May 04

Mariano Rivera Reminds Mets Fans How Fragile Things Can Be

This is a Mets blog, but also a baseball blog, and part of baseball is Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ Hall of Fame closer. Mets fans remember Rivera because he snuffed out many games over the years, including Game 5 of the 2000 World Series.

RIVERA: The end of an era? (YES)

When the ball left Mike Piazza’s bat with a crack I thought it had a chance, but like many before, because of that awesome cutter, Piazza didn’t get all of it and the ball died. It is one of baseball’s most dominating pitches, like Tom Seaver’s slider, Doc  Gooden’s fastball and Johan Santana’s change. Not many solved it.

After watching the Knicks get pulverized last night and getting bored watching the same about the Mavericks, I started to channel surf and caught the tease about Rivera being hurt and his career possibly being over.

Watching him crumpled on the warning track I recalled my eight years covering him and recalled several moments. Coming to mind immediately was his constant demeanor. Whether he sawed off another bat to end a game, or when Luis Gonzalez beat him with a bloop single to win the 2001 World Series, he was a stand-up guy.

However, one time after he blew several save opportunities in a row he got testy and said he was a human being and not a machine with oil running through his veins. It was surprising to hear, but it showed he was, indeed, human.

I enjoyed stopping by his locker to chat about things non-baseball. One spring I told him a joke three days in a row. On the fourth day, he came up to me and said, “where is my joke?” I loved that.

Another time I asked if he could play any position but his own what would it be and he said centerfield. So, to see him shag fly balls was not a surprise. He did it on a daily basis throughout his career.

But, to be injured shagging flies is a freak, unusual thing. Somewhat like his cutter, it is something that can’t be explained. He wasn’t injured because he is over 40 – see Derrick Rose also tearing his ACL – but being over 40 will make the comeback all the more difficult.

Sure, I can see him retiring, but I can also envision his pride not letting him go like this.

Yes, it was an unexplainable injury, but a reminder of how fragile things can be for an athlete. Mets fans have seen more than their fare share in recent years, like Ike Davis’ ankle, David Wright playing a month with a fracture in his back, the concussions of Jason Bay and Ryan Church, and how Billy Wagner’s elbow injury might have cost them the playoffs in 2008 and subsequently brought on the Francisco Rodriguez era.

Followers of the Mets know better than most how an injury can’t be projected, but can determine the course of a team. If Jose Reyes didn’t have an injury history would he have been re-signed? How things might have been different in recent seasons without injuries to Wright, Wagner, Carlos Beltran and Duaner Sanchez.

If Sanchez doesn’t get hurt in that taxi accident, the Mets never would have traded Xavier Nady for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez.

Just think of how things could have been different.

 

Jun 22

Today in Mets’ History: Franco climbs save list.

John Franco has always been one of the more popular Mets. You can catch him on SNY from time to time.

FRANCO: Hall worthy?

On this date in 1994, Franco passed Dave Righetti for the most saves by a lefthander with 253 in a 5-2 victory at Atlanta.

Franco finished with 424 saves, an average of 26 per season playing for the Reds, Mets an Astros. He had eight seasons of 30 or more saves – five of them with the Mets – with a career best 39 with Cincinnati in 1988.

That season was one of three times in which he led the National League in saves.

Franco is fourth on the career list behind Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith, but has received little consideration for the Hall of Fame, largely because he has one save in 15 postseason appearances.

Franco has always been a straight shooter, which accounts for much of his popularity among Mets fans.

During the summer of 2009 when the Mets were hit hard by injuries and struggling, Franco wanted to hear none of the excuses and pointed in a different direction.

Continue reading

Sep 21

Have to consider Torre.

TORRE: Must explore this.

Joe Torre has left the door open to managing again and would be interested in talking with the Wilpons.

“I am curious,” Torre said yesterday.  “When the season is over, I hope the phone will be ringing… I don’t really anticipate managing again, but I think it would be unfair not to listen just out of curiosity to see if something excites me.”

In this case, one plus one must equal two.

I am a Torre advocate, and believe he would immediately change the culture around this stagnant organization. Future Hall of Fame managers aren’t readily available and if this one is interested the Mets would be doing themselves and their frustrated fan base a disservice if they don’t explore the possibility.

The man has four World Series rings on his resume as a manager, which I believe is four more than Wally Backman and Bobby Valentine. He knows how to win and knows the pressure that comes in winning in New York.

For all the talk about building with youth, Torre knows how that’s done as it is how the Yankee dynasty under him was built. One cornerstone at a time: Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.

And, nobody commands respect like Torre. If there’s a crisis, I’d rather have a guy who has known he can handle it over a guy who has never managed on this level. You also won’t catch him sitting in the dugout with glasses and a fake moustache.

And please, let’s not talk about his laid back personality. He has his players’ attention. I’ve said it before, his is an iron fist in a velvet glove.

Torre would immediately bring respectability to the Mets, give them a credibility they have long lacked.

Let’s also not talk about him being 70 years old. He keeps himself in great shape and the Mets would provide a challenge to keep him interested. The Mets are a .500 team, that with a little tweaking, adding and luck, could improve on that next season. The aura of what Torre would bring to the table would automatically improve the Mets.

Torre would change the atmosphere in his first year, and in his second, after the books have been cleared of Carlos Beltran, Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez – and possibly Francisco Rodriguez – his reputation would undoubtedly attract free agents who previously might have shunned the Mets.

Don Mattingly will manage the Dodgers next year after working under Torre. If the Mets are indeed grooming Backman, wouldn’t it be better for him to learn under Torre than to throw him to the wolves now?

David Wright spoke the other day about changing the attitude, the culture of the Mets and Torre would do that unquestionably. He brings the dimension of winning to the table that few other candidates can provide.

Torre would not come cheaply, but if the Mets are serious about change, then you must pay for it.

Sep 18

New Mets Chat; Gotta make a run at Torre.

Game #149 vs. Braves

T0 access the New Chat Room, click onto the Mets Chat icon to your left.

I can’t believe what I’m hearing this morning, that the Mets aren’t interested in Joe Torre. Yeah, maybe I can. And, unbelievably, there are some who believe he doesn’t have the right personality for the Mets. They probably are right. Torre has a winning personality and the Mets are a fall-short organization.

I’ll bottom line it for you: Joe Torre is a Hall of Fame manager who can only help the Mets. He’s been through it all, knows the ropes and knows how to handle players young and old. Laid back? What crap. When  Torre has an edge, there are none sharper. He knows how to motivate and how to teach. He has an iron fist underneath a velvet glove.

For those you think he can’t deal with young players, guess again. Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera all cut their teeth with Torre. As the Yankees rose to prominence in the late 1990′s all those young players made their mark under Torre. Bernie Williams became a star under Torre.

There is only one reason why the Mets won’t consider Torre and it has nothing to do with age or having the right personality. It has everything to do with being cheap and not paying what it takes to get out of their stagnant state. It is why they low-balled Willie Randolph and replaced him with Jerry Manuel. It is why they are talking about Wally Backman.

The Mets don’t know where to spend their money where it’s needed most. They cut some corners on the really important things.

If Torre wants to manage again, and he’d return to the Dodgers if the circumstances were right and that organization wasn’t in disarray, then the Mets should make a run at him.

Right personality? For those who think he doesn’t have the right personality they don’t know Torre or baseball. The man is a winner and he can only help the Mets. He can make them respectable and lift them from the laughingstock persona they are today.

If they aren’t interested, then they are saying they really don’t care about getting better.

Sep 12

New Chat Room; time for second guessing.

What was written then is coming to pass, the back end of Johan Santana’s contract appears to be choking the Mets. It was widely written, by me and others, that six years is too long a deal for a pitcher who had already accumulated a lot of innings.

Santana’s velocity has been in decline, and now he faces shoulder surgery that ESPN is reporting could keep him out for up to two years. This is a tough surgery with a long and arduous rehab program. It won’t be easy for Santana and there are no guarantees on the back end.

That said, the Mets will likely come to regret the $77 million balance on the contract, but they knew going in that was a strong possibility for the final two years, OK, now it could be three.

The Mets overpaid because both the Red Sox and Yankees backed out, but the circumstances of the times must be realized. The Mets, having lost in 2006 and collapsed in 2007, were in dire need of starting pitching.

The Mets needed an ace and Santana came back to them, and Santana has pitched like the ace he was portrayed to be.

Where the Mets failed or miscalculated is not in signing Santana, but not giving him the adequate run support. Had Santana pitched for the Yankees instead of the Mets, with their superior run support and Mariano Rivera, he might have won a Cy Young or won 20 games.

Santana has more than carried his share of the load since coming here. Injuries are always a risk, but he has more than lived up to his end of the bargain.

To access the New Chat Room, click on to the Chat Room icon to the left. Enjoy Jon Niese as you channel surf to the NFL games.