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.
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 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.
Although the Mets won in blowout fashion last night and assured themselves of a winning road trip, the best part of the game had nothing to do with what happened on the field. Rather, Keith Hernandez stole the show with his fan commentary that left Gary Cohen speechless.
While most baseball announcers are quite boring and wouldn’t dare say anything risky on air, Hernandez is not one of them. Hernandez has made quite a reputation for himself since joining the Mets broadcasting booth. Whenever a game hits a boring point, it’s not uncommon for him to start talking about his weekend plans or give a shout out to his local watering hole in Sag Harbor. Hernandez might be a baseball icon, but he brings so much more to the booth than his game analysis.
Last night was Hernandez at his finest. While an SNY camera man was showing a couple enjoying an enormous hot dog, Hernandez took it upon himself to focus on two bigger features. The busty woman was clearly the star of this shot, and it’s hard to imagine anyone’s head wasn’t in the same place as Hernandez’s. The only difference, we weren’t expressing our thoughts on national television, Hernandez was. It’s moments like these why we have all grown to love his antics in the booth, as he is able to make any dull game into must see TV. Continue reading
Fox Sports made an announcement earlier today that Mets sideline reporter, Kevin Burkhardt, will officially be joining the Fox Sports MLB team. It has been rumored for some time now that this was the likely move for the rising star that is Burkhardt. After joining the Fox football team this fall to high praise, this was the right move for both parties.
Burkhardt will be the host for the Fox, Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1 MLB pregame show that will run during the regular season, All-Star game and the World Series. Newly elected Hall of Famer, Frank Thomas, will be joining him in the booth alongside Gabe Kapler and other revolving guests.
2014 marks the end of Burkhardt’s contract with SNY, meaning this will most likely be his final season with the Mets. His role is sure to only grow once he is relieved of his Mets duties. This is bittersweet news, no Mets fan wants to see him go but we are all happy for him and will enjoy seeing one of our own apart of a nationally broadcast team. I expect Burkhardt to become a very focal figure across all Fox Sports activities in the years to come. We can only hope to see him hosting a World Series pregame show from Citi Field in the near future.
To read that I previously wrote about Kevin Burkhardt and what he has meant to Mets fans, click here: http://bigapplebaseballblog.com/2013/12/12/mets-fans-lets-enjoy-kevin-burkhardt-while-we-still-can/
Mets ace Matt Harvey was cleared today by his medical team to begin throwing a baseball. Harvey is only four months removed from Tommy John surgery, but this news marks the first step in his goal of returning to the mound. This is great news for both Harvey and the Mets, now we have to be patient with our 24-year-old.
“Since it is four months out, the process is going to be slow. I have to not push things.” Harvey said, regarding his discussion with his doctor “He just wanted to make sure I knew that and I was clear with that. Obviously we’re not going to push things early. But, for me, being able to wear my glove and pick up a ball again is a good sign.”
Harvey has publicly stated his desire to do his rehab work in NY, most rehabbing players spend their time in Port St. Lucie, but he would like to be closer to his home. This would also allow him to be with the team during home stands, where he could bond with his younger teammates and continue to learn the league from the bench. Everything about that sounds great, but will this ultimately turn into a distraction?
In only a short amount of time, Harvey has taken this city by storm. When he emerged late in the 2012 season, he quickly caught the eye of Mets fans and the rest of baseball. But it was his 2013 campaign really put him on the map as a star in the making. He was featured in a Jimmy Fallon show skit, could be seen on celebrity row for countless Rangers games, did a tabloid grabbing interview for GQ Magazine, dated Super-Model Anne V and oh yeah, was the starting pitcher for the All-Star Game at Citi Field. Harvey became one of the hottest athletes in NYC, everyone wanted a piece of him.
Personally, I don’t care what Harvey does off the field, as long as it doesn’t affect his performance on the mound. I only raise this questions because I know there will be certain media outlets and reporters who will make it their mission to question his work ethic this season. Last season was different, you could find him on the mound every 5th day, no matter what else he did that week. Now, he won’t be throwing off the mound in Citi Field, and many will be ready to jump at the opportunity to question his lifestyle during his rehab process.
Harvey does seem to be very mature for his age, just watch one interview and you will be shocked by his poise at such a young age. But every once in a while he surprises me with his actions, for example his GQ interview last season. Whether he was misquoted or thought he was speaking off the record, you have to be smarter than that. These guys are not your friend, they are using you to make a name for themselves. Or more recently, when WFAN’s Joe Benigo expressed his concerns for Harvey’s off the field headlines on air, Harvey became defensive and attacked these remarks via twitter while on vacation in Thailand. The only reason this story gathered any buzz was because of Harvey’s response. If something like that can trigger him while he is on vacation, imagine what it will be like when he is dealing with these questions in New York.
No one should question Harvey’s desire and determination to get back on the mound to help the Mets win. He has already thrown around the idea of trying to pitch down the stretch this season. Although this doesn’t sound to be a plausible plan, it’s that kind of attitude that has won over the fans. If I’m the Mets, I would be playing up his rehab throughout the season. Maybe have a crew monitoring his workouts and make it a feature on Mets Weekly. When the team is on road trips, I would throw him in the study and let him give insight on the games. Things like this will help keep him both in the spotlight and mentally focused on his return.
“I’d always love to pitch and get back out there, but I don’t make those decisions,” Harvey said regarding a return in 2014. “I can only stay with the doctors and prepare to the best of my ability. If things can work out quicker than normal, then we’ll see. But I can’t make that call. … I haven’t really talked to them in-depth about that. I know they don’t want me to push, and I’m definitely not going to force things to happen earlier. If they happen to come quicker, then that’s where we’re going to go.”
As Jerry Seinfeld recently stated, the Mets finally have a “cool guy”. Harvey has all the intangibles to be a star both on and off the field, he just has to remain committed to what got him there in the first place. I don’t foresee Harvey doing anything personally to make his rehab a distraction, I worry more about his reaction to the media that will be out to get him. If he is able to go about his business and keep reporters out of his mind, Harvey should be just fine.
But please, stop teasing us with these pitching in 2014 remarks. You’re surgery broke our hearts enough, don’t tease us like that.
I was deeply saddened by the news of Ralph Kiners passing yesterday. It had me thinking, here I am a 27-year-old Mets fan, yet I was emotionally struck by the death of a man who I had spent little time watching and listening to on TV. That speaks volumes to Kiner’s ability to leave a lasting memory on any Mets fan who was blessed to watch him in the broadcast booth.
Kiner was the last living member of the original Mets broadcasting crew, consisting of Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy and himself. The three of them stayed together from the Mets inaugural season in 1962 to the 1978 season. At that point Nelson moved on to other endeavors, Murphy went on to take control of the Mets Radio play-by-play duties and Kiner continued to be a stable on the television broadcast through this past season.
My earliest memories watching the Mets in the early-to-mid 90’s consisted of watching the Mets on channel 9 and Fox Sports, until the arrival of SNY. No matter the channel, Kiner would be calling games with the likes of Tim McCarver, Tom Seaver, Gary Thorne and Fran Healy. I would sit down with my Kahn’s hot dogs (Because they were the team sponsor at the time) sit back and enjoy the games. But the Mets weren’t exactly the greatest team in the world in those years, or for much of this team’s existence for that matter. The stories that Ralph Kiner shared would bring me back the next day as much as my love for the team did.
When you look back on Kiner’s life, it reads something similar to the script of Forest Gump. When you put together all of the historical events he lived through and people he dealt with over the years, it’s simply amazing. We are talking about a man who was a part of “The Greatest Generation”, a group that is quickly disappearing, this generation has lived through some of the most extraordinary years in American history. Kiner spent his childhood through The Great Depression, he grew up going to ball games and watching, yes physically watching, Babe Ruth and talked baseball with Ty Cobb. While in high school, he hit a homerun off of Satchel Paige in a pickup game. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kiner quickly joined the Navy, where he served as a pilot throughout WWII. Upon his return, Kiner went on to become one baseball’s greatest power hitters. He put together a Hall of Fame career, playing in the same era as Ted Williams, Bob Feller and stepped into the batter’s box opposite Warren Spahn. His social group consisted of hanging out with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra. He even took Elizabeth Taylor out on a date! I mean, WOW.
Now it has been quite some time since Kiner has been a regular calling games. The last several years he has made appearances, mostly during day games, joining Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling in the booth for a few innings. His speech had been slowed due to a stroke he suffered, but we were all more than willing to be patient with him in anticipation of hearing one more story. The way Gary, Keith and Ron treated him showed you just how much respect this man earned when he walked into a room. The 3 of them would turn their seats and face Ralph, waiting on his every word, you could see the smile on their faces just to be talking baseball with this all-time great. These 3 are arguably the best broadcasting team in the game today and yet if it were up to them, they would sit there and listen to Ralph all day.
Simply put, Ralph Kiner got the most out of his 91 years of life. You will be missed Ralph, I will be forever grateful that I was able to listen to you call a ball game and share some of the most fascinating stories that I will ever hear.
Months before the 2014 baseball season starts The Mets, along with their new radio broadcast partners 710 WOR, have already found a way to stir up the fan base. It appears decisions have not yet been made on one of the few things this franchise has going for them, their broadcasting teams. Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Kevin Burkhardt are arguably the best team in television, but the Radio booth of Howie Rose, Josh Lewin and Ed Coleman is held in the same high regard among the fan base.
In a shocking development, there were initial reports stating that WOR may look to replace the entire team and go with a fresh start. That would mean letting go of Howie Rose! Thank god the Mets stepped in on that matter and assured Rose would be part of the radio booth team, though no contract has been finalized yet. I mean could you imagine if HOWIE ROSE was replaced??? A move like that could have quickly turned an entire fan base against the station. Now it appears the question is, who will be joining him?
Josh Lewin is the man who has caused the most headlines during this whole ordeal. There has been plenty of speculation that Lewin is the man who could potentially be replaced. Lewin joined Rose in the booth two years ago, when he took over for the all too forgettable Wayne Haggin. I was hesitant to take in Lewin at first, but I quickly grew to love this combination during games. It’s as though you were hearing any two Mets fans having a conversation during a game, making it a very friendly and welcoming broadcast to listen to.
Unlike TV, you cannot let the game speak for itself, there is no room for awkward silence. It’s hard to force chemistry between two people, either you have it or you don’t, and Howie and Josh have it. The two of them grew up Mets fans, albeit different generations, but having that connection with listeners of knowing these two have been through the same ups and downs with you for all those years makes you feel a connection. Lewin excels in the play-by-play role, Howie gives us his analysis and historical perspective, simply put, it works. He adds a bit of humor to the booth when it is needed, which is has been in his two years, and he is able to relate with the younger fan base. It would be a shame to see him leave so soon.
I understand Coleman’s situation is a little bit different. He is a full-time employee of WFAN and does more than just Mets baseball with the station. It will be hard to initially accept, but it seems all but a foregone conclusion that he will not be making the move with the team over to WOR. Although he won’t be apart of the games broadcast anymore, he will still having a meaningful presence covering this team on the radio. WFAN is the most powerful sports radio station in NY, Coleman will surely stay on as the stations team correspondent and spend much of his time giving us updates as a guest across all of their programs.
The easiest comparison to make, for anyone who is an addicted WFAN listener like myself, is that Eddie Coleman will essentially become what Sweeny Murti has been for the last several years. The only thing that will really change with our relation to Coleman will be his absence on the pre and post game show. Truth be told, he is better off staying put. That way he will still be able to host an occasional show and keep his presence on a more meaningful sports station.
The two names that have been tossed around most often are former Mets Darryl Hamilton and Cliff Floyd. I have watched both recently in their roles as analysis on TV, granted it’s a small sample size, but they seem pretty good at their jobs. I’m not underestimating their abilities to be great broadcasters, my biggest argument is why fix something that isn’t broken? We have a tremendous team already in place, I can’t think of any reason why they should be split up for someone who is unproven in this type of role.
I understand both Rose and Lewin have other obligations besides the Mets. Rose calls Islander games and Lewin does San Diego Chargers games, causing them both to miss a few Mets games throughout the course of the season. Part of the thing that makes this team so great is that when one game is absent, the other takes control of the play-by-play call alongside a fill in, most often that was Ed Coleman. If you are going to bring in one of these guys to do pre/post game show duties, while occasionally filling in the radio booth, that’s great. However, I’m not sure if either of them would leave their TV studio gigs for that sort of opportunity.
Whoever it is that possesses the power to make these decisions needs to comes to their senses and lock up both Howie Rose and Josh Lewin. I would love nothing more than to see Ed Coleman make the leap as well, but I’ve come to accept his inevitable departure. Losing one of these guys is enough, don’t make the mistake in losing another.