May 02

Mets win, NY wins, US wins.

I woke up around 6 , turned on the TV and he was still dead.

The flag endures.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and it will be one of those moments that  you’ll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. For those who learned on ESPN last night, it was reminiscent of hearing John Lennon was murdered while watching Monday Football.

I was home channel surfing when I heard. I called a few friends and became mesmerized by the images on the screen. Just like when watching the Japan earthquake, Katrina, Columbine, and, of course, September 11. There is no script to history. It just relentless attacks us and grabs us by the scruff of the neck and shakes. It shook me to about 4 in the morning.

Flipping back to the Mets game, where it was tied in the ninth, 1-1 — 9-1-1. You don’t find irony or symbolism like that too often. It was  inspiring to hear the crowd spontaneously chanting, U-S-A, U-S-A. Sometimes the chant sounds forced and cliche. Not last night.

“I don’t like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit. But they got this one right,” said David Wright when asked about the chanting.

Yes, the Mets won, but the crowd reaction is what we’ll remember and take with us, much as we do the images of that day.

I was covering the Yankees at the time and took the weekend off to move to New York from Maryland. I was on the Jersey Turnpike just north of the Philadelphia exit when the planes hit the towers. Because all the bridges were closed what was normally a five-hour trip became 11. My movers were volunteer firefighters. My furniture didn’t arrive for several more days.

That week was spent covering workouts at Yankee Stadium and watching the Shea Stadium parking lot used for a staging ground for the EMS workers. It was inspiring to see Bobby Valentine and his Mets, in uniform, help the workers load trucks.

And, when the games finally resumed, we witnessed one of the most memorable home runs in New York history, Mike Piazza’s drive that beat the Braves. The Mets and Braves were mortal enemies at the time, and their display of unity that night was another memory. It was another example of how sports can be unifying.

So much has happened in the ten years since, and we’ve changed personally and as a nation in so many ways, and for a baseball writer it goes well beyond the joys of traveling, from the pat downs to the long lines to the general uneasiness of strangers.

I live in a small town in Connecticut, and the fallout hits here, too.

What small town doesn’t have a 9-1-1 Memorial? Who among us doesn’t know someone lost in the attacks and the subsequent military actions in the Middle East? The failing economy is a byproduct of that day, and with it the foreclosure signs, layoffs and stress of trying to make ends meet. Who among us doesn’t cringe when filling up our tanks and wonder when things will ever get back to normal.

Or, is this normal?

I hope you’ll share with us what you were doing that day.

Apr 17

Mets stop slide behind Gee, Thole.

Well, you didn’t think they’d lose them all, did you?

GEE: Gives Mets solid start

The Mets snapped their seven-game losing streak this afternoon behind the strong pitching of Dillon Gee and timely hitting of Josh Thole to beat the Braves, 3-2.

Gee was brought up from Triple-A Buffalo and Thole was elevated to second from eighth in the batting order, and for one afternoon at least all seemed right in the Mets’ universe.

Gee had a rough travel day that included his luggage not arriving, so he had to borrow a glove and spikes. He was called up to replace the disabled Chris Young, and given the state of the Mets’ pitching he should get another start Friday in New York against Arizona. Thole will likely stay in the two hole for a while.

One of the interesting things to come out of the day was the news the Mets considered bringing up Jenrry Mejia to start over Gee. Mejia has been pitching well in the minors, but wisely GM Sandy Alderson eschewed the temptation of Mejia’s crackling fastball to allow him to continue to grow on the farm.

Using Mejia for this start would have come across as a panic move and been reminiscent of a decision from the Omar Minaya era. As bad as the Mets have been lately, it’s still only April and way too early to bag their building plans regarding Mejia.

On another positive note, word is Jason Bay is making progress and could be activated from the disabled list Tuesday.

Apr 01

Mets over/under for 2011 and some picks.

In most circles, the Mets are pegged for fourth place in the NL East with roughly 77 victories. Considering their offseason and the issues around the team that seems about right. I’ll throw out a number and you tell me if you’ll take the over/under.

 

Mets victories: 78

Phillies victories: 98

Mets victories over Phillies: 7

Mets victories over Braves: 8

Mike Pelfrey wins: 16

R.A. Dickey wins: 11

Jon Niese wins: 12

Different Mets pitchers to make a start: 11

Francisco Rodriguez game-ending appearances: 50

Rodriguez saves: 25

Ike Davis homers: 21

Games played by Jason Bay: 110

Bay homers: 19

Times Bay will appear on the DL: 2

Games played by Carlos Beltran assuming no trade: 110

Jose Reyes steals: 55

Reyes games with Mets assuming no trade: 145

David Wright homers: 30

Wright strikeouts: 130

Wright RBI: 107

Angel Pagan average: .280

Pagan stolen bases: 30

Jose Thole average: .275

Date we’ll see Johan Santana: Aug. 9

 

My picks:

NL East winner: Phillies

NL Central winner: Reds

NL West winner: Giants

NL wild card: Braves

NL champ: Phillies

Mets finish in NL East: fourth

NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado

NL Cy Young: Matt Cain, San Francisco

 

AL East winner: Boston

AL Central winner: Minnesota

AL West winner: Texas

AL wild-card: New York

AL Champ: Boston

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston

AL Cy Young: CC Sabathia, New York

World Series winner: Boston

Mar 30

Bay to DL; Izzy stays.

Jason Bay returned to New York today to have his strained left rib cage examined and all indications are he’ll be placed on the disabled list. When manager Terry Collins said he’d rather lose Bay for a week rather than a month, how else can you read the tea leaves?

This is not an easy injury from which to recover, and even when he does return there’s no guarantee he’ll hit the ground running. And, he wasn’t exactly stroking the ball with power this spring. So, with Opening Day two days away the Mets have two significant power issues: Not having Bay at the start and concerns about Beltran’s health.

Meanwhile, Jason Isringhausen accepted the Mets’ decision to stay in Florida for an extended spring training. Odds are Isringhausen will be on the 25-man roster soon enough. Isringhausen had a good spring and his experience could be beneficial to a young bullpen.

Oh, a note that should make you crack a smile: The Phillies, who have a hole at second base with Chase Utley injured, waived Luis Castillo today.

 

 

Feb 01

Alderson wants to cut budget in the future

I wrote the other day to not expect the Mets go crazy next winter when the contracts of Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and possibly Francisco Rodriguez come off the books. Sandy Alderson pretty much confirmed that this week.

“Our payroll going into the season will be somewhere between 140 and 150 million [dollars],’’ Alderson said.

Then he drooped the other shoe.

“I think that’s significantly higher than we’d like it to be on an annual basis.’’

Ouch.

With the Phillies’ spending beginning at over $160 million for this season, can the Mets realistically expect to compete if they want to go “significantly,’’ lower?

With Alderson not defining what a significant reduction will be, it doesn’t take a stretch to reason the Mets don’t figure to spend extravagantly in the market, but will use the farm system to develop their team.

Building from within is the preferable way to go, but requires considerable patience and luck. To make it work, as San Francisco did last year, one must also develop pitching and the Mets don’t have any major league ready arms in the near future.

Building from within also requires the willingness to shop the market to patch the holes and in that regard we don’t know of Alderson’s aggressiveness when it comes to pursuing free agents. Even if the Mets slash their budget next year, he’ll still have greater resources than he did in Oakland and San Diego.

When he was hired, Alderson said he understood New York was a different animal and he had act to keep the fan base interested and excited.

So far, we’ve been told to wait. And, we’re hearing it again.