Jun 25

Mets Visit Charming Wrigley Field

The Mets will attempt to lick their wounds from losing two of three to the Yankees when they open a three-game series tonight at Wrigley Field, still a charm after all these years.

Built in 1912, the same year as Fenway Park, Wrigley Field remains a captivating place. It’s not an easy venue for a writer to work, but that’s our problem. It’s also not a comfortable place for players with small clubhouses and a cramped dugout.

For the visitors to get to the dugout, they must walk down a couple of flights of stairs and then weave their way through several halls (you could call them tunnels), the last two usually stank and wet.

But, the old time charm is what makes it worthwhile. The ivy on the brick walls, the rooftop seats across the street (a windfall for the building owners and the Cubs), the manually operated scoreboard in center field. All that takes us to a different time.

When you look past the center field bleachers you can see downtown Chicago. But, in that park you’ve escaped the hustle of today to a quieter, gentler time.

The seating for the fans is cramped and often obstructed, but Wrigley Field is still a tradition baseball and the Cubs are not willing to sacrifice. It’s been said in most years if you traded the Cubs roster for the White Sox roster there likely wouldn’t be a dramatic shift in attendance or fan support, because the real star is Wrigley Field.

(This year the Sox are significantly better, so that theory might not apply. But, we’re talking years when the teams have roughly the same record).

The fans are closer to the field than most parks (Fenway is the same), which generates a different feel and ambience. It’s like you’re a part of something. When a 10-year old can actually exchange a hello from a player during the game, that’s special.

In a concession to today’s economic realities of television advertising, the Cubs are playing more night games than ever. Although it has been decades since their last World Series appearance (they last came close in 2003 and would have made it had it not been for Steve Bartman), they have had playoff teams so it’s not an impossible concept.

Even without the luxury boxes other teams deem vital for their survival, the Cubs plod along. Once owned by the chewing gum company and later the syndicate that owns the Chicago Tribune, and now owned by the family trust of billionaire Joe Ricketts, the money is there to spend if they truly wanted.

They don’t jump into the deep end of the salary pool because the main attraction is an ancient stadium that is always filled, so what incentive do the Cubs have to spend more?

They build it and the people came, and they are still coming.

 

Dec 15

Mets Make It Official, Sign Reliever Jon Rauch

The New York Mets today announced the club has signed free agent righthanded pitcher Jon Rauch to a one-year contract.

Rauch, 33, appeared in 53 games with the Toronto Blue Jays last season, finishing 5-4 with 11 saves. He compiled a 4.85 ERA (28 earned/52.0 innings) with 36 strikeouts and pitched 1.0 inning or more in 39 of his 53 appearances.

Since 2006, Rauch leads all relievers in wins (31) and has appeared in the second-most number of games (434).

He was 3-1 with 21 saves and a 3.12 ERA (20 earned runs/57.2 innings) in 2010 with the Minnesota Twins.

Over his eight-year major league career, Rauch has also played for Chicago (AL), Montreal/Washington and Arizona.  He is 39-31 with 58 saves with a 3.82 ERA (221 earned runs/520.2 innings). Righthanded batters have hit .241 against Rauch for his career, while NL East opponents have batted .230.

The 6-11, 290-pound native of Louisville, KY was drafted by the White Sox in the third round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft and is currently the tallest player in major league baseball.

Oct 11

Mets should target Alderson

The Mets today met with Red Sox assistant GM Allard Baird, and will interview White Sox assistant Rick Hahn tomorrow, former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes Wednesday and Sandy Alderson Thursday or Friday.

ALDERSON: Like him for the job.

They appear to be the Mets’ final four unless Terry Ryan has a change or heart.

All are well respected within the baseball community, but Alderson has the highest profile and deepest resume. That’s why I would like him to get the job.

Alderson’s track record will likely enable him to make the most immediate and deepest impact. I believe he’s the one most able to hit the ground running and provide the change that would convince the fan base the Mets are serious.

Alderson built winning teams in Oakland and San Diego, has connections in Latin America which would minimize the need to retain Omar Minaya in that capacity. Plus, he’s wired like no other with the  commissioner’s office. I don’t think anything will get by him.

During this process we’re still hearing about Wally Backman’s managerial candidacy. The Wilpons might suggest him to the new general manager, but they also promised the new guy will make the call.

Each one of these GM candidates is well connected and probably has their own ideas that might not necessarily involve Backman.

Oct 29

What about Griffey?

Griffey: Would he fit in for a year?

Griffey: Would he fit in for a year?

This time, Ken Griffey would be a full-season rental. The White Sox will not re-sign Griffey, making him a free agent and available to the Mets.

Griffey falls into the category of an old player with an injury history, just the type GM Omar Minaya has been criticized of pursuing. Even so, he hit 18 homers with 71 RBI in 490 at-bats, so there’s still life in his bat.

Griffey has never been enamored with New York, but that was the Yankees. Griffey would only cost the Mets money, and a lot less than they’d pay for Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn. The best thing is they won’t have to dip into their farm system.

So, if they want a rental bat for a year, Griffey could be a viable alternative. He doesn’t make the Mets younger, but improves their bench and outfield for a minimal cost.