Sep 29

Beautiful history … and Reyes.

It was stunning to see the Red Sox and Braves collapse over the past month, then finally crumble last night. We witnessed two of the great finishes in history, and the nature of it reminded us again of baseball’s magical power and hold on us.

It told us again a game and season are never over until the mathematics dictate it to be true. The winters will be long in Boston – which they are used to by now – and in Atlanta. Both teams seemed givens a month ago, only to turn around and give it away.

Maybe, there will be a new curse in Boston.

A pennant race is the best baseball has to offer, and heading into September there seemed no suspense, not much to make us curious. But, as it has for generations, the sport inexplicably grabbed us by the scruff of the neck and shook us awake.

It made us scramble in the morning to find the scores, to force us to take a peak at the television in bars and restaurants, to ask a stranger if he knew what happened. I was in a restaurant last night that was pro-Boston. It was raucous early in the evening, but a deathly Buckner-like quiet at closing time.

As ugly as it was in Boston and Atlanta, it was beautiful to see in St. Petersburg and St. Louis, and magical throughout the rest of the country. It was truly something historic and made us realize nothing should be taken for granted.

As I thought about the grand scale, I recalled  of how earlier in the day Jose Reyes took his place in baseball history for granted. He got his hit, a bunt hit, then decided to pack it in. He figured the odds were in his favor, Ryan Braun wouldn’t catch him and he’d have is own secure spot in history.

He figured right, but didn’t count on how he’d be remembered. For those of us who follow the Mets, he is the franchise’s first batting champion. But, he backed in. One of the great stories in baseball lore is how Ted Williams refused to sit on his average and insisted on playing both games of a doubleheader in 1941, went six-for-eight and finished at .406.

Williams’ .406 is one of baseball’s magical numbers and we’ll forever remember him. But, there’s nothing magical, or special, about Reyes or his .335. He’s somebody history will forget, and fittingly, take for granted.

The Mets finally have a batting champion, but he’s no champ.

Sep 25

A hollow feeling

I admit I didn’t watch all 18 innings yesterday, and when I did my mind wandered. It’s that way when what is left of the expense of this season is whether the Mets will finish with a better losing record than last year and if Jose Reyes will say good-bye to New York with a batting title.

That’s why RA Dickey’s flirtation with Mets’ first no-hitter in 7,963 games was fun to watch, but like the playoffs or a winning season I knew it wouldn’t happen. It’s just that way.

As the outs ticked away in the second game – and 2011 – I thought how thrilling it would have been to see a doubleheader sweep of the Phillies in July, or if it meant something.

It’s always fun to speculate on next year and in the coming weeks and months there will be a lot of opportunity for that, but there’s a hollow feeling when you start thinking about next summer when there are still games to be played.

I’m excited about the playoffs, and can’t help but recall the September of 2007 and the Mets’ dramatic collapse when I see what is happening to Boston and Atlanta. There’s a morbid curiosity – like an accident on the highway – in watching a team collapse.

It is also interesting to see what is happening to the Phillies, losers of nine straight. They have the best record in baseball, but it could be hard for them to turn it on for the playoffs. It’s not as if there is a switch to be flipped.

Still, it is a better feeling than the end of this Mets’ season, when the expectations are low and there’s an empty sensation to playing meaningless games.

What is also  fruitless is hearing about all those what-might-have-been stories involving discussed offers for Reyes. Now, it is Tampa Bay that supposedly offered a bunch of prospects. What prospects? Well, we don’t know that.

What we do know is Tampa Bay is one of several teams that made overtures for Reyes. So, did San Francisco, St. Louis and Boston. Surely, there were others. Teams talk to each other all the time, so to hear the Rays called Alderson is not surprising.

And, there probably not too many, if any, surprises left to this season.

Sep 03

Today in Mets’ History: Remembering Bob Ojeda.

Much of the greatness of the Mets’ 1986 rotation was in its depth, personified by Bob Ojeda. One first thinks of Doc Gooden and Ron Darling, then Sid Fernandez, but some would stumble on Ojeda.

OJEDA: Underrated straight shooter.

Ojeda, originally signed by Boston, was more than just the stereotypical “crafty lefthander.’’ He knew how to set up hitters, spot his pitches and climb the latter with them.

On this date in 1986, Ojeda gave up two runs on three hits in a complete-game 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium to increase his record to 16-4 at the time. He finished the season at 18-5 with a 2.57 ERA.

The Mets acquired Ojeda from the Red Sox after the 1985 season for reliever Calvin Schiraldi, and both would end up playing key roles the following season and in the 1986 World Series when New York beat Boston in seven games.

Ojeda had a critical, yet often forgotten part in the Mets’ 1986 postseason run when he won Game 2 of the NLCS against Houston after the Astros won the first game, and Game 3 of the World Series at Boston after the Mets lost the first two games.

Ojeda started Game 6 in both the NLCS and World Series, each won by the Mets in dramatic fashion, although he didn’t earn a decision.

Ojeda later pitched for Los Angeles, Cleveland and the Yankees before retiring early in the 1994 season.

Tragically, Ojeda was remembered for being the sole survivor in a 1993 spring training boating accident that killed fellow Cleveland teammates Steve Olin and Tim Crews.

Ojeda is currently a studio analyst on SNY and has proven to be a remarkable straight shooter, perceptive and not afraid to call somebody out.

Ojeda saw things clearly as a player, too, with this quote about raucous fans: “The fans throw different things. Rock stars have stuff like flowers and underwear. We get batteries and knives.’’

BOX SCORE

OJEDA CAREER

 

Jul 27

REPORT: Beltran to Giants.

Although the Mets haven’t confirmed it, several media outlets are reporting the team agreed to a deal with San Francisco for outfielder Carlos Beltran in exchange for top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler.

In addition, the Mets will pay $4 million of the roughly $6.5 million remaining on Beltran’s contract.

Calls to the Mets and Beltran’s agent, Scott Boras, have not been returned.

Beltran has been held out of the lineup for tonight’s game at Cincinnati, and manager Terry Collins expects the deal to be finalized by tomorrow. Beltran has 24 hours to approve the trade. Beltran has not reported to the Mets’ clubhouse in Cincinnati.

With Beltran in the final season of a seven-year, $119 million contract – and with his contract not allowing arbitration and subsequently compensatory draft picks – it was a formality coming out of spring training Beltran would be dealt.

Five teams – the Giants, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston and Texas – emerged as the favorites, but Boras said the determining factor was which team has the best chance to win.

It had been speculated with catcher Brian McCann’s injury last night Atlanta might sweeten its offer, but the Braves held firm on not wanting to part with their pitching prospects.

Likewise, Alderson held his ground on demanding a top pitching prospect, which defines Wheeler, 21, who throws a fastball in the mid-90s with a fall-off-the-table curveball and a change-up with movement.

Some scouting reports have Wheeler three years away – he’s currently in Single A – but that’s to be expected for such a young prospect.

In the end, Alderson made the best possible deal considering his limitations. Beltran was going to walk at the end of the year and the Mets would not get any compensation.

 

Jul 26

Mets losing leverage in Beltran sweepstakes?

Have the Mets lost their best chance to make a strong deal for Carlos Beltran? Did they hold on to him too long? Depending on whom you read, the favorite to obtain Beltran appears to change from hour to hour.

BELTRAN: Where's he running to?

And, none of the reports is glowing with young talent coming to Queens. A similar thread to most of the reports is a reluctance of any of the contenders to offer top prospects, although they might be will to assume more salary.

It is an impressive list from which the Mets have been asking – and being rebuffed.

The like Atlanta’s Mike Minor, Julio Teheran or Arodys Vizcaino; they are intrigued by the Phillies’ Dom Brown or Jarred Cosart; from the Giants they’ve inquired about Zack Wheeler, Brandon Belt and Gary Brown.

Not all of them, mind you, but they can’t seem to get a nibble on just one of these prospects.

The problem is these teams believe they can contend without Beltran, so why should they give up future chips for a rental?

So those earlier reports about the Mets raking in several prospects look frustratingly premature.

At this point, saving a few bucks hardly does the Mets any good. The Mets clearly have a bat teams covet, but that doesn’t mean they have leverage.

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