Sep 11

Bobby Valentine Off Base In Criticism Of Yankees’ 9-11 Presence

Bobby Valentine was a loose cannon when he managed the New York Mets and not much has changed.

VALENTINE: Off base in comments.

VALENTINE: Off base in comments.

Today, one that should be about reflection and remembrance of those lost their lives, do we really need Valentine to open old wounds and accentuate pettiness?

That’s exactly what Valentine did while speaking on WFAN, the soon to be ex-flagship station of the Mets. The former manager who doesn’t always have a filter between brain and mouth, was at it again. The only thing missing were the fake glasses and mustache.

The Mets, as I wrote earlier, should be commended for their actions following the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Mets were certainly visible as Shea Stadium was used as a staging ground for trucks unloading supplies.

Valentine and his players, in uniform, maintained a high profile helping unload those supply trucks. The Mets also made numerous public appearances to police and fire stations, as well as visiting the injured. And, with the Mike Piazza homer, no single post September 11 baseball moment was as emotional and unifying.

The Mets were to be commended, but Valentine came off as petty, not to mention wrong, when he fired a shot at the Yankees 12 years later.

“Let it be said that during the time from 9/11 to 9/21, the Yankees were [not around],’’ Valentine said. “You couldn’t find a Yankee on the streets of New York City. You couldn’t find a Yankee down at Ground Zero, talking to the guys who were working 24/7.’’

What did he have to gain by saying this?

Let it be said Valentine is totally wrong and came off as reminding us why, in large part, he lost his job managing the Mets. Valentine, quite simply, has a tendency of rubbing people the wrong way. As knowledgeable he is as an analyst, he’s way off base on this one, and today was not the day to inflame old wounds.

The old Yankee Stadium, because of logistics, wasn’t ideal for a staging ground, but I covered the Yankees then, and I know they made their share of appearances to fire and police stations. Roger Clemens, as creature of habit as there is for a pitcher, made appearances on the day he started.

As if Valentine couldn’t get his foot in his mouth any deeper, he sure tried.

“Many of them didn’t live here, and so it wasn’t their fault,’’ Valentine said. “And many of them did not partake in all that, so there was some of that jealousy going around. Like, ‘Why are we [the Mets] so tired? Why are we wasted? Why have we been to the funerals and the firehouses, and the Yankees are getting all the credit for bringing baseball back?’ And I said ‘This isn’t about credit, guys. This is about doing the right thing.’’

The way it sounds coming from Valentine, it does seem about credit. When you do something, volunteer as the Mets did, you do it without fanfare. It sounds as if Valentine is seeking a pat on the back. It comes off sounding like the Mets made all those appearances for the public relations impact. I know this isn’t true because the Mets are as generous any New York team when it comes to giving back to the community, but Valentine’s comments come off as craving acknowledgement.

If it really is about doing the right thing, Valentine should extend a formal apology to the Yankees, because he’s wrong. The Yankees got credit for bringing baseball back because they played in an emotional World Series that season, and let’s face it, they are more high-profile nationally than the Mets.

The Mets?

They were 82-80 in 2001 and largely irrelevant after Piazza’s ball cleared the wall. That’s something Valentine conveniently forgot, but when you operate without a filter, that happens.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 11

Mets To Remember September 11

Whatever they have in mind, the New York Mets will have a tasteful display tonight in honor of the September 11 terrorist attacks. It will be emotional, especially for the first responders who lost family and friends, it won’t reach the level of the night when baseball returned to New York at Shea Stadium and Mike Piazza permanently reached folk hero status.

Nothing can duplicate that night because nerves were still frayed raw and lower Manhattan was continuing to smolder.

Every year we remember, as we should, and the events of that day will simply be identified by the date, similar to December 7 and June 6.

Americans died then, and sadly, there are fewer and fewer who remember. September 11 will stay fresh for a long time, especially since Americans are still dying in the Middle East, one of the ramifications of that day.

Like all of you, I remember where I was and what I was doing at the time. I’ll never forget, and don’t need a slogan to help me remember.

My wife and I were on the New Jersey Turnpike, just having passed the exit to Philadelphia, when I heard the news on the radio. At first it was one plane and details were sketchy. Then it was two and all the world knew it was no accident.

We were moving to New York from Maryland. Our movers were volunteer firemen from New York. They left our stuff at one of the rest stops and hustled back into the city before the bridges were closed.

We had to drive north through New Jersey and circle back down into Connecticut to get to our new home. There was no television hook-up, but I was transfixed by the radio coverage, like America was on December 7 and June 6.

I was covering the Yankees at the time, and they were to open a series with the Chicago White Sox that night. I suppose the White Sox got home by bus, passing the volunteers heading the opposite direction into New York.

Both the Mets and Yankees were commendable in their efforts to comfort, but sadly some shots were fired across the bow as to which organization did more. The Mets were in the forefront because the Shea Stadium parking lot was used as a staging area, and there were countless photos of Bobby Valentine and his players loading supplies.

Both teams visited hospitals and fire houses in the city, as the Mets did yesterday.

I never felt safer on an airplane than when play resumed and the Yankees traveled to Chicago. “We hate the Yankees, but love New York,’’ read several banners.

It was an odd feeling to watch baseball again, but as the game progressed, it became more comfortable.

But not normal. Never normal again.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 24

Jeremy Hefner Trying To Rebound From Last Start

It is amazing how a team starts getting greedy when it starts playing better. For example, had Bobby Parnell not blown Monday’s save opportunity they would be trying tonight to clinch this series with Atlanta.

After being 15 games under .500, the Mets are again eight below. Several times they’ve been here, but unable to reach seven and get on a roll that would legitimatize their prospects of a successful season.

HEFNER: Trying to rebound after mauling by Phillies. (AP)

HEFNER: Trying to rebound after mauling by Phillies. (AP)

Jeremy Hefner, who sizzled going into the break, was hammered by Philadelphia last Friday. Hefner has 13 quality starts to highlight a staff with a 3.20 ERA since May 26. Collectively, the staff has given up four earned runs in the last 36 innings, or since Hefner’s game coming out of the break.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Eric Young, LF: Is 2-for-18 on the homestand. Has .280 average since joining Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hitting just .244 at Citi Field.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .350 since the break. Ranks fifth in the NL with a .395 on-base percentage.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Leads the Mets with 17 homers.

Ike Davis, 1B: Hitting .385 on the homestand, but only .191 at home for the season.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Batting just .192 with RISP.

Anthony Recker, C: Has five homers, four of which have either tied the game or given the Mets the lead.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Only 1-for-15 on the homestand, and batting .122 over his last 12 games.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Is 0-1 with a 5.85 ERA in three career games against Atlanta.

GAME NOTES: Mets are 6-4 in their last ten games. … The Mets have come from behind 22 times to win. … Since Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler combined in a doubleheader sweep of the Braves, June 18, the Mets are 19-12, for the best record in the NL East. Philly and Miami are each 15-14, the Braves are 14-16 and Washington is 14-17. … The Mets’ bullpen has a 2.45 ERA in eight July games. The pen has 13 blown save opportunities. … Scott Rice hasn’t given up a run in 13 of his last 14 appearances. … Eight inherited runners have scored off Scott Atchison, the most on the team. … Tonight will be the Mets’ 74th different batting order in 97 games. … Wright’s next homer will be his 220th, to tie Mike Piazza for second in club history. Darryl Strawberry is first with 252. … The Mets are 7-8 in walk-off games.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 03

Matt Harvey Making All-Star Push

file_518a69dec85c5

HARVEY: Should be named NL starter in All-Star Game

After tonight’s start for the New York Mets, the next time Matt Harvey steps on the Citi Field mound should be to start the All-Star Game.

Support for Harvey to start has gone on for several weeks to the point of it now being a brushfire. San Francisco and National League manager Bruce Bochy all but named Harvey the starter yesterday in a national radio interview. Speaking on MLB Network Radio, Bochy marveled at Harvey’s dominance and acknowledged the location of the game, “should play a part, if all things are equal.’’

After tonight, factoring in four complete days of rest, Harvey’s next starts should be July 8 at San Francisco in an up-close audition in front of Bochy and July 13 at Pittsburgh. The latter date is the Saturday prior to the break so there shouldn’t be any scheduling snags.

Terry Collins will undoubtedly speak with Bochy when the Mets are in San Francisco, and already said he would change his rotation if it meant getting Harvey a start.

St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw are having strong seasons, as are Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee. All are worthy in most years, but Harvey’s season is flying off the charts. He’s not first in wins, ERA or WHIP, but in the top five.

Harvey has just seven victories, but nine no-decisions, with him giving up three or fewer runs in seven of them.

“You look at Harvey, I don’t think what team he’s playing for,’’ Bochy said, which is a polite way of suggesting playing for the Mets shouldn’t count against him

“This guy should be strongly considered to start the game. It hasn’t been determined. That’s how good he is.’’

Starting the hometown pitcher is considered a goodwill gesture by the All-Star manager, but in Harvey’s case Bochy knows there’s no charity involved. Toronto’s Cito Gaston wouldn’t pitch the Orioles’ Mike Mussina in the 1993 game at Baltimore – Mussina made the team – and was booed the remainder of his career in Camden Yards.

Bochy is smart enough to know not to make any enemies if he doesn’t have to.

While the Mets have had a myriad of pitchers in the All-Star game, only Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver started.

While Harvey is nearly a given to make it three, David Wright is currently running away with the vote over the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval at third base to the point where he has nearly an 800,000-vote lead with two days remaining in the balloting.

For Wright, it will be his seventh All-Star Game and fifth as a starter. Seaver is the franchise leader with nine All-Star Games, while Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry each made it seven times.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 07

Robin Ventura Returns To Face Mets

One of the players I most enjoyed covering was Robin Ventura for those two years he played for the Yankees. In that clubhouse full of stars and egos, Ventura was a voice of calm, reason and humorous relief.

VENTURA: In town tonight.

VENTURA: In town tonight.

I enjoyed stopping by his locker to shoot the breeze for a minute or two, talking about things other than baseball. Very smart, clever and possessing an insight on numerous issues. When there was the inevitable blow up or moment of absurdity, Ventura was always there to put it into perspective with a quip as short and hard-hitting as his swing.

Once I asked him about his fight with Nolan Ryan, and his response was he knew he had made a mistake halfway out to the mound, but couldn’t turn around. You’ll even notice in the video he slowed down.

Was it an embarrassing moment? Yes, but years later he handled it with humor. He even joined with Ryan to autograph photos of the brawl.

When I covered the Orioles and he was with the White Sox, I’d make time to go over to his clubhouse for a few moments. He was accessible to anybody who would take the time to ask a question.

I am sure there will be a lot of questions for Ventura pre-game tonight when he brings his White Sox into town. There will be rehashing about his time with the Mets and Yankees, about being in New York during September 11 and what he remembers about Mike Piazza’s homer the first game back in the city.

He’ll also get a question or four about his grand-slam single against the Braves in the 1999 playoffs.

That night is one of the greatest team displays of enthusiasm outside of winning a championship I have ever seen. That, and I suppose, the Piazza post 9-11 homer. Both were amazing to watch.

Ventura wasn’t a five-tool player, but was consistent and clutch. With a runner in scoring position you wanted him at the plate because he’d usually make contact.

Ventura was a .267 lifetime hitter and only once hit over .300, that being .301 in 1999, his first season with the Mets. Considering his 66-game hitting streak in college, I always wondered if he thought he should have hit for a higher average. He also hit 32 homers with a career-high 120 RBI in his first year with the Mets.

What the Mets wouldn’t give for a player with that production now.

Ventura had three solid years with the Mets, who, during that span had arguably one of the best defensive infields in history. Few balls got by Ventura, Rey Ordonez, Edgardo Alfonzo and John Olerud.

Both Olerud and Ventura would later play for the Yankees. When they left the Yankees, I believed I’d see both again managing in a major league dugout. I’m still waiting on Olerud.