Oct 23

Why Mets Can’t Attract Quality Free Agents

The Mets’ inability to hire a hitting coach illustrates indecision, which is one of several reasons why marquee free agents won’t come here.

Among the others:

New York: The city can be daunting for someone who only experienced it in a hotel room and stadium. It is very expensive to live here, crowded and there’s the media crush.

The Yankees: Considering the above factors, if a player is willing to come, there’s no contest when the Yankees are also interested, as they will always pay more.

Money: The Mets’ track record under Sandy Alderson is to stay away from big money contracts, which is also why a trade for a guy like Troy Tulowitzki and subsequent contract extension will never happen.

Commitment to winning: The Mets’ reputation in the sport is they are not willing to go the extra mile to bring in good-to-great players because of the cost. That might also come to play down the road when it comes to dealing with Matt Harvey.

Youth: The Mets are rebuilding and many veterans not hanging on for a paycheck don’t want to be a part of that situation.

Continuity: Since their last World Series appearance in 2000, the Mets have had four general managers and five managers, which doesn’t promote commitment. For example, the Mets have manager Terry Collins to only a one-year extension.

Treatment of players: Players talk and often gripe. The issue over Carlos Beltran’s surgery, circumstances around Jose Reyes’ departure, and trade of R.A. Dickey all raised red flags about how the organization handles key issues. And, don’t think for a second the bickering between Harvey and management doesn’t raise questions.

Wilpon Situation: Players and agents aren’t stupid. They are aware of the Wilpon’s financial situation and how it impacts the team. They know there will be low-ball offers and salary dumps can come at any time.

Hiring a hitting coach should be a simple matter, especially when others have done the same with former Mets’ coaches.

 

When it comes to the Mets, for those on the outside looking in, perception is reality.

Oct 21

This Series Could Be Special

For as long as I have loved baseball, first as a Little Leaguer with an active imagination, and then as a journalist covering the game I was not good enough to play on the major league level, the World Series always held a special place for me.

I remember bits and pieces of the 1969 Series, but confess I was shocked like most of the country. I admit to playing hooky from school to watch the 1970 Series, but maybe it served me right because I pulled for the Reds.

searchMy favorite Series was the 1975 Red Sox-Reds. Although disappointed in the outcome, it was compelling because of it went seven and Game Six was arguably the best game in history. There was Bernie Carbo’s game-tying homer; Carlton Fisk’s game-winner; and Dwight Evans’ game saving catch.

One of the great stories coming from that Series was Pete Rose telling Fisk something along the lines of, “this is a great game, isn’t it?’’

Next up was Twins-Braves with the classic Jack Morris-John Smoltz Game 7. If not the Fisk game, maybe this was history’s best.

I covered all the Yankees’ titles under Joe Torre, but the most dramatic of them was one they lost, in 2001, to Arizona. Go figure, perhaps the worst throw of Mariano Rivera’s career was after fielding that bunt in the ninth inning of Game 7.

A lot of historic homers were hit in that Series, but my favorite moments the fans chanting Paul O’Neill’s name; the bald eagle Challenger scattering the Yankees before the anthem; and George Bush throwing a ceremonial pitch perfect strike.

Each Series has its defining moment or story line, and I can only imagine what it will be this year.

Some match-ups are more compelling than others, but Giants-Royals – regardless of what ESPN says – will be a Series worthy of our attention. There was actually a Sports Center lead-in actually daring to ask if these teams “deserved,’’ to be there.

The fact is, baseball itself bears responsibility for the appearance of an “unworthy’’ match-up because it tampers with the integrity of its season with interleague play and the unbalanced schedule forcing teams to run different courses to the finish line.

However, these teams, based on being a wild-card entry, each played an additional game. They took on all comers – each having to beat the team with the best record in their league.

They also play the game the way it should be, with pitching, defense, timely hitting and solid bullpens. Both can also hit the long ball when needed, but neither survive by the homer, which is refreshing.

I believe this one has the capability of going seven, which defines “classic,’’ to me. Both teams have reason to believe they can be considered a team of destiny.

I can’t wait to find out which one.

Oct 18

Hudgens Lands Job With Astros

Word the Houston Astros hired former Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens raised the simple question: What’s going on in the Mets’ search to fill that position?

The Mets are interested in Dave Magadan and former Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. The Yankees are also pursuing Magadan.

Hudgens’ philosophy is to work deep into the count, but when the Mets’ sputtered to start the season he was fired, May 26. The Mets’ rationalization was the hitters lost their aggressiveness. A lot of that was traced to Lucas Duda’s inability in 2013 to hit with runners in scoring position.

That’s rather weak because most hitting coaches preach patience until the batter gets his pitch. It’s up to the hitter to be able to recognize what that pitch is and to be ready to crush it. Despite the steroids, you must give credit to Barry Bonds’ selectivity. There were times when Bonds would get one hittable pitch to hit – and he did.

This week the Mets also lost Triple-A Las Vegas hitting coach George Greer by St. Louis to oversee their organizational philosophy.

 

Lamar Johnson replaced Hudgens and was reassigned to the minor leagues after the season.

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.

 

 

 

 

Mar 04

Mets Game Thread: Good Start Keyed By Wheeler And Granderson

It’s been a good start for the New York Mets today with three strong innings from Zack Wheeler and two ripped home runs by Curtis Granderson.

Wheeler certainly has the physical stuff to win 20 games, but it goes further than just being able to throw the ball hard. The Mets were impressed with Wheeler’s poise last season, but that was 17 starts. Let’s see 34, and staying healthy for the whole time.

Wheeler was supposed to pitch two innings, but went out for the third because his pitch count was less than 30.

As for Granderson, wrist injuries sapped his strength last year with the Yankees, but he whipped the bat through the hitting zone twice. There was no question about either.

All in all, so far it has been a good start for the Mets.