Oct 25

Not On Cubs’ Bandwagon; I Want Indians To Win

While most of the free world wants the Cubs to win the World Series, my feeling is I hope they keep waiting. Maybe not for another 100 years or so, but at least until the Indians win this year.

The essence of the Cubs’ story of frustration is the angst doesn’t seem to end. What will happen if it does? You can make the case Cubs’ fans are identified by all those years of losing. Sometimes their season was over by May. Other times they lost in excruciating fashion. Mets’ fans cheered the collapse in 1969.

Chief Wahoo hasn't smiled since 1948.

Chief Wahoo hasn’t smiled since 1948.

The Steve Bartman game was simply cruel, but after learning of the viciousness of Cubs fans, my sympathy for them faded quickly. ESPN did a wonderful documentary of that incident, that included somebody from their public relations department smuggling him out of Wrigley Field in disguise. For you into trivia: Future Met Moises Alou had a play on the ball hit by another future Met, Luis Castillo.

My heart in this World Series goes to another frustrated franchise – the Indians. They were the team of my youth – Chief Wahoo and all – and their failures weren’t gut wrenching but quite simply they were victims of bad baseball.

When I was 10, I didn’t know anything about political correctness. I only cared about Rocky Colavito, Sam McDowell, Larry Brown and Sonny Siebert. A half-century later, I still wish I didn’t know about political correctness. As if we don’t have other things to be interested in, The New York Times sprawled the tired issue of team nicknames across its sports pages today. Leave it to The Times to take a political stance on the day of the World Series.

My first Indians’ memory was watching them in April of 1965 on a black-and-white Motorola with the rabbit ears placed just right so I could see them beat the Angels on a Leon Wagner homer. “Daddy Wags” they called him. He always had a chaw of chewing tobacco in his cheek. Another thing not politically correct.

My mother saw how thrilled I was and told my dad, “Jim, you need to take John to a game.” He did later that summer, taking me to cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium, which was originally built to host an Olympics than never came.

It was July 19, when Lee Stange beat the Orioles, 5-0, and Chuck Hinton homered. Years later, when I was covering the Orioles, I got a photocopy of the box score and gave it to my father.

One of my overriding memories was sitting next to my dad in the middle of a long row. Back then the vendors didn’t throw their food, but simply passed it down the aisle and the money was sent back the same way. When my dad handed me the hot dog I had no idea I was supposed to pass it along, so I started eating it.

Look, I was nine years old at the time. How was I supposed to know?

And, how was I supposed to know the Indians would always lose? They won their first ten games to start the 1966 season, then went to Baltimore and lost a doubleheader, 8-2, 8-3. I listened to both games on the radio – the Indians weren’t on local TV often – and I started crying after the second game.

In an effort to console me, my father said, “you know, some boy your age in Baltimore is very happy.’’

That didn’t make sense to me then and it doesn’t make sense all these years later.

They played a lot of doubleheaders back then, including twi-nighters that started at 5 and usually ended at 11.

On July 25, 1967, they played two in Chicago. I listened to both games and kept score at the kitchen table. The Indians lost the first game, 3-1, when future Met J.C. Martin hit a two-run homer off McDowell, scoring another future Met, Tommie Agee, ahead of him.

I wasn’t happy but decided to stick it out for the second game – all 16 innings.

I thought my patience was going to be rewarded with Duke Sims’ RBI double in the top of the inning. When Ken Berry hit a two-run homer to win, 6-5, in the bottom of the inning off Steve Bailey, whom I completely forgot about until now, I threw my pencil across the room to the background sound of fireworks going off at Comiskey Park.

If I gave it any thought, I wouldn’t have cared about some kid in Chicago being happy. And, sometime next week, I will be very happy if some kid in Chicago cries into his deep-dish pizza.

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May 23

Mets Place Duda On DL; Ty Kelly Promoted

As speculated here yesterday, the Mets placed first baseman Lucas Duda on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 21, with a stress fractured to his lower back. Taking Duda’s spot on the roster is Ty Kelly from Triple-A Las Vegas. 

Kelly can play both the infield and outfield and is available for tonight’s game in Washington. To make room on the 40-man roster lefty reliever Dario Alvarez was designated for assignment.

Kelly, 27, was signed as a minor league free agent, last November. He is leading minor league baseball with a .391 average and an on-base percentage of .478. He was previously in the Baltimore, Toronto and St. Louis organizations. He was originally drafted by the Orioles in the 13th round in 2009.

May 09

Going After Utley A Bad Idea

The dumbest thing the Mets can do during their four-game series against the Dodgers – starting tonight in LA – is to go after Chase Utley with a beanball. Whether it be at his head, ribs, butt or knee, there’s no reason to start something that has already been finished.

It wouldn’t be smart even if Ruben Tejada was still on the Mets. He’s not, so what’s the purpose.

UTLEY-TEJADA: Let's move on. (AP)

UTLEY-TEJADA: Let’s move on. (AP)

MLB overreacted last October during the playoffs, which was substantiated when the suspension was dropped on appeal.

We can debate all we want on whether it was a dirty play. I’m saying it wasn’t, because: 1) Daniel Murphy did not make a good throw; 2) Tejada turned into the path of the runner, and 3) Utley was within close proximity of the bag, at least according to the rules in place. (See photo).

Also, it has always been an umpire’s discretion to eject a player if he deemed the play dirty. This did not happen and MLB behavior czar Joe Torre came down with the suspension to avoid Mets fans going ballistic when the NLDS moved to New York.

Was it aggressive? Yes. Was it dirty? Debateable. Is it worth it for the Mets to retaliate and possibly get a player injured or suspended? No.

The issue will be brought up tonight and I’m betting the over/under on the times SNY shows the play to be at least 12. That would be three times per game.

Suppose Steven Matz, or Matt Harvey, or Noah Syndergaard hit Utley and a brawl ensued. Why risk one of them being injured to prove a questionable point in protecting a player no longer on the team?

And, pitchers aren’t the only ones you could be injured. Cal Ripken nearly had his consecutive games streak snapped when the Orioles were involved in a brawl with Seattle. As it was, Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina took a few bruises.

Of course, it would be fascinating to see Yoenis Cespedes against Yassiel Puig in a WWE cage death match event. But, I digress.

The Dodgers aren’t playing good right now, so why wake them up? It could only hurt the Mets in the long run. Plus, the Mets and Dodgers could meet again in the playoffs. Why give the Dodgers ammunition to use in the future?

I felt bad Tejada didn’t get to play in the World Series. and that was his last play as a Met. However, the Mets didn’t think highly enough about him to keep him on the roster. Tejada is gone, demoted to a trivia question in Mets lore.

It’s over and time to move on.

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Dec 16

Will Miss Murphy And Gee

Nobody knows where Daniel Murphy will land, but we know it won’t be with the Mets. I haven’t totally discounted him signing with the Yankees. I’m still thinking the Orioles and Angels are strong possibilities.

GEE: Will miss him and Murphy. (AP)

GEE: Will miss him and Murphy. (AP)

Wherever he goes, I will miss him. It was fun watching him during the playoffs and I hope his power display wasn’t a fluke. Murphy played his heart out for the Mets and he deserves his payday. I hope he gets it.

What I’ll remember most about Murphy is how he bounced from position to position before settling in a second base. He wasn’t the second coming of Roberto Alomar, but he worked hard into being a decent fielder. I’ll remember his long at-bats, often resulting in a drive in the gap. And, of course, there were his gaffs on the bases and in the field. One play I’ll always remember was him sliding into third. The third baseman kept his glove on Murphy in the hope he’d move off the bag, but Murphy grabbed the glove and moved it off him. Somehow, I found that funny.

My favorite Murphy moment was him going from first to third on a walk during the playoffs. A heads-up play from a guy whose attention has a tendency to wander.

From a reporter’s perspective, Murphy was great to work with as he didn’t duck any issue and always gave thoughtful answers.

Murphy is gone, but I’ll miss him and wish him well.

The same goes for Dillon Gee, who just signed a minor league deal with Kansas City.

As with Murphy, Gee isn’t physically gifted with those special skills. He wasn’t overpowering, but he was never afraid to take the ball. There were times when he was ripped, but he never offered any excuses. He was always stand up.

Gee had his moments of success despite being a 21-round draft pick. He is 40-37 with a 4.03 ERA lifetime. I thought he got a raw deal from the Mets last year, and with that I knew he was gone.

Both Murphy and Gee played hard and played with heart. I’ll miss them.

 

Dec 07

Former Met Murphy’s Potential Landing Spots

On the first day of the Winter Meetings in Nashville, there’s considerable speculation as to where 2015 playoff slugger Daniel Murphy could land. But, back to the Mets isn’t one of them, despite them saying he’s still on their radar. If he were, they would have given him more than a qualifying offer.

The Mets can’t be a serious contender because of their stated preference for Ben Zobrist and several internal options, among them Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera.

MURPHY: Where will he go. (AP)

MURPHY: Where will he go. (AP)

Not surprisingly, many of the potential teams having an interest, or need, for Murphy are in the American League, where he could also get at-bats as a designated hitter.

The Angels are among them, but they could also be players for Zobrist. At one time, it was thought the Dodgers could be interested, but they just signed Chase Utley.

Murphy to the Yankees is always in play, but they are saying no. As I wrote with Zobrist, I take their denials with a grain of salt.

If I were Murphy, I would seriously look at Baltimore as he could develop that October show of power in bandbox Camden Yards. Murphy could play first, second and third for the Orioles.

He could also do the same for the White Sox and Indians.

ON DECK: Mets need power, but not Yoenis Cespedes.