Mar 22

Chipper Jones – Mets Killer – to retire.

Some opponents you loathe. You watch with venom in your heart for how they destroy your team. Or you despise their arrogance and swagger.

Other opponents you respect and admire, and salute for their longevity and talent. Such is the case with the Braves’ Chipper Jones.

JONES: His Topps' Rookie Card.

You figured it was coming soon, but it became official this morning when Jones announced this would be his final season playing third base for Atlanta and tormenting the Mets.

Jones will be one of the rare players, something I hoped would be the case with David Wright and Jose Reyes, to play his entire career with one team.

I covered Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter through the prime of their careers, and respected what they accomplished. Both had opportunities to leave for more money, but recognized the importance they represented to their team and cities. They are special players.

Don Mattingly and Kirby Puckett were that way, too. It was a shame it wasn’t the case with Tom Seaver and Reyes. I hope it isn’t that way with Wright.

Jones thought about retirement two years ago, but changed his mind. Now, after 18 years and a string of injuries the past two seasons, there’s no longer fighting time.

Early in camp, Jones told reporters: “Never in my mid-20s would I have given myself a snowball’s chance to be in camp and have a job at 40 years old.  But I like to think I’ve kept myself in pretty good shape over the years. The skills are still there to go out and get it done. I don’t know for how much longer, but we’re gonna ride it as long as we can.’’

I wish for him a full and healthy season, one with numbers that will have him leaving with pride and not frustration.

It was obvious watching Jones the past two years that he slowed. You could tell his range was declining and he wasn’t the same on the bases. Still, when he came to the plate in the late innings, he was showed respect from the Mets’ pitchers.

Since 2004, Jones underwent two knee operations and dealt with several other nagging issues that deprived him of 500 homers – he would have been the third Brave to reach the milestone, joining Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews – which has been an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Jones, the 1999 NL MVP, joins Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray as among the games’ greatest switch hitter, which is an unappreciated skill. Jones takes a .304 career average, 454 homers and 1,561 RBI into this season.

Of his 454 homers, 91 came in August and 74 in September, during the heat of the pennant race; 213 were hit in the seventh inning with the Braves tied, ahead by one, or had the tying run on deck.

And, against the Mets, Jones’ numbers would represent a MVP season: He hit 48 homers, with 154 RBI and a .318 career average.

He hit 19 homers at Shea, which is what he named his son. Any player who would name his child after Shea Stadium is worthy of a salute.

I’ve covered well over a two thousand baseball games, and as a reporter found Jones to be accommodating and thoughtful. His appreciation for the fundamentals and ability to perform under pressure made him a privilege to watch.

Some day, I’ll get to say I saw Chipper Jones, Hall of Famer. He’ll get my vote.

 

Feb 09

I wish the Mets would do that.

Maybe the Mets are thinking along these lines, and if so, it slipped by me. In doing some research on the Mets’ 50th anniversary, I came across all the non-baseball events at Shea Stadium, including the Rolling Stones, Beatles, boxing and the Pope.

Yankee Stadium is hosting Madonna and Pink Floyd this summer while the Yankees are on the road. Why don’t the Mets, who are hurting for money, open the doors of Citi Field this summer when the boys are on the road?

I’m not suggesting a monster truck rally that would tear up the field, but how about rock concerts, boxing and wrestling? If nothing else, how about the world’s largest flea market?

I’m hoping Citi Field will apply to host the NHL January 1 outdoors game. Maybe not the Rangers this time, but there’s the Devils and Islanders.

It really doesn’t matter what the event, but as long as people are coming to Citi Field, the Mets will get something and that’s what is important.

Feb 01

A blast from the past for Mets this summer.

One of the mainstays of a Mets’ summer will be returning this year, the 50th anniversary of the franchise.

BANNER DAY: Back again,

Banner Day will return May 27 to give you an opportunity to express your affection to your favorite players and memories, and yes, also a chance to editorialize on the direction of the team. Undoubtedly, there will be some censorship involved.

With the way things have been going, how can there not be?

However, I like the premise. Beginning at the Polo Grounds in 1963, and from 1964-96 at Shea Stadium, Banner Day was a Mets’ staple. So too, was Old Timers’ Day,

Maybe, the thinking is to do something for a day to spike the attendance, but it is a great day. It was an event cherished by the fans and the players got a kick out of it, also. The idea is for this year, but let’s hope it takes off.

 

Sep 07

Today in Mets’ History: Ryan wins in relief; Mets pull closer to Cubs.

Things are getting dicier in the NL East on this date in 1969. After Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan combined to stuff the Phillies, 9-3, at Shea Stadium, the Mets closed within 2 ½ games behind Chicago.

Ryan, Seaver and Koosman

The victory was the Mets’ 18th in 24 games, while the Cubs were in the process of losing 10 of 18, including that day to Pittsburgh.

Gentry worked six innings and Ryan the final three for the win.

The Mets broke the game open with two in the seventh and four in the eighth.

Tommie Agee drove in three runs and scored three others, and Art Shamsky and Rod Gaspar drove in two runs apiece.

BOX SCORE

 

Aug 12

Today in Mets’ History: Mays’ finale at Candlestick.

When the consider the event, it was shocking that only 13,000 were in attendance on this day in 1973 at San Francisco.

MAYS: Always popular at Shea.

The Giants beat the Mets, 4-1, in what was Willie Mays’ last appearance as a player in Candlestick Park. Mays went 0-for-4.

Five days later, against Cincinnati’s Don Gullet at Shea Stadium, Mays hit his 660th and final home run of his career.

This was Mays’ last season, and it was a disappointing way to go out, even if he played in the World Series. In 66 games, Mays hit .211 with six homers and 25 RBI.

The Mets traded for Mays in May of 1972 in a public relations coup for the franchise. At the time, the Giants were in financial distress and owner Horace Stoneham couldn’t guarantee a position after retirement.

MAYS CAREER