Feb 25

Gotta Love Buck Showalter

The New York Mets were roasted during their first year at Citi Field because the new stadium showed more a Brooklyn Dodgers feel than that of the Mets.

That never would have happened had Buck Showalter been running the show. Showalter, who is cut from the original old school cloth, gets it when honoring the game’s past.

Frank Robinson was in Orioles’ camp Monday and Showalter casually asked 19-year-old prospect Josh Hart if he knew about the Hall of Famer, a member of the 500-homer club and one of the three greatest players in club history along with Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken.

Incidentally, Robinson was also the first African-American manager in major league history, and as a black man, you would think that’s something Hart would want to know.

When Hart said he didn’t know, Showalter assigned the rookie to write a one-page report on Robinson. Kind of like “I will not talk in class,’’ 100 times on the blackboard.

Hart not knowing Robinson ranks just below on the ignorance scale of LeBron James – who prides himself as a basketball historian – leaving Bill Russell off his NBA Mt. Rushmore.

The Robinson-Hart reminds me of something that happened in spring training several years ago, and also involved Robinson.

Then Mets-GM Omar Minaya asked former prospect Lastings Milledge to follow him across the field to the Washington dugout to introduce him to then-Nationals manager Robinson.

Milledge could not have been less interested and showed Robinson zero respect. And, in doing so showed the same amount to Minaya.

It was a precursor of things to come for Milledge, who was chastised by manager Willie Randolph for not honoring the game’s unspoken traditions, and later by his teammates, who posted a sign on his locker saying, “Know your place, Rook. Signed, your teammates.’’

Milledge never did get it and his career fell into “what might have been,’’ status. Here’s hoping Hart gets the message.

Feb 08

We May Have Seen The Last Of Alex Rodriguez

With Alex Rodriguez’s decision to drop his Triple Play lawsuits against Major League Baseball, Commissioner Bud Selig and the Players Association, it is extremely possible we have seen the last of the player who one time seemed destined to hold all the records.

In doing so, Rodriguez will accept the 162-game suspension that will cost him the 2014 season and $25 million.

RODRIGUEZ: Going, going gone.

RODRIGUEZ: Going, going gone.

While the reaction of Rodriguez’s decision has been positive, speculation is the suit was dropped because he was throwing good money after bad. He would stand to lose $10 million in legal fees.

While I have no doubt Rodriguez did something, nobody has said to what extent. I still call into question Major League Baseball’s tactics in the Biogenesis case, which could cost Rodriguez his career.

Rodriguez can return for 2015, and indicates he wants a post-playing career in baseball. Good luck with that … it definitely wouldn’t have happened had he followed through with the suit.

Rodriguez will be 40 in 2015, and after being away from the game for a year, one has to wonder how much he’ll lose. He could spend the time rehabbing and getting his surgically-repaired hips stronger.

Still, I don’t know if it will do any good for his career. The Yankees are obligated to pay him $62 million, but in what capacity?

Will they bring him back and deal with that distraction for two more years, or will they simply buy him out?

I’m betting the latter, thinking we’ll never see Rodriguez play another major league game again.

 

Nov 20

How The Market Is Shaping Up; Things Could Happen This Week

When will the New York Mets do something of consequence this off-season isn’t hard to imagine. If recent history is an indicator it likely won’t be until the market is defined, which comes after the Winter Meetings.

However, the week preceding Thanksgiving can get busy. Not much happens usually happens around Thanksgiving. There’s usually activity after the holiday leading up to the Winter Meetings and after until Christmas.

HUDSON: Returning West.

HUDSON: Returning West.

Then, more stuff gets done after the New Year with what’s left of the market leading up to spring training. That’s usually when the Mets have done their work.

So far, there’s been some interesting news, including LaTroy Hawkins signing with Colorado for $2.5 million. He’s somebody I was hoping the Mets would bring back before at 41 because he could still throw in the low-to-mid 90s and for his clubhouse presence.

Hawkins was an astute pick-up last year, and with Bobby Parnell coming off surgery, he would have filled a spot in the bullpen.

The Yankees brought back shortstop Brendan Ryan, who I touted for his defense. I’d still rather have him than Ruben Tejada. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens with Jhonny Peralta, who, as of now, would represent the Mets’ biggest splash in the market. Philadelphia brought back catcher Carlos Ruiz for two years, out-bidding the champion Red Sox.

Perhaps the most interesting acquisition is San Francisco signing Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million contract. The 38-year-old Hudson is coming off ankle surgery.

Hudson is the latest in several costly, and expensive, decisions the Giants have made the past few years. The first was signing Angel Pagan – whom the Mets gladly shipped out – to a four-year deal. Then, they extended Tim Lincecum’s contract two years for $35 million when there were no indications he’d be a hot commodity on the market.

However, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 with pitching-based teams, so they are doing something right.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he didn’t want an injury reclamation project, which Hudson clearly would be. However, Alderson has a history with Hudson when they were with Oakland and I was wondering if he at least reached out the pitcher.

Currently, agents and general managers are talking and posturing – that includes Alderson – but the market is still forming. Mostly, parameter dollar amounts have been exchanged. With the Mets there hasn’t been much in terms of specifics.

In addition to shortstop, the Mets need two starters, bullpen depth and a power-hitting corner outfielder.

Nov 01

Mets Have Plenty Of Choices In Free Agent Market

 It never takes long for the free-agent season to begin with 147 players now on the market, including seven New York Mets. The Mets’ list includes: David Aardsma, Tim Byrdak, Pedro Feliciano, Frank Francisco, Aaron Harang, LaTroy Hawkins and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Shortly, Johan Santana will join them as the Mets are expected to decline their option and pay him the $5.5 million buyout.

All are pitchers, which is a primary need. The Mets are seeking two starters for the back end of their rotation and could make a run at bringing back Matsuzaka and/or Harang.

For now, the Mets filled those spots on their 40-man roster by activating the following seven players from the 60-day injured reserve list: Ike Davis, Josh Edgin, Matt Harvey, Jeremy Hefner, Jenrry Mejia, Bobby Parnell and Scott Rice.

Harvey and Hefner are expected to miss the 2014 season, and it isn’t known whether Parnell and Mejia, both recovering from surgery, will be available for the start of the season.

Rice should be ready, while Davis could end up being traded as the Mets have a glut of first basemen.

The Major League Baseball Players Association has released the following list of 147 players who are free agents:

ATLANTA

RHP: Luis Ayala, Freddy Garcia, Tim Hudson, Kameron Loe.

LHP: Scott Downs, Paul Maholm, Eric O’Flaherty.

C: Brian McCann.

ARIZONA

C: Wil Nieves.

INF: Willie Bloomquist, Eric Chavez.

BALTIMORE

RHP: Scot Feldman, Jason Hammel.

C: Chris Snyder.

INF: Brian Roberts.

OF: Nate McLouth, Michael Morse.

BOSTON

RHP: Joel Hanrahan.

C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

INF: Stephen Drew, John McDonald, Mike Napoli.

OF: Jacoby Ellsbury.

CHICAGO CUBS

RHP: Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg, Matt Guerrier.

C: Dioner Navarro.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

RHP: Gavin Floyd.

INF: Paul Konerko.

CINCINNATI

RHP: Bronson Arroyo, Nick Masset.

LHP: Zach Duke, Manny Parra.

IF: Cesar Izturis.

OF: Shin-Soo Choo.

CLEVELAND

RHP: Matt Albers, Joe Smith.

LHP: Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir.

C: Kelly Shoppach.

INF: Jason Giambi.

COLORADO

RHP: Rafael Betancourt, Roy Oswalt.

LHP: Jeff Francis.

C: Yorvit Torrealba.

INF: Todd Helton.

DETROIT

RHP: Joaquin Benoit, Jeremy Bonderman, Octavio Dotel.

C: Bravan Pena.

INF: Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Ramon Santiago.

HOUSTON

LHP: Erik Bedard.

KANSAS CITY

RHP: Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana.

INF: Carlos Pena, Miguel Tejada.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

LHP: Jason Vargas.
OF: Jerry Hairston.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

RHP: J.P. Howell, Carlos Marmol, Ricky Nolasco, Edinson Volquez, Brian Wilson.

INF: Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, Juan Uribe, Michael Young.

MIAMI

RHP: Chad Qualls.

INF: Placido Polanco.

OF: Matt Diaz, Austin Kearns, Juan Pierre.

MILWAUKEE

LHP: Mike Gonzalez.

INF: Yuniesky Betancourt.

OF: Corey Hart.

MINNESOTA

RHP: Mike Pelfrey.

NEW YORK YANKEES

RHP: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Mariano Rivera,

LHP: Andy Pettitte.

INF: Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, Brendan Ryan, Kevin Youkilis.

OF: Curtis Granderson.

OAKLAND

RHP: Grant Balfour, Bartolo Colon.

PHILADELPHIA

RHP: Roy Halladay.

C: Carlos Ruiz.

PITTSBURGH

RHP: A.J. Burnett, Kyle Farnsworth, Jeff Karstens.

C: John Buck.

INF: Justin Morneau.

OF: Marlon Byrd,

SAN DIEGO

RHP: Jason Marquis.

INF: Ronny Cedeno.

OF: Mark Kotsay.

SEATTLE

LHP: Oliver Perez.

C: Humberto Quintero.

INF: Kendrys Morales

OF: Endy Chavez, Raul Ibanez.

SAN FRANCISCO

RHP: Chad Gaudin.

LHP: Javier Lopez.

ST. LOUS

RHP: Chris Carpenter, Edward Mujica.

INF: Rafael Furcal.

OF: Carlos Beltran.

TAMPA BAY

RHP: Jesse Crain, Roberto Hernandez, Fernando Rodney, Jamey Wright.

C: Jose Molina.

INF: Kelly Johnson, James Loney, Luke Scott.

OF: Delmon Young.

TEXAS

RHP: Jason Frasor, Matt Garza, Colby Lewis.

C: A.J. Pierzynski, Geovany Soto.

INF: Lance Berkman,

OF: Nelson Cruz.

TORONTO

RHP: Josh Johnson, Ramon Ortiz.

LHP: Darren Oliver.

OF: Rajai Davis.

WASHINGTON

RHP: Dan Haren.

INF: Chad Tracy.

Oct 30

Game Six: What World Series History Will Be Made Tonight?

A classic World Series is usually defined as seven games, but it can’t be without a Game 6. As compelling as this World Series has been, if it ends tonight in Boston, it just won’t sizzle in our memories as it would if they played one more time.

One way or another, it ends after Game 7. Gone is the sense of urgency, of desperation, of finality, of the team behind in the Series entering Game 6. The feeling the game could turn on any play hangs like a cloud over the trailing team.

FISK: Author of a Game Six great moment.

FISK: Author of a Game Six great moment.

“Well, there’s always tomorrow,’’ says the team leading 3-to-2 if something goes wrong in Game 6. The trailing team has no such luxury.

Many of baseball’s most dramatic moments are born in a Game 6.

Red Sox manager John Farrell, when asked about the enduring image of Carlton Fisk waiving his ball fair to end Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, said both clubhouses have players wondering if they’ll be waiving their arms Wednesday night.

A Fisk-like moment isn’t reserved for just marquee names. October is fickle as to whom it shines its light on. David Ortiz has posted historic World Series numbers, but the Red Sox received game winning hits from the non-descript Jonny Gomes and David Ross in Games 4 and 5.

Will either be with the Red Sox next year?

The following are the most compelling Game Sixes in World Series history. Note: For this list, a Series must go seven games, which excludes Toronto’s 1992 championship over Philadelphia, which, despite ending on Joe Carter’s homer lasted just six games.

Also, excluded is the League Championship Series, which would include Curt Schilling’s “Bloody Sock,’’ game in 2004, the year the Red Sox snapped an 86-year drought known as “The Curse.’’ It would also exclude the 2003 NLCS, which featured Steve Bartman.

Finally, I would have had to seen these games.

Here’s my list:

IF IT STAYS FAIR:  One of baseball’s most enduring images, and perhaps its greatest game, came in the 1975 World Series on Fisk’s game-ending homer in the 12th inning as Boston beat Cincinnati, 7-6. Fisk’s homer was made possible by Bernie Carbo’s three-run, two-strike, pinch-hit game-tying homer in the eighth inning.

Fisk’s moment delayed what Red Sox fans would call the inevitable, as Boston lost Game 7 at Fenway Park. This time, it would be the Reds that rallied, when Tony Perez connected off Bill Lee.

Fisk, and another stalwart of that team, Luis Tiant, will throw out the first pitch to tonight.

THE CARDINALS STAY ALIVE: Pitch for pitch, this one compared favorably to the Fisk game as the Cardinals twice were one strike away from elimination, but rallied to tie with a two-run ninth and two-run tenth to stun the Texas Rangers, 10-9, and force a Game 7, which they won.

The title iced a remarkable season in which the Cardinals overcame a 10 ½-game deficit to reach the playoffs.

Local boy, David Freese, who tied it with a two-run triple in the ninth won it with a homer in the 11th inning.

The game turned heavyweight fight featured five ties and six lead changes, and nobody complained that it lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes.

That’s one of the beauties of baseball. When it’s compelling and dramatic like the above Game Sixes, the games can last indefinitely and will leave you wanting more.

The game turned heavyweight fight featured five ties and six lead changes, and nobody complained that it lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes.

That’s one of the beauties of baseball. When it’s compelling and dramatic like the above Game Sixes, the games can last indefinitely and will leave you wanting more.

THE BALL GETS BY BUCKNER:  Another moment etched in time is the ball that squirted through Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series. Down to their last out, the Mets rallied for three runs to beat Boston, 6-5, with the game-winner coming on Mookie Wilson’s dribbler through Buckner’s legs.

The Mets went on to win Game 7, and overcame a three-run deficit to do it. I went into more detail of that game in an earlier post today.

That game was made possible because the Mets prevailed against Houston over 16 innings in Game 6 of the NLCS. Keith Hernandez called it a crucial victory as it kept the Mets from facing Mike Scott, who beat them in Games 1 and 4.

MAYBE THE WORST CALL EVER:  One of the game’s most infamous calls came in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series that might have kept St. Louis from winning. Facing elimination and down 1-0 going into the ninth inning, umpire Don Denkinger ruled Kansas City’s Jorge Orta safe at first on a play in which he was clearly out.

The Royals went on to win that game, 2-1, then rout the Cardinals, 11-0, in Game 7.

WE’LL SEE YOU TOMORROW:  That was Jack Buck’s great call after Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett homered in the 11th inning off Atlanta’s Charlie Leibrandt which kept the Series alive for the Twins with a 4-3 victory in the Metrodome.

Puckett’s drive set up Jack Morris’ ten-inning shutout, 1-0, in arguably, outside of Don Larsen’s perfect game, might have been the greatest Series game pitched.

HAIL THE RALLY MONKEY: I loved the Angels’ rally monkey, which began with a famous movie clip where the monkey was interjected at the critical spot. My favorite was the Animal House screen where John Belushi was on the ladder and instead of the girl undressing you see the monkey.

Often forgotten, perhaps because the game wasn’t decided on a game ending hit, Anaheim rallied from five runs down in the seventh inning to beat San Francisco, 6-5. The Angels scored three in the seventh and three in the eighth to win, then won Game 7.

ORIOLES STAY ALIVE:  The Orioles faced elimination when they returned home for Game 6 of the 1971 World Series. The Pirates started reliever Bob Moose, who took a 2-0 lead into the sixth. The Orioles chipped away to send the game into extra innings.

The Pirates loaded the bases in the tenth inning, but Dave McNally came out of the bullpen to snuff the threat, and Brooks Robinson won it, 3-2, with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.

This was Roberto Clemente’s World Series, which was noted for playing games at night for the first time.

I don’t know what is in store for tonight, but I hope it is compelling and produces a Game 7.

Here’s rooting for history,