Nov 10

Breaking News: deGrom Wins NL Rookie Award

The New York Mets took another step toward relevancy today when Jacob deGrom was named the NL Rookie of the Year.

He is the fifth Met to win the award, joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). For those believing in omens, the Mets played in the World Series within two years of each previous winner.

DeGrom, 26, made 22 starts and won the NL Rookie Triple Crown leading NL rookies in strikeouts (144), ERA (2.69) and tying for the league lead with nine wins.

“I’m truly honored to receive this award and would like to thank the BBWAA,” said deGrom in a statement released by the team. “I wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for the support of my teammates. I’m already looking forward to 2015 and helping the Mets reach the postseason.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “His journey has been unbelievable.  When we promoted him he was supposed to go to the bullpen but an injury forced him into the rotation. This award speaks to Jacob’s determination and desire to succeed.”

DeGrom was named the NL Rookie of the Month for July and for September by Major League Baseball and went 6-1 with a 2.16 ERA (16 earned runs/66.2 innings) in 10 starts after the All-Star break.

NOTE: Update to follow.

 

Nov 06

Hodges Belongs In The Hall

It’s time Gil Hodges went to Cooperstown.

It’s that time of year when the Hall of Fame ballots come out, and recently the Hall of Fame released ten candidates from the Golden Era (1947-72). Joining Hodges, who is in the running for consideration for the ninth year are: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, executive Bob Howsam, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.

HODGES: Hall worthy.

HODGES: Hall worthy.

Unfortunately, I only vote in the annual balloting and not on this committee. Otherwise, I would vote for Hodges and Kaat.

I’m not a big believer of comparing eras because the conditions differ from era to era. I look at it as how that player fared in his time, and The Boys Of Summer aren’t the same without Hodges. Very few players transcend eras, such as Babe Ruth.

He hit 370 homers with 1,274 RBI despite missing two years serving in World War II. Using today’s stats, he also had a .359 on-base percentage and .846 OPS. Hodges averaged 29 homers and 100 during his 18-year career – which included the Mets in 1962 and 1963 – but never once struck out 100 times. He also won three Gold Gloves.

Of all the great Hodges stories, the one that stands out most was when fans in Brooklyn went to church to pray for him during the 1952 World Series.

Hodges was known for his quiet dignity, best exemplified when he walked out to left field to remove Cleon Jones from a July game in 1969 for not hustling.

There was no argument from Jones and neither hashed it out in the papers, either. Can you imagine that today, in any sport? Many Mets followers said the incident sparked their pennant run.

To this day, Tom Seaver chokes up when he talks about Hodges, calling him the key behind the 1969 Miracle Mets’ championship run.

Here’s hoping Seaver chokes up again when Hodges’ name is finally called.

Feb 23

Could Matt Harvey Become A HIgh Maintenance Super Nova?

Could the New York Mets have a potential problem with Matt Harvey?

There are already signs of him being high maintenance … signs he enjoys the trappings of New York too much … signs he doesn’t handle injuries well … signs of being too sensitive … signs he knows he’s good and isn’t afraid to let you know.

HARVEY: No hiding there are questions (ESPN)

HARVEY: No hiding there are questions (ESPN)

Harvey has never pitched a complete season and is 12-10 lifetime. While we’re not talking about the second coming of Tom Seaver, Harvey seems to be caring himself with a sense of entitlement and a “you can’t touch me’’ aura.

The latest is his reported reluctance to want to undergo his rehab in Port St. Lucie, which the Mets prefer, and desire to work out in New York.

After Harvey threw for the first time Saturday, general manager Sandy Alderson backed off saying where the 24-year-old 2010 will rehab, but made clear his preference.

“As a general rule, our players rehab in Florida,’’ Alderson said Saturday. “But that’s not a decision we’re going to make or mandate [now]. When we get to the end of spring training we’ll see where he is, and I’m sure there will be discussion between now and then.’’

For somebody with 36 career starts, why should there even be discussion? If Port St. Lucie was good enough for David Wright and Pedro Martinez to rehab, it should be good enough for Harvey.

In fairness, we haven’t heard Harvey’s reasoning for his preference of New York, which leads to speculation, with little of it showing him in a good light.

Making this more touchy is this could go before the Players Association, as the collective bargaining agreement mandates a player can refuse his rehab in a spring training locale during the season for longer than 20 days.

“The CBA imposes limitations. Yeah,’’ Alderson said. “But in the past, for the most part, our players have been here and it’s been a good situation.’’

We know New York is Harvey’s home, has superior Italian food and a better nightlife than Port St. Lucie.

But, what’s the purpose here?

New York’s nightlife makes one wonder, as Harvey clearly enjoys the perks of being a star – even though that might be a premature characterization of his professional status. Harvey likes the clubs and openly spoke about his drinking in a Men’s Journal magazine piece.

“I’m young, I’m single,’’ he was quoted as saying. “I want to be in the mix. … I have a 48-hour rule. No drinking two days before a start. But, those other days? Yes, I’m gonna go out.’’

The bottom line: If you’re 24 and a high-profile figure, you shouldn’t need a rule about drinking. If he finds it necessary to have a rule, he shouldn’t be drinking in the first place.

Everybody these days has a phone with a camera. Harvey has already been caught several times in incidents of public displays of affection with his former supermodel girlfriend, Anne Vyalitsyna at Rangers and Knicks games, where he is gifted the tickets. More trappings.

He’s now seeing another model, Ashley Haas, which has his comments of wanting to be like Derek Jeter resurface. Of course, It is doubtful Harvey would have ever posed nude.

“That guy is the model,’’ he said. “I mean, first off, let’s just look at the women he’s dated. Obviously, he goes out – he’s meeting these girls somewhere – but you never hear about it. That’s where I want to be.’’

New York’s nightlife has burned out dozens of athletes. Look what it did for Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Imagine what Mickey Mantle would have been able to accomplish with a little less drinking and womanizing.

And, as for Jeter, he’s not the Teflon he’s made out to be. Stories of sending his conquests home with a gift basket of memorabilia and forcing houseguests to surrender their cell phones don’t portray him in a flattering light. Mom must be so proud.

Shortly after the magazine piece came out, Harvey complained about being misquoted and taken out of context. A reporter for a magazine profile records everything, so it is doubtful the quotes were manufactured. Backing off his comments shows a lack of accountability.

Harvey also got into it with WFAN talk-show host Joe Beningo, ripping him on Twitter and then deleting the post.

When it comes to fighting with a radio personality or the media in general, it is futile as it comes off as petty and unprofessional, plus, he’ll never have the last word.

The media isn’t as easy to bully as was former teammate Jon Rauch, whom Harvey forced out of town after challenging the former Mets reliever to a fight because he didn’t appreciate the rookie hazing, which included getting doused with water while sleeping on the trainer’s table.

If Harvey had a problem he could have confronted Rauch in private rather than making an uncomfortable clubhouse scene. That’s something somebody with a professional grasp on things would have done. Instead, he came off as behaving like Jordany Valdespin.

That’s not the only thing Harvey hasn’t handled well. Twice he wasn’t immediately forthcoming in disclosing injuries to the training staff, and arguably it led to his elbow surgery.

I want the best for Harvey. I want him to have a long and brilliant career. However, he has a long way to go, on and off the field. He hasn’t always shown good judgment and a case can be made it cost him this season.

He needs to reign himself in off the field, and that includes not making a big deal about where he rehabs. If reflects poorly on him and makes one wonder if this isn’t about carousing the bars with Haas and watching the Rangers.

If he maintains this course, instead of a franchise pitcher, he could end being a high maintenance super nova.

Feb 14

Jim Fregosi Dies; Always Part Of Mets’ Lore

It was sad to hear the passing of Jim Fregosi, 71, Friday in a Miami hospital. Fregosi, a long-time All-Star shortstop with the Angels and 1,000-game winner as a manager, will always be a part of New York Mets lore.

When the Mets’ worst trades are revisited, the trade to acquire Fregosi for Nolan Ryan goes down as one of the two worst, with the dealing of Tom Seaver to the Reds as the other.

Fregosi (c) with Ken Boswell (l) and Wayne Garrett (r).

Fregosi (c) with Ken Boswell (l) and Wayne Garrett (r).

When Fregosi’s 146 games played with the Mets in 1972-73 are compared to Ryan’s combined 324 victories and 5,714 strikeouts, it understandably goes down as one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, but in fairness, a trade must be examined with the circumstances of the time.

It is never black and white.

After the 1971 season, they were two years removed from their Miracle Mets season and trying to regain their spot among baseball’s elite. They already had the foundation with a solid rotation of Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Jon Matlack and Jim McAndrew.

What the Mets didn’t have was right-handed power and a third baseman, of which they used six different from 1969. Fregosi, 30 at the time, was supposed to fill those voids, and all it would cost the Mets was Ryan, who owned a combined 19-24 record and was coming off 10-14 season in 1971.

Off the field, Ryan also had a dislike of New York City, and on the mound a propensity for wildness and a lingering blister problem. With their rotation, Fregosi’s background and Ryan’s baggage and disappointing numbers, it was easy to see why the Mets made the deal.

The Mets reached the World Series in 1973, but by that time Fregosi’s skills had deteriorated and he had become a role player. He played in 31 games that year before his contract was purchased by Texas in July.

Nobody could foresee the career paths of Fregosi and Ryan, but at the time, it was good and necessary gamble for the Mets to take. Who would have thought Ryan would go on to win 305 games?

After leaving the Mets, Fregosi played five more seasons with Texas and Pittsburgh but never approached his All-Star status, and then embarked on an 18-year managerial career with the Angels, White Sox, Philadelphia and Blue Jays, compiling a 1,028-1,094 record that included taking the 1993 Phillies to the World Series.

“Everyone in the Phillies organization is deeply saddened about the news of Jim’s passing. We, and so many others in the game, have lost a dear friend,’’ club president David Montgomery said in a statement. “He’ll be remembered for his vibrant personality, wisdom and love of the game.’’

That personality and wisdom was evident during spring training, as he became a fixture in ballparks throughout Florida as a scout. Fregosi, who suffered a stroke during a Major League Baseball alumni cruise Thursday, was preparing for another spring training as an assistant with the Braves.

Spring training, which begins this week, was Fregosi’s time as he entertained fellow scouts and club executives with his stories, and informed writers from his 50-year career.

Whether it was in the stadium lunchroom, press box or on the field, if you wanted to laugh or know something, you sought out Fregosi.

 

Feb 06

Mets’ Legend Ralph Kiner Remembered

This one hurts. Not just the New York Mets and their fans, but all Major League Baseball, lost a legend today with the passing of Ralph Kiner in his California home with his family by his side.

Kiner lived his 91 years to his fullest as a Hall of Fame slugger followed by a 52-year broadcast career with the Mets. This is a man who hung around with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, and dated Elizabeth Taylor.

Murphy, Nelson and Kiner: Gone, but never forgotten.

Murphy, Nelson and Kiner: Gone, but never forgotten.

On and off the field, Kiner was a star, one who inspired and drew awe, but of his traits and skills, perhaps his greatest was his humility and ability to connect with his adoring fans on a basic, human level.

“Losing Ralph is like losing a member of the family,’’ said Mets broadcaster Howie Rose, perhaps saying it best. “His warmth, humility and sense of humor will be missed. I’ll always treasure being able to share a broadcast booth with a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word.’’

Numbers are numbers, and Kiner’s were most impressive, beginning with leading the National League in homers in each of his first seven years in the majors. He averaged a homer every 14.1 at-bats and over 100 RBI a season.

However, those are numbers, which don’t accurately measure his impact.

Bud Selig called him “a player ahead of his time.’’

In a statement, the Pirates, for whom he starred, said: “Ralph was one of the greatest players to ever wear a Pirates uniform and was a tireless ambassador for the game of baseball. He was a treasured member of the Pittsburgh community during his seven years with the Pirates.’’

Tom Seaver called him “a jewel,’’ while Mets owner Fred Wilpon said: “Ralph Kiner was one of the most beloved people in Mets history – an original Met and extraordinary gentleman. … He was one of a kind.’’

Mets fans grew to know, and love Kiner, as a broadcaster. He, along with Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson, were their original broadcast team. Kiner carved out a niche for himself as host of “Kiner’s Korner,’’ the postgame show where players reveled in talking with Kiner and getting gift certificates and $100 checks.

Kiner became known for his stories and malaprops, once saying, “if Casey Stengel were alive today he’d be spinning in his grave.’’

Not just stories, but Kiner loved to talk hitting, often, in the days before specialized hitting coaches, talking with the younger Mets.

“One September afternoon in 1969, I asked him to come and feed balls through the pitching machine,’’ recalled Ron Swoboda. “We talked for about an hour. He gave me tips on holding the bat. That night I had the greatest night of my career.’’

That night, Sept. 15, Swoboda hit a pair of two-run homers off Steve Carlton in a 4-3 victory. That night, Carlton struck out 19 Mets.

I have had several opportunities to talk with Kiner while covering the Mets. Once in spring training, Kiner spoke to a group of reporters for about 15 minutes. I had a couple of extra questions and wanted to grab him for a few more moments.

Forty-five minutes later, Ralph and I were still talking in the Mets’ dugout in Port St. Lucie. He was a joy.

However, that wasn’t the first time Ralph was so generous with his time with me.

As a college intern working for the Houston Astros, I had the opportunity to do stats for the Mets broadcast crew of Ralph, Murphy and Nelson for a weekend series. I don’t remember if he said anything humorous that weekend. What I do remember was he was gracious, warm and friendly. I was a college intern and this man was in the Hall of Fame and dated Liz Taylor.

Still, he was genuine, and as Howie Rose said, treated everyone like they were family. I had a chance that weekend to learn first hand what thousands of New Yorkers already knew: Ralph Kiner was a gem.