Sep 11

September 11 Remembrance

Certain historical events are remembered simply by the date. September 11, 2001, is one. December 7, 1941 is another, as is June 6, 1944. I have been to the World Trade Center, both the original and the Memorial. I also visited Normandy, France, and the United States cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach might be the most sobering thing I have ever seen.

I hope someday to visit Pearl Harbor.

Like many who remember where they were when the Kennedys were shot, when Elvis died and John Lennon was murdered, I know exactly where I was when the planes hit. I was covering the Yankees at the time and moving from Maryland to Connecticut. I just passed the Philadelphia exit on the Jersey Turnpike when the first plane hit.

Any doubt it was an accident was dispelled when the second plane hit. Of course, it was a terrorist attack. Anybody could tell that instantly. Those who still don’t believe have the same mentality as those who doubt the Holocaust. Then again, there are those who probably believe the Earth is still flat.

Our movers were volunteer NYC firemen. They told us the river passages would soon be shut down and they had to hustle to get over the George Washington Bridge. So, they left our truck at a rest stop and took off. My ex-wife and I knew we’d never make the bridge, figuring there would be massive traffic delays at that exit. We kept driving north – we actually saw a sign for Montreal – then turned and headed south into Connecticut. What took usually four hours lasted 11.

All the while, without television, I was glued to the radio, the way most of America learned of Pearl Harbor and D-Day. Our stuff came two days late. I plugged in the TV and that’s when I saw the images for the first time. I’ve seen them a thousands more, including too many to count this afternoon.

i knew it would be days before I covered another game. I kept waiting for the official announcement from Bud Selig, but it didn’t come for hours until after the NFL cancelled its schedule for the upcoming week. Security was tight at Yankee Stadium when it was opened for a practice. I remember the team gathering at the mound before talking with us and shared their stories of meeting with emergency personnel and those who lost family and friends.

Thankfully, I didn’t know anybody who was killed, but felt I had when I visited the Memorial years later and saw the photos and read the tribute letters. Family and friends of the murdered brought their loved ones alive for the world to get to know.

Both the Yankees and Mets were gracious in visiting firemen, the police and family members of those killed. The Shea Stadium parking lot was turned into a staging area. Nobody will ever forget Bobby Valentine and his Mets loading trucks.

Both teams were unified in their support of the city. Publicly, they acted as champions. What was disturbing was when players from each team took verbal swipes at each other as to what organization did more the city. It goes to show there’s always pettiness, even in the midst of graciousness.

Mike Piazza’s homer in the first game played in New York after the attacks, and the coming together of the Mets and Braves on the field that day created one of the most memorable scenes in New York sports history. More such stirring moments came from the Yankees during the World Series. While the grand moments are easy to remember, there was some things that get lost in the shuffle. Such as the bald eagle making his entrance into the Stadium, President Bush throwing out the first pitch with a perfect strike, and the singing of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch, something that has become a New York tradition.

There was also the last Series game at the Stadium, when the crowd chanted for Paul O’Neill.

The Yankees returned in Baltimore, and the press box at Camden Yards was where I saw Piazza hit the homer. From there, it was on to Chicago. I never felt safer on a plane than I did on that flight. I’ll always remember a sign at the new Comiskey Park that read. “Hate the Yankees; Love New York.”

The Yankees, normally booed, were treated kindly the rest of the season on the road.

A lot of those memories came flooding back today as they do every year. So do the feelings, ranging from anger to frustration to patriotism to sadness.

They’ll return again next year.

 

 

 

 

Jul 10

What Message Are Mets Sending With Matt Harvey Decision?

The New York Mets officially pulled the plug on Matt Harvey’s start Saturday in Pittsburgh, but did they do it for the right reasons? Was it to give his blisters a chance to heal and begin a program to limit his innings or prepare him to pitch in the All-Star Game?

Or, is it a matter of coincidence as to the timing? The Mets did not pull the plug on the All-Star Game, and if the blisters aren’t healed, they wouldn’t say if they’d keep him out of what is basically an exhibition game.

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

WHEELER: Stars against Giants. (Getty)

For the past three weeks the buzz has been not will Harvey pitch in the All-Star Game, but would he start? And, if not him, then how about Zack Wheeler after what he did today in San Francisco? Kidding, but if these guys develop as the Mets hope there will be plenty of All-Star opportunities for both, but admittedly this might the only chance to start at home.

Of course, the Mets want Harvey to start Tuesday night as it puts their franchise in the national spotlight in a positive way, and most assuredly Major League Baseball wants him to start for the TV ratings. Let’s face it, money is the great motivator, and always has been for the sport.

But, if you’re a Met player struggling to make something out of this season of lousy weather, extra innings, grueling travel, injuries and losing streaks, how good can you feel about being deprived of your best pitcher against the Pirates yet have him available for an exhibition game? Exactly what message does that send?

For his part, Harvey wants to pitch and downplays the All-Star angle.

“I don’t like not pitching,’’ Harvey told reporters in San Francisco. “But, I’d rather miss a start now then miss all of September with an innings limit. … It’s between the blister and the innings limit [as to why I’m not pitching Saturday]. My goal is to finish the whole season.’’

Harvey is on pace to pitch close to 250 innings, which won’t happen. Factoring in not starting Saturday, Harvey should start 14 more games in the second half. Six innings a game would be 84 more innings, which should put him close to 220 for the season.

After a brilliant start which includes the trappings of a national magazine cover, dating a model and posing nude in another magazine – he doesn’t need the attention of the latter, does he? – Harvey hasn’t been as sharp recently.

As good a season as Harvey has had, think of how much better it might be if not for ten no-decisions. He might have three more wins if the Mets chopped up the seven runs they gave Wheeler today over three of those no-decisions.

All Wheeler needed today was the three the Mets gave him in the first inning, but they were all appreciated.

“Any time you have a lead you can pitch to contact,’’ Wheeler said. “You feel more in control when you can throw everything for strikes.’’

That’s something Wheeler did on the first pitch to 19 of the 27 batters he faced. That’s what Harvey did a lot earlier this season. And, if Wheeler can keep it up, maybe he might pose next year.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 12

Don’t Mind The Mets Today, Save Your Cheers For Mom

Like many of you, my love of baseball started with my dad, who was my Little League coach – from T-Ball to high school – took me to the Indians games, and watched the Game of the Week with me. There was usually a game on TV in our house.

However, my mom also helped nurture my love for the sport. She drove me to my games and practices, gave me nickels and dimes to buy baseball cards, and watched me play ball in the front yard with the neighbors. We chewed up the lawn, but she and my dad never said anything.

One of my most endearing memories of her was how he cheered for me at my games. One time, halfway through one of my few home runs, rounded second base heading for third when I looked up and saw her behind the base jumping up and down and screaming for me to run.

I smile when I think about that moment. When I gave her eulogy, it was one of the things I spoke of. Sadly, I never told her about that and how good it made me feel. I just kept the memory with me through the years.

I know many of you have similar memories of your mother and hope you’ll let her know today how important she is to you. Pull yourself away from the Mets’ game – even though it is a Matt Harvey start – and take her to brunch.

So, all of my best to you and your moms today and every day. Today is her day, but every day should be about her.

Have a great day.

 

May 09

Umpire Angel Hernandez Blows Call; Needs To Be Repremanded

There’s arrogance. There’s blind arrogance. And, there is Angel Hernandez arrogance, which by the way, incorporates a little bit of the blind.

Another night, another blown call, but Hernandez’s last night in Cleveland was compounded by his bullish behavior afterward, which should be met with swift and forceful action by Commissioner Bud Selig.

HERNANDEZ: Blows it big time. (AP)

HERNANDEZ: Blows it big time. (AP)

With two outs in the ninth inning, Oakland’s Adam Rosales apparently hit a game-tying home run, only to have Hernandez rule it a double.

No problem, there’s the home run review process, which will surely right this wrong, give Rosales his homer that would tie the game at 4-4, and play on from there.

Only it didn’t happen that way. Hernandez came out and held fast with his call – the wrong call.

“Probably the only four people in the ballpark,’’ Oakland manager Bob Melvin said about the umpire’s non-reversal.

Replays clearly showed the ball struck a metal railing over the padded outfield wall. More to the point, after striking the railing, the ball ricocheted as you know it would when it strikes metal. Umpire supervisor Jim McKean told ESPN.

Had it hit the pad, it would have fallen straight down, as Melvin suggested.

“Our whole team thought it was the wrong call,’’ Rosales said. “The replays showed it hit the railing. With six eyes on it (three umpires watch the video and a fourth stays on the field), you would have thought they’d make the right call.’’

“Everybody else said it was a home run, including their announcers when I came in here later,’’ Melvin said. “I don’t get it. I don’t know what the explanation would be when everybody else in the ballpark knew it was a home run. Clearly, it hit the railing. I’m at a loss. I’m at a complete loss.’’

Well, perhaps we’d get an in-depth explanation from Hernandez by the pool reporter. Only trouble, with arrogance above-and-beyond even most umpires, Hernandez, noted for his shoot-from-the-hip temper, refused to let the reporter record the interview.

Hernandez, using the umpire’s stock get-out-of-jail-free card, said: “It wasn’t evident on the TV we had it was a home run. I don’t know what kind of replay you had, but you can’t reverse a call unless there is 100 percent evidence and there wasn’t 100 percent evidence.’’

Hernandez clearly didn’t want the interview recorded because he could come back and claim he was misquoted. The quote the reporter acquired the old fashioned way was damning enough.

The umpires use the same camera angle used in the broadcasts and have additional cameras. To suggest the reporters had different camera angles is absurd, not to mention a fabrication.

Hernandez was trying to cover up his own ineptitude with an outlandish story. Clearly, he blew the call, threw dirt on the system used to correct mistakes, and compounded his failure by refusing the interview to be recorded and his arrogant answer.

The ball now is in Selig’s court, and with his powers “to act in the best interest of baseball,’’ his reaction should be swift.

The call should be reversed – to hell with it being in the umpire’s judgment – with the game resumed after the home run. Any fines for Melvin and Rosales should be rescinded.

As for Hernandez, he must be fined and suspended for his actions. Selig needs to come down hard on Hernandez. Really hard. And, in the future, any attempt by an umpire to bully reporters by preventing interviews to be recorded should be met with similar punishment.

Apr 12

Mets Need To Weather The Storm In Minny

target-field-snowOf all the tweets in all the world of Twitter, the one with Target Field blanketed in snow is the most telling.

There is five inches of snow with more forecast in Minneapolis where the Mets play tonight. The high for the series is forecast at a blustery 43 degrees. It will be colder with the wind.

I would love to see Twins owner Jim Pohlad sit with Commissioner Bud Selig in short sleeves tonight in a vain attempt to convince us the weather is fine. But, it isn’t and probably won’t be much better next week in Denver, where it also snows any time.

It is true scheduling isn’t about one team but all 30 and you can’t predict the weather. However, it is also true MLB created this issue, and first did so with the increase to 30 teams from 20 when the Mets were born in 1962.

The insistence of a 162-game schedule stretched the season from the first week of April into October. Factor increased playoff rounds with the last two – including World Series – lasting up to seven games and we’re brushing against November.

There’s too much money to be made over 162 games and the playoffs – the vehicle for the networks to shill for their programming – so they won’t think to cut there.

Nonetheless, Major League Baseball made things more difficult for itself with interleague play, and now, interleague play every day of the season.

With interleague play comes the unbalanced schedule, which means not every team runs the same race in a season. By definition, that means the schedule has no integrity to it, thereby making it unfair.

Unfortunately, Selig loves interleague play, so that won’t change, either. Interleague play has become part of Selig’s legacy, and I don’t think in a good way.

I don’t believe MLB’s economic growth is directly attributable to interleague play as it is to the steroid era which brought on the great power numbers; the construction of new stadiums in both leagues; almost 15 years of the Yankees and Red Sox on top which increases everybody’s attendance and TV ratings; better television deals because of cable; and to Selig’s credit, the international marketing of the sport and continued labor peace.

The great influx of money made MLB, its teams and the Players Association willing to accept the playing in horrible conditions, where injuries and pitcher’s arms are at risk. Instead of improved conditions, the players union settled for more money. Seriously, don’t worry about ending a career because you’ve got enough money to retire for life at age 32.

Things happen and weather is unpredictable, but MLB can still do things to put the odds in its favor while keeping most everything it has going for it now, things that came with the cost of tradition.

First, what genius approved an open-air stadium in Minneapolis? There’s inclement weather this time of year in the Northeast and Midwest, but Minnesota is a different animal. It can snow there for another week or so and almost any time in mid-October.

If they weren’t smart enough to build a dome where it snows seven months in the year, then play the Royals or Indians or White Sox in April, teams that are easier to reschedule later.

Yesterday, the Yankees were out of their division and had a rainout in Cleveland for a second straight day. They now will have a doubleheader on an off-day and play 17 games in 16 days. That makes for tired players and poor pitching, but who cares about putting the best product on the field?

“I don’t think you can go to cold weather cities in April if you’re only going to go there once,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I know the schedule’s not easy to make, but if you could just stay in your division longer or go to some warmer weather cities you might be able to get by a lot of this.’’

From a business standpoint, the Indians can’t like playing the Yankees in April, when the crowds are down. They’d rather play them later when there’s a chance for a sellout.

It’s pounding a square peg into a round hole to play interleague and non-divisional play in April. The first two weeks of the season should be within the division so make-ups are easier to reschedule.

I’ve suggested this several times, even talked with players and club officials who believe it is a good idea, and that is the scheduling of day-night doubleheaders.

In this case, MLB can make the unbalanced schedule work to its advantage. Because you’re playing 18 games within the division, have several day-nighters each month. Not only does this give the owners the gates they want, but provides more off-days to make rescheduling easier.

Nobody likes to play in horrible weather conditions, and nobody likes to sit in them, either. However, this is an issue because MLB lacks the willingness or foresight to change something within its control.