Apr 06

Why Doesn’t Baseball Make Opening Day Special Again?

It is Opening Day damn it, it should be one of the best days – if not the very best – of every sports year. Then how come it isn’t? It’s because the people running the sport have no concept of the treasure they possess.


Inside the grocery store in my town, there’s a little bank that posts a trivia question every week. The current question is: When is Opening Day for baseball? And, it listed five choices.

Now, if that doesn’t tell you about the state of the game, then what does?

Opening Day used to mean something. For years it opened in Cincinnati, home of the Reds, baseball’s oldest team, and in Washington, the nation’s capital. You never know when it is from year to year.

There’s always Internet chatter at making the Monday after the Super Bowl a holiday. Why? So people can sleep off their hangovers?

Tell me, what are the best days in sports? The Super Bowl is one, a monster for sure. How about the NFL championship game Sunday? Or the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament?

The NFL has its Opening Weekend down pat with the Super Bowl champ starting on the Thursday before the first Sunday. Baseball’s start used to be in the nation’s spotlight, but it foolishly gave away that day, which is also part of Bud Selig’s legacy.

We’ve had the first game of the baseball season start several times in Japan, with those teams returning to the United States for more spring training games. Yeah, they had the think tank working overtime for that one.

Baseball 2015 started Easter Sunday night in frigid Chicago at the construction site known as Wrigley Field, where there were only two restrooms on the main concourse. Nobody thought to order portable restrooms, of course. Did anybody notice those photos of cups of urine lined up?

It would have been great to get a comment from new commissioner Rob Manfred. Maybe he’ll have something to say on the time of the game, which was over three hours.

The game, by the way, was broadcast on MLB Network, which much of the country doesn’t have. Today’s games include an interleague match-up with the Red Sox in Philadelphia. Interleague play is tough to stomach already, but under no circumstances should there be interleague games on Opening Day.

There are also three games that start at, or after, 7 p.m., EDT, that would be in conflict with the NCAA Championship. Two are to be telecast on ESPN. Who is the marketing genius behind that one?

Sports will conflict with each other, but can’t anybody look at a calendar to see what they are up against? Why not give the NCAA the first Monday, and let baseball have Tuesday? Go wall-to-wall games starting at noon and running to midnight. Now, that should be a national holiday.

Baseball talks about the need to market itself better, especially for the next generation, but it doesn’t get it. This little tweak can spark the imaginations of kids across the country.

My late father understood it on April 7, 1970, when he took my brother and I out of school for the day to watch the Indians on Opening Day against Baltimore. Dave McNally against Sam McDowell.

Despite his note, the school did not approve, but he took us out anyway. He reasoned we would take more from being at that game than anything we would have learned that day in class.

He was right. Baseball was very big in our home, and it still is in our family. That’s how you cultivate the fans of tomorrow.

Looking back, he was right, and it is one of my fondest memories of him.

My dad got it 45 years ago. I wonder how many fathers around the country got it today, and will get it next Monday and take their kids to Citi Field.

What I do know, is the people running Major League Baseball don’t get it.

ON DECK: What is with the Opening Day lineup?

Apr 01

Are Mets Kidding With Long-Term Talk With Lagares And Duda?

A show of hands please, who saw this coming from the Mets? I didn’t and twice in one week no less. The Mets, who have long been noted for their conservative approach when it comes to long-term contracts, are reportedly discussing multi-year deals with Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares.

Several days after an ESPN report the Mets were considering a four-year, $31-million contract with Duda, they reportedly reached terms today with Lagares to an extension through 2019 for $23 million.

While Duda is 29 and this would likely be his biggest payday, Lagares is 26 and could have two more contracts after this one.

The contract would cover Lagares’ arbitration years and the first year when he would become free-agent eligible.

Duda hit 30 homers last year and Lagares won the Gold Glove in center field where he was credited for saving 28 runs. Offensively, he hit .281 with four homers and 47 RBI.

Is this a good idea or not?

Normally, I’??m all for locking in prospects long-term, but what about Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom – we can forget Zack Wheeler for now – to start with?

After all, I always favor the commitment to pitching first. However, before diving off the deep end, the prudent thing would be to get a larger window on both players, especially since they each have questions.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Today’s notes.


Mar 08

Darvish Injury Shows Fragility Of Pitching … And Value Of Gee

This is how it will happen if Dillon Gee is traded: A starter will go down in another camp and if that team is thin in minor league pitching talent, it might not have another choice to deal with the Mets.

Multiple media sources, including ESPN New York, say the Texas Rangers aren’t interested in Gee.

GEE: Valuable. (AP)

GEE: Valuable. (AP)

After throwing 2.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen Saturday against Miami, Gee addressed the possibility of being traded to Texas in the wake of Yu Darvish possibly needing season-ending Tommy John surgery.

“What it boils down to is I don’t make those decisions. I can’t strike a trade with myself,’’ Gee told ESPN. “I did see that [about Darvish]. In my mind all I’m really thinking about is, ‘That sucks for Darvish.’ I mean, he’s a phenomenal pitcher. And I feel sorry for him. It sucks if he’s going to be gone for a year.’’

The Rangers say they have minor league talent comparable to that of Gee. That’s not to say other teams won’t. In that case, GM Sandy Alderson’s phone could ring.

However, Alderson shouldn’t be so willing to eager to get rid of who has been a reliable and productive pitcher. Maybe not ace quality, but a grinder who will usually find a way to give the Mets six innings.

The injury to Matt Harvey two years ago, and Darvish this spring, not to mention how many teams lack starting pitching – anybody look at the Yankees’ rotation lately? – indicate how vulnerable and fragile starting pitching can be.

The Mets have a potentially valuable chip in Gee and shouldn’t be so willing to play it – not when they might need it later.


Mar 05

Wheeler Responds To Nats’ Harper

I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler, and from Bryce Harper, either. Sure, the Nationals’ outfielder was giddy about his team getting Max Scherzer and why shouldn’t he?

WHEELER: Responds to Harper.

WHEELER: Responds to Harper.

“To be able to have a guy like Scherzer come in? I just started laughing,’’ Harper told reporters. “I was like, ‘Where’s my ring?’ You know what I mean? It’s stupid. It’s absolutely stupid how good our staff is.’’

I would have hoped he’d have that confidence in his team.

As for Wheeler, it wasn’t exactly talking smack according to professional wrestling or NBA standards, but the soft-spoken Met had something to say.

“I guarantee you we all saw what Bryce Harper said,’’ Wheeler told the New York Daily News. “He said, ‘give me my ring… we’re going to make it hard for him to get that ring, I’ll guarantee you that.’’

Wheeler isn’t a braggart, but I was glad to see him exhibit some spine. I wouldn’t want to have seen anything less from him.

It’s good he’s thinking that way, but if the Mets are to challenge Washington, much less compete in the NL East, they must do better than going 4-15 against the Nationals.

ON DECK: Daniel Murphy to go on ESPN to tell his side.

Feb 27

Did Duda Push Injury Too Far?

As sure as the sun rises in the East, the Mets will have a spring training injury issue. It is the way of their world.

DUDA: Did he sit on injury?

DUDA: Did he sit on injury?

This spring it is first baseman Lucas Duda, who won’t be allowed to swing a bat for at least a week because of a strained left intercostal muscle. Initially, it was reported Duda had a strained left oblique and wouldn’t be able to swing the bat for up to three days. Then it was an intercostal muscle and he’d be out a week.

However, what is alarming is that ESPN reported Duda was bothered by this injury for “the past couple of weeks,’’ which leads to several questions:

* Did Duda report this injury, and if so, did the training staff clear him to swing the bat?

* If Duda did not report the injury to the training staff, then why didn’t he?

Every year there’s a player who trains through pain. It’s admirable to be a hard worker, but it is foolish to force things.

Manager Terry Collins told reporters: “Nobody is more upset than he is. He’s a workaholic. He’s bound and determined to be as good as he can be. He overdid it, and now he’s got to back off.’’

This spring the injury envelope was first pushed by Duda.