Feb 05

Idle thoughts while waiting for kickoff.

Watching the Super Bowl with the mute button, which might be the best way, and planning my week ahead and what I might write about the Mets.

Spring training is two weeks ago, and in seems it was only yesterday that it was only two months away. Time does creep up on you.

There are several things running through my mind pertaining to the Mets:

The Mets will get an influx of money from SNY and with another minor investor. Possibly up to $100 million. On the surface, the Mets have the money to make some significant moves, certainly more than what they did this winter. Even so, the money is earmarked for their expenses, including a potential hit in their court case pertaining to the Ponzi scandal. In short, the money is to go to the mortgage and not a new flat screen TV.

Only twice in seven years has Andres Torres played in over 100 games.  And, since he’s never been on the disabled list, it has to be talent related. The Mets have him penciled in as their center fielder, with Scott Hairston as the back-up. For a team with a spacious outfield and supposedly wants to build on pitching and defense, this is a dangerous sign. I still believe Rick Ankiel could benefit the Mets as a lefty bat and defensive presence.

Brad Penny was a .500 pitcher last season – 11-11 – and recently signed with Japan. I can’t believe there wasn’t any interest here. Surely, he could’ve helped the Mets’ rotation.

I don’t think the Mets will retire Gary Carter’s number, but I hope they honor him in some capacity this season – when he can still appreciate it.

The Mets once made annual winter caravans to drum up interest heading into spring training, with the players and coaches going from town to town. Lots of teams have FanFests in their cities, where the public can meet players and get in the baseball mood. Would be nice to see that again.

 

Nov 11

Why you’ll never get the complete truth from the Mets.

For many, our first impression was one of openness and honesty. When Sandy Alderson was introduced as general manager he spoke of wanting to win, yet said there would be difficult times. He gave hope things would be different in the new regime.

There seemed to be an honesty about him absent from previous Mets management and the current ownership. You wanted to trust him.

While Alderson is on point, it is still not his team, and despite their stated intentions of giving him the resources, the Wilpons continue to play it close to the vest financially. This is a tentative time for the Mets because they still need to sell tickets and don’t want to risk alienating the on-the-fence fans by telling them the real team will appear in 2015, if not later.

Watching the Mets now is akin to going to the movies and getting two hours worth of previews before the feature. And, maybe not even getting the feature.

There are two types of fans. There is blind loyalty that will remain passionate for their team and support it regardless. Since 1962, there’s been more losing than winning, but the Mets continue to hold those fans as they are forever.

Their interest might turn to discouragement and frustration, but if they have the money they will find their way to Citi Field as they did Shea Stadium. They will listen on the radio and watch on TV. They will absorb every written word from the major media vehicles to the blogs. They will talk Mets to anybody who will listen, because, after all, they are Mets fans and that’s what they do.

The Mets know they have a core following. If they came out and said this will take time, more than we expected, that base will remain steadfast.

Then there is the fair weather variety, which come in various forms. They come out when it is convenient, or the weather is nice, or the team is winning, or they get free tickets, or that night’s Law and Order is a repeat, or the other team is the Yankees.

They know who Jose Reyes is and believe he is the Mets and the franchise can’t  exist without him. They think the same of David Wright. They thought it of Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Tom Seaver. Players come and go, but the team remains. Their fancy is caught by the shiny star, much like a child with a new toy.

The flexible fans weigh the cost of a Citi Field experience to that of a Broadway play, a trip to the beach, a night out in Manhattan, the movies, or any thing else that might attract their fickle dollar.

They are flexible because they bend to the prevailing wind. As the great movie line goes, they “can’t handle the truth.” If they knew the Mets were three or four years from serious contention, they would tell you to leave them a wake-up call. These fans aren’t interested in rebuilding and don’t care about Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey being three years from Flushing. They don’t care about building because Reyes is the here and now.

The Mets care most about these fans, as do all sports teams, because they don’t yet have their money. The Mets know the loyal will pay; they are givens to be taken for granted. It’s the others, who haven’t yet laid out the cash, they are chasing.

Alderson can’t be honest with them because to do so is to tell them there’s no compelling reason to come to the park other than to buy into the dream of the future, which they won’t as they haven’t made an emotional investment. To do so would be to chase them away.

To these fans, the truth is poison.

Oct 29

Light up the Hot Stove season.

When David Murphy’s fly ball nestled into Allen Craig’s glove last night to end one of the most compelling World Series in history, the partying was ratcheted up a notch in St. Louis, but the Hot Stove Season began everywhere else.

Over the next five days, the Mets hold an exclusive negotiating window with their free agents: Jose Reyes, Chris Capuano, Scott Hairston, Chris Young, Miguel Batista, Jason Isringhausen and Dale Thayer.

REYES: What's he thinking?

 

Of the group, the most likely to return is Capuano, who should be a priority because of the Mets’ thin rotation. The others are interchangeable among the 200 or so free agents that will hit the market.

Reyes, of course, is the one drawing the most interest here, but the Mets won’t complete a deal in this window as the shortstop is determined to test the market and history tells us this won’t get done until December after the Winter Meetings.

At the end of the season I posted the Mets’ ceiling for Reyes should be four years at no more than $20 million a season, and I see no reason to back off that sentiment. I’d actually go lower, say $17 million.

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May 02

Mets win, NY wins, US wins.

I woke up around 6 , turned on the TV and he was still dead.

The flag endures.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and it will be one of those moments that  you’ll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. For those who learned on ESPN last night, it was reminiscent of hearing John Lennon was murdered while watching Monday Football.

I was home channel surfing when I heard. I called a few friends and became mesmerized by the images on the screen. Just like when watching the Japan earthquake, Katrina, Columbine, and, of course, September 11. There is no script to history. It just relentless attacks us and grabs us by the scruff of the neck and shakes. It shook me to about 4 in the morning.

Flipping back to the Mets game, where it was tied in the ninth, 1-1 — 9-1-1. You don’t find irony or symbolism like that too often. It was  inspiring to hear the crowd spontaneously chanting, U-S-A, U-S-A. Sometimes the chant sounds forced and cliche. Not last night.

“I don’t like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit. But they got this one right,” said David Wright when asked about the chanting.

Yes, the Mets won, but the crowd reaction is what we’ll remember and take with us, much as we do the images of that day.

I was covering the Yankees at the time and took the weekend off to move to New York from Maryland. I was on the Jersey Turnpike just north of the Philadelphia exit when the planes hit the towers. Because all the bridges were closed what was normally a five-hour trip became 11. My movers were volunteer firefighters. My furniture didn’t arrive for several more days.

That week was spent covering workouts at Yankee Stadium and watching the Shea Stadium parking lot used for a staging ground for the EMS workers. It was inspiring to see Bobby Valentine and his Mets, in uniform, help the workers load trucks.

And, when the games finally resumed, we witnessed one of the most memorable home runs in New York history, Mike Piazza’s drive that beat the Braves. The Mets and Braves were mortal enemies at the time, and their display of unity that night was another memory. It was another example of how sports can be unifying.

So much has happened in the ten years since, and we’ve changed personally and as a nation in so many ways, and for a baseball writer it goes well beyond the joys of traveling, from the pat downs to the long lines to the general uneasiness of strangers.

I live in a small town in Connecticut, and the fallout hits here, too.

What small town doesn’t have a 9-1-1 Memorial? Who among us doesn’t know someone lost in the attacks and the subsequent military actions in the Middle East? The failing economy is a byproduct of that day, and with it the foreclosure signs, layoffs and stress of trying to make ends meet. Who among us doesn’t cringe when filling up our tanks and wonder when things will ever get back to normal.

Or, is this normal?

I hope you’ll share with us what you were doing that day.

Jun 11

Mets Chat Room: There’s chemistry here.

The Mets are a flawed team, but one of them isn’t attitude.

Game #61 at Orioles

When asked what he liked best about his team he said “character,’’ that he has 25 players who mostly hustle and not give up on the play.

It has created a sense of chemistry. These Mets, unlike previous teams in recent years, really like each other and it goes beyond a whipped cream pie to the face during a TV interview.

These Mets genuinely like each other and it shows. Catch glimpses in the dugout during a game and you might see Johan Santana showing the grip of his change-up to another pitcher, or Jason Bay demonstrating hitting mechanics, in particular, how his shoulders are dropping.

The Mets have struggled at times, but they’ve never quit on Jerry Manuel and his message. Manuel has the clubhouse.

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