Sep 15

Today in Mets’ History: Record-wise the Mets were actually better last year at this time.

Last year at this time, we knew the playoffs were out of the question for the Mets, but they were at .500 at 73-73 and trying to salvage their season.

There was a twinge of optimism because we figured there would be a changing of the guard, with a new regime making things right again.

It’s what baseball does. It gives us optimism and hope.

So, we all hoped this year would be better. It would be a rebuilding year, but it would be better than the past two dreadful seasons because new blood would be running things.

I thought for a moment it was possible, the Mets would rally to salvage the season and finish at .500 or better.

It would have been a sign of true progress.

There have been positives this year, but they have been off-set by the inevitable injuries and other negatives. There’s a new regime, but there’s so much economic uncertainty swirling around the Mets that we can’t honestly say things will improve any time soon.

Never should the Mets be playing today to avoid being swept in a four-game series by the Washington Nationals. It tells of how things soured, and underscored the Mets’ inability to get over the hump.

The Mets had several spurts this season, but answered them with several slides. Win five, lose five, isn’t the answer.

Scoring four runs in the first three games of this series, and last night their anemic offense took away from a strong performance from Mike Pelfrey. However, I’ve written “strong performance,’’ from Pelfrey before only to watch him get torched in his subsequent start. In many ways, he personifies what has happened.

The Mets stranded ten last night and 40 over their last four games, and have left 1,558 on the season, tops in the majors. I don’t want to hear about their ability to get runners on base and even score (sixth in the NL). The point is they don’t score enough to overcome their spotty pitching.

The Mets have lost 24 games by one run, which is a reflection on both their pitching and offense. Improving one without the other doesn’t guarantee they take the next step.

I never expected them to compete for the playoffs this year. And, when they made a run and were four games over .500 in late July, you always expected the other shoe to fall.

Carlos Beltran was traded, and the Mets lost five straight at the end of July and early August. They fought back to get a game over .500, then had two five-game losing streaks within two weeks to fall eight under.

A staple of this team has been to rally and play with heart, to show us it cared. They pulled within a game of .500, but lost seven of eight on this homestand.

It is this homestand that made me feel some disappointment for the first time. I thought with the Cub and Nationals they could get over .500 to make a symbolic gesture at improvement.

Win or lose today, the Mets close with Atlanta, St. Louis, the Phillies and Reds. They are limping to the finish and .500 – which is mediocre to begin with – is no longer a possibility. They will be hard pressed to equal last year’s 79-83, and that would be disappointing.

The attitude under Terry Collins is much better than it was under Jerry Manuel, but the talent level hasn’t necessarily improved.

There are a myriad of issues facing the Mets in the offseason that should warn us the road is still long.

* Will the Mets keep Jose Reyes?

* Will Johan Santana be 100 percent?

* What happened with Mike Pelfrey and what direction will he take?

* Can Bobby Parnell be the closer, and can the Mets build a reliable bullpen bridge to him?

* Will they ever get anything out of Jason Bay?

* Will David Wright be a power hitter again?

Those are just the headline issues. There are issues surrounding Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, everybody in the rotation and at second base.

There’s also a collective bargaining agreement that makes the offseason uncertain, plus the Wilpon’s financial issues.

Gone is the poison that was Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, but this team still has a long way to go.


 



 



Sep 14

Reyes giving us a glimpse into the future.

Jose Reyes is playing hurt and might be rewarded by becoming the Mets’ first batting champion. At the same time Reyes is giving us a peak into the future, into the last few years of a multi-year contract he is seeking and the image isn’t pretty.

REYES: Not doing much of this lately.

Reyes was set up to steal last night, but made no move toward second. Later, he looked gimpy going from first to third. Over the past week  he hit a double that was a triple earlier this season.

He hasn’t tripled since July 21 and has one steal attempt since Aug. 29. He’s also been off defensively without the range we’ve come to expect. He’s essentially become a singles hitter since July 21 with only eight extra base hits.

“It’s not the same,” Reyes said last night. “Early in the season, I was healthy. It’s not the same now because I just came off the disabled list. I don’t want to blow up my leg running like crazy out there. If I feel good, I run like crazy, but now my leg’s not where it needs to be. That’s why I’m not going to go crazy.”

Reyes is in a no-win situation. If he doesn’t play and goes into the winter coming off the disabled list he hurts his negotiating position. But, he is also sabotaging his desire for a long-term, $100-million plus deal by playing, even if he wins the batting title.

Reyes makes his living with his legs and he’s playing without them now, the way he could be in five or six years.

The rap on Reyes is his injury history, early in his career and now the past three seasons. That issue – underscored by two trips to the disabled list this year – is shaving millions and likely years off his next contract.

When Reyes goes crazy, as he puts it, he shows us how great he can be and that he could possibly be worth all that money. He’s showing us he’s special.

But, what he’s showing us now is what could be the last few years of his contract and that isn’t special. It has to be worrisome for potential buyers because you don’t pay that kind of money for a singles hitter.

 

Sep 14

Mets’ 2012 schedule

It’s always fun to look at next year’s schedule, especially with this one all but gone.

The Mets open at home against Atlanta and Washington.

Their interleague opponents are Toronto (on the road in May, which seems odd), the Yankees (first at the Stadium in June then at Citi Field in July), at Tampa Bay and home to Baltimore.

Playing Toronto in May is awkward, as is having two road series to Philadelphia by May 10. Also quirky is a Cubs-Dodgers road trip in June, and three series against the Marlins the last month of the season (and first three days of October).

 

METS 2012 SCHEDULE

April

5, 7, 8 vs. Atlanta

9, 10, 11 vs. Washington

13, 14, 15 at Philadelphia

16, 17, 18 at Atlanta

20, 21, 22, 23 vs. San Francisco

24, 25, 26 vs. Florida

27, 28, 29 at Colorado

30 at Houston

May

1, 2 at Houston

4, 5, 6 vs. Arizona

7, 8, 9 at Philadelphia

11, 12, 13 at Florida

14, 15 vs. Milwaukee

16, 17 vs. Cincinnati

18, 19, 20 at Toronto

21, 22, 23 at Pittsburgh

24, 25, 26, 27 vs. San Diego

28, 29, 30 vs. Philadelphia

June

1, 2, 3, 4 vs. St. Louis

5, 6, 7, at Washington

8, 9, 10 at Yankees

12, 13, 14 at Tampa Bay

15, 16, 17 vs. Cincinnati

18, 19, 20 vs. Baltimore

22, 23, 24 vs. Yankees

25, 26, 27 at Chicago (NL)

28, 29, 30 at Los Angeles (NL)

July

1 at Los Angeles (NL)

3, 4, 5 vs. Philadelphia

6, 7, 8 vs. Chicago (NL)

13, 14, 15 at Atlanta

17, 18, 19 at Washington

20, 21, 22 vs. Los Angeles (NL)

23, 24, 25 vs. Washington

26, 27, 28, 29 at Arizona

30, 31 at San Francisco

August

1, 2 at San Francisco

3, 4, 5 at San Diego

7, 8, 9 vs. Florida

10, 11, 12 vs. Atlanta

14, 15, 16 at Cincinnati

17, 18, 19 at Washington

20, 21, 22,23 vs. Colorado

24, 25, 26 vs. Houston

28, 29, 30 at Philadelphia

31 at Florida

September

1, 2 at Florida

3, 4, 5 at St. Louis

7, 8, 9 vs. Atlanta

10, 11, 12 vs. Washington

14, 15, 16 at Milwaukee

17, 18, 19 vs. Philadelphia

21, 22, 23 vs. Florida

24, 25, 26, 27 vs. Pittsburgh

28, 29, 30 at Atlanta

October

1, 2, 3 at Florida

Sep 13

Hat flap issue; everybody loses.

The fallout from the 9-11 hat flap was disturbing on several levels, beginning with MLB’s inane policy to forbid the Mets and Yankees from wearing them during their games Sunday.

Joe Torre, VP of operations for MLB, said it was a decision to be uniform throughout the sport that day with teams wearing caps with the flag emblem. But, why deny the Mets, Yankees and Nationals, teams hit personally by the tragedy?

No good reason. MLB being MLB, I guess.

That Commissioner Bud Selig is reportedly angry at the Mets for making this public indicates his embarrassment over the issue, and he’s that way because he knew he blew it. How could he, or anybody else with MLB, not forecasted this would have been an issue in New York?

MLB’s offices are in Manhattan. Didn’t anybody stick their head out a window last week to get a feel for things? Why do you think MLB had the Mets and Cubs on that night? Like ESPN, they wanted to country to look in that day at New York. It’s why the Cowboys at the Jets was the NFL prime game.  Get those ratings up, baby.

If the Yankees had been home to Kansas City that night, that would have been the game. If the Giants were home instead of the Jets, they would have been the attraction. This isn’t all that hard to figure out.

Obviously, they weren’t paying attention when the NFL backed down late last week to public opinion on players wearing gloves and shoes in support of 9-11. By the way, coaches and players for the Giants, Redskins, Jets and Cowboys all wore caps honoring first responders on the sidelines.

That this issue was still the focus last night says this is, and always will be, a hot button issue for MLB.

Now, we’re speculating all sorts of things that continue to put the Mets and MLB in a bad light. Did the Mets back down because of their financial issues and the loan they received from MLB? Was this decision made because MLB could market their US flag caps?

Maybe none of those are issues, but it can’t escape speculation.

Lastly, Terry Collins admitted the hat flap was a distraction last night. Tonight, the pregame questions of the players will be centered on was last night really a distraction? So, because of an anal decision by MLB, this  turns into two or three-day story.

Personally, I can’t believe he would have the nerve to pin the loss on that issue as a distraction. As an athlete, they have to disregard such nonsense. Collins was making an excuse.

The Mets lost last night because they couldn’t field or hit the ball and wasted another quality start by RA Dickey.

 

Sep 12

Reflecting ….

While September 11 meaning different things to different people, to everyone it was a day of reflection. So, I reflected.

The documentary detailed the times when the terrorists checked in for their flights, about the same time I was hitting the road outside Washington D.C., for New York, following the moving van with my furniture and belongings.

I was covering the Yankees at the time after a long stretch on the Orioles and was moving to Connecticut.

Ten years later, I am still mesmerized by the ungodly sight of the planes ripping into the World Trade Center and the buildings that were supposed to last forever crumbling into dust.

I was on the New Jersey Turnpike when I heard the news. My cell rang shortly after and it was the movers, who were also volunteer NY firemen. They had to leave my stuff at a rest stop and try to make it into the city. I knew they didn’t have much time to reach the George Washington Bridge. By this time, it was evident this was no accident and the airports around the country, as well as the major bridges into New York would be closed.

With the bridges blocked I had to keep driving north before back tracking into Connecticut. What was normally a little over four hours took closer to ten. At one point, I saw a sign with the miles before the Montreal exit.

I listened to the radio the way they used to listen to the news reports during World War II. I didn’t see my first video of the attacks until late the next day when I caught a glimpse on a restaurant television. I could only imagine what they were talking about on the radio.

My thoughts were of rage and anger, and years later those feelings still simmer. They barely diminished with the news of bin Laden’s death. I will never forget, or forgive for what happened. Those who can are better than me.

When baseball resumed, I was in the press box in Baltimore and watched on television when Mike Piazza hit that homer against the Braves. The only other time I saw writers clap in a press box was the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record.

I’ve watched replays dozens of times and get the same chill. Surfing the coverage Sunday I watched a replay of the pre-game ceremonies from that night. Last night’s ceremony didn’t have the same impact – no way it could – but was simple and poignant the same.

The Mets did a tremendous job then and now.

At the time, the Yankees were also magnanimous in their generosity toward the families of the victims, the fire and police. There was never a competition between the teams on which team gave, or grieved, more.

The emotion in the Yankees clubhouse was just as genuine as it was in Shea.

I felt no fear of flying. I didn’t feel inconvenienced at the security gates and those first few flights were a breeze. Many of the planes flew half empty. I didn’t even mind being searched at the ballpark. For the rest of that summer, it was part of the process. Besides, my inconvenience was nothing compared to others.

Although I didn’t lose anybody at the Towers, I knew people who did and grieved for them. I still do.

The Yankees were going to make the playoffs that year. They always did. But, the games didn’t have the same edge as usual. The buzz returned during the playoffs.

I was inspired at the show of patriotism during the World Series, one of the most compelling sporting events I ever covered. Those three games at Yankee Stadium were as exciting as I’ve ever seen. The Yankees were frequently booed on the road, but the edge was off that fall, as if jeering them was a sign of disrespect for New York.

After awhile, I was tired of the “win it for New York,” sentiment and stories. Every day it was the same thing. I enjoyed the break when Yankees fans chanted for Paul O’Neill when he played his last game at the Stadium during that Series. That was really back to baseball for me.

As the years passed and I reflected on this yesterday, I became more jaded and less trusting. In airports, I look at people and wonder who they are and their intentions.

I didn’t lose anybody, but I’ve been impacted, as all of us. The economy has been on a downward spiral the past decade, which can’t be refuted regardless of your affiliations. I support our military, and have been moved at scenes like at the airport in Atlanta several years ago everybody in that lobby stood and cheered when a company of soldiers marched through.

Even so, those years in Iraq drained us to the point of recession, inflation and unemployment. I thought about that yesterday, too, and wondered when it will end.

My life, as has yours, changed over the last decade.

Politically, I might be more jaded, but I do have a sense of appreciation for the fragility of life that might not have previously existed. Maybe it is about getting older, but part of it was acknowledging my feelings after listening to people talk through their tears yesterday.

People who lost more than I.