Dec 31

Saying Good-bye To 2012; Saluting The Giants And Dickey And Farewell To Carter

With 2012 in the ninth inning, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting and important baseball stories of the year.

There were many to choose from, ranging from the feel-good, to the sad, to the historic, to the inane. There are dozens that will fall into the category of being a trivia question answer, but let’s settle on ten:

1) GIANTS WIN THE SERIES:  This might be my favorite because I like the way they play the game. Their blueprint is pitching and defense, which is always the best way to build a winner. The Giants simply play the game the right way. And, when they lost their best hitter, Melky Cabrera, to a suspension for using performance enhancing drugs, they declined to bring him back for the playoffs when it would be tempting to do so. And, when ace Tim Lincecum struggled and was taken out of the rotation, instead of crying he shut his mouth and went to the bullpen.

2) SELIG STRONGARMS DODGER SALE: There’s no denying Frank McCourt wasn’t a terrible owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it was still his team and he was on the verge of negotiating a contract with FOX that would ease the team of its financial problems. For some reason, this wasn’t good enough for Commissioner Bud Selig, and certainly not an exercise in fair play when other ownership groups have been as miserable, or worse. The sale was to a group headed by Magic Johnson, and one of their first moves was the horrible acquisition of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. Meanwhile, the baseball team in Flushing …

3) THE YEAR OF THE PITCHER: There were three perfect games thrown in 2012, by former Mets prospect Phil Humber, Matt Cain and Felix Hernandez. There were four other no-hitters last summer, including the first by a Met in Johan Santana. It took a blown call to change a hit into a foul ball. Perhaps the best performance by a pitcher was the yearlong mastery of Mets knuckleballer R. A. Dickey who won 20 games and the Cy Young Award and for his efforts was traded to Toronto.

4) THE BIRDS FLY AGAIN: After 14 straight losing seasons, including the previous four in last place in the AL East, the Orioles flipped their record from 69-93 to 93-69, with 29 of those victories coming by one run. The Orioles also won 16 straight extra-inning games, and took the Yankees to the limit in the AL Division Series. They did all this with a patchwork rotation and losing their best player, Nick Markakis, for most of the last month of the season.

5) COMEBACKS IN ALL FORMS:  The Oakland Athletics came from 13 games behind to overtake Texas to win the AL West. They closed the season with a six-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep of the Rangers to win the division. St. Louis also rallied to beat Washington in the playoffs, and San Francisco came from behind to beat Cincinnati and the Cardinals.

6) MIGUEL CABRERA WINS THE TRIPLE CROWN: For the first time since 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski did it for Boston, there was a Triple Crown winner in Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI.

7) WASHINGTON SPITS ON BASEBALL:  For the first time in over six decades, there was a playoff team in Washington. The Nationals played inspired, team baseball for much of the season and were led by young ace Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals,  trying to protect their investment, opted to shut him down after 159.1 innings, which gave the arrogant impression they believed they’d be back again. More than a few baseball executives were pleased when the Nationals’ pitching collapsed in the playoffs against the Cardinals.

8) THE MARLINS BLOW IT UP: Speaking of bad ownership groups, the Dodgers had nothing on the Marlins, another example that pennants aren’t won in the winter. The Marlins moved into a monstrosity of a new stadium with Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and new manager Ozzie Guillen. It all fell apart in June and the Marlins finished in last place. Guillen was fired and Reyes, Buehrle and Josh Johnson were traded to Toronto. The Blue Jays also added Dickey and Melky Cabrera to raise the question: Are they the 2013 version of the Marlins.

9) THE LOCALS FALL:  The Mets collapsed in the second half to finish with their fourth straight losing season. The Mets have done nothing this offseason – save signing David Wright – to indicate things will change. Meanwhile, the Yankees got a brilliant season from Derek Jeter, who broke his ankle in the playoffs. Also, while their season was sliding away, Alex Rodriguez was trying to pick up women from the dugout.

10) SAD LOSSES:  I Googled the list of baseball deaths in 2012 and was staggered by the names I recognized from my youth. The most important name was Marvin Miller, the former head of the Players Association who, more than anybody, was largely responsible for today’s economic structure in the game. Then, there was Gary Carter, whom Mets fans will always remember.

Dec 26

One More Night Of Tom Seaver …

Good morning. I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas and you got what you wanted or needed. If I had the power, I would have given you these things:

* One more summer like 1969, when the expectations weren’t high and your team captured the imagination of the City and the nation.

* An ownership group solvent and desirous of giving you the talent you deserve to cheer for.

* One more night of Tom Seaver going into that classic windup and stride, brushing his right knee to the mound and throwing a darting fastball on the corner, with Willie Mays swinging and missing with a mighty grunt.

* Shea Stadium rocking one more time, with the stands actually moving as the K’s mount up for Dwight Gooden.

* Darryl Strawberry uncoiling that mighty swing of his and ripping a majestic blast deep into the bullpen area. That is, if it misses the scoreboard.

* Another summer against the classic rivalries, the Cubs, the Cardinals, the Braves … and beating them.

* Mike Piazza whiplash swing, rifling a line drive deep into the night.

* The gritty play of Len Dykstra and Wally Backman, diving for balls and into bases, letting us know hustle is still in vogue.

* Keith Hernandez, creeping in from first to pounce on the bunt and nail the runner going to third.

* Johan Santana, healthy from April through October.

* Jerry Koosman dropping a slow curve in on the hands of Willie McCovey.

* Those hundreds of creative signs on Banner Day.

* Seeing the stars come in one more time: Mays, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Gaylord Perry, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Richie Allen, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Fergie Jenkins, Dale Murphy and yes, Chipper Jones.

* Jose Reyes drilling a liner into the gap, striding around the bases and diving head first into third with a triple.

* Ed Kranepool holding on speedster Maury Wills at first.

* A Dave Kingman moonshot, without the complementary strikeout.

* Shea Stadium on a sunny, Sunday afternoon.

* Citi Field, full for once on a date other than Opening Day and against somebody other than the Yankees.

* Speaking of the Yankees, sweeping them during interleague play.

* Carlos Beltran running into the gap to chase down a line drive.

* A solid rotation of Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez.

* Randy Myers throwing smoke in the ninth.

* Billy Wagner doing the same.

* Jerry Grote blocking the plate.

* An October of magic, with J.C. Martin getting the call when he was struck running down the line … with Tommie Agee chasing down uncatchable fly balls and Donn Clendenon ripping home runs.

* A summer when the non-descript come through in the clutch: Ken Boswell and Al Weis; Ron Taylor and Don Cardwell.

* Another spring training with Casey Stengel telling his tales.

* Another summer with Gil Hodges in the dugout.

* David Wright with supporting hitters all around him.

* John Olerud’s sweet swing.

* Robin Ventura with the bases loaded.

* R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball floating towards home.

* And, one more dribbler down the first base line from Mooke Wilson ….

 

 

Dec 14

Mets Won’t Benefit From Hamilton Signing With Angels

The knee-jerk reaction was obvious in the wake of the blockbuster news of Josh Hamilton signing a five-year, $125-million deal with the Angels.

Surely, the Angels could make slugging outfielders Mark Trumbo or Peter Bourjos available to the Mets in exchange for R.A. Dickey.

Ah, the perils of the World of Twitter.

Although the Angels won’t keep Zack Greinke, they do have pitching so where dealing a hot prospect for Dickey isn’t a necessity.

If anything, the Rangers could be a better trading partner for the Mets because they can see their window shutting fast with Hamilton’s departure and their inability to land Greinke.

With the Rangers clearly regressing – Michael Young is gone – the Angels are the clear frontrunners in AL West with Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout forming as good a 1-2-3 punch as there is in the sport.

Hamilton made the rounds at the Winter Meetings and was linked to several suitors, including the Rangers, Seattle,Yankees, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

It was thought with Hamilton’s dependency issues he might stay with the Rangers, the team most familiar with him. However, Hamilton didn’t have an easy going of it at the end of last season and there was the perception Texas management was blaming their slugger for the team’s collapse.

Considering Hamilton’s condition, the high-pressure markets of New York, Boston and Philadelphia were never good fits. Los Angeles has its share of distractions – with the Rangers he traveled with a chaperone and didn’t carry cash – but is a more relaxed setting.

With the Angels not short in any specific area and Torii Hunter gone, Trumbo can easily slot in as the DH. So, why deal him?

METS WON’T GET HAIRSTON: It won’t get easier in the Mets’ pursuit of an outfielder with Scott Hairston getting attention from the Yankees, Phillies, Giants and Cardinals. All are better teams, with the Yankees and Phillies playing in bandboxes.

Hairston made $1.1 million with the Mets last season and aren’t inclined to go much higher. The Mets eschewed trading Hairston last July. As they did in the Dickey trade market, the Mets got greedy in their asking despite having no chance to win and little hope of retaining him.

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Dec 11

Mets Should Be More Active Hawking Tickets For 2013

First of all, this is not a plug to buy 2013 Mets tickets. It is simply something I am wondering about: Why aren’t the Mets doing more to plug tickets for this season?

You can buy them at Mets.com, and I suppose you might see them advertised on SNY – but that’s more a house ad – but other than that I don’t see much plugging and stumping for next summer.

Why?

Other than the obvious, that advertising costs money, there’s not a good reason, especially this time of season, when tickets should be finding their way under the tree.

In all probability, a baseball fan is a sports fan, but I haven’t seen any commercials during the Giants, Jets, Knicks or Nets. If I missed one, I am sorry, but overall I am surprised at the lack of stumping.

One thing the Mets used to do was a winter caravan, where players made appearances throughout the tri-state area. You don’t see that anymore. It was replaced by one big event in Manhattan prior to Christmas at the library, but you don’t see that, either.

Why?

Enough players live in the area, or could be flown in, to make it work. The Mets should be making us think about baseball now, not just the week prior to spring training.

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Dec 09

Mets Matters: Wright Should Be Named Captain

As expected, with David Wright signed comes the inevitable talk of him being named captain. This isn’t like Santonio Holmes being made captain; this would have meaning.

WRIGHT: Future captain?

The meaning comes in Wright’s teammates already regard him in that capacity. Wright is already the team leader, whether it be telling the manager Jose Reyes isn’t healthy; or talking to a pitcher; or telling a young player, such as Jordany Valdespin he’d better hustle.

Wright, referred to as the face of the franchise, is as much a captain to his teammates as Derek Jeter was to the Yankees before George Steinbrenner made it official. When things go wrong for the Mets, as they frequently have since 2008, Wright is the voice in the clubhouse. Everybody in the media wants a Wright comment.

It would shock me if the Mets didn’t make it official in spring training. What’s really surprising is this hasn’t been done sooner.

VALDESPIN SHOWS PUNK SIDE: Valdespin had attitude issues last season, and things haven’t changed.

Valdespin was suspended for two games by his winter ball team for failing to run out a ball, and then the following day had a fit when he was pinch-hit for.

His latest example was when he tweeted a photo of himself wearing a Miami Marlins hat. Hell, if he wants to be a Marlin so bad, let him go.

With the Mets are trying to establish a new culture, the last thing they need is a punk attitude. Valdespin is damn lucky to be a major league ballplayer. He should take his $500-thousand minimum salary and be grateful.

NOTHING NEW WITH DICKEY: CEO Jeff Wilpon reiterated R.A. Dickey could not be traded and could play out this season with his $5 million option and negotiations could continue next winter as the knuckleballer doesn’t want to talk during the season.

Enhancing the chances Dickey stays with the Mets will be if the Dodgers sign Zack Greinke. The Rangers and Dodgers are the two key players to get the former Royals ace.

I would like this thing to just get done and have the Mets going into the season without this hanging over their heads.

HAMILTON ON YANKEES’ RADAR: Despite their talk of wanting to cut payroll, you knew eventually the Yankees would be paired to Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

Instead of establishing the bar, the Yankees seem content to let this play out and have Hamilton come to them. Hamilton still might stay with Texas, but most everybody knew the Yankees would factor in this somehow.