Sep 23

This Day in Baseball History ….

Looking back

Looking back

Do you remember Armando Benitez?

Of course you do. How could anybody forget the pitcher with the million dollar arm and ten cent heart and brain? A nickel for both.

On this day in 2001, Benitez, pitching for the Mets, gave up three runs to the Braves in the ninth inning, with two coming of Brian Jordan homer. Jordan would later homer in the 11th inning as Atlanta won, 5-4.

I had pleasure of covering Benitez twice, first with the Orioles and then with the Yankees.

BENITEZ: Heat, but no fire.

BENITEZ: Heat, but no fire.


Was talking to one of the Oriole catchers one day about Benitez, and he told me he didn’t think he’d ever become a great closer because, “he doesn’t really want the ball.” When things were well, Benitez was dominant, but he would unravel at the slightest thing, whether it be bloop hit, an error or not getting an ump’s call.

Sure enough, once Benitez would blow a save, two or three more would follow.

My favorite Benitez story isn’t from 1998 when he plunked Tino Martinez after giving up a homer to incite a brawl, but several years earlier and it wasn’t even game related.

The Orioles were in Milwaukee at the end of the season and this was the rookie hazing day when the veterans would take their clothes and make them wear things from consignment and thrift shops. Could be women’s clothes. Could be anything.

It is supposed to be a bonding gesture, kind of like in a fraternity.

Benitez was having none if it and held up the Orioles team bus for 45 minutes. It got to where Rafael Palmeiro had to get off the bus and persuade him to get with the program. Benitez wouldn’t and ended up wearing his uniform pants with his dress shirt.

The next day, we were talking about it with manager Ray Miller, who gave us this song-and-dance about Benitez being so sensitive because he was a Latin player. Miller then asked me what I would have done. I told him, “Benitez has a credit card and I would have left without him and told him to make his own way to the next city.”

Sep 23

Oooooops ….

No Tiffany, no waitress.

Sorry about last night. I am out of town for a couple of days and didn’t have the Internet access I thought I would. It was bad enough not to have the game on television, but no Internet. It’s uncivilized, I tell you. Writing this from a library. Will make several posts to give you something during the day and be back to normal tomorrow.

Thanks ….

Sep 22

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #151; Nelson, oh boy.

METS CHAT ROOM

METS CHAT ROOM

Wouldn’t it be nice to see a real major league pitcher on the mound for the Mets? I hope ownership realizes a patchwork rotation won’t cut it next year.

We have, now don’t all scream at once, Nelson Figueroa going for the Mets tonight. I liked talking with Figueroa. A nice guy. I admire his determination and perseverance. I just don’t think he’s anything more than a No. 5 at best, and most likely, a long guy and spot starter. He does deserve a chance in spring training for those slots. If they are going into spring training with anything more than that, it won’t be a good sign.

Figueroa hopes to avoid losing his fourth straight start, and second in a row to the Braves. He gave up six runs in five innings last Thursday in Atlanta. Figueroa is 0-3 with a 6.61 ERA in September.

Overall, the Mets have lost 12 of their last 16 games.

MURPHY: Getting better.

MURPHY: Getting better.


One thing that has become apparent, is with the news Carlos Delgado is done for the year, that the Mets must be looking at Daniel Murphy as their first baseman for 2010. Murphy had two more hits last night, including a homer. Over the past 14 games, Murphy is batting .358 with three homers and 12 RBI.

“I like the way Daniel Murphy is swinging the bat,” manager Jerry Manuel said. “He’s really coming on.”

Murphy is showing more signs of pop as he gets to learn the NL pitchers better, and that’s encouraging. If he could reach 20 homers next year that would be a positive development. I believe he’ll continue to improve with the knowledge of the pitching and the more comfortable he becomes. He might never hit for awesome power numbers, but that’s not currently the Mets’ primary need.

As his average increases, and if he stays in one spot in the batting order, his run production should spike.

Sep 22

Should Reyes play again this season?

Jose Reyes is taking batting practice and continues to hope he’ll play again this season. I considered changing my mind with the thought that learning where Reyes really is with his hamstring is important regarding their off-season planning.

But, is it really?

REYES: Mets lost without him.

REYES: Mets lost without him.

If he’s not completely healthy now, he’s not going to be ready by Friday, or next week. He needs the surgery and as much time as possible to recover. That’s why this has all been wasted time for both the Mets and Reyes, and why there is the potential for another lost season.

I was thinking whether the Mets should trade Reyes, but it is a moot point. Only a dumb general manager would trade for a player whose game is about running and not knowing whether he’ll be able to run or not.

The rap on Reyes is he hasn’t lived up to his potential, that he loses focus and concentration. That he gives away too many at-bats, and for as gifted as he is in the field, he botches the easiest of plays. All that is true.

There is also concern he burns the candle at both ends regarding his penchant for the night life.

However, if Reyes has lived up to his potential, it’s still a pretty good player. If this is as good as it gets for Reyes, then what team wouldn’t want him? Right, he’s not as good as Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki and Jimmy Rollins, and will never live up to the Derek Jeter comparisons – looking back, they were stupid to begin with – but, that’s still a good player.

Most any team would want Reyes – but that is a healthy Reyes.

Everything Reyes does is based on his legs, and now he has a flat tire. Because he can’t run he’s useless. And, we won’t know if he can run until next season.

Manager Jerry Manuel said of all the injured Mets, the one missed most is Reyes. If Reyes comes back healthy next season and doesn’t get any better, general manager Omar Minaya will have to decide if that’s something the team could live with or is he of greater value in a trade where he could fill two or three of the team’s many holes?

That decision will define the Mets for several seasons, but it can’t be made until next year.

However, if the Mets find a team dumb enough to unload three or four players now while not knowing if Reyes can run or not, Minaya needs to jump at that offer. If I’m the Mets, I can live without knowing if Reyes has reached his potential. But, I can’t live with not knowing if he’ll be able to ever air it out again.

Not only do the Mets have to face to prospect of Reyes not living up to his potential, but of not being a viable player of any kind.