Jul 31

Mets To Stay Quiet Today

One of the most bizarre scenes I’ve witnessed in covering ball came in the clubhouse in the old Metrodome when the Orioles were playing the Twins at the trade deadline. The target of interest was Bobby Bonilla. Back then the deadline was midnight. Bonilla sat at his locker not saying a word – yeah, that’s the hard part to believe – as the clock clicked down.

HAIRSTON: Goes deep twice last night. (AP)

Bonilla stayed and the Orioles did nothing big that year, much like the Mets this season. Winning again last night has done nothing to chance the Mets trade landscape. None of the “name” players are going, although Scott Hairston could draw some interest. Hairston, Jordany Valdespin and Tim Byrdak. All serviceable, all capable of helping somebody down the stretch.

None, however, will bring much in return. If you’re the Mets and you aren’t adding to win this year, then you’ll be building for the future. But, the Mets’ role players won’t bring much. They are better off staying and possibly building next summer’s bench.

 

Jun 20

Johan Santana Gives Mets Sigh Of Relief

After he was roughed up in the two starts following his 134-pitch no-hitter, there was worry again something might be wrong with Johan Santana’s surgically-repaired left shoulder.

SANTANA: Strong again.

Six scoreless innings last night against the Orioles eased those concerns. Not entirely, because can you ever be certain about a shoulder, but there’s a good feeling about the tandem of him and R.A. Dickey.

Every game has a moment of decision for a pitcher, and Santana’s came in the fourth when the Orioles had runners on second and third with one out. Santana responded by striking out the next two hitters.

The Mets have thrown consecutive shutouts three times this season and lead the majors with eight overall.

In addition to Santana, the Mets continued to receive positive offensive news, from an expected source and a surprise.

Lucas Duda homered again and Jordany Valdespin added a two-run single while demonstrating his versatility. Last night he was in left; the night before at second.

And, maybe the biggest plus was getting three scoreless innings from what has been an erratic bullpen. Terry Collins is going back to handling Santana with kid gloves after the no-hitter, which translates into more innings from the pen.

Jun 19

R.A. Dickey And Roger Clemens Interesting Contrast

Earlier in the day there was Roger Clemens, one of the most talented pitchers of his era, standing on the courthouse steps after being acquitted of all charges in his perjury/steroids trial.

DICKEY: The best about sports.

Later, there was R.A. Dickey, whose salary this year probably isn’t as much as Clemens spent on his legal defense team, mow down the Baltimore Orioles with his second straight one-hit shutout.

It was a contrast in talent vs. perseverance, arrogance vs. humility, and likability.

Dickey will never have the career Clemens had, and I’m talking the pre-cheating Clemens. Just because he was acquitted doesn’t mean he didn’t use steroids. This was a sham of a trial with the government as inept in its case as the Orioles hitters were last night.

When it comes to steroid trials, the government is so useless it couldn’t have gotten a conviction with a signed confession.

The issue surrounding steroids is credibility. The public wants, deserves and needs to know what it is seeing is real. With Clemens it did not, because whatever happened behind closed doors there still is the belief he cheated.

With Dickey, whose arm forced him to go with an improvisational pitch, we know we are seeing honest effort and grit, and with it genuine joy when he succeeds.

We are done with Clemens, and have been for a long time, even before he went after Mike Piazza’s head with a fastball and later a sawed off bat in a fit of steroid rage. With Dickey, we can’t get enough of him. He is a great story of what sports should be about.

He makes us happy to watch, not disgusted.

 

Dec 14

Thanks Dad.

Good afternoon folks.

I don’t like going this long without posting for you, but have been away. I drove to Ohio Sunday to visit my father, but the visit was unfortunately extended for a funeral.

Everybody loves their father for their own reasons and I am no different. There are some I can’t share and others I do so openly and proudly.

The most important was his love for his family and the moral principles he lived by, but another was his love for baseball, which he gave to my brother, George, and myself.

Among my earliest and fondest is he coached both our Little League teams. It was here where I learned sportsmanship and Little League baseball is to learn the game and have fun.

His belief was if you showed up for practice you would play regardless of how good you were. The games were seven innings and everybody played at least three. If for some reason you didn’t play three, you automatically started the next game.

The emphasis was enjoyment of the sport, not winning, and definitely not learning at a young age one had limited talent. There would be plenty of time for that in high school sports. There would be plenty of opportunities for life to disappoint and he didn’t believe Little League baseball should be one of them.

Where our league’s boundaries ended at the town line, today there’s a Little League World Series that is not only televised, but extends to foreign shores.

We went for ice cream after the games, win or lose. I grew up and played at a time when there were not even sponsors from local businesses, let alone corporate advertisers and television commercials. It was a time when the game had its natural disappointments, like committing an error or striking out and ten year-old kids don’t need cameras stuck in their faces.

It was a simpler time, one when I wasn’t exposed to the more negative and disturbing aspects of sports.

It is almost cliché to mention it, but the best times were playing catch and him hitting me grounders and fly balls in the front yard. We never shot baskets or tossed a football. It was always baseball.

Growing up, there was no such thing as cable and we only had four channels. We’d sometimes watch “The Game of the Week’’ and almost always the Indians.

Those were bad Indians teams that featured Rocky Colavito, Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert and Max Alvis. I remember the first game he took me to, won, 5-0, over the Orioles. Years later, when I covered the Orioles, they had every box score in franchise history so I copied that game’s and sent it to him.

My dad took me to a lot of games at old Cleveland Stadium, and when I briefly covered the Indians for a small local paper after college, I was glad when I got to take him.

One of the best perks of the job was getting to take him to spring training and buy him World Series tickets when the Indians finally made it. Too bad he never got to see them win it all. Would have been nice.

My dad grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, and when I covered the Orioles, former Dodgers pitcher Rex Barney was the PA announcer and I brought him up to the press box after a game to introduce them. When I came back to the press box nearly an hour later after working the clubhouse, I was happy to see Barney still talking to him.

The Dodgers were his team and he told me about Ebbets Field and Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson and Carl Furillo. Our family has roots in New York and New Jersey and we’d visit every summer after Little League season and he’d take me to Yankee and Shea Stadiums.

One year, he insisted we see the Mets against the Dodgers to watch this guy pitch. During my first spring covering the Mets, I got to meet the pitcher.  I introduced myself and told him I didn’t want to interview him – although I did – as much as I wanted to tell him how my father thought it was important I see him pitch.

Then Sandy Koufax asked me what game it was and when I sheepishly told him the Mets ripped him, 10-4, he said he remembered.

Like all fathers and sons, we had our rocky moments, but whatever they were, we always were able to talk about baseball. And, many of our later conversations were about baseball and the Indians.

My dad was 85 and was ill on and off for his last ten years. He was a shut-in and derived much of his pleasure watching the Indians and baseball, often with my sister, Anne.

Baseball was a passion and there are millions like him who feel the same way he did about the sport. This is something I wish the owners of the sport realized about its fans; that people love and cherish the traditions and simplicity of the game. I wish they understood this before they tinker and attempt to change the sport.

My dad taught me a lot of things, but I will always be grateful to him for giving me his love and appreciation of baseball.

I will forever love and miss him, and sure I will never watch another baseball game the same way.

Thanks, Dad.

 

Nov 27

Why revenue sharing and the luxury tax aren’t doing what they are supposed to.

You can get dizzy trying to figure out the various formulas for revenue sharing and the luxury tax, but some things are givens. There will always be some teams willing to spend because the objective is to win.

There will also be some teams not willing to spend and find comfort in using their small market status to free load off the big spenders because they are still making money. Pittsburgh and Kansas City have been notorious for using their revenue sharing income not to reinvest in players but to pay their electric bill.

I’m tired of hearing about small market – which should really read small revenue market teams – not fielding competitive teams because of the market they play in. It is inexcusable for a team such as the Pirates to have 20 straight losing seasons. How can the Orioles have 14 losing years playing in a gem of a ballpark like Camden Yards? Seems incomprehensible.

How Bud Selig can allow this is beyond reason. Also crazy is penalizing teams that go over the limit to take away draft choices. It stands to reason that a team having fewer draft picks will compensate with more spending in trying to build.

I’ve never been for revenue sharing because it promotes free loading, but the system is not likely to go away. If they are insistent on such a system, the receiving teams should be required to spend a designated percentage on player salaries. And, while we’re at it, there should be a minimum amount a team MUST spend on payroll.