The Mets were 11 games under .500 when they returned to Citi Field July 4 after a seven-game road trip. General manager Sandy Alderson knew that he would have to address the media about his perceptions of the first half of the 2014 season. Clearly it was not a get-together that he was looking forward to having.
Alderson began the proceedings by saying he believes the Mets have the personnel to perform far better than they have been, and that they are heading in the right direction. Eyeballs were understandably rolling and heads were shaking after Alderson made that statement.
I quickly asked him if he took exception with legendary NFL head coach Bill Parcells’ belief that you are what your record says you are. Alderson said he agrees with Parcells’ famous statement but that it’s too simplistic to use as a basis for future personnel decisions.
July is when contending teams make trades with clubs who’ve put up the white flag for the season. Alderson understandably wasn’t going to admit the Mets would shortly be selling talent but admitted that his phone hasn’t exactly been ringing off the hook from his counterparts in the executive suite. He said he expected to be fielding calls during the All-Star Game break, but that may be wishful thinking.
Sandy used his informal confab with the press to rave about how the Mets farm system is loaded with talented middle infielders such as Wilmer Flores and Matt Reynolds. Clearly he is putting the word out that both shortstop Ruben Tejada and second baseman Daniel Murphy are available.
Alderson was queried about his preseason statement that his team was capable of winning 90 games. “That was a private conversation that somehow became public,” he said. “In addition that was not meant as a prediction but rather as a way of changing the mindset of both fans and players.”
I asked if he was concerned about ridicule once his declaration was public fodder. “Well I knew that it would be the basis for conversations such as the one that we are having,” he said with a smile.
Manager Terry Collins told the media that the most painful aspect of the first half of the season was the team’s poor record in one-run games, which he attributed to poor situational hitting. “We’ve had 60 games decided by three runs or less,” he said. “Being able to get timely hits determines the outcomes of those games.”
Saturday should be a fun day at Citi Field as Huey Lewis & The News will perform their ’80s and early-’90s hits after the Mets-Marlins game. Let’s hope it’s a fast game.
The old baseball adage of you can never get enough starting pitching seems to always prove true. Dillon Gee is ready to return to the Mets rotation just as Jonathon Niese has been removed from it for two weeks. Niese left Friday’s game in the first inning after he was pelted in the back by a line drive off the bat of Texas Rangers slugger Alex Rios.
That may not be what landed Niese on the disabled list, however, as X-rays proved negative. The lefty was getting hit hard before Rios stepped to the plate and Mets management has been concerned about his recently decreased velocity, which may be attributable to a sore right shoulder.
Now that he doesn’t have to worry about being the starting third baseman for the National League, David Wright should try to beg off going to the All-Star Game if he is asked by National League manager Mike Matheny. Wright is just getting over an injured shoulder in which he did not play for over a week. The Mets compiled a 2-6 record in his absence. He is better off enjoying the mid-season break without obligations.
The Yankees have hit a rough patch that has been keeping their general manager, Brian Cashman, quite busy.
For the first two months of the season, Alex Rodriguez’s replacement at third base, Yangervis Solarte, made everyone forget about the suspended superstar as he was tearing the cover off of the ball. By June, however, opposing pitchers were making adjustments — and by early July Solarte was back in the minors.
When the Yankees reacquired Alfonso Soriano, who was traded a decade earlier to the Texas Rangers in exchange for A-Rod, last season from the Chicago Cubs, the deal paid immediate dividends as Soriano became a home run-hitting machine. This year has been a struggle for the veteran hitter. He was cut from the Bronx Bombers on Sunday.
Cashman finally had enough of Vidal Nuno’s poor starts and traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a fellow disappointment, Brandon McCarthy. Whenever you have teams exchanging each other’s junk it’s called “a change of scenery” trade, as each general manager hopes the player he acquired will suddenly blossom by merely wearing a new uniform.
Congratulations to Joey Chestnut for winning his eighth straight Independence Day Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. It would be more meaningful if he were competing against the former longtime holder of the “mustard belt,” Takeru Kobiyashi, but that is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future as he has joined a rival competitive eating promotion. Chestnut may have a tougher time next year as newcomer Matt Stonie threw a scare into him as he was battling him frank for frank until the last minute.
Novak Djokovic once again defeated the ageless Roger Federer, this time at Wimbledon in the men’s finals. When it comes to Grand Slam tennis events there are only four contenders: Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, and of course, Federer and Djokovic. An American has not won one of these events since Andy Roddick took the US Open in 2003. The real fun for us these days is trying to guess which American will be the last man standing in a tournament: John Isner, Sam Querrey or Ryan Harrison.
The Belgium exhibitors at the annual Fancy Food Show, held last week at the Javits Center, proved to be good sports as they accepted with good grace the gentle ribbing they got from many attendees because Belgium would be playing the United States in the World Cup knockout round that Tuesday. “I hope that America wins the Cup ... in 2018!” a food purveyor from Brussels told me. Of course Belgium got the last laugh as they won the game by a score of 2-1.
Speaking of the Fancy Food Show, the term is a bit of a misnomer. While there were two exhibitors showcasing caviar, most of the booths were made up of less pricy goods such as fresh juices (Lambeth Groves, Orchid Island and Cheribundi), gourmet soups (Hale & Hearty, Chincoteague Seafood Company and the pride of Philadelphia, Bookinder’s), and countless coconut water companies. The smartest food product I saw at the Fancy Food Show was by Lifeice, a company formed by New Yorker Paulette Fox, which makes small square-cut ices out of green vegetables and fresh fruit without added sugars.
Fans of mysteries and those who fancy themselves as budding fiction writers will want to attend the annual Thrillerfest that takes place Friday and Saturday at Manhattan’s Grand Hyatt Hotel.