Apr 16

Reflections Before Mets Play In The Snow

Just because the Mets haven’t played since Saturday, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to talk about in baseball and the sporting world.

Supporting Boston …

Who isn’t disgusted with what happened yesterday at the Boston Marathon? I’ve had my computer bag searched so many times I’ve lost track. Deep down I couldn’t believe the cowards would attack a sporting event. That’s changed, and as with the travel industry, probably forever.

TRAGEDY IN BOSTON (Tweet from Evan Hill)

TRAGEDY IN BOSTON (Tweet from Evan Hill)

Many Boston athletes announced prayers, good wishes and an intent to donate money almost immediately. That’s not surprising, because for all the heat athletes get for operating in a vacuum, most of them are very aware, and willing, to donate their efforts to the communities in which they play.

Among my first thoughts in watching the horrible video, were flashbacks to September 11. I was covering the Yankees at the time and remember how they and the Mets responded.

I remember a sign in Chicago that simply read: “Hate the Yankees, but love New York.’’ I also remember Bobby Valentine managing relief efforts in the parking lot at Shea Stadium.

Of course, who doesn’t remember Mike Piazza’s homer against the Braves in the first sporting event in New York after the attacks.

Boston supported New York after 9/11, and New York should do the same for Boston. Donate blood to the Red Cross earmarked for Boston. Wear a Celtics T-Shirt and Red Sox some time this week, which is a simple acknowledgement of what our fellow Americans are experiencing.

Root against the Red Sox, but love Boston. It is a tremendous city.

Go after Alex Rodriguez

Mets fans should be grateful their team didn’t sign Rodriguez after the 2000 season. They should be happy he is the Yankees’ problem.

Rodriguez admitted using steroids, but only for a three-year period in Texas. That was difficult to believe then, and impossible now.

To me, that Rodriguez attempted to buy the documents from Biogenesis containing his name is as damning as a positive test.

Ryan Braun got off on a technicality and Major League Baseball was embarrassed and has come across as vindictive. Enter Biogenesis, which also has Braun’s name, and an ugly scenario has unfolded.

If Major League Baseball is serious about cleaning up its PED problem, it has to be doubly cautious as to not get stung on a technicality again. And, if they have the evidence, they need to go after him hard.

For the money MLB has made, Bud Selig’s legacy is the steroid scandal. The cheaters are being snubbed at the Hall of Fame entrance, but MLB needs to place an asterisk next the names of the cheaters in the record books.

Doing that, plus working with the Players Association on more severe punishment is a start. That is, if it is really serious.

Eight games not enough …

A common complaint of umpires is not taking into consideration the game circumstances when ejecting pitchers and managers after bean ball incidents.

That should also apply to players in meting out suspensions after rushing the mall.

First of all, Zack Greinke was not throwing at Carlos Quentin last week. Quentin has a tendency of leaning out over the plate and will get plunked. A pitcher does not throw at a hitter on a 3-and-2 count in a close game.

No way was Greinke throwing at Quentin. At least, no one with a sense of an understanding of the game, which Quentin obviously does not. Eight games is not nearly enough. His suspension should last as long as Greinke is injured an unable to pitch.

The weather outside is frightful …

It is currently 34 degrees in Denver with a wind chill of 25. There is a 50 percent chance of rain and 30 percent chance of snow for tonight.

Yet, they will attempt to play the summer game.

There is no way Major League Baseball could have forecast the severity of this weather in Denver, but it should have been aware of the likelihood of it being nasty.

A point I brought up last week bears repeating, and that is April should be reserved for divisional play where make up games can be easily rescheduled as part of double-headers later in the season.

Non-divisional games, like the Yankees in Cleveland and the Mets this week, and interleague games such as the Mets in Denver, is pushing the envelope in the wrong direction.

Apr 12

Mets Need To Weather The Storm In Minny

target-field-snowOf all the tweets in all the world of Twitter, the one with Target Field blanketed in snow is the most telling.

There is five inches of snow with more forecast in Minneapolis where the Mets play tonight. The high for the series is forecast at a blustery 43 degrees. It will be colder with the wind.

I would love to see Twins owner Jim Pohlad sit with Commissioner Bud Selig in short sleeves tonight in a vain attempt to convince us the weather is fine. But, it isn’t and probably won’t be much better next week in Denver, where it also snows any time.

It is true scheduling isn’t about one team but all 30 and you can’t predict the weather. However, it is also true MLB created this issue, and first did so with the increase to 30 teams from 20 when the Mets were born in 1962.

The insistence of a 162-game schedule stretched the season from the first week of April into October. Factor increased playoff rounds with the last two – including World Series – lasting up to seven games and we’re brushing against November.

There’s too much money to be made over 162 games and the playoffs – the vehicle for the networks to shill for their programming – so they won’t think to cut there.

Nonetheless, Major League Baseball made things more difficult for itself with interleague play, and now, interleague play every day of the season.

With interleague play comes the unbalanced schedule, which means not every team runs the same race in a season. By definition, that means the schedule has no integrity to it, thereby making it unfair.

Unfortunately, Selig loves interleague play, so that won’t change, either. Interleague play has become part of Selig’s legacy, and I don’t think in a good way.

I don’t believe MLB’s economic growth is directly attributable to interleague play as it is to the steroid era which brought on the great power numbers; the construction of new stadiums in both leagues; almost 15 years of the Yankees and Red Sox on top which increases everybody’s attendance and TV ratings; better television deals because of cable; and to Selig’s credit, the international marketing of the sport and continued labor peace.

The great influx of money made MLB, its teams and the Players Association willing to accept the playing in horrible conditions, where injuries and pitcher’s arms are at risk. Instead of improved conditions, the players union settled for more money. Seriously, don’t worry about ending a career because you’ve got enough money to retire for life at age 32.

Things happen and weather is unpredictable, but MLB can still do things to put the odds in its favor while keeping most everything it has going for it now, things that came with the cost of tradition.

First, what genius approved an open-air stadium in Minneapolis? There’s inclement weather this time of year in the Northeast and Midwest, but Minnesota is a different animal. It can snow there for another week or so and almost any time in mid-October.

If they weren’t smart enough to build a dome where it snows seven months in the year, then play the Royals or Indians or White Sox in April, teams that are easier to reschedule later.

Yesterday, the Yankees were out of their division and had a rainout in Cleveland for a second straight day. They now will have a doubleheader on an off-day and play 17 games in 16 days. That makes for tired players and poor pitching, but who cares about putting the best product on the field?

“I don’t think you can go to cold weather cities in April if you’re only going to go there once,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I know the schedule’s not easy to make, but if you could just stay in your division longer or go to some warmer weather cities you might be able to get by a lot of this.’’

From a business standpoint, the Indians can’t like playing the Yankees in April, when the crowds are down. They’d rather play them later when there’s a chance for a sellout.

It’s pounding a square peg into a round hole to play interleague and non-divisional play in April. The first two weeks of the season should be within the division so make-ups are easier to reschedule.

I’ve suggested this several times, even talked with players and club officials who believe it is a good idea, and that is the scheduling of day-night doubleheaders.

In this case, MLB can make the unbalanced schedule work to its advantage. Because you’re playing 18 games within the division, have several day-nighters each month. Not only does this give the owners the gates they want, but provides more off-days to make rescheduling easier.

Nobody likes to play in horrible weather conditions, and nobody likes to sit in them, either. However, this is an issue because MLB lacks the willingness or foresight to change something within its control.

Mar 31

What Did MLB Do With Opening Day?

There have been many changes and lost traditions in baseball over the years. One particularly missed is the spectacle that used to be Opening Day.

The season always started on a Tuesday in Cincinnati and Washington; the home of the sport’s oldest franchise and in the nation’s capital for the national past time.

SELIG: Needs to do right thing for game.

SELIG: Needs to do right thing for game.

This year, lost in the midst of the NCAA Tournament, the start of the baseball season begins with Sunday’s highly anticipated Houston Astros-Texas Rangers clash.

You can’t yawn anymore if you hadn’t slept in three nights. The hook of Houston moving to the American League is a lot of things, but compelling is not among them.

Thankfully, baseball didn’t go overseas for Opening Day, as when the Mets played the Cubs in Japan days before every other team, and several years ago the Yankees played Tampa Bay in Tokyo, then returned to Florida for more exhibition games. There might have been worse ideas, but few come immediately to mind.

For a financial fix – the only reason Major League Baseball does stuff like this – the sport traded something unique and cherished for generations in exchange for a check.

This season, Opening Day in Cincinnati is polluted by interleague play with the Angels coming in. Not only is interleague distasteful for Opening Day, but if you’re going to do it, why the Angels?

A good team, yes, but if the weather is awful and the game postponed, the Angels will be scrambling for a make-up date to fly cross-country.

Inane scheduling just as the Padres at the Mets tomorrow. Can’t they see the folly in this?

Baseball’s Opening Day was always special and anticipated. Now, it’s like the NBA and NHL, where some years you pick up a paper and two games have been played before you realize the season started.

The NFL stole the concept of Opening Day when it kicks off its season the Thursday before the first weekend with the Super Bowl champion at home. By the way, good job by the Orioles for telling the Ravens and NFL to take a hike by not rescheduling their game.

It wouldn’t be hard to have Opening Day the day after the NCAA Championship in most years. But, if not, go back to Cincinnati and Washington the first Tuesday in April.

Or, have everybody play that day, and taking a page from the NCAA Tourney, have wall-to-wall games from afternoon to late at night, with conceivably four games, the first starting at 1 p.m., and the last at 10.

Make the whole day, from coast to coast, special.

I want Opening Day back, and in New York, both the Mets and Yankees should have the town to themselves. Not only are they playing on the same day in the city, but the same time.

Nobody thought this was bad idea?

Sure, the times and economics change, but does Major League Baseball have to abandon everything that was once cherished?

Mar 12

Chipper Jones Rejects Yankees

I was very glad to see Chipper Jones reject the Yankees’ overtures for a comeback. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to see Jones have a change of heart, but not with the Yankees … not with anybody else but the Braves.

CHIPPER: Turns down Yankees

CHIPPER: Turns down Yankees

I’ve always admired players to begin and end it with the same team. That ‘s what I want to see for David Wright. It’s one of the things I liked about Cal Ripken, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter.

It’s rare these days for a player to retire with the same team he began his career with. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that way with Pete Rose, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

The Yankees’ stream of injuries prompted WFAN to run a poll of retired players fans wanted to come back with the Yankees. Ripken was on the list. I wonder if it is more a sign of respect or just not being realistic.

Incidentally, Wright is enjoying his time at the WBC, but I can’t but wonder if his time would have been better off had he stayed in Port St. Lucie.

Think of it for a moment, he’s going to be the captain of this team, so it stands to reason his presence would be beneficial to the younger players in camp.

 

 

Mar 04

Will Dwight Gooden Ever Turn His Life Around?

It usually is not a good sign when a name not recently in the news shows up on the “What’s Trending Now,’’ list when one logs onto the Internet.

Dwight Gooden was there this morning and we can expect to see future postings as his latest issue with the law unravels.

GOODEN: Once upon a time. (AP)

Gooden, long out of baseball but not forgotten by Mets fans, allegedly threatened his estranged wife, Monique, on Friday, when he should have been on a back field in Port St. Lucie tutoring what he once was – a hot, young prospect.

It would have been nice if Gooden had a second career in the sun, literally and figuratively. It’s not like he hasn’t had chances. The Yankees gave him several when George Steinbrenner was alive and he would have been welcomed by the Mets had he not struggled with drug, alcohol and law issues.

Monique Gooden called police and filed a restraining order. He was forced to move out of the house he and his wife are living in until their divorce becomes final.

Reportedly, Gooden threatened his wife, saying: “All bets are off and I will hurt you and your family. You’ll see, just wait.’’

A DUI, well, a team can live with that on a player’s record. Not pleasant, but doable. It is especially possible if the player had a remarkable career and once was a face of that franchise, as Gooden was with the Mets.

However, such a threat, especially if carried out, is not the image a team wants to project. There has to be considerable damage control if Gooden is to ever again represent the Mets.

Or, any other major league team for that matter.

That is, of course, unless something bad happens to him, such as jail, or worse.

Gooden will no longer have visitation rights with his two children until a hearing, March 11. In the interim, Gooden can contemplate where it all went wrong.

The drug problems began shortly after the 1985 and 1986 seasons, which were his early days with the Mets, and unfortunately, the highlight of his career. There once was a night a decade later, when nearing the end with the Yankees, he threw the no-hitter one expected of him whenever he took the mound at Shea Stadium.

Throwing what Kevin Costner said in “Bull Durham’’ was “ungodly stuff in the show,’’ Gooden was the inspiration of the “Ks’’ banners fans hung over the stadium railings. Gooden was electric in those days when he owned the summer nights at Shea.

We knew it wouldn’t last forever as it never does, but were shocked and angered and saddened knowing Gooden was throwing away his career with drugs and booze. We once were enthralled with the hard- partying Mets of 1986 and even glorified them, but also knew at the same time knew life on the ledge couldn’t end happily.

For different reasons, but ultimately the same one – a lack of self-control – it didn’t well for Gooden. For Darryl Strawberry. For Lenny Dykstra. Wally Backman is still paying the price.

Nearing the end of his life, Mickey Mantle talked of role models and said, “don’t be like me.’’ At one time, there wasn’t a kid around who didn’t want to be like Gooden, standing alone on the mound awash in the cheers and adulation that comes with greatest.

Gooden is again alone as he faces another life crisis, but there’s nobody who wants to be like him.

And, that’s just sad.