Apr 14

Mets Fans Show Passion; Bail Out Franchise In Doing So

Mets manager Terry Collins spoke with passion Wednesday – misguided as it was – and three fans of the franchise spoke with passion today, and backed it up with their checkbooks. And doing so perhaps saved the team further embarrassment over the Mike Piazza jersey fiasco.

piazza-jersey2Mets fans don’t always get the credit they deserve for their passion of their team, but Anthony Scaramucci, Tony Lauto and a third business partner proved that when they combined to reach an agreement in principle to purchase Piazza’s game-worn jersey worn in the first post 9-11 game for $365,000.

For the record, the major league minimum is $507,500, the cost of a reserve infielder. This is something the Wilpons could have done by themselves. Or David Wright. Or Matt Harvey. Or hell, even Piazza could have coughed up the money.

Such celebrity Mets fans like Jerry Seinfeld or Kevin James could have ponied up the bucks to show their colors. By far, the coolest thing would have been for today’s Mets’ players to pass the hat in the clubhouse.

Considering the cost, I wouldn’t consider these guys typical Mets fans, because, after all, you couldn’t recognize them if you passed them on the street.

But, they did what most of us would have wanted to do if we had the money. They backed up their passion in other ways than calling up talk-radio and saying, “I’m Tony from Queens, first time, long time.”Scaramucci told The Post the jersey will make the rounds at Citi Field, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Its final destination is not known, although it is presumed to will be In the Mets Museum at Citi Field.

Scaramucci told The Post the jersey will make the rounds at Citi Field, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Its final destination is not known, although it is presumed to will be In the Mets Museum at Citi Field.

Their love for the Mets is only one reason for wanting to do this.

“We had too many friends die in those buildings to let that jersey go anywhere else,” Scaramucci, founder of Skybridge Capital, told The Post. “Tony and I wanted to make sure that jersey stays in New York. We talked to Mike, he’s happy. We talked to [Mike’s father,] Vince [Piazza], he’s happy.”

The Mets hosted the first professional sporting event following the terrorist attacks, when the Braves came in on Sept. 21, 2001. There were emotional pre-game ceremonies, but it was a listless crowd for much of the night until Piazza’s game-winning homer off Steve Karsay.

It is arguably one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history.

“What Mike did on that night was something we’ll all never forget and what it symbolizes,” Scaramucci said. “This jersey represents so much. There is tremendous artistic symbolism to this thing. This is about picking yourself up, no matter what happens in life, and going back into life and hitting home runs.”

Reportedly, the Mets sold the jersey in a private sale several years ago, when the Wilpons were in financial distress following the Madoff scandal. The Mets attempted to buy back the jersey after it became known the new owner was going to put the jersey for sale at Goldin Auctions, but The Post reported they backed out once the price reached $90,000.

It’s embarrassing the Mets:  1) sold the jersey in the first place, 2) dropped out of the initial bidding when the on-line price reached a paltry $90,00, and 3) never told Goldin they would beat the highest bid at auction.

The Mets should be significantly embarrassed this happened because they took for granted and didn’t appreciate their own history and underestimated the passion of their fan base.

The Mets have been around for half as long as the Yankees, so they can’t match them in championships, Hall of Famers or retired jerseys, but their history is rich to their fanbase. There have been too many times when ownership underestimated the fans and this is the most recent.

If nothing else, let us hope this fiasco sent a message ownership and management will be more cognizant of its fans, many of us who long followed the team ahead of the bandwagon jumpers who leaped on last year.

This was the right thing to do, so kudos to Scaramucci, Tony Lauto and their partner. They deserve a salute from us.

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Apr 13

Collins Runs For Mayor Of Panic City

Less than 24 hours after calling the baseball season a marathon, Mets manager Terry Collins decided to run for mayor of Panic City. Moments after his sluggish Mets beat Miami, 2-0, to snap a four-game losing streak, Collins went off in a press conference, calling the victory “a game we had to have.”

COLLINS: Shows panic signs. (AP)

COLLINS: Shows panic signs. (AP)

When the season is less than ten games old, there’s no such thing as a “must win” game. How can there be when there are 154 games left to be played? On Opening Day, I wrote this season would be Collins’ toughest job of his career because it carried with it the weight of expectations.

He has not dealt with this slow start well.

Collins handled the Mets masterfully last season in guiding them to the World Series through the landmines of a key injury to David Wright, the innings-flap concerning Matt Harvey, and nearly a two-month offensive slump. There were other pitfalls, but Collins wouldn’t let his team step into them.

This afternoon he stepped into one himself. It’s not so much admitting he reads and listens to the media and fans, but in conceding it is getting to him. No manager should ever admit to that, especially on April 13.

“I’m worried about the perception there’s no energy here,” Collins told reporters in response to a question why he considered today’s game so important this early in the season. “That’s completely not true. I’m not deaf. I’m not blind. I hear what people are saying. I’ve been hearing that we’re not prepared, that we’re overconfident and it made me sick to my stomach.

“We’re trying. People better understand we’re out to win. We care. We’re going to get this going. We had to send the message that this team is as dedicated this year as it was last year. I thought it was important for our fan base to stay excited. I thought today was a game we had to win. We need to show people we need business.”

That’s why he played Wright in an afternoon game following a night game; why he rode reliever Jim Henderson on the day after he threw 34 pitches; why he used Jeurys Familia for a five-out save. He said he would have done things differently if the Mets were 5-2 going into the game instead of 2-5.

That’s amazing. It is absurd.

Things haven’t gone for the Mets the way we’ve wanted or expected, but we’re eight games into this season. It’s foolish to think they can’t turn things around. Collins has been around long enough to know a hot week can change the outlook of a team.

He said he didn’t want people to have the perception they weren’t prepared. Instead, after Collins’ melt down the perception is one of panic and that’s far worse.

ON DECK: Game wrap

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Apr 12

Mets Not In “Panic City”

This column is in response to Adam Rubin’s question at the bottom of today’s Morning Briefing, I will say no. Rubin asked his readers if they were yet a resident of “Panic City,’’ what GM Sandy Alderson called some Mets fan when the team floundered last season before regrouping to reach the World Series.

SYNDERGAARD: Big start tonight. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Big start tonight. (Getty)

My readers know me for calling it straight. Many of them believe I might be too critical of the team. The over/under for Mets’ victories I posted Opening Day was 92, believing they could improve on last season by having Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Yoenis Cespedes full time.

That’s still very possible.

It’s very easy to spot the problems six games into the season: the offense has not produced and their vaunted starting pitching hasn’t lived up to expectations. The bullpen was overworked in Matz’s start, but giving up three runs in 7.1 innings isn’t that bad.

The three best starts were made by Syndergaard in Kansas City, Jacob deGrom in the home opener and Bartolo Colon Saturday night. Matt Harvey has been roughed up twice and Matz was torched Monday night.

I want to go back to a column I posted earlier suggesting the rotation didn’t get enough work during spring training. Normally starters work about 30 innings during spring training, but no Met pitcher worked more than 15. This was done with the objective of protecting those young arms, and the immediate by-product has been location.

The only real concern here is with deGrom’s tight right lat muscle. Perhaps he wasn’t in his best condition before of the shortage of work. His velocity has been off. Is that injury or lack of work? We don’t know yet.

I posted last night I wasn’t concerned with Matz, but let’s go back early in spring training when he was worried about results and manager Terry Collins questioned whether he was in his best condition.

The lack of work will eventually resolve itself as the season continues. After all, they can’t go back to spring training.

Hopefully, Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen will learn from this and tweak their offseason and spring training workout programs. There’s nothing they can do now.

Offensively, we’re seeing signs of life from Cespedes and Wright.

Curtis Granderson hasn’t produced, but the same thing happened last year. His track record is he’ll get better. The Mets have only two homers in six games, but that will change. There have been too many strikeouts and missed scoring opportunities.

You can blame the weather, but it was just as cold for the Royals, Phillies and Marlins. It won’t get any easier tonight against Jose Fernandez or over the weekend in Cleveland.

We also should remember something Wright said at the start, and that’s the Mets will have a bullseye on their backs all year. Philadelphia and the Marlins, not surprisingly want a piece of the Mets. They were the National League champs, every team should want to knock them down a peg.

Tonight’s Mets’ lineup has only two hitters – Granderson and Lucas Duda – who were with the team all of 2015.

The others were either injured and missed significant time – Wright and d’Arnaud – or are in their first full seasons with the team. That would be Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera.

You can’t tell much about a team or a player after six games. Let’s see how things are at the end of the month. We all knew getting back to the Series wouldn’t be a breeze.

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Apr 10

Mets Wrap: Concern For DeGrom, Not Team

If you’re concerned about Jacob deGrom, fine, you should be. However, if you’re worried about the Mets’ sluggish start, it’s way too early to panic, although we all knew that after another loss fans would get antsy. It will be interesting to listen to the call-in radio shows tomorrow.

DeGROM: Next start is scratched. (AP)

DeGROM: Next start is scratched. (AP)

Prior to the game, the Mets announced deGrom will miss his Wednesday’s start because of tightness in his right lat. The Mets toyed with the idea of waiting until deGrom threw today, but when he reported continued soreness they did the prudent thing and scratched Wednesday’s start and said Logan Verrett would get the ball.

Hooray for common sense.

Steven Matz had a similar injury last year and was lost for two months. We heard all winter the essence of the Mets was their young pitching, and if they stayed healthy they should return to the playoffs.

Of course, this being the Mets, common sense has its limitations. There are still no plans for deGrom to undergo an MRI. I’ll say it again, that’s just not smart.

In deGrom, the Mets will be without a workhorse, but I would rather not have him for six innings Wednesday than lose him for two months or more.

“It’s improved, but not enough,” manager Terry Collins said.

Verrett was superb when he replaced Harvey last summer in Colorado. Other possibilities should deGrom’s injury be worse than anticipated are Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero. But for now, they need to get quality innings from Noah Syndergaard, Matz, Bartolo Colon and Harvey. They didn’t get them today from Harvey, who gave up three runs on six hits and two walks in six innings.

The key word was “quality,” and Harvey didn’t have it for his second start. However, I’m not worried about Harvey. He’s healthy. He was simply beaten, and will be beaten again. But, unless his elbow starts to bark, I’m not thinking about Harvey.

The problem has been the offense. Yoenis Cespedes homered today to break a 15-inning scoreless stretch. But, the Mets aren’t getting anything from Lucas Duca, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud. Actually, other than Michael Conforto and Neil Walker at the start of the week, they haven’t gotten much from anybody.

Yup, the Mets aren’t off to the start they hoped, and we all expected them to win the series against the Phillies. But, it has only been five games.

Unless there’s bad news about deGrom, just relax.

Here’s what happened today:

GAME #5:  Phillies 5, at Mets 2.  Record: 2-3.

SUMMARY: After the news about deGrom, the Mets’ offense was supposed to rally around Harvey. Maybe next time. Harvey clocked at 97 mph., in his first appearance on the mound since Game 5 of the World Series. It wasn’t as if Harvey was mauled as he gave up a run on a sacrifice fly and later a two-run homer to Odubel Herrera.

KEY MOMENT: Herrera’s homer.

THUMBS UP: Cespedes homered and singled to show breakout signs. … Reliever Jim Henderson continued to perform and now has seven strikeouts in three perfect innings.

THUMBS DOWN: Pretty much everything else. … Granderson is 1-for-20. … The Mets had four hits Sunday after getting just three Saturday. … Harvey is now 0-for-2 with a 4.63 ERA.

INJURY UPDATES: No word as to when deGrom will throw next. DeGrom will remain with the Mets until wife Stacey delivers. She is five days late. … Lefty relieverJosh Edgin gave up one run in two-thirds of an inning in a rehab assignment in the Florida State League. Edgin’s projected return date in May 1. … Zack Wheeler is scheduled to have a minor surgical procedure Tuesday to remove an undissolved stitch in his right forearm. Wheeler’s return date is July 1.

QUOTEBOOK: “I would say it’s quite a bit better today. I think we’re going to err on the side of caution, though, this early in the season.” – deGrom on his lat injury.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1.29: Mets ERA, fourth best in the NL;  .192: Mets batting average, second worst in NL?

NEXT FOR METS: Matz will make his first start of the season Monday against Miami at Citi Field.

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Apr 10

Today In Mets’ History: Agee Hits Monster Homer

The Mets aren’t noted for the home run in their history, but one of the franchise’s signature long ball moments happened on this day in 1969 when center fielder Tommie Agee went into the left field upper deck in Shea Stadium against Montreal’s Larry Jaster in a 4-2 victory.

timmie-agee-home-run-spot-400x306The Mets commemorated the drive by painting a disc on the concourse where the ball hit. It really is a long way from the plate.

Agee went 2-for-4 for two RBI hitting in the leadoff spot. He finished that season with a .271 average and 26 homers and 76 RBI, but what Mets fans most remember from Agee that year was Game 3 of the World Series against Baltimore when he homered and made two magnificent game-saving catches. VIDEO

Agee hit 82 of his 130 career homers during his five years with the Mets. Agee also played for Cleveland, the White Sox, Houston and St. Louis. The Mets traded him to the Astros for Rich Chiles and Buddy Harris after the 1972 season.

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