Dec 10

Mets Almost Too Desperate To Deal Niese and Gee

Mets GM Sandy Alderson seems determined, almost to a fault, to trade his excess pitching and the signing of Jon Lester by the Chicago Cubs can only help in his efforts.

Those wanting a left-hander, “Jon Niese is available” Alderson will tell anyone within earshot. But, first things first, he wants to dump Dillon Gee’s $5 million contract. Remember, priorities.

Speaking today with reporters at the Winter Meetings, Alderson said: “We’re comfortable that we’ll be doing something. It could happen today. It could happen tomorrow. It might be a little later.’’

Sounds like a firm timetable. I am betting on later, most likely after the meetings.

San Francisco and Boston, both of whom lost out on Lester – with the Red Sox, it was their own fault as they low-balled him – and Texas, Kansas City and Minnesota all need pitching and reportedly are willing to spend.

Since Lester was the lead pitching domino, it stands to reason Alderson’s phone would ring more. Once James Shields and Max Scherzer are off the board things could warm up for the Mets.

However, it must be remembered Niese and Gee have been dangled by Alderson for several months now. Alderson’s eagerness to trade them sends the message they aren’t valued highly be the Mets. Teams know this and believe they can always come back to the Mets if their Plan A doesn’t pan out.

Any real estate agent will tell you that the longer a house stays on the market the price will go down.

It’s the nature of the market.

Oct 17

Ventura’s Grand Slam Single Endures

One of the players I most enjoyed covering was Robin Ventura for those two years he played for the Yankees. In a clubhouse full of stars and egos, Ventura was a voice of calm, reason and humorous relief.

I enjoyed stopping by his locker to shoot the breeze for a minute or two, talking about things other than baseball. Very smart, clever and possessing an insight on numerous issues. When there was the inevitable blow up or moment of absurdity, Ventura was always there to put it into perspective with a quip as short and hard-hitting as his swing.

VENTURA: A Mets' Magic Moment.

VENTURA: A Mets’ Magic Moment.

Once I asked him about his fight with Nolan Ryan, and his response was he knew he had made a mistake halfway out to the mound, but couldn’t turn around. You’ll even notice in the video he slowed down.

Was it an embarrassing moment? Yes, but years later he handled it with humor. He even joined with Ryan to autograph photos of the brawl.

When I covered the Orioles and he was with the White Sox, I’d make time to go over to his clubhouse for a few moments. He was accessible to anybody who would take the time to ask a question.

Ventura loved his time with Mets which included the 2000 NL Championship and of course the World Series loss to the Yankees.

“It was a great time,” said Ventura, who played for the Mets from 1999-2001. “We enjoyed it as a family just being there. The Mets were very good to me. There’s part of it going back, seeing a lot of faces that you’re friends with and happy to see.”

His signature moment as a Met will always be the Grand Slam Single that happened 15 years ago today. It’s a great memory and one that still gives many Mets fans goosebumps.

That night is one of the greatest team displays of enthusiasm outside of winning a championship I have ever seen. That, and the Piazza post 9-11 homer. Both were amazing to watch.

Ventura wasn’t a five-tool player, but was consistent and clutch. With a runner in scoring position you wanted him at the plate because he’d usually make contact.

Ventura was a .267 lifetime hitter and only once hit over .300, that being .301 in 1999, his first season with the Mets. Considering his 66-game hitting streak in college, I always wondered if he thought he should have hit for a higher average. He also hit 32 homers with a career-high 120 RBI in his first year with the Mets.

What the Mets wouldn’t give for a player with that production now.

Ventura had three solid years with the Mets, who, during that span had arguably one of the best defensive infields in history. Few balls got by Ventura, Rey OrdonezEdgardo Alfonzo and John Olerud.

Both Olerud and Ventura would later play for the Yankees. When they left the Yankees, I always believed I’d see both of them again managing in a major league dugout. I’m still waiting on Olerud.

Jun 06

Piersall Touches Them All… Backwards

Jim Piersall is one of dozens of major leaguers who played with the Mets at the tail end of his career. And, what a memorable career it was. He wasn’t always spectacular, but he was entertaining, such as on this date in 1963 while with the Mets he celebrated his 100th career homer by rounding the bases backwards.

PIERSALL: Magical Mystery Tour

While there are some pretty creative prop bets created for the MLB, even sportsbooks in modern times could not have predicted what happened next. Two days later he was released by manager Casey Stengel, who said of him: “He’s great, but you have to play him in a cage.’’

He wasn’t a Hall of Fame player, but definitely a Hall of Fame personality and character, who suffered from bipolar disorder was committed to a mental hospital in 1952. His experience led to his autobiography, “Fear Strikes Out,’’ which became a movie.

In his book, Piersall wrote: “Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was going nuts. Whoever heard of Jimmy Piersall until that happened?”

Piersall’s mother, Mary, suffered from mental illness and was committed to a sanitarium, and it wasn’t too deep in his career that her son began showing bizarre, uncontrollable behavior.

Piersall would take a bow after catches in the outfield. He brawled with Billy Martin – then again, who didn’t? – then fought with his teammate Mickey McDermott. He snorted like a pig at Satchel Paige.

Piersall’s best years were with the Red Sox, when he made two All-Star teams, including in 1956 when he hit .293 with 14 homers and 87 RBI. He hit 19 homers the following year, but after his average dropped to .237 in 1958 he was traded to Cleveland.

While with the Indians, he threw a ball at the Comiskey Park scoreboard in Chicago, and after being dusted by Yankees pitcher Jim Coates, threw his bat at him.

Piersall was eventually traded to Washington, and the Senators dealt him to the Mets for Gil Hodges.

Stengel, who managed Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, said of Piersall: “I thought Joe DiMaggio was the greatest defensive outfielder I ever saw, but I have to rate Piersall better.’’

Following his release from the Mets, Piersall signed with the Angels. After three seasons with the Angels, he was released in 1967 and eventually retired.

After he retired, Piersall bounced around baseball in several capacities, including being hired by Martin in Texas as an outfield instructor, and later as a broadcaster with the White Sox teamed with Harry Caray.

PIERSALL’s CAREER

Nov 20

Today In Mets History: Tom Seaver Win Rookie Of Year Award

In 1967, New York Mets’ icon Tom Seaver began his journey on becoming “The Franchise,’’ when he was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year, an award he said he cherished more than his All-Star appearance that summer.

SEAVER: Begins journey to greatness.

SEAVER: Begins journey to greatness.

“This is a bigger thrill to me than being named to the All-Star team,’’ Seaver said at the time. “You only get one chance to be Rookie of the Year. If you’re good you can make the All-Star team several times in your career.’’

Seaver made it a dozen times.

In winning the award, Seaver became the first Met to win a postseason honor and the first ever player from a last-place team.

The Mets lost 101 games in 1967, but the addition of Seaver was the key move in the franchise becoming a winner.

That season, Seaver set franchise at the time with 16 wins, 18 complete games, 170 strikeouts and a 2.76 ERA.

In the All-Star Game that year, won 2-1 by the National League in 15 innings, Seaver retired Tony Conigliaro on a fly ball, walked Carl Yastrzemski, got Bill Freehan on a fly ball and struck out Ken Berry.

Seaver won three Cy Young Awards and finished second two other times in a career that featured winning 311 games with a 2.86 ERA and an incomprehensible 231 complete games and 61 shutouts. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 with a record 98.8 percent of the vote.

LATER THIS MORNING: How the free agent market is shaping up.