Oct 16

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Tale of two pitchers.

Two pitchers, one the Mets didn’t want and one they’d love to have, will be on display today in the second round of the playoffs.

Pedro Martinez, whom the Mets cut ties with in an effort to get younger and move toward the future, will start Game 2 of the NLCS for Philadelphia against the Dodgers. John Lackey, the pitching prize of the free-agent market, starts for the Angels at Yankee Stadium.

MARTINEZ: Get the ball while Mets stay home.

MARTINEZ: Get the ball while Mets stay home.


If Martinez wins, it will send Philly home with a 2-0 games lead. If Lackey wins, he will give the home field advantage to the Angels.

The Mets are watching at home for the third straight season.

After a series of injuries the past few years, the Mets decided they could live without Martinez, 37, will make his first playoff appearance in five years against the Dodgers, the team in broke in with in 1992. Martinez made nine starts with the Phillies, going 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA.

He told me last year he thought he could still pitch again, and proved it this year in a limited capacity. Weary of the injuries, and confident Mike Pelfrey would progress and they’d finally get something out of Oliver Perez, the Mets said good-bye to Martinez, who did not want to come back in a limited role or with a limited contract.

If he will be content with a No. 5 slot, he’ll get some attention this winter. No, the Mets won’t be one of the teams, but he could stay in Philadelphia.

Martinez likes the team and it will be good again next summer.

Martinez hasn’t pitched since Sept. 30, but manager Charlie Manuel isn’t concerned, saying, “I think he knows how to pitch.’’

Martinez’s last playoff appearance was in 2004 with Boston, and one of the story lines today will be facing former Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez.

“Well, nobody can say I know how to pitch Manny.” Martinez said. “Manny is such a great hitter, and he’s someone that makes adjustments as he sees the game develop.”

The Angels are a team in a zone, having swept Boston in the Division Series. They’ll face CC Sabathia tonight at the Stadium.

LACKEY: On top of FA pitching list.

LACKEY: On top of FA pitching list.


The Angels know how to beat the Yankees, dispatching them from the playoffs twice since 2002. The teams split 10 games this year.

“I don’t know if you’re ever going to be able to measure yourself against an organization like the Yankees. It might take a century before you would get there,’’ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “But I think our guys feel good at the way they go about their business, the way that they play the game hard, the way that they push the game.’’

But, it all begins with pitching, and tonight that is Lackey, who beat the Yankees in July when he gave up two runs in seven innings.

“I’m not going to get intimidated by anybody,” Lackey said.

Lackey is a bulldog type, he gives innings when he’s healthy, but he’s missed considerable time in each of the past two seasons. That will give the Mets pause as they were bitten all year by injuries. It would just be the franchise’s luck to sign him and have him go down.

Lackey leads a relatively thin free-agent market that includes Erik Bedard, Jon Garland, Andy Pettitte, Jose Contreras, Rich Harden, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Randy Wolf.

There are some good names, but nobody outside of Lackey who could be called a No. 1.

Oct 12

On the market ….

With Boston and St. Louis making early exits in the playoffs, the focus is on the outfielders Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, and where they might land. Left field in Citi Field is a possibility, although not a seemingly strong one.

Yesterday, Bay acknowledged possibly playing elsewhere, but that seems to be more posturing than anything else. Bay loves Boston and the feeling is mutual and the two already had talks this season. I’m figuring he stays in Boston based on what has been written.

However, as much as the Cardinals would like to bring back Holliday, that might not happen because of the pending free-agency of Albert Pujols in two years. The Cardinals aren’t big spenders, but the Catch-22 is in order to retain Pujols they have to be serious about winning and protecting their big bat in the line-up.

Even so, I can see the Cardinals passing on Holliday because they could figure they could get somebody later. That’s how many of these teams think. In addition, the Cardinals’ first priority will be manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Of the four names mentioned here, personally I like La Russa and Duncan on the Mets best, but I know that won’t happen. The odds are best with Holliday.

Oct 02

This Day in Baseball History …. Bucky Clears the Wall.

Yanks beat Sox in playoff game.

Yanks beat Sox in playoff game.

I knew exactly where I was on this day in 1978. I cut classes that day and was in my college apartment where I watched the Yankees complete their overtaking of the Boston Red Sox when Bucky Dent cleared the Green Monster in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park.

What a lot of people forget, is the Yankees not only erased a 14-game deficit, but actually moved ahead of Boston and it was the Red Sox who needed to come back to force the playoff. That only happened on the last day of the season when Cleveland’s Rick Waits beat New York at Yankee Stadium.

Dent’s homer came off Mike Torrez and Ron Guidry won his 25th game of the season. The game ends when Goose Gossage gets Carl Yastrzemski to pop out to third with two on.

Does anybody remember watching that game and what they were feeling that day?

Sep 26

This Day in Baseball History ….

Pennant Fever

Pennant Fever

The 1967 American League pennant race was arguably the most gripping in history with Boston, Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit all in contention in the final week. For much of the season, the Angels were in it, and were the first to fade away. Next to go were the White Sox, who had a domineering staff but couldn’t score and runs.

On this day, Carl Yastrzemski hits his 43rd homer, but the Red Sox lose to Cleveland. Harmon Killebrew homers twice as Minnesota beats the Angels. Detroit’s Mickey Lolich threw a 1-0 shutout at the Yankees.

The Impossible Dream

The Impossible Dream


At the end of the day, Minnesota (91-68) led idle Chicago (89-68) and Boston (90-69) by a game and the Tigers (89-69) by 1.5 games.

The Red Sox beat the Twins on the season’s final day, but had to wait around for Detroit to lose to the Angels to clinch.

I followed that race with a transistor radio late at night and pulled for the Red Sox as I grew to like them because Tony Conigliaro was one of my favorite players growing up.

Aug 26

My brush with greatness ….

The year was 1998, the season of the great home run race and when the Yankees steamrolled through Major League Baseball. It was also the year Cal Ripken’s streak came to an end.

KENNEDY: My brush with greatness.

KENNEDY: My brush with greatness.


That was also my first year on the Yankees beat and I’ll always remember a flight I took from Boston to Washington. I was sitting in the exit row by a window reading a magazine when this man plopped down in the aisle seat. I recognized him immediately, and a few minutes later he extended his hand and said, “I’m Ted Kennedy.”

I said, “I know,” and introduced myself. A few minutes later, I told him, “in all fairness, I should tell you I’m a newspaper reporter.” I didn’t think it would be right for him to be ambushed the next day in the papers by something he might have said or done.

He appreciated the gesture and we began to chat. When I told him I covered baseball, he responded with stories of how his father, Joseph, took him and his brothers to games in Fenway Park. He then spoke of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run race and Ripken.

I told him I once wrote a term paper my freshman year in college about him. I was a big liberal at the time.

Not once did we talk of politics or social issues. I figured he gets that all the time. I did want to tell him how touched I was about the eulogy he gave for his brother, Robert, but wasn’t sure if it would strike a sad nerve. I always wonder what he might have said had I brought it up.

It was a pleasant conversation. After awhile, he started reading some files and I returned to my magazine. We started talking again before the end of the flight, and when we landed we shook hands and went our separate ways.

I was surprised nobody bothered him during the flight and nobody approached him at the gate when we left the plane. A few days later, I sent him a note telling him how I enjoyed our conversation.

I told my editor of the meeting, and his response was a curt, “What in the hell were you doing in first class?”