Dec 17

Cold Weather Has Me Thinking Spring Training

There’s a foot of snow on the ground, the wind chill at 20 degrees, Christmas eight days and the Dolphins crushing the Jets. What better time than this to think about spring training?

Spring training has always been one of my favorite times of the year, for reasons both on and off the field.

From landing in Florida and taking off for the chill that’s still in New York, it’s a great time and a terrific experience.

The best part was the time you could spend with the players. Earlier in his career, the ten minutes David Wright said he’d give you could turn into a half-an-hour with the conversation touching a wide ranging variety of subjects, to playing the bunt, to going to the opposite field, to watching North Carolina play Duke in the ACC Tournament, to dozens of other topics.

I remember a long conversation with Carlos Beltran, who told me of his rookie season while with Kansas City. His eyes watered when he spoke of not being able to speak English.

I used to love talking pitching with Mike Mussina and David Cone, with Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez, with Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. With Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner.

How great is it to go to work wearing shorts and a windbreaker?

I remember running laps around the fields after practice in Port St. Lucie. That was, until somebody on the grounds crew told me snakes came out at dusk.

Better still was playing basketball after practice, then going out for seafood and a movie. I played a lot of miniature golf and went to the dog track.

You never knew who would show up to spring training. Sandy Koufax was terrific. I ran into him one day told him of the time my dad told me “you have to see this guy pitch.’’ When he asked what game, I sheepishly told him of a game the Mets shelled him at Shea Stadium, 10-4. His response? “I remember that game, too.’’

There were others, too. Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.

There have been dozens of cross-state drives passing through places like Yeehaw Junction, a truck stop of a town with a population of 240. There is also the long drive across the state on Alligator Alley, named for the obvious reason

It was a lot of fun to sit in the stands behind the plate and talk with scouts.

There was so much more. Countless hours watching the NCAA Tourney … picking my Home Run Derby team with the other writers … eating at hole-in-the-wall barbeque joints. … it is Florida, so good pizza and Italian was hard to find.

By my calculation, I spent over 120 weeks in Florida for spring training. I’m looking forward to going there again next year.

Jan 03

Are Mets And Jets Kindred Spirits?

Watching the Jets kick away a playoff berth today, who didn’t make the statement: Same old Jets. Sure you did. I did, too.

JETS: Maybe next year.

JETS: Maybe next year.

At one point, when they shared Shea Stadium and the arms were Joe Namath and Tom Seaver, there as a distinguishable connection. There was that magical time when the Jets beat the Colts in Super Bowl III (47 years ago); the Mets beat the Orioles in the 1969 World Series; and for good measure, the Knicks won the NBA Championship. Since then the Jets haven’t returned to the Super Bowl and the Knicks have won one title and the Mets have won two titles.

OK, so not winning the Big One is a common denominator. So is a lack of leadership from up top, evidenced by poor spending or not spending at all.

However, watching the Jets today produced another common trait, that being to spit the bit.

In 2006 and 2007, the season came down to the final weekend, where by winning they were in. Both times they were outed by the Marlins. In 2006, we were treated by Tom Glavine‘s implosion, much like Ryan Fitzpatrick did today with three interceptions.

At least Fitzpatrick had a fourth quarter. Glavine didn’t make it out of the first, and things were complicated with semantics when the lefty said he wasn’t devastated. Mets fans never forgave him.

 

 

 

 

Feb 18

Today In Mets History: Mets, Jets Sign Contract

Gone are the days when baseball and football teams shared the same venue. Once the Athletics get their own stadium, or the Raiders bolt Oakland again, an era in American sports will be over.

For a long time the Mets and Jets shared Shea Stadium, and who can forget 1969-1970 when the Mets won the World Series and Jets won the Super Bowl. And, the Knicks won the NBA title in the spring of 1970.

On this date in 1977, the Jets signed on to stay at Shea Stadium. However, it wouldn’t be long before they would bolt for the Meadowlands.

 

Dec 23

Why Rush To Judgment On Parnell?

Among the things I find puzzling with manager Terry Collins is his propensity for making announcements without all the facts. Most recently, he said Bobby Parnell will be next season’s closer, this despite not pitching last season and nobody knowing for sure his physical status.

With Parnell shelved, Jenrry Mejia took over as closer and saved 28 games. Incidentally, Parnell’s career high was 22 saves in 2013.

So, the Mets have two capable closers, and at times last year used Jeurys Familia and Vic Black in that role. So, what’s the hurry to make an announcement before the Jets fire Rex Ryan?

We are a week shy of three months before spring training and have no idea what to expect from Parnell. What’s wrong with going to Port St. Lucie with it open between Parnell and Mejia? (Black and Familia, considering their limited experience should go in with set-up roles.)

What I don’t want is to give the job to Parnell under the assumption he’s physically ready, then dealing Mejia. What I also don’t want is for Collins to go with a closer-by-committee, which rarely works.

 

Nov 21

Greetings From Ohio

Good morning. As many of you know, I was seriously injured and can’t walk. I disappeared from the blog, but when I returned you welcomed me back and I am grateful. I am now in Ohio for a few weeks to go to the Cleveland Clinic for more tests and treatment. I am very optimistic.

I promise I won’t fade this time.

It is bitter cold here. Snow, but not as bad as Buffalo. Even without practicing this week, and probably not having their full roster, they’ll still beat the Jets.

All this makes me think about spring training. I could stand for it being 60 degrees warmer. Then again, can’t we all?

I’ll be back later with thoughts on the Mets and free agency in general. Take care. JD