May 05

Mets Game Thread: Bulletin … Mets Score

A great job by Bartolo Colon in the top of the fourth when after back-to-back singles by Adam Jones and Chris Davis, he got the next three hitters. Colon keeps showing why the Mets were fortunate not to trade him.

Then, in the bottom of the inning against Bud Norris, the Mets scored for the first time after 21 innings when Lucas Duda doubled and Daniel Murphy singled. Wilmer Flores and Kevin Plawecki then followed with back-to-back doubles.

In the top of the fifth,  Juan Lagares just made a diving, back-handed catch. He appeared to hurt his right shoulder after avoiding a collision with Michael Cuddyer, but stayed in the game.

Mets 3, Orioles 0 (5th)

May 05

Mets Game Thread: Like Granderson Bunting

Great play by Curtis Granderson to lead off the game with a bunt single against the shift. Lucas Duda, please take note. But, he was thrown out on a missed hit-and-run, and it wasn’t even close.

Wilmer Flores is in tonight’s lineup. I was thinking the Mets might be up to something, because, after all, they have made announcements before and backed off them.

Mets 0, Orioles 0 (2nd)

May 05

We Are About To Learn What Mets Are Made Of

It’s not about the “blips,’’ for the New York Mets, it’s about how they rebound from them that will tell the story of this season. Beginning tonight, we shall see what the Mets are really made of as they have lost three straight series after their 11-game winning streak.

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

ALDERSON: A lot of thinking to do. (AP)

Most frustrating is with the exception of the first games of their series against the Yankees and Nationals, they lost five games by a composite nine runs, three of them by one run, including the last two by 1-0 scores.

When manager Terry Collins said there would be “blips,’’ and wasn’t lying.

When the Mets were winning 11 straight there were comments about their strength of schedule. Since the Yankees and Nationals righted their collective ships, the Mets have lost seven of ten games; they have gone from the best record in the majors to the seventh best; and their eight-game lead over Washington has been trimmed from eight to 3.5 games.

However, this isn’t the NCAA Tournament, overall strength of schedule isn’t the issue. The issue is winning your schedule.

What their winning streak accomplished was to buy time to take such a hit, and there is no mistaking the Mets were clipped big time and so far they’ve won at a clip that could get them into the playoffs.

That the Mets stayed close in games was a tribute to their overall strong pitching and a few players hitting in the clutch.

However, this stumble exposed the following: 1) Jacob deGrom must make some adjustments to his game; 2) they miss David Wright; 3) the defense is shaky up the middle; 4) there’s an overall lack of power from Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda; and 5) their overall clutch hitting has been poor.

Collins said there “would be no panic,’’ but signs of panic always come first from management in the form of benching and/or trading players and other roster moves that suggest an overhaul.

* Wilmer Flores was told he has a long leash, but sat the last two games. Whether or not he plays against the Orioles could determine a lot.

* There have long been rumors of trading Daniel Murphy and Dillon Gee, and the Giants have been scouting the former. What’s happening there? Do you trade Murphy while you’re still in first place?

* Eric Campbell replaced Wright, but was subsequently benched for not hitting. In the process Dilson Herrera was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas to play second and Murphy went to third. This was done to showcase Murphy at third, but Herrera isn’t hitting, so what will they do? Wright’s return is far from imminent.

There are a lot of moving parts for the Mets now and how GM Sandy Alderson and Collins respond will go a long way to determine the success of this season. If they panic, that winning streak will be a memory.

Feb 19

My Favorite Spring Training Memories

For a baseball writer spring training can be a magical time. My first was in 1991, when I covered the Orioles. There was also time in Florida with the Yankees and Mets. All produced keeper memories, which flooded back this morning.

Things weren’t as stressful with the Orioles, mostly because there was only three or four writers. We showed up early, got our stories, wrote and played basketball. Larry Lucchino, then the Orioles president, played and chewed me out when I didn’t pass him the ball.

After that, it was usually seafood, a movie or the dog track. One night, Jim Henneman from the Baltimore Sun and his friend, nicknamed “Smoothie,’’ hosted us. We pooled our money and gave it to Smoothie to wager. Just as Smoothie was leaving the table, Rick Vaughn, the PR director of the Orioles, deadpanned: “I can’t believe we just gave all our money to a guy named Smoothie.’’

Another time Mark Maske of the Washington Post and Peter Schmuck of the Sun and I were talking with reliever Arthur Rhodes, who could hit triple digits. Maske asked Rhodes if he were to throw 100 fastballs how many times do you think we’d make contact?

He said, “Maybe 10 to 15. … What about you?’’

I was thinking maybe a foul tip.

But, it isn’t always smooth. Once a delicate story broke in the morning, but worked itself out during the game. Later, the Orioles manager, the late Johnny Oates, told us of the changing development. We were circled around him and he asked if we had a problem changing the story.

Nobody had an issue. When Oates got to me, I simply said, “I guess I have some rewriting to do.’’

What followed was a loud crash when Oates kicked a chair and screamed, “I knew it. I knew you’d be the one to write it.’’

He didn’t get I wasn’t going to print the original version. I simply turned and walked away as there was no purpose getting into it with him in public. As I was leaving the clubhouse, Brady Anderson said, “don’t worry about it, you’ve arrived when the manager rips into you.’’

Another Orioles favorite was Mike Mussina, who passed time with a six-by-three foot crossword puzzle in the corner.

Maybe my most memorable spring was spending nine straight weeks at the Tampa Westshore Marriott during the strike in 1995. It was like being Norm from Cheers, as everybody at the front desk greeted me by name. A supervisor even tried to get me my own parking spot.

The Yankees and Mets are different animals.

You arrive with a plan that often never materializes. In the spring of 1999, I had a plan every morning, but followed through maybe five or six times. That was when Joe DiMaggio died. Then, one day we were writing about Darryl Strawberry’s cancer when a Yankee staffer gave us a release that Joe Torre left the team to be treated for prostate cancer.

That day didn’t end until close to midnight.

That was the spring George Steinbrenner called Hideki Irabu “a fat pussy toad.’’ The Yankees were to fly to Los Angeles that day for an exhibition series with the Dodgers. Steinbrenner huddled with GM Brian Cashman, interim manager Don Zimmer and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre for hours on what to do with Irabu, who triggered it all by failing to cover first base for the second time in as many starts.

The meeting lasted so long the Yankees had pizza delivered to the clubhouse.

I should have known what kind of spring it was going to be when on the first day the Yankees traded David Wells for Roger Clemens.

The Yankees beat was always competitive, made more so by the daily Steinbrenner watch. It was by luck one day I caught him coming in from the parking lot. He answered a couple of questions and then spent ten minutes talking college basketball.

Say what you will about Steinbrenner, but he was colorful and brought something to the table. He could be infuriating, but you had to wait him out. The worst words a Yankees writer could hear on his voice mail was, “John, George Steinbrenner returning your call.’’

You knew you weren’t going to get him a second time.

Meanwhile, Jeff Wilpon, for his part is accessible. Fred Wilpon usually holds court once a spring, and once uttered the words “playing meaningful baseball in September.”

With the Mets, many stories are gathered on the backfields. That was when I met Sandy Koufax. I knew I wasn’t going to get questions answered, but told him of when my dad took me to Shea Stadium and said to me, “you need to see this guy pitch.’’

He asked what I remembered and I sheepishly told him Wes Covington homered and the Mets won. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Yeah, I remember that, too.’’

I will always love Koufax for that.

And, I’ll always love the promise of spring training.

Jan 04

Citi Field Expensive; Mets Must Groom Future Fans

Eventually, the shine comes off newest houses, which is something the Mets are learning about Citi Field, which has never been the home the franchise had hoped.

Citi Field hasn’t given the Mets a home-field advantage both on the field and in the stands, with attendance gradually declining since it opened in 2009 at 38,941 per game.

Last season, the Mets drew 26,528, as they learned what the Blue Jays, White Sox and Orioles – teams that made up the first wave of the new stadium construction – found out. They’ll come if you build it, but they won’t come again if you don’t win.

They also learned that in Texas, Houston and Cleveland.

Fans are willing to pay for the novelty of a new stadium, but the real attraction is the product on the field, and in that regard the Mets have been a disappointment.

I started thinking of this after reading a report from sports marketing publisher Team Marketing Report, which noted the Fan Cost Index increased 2.3 percent last year to $212.46, with Citi Field the seventh most expensive at $229.68.

The index measures the cost of this odd shopping list: four average-priced tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four (regular-sized) hot dogs, parking for one car, two programs and the two least expensive hats.

Baseball used to call itself “a bargain in comparison to other professional sports,’’ and it used to be true. Nothing is inexpensive anymore, including going to the movies.

Of course, a stadium in New York figures to be expensive (the Yankees are second at $337.20 and Fenway Park is an astronomical $350.78), and you can knock that price down by going on bargain nights, skipping the programs and hats.

However, the Mets don’t make it easy for the fan. For example, it would be nice if the Mets allowed you to bring your own food into the ballpark, but I don’t know of any team that allows it.

I understand the economics of it – the same principles explain player contracts – but the costs of the going to a baseball game is something the keepers of the sport should be more aware of in developing its future fan base.

Attendance has been up in recent years, but much of this can be attributed to new stadium construction, built for the large part with taxpayer funding.

However, the gravy train can’t last forever and the Mets must be aware of grooming the next generation of fans – and ticket buyers.