Dec 01

Teams Silent On Hall Candidates Piazza, Bonds, Sosa And Clemens

The calls started to come the other night from other Hall of Fame writers asking if I intended to vote for Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. As a Hall of Fame voter the past decade I take the responsibility seriously.

Because of their connection to performance enhancing drugs, I did not vote for Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro, the latter whom I covered when he was with the Orioles. Palmeiro certainly didn’t look bulked up at the time. I had been on the Yankees’ beat for several years when he waved his finger at Congress and said he never used steroids. I believed him.

PIAZZA: Will he make it to the Hall?

My guess, and it’s only a guess, is he thought after that display he wouldn’t be tested. I liked Palmeiro and it pains me to leave him off, At 3,000 hits and 500 homers, achieved mostly before his testimony, he was a given. He’s fallen off the radar since his retirement which leaves me wanting more.

Of the candidates, the only one I am sure of is Craig Biggio. Bonds, Sosa and Clemens are a definite no now because they have been implicated or tested positive. There is evidence as to their use. Piazza is different and I don’t know about him yet. He hasn’t failed a drug test and wasn’t accused in the Mitchell Report.

I don’t care about the newspaper articles of his back acne. What gives me pause is his autobiography is coming out in February, deliberately held back by the publisher until after the Hall of Fame announcement. I am wondering why. If Piazza didn’t use steroids, then why not come out and scream it? He has friends in the press in New York. Why doesn’t he say something?

I’ll probably wait on Piazza until next year depending on what he says in the book.

What is also interesting is the silence from the teams. Not a word. In previous years, teams would bombard the voters with emails, similar to what the colleges do when they have a Heisman candidate. Nothing, not a peep from these teams. Makes you think they know something, and it isn’t good.

Not only their silence speaks volumes, but the Giants and Cubs seem to be distancing themselves from Bonds and Sosa, respectively. Sosa is a two-time cheater in my book, using steroids and a corked bat. He can pretend not to understand English before Congress and bleach his skin white after retirement, but he can’t hide. We know what he is.

With the Mets, a franchise in desperate need of positive news, there’s been no public support for Piazza, a player who said he wants to go in wearing their cap. (The Hall of Fame decides the cap with its basis on where that player made his mark.) The Hall’s thinking with Piazza is he’d wear a Dodger cap. Clemens would wear Boston, Bonds would wear San Francisco and Sosa would wear the Cubs.

I don’t think that will be an issue on the first ballot.

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Nov 24

Making Cases For Pelfrey And Torres To Return

After writing about Jon Niese and untouchable Mets yesterday, I thought I’d take a different approach and consider those Mets believed to be out the door.

Say hello to Mike Pelfrey and Andres Torres. Both long thought to be gone, but upon further review cases can be made for their return.

PELFREY: Making a case for his return. (Daily News)

The 28-year-old Pelfrey made $5.68 million in an injury shortened 2012 and is expected to hit the market with a career 50-54 record. He is arbitration eligible with Scott Boras as his agent, all which should make the Mets deathly afraid.

Quite bluntly: Even at 20 percent off his 2012 salary, the Mets think that is too high, which is why they won’t tender him and say good-bye after a disappointedly short-lived career in Flushing. He had a couple of solid seasons, even All-Star worthy in 2010, but regressed in 2011 and was hurt last year.

He never reached the level expected of a first-round pick while others, such as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain sprinted past him into elite status. Unquestionably, Pelfrey has the physical tools to excel, but dramatically underachieved. A combination of a lack of poise – who can forget the three-balk game? – poor pitch selection, mechanics, and although he’ll deny it – spotty confidence – lead to mediocrity.

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Nov 18

Which Team Is More Dysfunctional, The Mets Or Jets?

Getting ready to watch football with the NFL Red Zone, so thankfully I am not tied down to the Jets-Rams.

TV football in New York is absolutely terrible without Red Zone because you’re tied into two teams each week, but I digress.

I was thinking which is the most dysfunctional New York franchise, the Mets or Jets?

The Jets are in the news because the Mets have faded into the woodwork until February.

The biggest disparity between the teams is economic, despite each being in a sport with sound financial footing. Each NFL team – as with each MLB team – has a predetermined foundation in the tens of millions before selling a single ticket. Both have loaded ownerships, but the difference is Woody Johnson is willing to spend while the Wilpons make their decisions against the backdrop of the Madoff scandal.

The fundamental difference is the Jets are willing to spend, evidenced by first pursuing Brett Favre, and then giving loaded contracts to Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Derrelle Revis.

In fairness, the Mets showed a similar desire with Johan Santana and Jason Bay, not to mention Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez, but the last two years have been on an austerity kick.

The most obvious similarity is both share the city with a more successful and stable older brother against whom they’ll never match.

Another common thread is the lack of direction from the top as to where and how to spend.

The Mets’ bullpen has deteriorated along with their outfield and offense. Meanwhile, the Jets’ offensive line is weak, along with their offensive skill players and pass rush.

The bullpen and offensive line are fundamental building blocks in the respective sports, and neither team can compete if things remain the same.

The direction of both teams is like the Washington D.C., roadmap – it goes in all directions.

The Mets failed to build their bullpen after the 2007 collapse, and then moved into Citi Field with the stated goal of building with pitching and defense only to sign Bay.

It has been downhill since, with the real possibility of losing David Wright and R.A. Dickey. If they do, the Mets will begin another rebuilding program, just as the Jets could be after this season if they continue to implode and Johnson fires GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan, which could lead to the trading of Sanchez.

After the collapses of 2007 and 2008, preceded by losing in the 2006 NLCS, the Mets severely overestimated their team and attempted to patch their holes with veterans – Santana, Rodriguez, Bay, etc. – but are now going the farm system route.

Trouble is, there’s little underneath that’s major league ready.

Meanwhile, the Jets thought they’d compete with the Favre signing, but after he left began the Sanchez Era.

With a strong defense and sound running game – you do remember “Ground and Pound’’ don’t you? – to complement Sanchez, the Jets played, but lost, consecutive AFC Championship games. They overestimated themselves in defeat.

How the Ryan tenure began is how NFL teams are usually built. They attempted to open up their defense, but did so at the expense of the running game. In addition, the Jets never complemented their strong secondary with a pass rush.

Then, with their quarterback’s confidence fractured, the Jets inexplicably traded for Tebow for a fourth-round pick and then signed him for three years. Adding Tebow meant adding a quarterback who needed a different offensive system.

As the Mets had a disjointed clubhouse, the Jets had a poisonous locker room, marked by snakes Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie. The backbiting continued this week with the verbal torching of Tebow.

Your guess is as good as mine as to determining what the Jets want to do with their inept offense, which has not been helped by their porous defense, which gives up over 150 yards a game on the ground.

Also, both teams play in divisions with rivals they can’t seem to catch in the Phillies and Braves for the Mets and Patriots for the Jets.

That brings us to a final similarity: It could be a long time before the Mets or Jets are relevant again.

Nov 15

Dickey Wins, Wants To Stay … Now Keep Him.

R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young Award last night, and emphatically reiterated his desire to remain with the Mets. That’s a good sign, and I have the feeling Dickey won’t hold out for the last dollar.

THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING R.A. DICKEY

He realizes the Mets gave him what probably was his last opportunity and there is a sense of loyalty. On the flip side, he realizes this will be his last chance at a pay-day.

“I love the Mets,” Dickey said last night. “And that hasn’t changed from the first opportunity I got against the Washington Nationals in 2010. There’s a part of me that really wants to be loyal to that.”

It is imperative the Mets re-sign Dickey for three reasons: 1) what he gives them on the field, 2) what he gives the organization and means to the fan base off the field, and 3) the perception it gives other potential free agents.

It is clear what he gives the team on and off the field, but signing him sends the significant message to other free agents that the Mets aren’t fooling around and their rebuilding is in a significant stage.

Dickey wants to be a part of that process.

“I think [Sandy Alderson] has a great plan for the future of the New York Mets,” Dickey said. “I’m sure it’s going to require a little vision, I’m sure it’s going to require a lot of hard work. But anything worth having – that’s what’s required. I’m on board, and I want to be part of the solution here.”

The feeling is mutual with Dickey and the public. New York gives him opportunities he otherwise wouldn’t have in other markets.  That works in the Mets’ favor.

“I love the fan base, my family loves being a New York Met, being in New York and all the stuff it has to offer outside of baseball,” he said. “It’s given me the platform to do things that far transcend the game. Whether it’s pouring myself into a charity I am really passionate about, or writing a memoir that I feel like needed to be written. All these things, I don’t know if I could’ve done them if it weren’t for New York and being a New York Met.

“I am aware of that, and I am appreciative of that. Because of that, I like being a Met, and I wouldn’t mind finishing my career as a Met.”

In a reality check mentioned for the benefit of the Wilpons, “wouldn’t mind finishing my career as a Met,” is not the same thing as willing to sign at any price.

Dickey will cost some significant money, and the Mets must decide if he’s worth it. That decision would be a no-brainer if Dickey had previous seasons like 2012, but he hasn’t. The knuckleball puts less strain on the arm, so he theoretically will be able to pitch into his 40’s. But, they must also gamble he isn’t a one-year wonder.

 

 

 

Nov 12

Mets Rookie Of The Year Winners: Seaver, Matlack, Strawberry And Gooden

SEAVER: When it all started (TOPPS)

In explaining part of the Mets’ problems over the years, consider they haven’t produced a Rookie of the Year in nearly three decades, which is a substantial drought.

(Sorry, but I can’t resist: Jason Bay won it while with Pittsburgh in 2004.)

The Mets have produced four Rookies of the Year: Dwight Gooden (1984), Darryl Strawberry (1983), Jon Matlack (1972) and Tom Seaver (1967).

All four played in a World Series for the Mets.

Seaver, of course, is the Crown Jewel of Mets rookies. After winning in 1967, Seaver went on to be a 12-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner.

Seaver is the lone Mets’ Hall of Famer and the only player to have his number retired by the team. In the karma that can only be the Mets, Seaver’s no-hitter and 300th career victory were achieved with other teams, Cincinnati and the Chicago White Sox.

Seaver remains an ambassador to the Mets and the most beloved player.

Seaver averaged 16 victories a season from 1967-1986. He ended his career with the Red Sox, but fate wasn’t too cruel to have him pitch against the Mets in the 1986 World Series.

Seaver won at least 20 games five times, three times led the National League in ERA, and finished his career at 311-205 with a 2.86 ERA.

Matlack was an underrated lefty, perhaps best known as the answer to the trivia question: Which pitcher gave up Roberto Clemente’s 3000th and final hit?

Matlack is one of those players who didn’t live up to the expectations, finishing his career at 125-126, but with a 3.18 ERA that indicates a general lack of support. He never became “the next Jerry Koosman.’’

Strawberry and Gooden personified the Mets in the 1980’s, a widely talented team that, like the two players, underperformed. Strawberry and Gooden were to dominate for years, win multiple World Series and individual awards and ride off into the Hall of Fame together.

Gooden finished at 194-11 and a 3.51 ERA, but after the 1986 World Series title, he spun out of control and tested positive for cocaine. He later developed shoulder problems, which some attribute to a heavy workload early in his career.

Labeled, “the next Ted Williams,’’ early in his career, Strawberry was one of the few players you had to stop and watch when he came to the plate. An eight-time All-Star, Strawberry was a lifetime .259 hitter with 335 homers and 1,000 RBI.

In addition to playing with the Mets and Yankees, Strawberry also played with the Dodgers and Giants, the other two teams with New York roots.