Feb 25

Gotta Love Buck Showalter

The New York Mets were roasted during their first year at Citi Field because the new stadium showed more a Brooklyn Dodgers feel than that of the Mets.

That never would have happened had Buck Showalter been running the show. Showalter, who is cut from the original old school cloth, gets it when honoring the game’s past.

Frank Robinson was in Orioles’ camp Monday and Showalter casually asked 19-year-old prospect Josh Hart if he knew about the Hall of Famer, a member of the 500-homer club and one of the three greatest players in club history along with Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken.

Incidentally, Robinson was also the first African-American manager in major league history, and as a black man, you would think that’s something Hart would want to know.

When Hart said he didn’t know, Showalter assigned the rookie to write a one-page report on Robinson. Kind of like “I will not talk in class,’’ 100 times on the blackboard.

Hart not knowing Robinson ranks just below on the ignorance scale of LeBron James – who prides himself as a basketball historian – leaving Bill Russell off his NBA Mt. Rushmore.

The Robinson-Hart reminds me of something that happened in spring training several years ago, and also involved Robinson.

Then Mets-GM Omar Minaya asked former prospect Lastings Milledge to follow him across the field to the Washington dugout to introduce him to then-Nationals manager Robinson.

Milledge could not have been less interested and showed Robinson zero respect. And, in doing so showed the same amount to Minaya.

It was a precursor of things to come for Milledge, who was chastised by manager Willie Randolph for not honoring the game’s unspoken traditions, and later by his teammates, who posted a sign on his locker saying, “Know your place, Rook. Signed, your teammates.’’

Milledge never did get it and his career fell into “what might have been,’’ status. Here’s hoping Hart gets the message.

Dec 27

Hopefully, The Final Word About Carlos Beltran

Now that I am back, it is time to catch up on several matters with the New York Mets. The most important is Carlos Beltran’s shot across the Mets’ bow after he signed with the Yankees.

Was he entitled? Yes. Did the Mets deserve some of the criticism? Yes, but not all. Beltran needs to look in the mirror, too. Wonder why he felt the need to take a shot when he had numerous opportunities over the years.

BELTRAN; Took shot at Mets.

BELTRAN: Took shot at Mets.

We heard Jeff Wilpon and Beltran mended fences at the All-Star Game, and later Beltran said he was open to a Flushing return. Evidently, that wasn’t the case.

Don’t blame Beltran for saying he would consider it because he was playing the market, and as any smart future free agent, you don’t slam doors early in the process. In the end, we know the Mets would never have given Beltran the kind of deal he received from the Yankees. Forty-five million over three years. Never would have happened.

I’ve always liked Beltran and it would have been fun to see him go out a Met, but it wasn’t to be. Honestly, if sentimentality had anything to do with it, he should have gone full circle and returned to Kansas City.

At his introductory press conference with the Yankees – we all knew that’s where he would go – Beltran filled in a lot of pieces, but to a point.

Beltran said he was still upset when the Mets singled him out for missing an appearance at the Walter Reed Medical Center, when the team was in Washington. It is an annual gesture by the Mets when in Washington, something that doesn’t take the team by surprise – including Beltran.

Why it was never known until after the visit Beltran was in Puerto Rico working with one of his charities is open to speculation. Somebody had to know Beltran would not be there, and if nothing else he should have said something earlier to avoid an issue.

We can write this off as a miscommunication, but can we really? If Beltran was jumping the trip somebody had to have known. Then general manager Omar Minaya? Jeff or Fred Wilpon? Why didn’t Beltran say, `this is who gave me permission to go?’

Seems like enough was done by both parties to create confusion.

However, Beltran is absolutely correct when he says the Mets mishandled his knee problems, from keeping him on the disabled list too long, so they could see him play meaningless games in September, to the surgery itself.

This delayed surgery, which he had on his own, and his subsequent return to the team. Blame the team for that.

But, let’s hear some names, please. Who did you wrong? Minaya or Wilpon?

“All the controversy about the Walter Reed,’’ Beltran said. “The knee — the organization trying to put me as a player that was a bad apple. I was this, I was that. I can deal with 0-for-4 and three strikeouts and talk to you guys.

“But when someone is trying to hurt you in a very personal way, trying to put things out there … then we got trouble. Now, it’s personal.

“When they say all that about myself, I was hurt. You cannot believe the organization that signed you for seven years is trying to put you down. In that aspect, I felt hurt.’’

There, he said it. I wish it had come out sooner and Beltran would have done more in the matter of finger pointing.

However, before we get all weepy for Beltran finally getting a chance to play with the Yankees, always remember he had his opportunity. After the Mets gave him his last contract offer, Beltran went back to the Yankees for a discounted proposal. Seemed he didn’t really want to go to the Mets.

So, obviously, it was more about the money with Beltran regarding the Mets. Had he taken less to go with the Yankees, he would have played in at least one World Series with them – that being the one they won in 2009.

For whatever reason, Beltran was never beloved as a Met. His quiet demeanor was a contributing factor. But, we must remember, he played with a fractured face in 2005. He played through numerous injuries, and he played hard.

That should never be taken away from him. He was beaten up during that time by the fan base, and he received little support from his teammates and management.

There’s something about Beltran’s demeanor that flies under the radar. He was not a vocal presence in the clubhouse, and because of it, Jose Reyes was influenced by Carlos Delgado, who did not respect then manager Willie Randolph.

Yes, Walter Reed was a mess, but a preventable one by both parties. Yes, the knee issue was a disaster, with most of the blame directed at the Mets. Yes, if Beltran hurt then he should have made it vocal.

I was sorry to hear Beltran’s scorched-earth feelings about the Mets. However, it was weighing on him, but it should have come out sooner.

But, Beltran had plenty of time earlier to vent. I wish he hadn’t because it solved nothing and opened old wounds. It cast a black cloud over things, including how he should be remembered as a Met – which is as a marvelous player who gave his best. It also gave us a heads-up for the Subway Series.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 10

David Wright Likes Curtis Granderson Signing On Many Levels

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Where Curtis Granderson will fit in with the New York Mets outfield is still to be determined, David Wright has no doubt he does fit with his team.

Granderson is penciled in to hit fourth behind Wright, giving him the protection he hasn’t had since Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado were here. Manager Terry Collins doesn’t know which of the three outfield positions Granderson will play, but Wright said wherever he plays, he provides an immediate upgrade.

WRIGHT: Likes Granderson signing on many levels.

WRIGHT: Likes Granderson signing on many levels.

“Curtis instantly makes us a better team both offensively and defensively,’’ Wright said in an email.

Offensively, Granderson hit 40 homers with the Yankees, but even with Citi Field’s spacious dimensions, he should be good for at least 25.

Defensively, he’s a natural centerfielder. Collins hasn’t decided his outfield rotation, but speculation is it will be – from left to right – Granderson, Juan Lagares and Chris Young.

Collins said Granderson should also take pressure off Wright in the batting order.

“I think, number one, they’ve got Curtis hitting behind him now, they’ve got to make a decision,’’ Collins said of opposing pitcher’s plans against the Mets.

“David’s patient enough to take the base on balls, especially if he knows the guy can bat behind him,” Collins said. “He’ll get better pitches to hit each at-bat.  And if David gets pitches to hit, he does damage.’’

Granderson is GM Sandy Alderson’s highest-profile free agent signing, but if things work out as hoped, Wright said it would not be his last. If the Mets get better, other players will notice.

“I think it paves the way for other elite players to want to play for us,’’ wrote Wright, whom Granderson said was influential in him signing with the Mets.

From his perspective, Granderson said one of the reasons he wanted four years was to be around when the Mets’ building plan reached fruition, and that includes signing future free agents.

While Granderson provides Wright protection in the order, he’ll also give him a respite in the clubhouse. Even prior to his appointment to team captain last season, Wright was the clubhouse voice, commenting on an array of issues, ranging from Willie Randolph’s firing in 2008 to the Wilpon’s financial situation to Ike Davis’ plate troubles to Jordany Valdespin’s emotional meltdowns.

Quite simply, he has been the go-to guy for all issues on the Mets.

By all accounts, Granderson will be a positive presence, and Wright echoed what Alderson said earlier today.

“He’s a true professional and great guy to have in the clubhouse,’’ wrote Wright. “He has a confidence about him that I think will rub off on other players.’’

ON DECK: Wrapping up day two of the Winter Meetings.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 04

Not Right How Mets Are Judging Terry Collins

As of now, Terry Collins’ job is safe and deservedly so. Based on getting the most out of what he has been given and basic fairness, there’s nothing justifying Collins’ job being in question.

COLLINS: What's he thinking? (AP)

COLLINS: What’s he thinking? (AP)

However, fairness is irrelevant in sports. A manager’s job security always becomes an issue when he has lame duck contractual status and his team has lost six straight games.

Losing streaks get everybody edgy, with questions directed to management, in this case, GM Sandy Alderson, who was asked the inevitable by The New York Post.

“That’s not something that has entered my mind or any mind within the organization,’’ Alderson said. “Has it entered the minds of others in the media or what have you? Yes.’’

Well, of course it has. It’s been on the back burner since pitchers-and-catchers in February. And, I don’t think for a second it hasn’t crossed Alderson’s mind, either.

Walter Alston used to work on one-year contracts, but he was Walter Alston and his Dodgers teams were perennial winners. They were an organization that believed in consistency. They were the exception to the rule.

By contrast, Collins manages the Mets, a franchise that last went to the World Series in 2000. Thirteen years later, and they are on their fifth manager. That’s not even three years each, and that’s no stability. While this trend doesn’t suggest good things for Collins, it might work in his favor for at least this summer. If the Mets aren’t going anywhere, there’s no reason to make a change and have owner Fred Wilpon pay two managers.

Bobby Valentine managed that World Series team, but frequently clashed with then GM Steve Phillips – one of four since 2000 – and with his personality wore out his welcome. Art Howe was the polar opposite of Valentine, and that didn’t work, either. I thought Willie Randolph had a chance, but he was hamstrung from the beginning when he wasn’t given full reign to hire his coaches and had to deal with clubhouse spy Tony Bernazard, who usurped his authority. Jerry Manuel was overmatched, but that’s what you get when you sack a manager after midnight.

Now there’s Collins, who was brought in by Alderson to clean up the mess. However, Alderson doesn’t have free economic authority to spend, and consequently Collins doesn’t have the pieces. He’s basically a custodian; here to keep things clean.

The pieces he’s been given don’t fit, but here’s the rub, Collins is judged on what he does with those pieces, much like on those cooking shows where the contestants have to make something out of a basket of random ingredients.

“He came into the season without a contract for next year and may not have one for next year through this season,’’ said Alderson, meaning don’t expect an in-season extension. “But as I’ve told him and said before: This isn’t just about wins and losses. It’s about how we approach the game and fully taking into account what he has to work with.

“We talk from time to time and the [job status] subject comes up. I’m not trying to avoid the topic. It’s status quo. You go through a tough week and people like to immediately jump to conclusions and start discussing a doomsday scenario. A good first week isn’t necessarily any more of an indication than a bad fourth week.’’

So, there you have it: Collins is the care taker for 2013.

Alderson wants to know more if his roster can work and play nice with each other rather than if it has any talent. He’s telling us – again – that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but how you play the game.

Unfortunately, they keep score and results do matter. Major League Baseball isn’t new wave, liberal physical education where everybody gets a prize for showing up.

Winning does matter on this level. Teams pay big money to get players capable of winning and fans pay big money to watch those players.

If the losing continues, attendance will eventually drop as it has every year since Citi Field opened. But, the players will get their money. And, Collins could be out of a job. Not fair, but that’s how they play the game. It is also something Alderson needs to think about concerning his own job status.

ON DECK:  The Summer of 1973 Series continues.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 05

Why It Went Wrong For Lastings Milledge

I will remember it as if I saw it yesterday for the first time.

A sheet of notebook paper, with the words, “Know your place, rook … signed, your teammates,’’ was taped over Lastings Milledge’s locker in the Mets’ clubhouse in old RFK Stadium. This, in the late summer in 2006.

MILLEDGE: Once he burned bright.

MILLEDGE: Once he burned bright.

The Mets were en route to the playoffs and a veteran laden team was rubbed the wrong way by Milledge’s brashness and arrogance. Then-manager Willie Randolph – who reprimanded Milledge several times that summer – ripped down the sign, but knew he hadn’t ripped away the problem.

The Mets labeled it a misunderstanding, and Randolph called Milledge “a good kid,’’ but this clearly was not a misunderstanding with a teammate. It was the accumulation of several incidents that rankled several teammates.

Milledge burst upon the Mets, hitting over .300, was dazzling on the bases and showed a strong arm. He was going to be the next “fill in the blank.’’ Willie Mays? Roberto Clemente?

However, things quickly cooled after his first career homer, when on his way to the outfield he high-fived fans down the right field line in Shea Stadium. Randolph sensed how the Giants seethed in their dugout, especially since he saw some of his own players do the same.

Randolph reprimanded Milledge on the unwritten laws in baseball, but it didn’t take. There were ground balls he didn’t run out and times he didn’t hustle in the outfield. He was flash with the jewelry swinging wildly on the field, but in the clubhouse he often sat buried in his locker wearing headphones or playing a video game.

He came off as sullen and angry and clearly couldn’t be bothered by getting to know his teammates. Or, a baseball legend for that matter. During spring training then-GM Omar Minaya brought Milledge to the Nationals dugout to meet Frank Robinson, but Milledge was came off as being in-different.

Finally, he arrived in the clubhouse in Philadelphia an hour before a day game. Although it was early, the veterans made it in on time. David Wright had enough when Milledge strolled in with sunglasses and an iPod as if he owned the place and told him this wasn’t acceptable.

Wright wouldn’t belabor the issue Opening Day, only managing to say “seniority is big in this game,’’ which is the politically-correct translation for Milledge hadn’t earned his stripes.

Milledge popped into my consciousness today when I learned it was his 28th birthday, an age when he should be in the prime of his career. Instead, Milledge is one of hundreds of baseball prospects given the label of “can’t miss, but eventually did.’’

Seven years ago – the career lifetime of a select few – the Mets had three prized outfield prospects in Milledge, Carlos Gomez and Francisco Martinez. One by one they arrived, fizzled to the point of exasperation and were traded. Not one of them hustled like journeyman outfielder Collin Cowgill.

After turning down several proposals for Manny Ramirez, the Mets eventually traded Milledge to Washington as part of a trade that brought Ryan Church – he of the concussion fiasco – and catcher Brian Schneider. Milledge had his coffee to go with Washington, then Pittsburgh and finally the White Sox before heading to Japan. Milledge had his head-scratching moments in each place, but basically stopped hitting.

At 28, Milledge is still young. It’s about discipline in Japan and if Milledge comes back with a changed attitude perhaps he’ll get another chance. It’s a long way to Japan, and perhaps an even longer route back to the major leagues.

ON DECK: The 73 Series continues with “Ya Gotta Believe” slogan