Nov 23

Backman Paying His Dues; Should Get Another Chance

It is clear Wally Backman wants to manage in the major leagues. His decision this week to accept an offer to manage in the Dominican Republic indicates the Mets, and other teams, should take that pursuit seriously.

BACKMAN: Paying his dues.

BACKMAN: Paying his dues.

Backman was hired to replace the fired Jose Offerman for Licey in the winter leagues, when he could have taken the rest of the offseason off shows how badly he wants to gain experience and refine his craft.

The Mets haven’t announced it, but Backman is expected to return to manage Triple-A Las Vegas.

Backman has been trying to get another job at the major league level since he was hired, then fired, in a four-day span by Arizona ten years ago for off-the-field issues and then, according to the Diamondbacks, lying about them.

Baseball has forever been giving people second chances – excluding Pete Rose, of course – and it should be about time he’s given one. The Mets didn’t give him an opportunity to be their bench underneath Terry Collins, giving the impression he was being snubbed by his own organization.

There have been numerous managerial openings in recent winters and Backman’s phone hasn’t rung and that’s not right.

Jan 08

Tom Glavine Gets Into Hall; Examining The Process

The baseball writers got it both right and wrong with the today’s Hall of Fame announcement, and in the process issued a strong statement on the PED issue.

The no-brainers were Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas; three dominant players that did it cleanly. Glavine played for the New York Mets, as did Mike Piazza, who fell short again.

GLAVINE: Bound for Cooperstown.

GLAVINE: Bound for Cooperstown.

Maddux, Glavine and John Smoltz – the latter will be eligible next year – were the driving force behind those Atlanta teams that dominated the National League for nearly 15 years. Their manager was Bobby Cox, who will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.

While the bulk of Glavine’s numbers were compiled with the Braves, he won his 300th game as a Met, and this afternoon reflected on his time in Queens.

“I would summarize it as a great five years of my career,’’ said Glavine, who was 61-56 with a 3.97 ERA in 164 starts as a Met. Of those starts, 56 were in games he either lost or took a no-decision while giving up three or fewer runs.

“I had a lot of fun in New York,’’ Glavine continued. “I certainly made a lot of great friends there as teammates and people within the organization. It was a fun five years, albeit a tough five years at times for my family with me being gone. But it was a fun five years for them. It was a great experience being in New York and playing in New York. It’s an experience, I think, every player should have.

“I’ll always have fond memories for the Mets organization for the opportunity, but also because I won my 300th game in their uniform. That’s something I certainly will never forget.’’

Unfortunately, many Mets fans – and some in the media – won’t forget Glavine’s last game when he didn’t make it out of the first inning in the 2007 season finale. That season the Mets lost a seven-game lead with 17 to play.

“On behalf of everyone at the Mets, we congratulate Tom Glavine on his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame,’’ Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said. “We are proud that Tom won his 300th game as a Met and were fortunate to have him on our club. His excellence as a player is equaled by his excellence as a person.’’

While Glavine’s outing that afternoon represents a black cloud in Mets’ history, Piazza’s homer against Atlanta in the first game played in New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, authored one the franchise’s golden moments.

Piazza gained percentage points in the balloting, rising from 57.8 percent last year to 62.2 percent. That could be an encouraging sign.

“On behalf of the organization and our fans, Mike is a true Hall of Famer,’’ Wilpon said. “We proudly display his plaque in the Mets Hall of Fame, and we’re hopeful that he’ll soon have one hanging in Cooperstown.’’

It might happen eventually for Piazza, but it should happen next year for Craig Biggio, who has over 3,000 career hits, of which 1,104 were for extra bases. That’s more than Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Honus Wagner, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.

Biggio actually has only 14 fewer extra-base hits than Thomas, whom many considered a slamdunk. Thomas was an outspoken critic of PED usage as a player and reiterated his position today.

“I’ve got to take the right stance, too,’’ Thomas said. “No, they shouldn’t get in. There shouldn’t be cheating allowed to get into the Hall of Fame.

“What I did was real that’s why I’ve got this smile on my face right now because of the writers. They definitely got it right.’’

Biggio is one I believe the writers got wrong. Also, Piazza. The others are debatable. Biggio should be rectified next year as he only fell two votes shy.

It’s unlikely Piazza will make up the percentage points needed to reach the mandatory 75 percent by next year. While there is no documented link to PED use by Piazza, steroids remained a hot button issue, one not likely to go away soon.

Roger Clemens dropped from 37.6 to 35.4 percent of the vote; Barry Bonds fell from 36.2 to 34.7 percent; Sammy Sosa went from 16.9 to 11.0 percent; and Rafael Palmeiro dropped off the ballot completely, going from 8.8 to 4.4 percent.

I did not vote for any player linked to PEDs either by failing a drug test, being named on a MLB sanctioned survey, such as the Mitchell Report; or one accused on the record by another player with proof.

This did not apply to Piazza or Jeff Bagwell. It does to Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Sosa.

While there is no mandate from the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball banning PED users, there is one regarding gambling which applies to Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

PED use is a tangled mess in large part because it had tacit approval from Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig for allowing its use after the 1994-95 strike season – which killed the World Series in 1994 – in an effort to jack up attendance.

Some writers, such as myself, won’t vote for anybody with a PED link, but will submit an honest ballot after considerable research.

What irks me most about the process are writers who make a joke of their ballot. One Los Angeles-based writer submitted one name, Jack Morris, but ignoring 300-game winners Maddux and Glavine. What about the other nine slots? If you’re going to take the effort to vote in Morris, as I also did, how come you couldn’t find another worthy candidate?

Then there is Dan Le Batard, who gave his vote to Deadspin in form of protest. The Baseball Writers Association is researching ways to improve the process, for example allowing more than ten votes.

One suggestion I have would be to suspend Le Batard’s vote. It’s a privilege to vote, one earned after ten consecutive years in the BBWAA. It’s not a joke as Le Batard made his out to be.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Sep 25

Mets Wrap: Suggesting Sandy Alderson Would Tank To Get Better Draft Pick Is Irresponsible

Why is this even a question to the New York Mets?

ALDERSON: Stupid to suggest he would tank.

ALDERSON: Stupid to suggest he would tank.

Yes, the issue of the protected pick surfaced last season when the Mets considered signing Michael Bourn as a free agent. Major League Baseball wrongly ruled in that case.

However, this time, the issue of draft-pick compensation surfaced in relation to the team winning or losing on the field prior to the playing of a game.

There’s a huge difference, which some writers and/or bloggers are clearly ignorant of knowing. It was ridiculously posted on one website – which has close ties to the Mets – that the author wrote Alderson would rather have the Mets lose to be in better draft position.

This writer has been known to waffle and I question the validity of his “insiders.’’ Personally, I have forgotten more baseball than he could hope to know.

After today’s 1-0 victory at Cincinnati, Alderson said the pick be damned.

“We’re trying to build the credibility of the franchise and that goes beyond where we’re picking in the draft,’’ Alderson said.

Good for him.

I don’t always agree with Alderson, but I do one-hundred percent here. There’s not a doubt in my mind.

Personally, if any blogger or writer suggested Alderson wanted to lose, that’s way out of bounds. It’s libelous because it attacks Alderson’s credibility not only as a general manager, but also as a man.

No major league baseball employee – either player, coach, manager or executive – wants his team to lose. It is extremely distasteful to even consider.

It is why Pete Rose, the all-time hit leader, was banned for life. No, Rose didn’t flat out bet on his Reds to lose, but not betting on them to win is close to the same result.

Alderson would lose his credibility if he admitted he wanted to Mets to lose to gain a better pick. If I owned the team I would fire him on the spot if he had. Even if Alderson thought that way he’d be stupid to admit so.

This entire compensation issue is ridiculous for Major League Baseball to even have because it creates the appearance issue of “tanking.’’ And, draft pick positioning based on anything other than pure won-loss records is shameful and nothing more than a gimmick.

In that regard, the National Football League has it right, while the National Basketball Association forever has it wrong. But, less we forget, that’s David Stern’s league and he’s had it wrong for a long time with a lot of issues. The draft lottery is a cheap gimmick that leads to the appearances of teams tanking and a fixed draft.

It has been that way since the Patrick Ewing draft.

Then again, Stern’s league has had a referee found guilty of fixing games.

Like him or not, Alderson doesn’t deserve the poisonous barb of preferring to lose.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

 

Jun 16

Baseball As A Bond On Father’s Day

Was channel surfing on the car radio Saturday when the numbers stopped on the New York Mets game. I thought I’d stick around for a quick listen to Howie Rose and Josh Lewin for a couple of reasons.

First, they are good, and secondly I thought I’d do my part to boost their ratings. What else are friends for?

I forget the context it was mentioned, but Howie brought up the now-demolished Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Josh called it, “The Mistake on the Lake.” Constructed on the shores of Lake Erie, the one-time home of the Indians and Browns – and built in the long-forgotten hope of Cleveland one day hosting the Olympics – like so many others exists only in film clips and memories.

Howie mentioned his disdain for the Stadium and asked how anybody could like the place. To anybody who once shivered watching the Browns in December or Indians in April, or battled the monstrous bugs, or sat behind a pillar, or smelt the stench of the beer and urine-soaked concourses, I surely understand.

But, I said “once.’’

For me, and thousands like me, there were countless trips and Cleveland Stadium became a second home. When Howie mentioned it I couldn’t help think of my father, who on this special day, is only with me in my distracted and rushing thoughts.

My father instilled in me my love of baseball and sense of fair play. He was my Little League coach and my teams weren’t that good, but win or lose, after each game we’d go for ice cream. And, whether you were good or not, on my father’s team you always played and everybody batted. No exceptions. Only now do I understand why we lost so many games late because some kid I’ve long since forgotten muffed a pop up or struck out.

The first day of practice was for preparing the field. You brought shovels and rakes, not bats and gloves that day.

Baseball was it in my house. Dad rushed home to coach the games, and on the nights we didn’t play we’d watch the Indians. I loved watching those games with him. Somehow, it was better in black-and-white long before the days of instant replay and high-def.

However, serious bonding was done at Cleveland Stadium. I still have the box score from the first game he took me to, won 5-0 by the Indians over Baltimore. I came to see Rocky Colavito, but Chuck Hinton homered.

We’d go several times each summer, and he always brought along a group of my friends for my birthday. I’ll never forget when he took my brother and me out of school for Opening Day. He said we’d remember that more than anything they’d teach us that day in school.

He was right, as he often was, but I didn’t give him that much.

I remember a lot of the games, including the time we had standing room tickets to watch the Browns beat Dallas in the playoffs. Dale Lindsey ran back an interception for a touchdown. What I remember most was looking up at him as he shivered just because I wanted to be there.

When I got older and covered the Indians, I treated him. Then, years later, the best time I had with him in my adult life was when he spent a week with me in spring training. Sadly, we did it once. But, that week in Florida was planted in Cleveland Stadium decades earlier.

The Stadium wasn’t glamorous, but it was mine. Just as Shea Stadium was Howie’s place of worship, so to speak. In these days of Citi Field and retro stadiums, there are countless of baseball fans like us weaned in dumpy ballparks.

Gone are Tiger Stadium; Memorial Stadium in Baltimore; the old Yankee Stadium; RFK in Washington; Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota; Crosley Field; and Forbes Field. And, we haven’t even gotten to Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds.

Those are sacred places of Tom Seaver and Mickey Mantle; of Al Kaline and Brooks Robinson; of Harmon Killebrew and Pete Rose; of Ralph Kiner and Willie Mays.

Some of those stadiums are now dust, or covered in concrete and built over by apartment complexes and shopping malls. Some of the players are also gone.

They remain in our consciousness in large part because our fathers told us about them while sitting in cramped aisles between innings and pitching changes. Those were the days before non-stop video and blaring audio, sometimes between batters. The lull in the action is the beauty of the sport, which those who run this game worrying about the added five minutes will never understand.

My father and I were close then, but drifted apart as I grew older. We differed politically and I rebelled about a lot of things, as most teenagers do.

I don’t recall if we ever played catch in the yard after he stopped coaching and I went to high school. Maybe we did, but honestly, I don’t think so. However, when things were the coldest between us, we always had baseball and World War II history to talk about.

There were times, even if I knew the answers, I’d ask questions just to hear him talk. Even manufactured conversation is better than silence. He’s gone now and there’s so much more I’d like to tell him if I had the chance I will never get.

If I were smart enough then as reflective as I am now, perhaps we would have thrown the ball around a lot more.

Apr 09

Is Daniel Murphy Becoming A Power Threat?

They are hot, so as Crash Davis said you don’t mess with a streak. This is not a time for the Mets to be making wholesale changes, but there are things they could consider.

The Mets don’t have the multitude of power options that say, Ben & Jerry’s has ice cream choices, but Daniel Murphy appears to becoming one.

MURPHY: Hitting like one of the big dogs.

MURPHY: Hitting like one of the big dogs.

Lately, he has been driving the ball for power; something I always thought he was capable of doing. Through seven games he has eight hits, with five going for extra bases – two homers, two doubles and a triple. He encored his five RBI weekend against the Marlins with two doubles last night in Philadelphia.

Apparently, his strained intercostal muscle isn’t an issue, or is it?

Terry Collins suggested in trying to protect his injury Murphy has fallen into the good habit of staying within himself. He’s focusing on the pitch with the intent of driving it up the middle and going to the opposite field.

Consequently, his swing is shorter and compact. He’s not overthinking to the point of trying to pull the ball or guessing pitches.

“It’s made me do is focus on work I was able to put in during the off-season, and even the work that I’ve done in past years,’’ Murphy told reporters in Philadelphia, “I get a little bit older in this game, it doesn’t have to be perfect.’’

Power comes from strength and bat speed. Murphy is strong, and coupling that with sound fundamentals quickens his bat.

Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Ichiro Suzuki aren’t power hitters, but fundamentally strong. I’ve seen Boggs drive ball after ball into the seats during batting practice. He always said he could hit for power if he wanted to.

I believe Murphy can be the same way. He’s the most patient of the Mets’ hitters. For whatever reason why Murphy is driving the ball, it makes one wonder about his optimum place is in the batting order.

His patience and on-base percentage suggests he could be a leadoff hitter. For those saying he’s not fast, you’d be right, but he’s fast enough. Remember, Pete Rose wasn’t fast, but simply one of the best leadoff hitters in history.

He’s currently second for the purpose of working the count to enable the leadoff hitter a chance to run. Only trouble is the Mets have used four leadoff hitters already. Who is running?

“I continue to think [Murphy] is going to be a very, very good offensive force,’’ Collins told reporters in Philadelphia, “to the point where it’s going to be a question whether he has to continue hitting second or you’ve got to put him in the middle of the lineup someplace.’’

Ideally, a team’s best hitter – defined as the combination of power and average – bats third, but that’s David Wright’s spot. However, should Murphy continue to stroke the ball while Ike Davis keeps struggling, why not move him to third and drop Wright and Davis one slot into the order?

This lengthens the order to the point where Lucas Duda could be batting seventh, which doesn’t make the bottom third a black hole.

They are winning so keep a pat hand. This is just a suggestion to tuck away for later.

ON DECK: Tonight’s starter Dillon Gee and game preview.

Please follow me on Twitter. @jdelcos