Mar 29

A Sad Day As Rusty Staub Passes

I woke up this morning with snow on the ground and immediately thought it’s way too early for Opening Day. I turned on the TV and was hit with the news of the passing of Rusty Staub and thought it’s too sad a day for Opening Day.

How can a day meant for new beginnings be overshadowed by such a sad event?

DZdPUxGXUAEX_kII wrote about Staub several weeks ago and recalled how gracious he was to me when I introduced myself to him at an airport, and it was heartwarming to hear of the remembrances of him from Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling today.

Hernandez spoke of Staub’s influence wihen he joined the Mets and helping him get acclimated to New York. Darling said Staub taught him how to be a better person.

Fighting back tears, Hernandez said: “He was a great, great  friend, and he’s in a better place.”

It is almost cliché to say he was a better person than player, but in his case, it could be true when you hear of his philanthropic gestures, most notably the New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund.

“Rusty started more than just a charity – he started a family,’’ wrote chairman Stephen Dannhauser. “While many admire Rusty for his impressive record as a baseball player, it is his work off the field that truly made him one of the greats.  We will miss his laughter, friendship, and leadership, but we will work to carry on his mission through our continued stewardship of the charity he founded.’’

I urge you to log onto to the charity’s website, answerthecall.org for information on how to donate. Increments of $4 or $10, Staub’s numbers, would be a nice touch.

I know you all have your favorite Staub memories and ask you share them.

 

Jun 24

Mets Should Honor Cabrera’s Demand And Move On

So much for Asdrubal Cabrera being the ultimate team player. That boat pretty much sailed when he told Mets manager Terry Collins that he wanted to be traded because he was unhappy about being moved to second.

Actually, the boat might have started leaving the harbor when he told Collins he didn’t want to play third.

CABRERA: Time to move on. (AP)

CABRERA: Time to move on. (AP)

Cabrera is a major league player who has previously played second base and if his manager wants him to play second base he should play it, and if he had a problem with the request he should address it in private and not on TV.

He has to be smarter.

Moaning about moving to a new position is one thing, but attempting to blackmail the Mets that he’d move if they pick up his extension is another.

Very tacky, and if the Mets were smart they’d acquiesce to Cabrera’s emotional demands and move on. His range is shot, he’s been hampered by injuries, and he’s not hitting … it is time to move on.

Collins’ request wasn’t outrageous, but it was misplaced. Late June isn’t time to experiment. Cabrera shouldn’t be at second, if anything, to get his bat in the line-up everyday Wilmer Flores should get that chance. If not Flores, then T.Y. Rivera, instead.

Cabrera had a nice run with the Mets, but it’s time for a chance at shortstop. And, Jose Reyes isn’t the answer, either.

Apr 14

Game Wrap: Torn Fingernail Shelves Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard gave the Mets what they needed. He just didn’t give them enough. With their bullpen forced to work over 11innings Thursday, and three relievers unavailable, the Mets needed length from their ace.

Unfortunately for the Syndergaard, another finger issue held him to six innings and 87 pitches, well short of what manager Terry Collins hoped. Collins targeted Syndergaard for however long 110 pitches would give the Mets, likely seven and hopefully eight.

SYNDERGAARD: Leaves early with torn fingernail. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Leaves early with torn fingernail. (AP)

“I was aware of it,” Syndergaard said of the need of preserving the bullpen. “I wanted to go out there and give those guys a break.”

Syndergaard’s Opening Day start was cut short by a blister on his finger. Tonight it was a torn fingernail and he could only helplessly watch as J.T. Realmuto doubled in the game-winner in the ninth off Josh Edgin gave the Marlins a 3-2 victory.

Syndergaard said he had fingernail issues in the minors and doesn’t know why they resurfaced now.

“If I keep my fingernail too short, I get a blister,” Syndergaard said. “If it gets too long, it splits. It is all about finding a happy medium.”

Syndergaard tried humor to deal with his frustration.

“This gives me a chance to go get a mani-pedi,” he said. “I have to maintain this. … I wanted to stay out there and finish the job. I feel I will be able to bounce back.”

The Mets used eight pitchers in Thursday’s 16-inning marathon and Collins said he wouldn’t use Addison Reed, Hansel Robles or Josh Smoker. To pick up the slack they brought up lefty Sean Gilmartin, whose role tonight would have been to pitch had the game gone to extra innings.

Syndergaard gave up two runs on six hits with no walks and four strikeouts, good enough to win most games, but not in those in which the Mets went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and leaving 11 runners on base.

“He pitched fine,” Collins said of Syndergaard. “He held them to two runs. We had opportunities to score.”

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW: For the second straight game a reversed replay challenge factored prominently.

On Thursday, the Mets had a run taken off the board, when the original safe ruling on Yoenis Cespedes was overturned. Cespedes would likely have been safe had he slid.

Had it happened that way, the Mets would have won in regulation and not spent their bullpen, and consequently, tonight things might have played out differently.

Tonight, Miguel Rojas was thrown out at the plate by Michael Conforto to end the seventh. The call was upheld after Collins challenged, although the TV replay showed catcher Rene Rivera missed the tag.

FLU SHELVES CESPEDES: Cespedes, probably the National League’s Player of the Week with five homers, hit two Thursday despite playing with the flu.

“He was, at the end of the game, absolutely beat,” Collins said. “I went to him yesterday before the game started and asked if he needed it, and he said, `I’ll be OK.’ So he played. But by the end of the game, you could tell. If you saw him walk off the field, he was shot.”

Cespedes struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.

METS STILL FLEXING: The Mets lead the Major Leagues with 21 homers, including Lucas Duda’s fourth tying him with Jay Bruce for the team lead.

Duda homered to center to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Duda reached base four times with two hits and two walks.

You have to love Duda’s approach at the plate. He’s been patient and drawn walks and going to the opposite field.

 

Oct 25

Not On Cubs’ Bandwagon; I Want Indians To Win

While most of the free world wants the Cubs to win the World Series, my feeling is I hope they keep waiting. Maybe not for another 100 years or so, but at least until the Indians win this year.

The essence of the Cubs’ story of frustration is the angst doesn’t seem to end. What will happen if it does? You can make the case Cubs’ fans are identified by all those years of losing. Sometimes their season was over by May. Other times they lost in excruciating fashion. Mets’ fans cheered the collapse in 1969.

Chief Wahoo hasn't smiled since 1948.

Chief Wahoo hasn’t smiled since 1948.

The Steve Bartman game was simply cruel, but after learning of the viciousness of Cubs fans, my sympathy for them faded quickly. ESPN did a wonderful documentary of that incident, that included somebody from their public relations department smuggling him out of Wrigley Field in disguise. For you into trivia: Future Met Moises Alou had a play on the ball hit by another future Met, Luis Castillo.

My heart in this World Series goes to another frustrated franchise – the Indians. They were the team of my youth – Chief Wahoo and all – and their failures weren’t gut wrenching but quite simply they were victims of bad baseball.

When I was 10, I didn’t know anything about political correctness. I only cared about Rocky Colavito, Sam McDowell, Larry Brown and Sonny Siebert. A half-century later, I still wish I didn’t know about political correctness. As if we don’t have other things to be interested in, The New York Times sprawled the tired issue of team nicknames across its sports pages today. Leave it to The Times to take a political stance on the day of the World Series.

My first Indians’ memory was watching them in April of 1965 on a black-and-white Motorola with the rabbit ears placed just right so I could see them beat the Angels on a Leon Wagner homer. “Daddy Wags” they called him. He always had a chaw of chewing tobacco in his cheek. Another thing not politically correct.

My mother saw how thrilled I was and told my dad, “Jim, you need to take John to a game.” He did later that summer, taking me to cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium, which was originally built to host an Olympics than never came.

It was July 19, when Lee Stange beat the Orioles, 5-0, and Chuck Hinton homered. Years later, when I was covering the Orioles, I got a photocopy of the box score and gave it to my father.

One of my overriding memories was sitting next to my dad in the middle of a long row. Back then the vendors didn’t throw their food, but simply passed it down the aisle and the money was sent back the same way. When my dad handed me the hot dog I had no idea I was supposed to pass it along, so I started eating it.

Look, I was nine years old at the time. How was I supposed to know?

And, how was I supposed to know the Indians would always lose? They won their first ten games to start the 1966 season, then went to Baltimore and lost a doubleheader, 8-2, 8-3. I listened to both games on the radio – the Indians weren’t on local TV often – and I started crying after the second game.

In an effort to console me, my father said, “you know, some boy your age in Baltimore is very happy.’’

That didn’t make sense to me then and it doesn’t make sense all these years later.

They played a lot of doubleheaders back then, including twi-nighters that started at 5 and usually ended at 11.

On July 25, 1967, they played two in Chicago. I listened to both games and kept score at the kitchen table. The Indians lost the first game, 3-1, when future Met J.C. Martin hit a two-run homer off McDowell, scoring another future Met, Tommie Agee, ahead of him.

I wasn’t happy but decided to stick it out for the second game – all 16 innings.

I thought my patience was going to be rewarded with Duke Sims’ RBI double in the top of the inning. When Ken Berry hit a two-run homer to win, 6-5, in the bottom of the inning off Steve Bailey, whom I completely forgot about until now, I threw my pencil across the room to the background sound of fireworks going off at Comiskey Park.

If I gave it any thought, I wouldn’t have cared about some kid in Chicago being happy. And, sometime next week, I will be very happy if some kid in Chicago cries into his deep-dish pizza.

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Sep 08

So What If Tebow Signing A Gimmick

Why would the Mets sign Tim Tebow to a minor league contract? Well, why not?

My first thought was not that the Mets were seeking divine intervention in their playoff push, but of the more practical acceptance for what it really is – a no-risk opportunity.

TEBOW: Now a Met. (FOX Sports)

TEBOW: Now a Met. (FOX Sports)

The Mets don’t have anything to lose. If Tebow – who hasn’t played baseball since his junior year in high school – doesn’t make it like everybody expects, they haven’t lost anything. However, if the former Heisman Trophy winner and New York Jet does catch lightning in a bottle, then everybody is a winner.

In a conference call this afternoon. GM Sandy Alderson addressed, and as expected, denied the obvious motivation.

“While I and the organization, I think, are mindful of the novel nature of this situation, this decision was strictly driven by baseball,” Alderson said, his nose growing with each word.

“This was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort. We are extremely intrigued with the potential that Tim has.”

If that’s the case, then why were the decision makers Alderson and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon, and did not involve the Mets’ baseball operations personnel?

A decision on a prospect that will go to the fall instructional league, Sept. 19, doesn’t go all the way to the top. In addition, just any prospect trying to salvage a professional sports career, isn’t excused a couple days a week to pursue a college football TV analyst position.

Alderson spoke glowingly of Tebow’s work ethic and professionalism and how the Mets’ minor leaguers could learn from watching him. While that’s all well and good, but this is an opportunity to keep the Mets in the news this winter and sell some tickets in spring training and in the minors next year.

Of course, Alderson won’t admit that for it would defeat the purpose.

As for Tebow, who didn’t make it with Jets, Denver, Philadelphia or New England, his motivation is presumably the desire to compete. He likely doesn’t need the money, and if he did, he’s surely smart enough to understand he’s years from major league money.

He’s also smart enough to realize this won’t be easy. As Michael Jordan learned, hitting a baseball might be the single most difficult thing to do in sports.

“I know this is a tough game,’’ said Tebow on the conference call. “ But I’m looking forward to putting in the work and I felt like this was the best fit.”

This is very easy to figure out, but what I don’t get is all the criticism of him doing this and the calls for him to get a real job. Shouldn’t he be free to pursue whatever career he wants?

If this is what Tebow wants to do, and he’s found a willing partner in the Mets, what’s the big deal?

And for those who say the Mets already have enough left-handed hitting outfielders, well, that’s a little premature, don’t you think?

The call-in shows were full of Tebow this afternoon, and he’ll be on the back pages tomorrow.

Just like the Mets want.

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