Thursday, April 30, 2015

How Oliver Perez ruined my 30th Birthday at Shea

April 30, 2008, Flushing, NY.

I've spent several birthdays at Shea Stadium between 1987 (my first season) and 2008 (Shea's last). And I'd sat in almost every part of the ballpark. For my 30th birthday, I wanted to check off one of the elusive ones. I wanted dugout seats. It was a Wednesday afternoon game, getaway day, which was a perfect excuse for me to take off work, and my dad who was my faithful companion at games in the pre-social media days (heck, he did that in the pre-driving days for me too) also had the day off. The script couldn't have been written any better.

Oliver Perez wasn't quite the bad player we all think of him as. Yet. He was about 18 months removed from pitching well in Game 7 of the NLCS. He was still a couple of years away from his last pitch in a Mets uniform (hint, it was in Spring Training). But he was getting there. And he had the start on this beautiful Wednesday afternoon at Shea.

It was setting up to be a great birthday at Shea. We came in early for batting practice in my usual spot by the Mets dugout (no BP for a day game after a night game). Dad and I ate at the Diamond Club (very overrated if you ask me). There was something new behind the LF wall to see (Citi Field). And then, maybe 30 minutes before the game, there was a water main break in the area. I didn't quite get the reasoning, but it delayed the start of the game by about an hour. In hindsight, maybe we should have left at that point. There wasn't much to watch during this delay, other than an extra hour of being at Shea where the clock was ticking and an extra hour of being in really good seats 5 rows behind the Mets dugout.

I'm not really sure what prompted this next thing, but seemingly out of nowhere, popping out of the Mets dugout and basically offering to sign autographs was Nelson Figueroa, a Brooklyn-born player drafted by the Mets many years earlier and now part of the Mets ballclub for the first time after being away from the big leagues for 4 years and having 5 teams already on his resume. It's definitely not out of character for Nelson to come out of the dugout and sign autographs. This was definitely an unusual circumstance though, with a non-weather delay at the start of the game. I think he signed for anyone by the dugout who wanted an autograph, and probably more than that. Okay, NOW was probably the time to leave and cut our losses.

The game finally gets started, and Ollie being Ollie, he gives up 7 runs in the 2nd and doesn't make out of the inning (to be fair, only 2 runs were earned). It put the Mets in a really big hole, one they had absolutely no shot of digging themselves out of. Now pitching for the Mets, number 27, Nelson Figueroa. Figueroa had been a starting pitcher for the past 4 times through the early season rotation, but was coming in for long relief on short rest (he had started just 3 days earlier). Nelson comes in puts out the fire in the 2nd and ultimately gets through the 5th inning just giving up one run of his own. 3.1 inning total for Figueroa. Jorge Sosa comes in and gives up 5 runs (only 1 earned, so it's not all on the pitchers) in 1 inning. 2 other pitchers came in to finish the last 3 innings, giving up a total of 1 hit. The Mets only had 2 hits over the entire 9 innings. Mets lose the game 13-1.

I definitely give the player of the game for my 30th birthday game to Nelson Figueroa.

Dad and I sat in some real bad rush hour traffic getting back to NJ after the game. It certainly wasn't what I wanted for a game result, but I was certainly happy to spend my 30th birthday (and the last one I could possibly spend there) at Shea.

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Opening Day

Editor's Note: this is a re-post from Opening Day 2012. Opening Day wouldn't be right without the voice of Bob Murphy.

I remember cutting class during my sophomore year in college to watch Opening Day 1998 (like 2003, also a March 31 opener, and like 2007, against the Phillies) when Bobby Jones started for the Mets.

Here's how the game started.

And this is how that game ended.

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

A new beginning

A while back, I wrote about a pattern of bad behavior in Mets history, where they were on the brink of true greatness, failed, and fell down so far that it took many years to recover, and then to do it again and again. In that piece, I wrote that they did that in 2006, in Game 7 against the Cardinals, pointing to the half inning after the Chavez catch, when they didn't get the clutch hit that would have put them ahead and probably would have put them in the World Series, as the point where they fell down. I think I see the light at the other end of that tunnel. I feel an optimism building around the 2015 Mets that makes me think that within two or three years, the Mets will be right back at that point.

I wrote after I returned from Spring Training that the Mets would be a .500 team (81-81). Even after losing Wheeler for the season, I stand by that prediction. 81 wins is an improvement, but it's not quite there. A little improvement here, and fixup there, and they can be a 90 win team and in the playoffs, maybe even destined for great things.

Happy (almost) Opening Day.
Let's Go Mets!

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Predictions for 2015

I've spent most of the first 11 games this spring watching the Mets play. I'm back from my trip, and that's usually the time for me to make my season prediction.

I think they break even. 81-81. It's only a 2 game improvement from the 2014 season. The starting rotation will have a ton of no decisions. And there will be a lot of nights that we're excited to watch the club based on the starting pitcher.

I think the difference from having a really bad season will be Harvey and deGrom pitching to expectations. The bullpen seems shaky, especially if Terry Collins expects to use them for 3 innings on most nights. I'm already worried about Wheeler. And I just don't think the offence is there. There's still too many holes. I also think we'll get a good look at Matt Reynolds at some point this season. On paper, it should look better, but I don't think it will play out that way.

81-81 will have the team mentioned in the playoff race, but it won't be enough. But 81-81 is better than we've seen in a long time.

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Retired Numbers

There was one panel from yesterday's Queens Baseball Convention that really struck me. There were a lot of great panels to listen to, some of which I even got to see, but the retired numbers panel is worth its own blog post.

There's been a great debate among Mets fans, at least in the social media age, about what numbers the Mets should retire and why they haven't had a new one since Tom Seaver in 1988. I don't remember if I've written about this before, but I had some new thoughts about this. I should mention that I walked in about 15 minutes late to the hour-long panel.

I have 2 paths of thought on retired numbers. This is aside from the largely ceremonial numbers 37, 14, 42 and Shea.

One is that nothing should change with the retired numbers they have, and that the Mets Hall of Fame is considered the honor (though I think the Mets Hall of Fame should honor accomplishments as much as individual players - imagine Johan Santana No Hitter Day). Maybe if a player comes up through the Mets system, as Tom Seaver did, and has a Hall of Fame career, as Seaver did, even if they didn't finish their career as a Met, as Seaver, they should get their number retired. I don't think David Wright is destined for the Hall of Fame, but if he was, he'd be the candidate for this.

The other is that the Mets should open the floodgates and retire the numbers of several players. Then where do you start? Piazza when he gets into the Hall of Fame (he just had his Mets HOF day at the end of the 2013 season)? But what about Gary Carter, a Hall of Famer who spent a few years with the Mets including being a leader of the 1986 World Champions? As as noted in the panel yesterday, Keith Hernandez might be paired with Carter and might even go first, based on his tenure as a Met. Then what about Doc and Darryl? And why stop at the 1986 Mets when Buddy Harrelson and Jerry Koosman of the 1969 team might be even more deserving (longer tenures as Mets for sure). And if we're looking at long tenures, what about Eddie Kranepool and John Franco? Can you retire a number symbolically for multiple players (31 for Franco & Piazza...45 for Franco & McGraw)?

Where do you draw the line for this honor? What is the qualification for it? Every franchise has different qualifications. Every franchise has a different history too. That's why I lean towards the 1st train of thought that the earned retired numbers (only Seaver) is the highest honor for "The Franchise" and nobody else, and the Mets HOF is the honor equivalent to what we think retired numbers should be. That's the debate. And it wouldn't be any fun to have if we didn't have the debate.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

For 6 Months There Is Baseball

For 6 months there is baseball, and for 6 months there is not.

Six months when there is baseball really does seem like a long time to me. I look back at things that happened on Opening Day and ask if that was THIS season. Yes, it was. Highlights from June seem like a long time ago to this brain sitting in the end of September.

Six months when there is no baseball can either seem really quick, or really long. Those 6 months include a full month of post-season. Someone else's baseball. Those 6 months also include about 5 weeks of exhibition games before the next 6 months start and maybe 2 weeks of Spring Training practice reports before that. So it's not as long as it seems. 6 months when there is no baseball is really 3 1/2 months plus some baseball that doesn't really count for us.

Six months when there is baseball really is better. From what I remember, it's more fun when your team wins and you can count on them. But social media makes it fun too. Or at least tolerable. Certainly enough to keep me from jumping off the Shea Bridge.

But just as I like having the change in seasons, I like having baseball capped at 6 months on and 6 months of some degrees of off. I don't think I could take any more than 6 months of it being on. I certainly can't take any more than 6 months of it being off.

I'll see you all tomorrow at the ballpark to say 'goodbye'. I like doing that more than I like going to Opening Day to say 'hello'. And then I'll see you in St. Lucie.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Get Your Tickets Here

Last week, the day after the Mets 2015 schedule came out, I got a call from my ticket rep (I have a 10 game flex plan this season, the first time I've had a ticket plan in my name) and he asked if I had looked at the new schedule. I started talking about the potential road trips. I was 2 cities in before I realized he wanted to hear about my thoughts on the home schedule. For the record, I was eyeing Wrigley Field and the trip to Toronto, both in the spring. Maybe that speaks volumes about what it's like to be a Mets fan these days.

I'm not here to complain about the on-field state of the 2014 Mets. That ship has long since sailed. Instead, I'm trying to make up my mind about renewing my ticket plan for the 2015 season. For the few seasons before 2014, I had been going to my fair share of games (almost exclusively on weekends) mostly on an adhoc basis. I would have one game with my dad, there might be one or two groups that I would join, and the rest I'd go to and either meet a friend with an extra ticket or pick one up at the box office. There was never a ticket plan to suit my needs. I liked the freedom (for most of the games) to decide to go or not to go, and on a weekend, to decide to go on Saturday or on Sunday. I liked having a lot of flexibility.

Then new for 2014, the Mets came up with a new idea of a flexible ticket plan. I got a sales call one day over the winter and the rep started telling me about this flexible ticket plan. I could choose whatever games I wanted (minimum of 10) and at each game, whatever seat(s) I wanted. It had to be a consistent number of tickets per game on the plan (getting a second ticket for a game with my dad was basically a separate order, a separate delivery, and a ticket not in season ticket holder stock), but otherwise, I had all kinds of flexibility. I didn't even HAVE to by Opening Day or the Yankees. Committing to 10 games well ahead of time may not make it worth it (what if my plans change), even with the discount on ticket prices and merchandise for being a plan holder, but there was one last detail which had me sold. Up to two times before the game, and up to two times after the game, I could exchange an unused ticket for another game. So if I had a Sunday ticket and wanted to go on Saturday, I could do that...twice if I wanted to. That had me sold. There were a few games I was locked in to no matter how I got tickets, and many other likely candidates for games (since I really only go on weekends and generally not twice on a weekend), and there's only so many home weekends in a 6 month season, so I decided to buy the 10 game plan, and pick my games (this was in February, so kind of close to the season).

I did choose Opening Day and a Yankees game thinking I could sell them and then only have to commit to 8 actual games. I went to Opening Day to see people and had tons of trouble selling a Yankees game. Otherwise, I have been very happy with this plan. My rep and I have talked a few times during the season. I went to Citi Field in February for a tour (I missed a few stops on the tour because of snow and ice on the field, seats, and outdoor concourses). We met up a few other times at the ballpark. I had to miss a game early in the season with a giveaway that I really really wanted, and not only did my flex plan allow me to switch the game for another one, but my rep held the giveaway for me and gave it to me (along with one or two other goodies) at another game. He's tried to give away free tickets, sometimes successful. My rep has been great to me. This plan has been great to me. Despite all of the Mets problems, I want to renew this plan for next season.

In in September, as the 2014 season ends, I get the renewal info for 2015. And my rep followed up with a phone call to tell me about some of the changes in 2015. That never sounds good. Now I didn't get any packet of information in the mail or online for the renewal. Just that I should go to the ticket management website. These were the big changes that he told me about.
2014 option 2015 option
10 Game Flexible plan (as I described) for sale 10 Game Flex plan no longer for sale, but current plan holders will be grandfathered in
  • Any 10 games from the pool of 81
  • (The Yankees played 2 games at Citi Field, both mid-week and the Red Sox played none)
  • Opening Day is required
  • Must pick 2 Marquee games (from 3 Yankees and 3 Red Sox, all on weekends)
  • Any 7 of the remaining 74 games
After hearing all this, my rep told me that after choosing the required games, I could always use my swaps if I didn't want to go to those games. Sounds fair, right? It's a little different for sure.

So now it's time to think.

I haven't had interest in seeing the Yankees in Queens since 1998. It's hard for me to take the day off for Opening Day (and in 2015, it's just a Home Opener and not a true Opening Day) so soon after returning from my vacation to Spring Training. And I don't have a great interest in it anyway. The Red Sox are a bit of a curiosity to me, but I'd rather see that matchup at Fenway Park than Citi Field. But I know that Red Sox fans travel well. I was wrong about making money on the Yankees in 2014, but I really think the Red Sox could sell out Citi Field for 3 games in 2015. Only having to choose 7 games from outside of the marquee ones appeals to me more than 10 games does. Possibly wasting my limited flex options to get rid of tickets that I don't necessarily want doesn't appeal to me. And for that matter, choosing games more than 6 months before the season even starts doesn't appeal either.

In the end, the discounts will probably be worth it, and I think I can choose 2 Red Sox games to sell high to offset the other costs. Maybe this will work out in the end. But I'm not sold yet. I think there's a strategy that I need for selecting games to try to maximize potential swaps. I know I can always add a game later on at a discount price if things work out better than anticipated.

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