May 12

Mets Need To Be Concerned With DeGrom

Should the Mets be concerned about Jacob deGrom? Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year was off from the outset Monday night and later told reporters, “it boils down to location.”

Well, it always boils to location and deGrom (3-4, 3.46 ERA) has been off in three of his last four starts. To put it bluntly, he’s been bad since his April 24, three-homer debacle at Yankee Stadium. Some hitters get their swings screwed up after a series in Fenway Park. Maybe this is the pitcher’s version.

DE GROM: Something isn't right. (AP)

DE GROM: Something isn’t right. (AP)

DeGrom entered the Yankee Stadium game with a 2-1 record and 0.93 ERA and only one homer and three walks given up in his previous three starts. Since then, he has failed to pitch out of the sixth in three of those four starts. His ERA has spiked to 3.46, with five homers and nine walks given up. Batters are hitting .269 off him, which is 31 points above his career average.

“`I can’t throw the pitches that I want for strikes,” deGrom said about last night, but easily could have been speaking about the last month. “I made some mistakes over the middle of the plate and they seemed to hit it a long way.”

When deGrom missed with his location last season, it was inside off the plate or outside. Either way, hitters couldn’t reach the ball. It was as if Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo ordered room service.

The pregame talk was of deGrom’s secondary pitches, but that’s the icing. The most important thing for a pitcher is getting ahead in the count with his fastball, and that’s something he’s not doing with consistency.

That’s how Collins described the problem.

“When he had to make a pitch, he didn’t make it – couldn’t make it,” Collins said. “You can talk secondary pitches all you want. You’ve got to locate your fastball. That’s what made him so good last year was the location – moving it around side to side.”

Collins said two words that are most important: locate and moving. With a fastball there’s velocity, movement and location. By order of important, it goes location, movement and velocity.

There’s no doubt his velocity is good, otherwise we would have heard of it decreasing. Because we haven’t, we can rule out something wrong with his arm.

Collins also said deGrom’s body language has been bad, which is a great, but startling admission for a manager to make. If he can see it from his dugout, the opposition can from theirs as well.

Last year was last year. DeGrom doesn’t have the same “stuff’’ or the same demeanor as he did last season.

Something is wrong. Collins didn’t come out and use the word “concerned,’’ but he didn’t have to.

ON DECK:  Previewing Noah Syndergaard.

Jan 04

Citi Field Expensive; Mets Must Groom Future Fans

Eventually, the shine comes off newest houses, which is something the Mets are learning about Citi Field, which has never been the home the franchise had hoped.

Citi Field hasn’t given the Mets a home-field advantage both on the field and in the stands, with attendance gradually declining since it opened in 2009 at 38,941 per game.

Last season, the Mets drew 26,528, as they learned what the Blue Jays, White Sox and Orioles – teams that made up the first wave of the new stadium construction – found out. They’ll come if you build it, but they won’t come again if you don’t win.

They also learned that in Texas, Houston and Cleveland.

Fans are willing to pay for the novelty of a new stadium, but the real attraction is the product on the field, and in that regard the Mets have been a disappointment.

I started thinking of this after reading a report from sports marketing publisher Team Marketing Report, which noted the Fan Cost Index increased 2.3 percent last year to $212.46, with Citi Field the seventh most expensive at $229.68.

The index measures the cost of this odd shopping list: four average-priced tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four (regular-sized) hot dogs, parking for one car, two programs and the two least expensive hats.

Baseball used to call itself “a bargain in comparison to other professional sports,’’ and it used to be true. Nothing is inexpensive anymore, including going to the movies.

Of course, a stadium in New York figures to be expensive (the Yankees are second at $337.20 and Fenway Park is an astronomical $350.78), and you can knock that price down by going on bargain nights, skipping the programs and hats.

However, the Mets don’t make it easy for the fan. For example, it would be nice if the Mets allowed you to bring your own food into the ballpark, but I don’t know of any team that allows it.

I understand the economics of it – the same principles explain player contracts – but the costs of the going to a baseball game is something the keepers of the sport should be more aware of in developing its future fan base.

Attendance has been up in recent years, but much of this can be attributed to new stadium construction, built for the large part with taxpayer funding.

However, the gravy train can’t last forever and the Mets must be aware of grooming the next generation of fans – and ticket buyers.

Apr 17

Classy Gesture By Yankees

Give the Yankees credit, when they want to put on a show few do it better.

CLASSY GESTURE

CLASSY GESTURE

There was a moment of silence prior to the game – also one for former Giants player Pat Summerall – but a note of peace and unity on the scoreboard in honor of those killed and injured in Monday’s terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon.

It has become a cliche in troubled times to say tragedy goes beyond the rivalry, but it is true. Just as Boston and the nation supported New York after the September 11 attacks, the nation and New York has come to give its emotional support to Boston.

I flipped over to the Yankees game last night because I wanted to hear the Fenway Park anthem “Sweet Caroline,” sung at Yankee Stadium. Normally, it would sound out of place, as it did when the Mets played it several years ago. But last night, it felt normal, if not right. It was a great gesture that only could have worked at Yankee Stadium because of the nature of that rivalry.

It was heartwarming to hear and read about the reactions of Bostonians to “Sweet Caroline,” last night. It brought a good feeling while bad emotions were swirling.

Jun 25

Mets Visit Charming Wrigley Field

The Mets will attempt to lick their wounds from losing two of three to the Yankees when they open a three-game series tonight at Wrigley Field, still a charm after all these years.

Built in 1912, the same year as Fenway Park, Wrigley Field remains a captivating place. It’s not an easy venue for a writer to work, but that’s our problem. It’s also not a comfortable place for players with small clubhouses and a cramped dugout.

For the visitors to get to the dugout, they must walk down a couple of flights of stairs and then weave their way through several halls (you could call them tunnels), the last two usually stank and wet.

But, the old time charm is what makes it worthwhile. The ivy on the brick walls, the rooftop seats across the street (a windfall for the building owners and the Cubs), the manually operated scoreboard in center field. All that takes us to a different time.

When you look past the center field bleachers you can see downtown Chicago. But, in that park you’ve escaped the hustle of today to a quieter, gentler time.

The seating for the fans is cramped and often obstructed, but Wrigley Field is still a tradition baseball and the Cubs are not willing to sacrifice. It’s been said in most years if you traded the Cubs roster for the White Sox roster there likely wouldn’t be a dramatic shift in attendance or fan support, because the real star is Wrigley Field.

(This year the Sox are significantly better, so that theory might not apply. But, we’re talking years when the teams have roughly the same record).

The fans are closer to the field than most parks (Fenway is the same), which generates a different feel and ambience. It’s like you’re a part of something. When a 10-year old can actually exchange a hello from a player during the game, that’s special.

In a concession to today’s economic realities of television advertising, the Cubs are playing more night games than ever. Although it has been decades since their last World Series appearance (they last came close in 2003 and would have made it had it not been for Steve Bartman), they have had playoff teams so it’s not an impossible concept.

Even without the luxury boxes other teams deem vital for their survival, the Cubs plod along. Once owned by the chewing gum company and later the syndicate that owns the Chicago Tribune, and now owned by the family trust of billionaire Joe Ricketts, the money is there to spend if they truly wanted.

They don’t jump into the deep end of the salary pool because the main attraction is an ancient stadium that is always filled, so what incentive do the Cubs have to spend more?

They build it and the people came, and they are still coming.

 

Apr 22

Add Phil Humber To The List

Add Phil Humber to the list of ex-Mets to throw a no-hitter. Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan seven times, David Cone and Dwight Gooden. Meanwhile, the Mets’ franchise doesn’t have any.

I liked dealing with Humber when he was with the Mets. He was always pleasant to speak with and had a good sense of humor. At the time, I was happy for him when he was traded because I knew it gave him a chance to pitch, something that wasn’t going to happen any time soon with the Mets.

The Mets, of course, shouldn’t lament the trade of Humber because it brought them Johan Santana. At the time, I know few people regretted the deal.

HUMBER: Nice thing for a nice guy.

I don’t write this to rip the Mets. Far from it. I mention it to point out how fickle baseball can be.

Here we are, watching the Mets blow a ninth-inning lead when their rising young outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis overruns a pop-up only to win the game in the bottom of the inning on a wild throw. Amazing stuff. It really was.

Of course, it paled to what happened in Fenway Park. The iconic ballpark – celebrating its 100th anniversary – has been the site of hundreds of memorable moments with dozens of Red Sox collapses. So, why not celebrate that history in grand style? Down 9-0, the Yankees stormed back to back-to-back monster innings to rout the Sox, 15-9.

If Bobby Valentine has a magic touch as a manager, now is the time to use it. Games like yesterday can carry a psychological impact. For the Mets, it could right them after a three-game losing streak. For the Red Sox, as the papers point out this morning, it could carry devastating consequences.

Then again, it could carry no impact. That’s the fickle nature of the sport and one of the reasons it drives us crazy. And, one of the reasons why we love it so.