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like all day games, travel by train and fielders leaving their gloves in the field after each inning naturally became outdated and obsolete, and no longer create a sense of longing.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

 

Mar 26

New look here; same old look for Mets.

As you can tell, the blog has a new look. Many thanks to Joe DeCaro for his help. There will be some more subtle changes over the next few days with the overhaul complete by Opening Day. The new look has energized me and I’m looking forward to the season more than ever. As they have been for the past few seasons, I know the expectations are low for the Mets. Even so, there’s always something about the start of a new season. With Opening Day a little over a week away, the Mets have several questions that must be answered:

Q: Will David Wright be ready?

A: He hopes to play today, but said the odds are 50-50. I don’t know if a week is enough time to get ready. He could possibly open the season on the DL. If not, a slow start is almost assured.

Q: Will Johan Santana be ready?

A: It would be just like it for the Mets for Santana to be ready and not Wright. Santana made strong progress this spring and his availability will give the Mets a spring to their step. Santana will start today with a target of 90 pitches.

Q: What about the other injured?

A: Andres Torres, Ruben Tejada, Garret Olson and a few others have nagging injuries. Tim Byrdak will open the season on the DL and that’s also a possibility for Scott Hairston. On the plus side, Ike Davis seems fine.

Q: What’s going on with Mike Pelfrey?

A: Pelfrey said his ankle is fine and shouldn’t be used as an excuse. Too bad. That would mean his awful pitching is because he’s awful. I don’t believe Pelfrey can turn it on immediately after a lousy spring.

Q: Will Jason Bay find his stroke?

A: He’s been looking for several years now and is still struggling to be the player the Mets hoped.

 

Mar 23

Pelfrey just doesn’t get it.

Mike Pelfrey continues to tick me off. This time, it is hearing the news has been pitching with a high right ankle sprain during spring training. Pelfrey said he injured his ankle in the offseason and aggravated it the beginning of camp.

PELFREY: Will it ever happen for him?

There are several ways to look at this, none of them good for the Mets:

* If Pelfrey is injured, then he’s a complete idiot for not telling the Mets’ trainers and medical staff immediately. It is common knowledge in the sport that leg injuries often lead to arm injuries because it alters the pitcher’s mechanics and puts a strain on the arm.

As a pitcher, how does Pelfrey, either not know this or chooses to ignore it? Just plain stupid.

Pelfrey came to camp saying this could be a make or break season for him, so given that, why would he take such a risk? Just dumb.

* These get their ankles wrapped every day. How could a trainer miss this? There has to be tenderness, soreness, slight swelling or change in color.

* What does pitching coach Dan Warthen have to say about this? Warthen told reporters the ankle is why Pelfrey has primarily pitched out of the stretch most of this spring and why his velocity was down. So, with that answer, Warthen is saying he sent Pelfrey out there knowing he had a bum ankle. That’s got to be a new level of stupid.

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Mar 14

Wright update; Mets lose again.

First it was going to be a game or two, then at the end of this week, then next week and now David Wright hopes to be ready by Opening Day. Knowing these are the Mets, why didn’t they just throw Opening Day out there from the outset.

Why did it take them so long to send him to New York for this latest diagnosis of an abdominal tear? Why does this stuff always seem to happen with the Mets? Wright is easily the Mets’ most valuable commodity, so why do they treat this with such ambivalence?

I’m glad to see Wright playing this smart and taking his time, but wonder why the Mets were slow on the MRI.

***

The NBA trade deadline is tomorrow and everybody is wondering what will become of Dwight Howard. Reminds me of Jose Reyes when we all knew he wasn’t coming back. Would have hoped Orlando would have learned from the Denver Nuggets, who fleeced the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony, who has been nothing but a selfish headache for New York. In hindsight, the Mets knew Reyes wasn’t coming back and should have gotten what they could.

First Howard is leaving, then he’s staying. Make up your mind. In absence of something definitive, the Magic have to deal him and get what they can.

By the way, did you hear Reyes’ response the other day when he said he had “put the Mets behind him?” He did that when he left that last game after the bunt.

***

Dillon Gee pitched well in today’s loss to Detroit, save a homer to Prince Fielder. But, that’s going to happen. Terry Collins is still having difficulty putting together his patchwork bullpen.

 

 

 

Mar 12

Looking at the weekend; Santana sharp again.

Obviously, the most important thing that happened this weekend was Johan Santana’s continued progress.

SANTANA: So far, so good. (AP)

Santana threw 42 pitches Sunday against Miami, but once again reiterated how he responds will tell most of the story.

Santana isn’t concerned with his velocity, and said he threw his change-up and slider more than in his first start. Barring a setback this week, his next start will be Friday against Detroit.

Terry Collins insists on saying Santana will be ready by Opening Day, but for that to happen he’ll need to build himself up to 90 pitches. There’s a long way to go.

Also this weekend:

* Jason Bay got his first hit of the spring after a 0-for-8 slide out of the gate. You’ll get no projections from me on Bay. There are no expectations.

* David Wright (rib cage) and lefty reliever Tim Byrdak (left knee) will go to New York today to be examined at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Both are expected to get cortisone injections. Two things: 1) why wasn’t this more in-dept exam be done earlier, and 2) there’s no doctors in Miami they could go to?

* If Byrdak isn’t ready by Opening Day, Garrett Olson could be a candidate for the lefty slot out of the bullpen.

* Adam Loewen and Mike Baxter are competing for a lefty-hitting reserve outfield role. Both have the ability to play center.

ON DECK: Mets’ conditioning methods must be re-evaluated in wake of upper-body injuries.