May 08

Josh Thole Injury Tempers Win

Not to be lost in the excitement of the Mets’ come-from-behind victory last night on Jordany Valdespin’s pinch three-run homer is the injury to catcher Josh Thole that could keep him out for at least one week.

THOLE: After collision. (Getty)

Thole, involved in a collision at home plate with former Met Ty Wigginton, complained of headaches and dizziness and returned to New York today to be examined for a possible concussion. Thole has a history of concussions, having sustained one in June of 2010 while at Triple-A Buffalo when he was hit in the head on a backswing.

In all probability, the Mets will place Thole on the seven-day disabled list – new for players suspected of concussions – and bring up a catcher from Buffalo, perhaps Rob Johnson, who once caught R.A. Dickey when both were with Seattle.

Major League Baseball, like other professional sports, are taking the issue of concussions more seriously. The multi-million dollar lawsuit by former players against the NFL has caught everybody’s attention.

The Mets should be more cautious than most with concussions for their handling of Ryan Church’s concussion several years ago. Injured trying to break up a double play in Atlanta, Church flew to Denver after that series. He played sporadically for several weeks before the team finally placed him on the disabled list.

Not surprisingly, the Mets caught considerable flack for their handling of Church, although the outfielder never publicly criticized the team at first and said he was all right to play.

The Church incident was poorly handled by all parties, from the Mets for not being more cautious and simply taking the word of the player initially, to Church for trying to play through the injury, and Church’s agent, for not suggesting, and then arranging, a second medical opinion after the injury.

While the Church injury didn’t occur long ago – it was during Willie Randolph’s tenure as manager – professional sports have since made radical changes in how head injuries are handled.

 

 

 

Apr 26

Mets Lineup For April 26 Against Marlins

I’ve always loved day games during the week, especially when the Mets were on the road because it enabled me to explore a city, check out a restaurant, and in the case of a getaway game, catch a flight to the next city.

The Mets scheduled today’s game in the afternoon not so New York fans could watch the NFL draft, but so they could fly to Denver and check into their hotel at a decent time.

I’ve always thought every getaway game should be in the afternoon so teams could be fresh for the next series. I wonder how many times a team might have lost because their players were dragging from flying all night.

The Mets are looking to sweep the Marlins this afternoon behind Jon Niese. Here’s his support:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf
Ruben Tejada, ss
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Lucas Duda, rf
Ike Davis, 1b
Josh Thole, c
Jordany Valdespin, lf
Jon Niese, lhp

LINEUP COMMENTS: Ike Davis will move up to sixth in the batting order, but that has more to do with Jordany Valdespin playing left. With Jason Bay out Terry Collins will juggle that position. When Andres Torres returns presumably sometime next week, I would think Kirk Nieuwenhuis will play left field and stay at the top of the order. He’s done nothing to warrant a demotion to the minors or a drop in the batting order.

Mar 28

Traditions keep slip sliding away

One by one the traditions of the sport fade and disappear. Some, like all day games, travel by train and fielders leaving their gloves in the field after each inning naturally became outdated and obsolete, and no longer create a sense of longing.

Others, such as interleague play, day baseball during the World Series, alignment  and the designated hitter can still strike a chord and to some remain hot-button issues.

I was reminded today of another of baseball’s passing traditions, and that is Opening Day. The first game of the season was always played in Cincinnati, then Washington. That’s the way it was for decades. I’ll always remember the President of the United States throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the season.

For one day each spring, the sporting world belonged to baseball and Opening Day. The NCAA Tournament had passed and the NFL draft was weeks away. The NBA and NHL were playing out there seasons, but for one day in early April it was nothing but baseball.

The sport was center stage with no competition.

However, Major League Baseball, in its marketing greed has given that away. Now, the real opening day belongs to the NFL, with a Thursday night national game and the rest of the schedule on Sunday.

Not so baseball anymore. It gave up its spot on center stage when it opted to open in late March with games in Japan. I don’t care if a team wants to go over there during spring training, or even play a series during the season, but Opening Day?

After your fans have been waiting all winter for the renewal of the new season, the first games are played half-way across the world. Even more ridiculous, is that regular season games are played the same time spring training games are still in session.

Why doesn’t Major League Baseball reclaim center stage by making Opening Day on the Tuesday after the NCAA title game, or perhaps the Sunday after the Final Four. And, play the games in the United States.

Baseball still claims itself our national pasttime, but it makes for a weak argument when it plays Opening Day on the other side of the ocean.

 

Nov 30

Mets seeking closer.

If the Mets believed Jonathan Broxton’s $4-million contract was too pricey, what makes them think they’ll find anybody proven for much less?

Free agents, like NFL draft choices, get slotted salaries. That Broxton, who was injured, got that much, what will Brad Lidge and Matt Capps want? Frank Francisco and Octavio Dotel remain on the board, but the Mets aren’t exactly stepping up.

I didn’t expect the Mets to be active this winter, but I am wondering more that in waiting for Jose Reyes they are letting the opportunity to fill other holes slip away.

 

Joe Nathan, who had expressed a willingness to play for the Mets, signed last week with Texas. Many options remain, including Brad Lidge, Matt Capps, Frank Francisco and, as MLB.com reported, ex-Met Octavio Dotel, among others.

Oct 24

Real baseball fans are watching … just not enough of them.

The ratings for this World Series, which has been compelling, are down but should pick up by Game 6, which is a certainty. I’m betting on a Game 7, the game’s ultimate gem.

But, that’s not enough for Maj0r League Baseball because the East Coast giants aren’t involved. With MLB’s penchant for panic and knee jerk reaction, I am beginning to wonder what the response will be.

Tinkering has already done damage to the credibility of the regular season. With interleague play and the unbalanced schedule, not every team runs the same race to October, which had been a constant for nearly a century. I guess 100 years of a good thing is not enough.

Major League Baseball is seriously considering expanding the playoffs to create interest in more cities and to add extra gates. Another round in the postseason turns baseball into the NFL, the NBA and NHL, which rewards mediocrity.

What had been unique to baseball – and valuable to the sport’s identity – was the difficulty in getting to the postseason. Every team facing the same obstacles gave value and integrity to the regular season. That has  been diluted.

It’s now a crapshoot where just about anybody can get in, and this year we have two teams that play the sport correctly, but don’t attract a national audience. What MLB wants is for the playoffs to be expanded, but in the end have the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Dodgers somehow involved.

It doesn’t work that way.

Ratings are down for a variety of reasons, beginning with conflicts from the NFL and college football, and so many other viewer options on cable and satellite. At one time, even when the Series started being played at night, baseball was the popular choice.

It’s not that way anymore.

For years, MLB operated in a fashion to discourage growth from a young fan base by scheduling the playoffs later in primetime and its regular season pricing for tickets. It is more inconvenient for a young fan base – and also for the older fans who long supported the sport – to follow baseball. Those in their 70s and 80s who watched games in Ebbets Field and in dozens of parks that no longer exist, can’t afford tickets and don’t stay up as late. They have been shut out, just like the youth who are choosing other convenient options.

MLB needs to re-evaluate its marketing strategy to get back the fans who long supported the sport and attract its future fan base. Its not enough to get cities to build new stadiums and ride that enthusiasm, because eventually the thrill fades.

As those of us who are watching can see, it is still a remarkable, attractive sport that when played well is a joy to watch. We should savor what we are seeing and not regret those teams that aren’t here.

MLB could start by starting the games an hour earlier as to not shut out the East Coast in the late innings. Start the telecast at 7:00 p.m., with first pitch a half hour later. I’d rather have a small West Coast following in the first two innings than lose the East at the end of the game where memories are made.

In doing so, MLB would sacrifice money in its TV deals now, but it will pay off in the future, and that’s what’s best for the game.