Sep 25

A hollow feeling

I admit I didn’t watch all 18 innings yesterday, and when I did my mind wandered. It’s that way when what is left of the expense of this season is whether the Mets will finish with a better losing record than last year and if Jose Reyes will say good-bye to New York with a batting title.

That’s why RA Dickey’s flirtation with Mets’ first no-hitter in 7,963 games was fun to watch, but like the playoffs or a winning season I knew it wouldn’t happen. It’s just that way.

As the outs ticked away in the second game – and 2011 – I thought how thrilling it would have been to see a doubleheader sweep of the Phillies in July, or if it meant something.

It’s always fun to speculate on next year and in the coming weeks and months there will be a lot of opportunity for that, but there’s a hollow feeling when you start thinking about next summer when there are still games to be played.

I’m excited about the playoffs, and can’t help but recall the September of 2007 and the Mets’ dramatic collapse when I see what is happening to Boston and Atlanta. There’s a morbid curiosity – like an accident on the highway – in watching a team collapse.

It is also interesting to see what is happening to the Phillies, losers of nine straight. They have the best record in baseball, but it could be hard for them to turn it on for the playoffs. It’s not as if there is a switch to be flipped.

Still, it is a better feeling than the end of this Mets’ season, when the expectations are low and there’s an empty sensation to playing meaningless games.

What is also  fruitless is hearing about all those what-might-have-been stories involving discussed offers for Reyes. Now, it is Tampa Bay that supposedly offered a bunch of prospects. What prospects? Well, we don’t know that.

What we do know is Tampa Bay is one of several teams that made overtures for Reyes. So, did San Francisco, St. Louis and Boston. Surely, there were others. Teams talk to each other all the time, so to hear the Rays called Alderson is not surprising.

And, there probably not too many, if any, surprises left to this season.

Sep 13

Hat flap issue; everybody loses.

The fallout from the 9-11 hat flap was disturbing on several levels, beginning with MLB’s inane policy to forbid the Mets and Yankees from wearing them during their games Sunday.

Joe Torre, VP of operations for MLB, said it was a decision to be uniform throughout the sport that day with teams wearing caps with the flag emblem. But, why deny the Mets, Yankees and Nationals, teams hit personally by the tragedy?

No good reason. MLB being MLB, I guess.

That Commissioner Bud Selig is reportedly angry at the Mets for making this public indicates his embarrassment over the issue, and he’s that way because he knew he blew it. How could he, or anybody else with MLB, not forecasted this would have been an issue in New York?

MLB’s offices are in Manhattan. Didn’t anybody stick their head out a window last week to get a feel for things? Why do you think MLB had the Mets and Cubs on that night? Like ESPN, they wanted to country to look in that day at New York. It’s why the Cowboys at the Jets was the NFL prime game.  Get those ratings up, baby.

If the Yankees had been home to Kansas City that night, that would have been the game. If the Giants were home instead of the Jets, they would have been the attraction. This isn’t all that hard to figure out.

Obviously, they weren’t paying attention when the NFL backed down late last week to public opinion on players wearing gloves and shoes in support of 9-11. By the way, coaches and players for the Giants, Redskins, Jets and Cowboys all wore caps honoring first responders on the sidelines.

That this issue was still the focus last night says this is, and always will be, a hot button issue for MLB.

Now, we’re speculating all sorts of things that continue to put the Mets and MLB in a bad light. Did the Mets back down because of their financial issues and the loan they received from MLB? Was this decision made because MLB could market their US flag caps?

Maybe none of those are issues, but it can’t escape speculation.

Lastly, Terry Collins admitted the hat flap was a distraction last night. Tonight, the pregame questions of the players will be centered on was last night really a distraction? So, because of an anal decision by MLB, this  turns into two or three-day story.

Personally, I can’t believe he would have the nerve to pin the loss on that issue as a distraction. As an athlete, they have to disregard such nonsense. Collins was making an excuse.

The Mets lost last night because they couldn’t field or hit the ball and wasted another quality start by RA Dickey.

 

Sep 12

Reflecting ….

While September 11 meaning different things to different people, to everyone it was a day of reflection. So, I reflected.

The documentary detailed the times when the terrorists checked in for their flights, about the same time I was hitting the road outside Washington D.C., for New York, following the moving van with my furniture and belongings.

I was covering the Yankees at the time after a long stretch on the Orioles and was moving to Connecticut.

Ten years later, I am still mesmerized by the ungodly sight of the planes ripping into the World Trade Center and the buildings that were supposed to last forever crumbling into dust.

I was on the New Jersey Turnpike when I heard the news. My cell rang shortly after and it was the movers, who were also volunteer NY firemen. They had to leave my stuff at a rest stop and try to make it into the city. I knew they didn’t have much time to reach the George Washington Bridge. By this time, it was evident this was no accident and the airports around the country, as well as the major bridges into New York would be closed.

With the bridges blocked I had to keep driving north before back tracking into Connecticut. What was normally a little over four hours took closer to ten. At one point, I saw a sign with the miles before the Montreal exit.

I listened to the radio the way they used to listen to the news reports during World War II. I didn’t see my first video of the attacks until late the next day when I caught a glimpse on a restaurant television. I could only imagine what they were talking about on the radio.

My thoughts were of rage and anger, and years later those feelings still simmer. They barely diminished with the news of bin Laden’s death. I will never forget, or forgive for what happened. Those who can are better than me.

When baseball resumed, I was in the press box in Baltimore and watched on television when Mike Piazza hit that homer against the Braves. The only other time I saw writers clap in a press box was the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record.

I’ve watched replays dozens of times and get the same chill. Surfing the coverage Sunday I watched a replay of the pre-game ceremonies from that night. Last night’s ceremony didn’t have the same impact – no way it could – but was simple and poignant the same.

The Mets did a tremendous job then and now.

At the time, the Yankees were also magnanimous in their generosity toward the families of the victims, the fire and police. There was never a competition between the teams on which team gave, or grieved, more.

The emotion in the Yankees clubhouse was just as genuine as it was in Shea.

I felt no fear of flying. I didn’t feel inconvenienced at the security gates and those first few flights were a breeze. Many of the planes flew half empty. I didn’t even mind being searched at the ballpark. For the rest of that summer, it was part of the process. Besides, my inconvenience was nothing compared to others.

Although I didn’t lose anybody at the Towers, I knew people who did and grieved for them. I still do.

The Yankees were going to make the playoffs that year. They always did. But, the games didn’t have the same edge as usual. The buzz returned during the playoffs.

I was inspired at the show of patriotism during the World Series, one of the most compelling sporting events I ever covered. Those three games at Yankee Stadium were as exciting as I’ve ever seen. The Yankees were frequently booed on the road, but the edge was off that fall, as if jeering them was a sign of disrespect for New York.

After awhile, I was tired of the “win it for New York,” sentiment and stories. Every day it was the same thing. I enjoyed the break when Yankees fans chanted for Paul O’Neill when he played his last game at the Stadium during that Series. That was really back to baseball for me.

As the years passed and I reflected on this yesterday, I became more jaded and less trusting. In airports, I look at people and wonder who they are and their intentions.

I didn’t lose anybody, but I’ve been impacted, as all of us. The economy has been on a downward spiral the past decade, which can’t be refuted regardless of your affiliations. I support our military, and have been moved at scenes like at the airport in Atlanta several years ago everybody in that lobby stood and cheered when a company of soldiers marched through.

Even so, those years in Iraq drained us to the point of recession, inflation and unemployment. I thought about that yesterday, too, and wondered when it will end.

My life, as has yours, changed over the last decade.

Politically, I might be more jaded, but I do have a sense of appreciation for the fragility of life that might not have previously existed. Maybe it is about getting older, but part of it was acknowledging my feelings after listening to people talk through their tears yesterday.

People who lost more than I.

Sep 08

Today in Mets’ History: Final Ed Kranepool home run.

The first Met I remember as a kid was Ed Kranepool. Maybe it was the way Bob Murphy pronounced his name, I don’t know. Who really knows why things stick in your head when you’re ten years old?

KRANEPOOL: Hit final homer on this date.

My family spent our summer vacations at my grandmother’s house in Pelham, and I watched a lot of Met games. This was before the 1969 season, and they usually lost, often in agonizing fashion.

Kranepool always stood out although he wasn’t a great player. At the time, he was pretty much the best the Mets had to offer.

By 1979, I was following the Mets in the box scores and occasionally the Game of the Week. Growing up near Cleveland, the Indians were on once or twice a week, and I always thought how great it would be to live in New York when the games were on every day.

On this date that season, Kranepool hit the 118th, and final, home run of his career in a 3-2, 15-inning win over Pittsburgh.

Kranepool made his debut as a 17-year old in the Mets’ inaugural 1962 season as a defensive replacement for Gil Hodges, Sept. 22, and the next day started his first game and collected his first hit.

He began the next season splitting time at first base and right field, and was getting more time the following year. In 1965, he gave up his No. 21 to Warren Spahn and began wearing No. 7, and was the Mets’ lone representative in the All-Star Game.

Kranepool was demoted to Tidewater in 1970 and contemplated retirement, but had his best season the following year. He lost his starting job in 1973 to John Milner, and was a platoon player the next two years, and finished his career as a role player/pinch hitter, retiring at 34 in 1979.

After retirement, Kranepool was part of a group that attempted to buy the Mets, but lost out to the Nelson Doubleday-Fred Wilpon group. He worked as a stockbroker after retirement and was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 1990.

KRANEPOOL CAREER

 

Sep 06

Mets’ injury updates

Ike Davis has been working out for Terry Collins while the Mets are in Miami, and will return to New York after this series to be examined by team physicians.

Davis has been saying surgery won’t be needed on his left ankle, and is hoping the Mets’ doctors will confirm his self-diagnosis. Davis is expected to shut it down for the remainder of the season.

The Mets eschewed microfracture surgery over a month ago with the hope the injury would heal with rest and it would not be needed. So far, that gamble has paid off, we won’t know for sure until spring training.

Meanwhile, Johan Santana will throw a bullpen session today and pitch in a minor league playoff game Friday. Santana is hopeful of pitching a couple of innings in a major league game next week.

The Mets aren’t expecting Jon Niese of Scott Hairston to return this season.