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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Friday, September 5, 2014

We Love Kevin Burkhardt

Yes. We Mets fans love Kevin Burkhardt. We think he's the best (or "the bomb" in late '90s slang; or maybe "all that" in mid '60s speak). He's funny (his twitter profile says that he's a "certified goofball"). He's personable. He's great with the fans (see below). And he's great at what he does. He gets great insight from players and reports on it during the game along with interviews and features during pre/mid/post game.

Ya, that's me. With Kevin Burkhardt when he crashed my 35th birthday party at Citi Field. Actually, I think I was at his Celiac Awareness event/game in 2013.

And we're losing him. He's leaving SNY at the end of the Mets season (which is rapidly approaching) for a full-time position at FOX Sports. And he has a very high profile position there too. He was hired last season to call NFL games on FOX and impressed everyone there enough to be given an NFL Playoff game assignment (the network only has 1 such assignment that's not for their top broadcast team), and was promoted up to the number 2 announcer for this season. And after a few appearances filling in to call games for MLB on FOX, "KB" as he's known was hired this season to be not a play-by-play man (like he is for the NFL), not a reporter (like he is for SNY), but the primary host of MLB on FOX, including the All Star Game, MLB Playoffs, and World Series. And we hear that he's going to call College Basketball games on FOX. (It should be noted that some of his FOX Sports duties are on the FOX television network and some are on FOX Sports 1 and maybe FOX Sports 2 on cable).

That's a mighty high profile gig. Or as I see look at it, our little Kevin is all grown up.

So the fans over the last couple months of the season have been showing their love to KB, both on twitter and in person (I know of a couple that on separate occasions, fans sought out Kevin to meet up and get a photo with our beloved broadcaster during a Mets west coast road trip by connecting with him on twitter). And with that, for Kevin's last game at Citi Field in front of the home fans (September 17), there is a happening with fans gathering on the Shea Bridge for the game as a way to say goodbye to Kevin in person (and hoping that he obliges the fans and stops by for a few handshakes, hugs, and autographs).

So for what I jokingly refer to as "Kevin Burkhardt Night", I have assembled a list of fake events that we, the fans, will hold in his honor. It goes with the twitter hashtag #FakeKevinBurkhardtNightEvents.

  • Kevin will be in the kissing booth for the first 2 innings. Fans are encouraged to come say goodbye in person.
  • (SNY fill-in Mets reporter and fan non-favorite) Steve Gelbs will man the dunk tank all night. That event is sponsored by the recent #ALSIceBucketChallenge.
  • During the 7th inning stretch, Kevin will run through the "carwash" on the Shea Bridge (the "carwash" has become a thing in the Mets dugout after a Mets player hits a home run or has a productive at bat, with the player being honored running through a sea of white towels held by his teammates). That event is sponsored by the 7 Line.
  • In the top of the 9th, the fans on the Shea Bridge will serenade KB with the Boyz II Men hit End of the Road.
  • And as Kevin interviews the Mets player of the game on the field for SNY and the fans in the stadium, the entire Mets team will come out and hit Kevin with shaving cream pies (a popular thing usually reserved for the player being interviewed).
  • And finally the fans will once again serenade Kevin with another Boyz II Men hit It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday.

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen, KB!

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Forever the Voice of the Mets

Bob Murphy was born 90 years ago this September. Born in Oklahoma, he got into broadcasting after serving with the Marines during the War. He started out calling games for the Muskogee Reds in his native state as well as for the Tulsa Oilers before getting the call to the big leagues in 1954 when he joined Boston Red Sox radio broadcasts along side the legendary Curt Gowdy. He stayed in Boston for 6 seasons and then moved down to Baltimore for another 2 honing his craft before finding a home with the expansion New York Mets in 1962. He called New York Mets games for their first 42 seasons, retiring after the 2003 season, his 50th in the Major Leagues. He also called Oklahoma Sooners (NCAA) Football in the 1950s and 2 seasons of the AFL's New York Titans as well as radio broadcasts for the Orange Bowl in the 1980s. He might be best remembered for, in 1973, hosting "Bowling for Dollars" in New York.

When the Mets were starting up in 1962, they wanted a broadcasting trio that consisted of a network guy (Lindsey Nelson), a former slugger (Ralph Kiner), and a straight up play-by-play man that would rotate between TV and radio. Bob Murphy won the job beating out a couple hundred applicants. The original trio remained in tact through the end of the 1978 season and were inducted together into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1984. The TV/radio rotation remained through the 1981 season.

Starting in 1982, Bob Murphy was the lead radio broadcaster for the New York Mets, a position he would hold until his retirement in 2003. Bob Murphy shared a booth with Steve Albert, Bob Goldsholl, Art Shamsky, Steve LaMar, Gary Thorne, and finally starting in 1989, Gary Cohen. The first generation of Mets fans grew up with the Nelson-Kiner-Murphy trio, while a whole other generation (including my own) grew up listening to Bob Murphy calling games on radio where he was cemented as "the voice of the Mets"

In the summer of 1994, after 40 years in the majors, Bob Murphy was presented with the highest honor among baseball broadcasters when he was awarded with the Ford C. Frick award and inducted into the broadcaster's wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bob Murphy was known for being a homer, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, he was the voice of the METS and not a network broadcaster. He was upbeat in his broadcasts when the Mets were good, and he showed the despair when the Mets were on the brink. That was evidenced in his description of maybe the most roller coaster inning in Mets history. From being on the brink of elimination to coming back and winning the game, you can tell just by listening to the tone in his voice what was happening.

When I think about the history of the New York Mets (at least until 2003), I hear it in Bob Murphy's voice. I've listened to some interviews where he'd be asked about something and then breaks into a narration of the moment. Someone could probably pull together enough interviews to get a pretty decent narration of the first 40 years of the Mets. He had a different inflection in his voice than most broadcasters and he had a unique way of using adjectives and adverbs. I don't know if it was his Oklahoman accent or his diction or what. Listen for yourself to a few random soundbytes from the 1999 and 2000 seasons:

July 31 marks 20 years since he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and August 3 marks 10 years since Bob Murphy passed away. Take a look at the tribute page on Bob Murphy after his passing. In my mind, Bob Murphy will be forever the voice of the Mets.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Heart Versus Head

Lately I've been noticing in what's known as "#MetsTwitter" a lot of unhappy Mets fans. Some people even going to the point of saying that they're going to go watch something else and try to sell of their upcoming tickets so they don't have to go to games in person. Now, that's not the Mets fan community as a whole. It's probably only a very small (but sometimes very vocal) sample. But night after night, it seems like most of the same people are back for more, saying the same things when the Mets lose. I started thinking about this from a different perspective.

The heart versus the head. That's actually paraphrased from a line I remember from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ("Where is fancy bred, in the heart or in the head?"; which out that's a line from William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice). It's an internal struggle that a lot of people are facing right now (I think I'm there too).

In our collective heads, we know that this Mets season is going nowhere, this team sucks, the Wilpons need to sell, and many other bad things (I've even been surprised at some of the people who sound fed up with the Mets these days). Logic should dictate that we all just walk away from the Mets and either give up being baseball fans or go find another team to fall hard for. I'm sure a few have.

But I think deep down in our hearts, I don't think many of us can really walk away. I liken being in love with this team to the way a man falls in love with a woman or vice versa (or however it works for you). In a sense, we all are in love with the New York Mets. We each fell in love at different points in our lives and at different times in the team's history. But we've all fallen hard and we can't get up. So we keep coming back game after game and year after year only to have our hearts ripped out and stomped on. It's kind of toxic.

Should we abandon ship, like logic (head) would seem to dictate, or are we all just that much in love (heart) with this ball club that we just can't give it up? It's like that girl/guy that you're just so head-over-heels in love with even though it makes no sense that you should be together or even though there are obstacles in the way, but you just can't help yourself but be in love.

Even if ratings are down and attendance is down, it still seems like the diehards like myself and a lot of the people I know in "#MetsTwitter" are still there. We keep watching and we keep coming back for more. Maybe we need to take a timeout from this relationship, but we always seem to come back.

Why? Are we all crazy Mets fans in love with the club?