Apr 24

What It Would Take For The Mets To Own New York

Here we are again, interleague play for the Mets as they are in the Bronx tonight to face the Yankees, Of course, the papers and Internet are flooded with columns about this is “the time for the Mets to take New York City from the Yankees.”

Time to step up/

Time to step up/

I checked the calendar and didn’t notice such a date; I mean it wasn’t circled like Thanksgiving and Christmas. When you come to think about it, why is this the time? Just because the first-place Mets have ridden an 11-game winning streak into this series?

Using the essence from the phrase, “time to take New York,” no team can ever own this city completely. Mets fans root for the Mets and Yankees fans root for the Yankees. Owning New York isn’t about drawing those straddling the fence, but from winning.

This year shouldn’t be like any other. Both teams are hot, which is fun, but the proof could come in July at the trade deadline. The Mets have stockpiled young pitching which puts them in good position, but recent history tells us they are reluctant to make a big splash after clearing the debts from Johan Santana and Jason Bay.

The Mets could have “owned” New York had it responded differently following the defeat to the Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS, but more importantly, in rebounding from the late season collapses in 2007 and 2008.

The Mets panicked then and unlike the Yankees, couldn’t spend their way out of trouble. That’s the real difference in the two franchises – if it doesn’t work, the Yankees will throw good money after bad. For example, the Mets were handcuffed after Santana was injured.

The Yankees will always be viable because their mission statement is to win. Nothing but a championship satisfies that franchise, and that’s because of George Steinbrenner and now his sons. They currently “own” New York because they’ve won more recently. Not all of their moves have been smart, but they have been bold. When a move must be made the Yankees do something. They will spend the money, because that’s what they do.

The Mets are sizzling. Most of their moves have been successful and they’ve been remarkably resilient in overcoming injuries. The Mets did little last offseason – the acquisitions of Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr. have been positive – but I want to see how they respond when there’s pressure to do something at the deadline.

When they are at the top, or near the top, of the NL East standings, will they prove to us they want to win as much as they say they do? They haven’t in the past.

Terry Collins said rough times will come as they always do in a baseball season, but this team will show no panic. However, when the hours start dwindling at the trade deadline, what will the Mets do? Will they spend? Will they be bold? Will they make a move?

What they do to claim the back pages of the tabloids will determine owning the town.

If they can do those things and continue to win, this could be their summer for being New York’s primary baseball story. The issue of owning the town will be made by ownership and Sandy Alderson.

That’s when we can say the Mets “own” New York City, not from what happens this weekend.

 

 

Mar 25

Yankees In Better Position Than Mets To Make Playoffs Sooner

The Mets beat the Yankees again Wednesday, which undoubtedly will lead to a myriad of columns in tomorrow’s papers stating New York City is up for grabs and the Mets are in better position to win sooner.

Easy does it folks.

METS: Wishing and hoping.

METS: Wishing and hoping.

The Mets’ two victories this spring over their crosstown rivals – in light of many bookmakers having the teams ranked even heading into the season – have people thinking the Yankees are ripe for the taking. While each team has issues – starting with pitching as is always the case – which team is better equipped to overcome their flaws?

Operating under the assumption the Mets are potentially deeper with prospects Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, plus the potential of Rafael Montero, the edge would seem to be in Flushing. This is even with the Mets losing Zack Wheeler for the season. As of now, the Mets have their rotation set, while the Yankees are piecing together their back end.

Closer Bobby Parnell will open the season on the disabled list for the Mets, who have Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Conversely, Yankees manager Joe Girardi isn’t ready to name his closer. The Mets have a closing edge, but their bridge to the end isn’t good, especially lacking a lefty specialist.

The Mets have the greater potential to overcome their pitching issues, but the Yankees have the edge at catcher, the outfield and infield.

I give the Yankees the edge in the outfield because the Mets are weaker in the corners. The Yankees have the greater offensive potential in the outfield, especially if Carlos Beltran is healthy. As good a glove as Juan Lagares is, offensively he’s no match for Jacoby Ellsbury.

I’d give David Wright the edge over Chase Headley at third, but first baseman Lucas Duda needs to do it again to consider putting him on a par with Mark Teixeira, even if he is coming off an injury. At second, Daniel Murphy has a better bat than the Yankees’ Stephen Drew, but the latter is better defensively. However, Didi Gregorius is better on both ends than shortstop Wilmer Flores.

However, despite the Mets’ supposed pitching edge, the Yankees are in overall better position to reach the playoffs sooner based on their division and pedigree.

There’s no power in the AL East comparable to what the Mets face in their division with the Nationals. However, how the Yankees are dealing with the Alex Rodriguez scenario shows the different mentality of the two franchises.

With a salary of $21 million earmarked for Rodriguez in 2015, most teams would not sink another $52 million in a package for Headley, including $13 million this season. However, coming off a one-year suspension for PED usage and multiple hip surgeries, the Yankees weren’t willing to take a “wait-and-see’’ stance with Rodriguez.

Conversely, could you see the Mets taking the same approach if they were undecided about adding a replacement for an injured player? We are all familiar with the questions the Mets faced in the offseason, but all they did was add Michael Cuddyer. Excuse me while I catch my breath.

Alderson entered the offseason with concerns at catcher, shortstop, in the bullpen and in the outfield. They still have them.

There’s no comparison in the team’s spending habits, but if you need another reminder, consider the Mets will delay bringing up Matz and Syndergaard to push back their free-agent eligibility a year – and that’s five years away.

That is the difference between Yankees GM Brian Cashman and his Mets’ counterpart in Sandy Alderson, and by extension, the respective ownership groups.

The AL East is more balanced than the NL East, and if the Yankees are in position in the middle of the season to make a move there’s no doubt Cashman won’t be afraid to pull the trigger. Meanwhile, if the Mets were in a similar situation, I have little confidence in Alderson to make a move, even if the Wilpons gave him the green light.

The Yankees finished out of the money last year, but were 84-78. The Mets had their sixth straight losing season in 2014.

The Mets might have the slight pitching edge now, but the Yankees would be more aggressive in overcoming it and filling any other voids.

I would bet on them playing in October before the Mets.

 

 

 

Mar 05

Today In Mets History: Staub Ends Holdout

On this date in 1973, outfielder Rusty Staub ended a holdout and signed a three-year contract for $100,000 a season.

Staub played nine years with the Mets spanning two stints (1972-75 and 1981-85). He retired after the 1985 season with 2,716 career hits, including 709 with the Mets. He is the only player having at least 500 hits for four different teams (Mets, Montreal, Detroit and Houston).

STAUB: A great Met. (TOPPS)

STAUB: A great Met. (TOPPS)

Mets fans remember Staub for his gritty performance in the 1973 postseason. In Game 4 of the NLCS against Cincinnati, Staub separated his right shoulder when he plowed into the outfield fence while robbing Dan Driessen of extra bases. In the World Series against Oakland, Staub was forced to throw the ball underhand, but hit .423 with a homer and six RBI.

A six-time All-Star, Staub ended his career as one of the game’s best pinch-hitters with 99 hits, including eight homers with 72 RBI.

Staub originally signed with the expansion Houston Colt .45s (later Astros), but was traded to Montreal before the 1969 season and became an original Expo. After three years he was traded to the Mets in exchange for first baseman Mike Jorgensen, shortstop Tim Foli and outfielder Ken Singleton.

Staub also played with Detroit and Texas.

A noted wine connoisseur, in retirement Staub owned two restaurants in Manhattan and founded the “Rusty Staub Foundation,’’ which raised over $112 million for New York City police and fireman following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

ON DECK: Mets On Tap Today: Bartolo Colon starts against Washington.

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.

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