Sep 26

Mets Face Emotional Night As Marlins Honor Forever Young Fernandez

Given the volatile nature of emotions, it is hard to project how the Mets – and especially the Marlins – will react tonight in the first game following the death of Miami ace Jose Fernandez.

Will the Marlins be so drained and subdued they wilt under the pressure? Or, will they respond the way the Mets did on Sept. 21, 2001, in the first game in New York following the terrorist attacks? Who will be their Mike Piazza?

FERNANDEZ: A smile nobody will see again. (WPTV)

FERNANDEZ: A smile nobody will see again. (WPTV)

Will they respond the way the Yankees did, Aug. 10, 1979, when they flew to Canton for Thurman Munson’s funeral, then back to beat the Orioles on national television?

Bobby Murcer, Munson’s longtime friend, drove in the winning run in the ninth inning. Will the Marlins have their own Murcer?

Fernandez’s death was tragic, yet ironic, and as reports gradually come in, it was avoidable. Fernandez was supposed to pitch Sunday but was pushed back to Monday to face the Mets. Had his start not been changed, it is hard to imagine he would have been out in the black night, after reportedly partying, speeding into the jetty at three in the morning when he would have taken the mound in ten hours.

Then again, it is also to comprehend why the 24-year-old father-to-be, could have been so reckless at a time when he meant so much to his future child, girlfriend, teammates, and Miami’s Cuban community.

Why would he be on a speeding boat in the middle of the night, knowing there were dangerous jetties off Miami Beach?

It’s easy to call Fernandez irresponsible, and 20/20 hindsight says he was. However, when you’re a professional athlete, strong and young, there’s a sense of invincibility. However, nobody is invincible. Nobody is immune to death.

Death has its own timetable, and it doesn’t matter how young, rich or talented you might be, when it knocks on your door, you answer. Death took some athletes because of failing health. Others were taken by violence. It took others because of their own actions, such as drugs and foolish decisions.

Whatever was on Fernandez’s mind when he got onto that boat, we will never know. Certainly playing it safe wasn’t present.

What we know is Marlins Park will be overcome by emotions tonight it never experienced before and hopefully never will again. There will be a video tribute, choked up eulogies from teammates, a moment of silence. There will countless tears and invasive camera shots of Marlins’ players overcome with emotion.

Every Marlin will wear Fernandez’s No. 16 jersey, and the club said it will retire the number.

The Mets will again display a Mets jersey with Fernandez’ No. 16, a gesture Collins applauds and credits Jeff Wilpon for initiating.

“I thought it was it great,” Collins said. “I thought it was a true, genuine, heartfelt respect for what Jose meant to the game.”

By all accounts, Fernandez was a gritty competitor and a giving, humble teammate. I never knew him other than in a pack interview, but he was always gracious and humble. He came across likeable.

Mets’ hitters say Fernandez gave no quarter on the mound, that he played the game the right way. His numbers projected forward – and barring injury – had him on a path towards greatness, perhaps Cooperstown worthy.

That’s what Collins reminded his players of this afternoon.

“He epitomized what the game is about,” Collins said. “He played the game correctly. Our game is bigger than a lot of things, but it will always go on. We will play the game and play it the right way.

“We are all devastated by what happened. It tells you how short life really is. You have to press forward and get through some troubled times.”

The Mets have gone through troubled times this season, but nothing like the Marlins are going through now. It also must be remembered the Marlins are still mathematically eligible for the wild-card. If they run the table, it could be done. It would be a story for the ages.

Maybe the Marlins will be emotionally spent and fade away. Regardless of how this season plays out for them, the words of their club president, David Samson, will ironically ring true that Fernandez will remain a Marlin forever.

The enduring image of Fernandez will be of him whipping a fastball with that special arm; it will be his enduring smile we’ll never see again.

In the words of Bob Dylan, he’ll stay, “Forever Young.”

“May God bless and keep you always

May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you

May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young.

When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young.”

Staying forever young sounds appealing until you realize what is lost.

He’ll never experience a Hall of Fame career, but that’s not tragic. The tragedy is he’ll never look into the eyes of his girlfriend and unborn child and tell them he loves them more than anything, including baseball.

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Jun 29

Mets Selling Team Memorabilia Shameful

First, it was Mike Piazza‘s game-worn jersey from the night of his post 9-11 homer against the Braves that went up for auction. Now, it is his helmet. What next, his jock?

Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. People will buy anything, and if you read the Joe DiMaggio biography you will realize how corrupt and sleazy the sports memorabilia industry can be.

iSeveral Mets minority owners purchased the jersey for $365,000 and display it on a rotating basis at the Mets’ Hall of Fame at Citi Field, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and the September 11 Museum in Lower Manhattan. All good places.

Goldin Auctions will accept bids for the helmet unless another white knight rides in. The auction house said ten percent of the sale price will be donated to Tuesday’s Children, a charity supporting first responders.

The Mets were blistered over the jersey and deservedly so. They should be torched for the helmet. They should be singled out every time this happens, and you know it will. The team issued a statement to ESPN: “This item was sold in 2013. In April this year, we instituted a new process with internal controls to prevent something like this from happening again in the future.”

The “what next?” question is a legitimate one. Surely, the Mets have a list of the items they sold – and for what price – to collectors, if for no other reason to report on their taxes. The Mets do pay taxes, don’t they?

To sell memorabilia, especially of a sensitive nature as the post 9-11 variety is cold, callous and totally disregards their history. I’d like to know what other items the Mets sold off to pay down their Ponzi scheme losses.

It is shameful it came to this. Major League Baseball has enough policies, but it would be good to institute a blanket rule no franchise can secretly sell off its history. If a team won’t donate it to Cooperstown or display it in its own museum, it should be given to the player involved.

It shouldn’t that hard, but for the Mets and Major League Baseball, it always is.

Apr 16

Today In Mets’ History: Shea Stadium Christened

It was all ceremony for the Mets on this day in 1964 when Bill Shea, credited for bringing National League baseball back to New York, christened Shea Stadium.

Shea poured bottles of Holy Water from the Gowanus Canal, which passes near the former sited of Ebbets Field, home of the Dodgers, and the Harlem River, which passes in front of the former sithyof the Polo Grounds, home of the Giants. The Mets also played in the Polo Grounds in the first two years of their existence.

The Mets always honored their combined Dodgers-Giants heritages beginning with their team jersey colors of Dodger blue and Giant orange. Those colors were also incorporated at Shea Stadium with blue outfield walls – most teams used black or green – and the only team in the majors to have orange foul poles.

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Apr 14

Mets Fans Show Passion; Bail Out Franchise In Doing So

Mets manager Terry Collins spoke with passion Wednesday – misguided as it was – and three fans of the franchise spoke with passion today, and backed it up with their checkbooks. And doing so perhaps saved the team further embarrassment over the Mike Piazza jersey fiasco.

piazza-jersey2Mets fans don’t always get the credit they deserve for their passion of their team, but Anthony Scaramucci, Tony Lauto and a third business partner proved that when they combined to reach an agreement in principle to purchase Piazza’s game-worn jersey worn in the first post 9-11 game for $365,000.

For the record, the major league minimum is $507,500, the cost of a reserve infielder. This is something the Wilpons could have done by themselves. Or David Wright. Or Matt Harvey. Or hell, even Piazza could have coughed up the money.

Such celebrity Mets fans like Jerry Seinfeld or Kevin James could have ponied up the bucks to show their colors. By far, the coolest thing would have been for today’s Mets’ players to pass the hat in the clubhouse.

Considering the cost, I wouldn’t consider these guys typical Mets fans, because, after all, you couldn’t recognize them if you passed them on the street.

But, they did what most of us would have wanted to do if we had the money. They backed up their passion in other ways than calling up talk-radio and saying, “I’m Tony from Queens, first time, long time.”Scaramucci told The Post the jersey will make the rounds at Citi Field, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Its final destination is not known, although it is presumed to will be In the Mets Museum at Citi Field.

Scaramucci told The Post the jersey will make the rounds at Citi Field, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Its final destination is not known, although it is presumed to will be In the Mets Museum at Citi Field.

Their love for the Mets is only one reason for wanting to do this.

“We had too many friends die in those buildings to let that jersey go anywhere else,” Scaramucci, founder of Skybridge Capital, told The Post. “Tony and I wanted to make sure that jersey stays in New York. We talked to Mike, he’s happy. We talked to [Mike’s father,] Vince [Piazza], he’s happy.”

The Mets hosted the first professional sporting event following the terrorist attacks, when the Braves came in on Sept. 21, 2001. There were emotional pre-game ceremonies, but it was a listless crowd for much of the night until Piazza’s game-winning homer off Steve Karsay.

It is arguably one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history.

“What Mike did on that night was something we’ll all never forget and what it symbolizes,” Scaramucci said. “This jersey represents so much. There is tremendous artistic symbolism to this thing. This is about picking yourself up, no matter what happens in life, and going back into life and hitting home runs.”

Reportedly, the Mets sold the jersey in a private sale several years ago, when the Wilpons were in financial distress following the Madoff scandal. The Mets attempted to buy back the jersey after it became known the new owner was going to put the jersey for sale at Goldin Auctions, but The Post reported they backed out once the price reached $90,000.

It’s embarrassing the Mets:  1) sold the jersey in the first place, 2) dropped out of the initial bidding when the on-line price reached a paltry $90,00, and 3) never told Goldin they would beat the highest bid at auction.

The Mets should be significantly embarrassed this happened because they took for granted and didn’t appreciate their own history and underestimated the passion of their fan base.

The Mets have been around for half as long as the Yankees, so they can’t match them in championships, Hall of Famers or retired jerseys, but their history is rich to their fanbase. There have been too many times when ownership underestimated the fans and this is the most recent.

If nothing else, let us hope this fiasco sent a message ownership and management will be more cognizant of its fans, many of us who long followed the team ahead of the bandwagon jumpers who leaped on last year.

This was the right thing to do, so kudos to Scaramucci, Tony Lauto and their partner. They deserve a salute from us.

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Jan 25

Mets To Retire Piazza’s No. 31

Falling under the category – “It’s About Time” – the Mets announced this afternoon they will retire Mike Piazza‘s No. 31 as part of a ceremonial weekend, July 29-31. Piazza, of course, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this summer.

PIAZZA: To be honored. (Mets)

PIAZZA: To be honored. (Mets)

The weekend includes:

Friday, July 29, 7:10 p.m.: All fans receive a Piazza replica jersey.

Saturday, July 30, 6:30 p.m.: On-field retirement ceremony.

Sunday, July 31,1:10 p.m.: First 15,000 fans receive Piazza bobblehead doll.

“It is such a tremendous honor to have my number retired alongside the great Tom Seaver,” Piazza said in a statement released by the team. “My time as a Met was truly special and I want to thank Fred (Wilpon), Saul (Katz)  and Jeff (Wilpon) and the entire organization for this incredible gesture.”

During his parts of eight seasons in New York, Piazza hit .296, with 220 homers and 655 RBI. He twice led them to the NLCS and to the 2000 World Series.

Piazza will become the fourth Met to have his number retired, joining Seaver (41), Gil Hodges (14) and Casey Stengel (37). Jackie Robinson‘s No. 42 is retired by every team. No has worn No. 31 since Piazza left the club in 2005.