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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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday is Autograph Fun Day

Game 6, day 6, March 20, 2011 -- Mets vs. Marlins @ Jupiter

So I get myself moving to get to the ballpark early. There's nothing good in the Cardinals/Marlins team store. One of the sales clerks there said that the Marlins fans had bought up almost everything Marlins, and I could see that there was a ton of Cardinals stuff there. If you know Spring Training, something about that just doesn't add up. So I don't have a Marlins Spring Training 2011 shirt for my collection (I try to get one for every team that hosts me during my Spring Training tours, along with one or two Grapefruit League shirts).

And I'm at the ballpark early enough to watch the Mets and Buffalo Bisons taking batting practice. No place for them to hide. Except that they stay on the field and don't come over to the fans along the dugout or bullpen. If you know Roger Dean Stadium, it should be fairly easy to get an autograph, but the players need to do their part. This group of backups, reserves, and Buffalo players didn't do that. Instead, they had to hit or had to field. I need to pay closer attention to teams that sign during BP to see how they do it and still not miss work.

I did notice a few things which I posted on facebook. The radio voice of the Mets, Howie Rose, made a rare Spring Training appearance today, to call the game on WFAN. He's busy all winter calling Islanders games on TV, and somehow, the team always comes to nearby Sunrise to play the Florida Panthers on a weekend during Spring Training. So Howie was there. The other thing I saw was that Mookie Wilson, back with the club as first base coach, was wearing his familiar number 1. People were asking about that as early as Friday afternoon when Luis Castillo was cut. I don't know if he had switched for Saturday's game since he made the trip to Disney and I was in PSL.

Anyway, I really got to the ballpark to see very little. Right before the game, for the games in Jupiter, it's fairly easy to get autographs from players along the wall between the dugout and bullpen. Players are more willing to sign. I got a spot on the wall and the fans started calling out players and coaches. Terry Collins was the first, along with Justin Turner (new in the mix for 2B and with the club for this game). Josh Thole also made the trip even though I don't think he played (he was an extra catcher in the bullpen) and signed. Not bad. My best single-game collection based on numbers this year.

The game was a classic pitcher's duel, with new Met Chris Young going 6 shutout innings and the Mets giving him no support. Scoreless and in the hands of the bullpen in the 7th, things changed (I feel like I'm giving the game highlights on Mets Extra). Bobby Parnell let 2 runners on and got 1 out before being removed. Non-roster invitee Mike O'Connor came in and this was the turning point of the game. O'Connor basically put himself on the cut list giving up 2 inherited runners (giving Parnell the loss) and 3 of his own. Not helping matters was a botched run-down by Daniel Murphy, playing first base at the time. Murphy might really be a clutz in the field. I actually walked down to the shady area of the ballpark after O'Connor was pulled.

Mets lose, 5-0. I'm starting to see enough about the Mets that by Wednesday, I might have a prediction for the 2011 Mets.

After the game, I decided to head over to the gated area in the back of Roger Dean Stadium where the visiting players busses come in and out of the ballpark. Players will sometimes stop and sign there. For the Mets, that will draw a nice sized crowd. And it beats sitting in my car in traffic as the roads around the ballpark swell up when everyone leaves. Willie Harris stopped and signed for everyone, and with a bigger crowd, Chris Young signed for just about everyone too. Both seemed like real nice guys.

And I go home with 5 Mets autographs, and none of them are really "bad" especially considering the group that traveled with the club today.

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Saturday in the park

Game 5, day 5, March 19, 2011 -- Nationals vs. Mets @ Port St. Lucie

No, it wasn't the 4th of July. Just a Saturday right around the official end of winter. And I was at the ballpark.

One clerical note - my dad went back home Saturday morning after spending the first 4 days of my vacation with me. It involved me missing going out to the back fields. Oh well.

I did walk into the park a little bit before 12 noon (I had to stop and schmooze with the people outside the stadium at the booster club table - I'm 0 for 2 winning in their raffle) and basically walked right into an autograph - Ivan 'Pudge' Rodriguez of the Nationals had come over to the Mets side and started signing. Someone of his stature can do that as a visiting player and still draw a crowd. And it wasn't so much of a crowd that I was able to figure out what was going on, make my way down to the rail and get the autograph with relative ease. But I was 0-for-Mets in the autograph department for the second straight day.

For the game, the Mets got on Jair Jurgens early for 4 runs, added on another 3 a few innings later, and had a big 7-0 lead going into the 7th. I should first note that Chris Capuano started for the Mets, a lefty in case you don't know his work, and he has a great pickoff move. Fooled a runner once and fooled me another time (in that he went home when I thought he was going to first, and I should note that I was watching from behind 3B).

Then the 7th...and Oliver Perez. He got booed coming in. It was already the 3rd time I've seen him pitch in 5 days in town. I don't remember any wind at the ballpark, and he did what we've called in the past 'Bad Ollie' after several games of 'Good Ollie'. But 'Bad Ollie' gave up 2 HRs, broke the shutout, and didn't settle down after that, and didn't make the inning. Boos got louder. Huge cheering for Terry Collins when he came out with the hook for Ollie. And right at that moment, I saw the Mets press corps (there is a picture on facebook of them together) dart towards the Mets clubhouse to start getting their Ollie quotes.

Then things settled down and the Mets won the game.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Gym Class

Game 4, day 4, March 18, 2011 -- Braves vs. Mets @ Port St. Lucie

Let's start on the back fields, where to my best player identification abilities (without being able to see a name/number under the warmup jacket), I saw Luis Castillo playing catch with Jose Reyes during "gym class". Not long after I left the back fields and not long after the team left the back fields to take batting practice inside, Luis Castillo was released from the Mets. I found out a short time later. I'll see if I can dig up a picture of Castillo from the morning.

"Gym Class", as I call it, today had the players leaving the main practice field after stretching and them splitting up into 2 other fields on the quadrangle to do various drills before the regular lineup went inside the stadium to take batting practice. There was a pitchers' drill where they practice backing up home plate and I think some old fashioned infield/outfield.

Chris Capuano signed a few but had to stop after signing for a kid (it was mostly little kids, which I am not) to go back to work. Scott Hairston signed a few in between fields, as some of the players were crossing through the fans (and a good number of fans there this morning).

Inside the stadium, batting practice, as it was, for the Braves and then pregame was a very boring time with decent music playing on the PA system. It almost turns into a social time talking about better days for autographs while trying to stake out position for right before the game, which is total pot luck because a ticket holder can come in at any point to take your space away from you. I was down on the corner by the Mets dugout and saw no action.

I have to say, and I even told Mary Lou this (and I don't know her last name or official title, but anyone who has spent time in PSL knows who she is, and for those that don't, she basically runs the stadium) that I just love the new pictures that are up in the ballpark this year. It's better than what they have at Citi Field. See below for some of the examples if you haven't made your way down to Digital Domain Park or at least seen pictures.

In the game, it was a tight game, and the Mets won 3-0. Jason Isringhausen got the win in relief, but I didn't think it was one of his better outings (but I'm no talent scout), DJ Carasco started on the mound and looked good, as did Braves starter Jair Jurgens, and Ollie Perez and Franky Rodriguez were part of the relief corps. Perez had a 4 pitch walk, but otherwise pitched a good inning, enough to keep him on the roster for another day (I hear he's making the trip to Disney World tomorrow to face the Braves again). K-Rod also pitched an inning and didn't blow me away. I missed seeing Wright's home run (not sure where I was, but I did spend some time talking to people, taking pictures, and staying in the shade and eating).

These are just a few of the new color imagery around the stadium. To see them all, you need to come here and see them in person.

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The Ugly Green Jerseys

Game 3, day 3, March 17, 2011 -- Marlins vs. Cardinals @ Jupiter

The Cardinals honored St. Patrick's Day by wearing the ugliest green jerseys. Take a look...

What's up with the white under the arms and above the name plate? I like the idea of green jerseys, but there's no reason to remove the green.

For the fan experience, well, I stuck to the Marlins' side to try to get autographs (they're 10 times easier to get than the Cardinals players), snagged Gaby Sanchez and Logan "LoMo" Morrison, and listened to the stories of the bat boy/clubhouse attendant in Jupiter of players signing in there or one player's reaction to being cut (sort of like Ricky Vaughn in Major League when he was prank-cut). Greg Amsinger of MLB Network stopped by and shared some stories of the MLB Tonight crew (I think he was there for 30 Clubs in 30 Days for the Cardinals and Marlins). Mitch Williams is crazy.

For the game, the Marlins won, scoring late. I didn't notice much about either team. I wasn't there to scout.

Roger Dean Stadium added a really great Italian Ice to their menu this year (almost as good as the one in Port St. Lucie). They lacked something like that last year after the Sno Cones disappeared (on hot days, those things matter).

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Red Sox Traveling Nation

Game 2, day 2, March 16, 2011 -- Red Sox vs. Braves @ Disney

Just a few things.

Red Sox did bring most of their regulars (I recognized most of their starting lineup, so that's how I quantify it) for the long road trip. Braves won coming from behind after giving up runs in a tie game in the middle innings (6th maybe).

First time I left Disney after a day game without any sunburn. I got lucky with some clouds and my seats were upstairs where the sun was to my back and the building was blocking it. I've joked that there are 2 suns in the sky at the ESPN/Disney Sports Complex.

No autographs. I had missed the Braves taking BP and there were just so many Red Sox fans on their side that it wasn't worth fighting my way down there.

There were so many Red Sox fans. I'd bet that today's attendance was one of the top 5 games at that ballpark since it opened (late March, 1997). Other guesses being the World Baseball Classic games in 2006 (of which, I saw two, and including a packed house, and don't remember that much of a crowd), the Rays regular season series there a few years ago (yes, it's the Rays, but it was regular season), and probably an appearance by the Yankees or Red Sox in the past.

So many damn Red Sox fans there. Red Sox nation travels. Someone should do a documentary on their fan base through Spring Training and some of the east coast road games (I've seen them invade Baltimore for a weekend). But they aren't the type of fans that you'd want to get away from (like some other teams). And during the 7th inning stretch, they sing "root root root for the Red Sox". Mets fans, we need to do that and sing "root root root for the Metsies". C'mon.

And the Sox fans went nuts seeing fan favorite-turned-broadcaster Nomar Garciaparra. He works for ESPN now and was calling the game with ex-Met broadcaster Dave O'Brien. They taped the game's opening segment from the packed left field berm area surrounded by Red Sox fans in a segment (which I could barely see over the crowd) that reminded me of the scene in Fever Pitch in which Jimmy Fallon's character was being interviewed on ESPN from Spring Training.

Anyway, no Mets for me today, and not much to tell other than seeing Red Sox Traveling Nation in person is impressive. I'm not saying they're more passionate than Mets fans as a whole, but they have to be right up there.

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Airplane and Baseball

Game 1, day 1, March 15, 2011 -- Nationals vs. Mets @ Port St. Lucie

Just a few notes...

Mets went with their regular 8, except for Willie Harris in RF, in for the injured Carlos Beltran. Chris Young started on the mound. He didn’t overly impress me, but the numbers looked good. Castillo started at 2B and had a mental mistake not covering first on a potential inning-ending 3-2-4 double play. He caught the ball, but was well behind the back (and Harris was backing up down the RF line). The next batter grounded back to Davis at first, inning over, and no damage. Oliver Perez came in one batter into the 6th and did a decent job. The Mets ended up winning the game.

I had heard little bits that the autograph situation in Port St. Lucie was a little better than in years past, but still a "craps shoot". I ask because I ask every year when I first arrive at what is now Digital Domain Park. But there's a new regime in camp this year, so maybe things had improved. I still blame the old regimes for the downfall of Mets autographs in Spring Training. Anyway, the Mets were already out of sight when I entered the ballpark at 10 after 5 in the evening. So little hope there other than to stake out a spot, or decide to wander. Nothing interesting on the Nationals side. One or two players were just hanging out in the dugout, ignoring fans. I think they were players. They weren't in any type of uniform, but they looked athletic. Kids were shouting names and they didn't respond. Two or three players came out for interviews for some sort of TV. Josh Thole was one and Scott Hairston was the other. Both by the home plate side of the dugout where the angle is tough to really stand ground and reach over. I was on the other side when Thole was out signing and missed him. I hadn't left yet (out of frustration) when Hairston was out signing. Without pushing or shoving (per the usher's insistence, and my own rule), I was able to get one. OK, not a bad start to the short autograph collection season. I think we have Scott Hairston on our club - his brother Jerry, Jr., plays for Washington and was in the game too. Or do I have them mixed up? After my first crack at dinner (I hadn't eaten since breakfast at Newark Airport), I went to join my dad in our seats over on the terrace section right along the rail with the regular 3rd base seating (basically between the far end of the photo box and tarp on the left side and the home plate from the bullpen). Good place to take pictures when the Mets players come out to stretch right before gametime. And to my surprise, David Wright hears and acknowledges the calls of a few young fans nearby and comes to sign autographs. While he signed my program (first Wright autograph in several years), I asked him if they were continuing the bowling. I would have liked to watch, but he said "unfortunately", they were done, and since I had just arrived in town (really about 3 hours earlier), that math didn't add up. But we know he liked it and the fans seemed to like the idea of it.

And now it's late, and there's an early departure for game 2 at Disney on Wednesday.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Wilpons Are Victims

I think I came to a realization today - the Madoff scheme did have an impact on the Mets operations. It gave the Mets owners the impression for many years that they had the money to first buy out Nelson Doubleday and then run the Mets. I think we're seeing that without those fake funds, they can't run the club.

In that way, Fred Wilpon, Saul Katz, Jeff Wilpon, and even the millions of Mets fans in the world are all victims. The Wilpons were victims of Bernie Madoff, but instead of losing their life savings or losing their charity fund, they're going to lose their ballclub.

Now, this doesn't impact how anyone should look at the Picard lawsuit. They should have to give back the money they "made" from Madoff. The problem is, they've invested it in the New York Mets, clawing from the, whatever it is, 5% they had in 1986 to the 99% of the club that they're cited as owning now. So they should have to give back sell off a portion of the club.

The problem is that the Wilpons aren't the ones coming out and saying this. Their names are getting dragged through the mud by the lawsuit and from all of the other dirt that the New York Times digs up and prints. Don't get me wrong, I don't like the current Mets owners, and I wish them enough harm to have to make them go away, and I'm not defending anything their lying asses have said or done. But they're victims. They're victims who still have money (well, I'm starting to wonder about that given how they're begging their Buddy Selig for cash after getting a loan, all since the end of last season).

With all that, the Wilpons have made some stupid decisions. Citi Field. Citi Field ticket prices. Obstructed views at Citi Field. Oliver Perez (wait, that was actually Omar Minaya). Omar Minaya (wait, he actually wasn't bad at first). The end of the 2007 season (wait, that was Willie Randolph's fault). The end of the 2008 season (wait, that was Jerry Manuel's fault). The 2009 season (ok, that was Omar's and the trainer's faults). The 2010 season (Jerry again). But the buck stops here.

Fred Wilpon needs to step up to the plate. I don't think he's going to admit that mistakes were made with Citi Field or with the past half decade, but he does need to man up and say that he lost a big source of revenue (at least on paper, being the profits from his million Madoff funds; and I mean "lost" in that he doesn't have these accounts any more giving him money), it's caused a lot of financial problems with the club (hence the loan last fall and the begging for more money now) and this is why he needs to sell of what really should be at least 60% of the ballclub. He needs to admit that if he has to pay back the money that he made of Madoff (the money he used to purchase in full and then run the Mets), then he would need to sell off the rest of the club (poetic justice). He needs to quit hiding around the fact that he's a victim and man up to both the truth and reality.

Otherwise we're all going to be vicitims of something.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ralph Kiner is still alive

Well, it's always good to say this from early Spring Training broadcasts every year...Ralph Kiner is still alive. He's on with Kevin Burkhardt and Keith Hernandez on SNY calling today's game.

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