Category: Mets

Ad ode to the Hall of Famer, Mike Piazza

Yesterday it was announced that Mike Piazza has been elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In a weird way, I think this might be the last time I will genuinely get the joy out of a baseball player earning this honor.

I was 11-years-old when Piazza was traded to the Mets. At that age baseball was life. Who am I kidding? I’m about to turn 29 and not much has changed on that front. But, the fact remains that Piazza arrived at the utmost important time of my fandom. The franchise was struggling and desperately needed a shot of life. Piazza provided just that, and more.

From the moment he arrived the Mets instantly became relevant again. Those late-90’s and 2000 teams certainly weren’t the most talented. In fact, they were far from it. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a more likeable bunch. Bobby Valentine, who is quite the personality in his own right, coached a cast of characters that became my first true love.

His teammates in New York were the likes of Edgardo Alfonzo, who was a coach’s dream. He played the game the way it was meant to be and was the player, along with Edgar Martinez, that I actually tried to mimic at the plate. Robin Ventura, the sure handed veteran with pop in his bat that provided the comic relief. Rey Ordonez, whose defensive highlights are something I still watch in awe (but you couldn’t pay me to watch one of his at-bats). Al Leiter, who always looked like he was on the brink of a nervous breakdown as he sweat on the mound (similarly to Shaq on the foul line) with every single 3-2 count. John Olerud was the silent assassin who was able to somehow ride the subway to Shea Stadium every day without being recognized. Turk Wendell wearing that alligator tooth necklace and slamming down the rosin bag out of relief. Has there ever been a backup catcher who contributed more with his energy in the dugout than Todd Pratt? Names like Benny Agbayani, Jay Payton, Timo Perez, Darryl Hamilton, Jay Payton, Todd Zeile, “Super” Joe McEwing, Matt Franco, Lenny Harris, Armando Benitez, Rick Reed and Bobby Jones filled out those rosters. If you aren’t getting my drift by now – these were Mike Piazza’s teams.

Piazza was a one man wrecking crew who led this rag-tag bunch. While the Mets had their share of bonafide professionals on those teams, Piazza was the lone super star. Win or lose, the burden was put on the shoulders of Piazza.  And you know what? More times than not, those wins could be attributed to his heroic efforts. During his tenure with New York it felt like every time a big hit was needed, Piazza stepped up to the plate and delivered in the clutch. He had a knack for rising to the occasion like few others, if any, in franchise history.

There are a few moments that will always stand out in my mind.

  • Picnic blast: Piazza’s star shined brightest when it came time for the Subway Series against the Yankees. Facing reliever Ramiro Mendoza, with the Mets trailing 6-4, Piazza took him deep with a shot to left center that I’m not sure has landed yet. The ball cleared the old picnic tents in Shea Stadium. He flipped his bat in celebration, which I never saw before or after out of him, as he knew, along with the rest of the stadium, that he hit a ball further than many believed was humanly possible. (Side note: Matt Franco hitting a walk-off single against Mariano Rivera to end that game was a great thrill of mine) Click to watch…
  • Epic comeback: It’s impossible to discuss the Mets of the late-90’s-2000 without mentioning their arch nemesis, the Atlanta Braves. The Braves were the bully who had been stuffing the Mets in their locker for years without putting up much of a fight. But then Piazza arrived kind of like Linderman in ‘My Bodyguard’ (That’s a 1980 movie reference, go watch it) and gave New York a fighting chance. In a mid-summer matchup in 2000 with the Mets trailing 8-1 in the eighth inning, it appeared all hope was lost. Then, miraculously, the Mets rallied to make it an 8-8 score with Piazza up and two men on base. Wouldn’t you know it, Piazza hit an absolute laser down the left field line that was gone in the snap of a finger to complete the Mets epic comeback. If you go back and watch that highlight keep an eye on the emotion that comes out of Piazza as he makes his way down the first base line. That sums up just how much that home run meant. Click to watch…
  • Lifting a city: Maybe the moment that will immortalize Mike Piazza forever in New York lore was his game winning home run post 9/11. The Mets played the first game in New York after that tragic day. It was a weird time. Nobody really knew how to think or how to go about returning to their daily lives. I remember watching that game and turning over to the news networks between innings who were still trying to grasp that horrific day. It was surreal. With the Mets trailing in the eighth inning, Piazza hit a monumental blast off the TV tower in center field that made everything feel alright in the world, at least for that moment. It was something that the city so desperately needed. That home run will mean so much more to fans than Piazza himself may ever realize. Once again Piazza stepped up and carried not only his team, but the city, when it was needed the most. Click to watch…

 I know that Piazza has already expressed his desire to be enshrined wearing a Mets cap. I also know that it isn’t his decision to make. The reality is that it’s very likely the Hall of Fame decides to put him in with a blank cap, given his split time playing for both the Mets and Dodgers. There is an argument to be made for both sides and I’m not going to delve into the statistical comparison. I simply challenge any Hall of Fame voter to close their eyes and relive a Piazza moment(s) in their head off memory. I feel pretty confident in saying that they will come up none from his days in L.A. and have several vivid memorable moments of him wearing a Mets cap engrained in their heads. That should put an end to that debate, in my opinion.

As I mentioned earlier, this might be the last time I genuinely receive joy out of a player receiving this honor. I’m at an age now where players are my own age and in many cases, younger. It hasn’t changed much. Other than my frustration that I’m not in the Majors. I still admire players’ talents and have as much of an appreciation for the game as I ever have. Maybe more so now that I have a full understanding of how gifted these players truly are.

One thing that I have noticed is that you begin to root for your favorite teams and players in a different fashion as you get older. Sure, you still tune in with a keen eye and express your emotions. Although now I find myself getting far more upset with losses than I did when I was younger and somehow less excited over a big win. Funny how that works. The biggest difference? I don’t hold players in the same reverence that I did for Mike Piazza. He is the last of his kind, for me. I haven’t been to Cooperstown since I was young. I was maybe 12 at the time (I’ll have to check with my parents on that). Now, with my childhood hero set to be enshrined, I have the only reason I need to go back.

Citi Field has FINALLY come to life

Sometimes last minute plans are the best plans. A spur of the moment decision led me to Citi Field to witness the Mets complete their sweep of the Nationals. The Mets, who have so often been on the butt end of a joke in recent memory, made a statement last night with the help of their fans that they aren’t fooling around.

After a bizarre couple of days around the trade deadline, I don’t think we need to recap what has already received enough coverage, the Mets played some of their best baseball when they needed it the most. Fantastic pitching performances and dramatic endings on Friday and Saturday set the stage for Sunday night.

I wasn’t even in the stadium yet and I knew it was going to be a different kind of night at the ballpark. While searching for tickets on Stubhub there were only 250 tickets available at the 5 o’clock hour. For those of you unfamiliar with the secondhand ticket service, there are generally an abundance of tickets available for Mets games. It’s not uncommon to see a few thousand tickets available on the cheap hours before a game. Not yesterday. Despite being an 8 o’clock game on a Sunday night, fans wanted to be there.

Sums up Mets fans perfect after this weekend.Hat tip to @TooGooden16 for the twitter post

How I assume all Mets fans are talking to one another today. Hat tip to @TooGooden16 for the twitter post

From the moment I stepped foot into Citi Field you could just feel the buzz. Something I may have felt in small doses while attending various opening day games, Harvey nights or during the All-Star game. But it wasn’t a passing moment. This energy was there for the long haul.

The third inning was something special in its own right. Curtis Granderson’s two-run shot brought the crowd to their feet. Daniel Murphy kept them up with a tape measure bomb on the very next pitch. Then Lucas Duda nearly brought the house down two batters later with a moonshot off of the Pepsi Porch facade. Citi Field was ROCKING.

From there on out it was a raucous crowd. Every opportunity the fans had to cheer, applaud or get on somebody – they did. Just ask Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. Harper, who seems to have become public enemy No. 1, was on the brunt end of quite a bit of heckling. I’m all for giving opposing stars a hard time out there. After all, this is New York. A visiting club should never feel too comfortable in our city. That’s the way it should be.

In the top of the eighth inning Noah Syndergaard, who had been mowing down the Nationals lineup all night, had one more showdown with Harper with two outs and a pitch count well over 100. It felt reminiscent of the closing scene in ‘Major League’ with Rick Vaughn going mano-a-mano and his fastball lighting up the radar gun. The fans willed Syndergaard to get everything left out of that arm for one last batter as he touched 99 MPH on his final pitch right through Harpers swing. A standing ovation followed that led perfectly into the Piano Man sing-along between innings.

Wilmer Flores, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth, received possibly the loudest ovation of the night when he stepped up to the plate. “Willlllmerrr” echoed throughout Citi Field. The fan favorite ripped a ball into left center that was only a few feet shy of leaving the park. If that had gone out I think the crowd would still be cheering.

Newly acquired, and former National, Tyler Clippard closed things out to the chants of “SWEEP! SWEEP! SWEEP!” as the Flushing Faithful erupted for one last roar.

I’m not saying it’s time to start printing those postseason tickets. It’s still August. Early August at that. But this fan base so desperately needed that. I needed that. But what we really need is for that to be only the beginning of more nights like that things to come.

A lot of words can describe this Mets team, but resilient has to be one of them

The Mets celebrate last night's walk-off win

The Mets celebrate last night’s walk-off win

After suffering a brutal loss on Saturday (I witnessed it firsthand) the Mets have done what they have all season – bounced back.

Just a day after a bullpen meltdown led to an extra innings loss, Dillon Gee imploded on Sunday afternoon allowing eight runs in just 3 2/3 innings of work. It appeared the Mets were well on their way to a downward spiral as the life was sucked out of the ball club on back-to-back days. But then the often anemic offense came to life. Home runs by Darrell Ceciliani, Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares powered the Mets to a 10-8 come from behind win. Terry Collins didn’t take any chances with the bullpen this time around as Jeurys Familia completed a four out save.

Monday night appeared to be going down the same path as Saturday’s loss. Noah Syndergaard, after a first inning mistake to Jose Bautista, held a steamrolling Blue Jays lineup at bay throwing six innings while striking out 11. The Mets offense rallied in the bottom half of the sixth for two runs that put Syndergaard in line for a much deserved win. Familia was called upon once more for a four out save. He was able to work his way out of an inherited jam in the eighth, but didn’t fair as well in the ninth.

A tailing 97-MPH fastball that was sitting about six inches inside the plate was rifled down the left field line by Bautista, again, for his second long ball of the game. I have a hard time putting too much blame on Familia for that pitch. Nine out of ten times that pitch breaks a hitters bat. There are only a handful of players capable of hitting that ball, unfortunately Bautista is one of them. After exchanging zeros in the 10th, the Blue Jays put together a run in the 11th that had many thinking deja vu to Saturday afternoon. Once more the Mets showed their resiliency. Down to their final strike, Lucas Duda floated a single into left field against an outfield shift that allowed a running Michael Cuddyer on a 3-2 count to score all the way from first. Wilmer Flores followed that with a base hit up the middle that brought Duda home to win the game.

This Mets team isn’t perfect. In fact, they are far from it. There are plenty of flaws that we are quick to point out with this injury decimated roster. Yet no matter how questionable their lineup may look at times they have continued to play well enough to hang onto first place in the NL East. The Washington Nationals are still the odds on favorites and it seems inevitable they will eventually put a stretch together that allows them to surpass the Mets in the standings. However, it’s become rather clear that this Mets team will not go down this season without a fight.

 

Matt Harvey shines on “The Daily Show”

harvey elbow

Jon Stewart provided ample protection for Harvey’s right elbow

Mets ace Matt Harvey was a guest on “The Daily Show” hosted by Jon Stewart last night.

It’s no secret that the longtime host is a die-hard Mets fan. He has become well-known for incorporating his frustrations with the franchise in his nightly rants, making them the punchline in many of his jokes over the years. Stewart is your prototypical Mets fan in his pessimistic views, always expecting the worst case scenario to occur.  With little faith in the Mets ability to retain Harvey long-term, he flirted with the idea of trading him in the near future “for a goat and some magic beans.” With his tenure coming to an end with “The Daily Show” this year, it made sense for him to have the franchises biggest star on before his departure.

Stewart asked Harvey about the Mets early success this season. “You’re 26 years old. You got New York City — we have not seen a player of your ability in many years. … What does it feel like?” Stewart asked the pitcher.

“I think it’s excitement,” Harvey replied. “For us and the whole staff, we’re excited about the future, we’re excited about now. And I think the most important thing is to focus on what we’re doing now.”

The highlight of the interview was when Stewart pulled out a pillow for Harvey to rest his elbow on and miniature police road blocks for protection. “I’ve got nothing left soon, that elbow is my future!” Stewart pronounced.

Harvey presented Stewart with a Mets jersey with #17 ij honor of 17 seasons of hosting "The Daily Show"

Harvey presented Stewart with a Mets jersey with #17 ij honor of 17 seasons of hosting “The Daily Show”

No offense to David Wright, but Matt Harvey is the face of the franchise. He possess the skill set, will to win and craves the limelight in a way that few desire. Harvey looks as comfortable in front of a microphone as he does out on the mound. Two years ago Harvey, in the midst of taking the league by storm and named NL starter for the All-Star Game, made a memorable appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon. Since then Harvey’s off the field persona has continued to grow. He has been featured in the ESPN Magazine Body Issue, dated numerous super models, become a fixture on Page Six of the NY Post for his social life, named NYC Bureau Chief for Derek Jeter’s ‘The Players’ Tribune’ and had an entire ESPN E:60 feature dedicated to his rehab after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

But, all of this wouldn’t be possible without his continued dominance on the mound. Harvey has wasted no time in silencing any doubt he would be rusty after missing a year and a half of action. He is 5-2 with a 2.91 ERA. In reality, Harvey has pitched well enough to win eight of his nine starts this year. However, I do believe he has yet to return to his form of two years ago, but that’s what’s scary about his start. Harvey has been nothing short of spectacular this year and he hasn’t even returned to peak form. Mets fans are giddy knowing that even better days could be lie ahead for Harvey in 2015.

So far, nothing has effected Harvey’s success on the field. As long as that doesn’t change, I’m all for him living his life any way he pleases. 26-years-old, single and living in New York City – it’s good to be Matt Harvey.

Click here to watch Matt Harvey on “The Daily Show.” 

Bartolo Colon, professional athlete, may have struggled due to running the bases

bartolo colonLet me start this off by saying I love Bartolo Colon. I really do. Everything about him is a joy to watch. From his care free demeanor on the mound to his helmet flying off of his head with each swing he takes at the plate – I can’t get enough of it. He’s been a pleasant surprise and a highlight free agent signing during GM Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the Mets. But manager Terry Collins made some comments last night that I found to be rather alarming regarding Colon’s mid game struggles.

In the third inning of last nights game, Colon reached base on a fielding error made by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. He was then followed by back-to-back base hits that required Colon to “run” to reach base before being stranded at third. The following inning, after throwing three scoreless innings, Colon imploded and allowed six runs.

“That’s the first time he’s had to do that all year long,” Collins said after the game, referring to Colon having to run the bases.  “Maybe that was some of the reason why the next inning he didn’t have much. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him struggle so much with the command side.”

I know, Colon isn’t exactly the model of good health. But I still find that to be disturbing. I know the line from ‘Mr. Baseball‘ goes “We’re not athletes, we’re baseball players” – and while some degree of that may hold true, not being able to run 90 feet at a time is embarrassing. At the end of the day I don’t care if Colon get on base again for the rest of the season. He’s getting paid to perform on the mound, not at the plate. But if you’re going to play baseball in the National League I expect pitchers to at the bare minimum be able to run, and I use that term very loosely with Colon, the bases without it effecting you on the mound.

Here’s the clip from last night of Colon reaching base on an infield error:

The Subway Series Is The Talk Of The Town

IMG_4587

We’re only 16 games into the season and the buzz surrounding this weekend is that usually reserved for September/October baseball. The Rangers, Islanders and Nets might be in the playoffs – but the subway series is the talk of the town.

When the schedule was first released I was disappointed to see the first part of the subway series would be taking place in April. I felt it was too early in the year and would be lacking any real excitement during this normally dull period in the season. Luckily I could not have been more wrong. We might not have kicked the cold weather just yet in New York but both of these teams are red-hot.

The Mets (13-3) come into this series as the hottest team in baseball – riding an 11-game winning streak. Their hot start has already given the Mets a 4.5 game lead in the NL East. Despite players dropping like flies due to injury (and suspension) the team has maintained this football like mentality as “next man up” seems to be their mantra. Terry Collins has his ball club playing with a type of grit and resilience that hasn’t been seen in Queens in years. The fan base has responded in a big way to this early success. Attendance is soaring and Citi Field, dare I say it, is beginning to rock like Shea. Maybe not quite on that level, but it’s a noticeable atmosphere change. Every night a different player seems steps up and comes through with a key walk, sacrifice fly, strong start, clutch hit or defensive web gem on the way to a win. It has been a complete team effort early on for the Metsies.

IMG_4588

Friday: Michael Pineda (2-0, 5.00 ERA) vs Jacob DeGrom (2-0, 0.93 ERA) 7:05 p.m. WPIX/YES/MLB Network

Saturday: CC Sabathia (0-3, 4.35 ERA) vs Matt Harvey (3-0, 3.50 ERA) 4:05 p.m. SNY/YES/Fox Sports 1

Sunday: Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 3.12) vs Jonathon Niese (2-0, 1.50 ERA) 8:05 p.m. ESPN

After getting off to a 3-6 start it appeared the Yankees (9-7) were in an early season tailspin. Things quickly turned around as the Yanks have since won 6 of their last 7 and now sit tied for first place in the AL East. There were questions swirling around some of this teams veteran players and what, if any, they had left in the tank. Mark Teixeira and A-ROD have been a blast from the past as each are producing at a high level. Chris Young, who was viewed as the team’s fourth or fifth outfield option, is among the hottest hitters in the game and has forced manager Joe Girardi’s hand for more playing time. The tag team of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller has been as good as advertised in the back-end of the bullpen. In just a week the Yankees have changed their outlook from bleak to optimistic in what appears to be a wide open AL East.

In years past this has been a no-win situation for the Yankees. They have long been the kings of this city and would never gain any real advantage from taking a series from the Mets. Even when the Mets have won this series in recent years it has garnered no real significance. Sure, it’s nice to beat the Yankees but no one really cares when you’re playing meaningless games by the middle of August.

This year feels different. The Mets, and their fans, have been quite vocal in pronouncing 2015 as the year they take New York back. This is the first time that I can ever remember the Yankees coming into the subway series with a little chip on their shoulder. I have a REALLY hard time saying any team with a payroll well north of $200 million is ever an underdog, but it sure feels that way. For the Mets, if they really want to surpass the Yankees as the toast of the town – it starts by sending a message this weekend.

The Mets have overcome plenty of adversity in only 13 games

mets take back

The Mets are 10-3 and off to their best start since 2006. Attendance is soaring and reaching figures the franchise hasn’t seen since Citi Field’s inaugural season in 2009. Take a look at the back cover of any local newspaper and the Mets will be featured on it. Listen to WFAN or ESPN radio (if you must) and odds are the Mets will be the topic of discussion for the majority of any given program. Matt Harvey has become the toast of the town. Simply put, the Mets are well on their way to taking the city back.

By all means things appear to be going just as planned, if not better, for the Mets in 2015. Yet they have already overcome an immense amount of adversity just 13 games into the season.

  • Zack Wheeler was diagnosed with a torn UCL in mid-March and has since undergone Tommy John surgery. He is expected back in 12-16 months.
  • Vic Black underwent an MRI late in spring training that revealed a herniated disc in his right shoulder. There was hope Black would return as early as this week until another MRI revealed only little improvement. He will rest another week before being reevaluated once again. A reasonable return date is unknown at this point.
  • Jenrry Mejia suffered stiffness in his right elbow on opening day and was placed on the 15-day disabled list following the game. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Just a week later he was suspended 80-games for PED use. Changes in the CBA ban Mejia from pitching in the postseason, should the Mets qualify.
  • David Wright was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 15th with strained hamstring. Wright has begun some rehab activities and Sandy Alderson expects the captain back when he is eligible to return on April 30. I hate to be negative about this positive news but hamstring issues are notoriously nagging injuries.
  • Travis d’Arnaud fractured his right pinkie finger and will be in a splint for three weeks. Rehab time still has to be taken into consideration on top of that. A realistic timetable for his return might be the end of May.
  • Jeremy Blevins fractured his forearm after being hit by a line drive and will remain in a splint for six weeks. He will then be reevaluated at that time and resume throwing when healed.

injured mr met

When you think about what those players mean to this roster you’re talking about a front line starter, three prominent arms in the bullpen (closer, setup man and lefty specialist), an emerging catcher and the linchpin of this offense who is also the team captain.

The motto so far seems to be next man up. Nobody feels bad for you in professional sports. There is no pity for you when a player goes down. For opposing teams it can be seen as an opportunity to take advantage of your vulnerability. But as of now the Mets have been able to not only “hang in there” but succeed even with those gleaming voids.

Looking at that list reminds me of the 2009 season when it felt as if the entire roster suffered from injury at some point throughout that year. The difference in this team has been their resilience. Sure the Mets have gotten off to other strong starts in recent seasons – but this one feels different. It’s hard to explain. Similar to how you try to quantify how some people have that “it” factor. I can’t quite put words on it but I have a sense this team will be able to keep it together. I won’t go as far as to crown them World Series Champions, yet alone NL East Champions, just yet – but I do believe this team is well on its way to playing a meaningful 2015 season in its entirety.

Mets ownership should take a page out of the ‘Better Call Saul’ playbook

ya-gotta-leave

Right as Mets spring training officially got underway this week an unwanted sight for Mets ownership erected – a billboard stating “Fred, Jeff & Saul – Ya gotta leave” went up on a nearby highway in Port St. Lucie.

It’s no secret ownership hasn’t been beloved by the fans for some time now. There is a strong disconnect between themselves and the fan base. And while it’s become quite clear they love owning the franchise, the feeling isn’t exactly mutual.

Mets fan Gary Palumbo took his protest one step further than most. He started a kickstarter campaign to raise money in order to create these billboards encouraging ownership to sell the team. When I first saw this on twitter I laughed it off. Figured it was just a guy who came up with this idea at the bar one night with his buddies and was probably half serious about it. Sure enough once the campaign started he quickly found out he wasn’t the only fan who shared these feelings.

With an original goal of raising $5,000 he has surpassed that with $6,714 to this point. Meaning fans will be seeing multiple of billboards surrounding Queens this summer.

It’s hard for Jeff, Fred and Saul to receive any sort of sympathy. After all, it’s hard for anyone to feel bad for a group of Millionaires. But, if they tuned in to ‘Better Call Saul’ a few weeks ago, they might have found a way to earn some goodwill…

Not that I would ever expect to see this happen. But I sure would love to see Saul Katz (has anyone ever seen this man do an interview?) give this a try.

The only real solution to this problem is to win. If the Mets are winning ballgames this season than this will become nothing more than background noise. Nobody hopes that is the case more than Jeff, Fred and Saul.

Daniel Murphy was doomed for failure yesterday

Former major league player Billy Bean, not to be confused with the Athletics GM, visited Mets camp as a guest of GM Sandy Alderson. Bean, who was the first MLB player to publicly come out as gay, is one of the games leading activists.  He now serves as an MLB ambassador for inclusion in the game today. Alderson hoped his story and presence in camp would help stress the importance of bonding with teammates, no matter what your background or personal beliefs may be, this spring.

The thought was there and I tip my cap to Alderson for the effort. But, things took a turn for the worse when a microphone was placed in front of Daniel Murphy.

Murphy has become well-known, especially by team beat writers, for his christian beliefs. His faith is a big part of his life and he has never shied away from saying so in any interview. Thus making him the target of the media yesterday with Bean in town.

Here is some of what Murphy had to say regarding Bean (NJ.com):

“I disagree with his lifestyle,” Murphy said. “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him. I don’t think the fact that someone is a homosexual should completely shut the door on investing in them in a relational aspect. Getting to know him. That, I would say, you can still accept them but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”

“Maybe, as a Christian, that we haven’t been as articulate enough in describing what our actual stance is on homosexuality,” he said. “We love the people. We disagree the lifestyle. That’s the way I would describe it for me. It’s the same way that there are aspects of my life that I’m trying to surrender to Christ in my own life. There’s a great deal of many things, like my pride. I just think that as a believer trying to articulate it in a way that says just because I disagree with the lifestyle doesn’t mean I’m just never going to speak to Billy Bean every time he walks through the door. That’s not love. That’s not love at all.”

Murphy was set up for failure yesterday. I understand it’s the media’s job to seek after these sort of quotes and headlines to sell papers. When you take some of Murphy’s words out of context, in so 140 characters, you don’t ge the full gist of what he was actually saying. But what bothered me was that they chose to go after Murphy because of his well documented christian beliefs. They knew Murphy would not shy away from speaking on behalf of his faith. Murphy did what he has always done, and what the media hoped he would do, as he stood there and answered the questions openly and honestly.

We live in a politically correct world today. Especially on a topic as sensitive as homosexuality in America. These days if you don’t agree with someone, you’re the problem. No longer are we allowed to disagree or possess different beliefs. I mean what do you think this is – the land of the free?

For the record, I have absolutely no problem with Billy Bean or his sexuality. Good for him for living his life the way he wants to and doing so in a public manner. Everyone should be able to do the same without fear of persecution. Especially in this day and age.

Bean, who is also a contributor on MLB.com, wrote a piece today regarding his experience with the Mets. It’s worth a read. This is an excerpt from regarding Murphy:

 “After reading his comments, I appreciate that Daniel spoke his truth. I really do. I was visiting his team, and a reporter asked his opinion about me. He was brave to share his feelings, and it made me want to work harder and be a better example that someday might allow him to view things from my perspective, if only for just a moment.”

“I respect him, and I want everyone to know that he was respectful of me. We have baseball in common, and for now, that might be the only thing. But it’s a start.”

This is why I have a problem with the backlash Murphy has received in these last 24 hours. The man stood there and reiterated his personal beliefs. He did not commit some hate crime. You didn’t see Murphy protest his presence, refuse to get dressed in the same locker room or participate in anything involving Bean. In fact, he did the complete opposite. Murphy spoke with Bean and got to know him a little bit. If Bean, the man who was supposed to be offended the most by these comments, was able to walk away with respect for Murphy – why can’t everyone else?

We do not have to agree on everything in this country. That’s what is supposed to make America great. We have the freedom to differentiate ourselves from one another with our own personal beliefs.

Feel free to disagree with Daniel Murphy. You have every right to. But don’t hate the man for having a belief different than yours. Billy Bean doesn’t.

 

There can be only one: Who will reign as king of the back page, Harvey or A-ROD?

Matt Harvey (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images), A-Rod (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) Photo from: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/02/12/mets-harvey-a-rods-return-good-for-him-good-for-baseball/

Matt Harvey (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images), A-Rod (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) Image from: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/02/12/mets-harvey-a-rods-return-good-for-him-good-for-baseball/

New York City might be big enough for two professional baseball teams, but only one franchise, and in most cases one player, will control the back pages. Last season that man was Derek Jeter. Now that his farewell tour has ended, I wasn’t sure if it ever would, there are two men who will fill that void. Matt Harvey and Alex Rodriguez are poised for a back page battle in their 2015 returns. But as was the case in ‘Highlander’ – there can be only one.

In 2013, Harvey took the league, and city, by storm. You could find him featured in ESPN Magazine: The Body Issue, participating in skits for ‘The Tonight Show’, on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Us Weekly (featuring his breakup with super model Annie V) and sitting courtside at Knicks/Rangers games. Oh, then there was the fact the he started the 2013 All-Star game at Citi Field. Almost forgot about his on the field dominance. Simply put, he was everywhere.

Unfortunately, Harvey’s rise to stardom was derailed by a season-ending elbow injury that led to Tommy John Surgery. Even while he missed the entire 2014 season recovering he grabbed more attention than his active teammates. Now, much of that has to do with the lackluster season the Mets put together. Nonetheless, Harvey has become a walking headline. Every interview, comment, appearance or tweet he made has become back page news.

Harvey’s combination of talent and brash have him on the cusp of taking the throne as King of NY. All eyes will be on him this spring as he returns to the mound.

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Matt Harvey will be leading the charge as the Mets try to take back NY.

Then there’s A-ROD. He is one of, if not the, most captivating figure in sports. Given where he stands in today’s media landscape, it’s easy to forget that A-ROD was once one of the most popular players in the game. That was long before he donned the pinstripes. As a young phenomenon he was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career and was on pace to break every record in the book. He earned the largest contract in professional sports history (he would later receive a second deal to top that). His little black book is filled with a “who’s who” of women in Hollywood. Then steroids came into the picture. Accusations occurred, denials were initially made and then apologies were ultimately issued.

A-ROD went on to become a World Series hero and all was forgiven. Or was it? Accusations of PED once again began to occur. A lot of them. Denials were once again made. Then a suspension was handed down. A big one (The largest in baseball history). And once again, an apology was issued. This time in the form of a handwritten note.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me. It was gracious of the Yankees to offer me the use of Yankee Stadium for this apology but I decided the next time I am in Yankee Stadium, I should be in pinstripes doing my job.”

People love to see the mighty crumble. As bad as that may sound, it’s true. Think about every featured story on the news, magazine covers or website homepages. More times than not you won’t be seeing any feel good stories. It’s almost always regarding someones downfall. Hence why these A-ROD scandals have been so widely reported. Sure, his story has become kind of repetitive. He’s almost like watching a rerun on TV. You’ve already seen the episode. But you enjoyed it so much the first time around that you decided to watch it again. Sound familiar?

I don’t care how many monuments the Yankees give out this season. A-ROD is the only Yankee story people care about.

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Not so fast, A-ROD. I’m sure you have a few more back page covers in you.

The media aren’t the only ones excited for A-ROD’s return. Earlier this week Harvey himself said “If he is that dedicated and wants to come back then more power to him for going up to the organization like that, it shows a lot,” Harvey told the NY Post. “It will be exciting to see what he can do.”

No one epitomized a baseball player better than Derek Jeter. But I found myself becoming bored with him during those dog days of summer last season. I craved that polarizing figure. Someone who has a bit of a flair to him. I missed Matt Harvey. And at times, I can’t believe I’m saying this, I missed A-ROD..

Both The Mets and Yankees are projected to be in the playoff hunt this year, but neither are considered favorites. It’s been a while since these two were on roughly an even playing field. While winning is crucial in NY, it is considered almost equally as important to win those back pages. A-ROD, for both his on and (mostly) off the field actions, could be the Yankees only hope in this battle. While Matt Harvey will try to solidify himself as the new face of baseball in NY.

WATCH: Josh Lewin on MLB Network talking Mets

Mets radio broadcaster Josh Lewin was a guest on MLB Network’s Hot Stove this morning to talk the upcoming season. Lewin sounded optimistic that the Mets will be able to ride this pitching staff into playoff contention in 2015. One interesting point he made was a reminder that Rafael Santana, the Mets shortstop on the 1986 champion team, hit .218 with one home run in that season. He was quick to remind us that he wasn’t comparing the rest of the everyday players to that roster but rather raising the point that it’s not the end-all and be-all if they don’t start the season with a premier shortstop.

Watch the segment in its entirety below:

Mets fail to retain Bobby Ojeda

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Bobby Ojeda has been with SNY since 2009

 

The Mets already lost one stable from their highly-regarded broadcast team with the departure of field reporter Kevin Burkhardt. Now SNY will also be moving on without Bobby Ojeda in the studio. Despite not being players, these are the two biggest losses the Mets have suffered this off-season.

Ojeda pitched for the Mets from 1986-1990. When his playing days were done he served as a minor league pitching coach within the organization from 2001-03. He left that position due to a disagreement with the front office regarding player development. He later joined SNY in 2009 as a pre/post-game analyst. Although he will always be loved in this city for his part of that memorable 86′ Mets team, a whole new generation of fans, myself included, grew to revere him as an analyst.

He quickly became known for his brutal honesty and unique insight.  He isn’t one of these company men who provided the generic boring commentary regarding the team he covered. You could count on him to give a real opinion and always held the players, coaches and front office accountable for their performance. That’s what I want from a studio analyst. There are enough empty suits who say all the right things to please studio executives on television, Ojeda is not one of them.

An excerpt from a Daily News piece regarding the situation:

“Bobby wanted to come back this season. He absolutely wanted to,” a source close to Ojeda said. “Even with some changes on the horizon in the studio he wanted to return.”

Other reports have stated that the difference of pay was “not substantial“. Which leaves us to assume it was once again a money issue, same old Mets. At least ownership is consistent with not spending money both on and off the field, you have to give them that.

There have been rumblings that former Mets reliever Nelson Figueroa is a candidate to be Ojeda’s replacement. Figueroa is a local guy who grew up rooting for the team and is well-respected by the local reporters. I can’t say I’ve ever heard, or read,  a negative remark about him.

Just last season there were rumors regarding former Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd joining the radio broadcast team. Although that never came to fruition, Floyd has done a nice job with the MLB Network this past year. He has sent out some tweets lately hinting that he will be announcing “spring plans” that have since been deleted. I can only speculate that he could be in the running for this position as well.

Regardless of who SNY hires to replace Ojeda, I will miss his presence during Mets’ broadcasts.

 

 

Beckham Jr. and Chavez made the greatest catches that never mattered

My rant in the Newsday Sports section today

My rant in the Newsday Sports section today

On Sunday night, Odell Beckham Jr. made one of the most incredible catches you’ll ever see in the Giants loss to the Cowboys. The catch could be found within minutes all over the internet and will be sure to live on in highlight reels for eternity. After  watching the play for what felt like the thousandth time, I couldn’t help but feel a similarity to the Endy Chavez catch in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

It’s not easy for me to think about the 2006 NLCS. Typing this post has brought back all sorts of bad memories. Game 7 was one of those nights where all Mets fans can tell you where they experienced that misery.  As for me, I watched at a bar called Reefers in Federal Hill, Baltimore while I was still attending Towson University. I remember it like it was yesterday. With the game tied in the sixth inning Scott Rolen tattooed a ball to deep left field, it appeared that would put an end to the Mets World Series hopes and dreams.

Endy Chavez tracked that ball at full speed all the way back to the warning track, leaped up and slammed his body against the wall while putting his arm out to its full extension. Somehow, someway, Chavez was able to snag it a few feet over the fence. When he landed, he had to take a double-check into his glove, as I think he was in as much disbelief as the rest of us that he had actually made that catch. He then quickly fired it back into the infield and the Mets were able to double Jim Edmonds off of first base for an inning ending double play. It was a surreal moment. There was no way the Mets were going to lose that game.

Then the unthinkable happened. It started with Yadier Molina hitting a two-run home run in the ninth inning off of Aaron Heilman, well out of Chavezs’ reach this time. As if that wasn’t heart breaking enough, the Mets went on to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth for Carlos Beltran. Beltran, had already established himself as a great postseason performer, earning his contract with the Mets after going on a tear just a few Octobers earlier with the Houston Astros. But wouldn’t you know the Mets luck, Beltran went down looking at a 3-2 curveball from rookie Adam Wainwright.

Although Beckham JR’s catch was made in the regular season for a flailing Giants team, it will still be remembered as an all-time great play. Chavez on the other hand, went from making arguably the greatest catch in postseason history, to making the greatest catch that also brings about the greatest amount of heartache to its fan base. I will always remember it as a bittersweet moment in Mets history.

Ultimately both the Giants and Mets lost those respective games. I do have to give the edge to Chavez simply because of the situation in which he made his. But the ultimate goal is always to win the game, after all, these are teams sports. For that reason alone, these will both be known as the greatest catches that never really mattered in NY sports.

Josh Lewin will be back alongside Howie Rose

Josh Lewin will once again be teaming up with Howie Rose on 710 WOR

Josh Lewin will once again be teaming up with Howie Rose on 710 WOR

Hidden in the news of the Mets yet again introducing new uniforms and hats into the 2015 rotation, whoop-dee-doo, it was announced that Josh Lewin will be returning next year. There were questions surrounding the radio booth last season when the Mets made the move over to 710 WOR, but they made that transition smoothly with the retention of Howie Rose and Lewin.

With everything that has gone wrong with this franchise for the past several years, the broadcasting crew on both SNY and 710 WOR are something the fans can count on. Few broadcasting teams around the game can keep fans tuned in the way the Mets do.

Radio is an overlooked part of broadcasting in the other major sports. But not in baseball. Games are played on a daily basis,  fans don’t stop everything they’re doing and arrange their schedules to get in front of their televisions for a game the way many do for football games. That’s the beauty of baseball. The pace of the game and the way a story can unfold is a perfect match for radio. This is why so many of us can stay tuned in by listening in our cars, enjoy the summer weather while we set up a radio or stream on an electronic device just about anywhere we might be where a TV is not. The key to this relationship is the right voice(s) on the other side to keep us entertained. Continue reading

Why did the Mets let George Greer leave?

George Greer while he was serving as hitting coach with the Brooklyn Cyclones

George Greer while he was serving as hitting coach with the Brooklyn Cyclones

Earlier in the week it was announced that the Mets Triple-A hitting coach George Greer had been hired by the St. Louis Cardinals. Greer was named the Cardinals system wide hitting coach. It is well-known that the Mets are in search of a new hitting coach, thus making the timing of this move a bit odd to me.

The Cardinals have been one of the premier franchises in the sport for some time now. They compete for a World Series title year in, year out, leaving many wondering just how do they do it? Very rarely do you see the Cardinals give out long-term deals to overpriced free agents. They let arguable the games best player at the time, Albert Pujols, walk and they didn’t even skip a beat. I credit much of this to their player development and scouting department. An area which the Mets undoubtedly need to improve on.

This is what left me thinking, What exactly are the Cardinals seeing in Greer that the Mets aren’t? If an organization of the Cardinals stature felt he was worth such a position, why wouldn’t the Mets do their best to hold onto him? Greer was rumored to be a potential candidate for the Mets hitting coach, I’ll go ahead and assume he felt he was not going to be offered the position. Aside from that, interim hitting coach Lamar Johnson was told the Mets would not be retaining him as the teams hitting coach, choosing to rather reassign him elsewhere within the organization. These two factors must have played a big part in Greer making the decision to leave so quickly.  But at the very least, why wasn’t he offered a similar position within the organization?

I’ll be the first to say that I think the value of a hitting coach is overstated. These are major league baseball players, they already know how to hit and require very little coaching at this level of play. With that being said, even the best of players can develop bad habits and go into a slump. This is where the advice from a hitting coach may come into play. Besides the occasional tweak or words of encouragement to a younger player, I don’t think a hitting coach has the ability to turn around an entire offense simply by his presence.

At the end of the day, this is just a minor league hitting instructor. But this move left me once again questioning the thought process within our front office. Look around the league, unless you are willing to open up your checkbook like the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox, you must rely heavily on your farm system to build from within. Maybe I’m overstating this and Greer is an easily replaceable coach, but I have to doubt that if an organization of the Cardinals caliber was willing to scoop him away.