Apr 24

What It Would Take For The Mets To Own New York

Here we are again, interleague play for the Mets as they are in the Bronx tonight to face the Yankees, Of course, the papers and Internet are flooded with columns about this is “the time for the Mets to take New York City from the Yankees.”

Time to step up/

Time to step up/

I checked the calendar and didn’t notice such a date; I mean it wasn’t circled like Thanksgiving and Christmas. When you come to think about it, why is this the time? Just because the first-place Mets have ridden an 11-game winning streak into this series?

Using the essence from the phrase, “time to take New York,” no team can ever own this city completely. Mets fans root for the Mets and Yankees fans root for the Yankees. Owning New York isn’t about drawing those straddling the fence, but from winning.

This year shouldn’t be like any other. Both teams are hot, which is fun, but the proof could come in July at the trade deadline. The Mets have stockpiled young pitching which puts them in good position, but recent history tells us they are reluctant to make a big splash after clearing the debts from Johan Santana and Jason Bay.

The Mets could have “owned” New York had it responded differently following the defeat to the Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS, but more importantly, in rebounding from the late season collapses in 2007 and 2008.

The Mets panicked then and unlike the Yankees, couldn’t spend their way out of trouble. That’s the real difference in the two franchises – if it doesn’t work, the Yankees will throw good money after bad. For example, the Mets were handcuffed after Santana was injured.

The Yankees will always be viable because their mission statement is to win. Nothing but a championship satisfies that franchise, and that’s because of George Steinbrenner and now his sons. They currently “own” New York because they’ve won more recently. Not all of their moves have been smart, but they have been bold. When a move must be made the Yankees do something. They will spend the money, because that’s what they do.

The Mets are sizzling. Most of their moves have been successful and they’ve been remarkably resilient in overcoming injuries. The Mets did little last offseason – the acquisitions of Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry Jr. have been positive – but I want to see how they respond when there’s pressure to do something at the deadline.

When they are at the top, or near the top, of the NL East standings, will they prove to us they want to win as much as they say they do? They haven’t in the past.

Terry Collins said rough times will come as they always do in a baseball season, but this team will show no panic. However, when the hours start dwindling at the trade deadline, what will the Mets do? Will they spend? Will they be bold? Will they make a move?

What they do to claim the back pages of the tabloids will determine owning the town.

If they can do those things and continue to win, this could be their summer for being New York’s primary baseball story. The issue of owning the town will be made by ownership and Sandy Alderson.

That’s when we can say the Mets “own” New York City, not from what happens this weekend.

 

 

Mar 05

Today In Mets History: Staub Ends Holdout

On this date in 1973, outfielder Rusty Staub ended a holdout and signed a three-year contract for $100,000 a season.

Staub played nine years with the Mets spanning two stints (1972-75 and 1981-85). He retired after the 1985 season with 2,716 career hits, including 709 with the Mets. He is the only player having at least 500 hits for four different teams (Mets, Montreal, Detroit and Houston).

STAUB: A great Met. (TOPPS)

STAUB: A great Met. (TOPPS)

Mets fans remember Staub for his gritty performance in the 1973 postseason. In Game 4 of the NLCS against Cincinnati, Staub separated his right shoulder when he plowed into the outfield fence while robbing Dan Driessen of extra bases. In the World Series against Oakland, Staub was forced to throw the ball underhand, but hit .423 with a homer and six RBI.

A six-time All-Star, Staub ended his career as one of the game’s best pinch-hitters with 99 hits, including eight homers with 72 RBI.

Staub originally signed with the expansion Houston Colt .45s (later Astros), but was traded to Montreal before the 1969 season and became an original Expo. After three years he was traded to the Mets in exchange for first baseman Mike Jorgensen, shortstop Tim Foli and outfielder Ken Singleton.

Staub also played with Detroit and Texas.

A noted wine connoisseur, in retirement Staub owned two restaurants in Manhattan and founded the “Rusty Staub Foundation,’’ which raised over $112 million for New York City police and fireman following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

ON DECK: Mets On Tap Today: Bartolo Colon starts against Washington.

Oct 16

Mets’ Triple-A Hitting Coach Hired By Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals, a regular in the NLCS, has hired Mets’ Triple-A hitting coach George Greer to oversee their hitting program throughout their system, reports ESPN.

Didn’t I hear the Mets needed a new hitting coach?

If he’s qualified to be hired by the Cardinals, shouldn’t he at least gotten a serious look from the Mets?

Jun 14

Lenny Dykstra To Be Released From Prison

Former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra will be released from a California prison this weekend, almost 15 months into a three-year term.

Dykstra, nicknamed “Nails,’’ because of his gritty style of play while with the Mets, achieved All-Star status after being dealt to the Phillies in one of the worst trades in team history.

DYKSTRA: After his homer in the 1986 NLCS.

DYKSTRA: After his homer in the 1986 NLCS.

Dykstra hit one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history against the Houston Astros in the 1986 NLCS, and also hit a key homer against Boston in the World Series that year.

Dykstra, 50, ran into financial crisis several years ago, and was charged with grand theft auto and filing a false financial report in October of 2011. After the charge, Dykstra went into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

Author Christopher Frankie, who wrote “Nailed: The Improbable Rise and Spectacular Fall of Lenny Dykstra,’’ told reporters he was surprised by the court’s decision.

“[He] blatantly disobeyed the court, and a lot of the stuff was very brazen,’’ Frankie said. “He was doing it in the full view of law enforcement. I hope for his sake, his family’s sake, and the public’s sake, that he doesn’t return to his criminal past.

“I think people in this country really love a comeback story, so he certainly has that opportunity. But, I’m not convinced that’s the path he’s going to take.’’

Dykstra has been noticeably absent in Mets’ functions since he retirement, and for obvious reasons hasn’t been around Citi Field. Mets fans have been open in their acceptance of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, and it will interesting to see if they will be that open to Dykstra.

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

Feb 17

Johan Santana Has A Good Throw Day

The highlight of the day in Mets’ camp was Johan Santana’s first mound session of the spring; 20 pain-free pitches in chilly Port St. Lucie.

“This is my first time in a while, but it was fine,” Santana told reporters in Florida, where the weather has been brisk and rainy. “I don’t think it was my best or anything, but it’s Day 1. You’ve got to start at some point.

“Today was a beginning for me. … You always worry about how you feel and everything, but at the same time I was just trying to get my job done and not trying to overdo things out there.’’

Not surprisingly, the Mets’ plan is to treat Santana with kid gloves. He needs to throw again and pitch batting practice before getting into an exhibition game. Usually the first exhibition is 30 pitches or two innings, and there’s no reason to think the Mets would deviate. Normally, pitchers make six starts and up to 30 innings during spring training.

The Mets are scheduled to pay Santana $31 million this year, including a $5.5 million option. A $25 million option for 2014 kicks in if he throws 215 innings this summer, and there’s no way the Mets will let him approach that figure.

The Mets are in a difficult position because they need to move on from Santana’s contract, yet at the same time if he were healthy and productive it gives them a chance to have a competitive season. Ideally, the Mets would like to deal him, but the innings clause applies to any team that trades for him and that would make him more than just a rental.

Santana didn’t pitch in 2011 as he was rehabbing from shoulder surgery. His first season with the Mets in 2008 was his only one with the team where he made all 34 starts. He ended last season on the disabled list with lower back inflammation.

In looking at the Santana trade, it is clear the Mets overpaid, both in terms of prospects – although none panned out to have successful major league careers – and obviously in terms of salary. In looking at a trade, one must also consider the circumstances at the time.

In 2008, the Mets were coming off a historic season in which their bullpen collapsed and they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. The previous season they lost the NLCS in seven games to St. Louis. In both seasons their pitching was suspect and a workhorse was needed.

Both the Yankees and Boston were after him, but pulled out when Minnesota’s asking price was deemed to high. Then GM Omar Minaya said Santana fell back to them and he did because there was no other competition.