May 15

Terry Collins Spins Into Damage Control

Terry Collins is a smart guy who made some pretty out-of-bounds comments Monday night. Some might even call them stupid.

COLLINS: Spins into damage control.

COLLINS: Spins into damage control.

I leaned in that direction when I came down on Collins for ripping the fans in his response to a question on if the Mets were leaving Jordany Valdespin out to dry after his actions last weekend.

“I don’t answer to fans,’’ Collins said reporters in St. Louis. “They don’t play this game. They have no idea what goes on. They have no idea what goes on in there. They have absolutely no idea what it means to be a professional teammate at this level.’’

Collins also went on to say he didn’t care about the perception of the Valdespin incident, ranging from the player celebrating his meaningless home run in a blowout loss, to the manager anticipating the payback plunking, to the player’s dugout tantrum.

There’s no mistaking what Collins meant, but it should be noted this could have been alleviated had he danced around the question and later vented his true feelings in an off-the-record session with the New York traveling media. Had he done so, Collins’ comments wouldn’t have left his Busch Stadium office.

Speaking on WFAN this afternoon, Collins was in full damage control, saying: “The New York fans are maybe the most knowledgeable fans that I’ve ever been around.

“When the question was asked, it pretty much was … Look, as much as I respect everybody’s opinions, it’s my opinion that counts and what’s best for this club. I can’t be influenced by outside people who aren’t here, and that’s pretty much all I meant. Certainly I misused the words. I shouldn’t have said ‘fans.’ I should have just said ‘people.’ ’’

However, what are fans, if not people?

Collins might have meant fans and media lumped together when he said “people,’’ but either way, why take on a foe when you don’t have to?

If you want to give Collins benefit of doubt, which I don’t have a problem with, you have to recognize his frustration and the pressure he’s under. His is not an easy job, made harder by the cards Sandy Alderson dealt him. We can go on item-by-item of all Collins doesn’t have to work with, and then add the headache that is Valdespin.

To understand fully what Collins is dealing with, you have to hear what Valdespin said last night. Valdespin was sent up to pinch-hit in another blowout loss. After taking a couple of pitches, he stepped out of the batter’s box and took a deep breath.

When asked after the game what he was thinking about, Valdespin said what he would do if he hit a homer.

Yeah, after hearing that, I’m willing to give Collins a pass on Monday’s comments. He deserves it for having to deal with Valdespin.

May 14

Mets Wrap: Routed By Cardinals

As the Knicks were getting pasted in Indianapolis, the Mets did their part to put New York sports fans in a gloomy mood in tonight’s 10-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the Mets’ fifth straight loss to drop them to eight games under .500. Since Jordany Valdespin’s tenth-inning grand slam, April 24, beat the Dodgers to go to 10-9, the Mets have gone 4-13.

GEE: Ripped by Cards.

GEE: Ripped by Cards.

ON THE MOUND: The Mets needed innings from Dillon Gee, or more to the point, effective innings. Instead, the Cardinals got to him for six runs through three innings. … Robert Carson gave up a three-run homer to Carlos Beltran. He also gave up a homer to John Jay.

AT THE PLATE: So much for the decision to go with Ike Davis and Lucas Duda back-to-back in the batting order. Terry Collins attributed his move to the match-up against John Gast, who was making his first start. Didn’t he know Gast would be pitching tonight? More importantly, this juggling of Davis – because of an unproven pitcher such as Gast – speaks loudly of Collins’ confidence in Davis. … John Buck prevented total embarrassment with a RBI single. … Marlon Byrd hit a two-run homer.

WHEELER INJURED: Zack Wheeler will come to New York to have his right clavicle examined. After three straight strong starts, Wheeler complained of soreness in the area. He’s expected to miss at least one start.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6: Homers given up by Carson in 8.1 innings.

THEY SAID IT: “We’ve gone through a bad streak and it’s two weeks long. … We have to play better. We have to coach better. We have to manage better.’’ – Collins on this miserable stretch.

ON DECK: Shaun Marcum (0-3) will start against Shelby Miller (5-2) on Wednesday.

 

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Apr 17

Classy Gesture By Yankees

Give the Yankees credit, when they want to put on a show few do it better.

CLASSY GESTURE

CLASSY GESTURE

There was a moment of silence prior to the game – also one for former Giants player Pat Summerall – but a note of peace and unity on the scoreboard in honor of those killed and injured in Monday’s terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon.

It has become a cliche in troubled times to say tragedy goes beyond the rivalry, but it is true. Just as Boston and the nation supported New York after the September 11 attacks, the nation and New York has come to give its emotional support to Boston.

I flipped over to the Yankees game last night because I wanted to hear the Fenway Park anthem “Sweet Caroline,” sung at Yankee Stadium. Normally, it would sound out of place, as it did when the Mets played it several years ago. But last night, it felt normal, if not right. It was a great gesture that only could have worked at Yankee Stadium because of the nature of that rivalry.

It was heartwarming to hear and read about the reactions of Bostonians to “Sweet Caroline,” last night. It brought a good feeling while bad emotions were swirling.

Apr 16

Reflections Before Mets Play In The Snow

Just because the Mets haven’t played since Saturday, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to talk about in baseball and the sporting world.

Supporting Boston …

Who isn’t disgusted with what happened yesterday at the Boston Marathon? I’ve had my computer bag searched so many times I’ve lost track. Deep down I couldn’t believe the cowards would attack a sporting event. That’s changed, and as with the travel industry, probably forever.

TRAGEDY IN BOSTON (Tweet from Evan Hill)

TRAGEDY IN BOSTON (Tweet from Evan Hill)

Many Boston athletes announced prayers, good wishes and an intent to donate money almost immediately. That’s not surprising, because for all the heat athletes get for operating in a vacuum, most of them are very aware, and willing, to donate their efforts to the communities in which they play.

Among my first thoughts in watching the horrible video, were flashbacks to September 11. I was covering the Yankees at the time and remember how they and the Mets responded.

I remember a sign in Chicago that simply read: “Hate the Yankees, but love New York.’’ I also remember Bobby Valentine managing relief efforts in the parking lot at Shea Stadium.

Of course, who doesn’t remember Mike Piazza’s homer against the Braves in the first sporting event in New York after the attacks.

Boston supported New York after 9/11, and New York should do the same for Boston. Donate blood to the Red Cross earmarked for Boston. Wear a Celtics T-Shirt and Red Sox some time this week, which is a simple acknowledgement of what our fellow Americans are experiencing.

Root against the Red Sox, but love Boston. It is a tremendous city.

Go after Alex Rodriguez

Mets fans should be grateful their team didn’t sign Rodriguez after the 2000 season. They should be happy he is the Yankees’ problem.

Rodriguez admitted using steroids, but only for a three-year period in Texas. That was difficult to believe then, and impossible now.

To me, that Rodriguez attempted to buy the documents from Biogenesis containing his name is as damning as a positive test.

Ryan Braun got off on a technicality and Major League Baseball was embarrassed and has come across as vindictive. Enter Biogenesis, which also has Braun’s name, and an ugly scenario has unfolded.

If Major League Baseball is serious about cleaning up its PED problem, it has to be doubly cautious as to not get stung on a technicality again. And, if they have the evidence, they need to go after him hard.

For the money MLB has made, Bud Selig’s legacy is the steroid scandal. The cheaters are being snubbed at the Hall of Fame entrance, but MLB needs to place an asterisk next the names of the cheaters in the record books.

Doing that, plus working with the Players Association on more severe punishment is a start. That is, if it is really serious.

Eight games not enough …

A common complaint of umpires is not taking into consideration the game circumstances when ejecting pitchers and managers after bean ball incidents.

That should also apply to players in meting out suspensions after rushing the mall.

First of all, Zack Greinke was not throwing at Carlos Quentin last week. Quentin has a tendency of leaning out over the plate and will get plunked. A pitcher does not throw at a hitter on a 3-and-2 count in a close game.

No way was Greinke throwing at Quentin. At least, no one with a sense of an understanding of the game, which Quentin obviously does not. Eight games is not nearly enough. His suspension should last as long as Greinke is injured an unable to pitch.

The weather outside is frightful …

It is currently 34 degrees in Denver with a wind chill of 25. There is a 50 percent chance of rain and 30 percent chance of snow for tonight.

Yet, they will attempt to play the summer game.

There is no way Major League Baseball could have forecast the severity of this weather in Denver, but it should have been aware of the likelihood of it being nasty.

A point I brought up last week bears repeating, and that is April should be reserved for divisional play where make up games can be easily rescheduled as part of double-headers later in the season.

Non-divisional games, like the Yankees in Cleveland and the Mets this week, and interleague games such as the Mets in Denver, is pushing the envelope in the wrong direction.

Apr 04

Dillon Gee’s Comeback One Of The Good Stories

The cold didn’t bother Matt Harvey last night, but the Mets will pay close attention this afternoon to Dillon Gee if the temperatures drop during his start against the San Diego Padres.

In the quest of rooting for good stories, Gee is up there in his attempt to come back from emergency surgery to repair a blocked artery in his shoulder that caused his right hand to go numb. Simply, you can’t throw if you can’t feel the ball.

GEE: Takes a big step today.

GEE: Takes a big step today.

“I’ve had no setbacks, zero,’’ said Gee during spring training, where the temperatures were thirty degrees higher than the mid-40s expected today in New York, where the Mets go for a sweep of their season-opening three-game series.

Gee will throw his first major league pitch since undergoing surgery at last year’s All-Star break. He had many of his fears quelled because he was able to throw last September.

“I didn’t want to spend the off-season wondering if I could throw again,” Gee said. “It took a lot off my mind.”

The feeling returned to Gee’s hand, but today will be the coolest weather in which he’s had to pitch. In preparation, Gee is on nitroglycerin tablets to expand the blood vessels and maintain circulation. Command will be the issue if the cold makes it difficult for him to grip the ball.

“I think I’ll be fine,’’ Gee said. “It hasn’t been an issue.’’

Gee will attempt to give the Mets their third straight strong starting effort, following Jon Niese in the opener and Harvey’s 10-strikeout performance last night.

His start is part of the progression that began when he was drafted in the 21st round of the 2007 draft. His first work was out of the bullpen, but by the end of his first season with Single-A Brooklyn he was starting and had a 3-1 record with a 2.28 ERA. Gee moved up to Double-A in 2008 and Triple-A in 2009, but that year ended not with a September call-up by the Mets, but with a torn labrum in his shoulder.

Gee returned strong in 2010 and was brought up by the Mets to make his debut, Sept. 7, and was brilliant in taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He eventually gave up a run on two hits. Gee stayed in the rotation and finished 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA in five starts. That first impression wasn’t a fluke as he won his first seven decisions in 2011, and finished at 13-6 with a 4.43 ERA and firmly entrenched in the rotation.

Gee doesn’t have the physical make-up of Harvey or Zack Wheeler, but the Mets like his poise and resiliency. He doesn’t get rattled when things go wrong, as they did in 2012 when he was hit hard and often to have a 5.65 ERA in his first seven starts.

The clot in his shoulder didn’t appear to be the cause of his problems as he rebounded with nine-strikeout games against San Diego and Baltimore and improved to 6-7 at the break. He was supposed to open the second half against Atlanta, but it never happened because he complained of numbness in his arm.

Then came the wonder if he’d ever pitch again. Now there’s no pain, no numbness. Just anticipation.