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.

 

Jul 15

Second-half opens with questions.

The Mets open the second half of what has been a surprising season tonight in San Francisco a team with confidence and resiliency – just four games behind Atlanta despite several questions.

Many of those questions were only partially addressed and remain to the point where they are issues.

Here’s the top five questions for the Mets entering the second half:

BELTRAN: Back tonight, but at what percent?

1. QUESTION: How healthy is this team?

ASSESSMENT: The Mets will get Carlos Beltran back tonight, but don’t know how he’ll respond to a heavy workload. For now the plan is to juggle playing time between Beltran, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur, with the latter’s time reduced the most. Beltran returns to center and the clean-up, but don’t expect him to immediately be in All-Star form.

Another pressing issue, or at least it’s turning out that way, is Jose Reyes, who strained his right oblique muscle, June 30. Reyes sat out a handful of games before the Mets foolishly let him return only to bat right-handed, even against righty pitchers. Had Reyes been placed on the disabled list originally, or continued to sit until he was 100 percent, he might be fine today.

Instead, Reyes is still ailing and considered day-to-day. The Mets are still toying with him batting right-handed exclusively and not waiting until he’s 100 percent. Reyes aggravated the injury and the Mets are pushing their luck.

Also, Mike Pelfrey, after a string of non-descript to poor starts, says he might have a dead arm, although not an injury it is physical related.

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May 25

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #44: Happy Memorial Day.

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

Greetings all. I hope you enjoyed the holiday with your family and friends. Three-day weekends are always a treasure. Made even better when your team is doing well.

Beyond my wildest dreams, the Mets won two of three against Boston at Fenway. I expected a sweep in the other direction. But, they surprised everybody, but hopefully not themselves.

Their recent road trip was a test. They won five, lost five, so let’s take this with a grain of salt. With how they started, they should have won six. They also could have lost six had it not been for Omir Santos.

This next stretch is also a test with games against Washington, Florida and Pittsburgh. These are all series the Mets should win, but series they’ve struggled with in the past – especially when coming off a rough stretch.

May 24

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #43; going for the Fenway sweep.

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

I have to be honest with you. Never would I have expected the Mets to be on the verge of sweeping the Red Sox. Honestly, I thought it would be the other way.

Tim Redding vs. Tim Wakefield. Redding will try to make his second straight strong start since rejoining the team.

The Mets are already guaranteed coming home no worse than 5-5. I would like to think they have weathered the storm.

May 22

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #41: On to Fenway.

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

Good evening. The Mets are in Boston tonight with Johan Santana trying to snap their four-game losing streak.

The Mets began this 10-game road trip winning three straight at San Francisco before their bats feel asleep. In addition to their dormant bats, we’ve seen several flaws in the Mets’ game the past four games. They haven’t hit with runners in scoring position, their defense has been spotty and we don’t know we’re getting from John Maine and Mike Pelfrey.

The injuries to Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado have exposed the Mets’ lack of depth in the farm system. Tonight they’ll put on a make shift line-up on the field against the Red Sox with four players starting who weren’t in the Opening Day line-up.

Here’s tonight’s line-up:

Daniel Murphy, 1B
Ryan Church, RF
Carlos Beltran, DH
Gary Sheffield, LF
David Wright, 3B
Jeremy Reed, CF
Omir Santos, C
Ramon Martinez, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Johan Santana, P