Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Can I audition for the vacant Mets radio gig?

Let me start by saying that Wayne Hagin is a nice guy. I met him during Spring Training 2008, at the very beginning of his Mets broadcasting career. He did nothing wrong during his 4 seasons in Flushing. He was himself. He was a solid #2 guy in the Mets radio booth.

I use past tense because the reports strongly indicate that WFAN is not going to renew his contract in 2012. I've seen a wide list of actual candidates and fan suggestions. Let me throw out some opinions about these guys and the job in general.

Howie Rose is your #1 radio announcer. There is no replacing that. In the 50 year history of the New York Mets, they have always had a rotation of at least 2 play-by-play announcers (a list that includes ex-player and HOFer Ralph Kiner as a play-by-play man). Two of the announcers auditioning are basically analysts. That would be an interesting shift, though some fans would welcome having Howie Rose call all 9 innings.

Let me throw this out there. SNY is not going to allow the team of Gary (Cohen), Keith (Hernandez), Ron (Darling), and Kevin (Burkhardt) get broken up. So we're not going to see the reunion of Howie and Gary. And as much as I would like this pairing, I don't think we're going to see Howie Rose with Kevin Burkhardt together.

One rumor is that Chris Carlin of SNY is in the mix. Personally, I don't like him on TV, and I won't like him on the radio (though it would get him off of Mets pre/post game shows). But, he does have radio play-by-play experience calling Rutgers Football and Men's Basketball (I've never actually listened to him, so I have no idea if he's any good). I do think we're better off leaving him at SNY.

Billy Sample is in the mix. He had a short playing career, and has had a long resume as a broadcaster/writer (according to Wikipedia). I vaguely remember him on Atlanta Braves broadcasts on TBS and I know he's been with As good as he may be, I'm not sure how well he would fit in on Mets broadcasts.

WFAN's Ed Coleman is another candidate. I can live with him as a fill-in on the radio broadcasts, but he's much better suited to be WFAN's Mets beat reporter.

Jim Duquette is another candidate. This is an interesting choice, and the one I think is most likely to happen (based on no real information). He's an ex-GM. He's an ex-Met GM. He traded Scott Kazmir. After that, I stopped reading his bio. But to be fair, I think he was a lame-duck GM after Steve Phillips was fired and before Omar Minaya came in. He currently co-hosts a show on an MLB satellite radio channel (to which, I don't subscribe). He has no known playing career, but I've never thought an analyst serves much purpose on the radio because you don't have replay (ok, they can "spot trends"). There's a reason why a lot of baseball teams have gone with 2 play-by-play men on the radio. I think bringing him in would be an interesting change in direction for Mets radio. Imagine the stories of the Mets front office that he could tell.

I wonder if one of the SNY kid-casters is now old enough to take the job. No matter what, Mets radio broadcasts will be different in year 51.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

50 Years of the New York Mets

There's something really weird about seeing Mets and 50 together. I've been joking for a couple of years now about "Mets 2012, rejuvenated at 50!" The Mets came up with "Fantastic at 50", with the emphasis on "fan". And I don't mean to offend those who have reached that milestone age. But it just seems so big to see Mets and 50 together.
(image courtesy of

A few thoughts on all of the announcements from today's 50th anniversary kickoff.

I'm glad the Mets are celebrating their 50th anniversary season and that they're honoring the past. And we know they're listening to the fans because they heard us and brought back Banner Day. I say it should be when Houston comes to town (also celebrating their 50th anniversary season, or at least, Houston should be celebrating it). The Astros are in for a weekend at the end of August with 2 afternoon games. Perfect.

Bobbleheads - that's always cool. I say after Tom Seaver should be Gary Carter. But remember that any giveaway will have a sponsor's logo fixed on it. I have a Tom Seaver bobblehead. He has an orange Spring Training/BP jersey in this one, which was the style at the time that I won it at a game in Port St. Lucie.

I'm also looking forward to the new exhibits at the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum. Some days, that's one of the better parts of the ballpark experience.

Back in July, I had a better idea for honoring the past. It includes banners, retired numbers, and officially naming the area outside the stadium as "Casey Stengel Plaza".

And now, the uniform changes.

I've heard something about a new BP hat and jersey. Anything has to be better than what they've been wearing since 2005 (what I call the "anatomically incorrect" jersey because the black is the dominant color for numbering and lettering and the orange is mostly hidden). I think all of MLB's BP hats look ugly, but I saw a picture of the new one that has orange piping on the top that looks more Metsy. Rule of thumb, black, as a color on uniforms, should be used in outlining and drop shadows only (if that).

And then the Mets announced new jerseys to go along with a single cap. Back to the traditional Mets look without the black drop shadow and going solely with the all blue caps. I don't like the new snow white jersey as much. I don't know if it's the appearance that the blue is too dark, or the blue piping around the collar and alongside the buttons (or both). But I didn't like the snow white jersey when it had the drop shadow as much as the pinstripe.

The updated pinstripe home jerseys and gray road jerseys just look "right" to me. When I think about a Mets jersey, those are what I think of. The black jersey is still around as an occasional alternate jersey (maybe only on the road). The real sharp looking blue jersey introduced last year as part of Los Mets may make an appearance this year and could become "official" next year. Personally, I'd have that replace the black and snow white jerseys as a Sunday home/road/doubleheader alternate jersey.

Maybe the play on the field will get me this excited. When I first saw all of the posts on Facebook earlier today, I felt like a kid at Hanukkah starting to open my presents.

Overall, I think the Mets are on the right track with their 50th anniversary, but I also think there's more they can do (read my ideas for the Mets 50th that I linked to earlier for some of what I mean). It would be nice if they could actually be rejuvenated at 50 instead of just starting to rebuild.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Game 7

Editor's note: This is an updated version of a post that I wrote 2 years ago for the occasion of Game 7. This is also a kickoff to a feature for my blog that covers my 25 years as a Mets fan.

I have 2 distinct sets of memories of Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, which took place 25 years ago today. The first is of the first 7 innings, give or take a few pitches. It was the first time I sat down to watch a Mets game with an interest in watching it. The second is of the last 1 1/2 innings and some of the postgame show. I can almost recite that part of the TV broadcast word for word.

The first 7 innings I watched on TV live. I don't remember much about it since I haven't watched the replay/tape/DVD that often. I watched it for the first time about 10 years ago on Classic Sports or ESPN Classic or whatever it was called at the time. Watching the game then, there were a lot of little things that I remembered from the live broadcast (I couldn't even tell you what they were now). Things like Keith Hernandez shaking his head at the airplane flying overhead during his at bat in the 1st (I'm cheating and watching the DVD now). Lots of those "I remember that" moments for whatever portion of the game they showed then. It really was a good game, and not just a Mets romp, which I tend to forget.

Boy Shea got loud when the Mets woke up to tie the game in the 6th. Seemed to fit in with the 1986 Mets season. Mets fans really are the best, or were 25 years ago.

By my calculations, if the game started at 8pm (probably a few minutes after), then the end of the 7th was around 10:30pm. That would make sense. At 8 years old, on a school night, my bedtime was probably 10:30pm, and this baseball/Mets thing was a bit new and my parents didn't know what to do. My dad set up a tape in the VCR at some point before I had to go to bed, and the rest of the game I know from watching that tape over and over and over again.

I probably wore out that tape watching it so much. I probably memorized most of the spoken words from that part of the broadcast. You could feel the excitement in the air from watching on TV. The Mets had it in hand. Vin Scully was a poet at the microphone.
It's so noisy at Shea that you can't hear the airplanes.

High drive into deep right field. Evans back, at the wall. GONE!

Joe, you just lost your house.

And the Sox are down to their last strike, and this crowd is really ready to reach the heavens now.

A sidebar - the video tape, which is probably long gone, had the markings of a tape that had taped over, in that my dad may have taped the whole game, and taped something over the first about 2 1/2 hours. the tape did that speed-up thing that our VHS tapes did when coming out of a newer recording to the older recording on the tape. it did that just as Carter was grounding out to Spike Owen to end the 7th after the pitching change. I told you I memorized many things from the broadcast. I'll swear that it was Back to the Future taped over the first 7 innings, or however it was arranged, and I'll also swear that the same tape, after whatever post-game show NBC had that we taped was the Opening Day festivities from WOR. I do remember running home from school on Opening Day in 1987...oh hell, I'll save that one for next Opening Day. The tape is probably long gone to prove/disprove what I remember, but I have the important parts (Back to the Future, Game 7, and the Opening Day ceremony) on DVD.

When they get through the 9th, even though I've seen this at least 100 times in the past 25 years, I still feel the anticipation (not the type that I would have felt watching live or not knowing the outcome) of the Mets winning and the final out.

It's a bit weird for me to see Shea before the blue makeover was complete (it finished somewhere around 1987 or 1988, along with the new RF scoreboard screens). It's not quite the weirdly-colored Shea of the 60s and 70s, and not the all blue Shea with orange/blue/green/red seats that I knew for about 20 years. It's something in between.

Mets World Series Trivia - who were the 3 people in uniform for BOTH of the Mets World championships?

More trivia - 2 of the quotes are calls from the game (where a play was made). Can you put them both in context?

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The Dream Has Come True

I have more audio, this time, from Game 7 of the 1986 World Series played 25 years ago tonight. I don't think I can take credit for having created these.

Knight's 7th inning Home Run (this one is a little grainy)

The final out

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bottom of the 10th

It's split into 4 audio clips. They're listed sequentially. It's the entire bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series from WHN radio with Bob Murphy and Gary Thorne.

I created these files some time before the 1999 season (I remember having recorded it from WFAN on Christmas night 1996, when WFAN would basically put filler programming rather than expect someone to man the studio and phones on a holiday). The sound is a bit loud, but it's adjustable.

starting at Bottom of the 10th

starting at Kevin Mitchell's at-bat

starting at Mookie Wilson's at-bat

starting after the Wild Pitch

Merry Metsmas!

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Game 6

Editor's note: This is an updated version of a post that I wrote 2 years ago for the occasion of Game 6. This is also a kickoff to a feature for my blog that covers my 25 years as a Mets fan.

It was 25 years ago today was the day that started it all for me. I'm talking about one of the biggest comebacks in baseball history. Game 6 of the '86 'Series. I have no recollection of any games from 1986 or before, except for the one I attended as a clueless kid in mid-September, before this game. I really don't remember anything from the first 9 1/2+ innings of the game either, aside from the video tape and DVD in much much later years. That bottom of the 10th is engrained in my memory though.

As an 8 1/2 year old with a future closer to the sciences than the arts, I remember that night as being the night we changed the clocks back to end Daylight Savings Time, and that I was even allowed to stay up well past midnight as my parents had friends over to watch the game. In fact, the nights of Game 6 of the World Series and ending DST coincided up until a couple years ago when both were pushed back. I thought I might get to be up to see 1am twice. I almost saw it once that night. Instead (and staying up that late at that time in my life was a pipe dream), I saw something much bigger and much more memorable.

I saw the greatest comeback in baseball history and it made me a fan forver. It made me a Mets fan forever. The bottom of the 10th is my flagship baseball moment. I have the audio of the bottom of the 10th from WHN (Mets) radio with Bob Murphy and Gary Thorne. Bob Murphy, forever the voice of the Mets, captured the hope and joy perfectly on radio. I'm listening now, with the DVD cued up for later today. An abbreviated transcript from Bob Murphy (in blue) and Gary Thorne (in orange):
Veteran relief right-hander Bob Stanley being brought on now by John McNamara. Stanley has pitched effectively in this World Series. He'll be pitching to Mookie Wilson. The Mets were down to their final strike. Ray Knight kept it going with a base hit.
Boston 5, New York 4. The first two batters up in the home 10th inning were retired. Three hits in a row. Gary Carter, a single to left. Kevin Mitchell, a single to left. Ray Knight with a two strike count, a single into Centerfield, scoring Gary Carter. Now, one more hit and the Mets, for the third time tonight, would have come from behind and tied this ballgame.
Bottom half of the 10th inning. Red Sox, one out away from a World's Championship. Stanley in the set position, the pitch. Foul ball, skidding off the bat handle, and again, the Mets are down to their last strike.
Stanley really anxious to get it overwith. He's getting the ball back and almost quick pitching. So Mookie will step out on him to slow him down a little bit. 2 balls and 2 strikes. Mets have only one strike left.
Stanley is ready. The pitch. Gets away! Gets away! Here comes Mitchell! Here comes Mitchell! Tie game! Tie game!

Unbelieveable, a wild pitch!
The game is tied 5 to 5. Mitchell comes in to score. Knight, the winning run is on second.
Mookie Wilson, still hoping to win it for New York. 3 and 2 the count. And the pitch by Stanley, and a ground ball trickling, it is a fair ball. Gets by Buckner. Rounding 3rd, Knight. The Mets will win the ballgame. The Mets win! They win!
Unbelieveable, the Red Sox in stunned disbelief!
A slow ground ball went right through the legs of Buckner, down the rightfield line. The Mets have won the ballgame. 3 runs in the bottom half of the 10th inning. 3 runs in the 10th inning. They were down to their final strike twice, in the bottom half of the 10th inning. They win the ballgame!

I won't go into the "why's", which are really from Boston's side. Or the "what if's". I just enjoy it. Bob Murphy's call of the 10th which I probably recorded one Christmas Day from WFAN when they would play the tape rather than have someone on air. I didn't know and probably couldn't have understood at the time that he was the guy hired to call Mets games 25 years earlier to work with the Hall of Fame player and Network-caliber broadcaster, getting his first chance in the World Series. Vin Scully's priceless work on NBC. I didn't know and probably couldn't have understood at the time that he used to call games in New York for a team that left nearly 30 years before. Or that he was a Hall of Famer who would still be going strong on a reduced schedule 23 years later. Or that Boston hadn't won in 67 years (at the time), and in numeric synergy, would win 18 years later breaking their drought of 86 years. It was just a magic moment that would make me a fan.

The story continues in 2 days (remember that the Mets only won Game 6 to tie the series, winning the right to play one more game, and that game would be rained out the next night).

Never Forget '69 has the transcript of the entire bottom of the 10th inning.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

My first Mets memory

Editor's note: This is a preview for an off-season series that I am planning for my blog which covers my 25 years as a Mets fan (exactly half of their existence). This preview blog entry is meant to coincide with my first game.

I have exactly 3 memories from the Mets 1986 World Championship season. I will post about 2 of them later, maybe in late October. But my first memory of the Mets, a beginning of sorts, occured on this date 25 years ago (September 18, 1986). My father had actually pulled me out of school to take me to a Thursday afternoon game just a week or so after I had started the 3rd grade. I have no idea why he picked this game (and why not a weekend game or a summer game). I probably knew the basics of baseball from playing kickball in gym class and during recess at school. But I didn't know Major League Baseball or the New York Mets. I don't think I had any concept of what a magical season it had been or what "A September To Remember" was all about. And I don't think I had any knowledge or interest in the game the night before (at that madhouse called Shea). I really had a clean slate.

I don't remember much about this game. Rick Anderson pitched for the Mets (I had to look it up, years later, after the internet had been invented and populated with mass amounts of data that he went 5 innings to get the win, and a rookie pitcher by the name of Greg Maddux went 4 to take the loss). Howard Johnson hit a HR. 5 years ago, the great writer/blogger Greg Prince wrote about it as part of his Flashback Friday series that looked back on the 1986 season. He's older than I, has a better memory (certainly not the memory of an 8 1/2 year old from that season), and writes much better than I do, so please go read his recap of the game.

And the field looked like patch-work. Or as my dad called it, "green band-aids". I don't have pictures of this. I've seen the video highlight of HoJo's HR, and I honestly don't remember if my memory of the game is from the Mezzanine level near 1B because that's where I sat, or because that's which TV camera shot that HR in the lone highlight I've seen thus far.

I did find the video on YouTube this morning, as part of a larger collection of 1986 footage, and saw a few other highlights of the game. I really can say that I don't remember much about the game other than Anderson getting the win, HoJo hitting a HR, and the 5-0 score over the Cubs. And it was the day after they had clinched the division, which made it easy for me to find the game in the archives later on.

Just like in my new offseason series looking back at 25 years as a Mets fan, this game was sort of a start for me. I don't remember anything else from September. It's not like I recall watching the next game in which the Mets played. I don't remember any of NLCS against Houston as it happened. I have seen some of those games on DVD, Mets Classics, ESPN Classic, and MLB Network over the years. I don't remember most of the World Series either. None of the hype, nor watching any of the games. Until one Saturday night in late October...but that's for next time.

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5 years ago tonight

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Wake me up when September ends

I think I've reached the point in the season in which I can no longer make sense of the Mets. Actually, I think I passed that point a few weeks ago. I still think they will be a .500 team when it's all said and done...give or take only 1 or 2 games. But I've completely flip-flopped on an earlier assessment in which I likened this year's club to the 1997 team that was on its way up under a new regime. I no longer think that. I do, however, stand by my opinion (going on about 2 1/2 seasons now) that the Mets need to clean house and rebuild. I know I've said this before, but it means getting rid of anyone left over from the playoff bust of 2006, the collapses of 2007 and 2008, and the abysmal seasons of 2009, 2010, and 2011. Especially those with longer tenures with the Mets. Beltran was traded, as we expected he would be, and the team seemed to fall down. That shows me that there is no other clear leader on the club...definitely not David Wright. He needs to go. Jose Reyes is too injury-prone for a long-term deal. I wouldn't break the bank to re-sign him. I'm also thinking that a lot of prospects from the Mets farm system are turning into busts, or at least not living up to expectations. Pelfrey and Parnell are two that come to mind, who need to play very big roles on the Mets.

Whatever the case with how I would gut the team, Sandy Alderson is the GM and he and his staff will figure something out. I have faith in them, going to their first offseason after their first season (in some ways, I don't count last offseason when the first arrived from outside the organization). But it will take time. Even more key to the rebuilding of the Mets is the need for Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz and Jeff Wilpon to sell their entire collective holdings in the club. They are toxic owners and executives, even without their financial issues. The deal with David Einhorn fell through. I was hopeful that he would come rescue us, but somehow, I'm not surprised that the Wilpons were going to be stubborn about what they would give up in exchange for cheap cash.

At this point, just enjoy watching baseball for the sake of watching baseball because there's only a couple weeks of it left. And don't try to over-analyze it, because it will only frustrate whatever baseball we all have left. Let's wait until next year...again.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The eternal joy of Bob Murphy

Bob Murphy had a level of joy and optimism in his broadcasts. He was called a "homer" (rooting for the home team), but I don't think that's quite an accurate description. He was an eternal optimist when it came to the New York Mets. I'm sure it had evolved over time. Maybe it came with age. He was already 62 by the time I first heard him. Even older when I first started to understand who and what I was listening to.

But there was also a sense of joy in the success of the Mets, and in baseball in general. And there was just a way about him that probably had nothing to do with his rooting interests in the club. You hear it in the emphasis of certain words - "a HIGH fly ball hit DEEP to right field" on a call of a Mets homerun. Maybe that was his way of putting color in his painted word picture.

Outside of the 1986 World Series, he might be best remembered for a bit of frustration over a game ending with the Mets barely hanging on to win.

And my favorite sound byte of Bob Murphy. This from the first Spring Training broadcast in 1998. It was most likely the first time any of us had heard his voice since the end of the 1997 season, and this is a point when optimism and joy were at its peak in a season (especially after he gets through the advertisements).

With all due respect to Howie Rose and Gary Cohen, Bob Murphy was forever the voice of the Mets. It was 7 years ago that Mets fans lost Bob Murphy at the age of 79. Richard Sandomir of the New York Times remembered him at the time here.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Legacy of Carlos Beltran

I posted this question on both the Remembering Shea and Mets Bloggers pages on facebook, so please weigh in there with your answer...
so it sounds like the Beltran deal is official. What is the legacy of Carlos Beltran, and where does he rank among the greatest Mets (or doesn't he)?

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Mets 2012 - Rejuvinated at 50

Someone, a follower but non-diehard fan, asked me last night if the Mets were going to re-sign Jose Reyes. I told him that I honestly didn't know. I could see it going either way. I hope they do, and he has the ability to be a large force of the rebuilt Mets, but at the same time, he has the ability to go down to leg injuries every year that cuts into what he provides to the club. This year's (so far) was minor, and this year, he's showed potential, but one has to wonder. Now, he's not at the point of it being a joke like Fernando Martinez. But it's been a few years since Jose played the entire season healthy. All of that, especially over the past few seasons, makes me wary of throwing lots of money (assuming the Mets can afford it) at Reyes for many many years (though he should still be in the "prime" of his career 5 years from now and on the edge of it 2 years later). Omar Minaya would throw the money at Reyes and lock him up, which is what a lot of the vocal fans want. I don't mean to insult those fans by comparing their desire to what a clown like Omar Minaya would do. But Sandy Alderson is different, and I just don't know what he's going to do. I've said before that the best ballpark for Jose Reyes is Citi Field because of its wide open space. I'm waiting for him to go for 4 bases (you know it's going to be a play where a typically slower runner would end up with a triple). But who knows how much money will talk to Reyes in the offseason and make him leave NY. Or worse, moving to the Bronx.

The other realization I had, and thanks to Steve Popper at the Bergen (NJ) Record and was that the expected trade of Carlos Beltran means the end of the "core" group of Mets from the Omar Minaya era. I had also never thought of Beltran, Reyes, and Wright as being the core. I guess they were. Pedro and Delgado were there too. Beltran, when healthy, was something special. When healthy! But my thought here is that these are the last days of Carlos Beltran as a New York Met.

Now, Beltran is having a great year. An All-Star Season in fact (I think so anyway...didn't watch anything related to the game). He's a veteran who has some control on a trade. Ultimately, that may prove to be a bad thing for either side. Beltran really really doesn't want to play in the American League because of the fear of the DH. Coming into this season, I was ready to concede that Beltran was best suited as a DH for the Mets (for the amount of time that such a thing exists), but he proved me wrong. As far as 2012 and beyond is concerned, having a DH position to fall back on may be good. NL teams may not offer him as many years because of his knees (since they don't have the DH as a fallback). But in the near-term, I don't think it matters where Beltran goes. I'm sure he really doesn't want to leave the Mets (though I am sure he's not in the Mets future plans), but it's also pretty clear that the Mets will trade him in the next few days (they haven't yet already, have they? I'm taking a long time to write this post). If he has a chance to win, and a team and guarantee that he will play 6 days a week in the outfield, it shouldn't matter which league it's in. I know there's a comfort zone in the NL. Maybe that can come in handy with a team in the World Series.

One note on K-Rod. I knew Francisco Rodriguez would be traded. I just didn't expect it to happen during the All-Star Game. Too bad he wasn't having an All-Star season (think about it. How often does a player get traded mid-game and NOT need to get pulled).

David Wright's back. Hey, that's a double-pun. Wright had a big weekend with the bat (I still think he's un-clutch, but I'll give him a week or so to let the excitment of returning from a 2 month absense wear off), but I've heard more talk about his bad throwing mechanics, something I started noticing in 2009. Those things are hid a lot better by a good defensive first baseman (like Ike Davis or Keith Hernandez) because people tend to forget the cases when he gets the out. Wright is signed through next year, and there are no trade rumors. But that won't stop me from advocating trading Wright. Like Beltran and Reyes, and even more-so, Wright has been the "face of the franchise" since his arrival in 2004. And what have the Mets done over that time? I won't remind you, but it wasn't what we all had hoped they would do. I think he needs to wear the captian's "C" on his jersey, or he needs to be traded to a team that won't put the pressure on him. It should happen in the offseason...before the rumors of next year's trade deadline start distracting him.

I'm starting to wonder about Johan Santana. I can only remember him pitching one complete season with the Mets, that being his first in 2008. Maybe it was the new ballpark. Maybe Omar Minaya got damaged goods (and he hasn't led us to winning anything, though in that first year, he came pretty damn close to getting that chance). I would like to see how he comes back from this latest recovery, because the pitching staff will be better with him than without him. But the pitching staff is getting very weak. Even Mike Pelfrey should be considered a treadeable pitcher instead of a number 2 guy.

It's just about time to completely rebuild the organization, something I've advocated since 2009. Both the major league team and the farm system (think about the "talent" down on the farm - the oft-injured Fernando Martinez, the not-quite-closer Bobby Parnell (who blew a save on Sunday in the 8th), who else am I missing - more misses that hits down there). But at the same time, it's time for the Mets to get younger with Reyes being the veteran leader of the Mets Kids Club. Something, maybe, to look forward to next year in 2012. Mets 2012 - Rejuvinated at 50!

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An idea for the Mets 50th

Here's an idea for the Mets' 50th anniversary season (next year). Celebrate every weekend homestand (pick a day game each weekend) with a countdown of the greatest Mets players over the first 50 seasons. And retire their numbers.

Think about it. Let the fans vote on it over the offseason. Now I realize that in some of these cases, the Mets need to bring these people and their families back to New York for their weekend, and everyone's schedules won't always line up. And you never know how good the weekend schedule will look in 2012 (with FOX 4pm starts, night home games, and the dreaded switch to a Sunday night game, and the Yankees series). But let's play this out on paper.

13 home weekends (I think that's actually part of the schedule formula, since there's 26 weeks in a season). Subtract the Yankees weekend, so 12 weekends. Let's countdown 8 players (9 through 2), and then declare Tom Seaver #1 on the list, and his number is already retired (maybe we'll figure out something to do with him later). This may include players already in the Mets Hall of Fame (jeez, I think it should), and should involve the same "team" in charge of selecting such players (which includes Howie Rose and Gary Cohen) along with the fan voting.

And let's make it a permanent part of Citi Field by unveiling a full colored, non-sponsored banner inside the stadium for each player (without a rank, since a current or future Met may move up that list). Other stadia have banners like this without any purpose. Even the Mets Spring Training home has them affixed to the inner-pillars on the concourse. Now that I think of it, get the company that did last off-season's colorization of Thomas J. White Stadium, Digital Domain (ok, it's actually now Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie) to do this work. Have Joe Petruccio design them. Maybe unveil two a week (one as part of the retired numbers group and one as part of a "favorite Mets" group).

All of this should be one of the many season-long 50th anniversary Mets promotions. Maybe on mid-week night games (once per week), the Mets would honor a favorite Met, an obscure Met (just for Howie Rose), or one of the non-Pennant winning Mets playoff teams (1988, 1999, 2006). Each with banners of their own in the rafters of Citi Field. I think there's 12 of these mid-week series. Then pick 4 games or full weekends in which to honor the 4 Mets NL Pennant winners (1969, 1973, 1986, 2000), to go along with the top 9 players-not-named-Seaver honored on their weekends. Hang a banner for each team and each manager among the 4 pennant winners.

Wait, there's synergy in numbers...ya, this will work. There's 12 non-Yankee weekends during a season, so pick a game each weekend in which to honor an NL Pennant-winning Mets team or one of the 9 greatest Mets (sorry Seaver, we know you're #1, but there's no room for you here) by retiring their number. Enshrine that player in the Mets Hall of Fame if necessary. Heck, each of these Pennant-winning teams should be in the HOF too.

And Let's hang the first banner - Tom Seaver's - on Opening Day.

And while we're at it, let's officially name the area outside the Rotunda as "Casey Stengel Plaza", with some sort of sign marking it as such. Casey Stengel Plaza was the name of one of the Shea Stadium access roads off 126th street near Gates D and E. There is absolutely no reason to have lost this distinction.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Predictions for the Second Half

Today, I look forward to the second "half" of the 2011 Mets season (of course, the All Star Game is the "half way mark" of a season even though it's about a week past the statistical half way point, but I digress)...

  1. The 2011 Mets, even with Jose Reyes coming back and going back to being his old self, even with David Wright and Ike Davis coming back in August, and even with Johan Santana coming back by the end of next month as well, do not make the playoffs. This team that's gone on a run since late April to finally break and stay over .500 is going to keep September exciting, we'll applaud them when they are eliminated by the Nationals at Citi Field on their great effort, the best we've seen in some 5 years in Flushing, but they aren't going to the playoffs. At least not under the current structure.
  2. I just mentioned that David Wright, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana will all come back during August. Wright probably early in the month (border-line July), Davis mid-month, and Santana late in the month. I think the team will suffer a lag when Wright comes back (what first baseman besides Ike Davis and Keith Hernandez can handle Wright's erratic throwing arm?) and go back below .500 for a bit. Ike Davis will breathe some life in the club and bring them back over when Davis hits one OVER the Shea Bridge. And Johan Santana finds his way back into the rotation very close to a time when the rosters could handle a 6-man rotation.
  3. Without consideration for the trade deadline, the current 2011 payroll-Mets will not reach the playoffs (that includes bringing back the DL'd players into the starting lineup). But they'll be so damn close that in a future year, it would be really hard to trade the All-Star Right Fielder (and comeback player of the club) and their flamethrowing closer. And in 2011 when those trades are made (thinking of the future of course), it will bring the team down a little bit. Under some managers, that could spell doom. Under Terry Collins, that will keep them a 2 or 3 games above .500. And after 2009 and 2010, finishing at .500 is an accomplishment.
Now I mention the trade deadline and future years because of a rumored expansion to the playoff structure as soon as next year that would bring more teams into the playoffs, and make more medicore teams think they're in playoff contention, and redefine what it means to be a buyer and what it means to be a seller at the trade deadline. Coming into the final game before the break, the Mets are 7.5 games out of the NL Wild Card. Add one more Wild Card team, the Mets are suddenly 2.5 games behind a 3-way tie (with 2 of those teams also being tied for a division lead). That certainly would change the direction a team may go at the trade deadline. I still stand by my prediction of 83 wins. Even with all that's coming back, and all that the Mets are going to send away, and with all that Terry Collins has done, they still finish the season playing golf in October feeling good about 83 wins. Leave a comment or drop me a line at DyHrdMET [at] gmail [dot] com. "Like" RememberingShea on Facebook (the function formerly known as "Becoming a Fan"). Become a Networked Blog

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Half Way Home

By my count, the Mets are 41-40 over the first half of the season. It's really on par with my pre-season prediction. But given how the idea of being above .500 is a very recent revelation in Mets-land, I think 41-40 is pretty darn good.

Jose Reyes really needs to be the starting shortstop at the All-Star Game. 121 hits over 78 games (remember he missed a few games and he leads the league in hits), 15 triples (almost double the next player), he's tied for the MLB lead in batting average, and 2nd in the majors in SB and runs.

The injuries to David Wright and Ike Davis have certainly changed the face of the team (and I still blame Wright for Davis's injury). It sounds like Wright will the first of the two to return to the lineup. But I think I've already said that I like 3/4 of the infield that we've seen for most of the past month and a half - Turner at 3B, Reyes at SS, and Tejada at 2B, with Davis at 1B.

And in the outfield, is may be possible that Jason Bay is finally breaking out. Or not. We'll have to see. But he certainly looked good hitting the Mets' first grand slam since 1986 (ok, in almost 23 months). Angel Pagan is looking good, and I like Jason Pridie as a 4th OF. But who would have expected Carlos Beltran to lead the Mets in both HR and RBI, be 2nd in ABs (behind Reyes), and the most surprising stat for the most surprising Met of the first 3 months ... Carlos Beltran leads the Mets in Games Played.

Remember that with all of that, the Mets are still just a .500 club. The offense can break out like it did for 4 games in Texas and Detroit, and then it can go dormant, like I think it will when the Mets get back to Citi Field. Some of the individual numbers may be sustained, but long stretches of winning won't be with this club. They're just not there yet.

And then there's pitching. I'm not sure I sorted the stats correctly. Chris Young (out for the season) leads the club in ERA. Mike O'Connor is second. And the best of the current 5 man rotation is Dillon Gee in 6th (3.32 ERA). On another note, Francisco Rodriguez leads the club in appearances (somewhat ironic because everyone is watching him with that mark of games played he has this year). 20 saves in 41 wins. I actually don't know if that's normal or not.

Looking over wins-losses, it seems somewhat backwards. The "ace" and last year's biggest (good) surprise are both 4-7 (that's Pelfrey and Dickey). Niese and Capuano are hovering around the .500 mark (14-13 combined). And Gee really is another one who deserves at least a look at the All Star Game. For as good as the starters have looked, remember, they're just a .500 club.

And in the bullpen, it's been a bit of trial and error, and a bit of sense of "these are our guys". I said back in March that I liked that it was a lot of new guys. Manny Acosta is a waste (highest ERA of the current 25 man roster). But other than that, I think the Mets have a good rythym in the 'pen. But those things usually don't last. And it certainly took a while to get to this point.

I think what I'm trying to say is that there's been some good (Reyes, Gee, Beltran, Izzy, Beato, both of whom I have yet to mention), some bad, or at least not-as-good (Dickey, Pelfrey, Willie Harris), some lineup changes due to injury (Pagan was out, Bay was out, Chris Young is gone, Wright and Davis have been out), and good finds (like Turner).

And not to mention the change in culture brought in by Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins. I know some Mets fans have been very critical of Collins, but I think every one has to say that Collins has made a difference in the clubhouse.

41 down, 41 to go. And I still stand by my prediction of 83 wins (which actually means a slightly better 2nd half than 1st half). As hard as it is to see making a move to give up on the season, I think there will be an offer by a real contender (which I do not consider the Mets to be) for either Beltran or K-Rod that's just too good to pass up.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Few and Far Between

I'm back with enough thoughts on the Mets to exceed the limit of a facebook status. Let me go over a few items.
  1. Justin Turner, Jose Reyes, and Dillon Gee need to be on the All-Star team. Reyes should be starting at SS for the National League. I think it's been a while since I said the Mets had 3 genuine All-Stars. Carlos Beltran is also worthy of at least being in the conversation as a reserve. I know it's somewhat of a popularity contest, and that most fans outside of New York have never heard of Turner or Gee, but these guys should at least be on the manager's radars for selecting reserves and pitchers. Gee has a shot at having 10 wins by the break, and remember, he didn't start the season in the majors and was out of the Mets rotation for a week or two. Lots of people could say that Turner has been keeping the Mets afloat while Wright and Davis have been out. More on him later. And what can I say about Reyes? He's such a dynamic player having a career year, leading the league in most offensive categories (except nose hair).
  2. There was a fan movement about 9 days ago to show the Mets management and ownership (and the media) that fans want Jose Reyes to stay a Met. I absolutely support that effort (short of bloggers who become martyrs aside). I really hope Fred Wilpon and his new best friend got the message. Looking at Reyes's stats, I truly believe Citi Field is the best place for him, and the Mets certainly need a guy like Reyes at the top of their lineup. 3 steps back if they let Reyes go or trade him, and 3 bases forward (and rather quickly and matter-of-factly) if they can lock him up.
  3. I really believe the Mets are better off without David Wright. Yes, you heard me right. Wright is wrong, at least for the Mets. And I blame Wright for Ike Davis's injury, but that's besides the point. I'm sure I've said this before, but if David Wright was the "face of the franchise" during these really bad years (from losing in the playoffs in 2006 through 2010), then what leadership has he provided? And I have to say, I like 3/4 of the Mets infield right now - Tejada at 2B, Reyes at SS, and Turner at 3B - and add back Ike Davis at 1B, and I like where this team is going. For Wright, this injury is giving the fans and management a chance to see what life without Wright can be like, and frankly, it's not so bad. It's even refreshing. And this injury is at least delaying the possible trade (or at least serious trade talk) involving Wright.
  4. I also like the idea of a Duda-Pagan-Pridie outfield. I'll let you figure out what that all means.
  5. I still do not consider the Mets a contender. A few weeks ago, I posted a thought on the facebook page for this blog that I saw a parallel to the 1997 Mets in this year's team (and I think this was after Wright and Davis were already down and out) - new management and a new direction, knowing it realistically will be a couple of years before it all pays off, and knowing that a few of the faces defining this year's club won't be around when it does pay off. I really do believe that Terry Collins has changed the tone in the Mets clubhouse. I think we heard that all the way back in Spring Training. He really was the right man for the job, despite what some people think about some of his on-field decisions. Maybe the Mets will live up to the phrase that I coined in 2009 - "Mets 2012. Rejuvinated at 50!"

And lastly, our thoughts are with Gary Carter as he begins to fight brain cancer. Go Kid!

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

For Dana Brand

Somewhere, up in heaven or in the great beyond (you know the place, I think it's next to "Iowa"), our blogging friend Dana Brand is talking about the new Mets co-owner with his late friend from Yale, Bart Giamatti. I would love to hear a Baseball Commissioner's take on the matter. I'm sure they're having a good discussion.

In case you hadn't heard the sad news yet, Dana Brand passed away suddenly on Wednesday at the young age of 56.

In the 8 or so hours since his wife posted the news on his facebook page, I've seen many kind words and posts from our fellow bloggers in my facebook newsfeed. I have to say that like most of you who have read is blog and/or his books, I'm a bit shaken right now. I've been going over many many different things I wanted to cover in this post. Afterall, Dana was an English professor, so I owe it to him to make this post sound coherent. I always felt like I could write a better sounding post after reading his blog, simply by osmosis (I'm talking about the difference between A- work and B work in my mind. I was never much more than that).

I had the pleasure of meeting Dana on a couple of occasions. All of them Mets-related, though we shared a few non-Mets connections as well. Dana taught at Hofstra University in the English Department. When I was a student at Hofstra from 1997 through 2000, I had a gentleman's agreement with the English Department that we respectfully keep distance from each other. I never held that against him, and I remember about a year ago sharing the blurb in the Hofstra Alumni magazine about his recent book (The Last Days Of Shea). And Dana was telling me at last year's GKR main event game in early October that he noticed in my facebook profile that I had attended the same Massachusetts prep/boarding school as his wife, though she was there many years before I was.

I remember having a nice conversation with Dana on that day last October, down in the party area at Citi Field behind the bullpens where the GKR group was selling their t-shirts. And then I had the pleasure of sitting with Dana and Greg Prince of Faith and Fear In Flushing fame in the outfield seats for a couple of innings. I felt a bit out of place sitting between two Mets fans whose Mets-life stories I had read. But it was fun.

As was the first time I got to meet Dana (and Greg and a few others for that matter). 2 years ago this August, during that dismal season of 2009 (how dismal, it was the day that it had been announced that Johan Santana would miss the remainder of the season), our paths crossed at one of FAFIF's Amazin' Tuesdays, when Dana was debuting his new book, The Last Days Of Shea. As part of the readings of the evening, Dana would read a few paragraphs for the audience at Two Boots in lower Manhattan.

I had been a reader of Dana's blog for a few months, and I'd like to think he read my blog too. When I introduced myself as "DyHrdMET", he knew who I was. I've always loved the discussions in the comments of a blog post, especially back then when I had time to participate and had a lot more to say. Dana brought copies of his book, and that was main reason why I made the trip from New Jersey. I remember being excited about a book about my beloved Shea. Thinking about it now, I kind of wish Dana could communicate from that "Iowa" place right now because he could tell all of us if all the ballparks from the past are up in that magical place too.

I heard Dana read that night. A few others too. I bought a copy of Dana's book. He said it was the first copy sold, and inscribed it so ("This is the first copy of this book sold - Dana A. Brand"). He also signed the book for me, with a personal inscription.

I'd seen Dana a few times. I think all of the other times at GKR events at Citi Field. His is one of the faces I would have been looking for when I attend the next "main event" this August. I remember seeing him pass by at the first GKR "main event" at Shea Stadium in 2008. I didn't know Dana at the time, but after meeting him, I remembered seeing him pass by me on his way to the field with his mother, in a wheelchair, and his family, while I was on line. Dana wrote about it in his book (The Last Days Of Shea). What a weekend that was.

I never got to tell Dana how much I enjoyed reading his 2 books (Mets Fan being the first one), but I certainly did. I'm almost done with the second one. I didn't start until after I had met him on that summer night 2 years ago, and of course, I had to read the books in order. The night that Dana debuted his second book, I got to hear him read a bit of it aloud. And I wish I could have his books on tape, read by him, because he had so much passion reading about the Mets and about Shea.

Thank you Dana for everything you've done in the Mets blogging and fan communities. We're all better off having known you.

I'll let Dana have the last words - two videos of Dana, both from Hofstra University, speaking about his books. It won't be the same without you.

Or if you can't see the embedded videos, you can go here and here.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cleaning House and the fate of Jose Reyes

Let me start by saying that there is an fan event, details here on facebook, whose sole purpose is to show anyone watching (i.e. management, television, other fans) that Mets fans want Jose Reyes to be a Met for a long time to come. I support the cause, but since it's a Friday night, I probably won't be out in Queens for the game (it's Friday June 3, the 7:10pm game against Atlanta; and it's a schlep from NJ for a weeknight game). The event is being organized by one of the most die-hard Mets fans I've ever met, Donna Bauer. According to the facebook event page, meet the group outside the rotunda before the game (4:30 to 6pm) and on the Shea Bridge in the top of the 5th.

Now, a lot has been written and spoken lately - really all speculation - about an upcoming fire sale of the Mets roster. Let me say this...I fully support it. In some ways, it's just wrong that a pro sports team in a major league based in New York has to go through with a fire sale, but in the case of the Mets, I think it's necessary. Not so much for the sake of shrinking the payroll, but more for the sake of cutting away the losers wearing Mets uniforms, as well as other players that just aren't practically part of the future of the organization.

There's still a handfull of "core players" leftover from the Mets teams that suffered through a playoff collapse in 2006 (I still say that not scoring in the bottom of the 6th in Game 7 against the Cardinals was a downward turning point for this franchise), the divsion-leading collapses of 2007 and 2008, and the utter failure of a season in 2009. I would trade away the leader of the pack - David Wright - as well as free agent-to-be Carlos Beltran. I would look to cut Francisco Rodriguez, even though he's preformed pretty well this year. I'd even look to trade Mike Pelfrey.

But there's one name that I left off that list. I know he's been injured in the past, but when he's on, he's explosive. This type of dynamic player just doesn't come around that often. That is Jose Reyes. Lots of people schooled in what the Mets are thinking have speculated that Jose Reyes will not even finish this season as a member of the New York Mets. He's a free agent looking to make big money this offseason, and it's money that the Mets just don't seem to have.

But if the Mets are hoping to compete in the future, they need their long-time catalyst. So why does everyone want to save him and not David Wright (Wright isn't even a free agent this offseason)? Well, let me draw this picture for you for Reyes, as just one example of "why". Lots of people have said that Citi Field is just too big. I think for Reyes, it's too small. I've noticed him legging out triples with ease at Citi Field (the way others get doubles). I think if the ballpark were a little bit bigger, Reyes would actually be able to turn 3rd and try for 4 bases a few times a season. With this Mets offense, Reyes needs to find a way to score on his own because guys like David Wright just aren't bringing him in very much.

And that leads me to the loser fan-annointed leader of this club, David Wright. The thought process is simple with him. He was the clutch guy and face of the team for all these bad years. And the word clutch should be in quotes because he just isn't. Maybe he's had undisclosed injuries (and I'll excuse what happened after he was beaned in the head 2 years ago) that have affected his play (throwing and hitting). Heck, it's widely thought that he has one now (caused by hustle, so it's not all bad, but we had to learn it from the manager's speculation almost 2 weeks after the fact, and not from the player saying i'm banged up and I need a day off). With Wright, and I think I've said this before, I say that the Mets have played bad with him, so they can play bad without him.

The end result of all this -- I think the Mets will dance around the bottom of contention until one of two things happens:
  1. the Wilpons need money and have to start selling off players now (that would only work in the supposed case that another team takes on the salary for the remainder of the season, which I had kept hearing wasn't gonna happen). That goes along with a rumor I saw on facebook today about a Memorial Day sale in Flushing.
  2. the Trade Deadline approaches and Sandy Alderson takes a reality check that the Mets are just short of serious contention, and it's time to start making trades for the sake of getting young players and draft picks in return for free agents that you won't be signing in the offseason because there's a need for new blood and less money to be spent. Now I know that there is some compensation for some types of free agents not being re-signed (though I don't know all the rules, nor do I know who on the Mets fits into that bucket), but making trades is better. It's kind of like being an organ donor. Especially if it's to a team that can beat the Yankees or Phillies.
But for now, let's try and send a message to management that while purging and rebuilding is a necessary step in making the Mets into winners again, it's important to keep the fans in the stands (they're having enough trouble with that with the current team as it is and the stadium layed out the way it is), and a big step into doing that is to keep Jose Reyes around for a long time (and I don't mean until this August).

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

April in Metsville

I'm giving this another shot, after last year's 5/6th attempt at a 27 game report (if you noticed, I never did the final one). This time, I'm using the pages in the calendar to write my monthly report.

The bookkeeping - the Mets are 11-16 over 27 games in April, in last place in the NL East 7.5 games out of first, in 14th place in the entire National League, and 25th overall in the Majors.

Looking over the game-by-game results, short of 3 and 6 game winning streaks, it just looks downright awful. They've also been swept in 2 doubleheaders, which happened to be on consecutive playing dates. They looked a bit streaky in April. Well, they were. 1 loss and 2 wins were not part of streaks of at least 2 games. In other words, for most of the month, they won some in a row, then lost some in a row, then won some in a row, and so on.

In the winning streaks, they looked like a really good team, the one that we all think they're capable of being, especially in the 6 game streak after Jason Bay returned to the lineup. But they had a lot of losses where they looked like a team that wanted to be broken up and sold off in pieces. In some ways, this streaky team isn't much different from what we saw last year.

But there's a few things very different from last year. Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins. Collins' managing style is very different from that of Jerry Manual. But will it work with this group of players (mostly the same core from last year)? I'm not sure. But that's in part, the players' problem. And together, Collins and Alderson have held players accountable more than I remember any Mets Manager and GM in recent years. They did a good job of not losing players during Spring Training moving to the Opening Day roster because of various contract clauses, then dumped players who underperformed after the season started. I love it. It's a bold statement...even if it's for fringe players.

So what's the next move? Or does the team turn it on again when they get home and we put off this discussion for another week? It's possible that this team really isn't as talented as we've been sold to believe. If the team has a .500 or worse May, I think it will be time for serious thought about trading off "talented" players.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Writer's Block And Some Other Thoughts

I realized that I haven't written very much on the blog in the last 6 months, outside of some news pieces about the NY Sports Emmys, some sound bytes, and my Spring Training trip. At work, I had a busy few months that started right after the season ended (thank goodness it wasn't during the season) and ended right before Spring Training started. And frankly, there wasn't a whole lot to say that hadn't already been said.

I also think I've had a case of writer's block for some time. Facebook has sort of ruined me in that respect. If you don't follow my blog on facebook, please do so. I post a lot of smaller items (small enough to fit into a facebook status update) there, that just wouldn't work as well as full blog posts that follow my style of blogging, and I've found there is more interaction on facebook. Of course, I like comments and dialogue on the posts written here as well (and as always, thank you all for reading/following my writings). I just noticed that I had exactly half as many posts in 2010 as I had in 2009 when there was so much more original thoughts to speak. At first, I looked at this as a sort of therapy for following the Mets. It's helped, but I think I need a little more. I'm actually getting a little bit of inspiration by sitting in my Shea seats watching Billy Joel Live At Shea Stadium for the first time (buy the DVD, CD, and/or BluRay, and the documentary).

The Mets were utter failures last season. Changes in the GM's office and the Manager and coaching staff were made. I really didn't know enough about those new guys (and still don't) to write anything insightful. With this blog, I like to write some sort of unique-ish feature article and commentary. You may realize this, but I don't post news, game previews, or game recaps. I leave that to the professionals who have the inside scoop, and to other blogs. Anyway, there just wasn't anything to write about that hasn't already been said, either by me or by someone else.

All that being said, we're in a new era of Mets baseball. It's the 50th season, and the first time since 2005 that there is new leadership at the top two levels (the "top two" being one and two levels below the owner, where the ownership is a whole separate issue). I like the overall change in direction that the Mets have made. These changes should have been made during or after the 2009 season. But they weren't, and maybe it will work out for the better.

But I started saying this in 2009, and I was thinking it a lot in the first 3 weeks of this season -- the Mets need to clean house and rebuild. Get rid of anyone who was around for the playoff failure of 2006, the collapse of 2007, and the redux of 2008. Those players in my mind are tagged as "losers". Since they didn't clean house going into 2009, and 2009 utterly sucked, I'll go and add on players from the 2009 Mets to that list. I don't have an exact number of players (I'm not big on research like that), but it involves some real core players. They need to go. What was that line about Ralph Kiner?
On June 4, 1953, Kiner was sent to the Chicago Cubs as part of a ten-player trade. This was largely due to continued salary disputes with Pirate general manager Branch Rickey, who reportedly told Kiner, "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you."
from Wikipedia
The Mets haven't won, and have been labeled "losers" with the likes of David Wright and Carlos Beltran leading the team. Quite an endorsement, isn't it? Cut 'em. I'll admit, I haven't been high on David Wright for a couple of years now, but this is more than just him. I was throwing around the idea of packaging up Wright and Mike Pelfrey in a trade and I wasn't exactly shot down on that one.

Sandy Alderson started going in the right direction over the offseason, but he needs to make the big jump. And this has nothing to do with the money problems that the Mets face. Every time the Mets have come close to success in their 49 years, there has been a moment where it fell apart, and within a few years, it was a very low point. I wrote about it in 2009. Nothing was fixed until the team brought in a new regime and cleaned house. That's been a pattern for most of the team's lifespan.

Now, since I started mulling this part over in my head, Jason Bay returned to the lineup, his head seems to be clear, and the Mets look like a different team. 3 wins in a row now. I think the expression is "break up the Mets". Well, that's what I've been thinking. I don't think a 3 game winning streak (or however long it winds up being) changes anything in the long run. But I also have to ask the question if this is a .500 team (which is in the neighborhood of what I had predicted) that just had a bad week and things will even out, or is this a really bad team that's currently in a short hot streak. The 2008 team that suffered the franchise's second collapse in as many seasons was a .500 team that had a good stretch, not long after the manager was fired. This year's team had a good stretch after a long lost player returned from a new short-term injury from Spring Training.

Well, it's April, so I don't really know the answers. That's why they play the games.

But looking long term, the biggest factors are whether or not Sandy Alderson will listen to what I have written here (I doubt he reads my blog, or at least would have the message passed to him, and it's not like I'm sending this out to him, but maybe he has similar ideas), and how the ownership situation will play out. I wrote back in my lone post from January what I thought of the Madoff-related lawsuit and boldly said that within a year (of that point) that the Wilpon family will no longer be in control of the Mets. I even followed it up with another realization on the matter.

Since that post, where I speculated that they would have a hard time selling off 25% of the club (now that's up to 49%) without giving up some control, which has played out, we learned that the Mets needed a loan from MLB (and tried to get a second loan) during the offseason just to make ends meet. That's just scary, especially for a New York team. And the lawsuit, which really really should be on the owners personally and not on the team, hasn't even been settled/judged, so that's just a huge wildcard. And now the Dodgers are in an even worse situation than the Mets are. How ironic! MLB has even had to step in and assume control of the Dodgers. I'm sure if Bud Selig and Frank McCourt (the Dodgers co-owner) were buddy-buddy like Selig and Fred Wilpon are, maybe it would play out differently. Bud Selig needs to do the same thing with the Mets that he did with the Dodgers, and that is to appoint someone to oversee anything that goes on with the ballclub. Maybe that's what Sandy Alderson is doing in Flushing. And he needs to step up and force out owners who are bad for the game, such as the two mentioned here. Unfortuately, the Mets will have been run completely into dire financial straits before that happens.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

49 years ago tonight

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Mike Pelfrey

Before the game goes too far (1 inning down into Pelfrey's 3rd start as I write this), here's my quick take on Mike Pelfrey.

He's pitched poorly in 2 starts, but it's only been 2 starts. If I'm a fan in the stands or in my recliner, I'm on the verge of booing Big Pelf and saying he needs help or that we should trade him and get something good in return. But if I'm someone inside the clubhouse, I can see much more closely exactly what he needs without getting down on him. We as Mets fans need him to turn it around...let's hope someone close to him can see what's wrong and fix him. Maybe it's just some home cooking.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

SNY wins some Emmys

Announced last night on

SNY won for a feature on Mike Westhoff as part of their Jets coverage and for their coverage of the LeBron James signing last summer on SportsNite. Ray Lucas from the SNY Jets coverage won best analyst.

The "NY NY Sports Sports" commercials also won and SNY's "NY Sports Local" commercials won for best graphics.

And winning for DIRECTOR: LIVE OR LIVE TO TAPE - Bill Webb.

Congratulations to all the winners. You can see all of the Mets-related nominees here.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

83 Wins

83 games is all I think the New York Mets will win this year. It is an improvement from last season. Furthermore, I think the Mets will fool us into thinking they are in contention for the NL Wild Card but ultimately, they won't appear in the postseason.

Let's look at what they're retaining from last year. Well, the team colors are still the same. No changes there. The orange and blue accounts for about 20 wins right there. But seriously. Josh Thole, Ike Davis, David Wright, and Jose Reyes are back playing on the infield dirt. I think they make up most of the core of the ballclub, and I have no worries about them. Jason Bay will eventually be back in left field, and Angel Pagan is back in center field. Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, and Jon Niese are back in the starting rotation. Bobby Parnell and Francisco Rodriquez are back in the bullpen. These guys here are pretty solid, but it's not the entire club.

The problem is, at least for the position players, I didn't list 8 of them, and there are a few holes. Carlos Beltran is listed as the right fielder, having moved over from center field very early in Spring Training. But that's only on paper. Personally, I didn't think Carlos Beltran would start the season on the active roster, and I give him a 50/50 shot to even play 100 games. He's also not in the long term plans for the Mets. This is a place where the Mets need to consider the right fielder of the future (beyond Beltran) at a point now, and platoon him with Beltran when such a time comes. I'm just not sure who that actually is. In the old days, the GM would just buy a young right fielder to fill this whole, but this is a new era in the Mets and they're going to grow a new Right Fielder instead. And now Bay is injured. Oy Bay!

There is also a hole at second base. I can't remember the last time there was a real permanent second baseman on the Mets. I guess Castillo when he first came aboard. But they were smart in dumping Luis Castillo this year (so were the Phillies). He also wasn't in the Mets' long term plans, and the way I saw it, the Mets would have a competition to start at second base this year, and if Castillo had won the job, they'd really have to do it again next year. Castillo wasn't standing out in the competition for the job this year, and I know he had some issues, and it was right to cut him. In theory, whoever won this job (Brad Eamus) should be the guy long term. Let's see how he plays.

To me, it seemed like very quietly, both the bench and bullpen were overhauled. I knew changes were made, but I don't think I realized it until I got down to Port St. Lucie myself how many little and quiet changes were made. Time will tell if the bench is improved, and the same with the bullpen. I happen to think that both are better than they were last year. With no offense intended toward the players, I see the bench being stronger if those assigned to the bench are kept out of the starting lineup on a regular basis. What I mean by that is that if Daniel Murphy has to make a lot of starts at 1B or 2B, it hurts the club. If Willie Harris or Scott Hairston have to make a lot of starts in the outfield, it weakens the dynamic of the bench. Harris and Hairston both deserved to make the club, and they're part of what makes it a good bench. But when the bench is called on to fill holes too often, it spells trouble.

In the bullpen, well, the Mets overworked their bullpen for many many years, so it's only natural to say that an almost 100% overhaul will yield a better product. Competition for spots during Spring Training also didn't hurt - it showed that there is some actual talent in the bullpen. I should also mention the two new arms in the starting rotation, both of whom impressed me in some of the starts I witnessed in person while I was down in Florida. Chris Capuano has a great pickoff move, and Chris Young has an interesting hook to his delivery hiding the ball behind his back (something I noticed on about the first or second pitch I saw in my first game this year).

I should mention about the roster selections a few things. I think Nick Evans deserved to make the club, and maybe it should have been at the expense of Daniel Murphy, who seems to be a klutz in the field. I like the selection of Blaine Boyer over Manny Acosta and Jason Isringhausen, and I like that Izzy hasn't left the club (yet), but Boyer earned it. And I like Mike Nickeas as the backup catcher over Ronnie Paulino. Hopefully all of Paulino's health issues can be resolved quickly, and I realize there was a reason why he was signed, but I like Nickeas on the club a little better.

Now to 83 wins. Why that number? With all of the improvements I've spoken of, why not improve last season's win total even more? Well, in my curve of improvement in wins, (or, if you dare to think about it, going the other direction), there is a bit of a plateau around a .500 record. Going from 69 wins to 79 wins isn't the same as 79 wins to 89 wins because 89 wins is serious playoff contention, and that's quite an improvement for a club that was below .500 the year before. I don't think the Mets made that much of an improvement from 79 wins, but they are a plus-.500 club, so 83 it is.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Last Day

Mets practice, day 11, March 25, 2011

I think the new thing for me is to head over to Mets camp every morning at 9:30, watch whatever workouts/games/practices are going on at the back fields, try to snag autographs, and then plan my afternoon game around that, where I leave around 11:30am. Somehow, that seems to be more entertaining than being at another ballpark, watching the Mets take batting practice, and not signing autographs. Maybe it's only the Mets, but they're sucking some of the fun out of this experience.

I get in on Friday and see that there's only 1 field in use, on the minor league side of the complex, and that's where everyone is. It's the minor league intrasquad "game" that features Chris Young getting a start (instead of facing the division rival Marlins in Jupiter again) and Jason Isringhausen and Blaine Boyer fighting it out for a spot in the bullpen. The Mets press corps is there, plus a number of fans, and a few coaches.

It's somewhat interesting to see how this works. Mike Nickeas was held back from the big league game in order to catch for Young and get in some at bats. The other 3 starting pitchers (R.A. Dickey was away from the club) were used in bunting situations. And there was a pitching coach standing behind the mound, with 2 umpires calling the game. So it was somewhat official.

I saw fans talking to the different beat writers, and with each other. A few jabs at Mets Media Czar Jay Horwitz who had acted as a pinch runner slidning into home in a simulated game the day before, which had been caught on tape. Young looked really good in this game (and he signed autographs for the fans when he was done). He even hit a home run off of a minor league pitcher.

And then Carlos Beltran, our missing in action right fielder, made an appearance to be every third hitter in the game with a pinch runner after he reaches base. It's the closest to game action he had seen in a couple of weeks, and this became the "simulated" game he had been scheduled to appear in. It was more of a controlled game. He hit the ball pretty well. He ran the hits out more later in the game, and didn't play the field, but it's progress.

After that was all over, I decided to take another sick day rather than heading down to Jupiter to watch the Mets bench players compete against the Marlins. It just wasn't worth it.

And that ends my vacation.

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My Last Game

Game 9, day 10, March 24, 2011 -- Cardinals vs. Mets @ Port St. Lucie

My last game in Port St. Lucie. Of course, it starts before 9:30 at Mets camp. The whole team was stretching. They split up. Really not much to see. Nothing to write home about. The only autograph I wanted was R.A. Dickey, who I had thought would be in Nashville for the birth of his son (not to knock him at all, it sounded like he left sometime after the workout on Thursday and of course had pitched on Wednesday, I just didn't know his schedule). One fan got to him before I could as he was moving to another practice field and I heard him say that he was working (which is true). Later, after I was outside the stadium, I heard from someone that he did stop and sign when he was done, but I had to step out a bit early to meet someone in front of the stadium before the gates opened.

I also just wanted to soak up the stadium atmosphere for my last day. MLB Network had a crew at the stadium for 30 Clubs in 30 Days covering the Mets, and there was a place for fans to create a video postcard from spring training. I declined. I don't look good on camera (and I'd almost rather have the backdrop of the stadium rather than their screen with palm trees).

In the stadium, batting practice was another quiet morning activity, except that David Wright was doing an interview for MLB Network by the Mets dugout. I'll have to catch that on TV. I decided to go around and take as many pictures as I could (I ended up stopping in the 9th with a full 2 GB memory stick). That's kind of what batting practice around the Grapefruit League (in most stadia for most teams) has become.

For the game itself, well, the Mets broke out. Lots of hits, a bunch of home runs (and the wind was blowing, but it doesn't help you hit the ball in the right spot), and an 8 run inning. Big win for the Mets.

And that's my last game in the stadium in Port St. Lucie. Look for more pictures in the coming days.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Mets practice, day 9, March 23, 2011

This was hardly worth it. I did get to see the original projected Mets outfield (Bay, Beltran, Pagan) together as none of them were involved in the Mets game in Jupiter. A few pitchers were around as well. The 2 biggest names, David Wright and Jose Reyes, had the day completely off (or at least didn't have any workout and weren't involved in the game either). It was a quiet workout session. A little throwing. Some pitcher fielding practice. 2 pitchers hitting on the back field, and what sounded like the 3 outfielders hitting on the stadium field. No autographs. If I wasn't already in Port St. Lucie, it wouldn't have been worth it to stop by.

Game 8, day 9, March 23, 2011 -- Mets vs. Cardinals @ Jupiter

Because I stayed at Mets practice until after 11am, I didn't arrive in Jupiter at Roger Dean Stadium until noon, and the Mets were just finishing up batting practice. I've found that BP is hardly worth watching if you're interested in autographs, so I didn't mind coming in late (at least since there was something supposedly better to see back home).

The Mets didn't bring their 'A' lineup, so there weren't brand names there to sign autographs. I also don't double-dip (get multiples of the same player) if I can help it, so I was pretty much limited to trying to get Daniel Murphy (which I got) and Ike Davis (which I didn't get). Ike signed 2 or 3 autographs before the National Anthem, and then headed to the dugout after that. Terry Collins signed a few. Mookie Wilson did as well over by the Mets bullpen. I think Nick Evans signed some as well.

Let me say this about the day itself -- it was HOT. It felt like the hottest, most uncomfortable day so far. After 4 quick innings, about an hour's time, I was baked.

The game itself was another pitchers duel until the middle innings when the starting pitchers leave the game. R.A. Dickey for the Mets and Jake Westbrook for the Cards. St. Louis got to Dickey and Manny Acosta in the 6th and the Cardinals were on top for good. There was a home run late in the game from a Mets minor leaguer (I didn't actually see it since I spent about half of the final 5 innings hiding in the shade under the seating area of the ballpark).

After the game, no players were interested in signing autographs for us fans hanging out by the parking lot near the team busses. I did find out that Ike Davis is hanging out with bad influence Dave Racaniello, the same guy that I believe corrupted David Wright's head. That explains why Ike has the attitude of a 5th year player in his first full season with the Mets.

One other note from this game. Jerry Seinfeld, a really big Mets fan, was at the game. I managed to get this picture of him as he was leaving his seat at the end of the game. He was in the front row near the Mets dugout. He had done the same thing in Port St. Lucie on Monday.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Mets practice, day 8, March 22, 2011

I decided to head over to Mets camp in the morning while the team was playing 2 1/2 hours away in Lakeland against the Tigers. I had a ticket for the Nationals game in Viera against the Astros, but decided to blow that off. Doing the math, I probably could have seen what I wanted to see at Mets camp and still made it to Viera in plenty of time for first pitch, blowing of batting practice which has become less worth it to be there for.

Mets camp opens up at 9:30 every morning and today, it was just a group of 10 pitchers and 1 catcher working out as part of the major leaguers. Josh Thole was the catcher taking BP, and the 10 pitchers were throwing and doing some short drills. These are good days in which to get autographs. At this point, I'll just list them. The players came over at different points in their workout, and there may have been some more work going on from the inside cages.
  1. Chris Capuano
  2. D.J. Carrasco
  3. Pat Misch
  4. Bobby Parnell
  5. Mike Pelfrey
  6. Josh Thole

And by 11:30, they called it a day and security had kicked everyone out of the back fields. We could go around to the minor league complex entrance to get back in to watch the minor league game, but that involved moving your car. I decided to call it a sick day and bag it all.

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Meet the Mets

Game 7, day 7, March 21, 2011 -- Braves vs. Mets @ Port St. Lucie

Monday was one of those interesting days. I get to the ballpark early (like 8:45am early). It's never too early to be at the ballpark. There are people who come to the player parking lot at 7am to try to get autographs of the players as they drive into work. Sometimes, those people will stay through until practice opens up at 9:30, and sometimes, they won't. On this particular day, I heard first-hand witness accounts of the departure of Oliver Perez. He arrived at the ballpark just after 8am (using a driver or car service), went inside, and by all media accounts, he was informed of his release shortly thereafter, his driver came back to pick him up (it didn't sound like he was in there for more than 15-20 minutes), and he was gone.

On to practice...there was stretching and then the group split up to throw and do some baserunning drills before splitting up even more to hit. Carlos Beltran was with the group for everything except the base running. No Earth-shattering revelations from being at practice. No autographs. But still better than sitting around the hotel room (or lobby).

Now for this game, I had been invited to something new this year at Digital Domain Park - an Amazin' Experience meet and greet lunch. It was open to Spring Training season ticket holders and New York/St. Lucie Mets Booster Club members for a small fee at your choice(s) of 2 games this spring. They brought the group to a small tent between the stadium and back fields, but in the area normally off-limits to us, gave us food, had an exclusive raffle for the booster club (as opposed to their raffle that's open to anyone who walks past the front of the stadium), and we could see a slighly different perspective of the ballpark.

If you know the complex in Port St. Lucie, you've seen the secondary practice field, the one with the wall dimensions set up like that of Citi Field, with an exit in the fence in CF that leads to the Mets' clubhouse in the area of the back fields that's off limits to fans (that's part of how they sneak away from us), and this is the area where this picnic was being held, and the bench players were doing some drill on that field with some of the coaches, so as they walked back to the clubhouse, we had access to stop them and ask for autographs. That group of players was pretty good about that. I was able to get Mookie Wilson's autograph and see up close (very up close) him wearing number 1. And I have to say that it's really good just to see Mookie back as a coach with the club, not just back in his number. The only other player that I snagged while stopping for the fans was Brad Emaus. I think there were one or two others who signed, but for various reasons, I didn't run over there.

Part of the meet and greet is that 2 Mets players are brought over to the group to sign autographs and take pictures. Nobody knows ahead of time who it will be (I had heard that Mike Pelfrey and R.A. Dickey were the players at the first event). This time, we got Mike Nickeas and Nick Evans. Not the same brand-names, but both of these guys couldn't have been nicer with the group. We even had them included in a group photo with the fans from the Meet and greet.

One thing we had to deal with was that this is an area right behind the LF fence and the Braves were taking batting practice on the main field while this was going on, and they had one or two players who were hitting some deep to left. At one point, we were basically in a shooting gallery (even to the point where fans and even a player almost got hit). But if was good for anyone who wanted baseballs.

And before it was all over, someone had noticed Johan Santana, our injured ace, working out in the covered bullpen that sits behind the 5-mound bullpen just outside of the stadium. For a few minutes, we were allowed to go over to watch him working on some pitching motion exercies and then some throwing. No autographs, but it was good to be able to see him working. He looked like someone who is NOT going to be out for the entire season, so let's put that debate to rest. Take a look at Santana's workout...

I've concluded that inside the stadium is a no-autograph zone. You try, but you may only succeed once every 4 or 5 games. For the game itself, Pelfrey struggled in the 4th, the Mets were down a touchdown to a field goal, and came back in the 9th to win it (our bench players beat your bench players).

After the game, I decided to try stalking players outside their parking lot rather than sitting in traffic trying to leave. I saw Jerry Seinfeld leave the park, Keith Hernandez sped by (I thought he had his own entrance/exit in both the parking lot and stadium, but I guess not), and a few players also drove by. Some kids did manage to chase down Jose Reyes in his car which was caught in some traffic exiting and he was ok signing for everyone there (I guess as long as traffic was stopped). I don't remember seeing that before.

Overall, not a bad day for autographs considering that I got absolutely nothing inside the stadium.

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