May 02

Mets win, NY wins, US wins.

I woke up around 6 , turned on the TV and he was still dead.

The flag endures.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and it will be one of those moments that  you’ll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. For those who learned on ESPN last night, it was reminiscent of hearing John Lennon was murdered while watching Monday Football.

I was home channel surfing when I heard. I called a few friends and became mesmerized by the images on the screen. Just like when watching the Japan earthquake, Katrina, Columbine, and, of course, September 11. There is no script to history. It just relentless attacks us and grabs us by the scruff of the neck and shakes. It shook me to about 4 in the morning.

Flipping back to the Mets game, where it was tied in the ninth, 1-1 — 9-1-1. You don’t find irony or symbolism like that too often. It was  inspiring to hear the crowd spontaneously chanting, U-S-A, U-S-A. Sometimes the chant sounds forced and cliche. Not last night.

“I don’t like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit. But they got this one right,” said David Wright when asked about the chanting.

Yes, the Mets won, but the crowd reaction is what we’ll remember and take with us, much as we do the images of that day.

I was covering the Yankees at the time and took the weekend off to move to New York from Maryland. I was on the Jersey Turnpike just north of the Philadelphia exit when the planes hit the towers. Because all the bridges were closed what was normally a five-hour trip became 11. My movers were volunteer firefighters. My furniture didn’t arrive for several more days.

That week was spent covering workouts at Yankee Stadium and watching the Shea Stadium parking lot used for a staging ground for the EMS workers. It was inspiring to see Bobby Valentine and his Mets, in uniform, help the workers load trucks.

And, when the games finally resumed, we witnessed one of the most memorable home runs in New York history, Mike Piazza’s drive that beat the Braves. The Mets and Braves were mortal enemies at the time, and their display of unity that night was another memory. It was another example of how sports can be unifying.

So much has happened in the ten years since, and we’ve changed personally and as a nation in so many ways, and for a baseball writer it goes well beyond the joys of traveling, from the pat downs to the long lines to the general uneasiness of strangers.

I live in a small town in Connecticut, and the fallout hits here, too.

What small town doesn’t have a 9-1-1 Memorial? Who among us doesn’t know someone lost in the attacks and the subsequent military actions in the Middle East? The failing economy is a byproduct of that day, and with it the foreclosure signs, layoffs and stress of trying to make ends meet. Who among us doesn’t cringe when filling up our tanks and wonder when things will ever get back to normal.

Or, is this normal?

I hope you’ll share with us what you were doing that day.

May 01

Mets performed as expected in April.

Where did that winning streak go? It was here a moment ago. Instead, it has morphed into a three-game losing skid, which could reach four tonight against Cliff Lee, and keep going when the San Francisco Giants come to town this week.

The Mets closed April at 11-16 and in last place in the NL East, about what most people expected from them. But what most counted on was win two, lose three. Nobody expected the Mets to be as streaky to the extreme as they have been. Losing this way is more frustrating because it preys on your frustrations and fears.

The pitching is going to dictate the Mets’ success this year, and that didn’t disappoint in April, where it was poor for most of the month save a week stretch in which it transformed the Mets into a representative baseball team. The key was Mike Pelfrey, who regressed from last summer. There were occasional bright starts, but for the most part the rotation remains a source of concern, as does the bullpen, which has proven to be highly combustible when overworked.

There’s nobody in the rotation that you feel confident will take you to the seventh. Jon Niese was solid yesterday against Roy Halladay, but who can’t see him bailing after four in his next start.

Pedro Beato and Jason Isringhausen have been dependable. Francisco Rodriguez is still a tight rope act. Bobby Parnell was supposed to be the eighth inning answer, but we don’t know much of his failures are talent or injury related. The remainder of the pen is a hold-your-breath propostion.

Offensively, Daniel Murphy has been solid and Carlos Beltran has performed more, and probably better than expected. Ike Davis has taken a positive step and Jason Bay has played well since coming off the disabled list.

David Wright still strikes out too much for me and is not dependable in the clutch. I still want Jose Reyes to strike out less and walk more.

There are days when the offense can be daunting, yet others when it is puzzling. That pretty much describes the Mets as a whole, which hasn’t been a surprise.

 

Apr 29

Mets’ April 29 lineup at Philadelphia.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup tonight at Philadelphia:

Jose Reyes, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Carlos Beltran, RF

Jason Bay, LF

Ike Davis, 1B

Josh Thole, C

Jason Pridie, CF

Mike Pelfrey, RP

 

COMMENT: I’ll say it again, I think the Mets are making a mistake starting Pelfrey tonight. He’s lost 11 pounds battling the flu the past week and isn’t full strength. They have Dillon Gee for situations like this and it makes no sense pushing Pelfrey in April. What’s the point? What good does it serve to possibly burn out Pelfrey tonight and going deep into the bullpen?

Apr 29

Mets start over tonight in Philly behind weakened Pelfrey.

Do you remember the story of the kid who told his father he had a no-hitter going until the big kids got out of school?

PELFREY: Goes tonight at Philly.

Well, that’s the Mets, whose six-game hitting streak was snapped last night at Washington. After beating Houston, Arizona and the Nationals, the Mets are in Philadelphia for the second time this month to face the Phillies.

Time to start another streak.

Mike Pelfrey, suffering from the flu the past week, was cleared and will start tonight despite losing 11 pounds. The Mets are taking the precaution of having Dillon Gee ready should Pelfrey weaken, which tells me they are concerned.

Given that, why push the envelope on Pelfrey in the first place? It’s only April. Do they really have to run Pelfrey out there tonight?

Gee has pitched well and is on the roster for situations just like this. I’d rather push Pelfrey back and have him pitch on full strength.

Chris Capuano did not have a good start last night, but there’s been no word of taking him out of the rotation. Something to possibly look for is that with another bad outing he could be replaced by Gee.

Just thinking.

 

Apr 28

Upon further review; time for more replay in baseball.

Sorry for the late post, but it has been a rough day. I think I might have come down with what’s been going through the Mets’ clubhouse.

REYES: Ump blew call big time last night.

Anyway, like you I saw the play involving Jose Reyes at third base last night. Umpire Marvin Hudson blew it on all levels, from not seeing the play, to falling for the acting of Washington’s third baseman Jerry , to making a bad call, to not asking for help.

I don’t think he was in proper position to make the call in the first place.

Reyes was clearly safe, and his animated protest illustrates to me he knew he was in there and he never left the bag. The Mets were fortunate the blown play didn’t cost them the game. MLB odds were not affected.

Umpires are going to miss calls, that’s part of the game. Nobody is perfect, and that includes umpires. But, to blow it so bad, and not even hear a comment from him later, borders on being reprehensible. I want the umpires to be as accountable as the players. The goal is to get the play right, and last night they didn’t.

Since getting it correct is the goal, it is time to expand the use of instant replay. It is implemented on home runs and it is time for use on the bases. The extra three or four minutes it would add to the game is worth it for the goal of getting it right.

It shouldn’t be too hard because the bases are fixed locations, just like fair and foul, and the walls on homers. Cameras on fixed locations could ascertain in the runner came off the bag, whether the fielder applied the tag and if the tag was on time.

They’ll never have instant replay on balls and strikes, but having it on the bases is the logical next step. The umpiring has been on decline for several years and doesn’t appear to be getting any better. The game is getting faster and faster, and it is expected calls will be missed. But, that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to accept poor performance from the umpires.

It is bad enough there’s no consistency behind the plate, but Major League Baseball shouldn’t have to endure the same on the bases, especially when that would be an easy one to fix.

The sport is making a pile of money and there should be a fifth umpire located in the press box with a monitor to evaluate the replay. Enough is enough, get it right.