Dec 14

Thanks Dad.

Good afternoon folks.

I don’t like going this long without posting for you, but have been away. I drove to Ohio Sunday to visit my father, but the visit was unfortunately extended for a funeral.

Everybody loves their father for their own reasons and I am no different. There are some I can’t share and others I do so openly and proudly.

The most important was his love for his family and the moral principles he lived by, but another was his love for baseball, which he gave to my brother, George, and myself.

Among my earliest and fondest is he coached both our Little League teams. It was here where I learned sportsmanship and Little League baseball is to learn the game and have fun.

His belief was if you showed up for practice you would play regardless of how good you were. The games were seven innings and everybody played at least three. If for some reason you didn’t play three, you automatically started the next game.

The emphasis was enjoyment of the sport, not winning, and definitely not learning at a young age one had limited talent. There would be plenty of time for that in high school sports. There would be plenty of opportunities for life to disappoint and he didn’t believe Little League baseball should be one of them.

Where our league’s boundaries ended at the town line, today there’s a Little League World Series that is not only televised, but extends to foreign shores.

We went for ice cream after the games, win or lose. I grew up and played at a time when there were not even sponsors from local businesses, let alone corporate advertisers and television commercials. It was a time when the game had its natural disappointments, like committing an error or striking out and ten year-old kids don’t need cameras stuck in their faces.

It was a simpler time, one when I wasn’t exposed to the more negative and disturbing aspects of sports.

It is almost cliché to mention it, but the best times were playing catch and him hitting me grounders and fly balls in the front yard. We never shot baskets or tossed a football. It was always baseball.

Growing up, there was no such thing as cable and we only had four channels. We’d sometimes watch “The Game of the Week’’ and almost always the Indians.

Those were bad Indians teams that featured Rocky Colavito, Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert and Max Alvis. I remember the first game he took me to, won, 5-0, over the Orioles. Years later, when I covered the Orioles, they had every box score in franchise history so I copied that game’s and sent it to him.

My dad took me to a lot of games at old Cleveland Stadium, and when I briefly covered the Indians for a small local paper after college, I was glad when I got to take him.

One of the best perks of the job was getting to take him to spring training and buy him World Series tickets when the Indians finally made it. Too bad he never got to see them win it all. Would have been nice.

My dad grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, and when I covered the Orioles, former Dodgers pitcher Rex Barney was the PA announcer and I brought him up to the press box after a game to introduce them. When I came back to the press box nearly an hour later after working the clubhouse, I was happy to see Barney still talking to him.

The Dodgers were his team and he told me about Ebbets Field and Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson and Carl Furillo. Our family has roots in New York and New Jersey and we’d visit every summer after Little League season and he’d take me to Yankee and Shea Stadiums.

One year, he insisted we see the Mets against the Dodgers to watch this guy pitch. During my first spring covering the Mets, I got to meet the pitcher.  I introduced myself and told him I didn’t want to interview him – although I did – as much as I wanted to tell him how my father thought it was important I see him pitch.

Then Sandy Koufax asked me what game it was and when I sheepishly told him the Mets ripped him, 10-4, he said he remembered.

Like all fathers and sons, we had our rocky moments, but whatever they were, we always were able to talk about baseball. And, many of our later conversations were about baseball and the Indians.

My dad was 85 and was ill on and off for his last ten years. He was a shut-in and derived much of his pleasure watching the Indians and baseball, often with my sister, Anne.

Baseball was a passion and there are millions like him who feel the same way he did about the sport. This is something I wish the owners of the sport realized about its fans; that people love and cherish the traditions and simplicity of the game. I wish they understood this before they tinker and attempt to change the sport.

My dad taught me a lot of things, but I will always be grateful to him for giving me his love and appreciation of baseball.

I will forever love and miss him, and sure I will never watch another baseball game the same way.

Thanks, Dad.

 

Dec 07

Reyes addresses New York media.

Jose Reyes spoke with members of the Mets’ media this afternoon at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. Here’s a transcript of what he said:

On whether he was surprised that Mets were not more aggressive:

“During the season, you guys know, I always say I want to go back to play there. But they don’t do anything to want me there. So, after that, there’s nothing really I can do. Now, I’m with the Miami Marlins. The Mets don’t do anything to have me. It is what it is, man. This is a business and I have to move on. It’s over. I can’t be crying about that, because they don’t show me anything. They don’t push anything to have me there. Why should I be worried about it if they didn’t want me?”

Do you think they just didn’t want you? Or was it probably their financial situation and not being to afford you?

“You know, I can’t tell you that, because they never talked to me. I don’t know if it was because of the money or they don’t want me there — they want to move on with some other pieces. I don’t know, because they never said anything. Sandy maybe talked with Peter, but they don’t offer anything. They don’t do like real offer. They don’t do anything, really.”

Would you have wanted them to call you more this offseason, show you more love?

“No doubt. They don’t do that. When we almost get close to making a deal with the Marlins, that’s when they called. But they call for nothing because they don’t offer anything. It’s kind of weird. I was confused a little bit. During the season a lot of times Sandy (Alderson) said, ‘We want Jose’ and stuff like that. I expect they’d at least call and say, ‘We’re still working on some things so we’re going to get to you guys.’ That never happened.”

Do you feel badly leaving David Wright behind in what may be a difficult situation to win?

“I don’t want to say I feel bad. They still have some good talent there on the team. I wish all the best to David. I think if he’s healthy this year he’s going to do what he did in the past. I don’t worry about David because he’s a guy who is working hard a lot. I know I’m going to miss him, because I play all my career with him beside me. But it was time for me to move on.”

The hair was to be cut?

“That’s the rule that they have.”

What about making only one postseason appearance with the Mets?

“It is disappointing because you play this game to win. A couple of times we had very good teams over the years and we weren’t able to do anything. I feel sorry from that part because we weren’t able to bring a championship to Queens.”

If the money was similar, would you have picked Mets?

“That’s too late to think about that.”

Are you still going to hear those “Jose, Jose” chants at Citi Field?

“I don’t know, to be honest with you. I don’t know. But, like I say, I show a lot of love to the fans. They show a lot of love to me too and they support me. They know that I’m going to play for another team. So I don’t know how their reaction is going to be. But I’m going to still love them. Whatever it is it is. But I’m going to play for another team now.”

Was it hard to walk away from only team you ever knew?

“I don’t want to say easy, but I’m on another team now. I’m past that place. … It’s never easy, because like I said, I spent all my life playing in New York. So it’s not an easy decision. But what can I do? They didn’t show anything. And Miami, they were there from the beginning for me. With the good plan that they have, I have to make my decision there.”

Several observations on what Reyes had to say:

1) Reyes made it clear he didn’t want to negotiate during the season, but he’s making it sound as if the Mets did nothing. They simply respected his request.

2) He’s right. There’s no reason he should worry about things if the Mets didn’t make a formal offer. Reyes, however, did understand the parameters the Mets were operating from. To say he was oblivious to what the Mets would offer is not accurate.

3) It was uneasy to hear him say, “I show a lot of love to the fans.” Isn’t this is the same guy who pulled himself from the game in the season finale to sit on his batting average? Not much love there.

4) “I’m past that place.” Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

5) “This is a business and I have to move on.” Truer words were never spoken.

By the way, great line by Sandy Alderson when asked if he should have shown more love to Reyes, said: “If you’re asking me if I should have sent him a box of chocolates, perhaps I should have done that.”

 

Nov 10

Have resigned myself to Reyes leaving.

Let’s face it, Ruben Tejada isn’t as good as Jose Reyes. Then again, Reyes is far from a lot of the great shortstops who have played this game. Replacing Reyes isn’t like Mike Bordick replacing Cal Ripken.

Reyes is a very good player, but there have always been obstacles that prevented him from being great. He gets injured, he loses focus, there are times he loafs, his on-base percentage could be better.

Reyes, who makes his living with his legs, was a non-entity on the bases after coming off the disabled list. He was playing to protect himself so he could win his precious batting title and preserve himself for the free-agent market.

There’s always been a twinge of selfishness about Reyes that gets ignored by his endearing smile. The feeling projected is he’ll take the best offer because this is about money. Sure, he wants to stay in New York, but that’s only if the Mets pony up the most.

While Reyes wants the most possible, the Mets will lowball him. There will be some team out there willing to give Reyes the years and a contract north of $100 million. If he can get that, more power to him.

But, it won’t be the Mets. And, considering their position it shouldn’t be the Mets. Sometimes cutting ties is difficult, but it needs to be done. I’m at peace with Reyes wearing another uniform.

Oct 14

Examining the market for Reyes.

In examining the potential market for Jose Reyes, we must first realize there are no concrete numbers. There’s “Carl Crawford Money,” as Fred Wilpon so eloquently called it. The $142 million over seven years given the Boston outfielder is the fuel behind speculation of Reyes’ reported quest of $100-plus million over seven years.

But, it is 0nly speculation, and we won’t have a frame of reference before the first offer is made and Reyes’ camp presents a counter. Until then, every number – including mine – is only an opinion. Reyes’ agent has not publicly stated any contractual demands.

What we do know is few teams can afford a $100 million contract, so the pool is pretty shallow.

So, let’s take a look at some of the teams reportedly in the mix for Reyes, their needs and what might be holding them back.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Boston: The Red Sox are a franchise in turmoil and realize they must do something dramatic to win back their emotional fan base. They have a need for a shortstop, leadoff hitter – Crawford doesn’t prefer that role – and, of course, to keep pace with the Yankees. They have the resources, even though they are burdened with several huge contracts, notably Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett. Plus, they’ll have to pay Jacoby Ellsbury in arbitration.

However, change should take money off the books in the form of David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and J.D. Drew.

The Red Sox are not a stagnant organization. They made overtures for Reyes before and will likely do so again.

New York: As a matter of course, you have to list the Yankees because, well, afterall they are the Yankees. We know they have the money and could have even more of it if they don’t retain C.C. Sabathia.

However, pitching is their priority, and if they don’t bring back Sabathia they will throw it at C.J. Wilson or a cast of thousands.

The obstacles in signing Reyes will be in getting Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez – both with huge contracts and egos – to change their positions. That won’t happen. Jeter will not give up shortstop to move to third, even though Rodriguez will get more and more DH at-bats, especially with Jorge Posada not coming back.

A wild thought is would Reyes be willing to come to the Yankees to play the outfield? I don’t think he’ll do it, but what if the money was too good?

Just a thought.

Anaheim: Owner Arte Moreno has the money and shown to be a progressive owner. The team missed the playoffs the last two years and he’s not one to sit tight.

First things first, the Angels need to name a general manager, who’ll decide the team’s identity. One thing for sure, Reyes is better than Erick Aybar.

Chicago: I wouldn’t label the White Sox serious contenders, but with new manager Robin Ventura they are a team in transition. As a large market team needing to compete with the Cubs, they can’t be overlooked as they have g0ne after high profile players before.

Their current shortstop Alexei Ramirez tailed off last season, but has enough of a track record to where there isn’t a compelling need to move him.

The White Sox have several decisions to make, including pitcher Mark Buehrle, but I can see Reyes’ camp approaching them, if for no other reason to widen the pool.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Mets: We’ll see how serious the Mets are about Reyes when they have their exclusive negotiating window following the World Series. They say they’d like to keep him and have the money, but at the same time GM Sandy Alderson is talking about shaving $30 million off the payroll.

Alderson said the Mets would like to keep Reyes, he didn’t say they want to keep him, and there’s a difference. There seems to be so sense of urgency from the Mets on Reyes. That indifference could push him out the door.

When you big picture things, the Mets haven’t won with Reyes, and with their current financial situation might be better off using that money to fix several other holes.

Philadelphia: Shane Victorino will have to just accept Reyes. The Phillies, if they lose Jimmy Rollins, should come after Reyes hard. Ryan Howard’s injury would make it more compelling to add offense.

Remember when Andy Pettitte said he wouldn’t sign with the Red Sox because they are the Red Sox and he would always be a Yankee at heart? Nope. Reyes doesn’t have those feelings.

Philadelphia has the money and certainly doesn’t want to waste all that pitching with a stagnant offense. The Phillies will be players in this.

Milwaukee: Reyes has a supporter in Ryan Braun, and the Brewers seem resigned to have Prince Fielder leaving. If the Brewers lose in the playoffs, then have Fielder bolt, they’ll have to do something to keep the fan base.

Normally, you don’t think of the Brewers as a spending team, but things have changed with Miller Park and the franchise, while not crazy, is a little more liberal than it had been.

St. Louis: I have seen the Cardinals mentioned several times, but I don’t see the fit. St. Louis is committed in re-signing Albert Pujols, which is one reason they threw a lot of money at Matt Holliday.

Tony La Russa might be just the manager to get Reyes to reach his potential, but the Cardinals aren’t likely to add a third $100-plus million package.

Chicago: We know the Cubs have the money and a new regime, but they also have an excellent shortstop in Starlin Castro and their eyes on Fielder.

It won’t happen here.

San Francisco: Reportedly, the Giants don’t have, or want, to spend the money on what it would take to get Reyes, but I’m not buying it. There’s a sense of urgency for the Giants to return to the playoffs after winning the World Series in 2010.

They definitely have the pitching to take them there, but are lacking offense. Maybe, they’ll re-sign Carlos Beltran, but their need is a shortstop and speed. Reyes will still be a triples machine in that park.

Over the next couple of seasons, the Giants will have several contracts off the books, including Barry Zito’s in two years (no way will he get the innings for his option to be picked up in 2014).

Los Angeles: This is a team in worse financial straits than the Mets. Small wonder Joe Torre left.

 

Oct 13

What will be Mets’ splash?

Let’s not kid ourselves, the Mets won’t be players for any of the big-ticket free agents, perhaps even their own in Jose Reyes. The top pitching free agent is the Rangers’ CJ Wilson, whom the Yankees have their sights on and don’t we already know which New York team he’d choose? It’s always that way, isn’t it?

The Mets say they have the resources, but even after positive news on the legal-financial front, there’s been nothing from GM Sandy Alderson saying they’ll spend. He said they have the money to compete for Reyes, but to add little else, and with a myriad of needs and David Wright’s contract to be an issue soon, there’s not much light ahead.

It’s not comforting when the outfield dimensions and the search for a bench coach is what appears to be what passes for off-season news. On one hand, there’s a sense of comfort Alderson being up-front in pretty much saying “don’t expect much,” but on the other there’s uneasiness in knowing that’s where the Mets stand.

What we do know is the Phillies will be angry and will spend as they always do; Atlanta is always trying to improve; the Marlins will spend to try to make a splash heading into their new stadium; and the Nationals have shown a willingness to write checks.

The Mets? Well, they said they want to cut payroll by as much as $30 million. Kind of makes you want to run out and buy season-tickets now, right?