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.

Sep 10

Today in Mets’ History: “Look who’s in first place.”

The scoreboard said it all: “Look who’s in first place.’’ From trailing Chicago by ten games on Aug. 13, the Mets made it all the way back, plus one, after a doubleheader sweep of the Montreal Expos, 3-2 in 12 innings in the opener and 7-1 in the second game, coupled with the Cubs losing to Philadelphia.

Jim McAndrew gave up two runs on four hits in 11 innings in the first game and Ken Boswell drove in the game-winner with a single in the 12th innings off Bill Stoneman.

It was all Nolan Ryan in the second game as he gave up a run on three hits.

Imagine that, three pitchers worked 21 innings that day for the Mets.




Sep 09

Today in Mets’ History: The Black Cat Game

Throughout the Summer of `69, Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo celebrated each victory by clicking his heels in the air.

He clicked them often as the Cubs built a seemingly insurmountable 10-game lead by Aug. 13. However, he wouldn’t be clicking them on this day, although superstition would be the headliner.

That lead was cut to a half-game on this date as Tom Seaver, backed by homers from Donn Clendenon and Art Shamsky, beat Ferguson Jenkins and the Cubs, 7-1, in what will forever be known as “The Black Cat Game.’’

The black cat symbolized the Cubs' fall.

While the Cubs were batting, a black cat walked behind the on-deck circle where Santo was standing.

“(The cat) kept walking around their on-deck circle,’’ said Ed Kranepool in a phone interview. “The crowd kept yelling and cheering, and the cat just stayed there.’’

No, the cat wasn’t planned.

“We had a lot of cats (at Shea) because we had a lot of rats there,’’ Kranepool said.

From Aug. 14, the Mets sizzled at 39-11 while the Cubs went 21-29 during that stretch, including  8-17 in September. The Mets were 23-7 in September.

The cat is a nice story and a great piece of Mets’ lore. From the Chicago perspective, perhaps Leo Durocher burned out his team – which only played day games at home – by running out the same lineup every day. Five Cubs played in at least 150 games and two more played over 130.

Still, 92 wins for the year isn’t bad.

However, the Mets’ pitching was brilliant with 13 shutouts in August and September.

“We were playing great baseball,’’ Kranepool said. “When we came home from the West Coast (where they went 6-4) we were playing our best baseball of the season.

“The lead went from ten to six, then it kept going down.’’


The victory was the Mets’ 82nd, which assured them of their first winning season.  It was also their fourth in the midst of a stretch where they won 10 straight and 13 of 14 games to go up by 3 ½ games.


Sep 08

Wouldn’t mind seeing Izzy back.

Jason Isringhausen told ESPN he’d like to pitch next year, and I’m all for giving him a one-year deal. Nothing longer. Isringhausen pitched well enough to warrant attention from teams looking for a veteran presence in the bullpen, but I don’t see anybody, the Mets included, signing him strictly as a closer.

IZZY: A case for bringing him back.

However, he showed the capability of getting the job done when he had to. Isringhausen saved seven games after Francisco Rodriguez was traded, and overall showed his fastball still has some life with 44 strikeouts in 46 innings.

The Mets are hoping Bobby Parnell will win the job, but he’s far from a certainty. There’s nobody else that jumps out, either. I don’t believe Isringhausen has enough left in the tank to be a fulltime closer, but he’s a great influence to have in what figures to be a young, and likely, inexperienced bullpen, next season. Parnell could do a lot worse than having Isringhausen around as his mentor. So could most everybody else in what has arguably been one of the Mets’ signature weaknesses this season.

The Mets exceeded expectations this year and should take another step in 2012. Isringhausen could get some attention from contenders, but his biggest influence still could come in Flushing. I am all for giving young guys a shot, but I’m against cutting loose veterans who still have something to offer. It’s not as if the Mets’ bullpen is loaded with fireballing, young arms with pinpoint control.

The bullpen can be a chatty place, and relief pitching is one position on a team most ripe for a younger player soaking up information regarding pitch selection, location, how to work to various hitters, and to retain one’s composure.

The man must know something with 300 career saves. Conversely, Parnell doesn’t even have 180 career innings pitched.