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

Sep 10

What Is The Reason Why You Still Watch The Mets?

Once Zack Lutz became a New York Mets trivia answer, what was the reason to watch Monday night? What is the reason to watch, to listen, to read about the Mets anymore this season? Is the big attraction now to avoid sinking past the season-low 15 games below .500?

If you’re a reader of this, or any other blog, you’re a Mets fan and watch because that’s what you do. I’ve never liked the expression “die hard fan,’’ because it means you eventually give up and die. I also don’t like “long suffering fan,’’ because why would you do anything that makes you suffer? You might as well say “put my hand on a hot stove’’ fan.

BELIEVING

                                                                             BELIEVING

You  might be frustrated and disgusted by watching the Mets lose 9-0 to the Nationals, but it is far better than not having any Mets to watch at all.

October has to be the worst month because there’s baseball, but baseball without the Mets. At least in November there’s the start of the free-agent season, highlighted by the Winter Meetings, which is winter’s World Series.

January? You can see spring training from there, and February, regardless of the wind chill, gives us our first warming taste of summer.

It’s not like a greater force mandated you become a Mets’ fan. In some families you might be born into it, but eventually it becomes your choice to root for the Mets.

You rooted in the beginning when they lost 120 games. You rooted throughout the sixties until you were rewarded by 1969, the year of the Miracle Mets and when man first walked on the moon.

As a Mets’ fan you endured long periods of frustration and lousy ball, but once a decade you were rewarded by the postseason, in 1973, 1986, 1999, 2000 and 2006.

In a commercial David Wright said his greatest thrill was playing October baseball in New York, “that there’s nothing like it.’’

That’s the ultimate reason we watch our team, but there’s a greater, more intimate reason why you’re fascinated, enthralled or even consumed by the Mets. There was one incident, one moment, that made you into a Mets’ fan, win or lose, and lately it has been mostly losing.

If you’re willing to share, I’d be interested to know what was the defining moment, that despite a fifth straight losing season, makes you hang on for news about Bobby Parnell’s and Matt Harvey’s looming surgeries … about Ike Davis‘ situation … about the outfield for next season.

It is why we’d like to see just one more time before the leaves change Wright’s compact swing rip a ball into the gap and him running into second with a stand-up double.

I know that’s why he’s yearning for one more game in the Summer of 2013.

What are the reasons why you still hang on to the summer?

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

Aug 15

Upon Further Review, Instant Replay Still Has Gaps

It is a start. That’s where we can begin to analyze Major League Baseball’s new instant replay format, which now includes giving managers up to three video challenges per game, with the final decision rendered in the MLB offices in New York.

Theoretically, this would eliminate the hat-flinging, dirt-kicking, bat-and-base throwing tantrums that elevated Earl Weaver and Billy Martin to folk status. I will miss those. Go ahead, Google Earl Weaver umpire fights, especially those with Ron Luciano.

There’s some good to the new system, but several shortcomings must be mentioned:

NUMBER OF CHALLENGES

The system calls for only one challenge through the first six innings and two for the remainder of the game, regardless of how long it goes. It was said on one radio call-in show this afternoon the intent is to speed the game along, which should never be the primary reason for anything. The primary goal should always be to get it right.

Why not allow one challenge every three innings, regardless of how long the game lasts? There’s a sense of proportion that way.

Technically, to allow for full integrity to the process, replay challenges should be unlimited, because getting it right is the only true goal. However, in leaving unlimited replays on the table, all it would take is one ANGRY manager to challenge every play.

WHAT IS REVIEWABLE AND WHAT IS NOT?

As of now nothing changed, just home runs. Balls and strikes will never be under challenge, but so many types of plays should be reviewable.

Unlike football, where the action can happen anytime and anywhere on the field, that isn’t the case with baseball. So much of what happens on a baseball field does so at a fixed location, such as the foul lines, bases and home plate and the fences. Even trapped balls in the outfield would seem easier than football, because there’s rarely an obstructed view.

Why not include everything but balls and strikes? Get it right, so there will never be another travesty as the botched infield fly rule play in Atlanta during the NLDS?

Major League Baseball, if it wanted, could readily identify where most of the contested plays are, and why. MLB has stats on everything and can pinpoint what plays created the most disputes, and getting back to the innings issue, where they occurred in the game. That’s why keying the bulk of the challenges in the last three innings is a misnomer.

What the makers of this rule don’t get is things can explode any time.

THE UMPIRE ISSUE

This gets us to the umpires, whose union had to be on board for this to happen. Hopefully, this format will diffuse many of the player-umpire confrontations.

I’ve always maintained each umpire should be wired for sound they can’t control. This way we know who said the words to ignite the argument.

The accusation against many umpires is they don’t care to improve. There’s a perception they can be lazy and confrontational.

Hopefully, this format will prove the umpires are more right than wrong, but that isn’t the current perception.

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

Aug 02

Mets Languish Behind Small Market Royals And Pirates

It wasn’t that long ago when New York Mets’ fans and media criticized the team’s lack of aggressiveness in the free-agent market with the smug comment: “This is New York, we’re not the Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates.’’

The Pirates are in first place in the NL Central and might be the season’s best story, while the Royals take a nine-game hitting streak into this oddly-time interleague series – Kansas City’s first trip to Queens since 2002. If the Mets and Royals were in the same division, they would be 6.5 games better than the Mets. Meanwhile, the Pirates would have a 10.5-game lead on the Mets.

The Royals are doing it with great defense, timely hitting sprinkled in amongst a few stars.

Also interesting is left fielder Alex Gordon, who switched from third base and has won a couple of Gold Gloves. My first through was if Gordon can switch position and become solid player, if not a star, then what about Wilmer Flores?

Flores’ roots are at shortstop, a position requiring athletic ability. I don’t know where he fits in, but he hits too much to languish in the minor leagues. Omar Quintanilla has cooled and the organization is far from enamored with Ruben Tejada, so, what’s the harm in trying?

When a player switches positions, it is always easier to move from infield to outfield, than the other way around.

OFFENSE STAGNANT: The Mets limp home from their 3-5 trip no doubt aggravated it could have been 7-1 with some timely hitting – or any hitting at all, for that matter.

The Mets scored 11 against the Nationals in the first game of the trip, but only 15 over the next seven games. Four times they scored only one run or were shutout.

“We don’t drive runs in. There’s no secret,’’ Terry Collins said as the Mets packed up to return home. “If I knew what it was, we’d fix it. Guys don’t drive them in. We’re not driving them in. That’s pretty much the basic line.’’

Collins then went on to say something totally confusing, saying: “There’s nothing wrong with the approach. We’re just not taking good swings on the pitches we can hit.’’

Here’s a bulletin for Collins: They are missing those pitches because the approach is off, whether it be mechanical or mental. Something is not clicking.

It isn’t for Ike Davis, who only had five hits on the trip and stranded six runners Thursday. He’s hitting better than he was prior to going down to Las Vegas, but largely remains unproductive.

WRIGHT HAS TIGHT HAMMY: David Wright has been playing with tightness in his right hamstring. Collins said Wright understands himself better than anybody, but Collins needs to understand him, too.

Wright would try to play if he had an arrow shot through his thigh. This is a man who played nearly a month with a fracture in his lower back.

Wright said he can play, invoking the standard player cliché, that if this were the playoffs it wouldn’t be an issue. But, these aren’t the playoffs.

To risk losing Wright for several weeks or longer if he blows out his hamstring is just plan stupid. Sit him for a couple of games to be sure.

SIX-MAN ROTATION IN JEOPARDY: You knew the Mets weren’t going to go long with a six-man rotation cycle.

Jonathan Niese threw four shutout innings Thursday and said he needs on more start. When he’s ready they certainly won’t go to seven.

Carlos Torres is likely to move to the bullpen.

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

Aug 01

What Zack Wheeler Brings To Mets

MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta BravesZack Wheeler proved why he has the potential to transform the New York Mets into legitimate contenders this week after a sterling pitching performance that saw him take a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Marlins.

The 23-year-old has flashed much of the raw ability and plus offerings that have made him one of the top right-handed pitching prospects in the game three years running.

As the Mets move closer to becoming a perennial contender built on a foundation of formidable starting pitching, MLB betting fans look to operators like casino tropez online to find the betting odds for the Mets improving much as their fortunes are.

Wheeler is still trying to find consistency within his delivery, but continues to work with pitching coach Dan Warthen after every start as he strives to refine his delivery.

“I just have to figure out my motion,” Wheeler said. “It’s about finding a motion that works for me.”

The key for the young righty will be consistency, and in his last start he delivered perhaps his best and most dominating performance since his promotion. He continues to evolve and as he gets better, so do the betting odds for the Mets.

The Mets can already see the bright futures that await Wheeler and his teammate and ace pitcher Matt Harvey. The two of them have invoked memories of past Mets 1-2 punches like Seaver and Koosman and Gooden and Darling.

The scouts and talent evaluators all agree that the Mets are on the verge of something special. To that end the Mets will play it safe and ensure that they do not overwork their prized young pitchers.

Both of them will have less than ten starts left to the season and their innings pitched will be monitored closely.

They will be protecting their investment by going to a six-man rotation, even if it means playing with a short bench. It’s a risk worth taking and the rewards could come as soon as the 2014 season.