on the menu.

But 15 of the first 27 games are against the likes of the Padres, Marlins, Rockies, and Minnesota Twins.

History can predict the future, but it can also paralyze predictions as one day does not always equal the next.

The Mets have done well against San Diego of late, taking four of seven games from the Pads in both 2011 and ’12.

New York also had the goods on those “brand-new” Marlins last year, going 12-6. But this year’s Marlins certainly bear little resemblance to last year’s Marlins, so time will tell if that dominance will be extended.

As for the Twins, they don’t show up on the schedule too often, but the Mets did take two of three in 2010. Overall, with only four seasons of play against the AL club managed by ex-Met Ron Gardenhire, the Twins hold the edge on the Mets, 7-5.

The Mets took the season series with the Phillies last year, 10-8. But the Broad Street bashers have some of their key players back from injuries since last season, so it may be tougher sledding this year.

The Dodgers were a nemesis in 2012, as they arguably always have been unkind to their New York offspring (258-314-1 in franchise history), besting the Mets in four of seven games last year. The Mets, however, “loved” LA in 2011, winning five of seven battles.

Perhaps the less said about the Nationals the better, as they killed the Mets in 14 of 18 contests last seasons. But how can you not love their skipper, Davey Johnson? When he’s managing the Nationals, that’s when. Mets fans will love him again next year, when he retires from managing, as he has stated.

One of the keys to a successful season is a successful April, so the Mets have that doorway open if they take the steps toward more Ws than Ls. The framework forged against the Padres will certainly aid that goal if they continue to blast and pitch.

Posted under Andy Esposito, California Native, Centerfielder, Flower Arrangement, Grand Salami, Grand Slam, Independent Leagues, Jonathon Niese, League Debut, Lefthanded, Long Island Ducks, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Seventh Inning, Shea Family, Slam Bang, Strange Trip, Todd Hundley, Top Story

In Memoriam: The baseball men we lost in 2012 (Big League Stew)

Though writing obituaries is never a fun or happy task, the Big League Stew crew tries our best to place the achievements of the departed in an appropriate and final place. We’ve listed excerpts from a few of our 2012 memorials below, while Baseball Almanac has  the whole list of baseball-related deaths from the year just past. May these men rest in peace.
Gary Carter, Hall of Fame catcher — Feb. 16 at age 57
Gary Carter just loved baseball so much. Someone gave him the nickname “The Kid” because he wore his joy and enthusiasm for the game on the sleeves of his uniforms. The Montreal Expos. The  New York Mets . The  San Francisco Giants . The  Los Angeles Dodgers . And Palm Beach Atlantic University, where he was the head coach. No matter where he was or what he was doing, it was obvious that Carter was in love with baseball.  — David Brown

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Canadiens honor Gary Carter with pregame tribute (AP)

In a city where hockey rules, Montreal Expos catcher Gary Carter was as popular as the beloved Canadiens. Carter died of brain cancer Thursday at age 57, and the Canadiens honored the baseball Hall of Famer — nicknamed “Kid” — with a five-minute video set to The Eagles’ “New Kid in Town” before a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night.

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Hall of Fame Catcher Gary Carter Dead at 57

The baseball world is mourning the passing of Gary Carter. The 57 year old former catcher died from brain cancer on Thursday, February 16.  An announcement was made by his daughter, Kimmy Bloomers on the website of his family at 4:10 pm.

In May 2011, it was publicly revealed that the baseball great had been diagnosed with brain cancer. Carter had been undergoing treatment for the disease since its discovery. In the third week of January, it was announced that Carter’s condition had worsened as additional tumors were found.

Despite the reality of his worsened health, Carter recently made a visit to his players at Palm Beach Atlantic University where he served as baseball coach for the past two years.

The Baseball Writers’ of America (BBWAA) awarded Carter its Milton/Arthur Richman Good Guy Award at its annual dinner in New York on January 21. As Carter was unable to travel from Florida to accept the honor, Carter’s award was accepted by his son, D.J. who read his father’s speech.

The speech was a testimonial to Carter’s feelings and connection to New York City, “I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the people and city of New York. I have nothing but fond memories of my time here in New York, highly lighted, of course, with the World Series championship in 1986. I still remember the feeling of riding in the World Series parade with over one million people lining the streets to celebrate our championship. The fans were always supportive of me and my family since my diagnosis of brain cancer in May of 2011.”

Although, Carter only played in New York with the Mets for five of his 19 seasons, those years are well remembered by the fans in New York. Carter was obtained before the 1985 season after playing a decade with the Montreal Expos, where he was one of the team’s most popular players.

Although “The Kid” was 31 years old when he came to the Mets and his personality and lifestyle did not mesh smoothly with some of the more raucous men on the squad, he was a vital part of the successful team. The Mets were World Series champs in Carter’s second year in New York. Carter contributed mightily to that World Series victory with nine runs batted in.

Large numbers of New York baseball fans, whether of the Mets or Yankees, remember with great fondness and respect, Carter’s outstanding years in the city. Lifelong Yankees fans Bill Stimers said of the Kid, “Carter turned the 1986 World Series around. He was a great player and a very fine person. We will always miss him. We pray for his family.”

Carter’s eventful years in New York ended as did the 80’s. He played the next two seasons in the state of his birth, California. He was with the San Francisco Giants in 1990 and in 1991 he played with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He concluded his outstanding career in the majors in 1992 with the organization that drafted him 20 years earlier, the Montreal Expos. Carter once recalled his career’s end in Montreal, “It was a good way for my career to end going back to the team where my career originated.”

Carter performed admirably during two decades as a major leaguer. He scored 1,025 runs and hit safely 2,092 times in 2,296 games. The dependable power hitter blasted 324 homers and drove in 1,225 runs.

His impressive stats were not compiled through longevity alone but by his outstanding play on a yearly basis. In his rookie season, Carter was runner-up to hurler John Montefusco in the voting for the NL Rookie-of-the Year. The catcher was a National League All-Star in 11 seasons. His hitting earned him the Silver Slugger five times. His ability behind the plate was rewarded with a Gold Glove for three seasons.

The achievements of Carter’s career in baseball were rewarded by a place in the pantheon of heroes in Cooperstown, New York. Carter was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in the summer of 2003. He is the only player inducted into the HOF wearing an expos cap.

The devoted family man is survived by Sandy, his wife of my than 30 years, and three children, Christy, Kimmy and DJ.

Posted under Annual Dinner, Baseball Coach, Baseball World, Baseball Writers, Bbwaa, Bloomers, Brain Cancer, Fond Memories, Hall Of Fame, Mets, New York Mets, One Million, Place In My Heart, Richman, Series Parade, Top Story, Undergoing Treatment