May 02

Mets win, NY wins, US wins.

I woke up around 6 , turned on the TV and he was still dead.

The flag endures.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and it will be one of those moments that  you’ll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. For those who learned on ESPN last night, it was reminiscent of hearing John Lennon was murdered while watching Monday Football.

I was home channel surfing when I heard. I called a few friends and became mesmerized by the images on the screen. Just like when watching the Japan earthquake, Katrina, Columbine, and, of course, September 11. There is no script to history. It just relentless attacks us and grabs us by the scruff of the neck and shakes. It shook me to about 4 in the morning.

Flipping back to the Mets game, where it was tied in the ninth, 1-1 — 9-1-1. You don’t find irony or symbolism like that too often. It was  inspiring to hear the crowd spontaneously chanting, U-S-A, U-S-A. Sometimes the chant sounds forced and cliche. Not last night.

“I don’t like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit. But they got this one right,” said David Wright when asked about the chanting.

Yes, the Mets won, but the crowd reaction is what we’ll remember and take with us, much as we do the images of that day.

I was covering the Yankees at the time and took the weekend off to move to New York from Maryland. I was on the Jersey Turnpike just north of the Philadelphia exit when the planes hit the towers. Because all the bridges were closed what was normally a five-hour trip became 11. My movers were volunteer firefighters. My furniture didn’t arrive for several more days.

That week was spent covering workouts at Yankee Stadium and watching the Shea Stadium parking lot used for a staging ground for the EMS workers. It was inspiring to see Bobby Valentine and his Mets, in uniform, help the workers load trucks.

And, when the games finally resumed, we witnessed one of the most memorable home runs in New York history, Mike Piazza’s drive that beat the Braves. The Mets and Braves were mortal enemies at the time, and their display of unity that night was another memory. It was another example of how sports can be unifying.

So much has happened in the ten years since, and we’ve changed personally and as a nation in so many ways, and for a baseball writer it goes well beyond the joys of traveling, from the pat downs to the long lines to the general uneasiness of strangers.

I live in a small town in Connecticut, and the fallout hits here, too.

What small town doesn’t have a 9-1-1 Memorial? Who among us doesn’t know someone lost in the attacks and the subsequent military actions in the Middle East? The failing economy is a byproduct of that day, and with it the foreclosure signs, layoffs and stress of trying to make ends meet. Who among us doesn’t cringe when filling up our tanks and wonder when things will ever get back to normal.

Or, is this normal?

I hope you’ll share with us what you were doing that day.

May 01

Mets performed as expected in April.

Where did that winning streak go? It was here a moment ago. Instead, it has morphed into a three-game losing skid, which could reach four tonight against Cliff Lee, and keep going when the San Francisco Giants come to town this week.

The Mets closed April at 11-16 and in last place in the NL East, about what most people expected from them. But what most counted on was win two, lose three. Nobody expected the Mets to be as streaky to the extreme as they have been. Losing this way is more frustrating because it preys on your frustrations and fears.

The pitching is going to dictate the Mets’ success this year, and that didn’t disappoint in April, where it was poor for most of the month save a week stretch in which it transformed the Mets into a representative baseball team. The key was Mike Pelfrey, who regressed from last summer. There were occasional bright starts, but for the most part the rotation remains a source of concern, as does the bullpen, which has proven to be highly combustible when overworked.

There’s nobody in the rotation that you feel confident will take you to the seventh. Jon Niese was solid yesterday against Roy Halladay, but who can’t see him bailing after four in his next start.

Pedro Beato and Jason Isringhausen have been dependable. Francisco Rodriguez is still a tight rope act. Bobby Parnell was supposed to be the eighth inning answer, but we don’t know much of his failures are talent or injury related. The remainder of the pen is a hold-your-breath propostion.

Offensively, Daniel Murphy has been solid and Carlos Beltran has performed more, and probably better than expected. Ike Davis has taken a positive step and Jason Bay has played well since coming off the disabled list.

David Wright still strikes out too much for me and is not dependable in the clutch. I still want Jose Reyes to strike out less and walk more.

There are days when the offense can be daunting, yet others when it is puzzling. That pretty much describes the Mets as a whole, which hasn’t been a surprise.

 

Apr 30

Collins admits mistake in starting Pelfrey.

Terry Collins played the media perfectly last night, even in defeat.

Rather than run away from his obvious blunder to start Mike Pelfrey, or worse point fingers at others, Collins did a un-Jerry Manuel like thing and pointed the finger at himself.

“It was my fault,” Collins said. “I write the lineup. I didn’t need to pitch him. I had a little concern there might be a problem. I know better than that. … It was my responsibility to take charge of that and I sent him out there.’’

From there, Collins diffused the issue. It only becomes a topic again should he repeat the mistake.

Beat reporter want credibility. They understand the game, and when one of the participants screws up they want him to be man enough to stand up.

Managing pitching staffs is a lot about trusting the pitcher, and against his better judgment, Collins listened to, and gave in to, Pelfrey’s request to pitch. After the game, Pelfrey said he was fine and didn’t want to use having the flu as an excuse.

The fact is he wasn’t fine. It is admirable he wanted to pitch, but he wasn’t thinking about what was in the best interest of the team.

Pelfrey should have backed down last night.