Dec 24

Honoring A Personal Tradition: It’s A Wonderful Life

Good evening. It is not a time to rip the Mets for not spending. Not a time to clash and argue. One of the things I love most about baseball are its traditions. They act as a foundation for the sport. I will write about the traditions I like and miss about baseball later this week, but for now I will honor a personal tradition, one I follow every Christmas season and that is to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Things haven’t been easy lately, which is all the more reason to watch this movie. It is from a simpler time and is a powerful reminder of what is important. I won’t preach to you what is important, because you all know, and all have your own personal views.

This movie gives me a good feeling not only about Christmas, but about myself. I only hope as I grow older that I will get the same emotional feeling at the end of the movie.

Merry Christmas to you all and your families.

Best, John

 

 

Dec 23

R. A. Dickey Says Farewell

R.A. DICKEY THANKS METS FANS

The thing I admired most about R.A. Dickey, and what the Mets apparently forgot, is his connection to the fans. He is every man whoever was faced with an uphill battle and persevered and won.

In today’s edition of The Daily News is said farewell to the fans who cheered him.

Here are his words:

A little over a year ago I was knocking around book titles with my publisher when we finally found a keeper. The minute I heard the words, “Wherever I Wind Up,” I liked the cadence of them. I liked the mystery of them.

Most of all, I liked the way they captured the essence of my nomadic pitching life — which has now taken another completely unforeseen turn.

I never expected to be writing a farewell “holiday card” to Mets fans. I never expected to be doing anything but celebrating the joy of the season with my wife and kids and looking toward the spring, and the start of my fourth season with an organization that gave me maybe the greatest gift an athlete can get:

A chance.

A chance for a fresh start. A chance to prove that maybe I could be somebody on a big league mound, an authentic and trustworthy pitcher, not just a retread with a weird name and an even weirder pitch — a man who was so in need of financial stability that he had to get talked out of taking a guaranteed contract to go pitch in Korea.

The Mets gave me that chance almost exactly three years ago, and I will always be grateful to them for that. Only God could’ve written the narrative that has played out in the three years since. That is what I want to focus on, and what I want to hold in my heart.

I am not going to lie to you, though. The trade was hard for me at first. This is where my heart was, where I wanted to be, where I lived out a story of redemption and felt that every one of you shared it with me in some form or fashion. I loved pitching for you. I loved your passion, the way you embraced me from the start, and the way you seemed to appreciate the effort I was putting forth. Every time I’d walk off the mound after an outing, I’d look in your faces, the people behind the dugout, and felt as if all your energy and support was pouring right into me — even when I was lousy. It gives me chill bumps thinking about it even now.

Every organization has to do what it feels is in its best interest, and I have no doubt that that’s what the Mets did by trading Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas and me for two young players who, by all accounts, are terrific prospects. It doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier.

From the beginning of last season to the end — when you cheered with all you had that Thursday afternoon when I won my 20th game — I felt that this was a shared journey, that we were all in it together. What a great way for an athlete to feel.

There were so many special relationships I formed that made my time with the Mets so much richer. Not just in the clubhouse, either. I enjoyed talking with Bill Deacon, the head groundskeeper, about his craft, and all that went into it. The security people who helped my wife and kids get in and out of the family lounge, the policemen who helped me get out of the parking lot, the folks at the Hodges Gate — so many people went out of their way to be kind to me, and they should know how much it was, and is, appreciated.

I was going to take out an advertisement to express these thank yous, but decided in the end that there was too much I wanted to say. So I am writing this instead.

As I move beyond the sadness over leaving here, I know I have a tremendous amount to look forward to. The Blue Jays may need name tags on the first day of spring training, but once we get acquainted, well, this team could be something. I appreciate the welcome I’ve already gotten from them, and what they’re trying to build. We’ll see how it all unfolds.

God has blessed me in so many ways. His grace and mercy are at the center of my life. I may not pitch for the home team anymore (a friend told me I now have to start calling myself a

Canuckleball pitcher ) but wherever I go from here — wherever I might wind up in the future — I hope you know that I will never forget my three years in New York, and never be able to adequately thank you for everything you’ve given me.

Dec 22

Mets Outbid For Liriano And Ross

It has come to this, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks have outbid the Mets.

The now pitching-deficient and long-time outfield void Mets had their sights on left-hander Francisco Liriano and outfielder Cody Ross, but lost them to the Pirates and Diamondbacks, respectively, who offered multi-year deals they wouldn’t have dreamt of giving.

The Pirates, who were a feel-good story for much of the season before fading late because of their pitching, gave Liriano a two-year, $14-million deal.

Ross, who hit 22 homers with 81 RBI last year for Boston, was given a three-year, $26-million contract.

The Mets are interested in retaining outfielder Scott Hairston, but are reluctant to go longer than two years or more than $2 million, so there’s no chance they could have signed Ross.

As far as Liriano, they could have easily signed him with the money they saved by not bringing back R.A. Dickey.

But, neither happened, and signing Hairston probably won’t happen, either.

Dec 21

Looking At Some Of Sandy Alderson’s Good Mets’ Moves

When Sandy Alderson was named Mets’ GM, it was to be a financial caretaker of the floundering franchise.

I was critical of the R.A. Dickey trade because I believe their words of wanting to sign him were hollow and the possibility of receiving damaged goods. I still think that, but in fairness, recognize Alderson was not dealing from a position of strength or leverage.

There was a lot of criticism of Alderson the past two weeks, but again, in fairness, one has to look at some of the moves that have panned out for the better:

CARLOS BELTRAN: Sure, Beltran’s power numbers would have looked good in the Mets’ outfield, but in the end they would have spent an additional $18.5 million to still finish fourth. Nobody knows if Zack Wheeler will make it, but there is a chance of the Mets obtaining a quality starter, while there was no chance of retaining Beltran. After the surgery flap, Beltran was out the door. They would not have received draft picks so getting Wheeler was the best they could do.

OLIVER PEREZ and LUIS CASTILLO: Both were disgruntled clubhouse cancers not producing and only taking roster spots. Perez was especially pricey for his nothing performance. When Perez refused to go to the minor leagues to work on his mechanics, the Mets should have cut him and eaten his contract on the spot. It was Alderson who convinced the Wilpons to cut ties with them, something Omar Minaya never attempted. The culture couldn’t have changed had they stayed.

JOSE REYES: Because of his injury history and salary demands, I was not in favor of keeping Reyes. If you think the Mets are on the financial skids now, imagine how bad they’d be if they had Reyes’ $100-million contract as an anchor.

JASON BAY: Let’s face it, the Mets were never going to get anything from Bay. Arguably one of the worst FA signings ever could not be salvaged. Sure, the Mets still have to pay his contract, but they won’t have the distraction of answering questions this spring about Bay taking a roster spot. As with Perez, the Mets could only move forward by getting rid of Bay.

DAVID WRIGHT: The face of the franchise needed to be a part of any rebuilding effort. Perhaps the Mets will regret the end of his contract, but for the immediate health of their franchise they needed Wright as he represents a commitment to the future.

JON NIESE: Niese also represents the future and signing him to a long-term contract will keep the Mets out of arbitration with him. Young hard-throwing lefties with potential are at a premium, especially those who are cost effect. Alderson also has eschewed any thought of trading him.

No GM ever bats 1.000 and I wasn’t expecting it of Alderson, despite his high-profile track record. On the flip side, no GM goes hitless, either, and in fairness Alderson has done some good by the Mets.

Dec 20

Casting My 2013 Hall Of Fame Ballot

piazza gfx

I am at my desk holding the official BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. It is my reward turned responsibility for covering Major League Baseball for over 20 years.

That’s close to 2,500 games, many spent watching Mike Piazza dominate his position like no other catcher with 396 homers (427 overall). That dwarfs Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane, all who played before steroids became part baseball’s lexicon.

I vowed not to vote for a player officially linked to steroids, whether by admission, a failed drug test, accused on the record by another player or baseball official, or mentioned in the Mitchell Report.

That meant Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro or Roger Clemens – all on this year’s ballot – won’t get in by me.

Then there is Piazza.

Piazza hasn’t been linked to performance enhancing drugs in any capacity with the exception of innuendo from writers who deemed that an acne-spotted back was as reliable as a blood test. If acne were the sole criteria, then most every teenager in this country would be suspected of being on the juice.

Like the gay rumors, it is unfair, unjust and irresponsible reporting. Yes, Piazza starred in baseball’s checkered steroid era, but I see him as a victim of circumstance, of guilt by association, of being painted with a broad brush.

Supposedly, Piazza confessed to an unnamed reporter. Unnamed reporters, like unnamed sources, raise suspicion and should be questioned with skepticism. It is why I put my name on everything I write.

If a reporter had that story, it would be a goldmine. If so, where is it written? Piazza has denied on the record any usage, and based by his name being absent on any official list, I believe him.

Despite his no-show before Congress, McGwire came clean; Palmeiro failed a test and was suspended; BALCO star Bonds admitted to using the clear and the cream but claimed he didn’t know what it was; Sosa has been blamed on the record and used corked bats twice; and Clemens’ former trainer produced physical evidence with his DNA.

I’m not buying the court decision on Clemens, as the government couldn’t get a conviction with a signed admission. Andy Pettitte’s most significant change-up of his career is what probably allowed Clemens to get off.

Then, there is Piazza who might be denied based on one newspaper account citing back acne. That reasoning is as pockmarked as Piazza’s back at the time.

Voting against Piazza is a writer’s right, but it can’t be based on his .308 career average, .377 on-base percentage, .545 slugging percentage, .922 OPS, 427 homers and 1,113 RBI, numbers that are off the charts in comparison to other catchers.

In case that’s not impressive enough, there are 12 All-Star appearances, 10 Silver Slugger Awards emblematic as the dominant offensive player at his position (and most ever by a catcher), and seven times finished in the top ten on the MVP ballot.

Piazza will get my vote, as will Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, Jack Morris, Don Mattingly and Tim Raines.

Piazza’s numbers are what the writers should be counting, not back pimples or whispers from those too gutless to put their names on the record.

Voting against Piazza is a writer’s right, but not the responsible choice. A journalist’s obligation is to be objective, fair and honest. Voting against Piazza on the strength of a rumor is none of those things.

It’s irresponsible and disgraceful.

John Delcos is a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America and has covered the sport for over 20 years. He has voted for the Hall of Fame for over a decade. You can read more of his insights at NewYorkMetsReport.com or reach him at JDelcos@yahoo.com.