Like a lot of observers I was puzzled this past winter why the Mets, a team that has scrupulously watched its payroll the last five years, decided to lavish a $20 million, two-year contract on rotund veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon.
I felt the Mets would have been better re-signing free agent pitcher Chris Capuano, who had pitched reasonably well for them in 2011 and would have commanded less money than Colon, who was coming off an 18-win season for the Oakland Athletics. The Yankees recently acquired Capuano, who has pitched well in two starts. Unfortunately, the Yankees’ bats were quiet when he was on the mound.
California Chrome’s co-owner, Steve Coburn, took a lot of heat after Tonalist defeated his horse at the Belmont Stakes last Saturday. Coburn voiced his “Coward’s way out” comment to NBC Sports reporter Kenny Rice just minutes after learning that his horse would not be a Triple Crown winner as Tonalist, a horse that skipped both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, ruined what many thought would be a day of immortality for Coburn and California Chrome.
Coburn did not seem to care that Tonalist’s owners badly wanted to run him in the Derby but the horse’s sudden illness forced them to change their mind. The fact that Tonalist qualified for Belmont by winning the Peter Pan Stakes a week after the Derby enraged him.
Now that Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan has hired “The Lord of the Rings,” Phil Jackson, to be the new Knicks president (he has six NBA championship rings as head coach of the Chicago Bulls; five in the same role for the Los Angeles Lakers; and a pair as a bench player for the Knicks), and has promised to grant him as much autonomy as an owner can, it will be interesting to see whether the media will finally stop bashing Dolan.
At the Jackson press conference, Dolan acknowledged that he has been far from adept at running a basketball team. The most obvious bad decision on his part was firing Donnie Walsh as the team’s general manager without having a suitable replacement ready to take his place. The reason for Walsh’s ouster was that he did not want to give up a king’s ransom to get Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. Given Anthony’s outstanding play since coming to the Knicks, it’s easy to understand Dolan’s desire to meet Denver’s asking price three years ago.
So far, the buzzword for 2014 has been “traffic safety.” Since Mayor de Blasio announced his Vision Zero initiative, several more people — including young children — have been killed by cars and Council members have called on the Department of Transportation to address busy corridors.
It has become a priority for many, especially in Western Queens.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced its newest members for enshrinement yesterday afternoon, past press time for this column. The conventional wisdom was that two Atlanta Braves pitching greats who won 300 games each, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine (who also pitched for the Mets), were shoo-ins, while slugger Frank Thomas and longtime Astros star Craig Biggio, who missed by a whisker last year, could get the necessary 75 percent from the curmudgeonly members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Mike Piazza received a disappointing 57 percent of the vote last year, and while I hope I’m wrong my guess is he’ll get close to the magic percentage but won’t get over it this year because (a) a number of very qualified ballplayers are eligible, and (b) there are too many BBWAA me
mbers who believe that you’re guilty until proven innocent when it comes to using steroids. It should be noted that Mike never failed a drug test nor was he mentioned in the Mitchell Report, which fairly or not, gave names of reputed users of performance-enhancing drugs. He should have been elected in 2013, his first year of eligibility.
New York Mets icon Mike Piazza reflected on his career and his life since retirement at Citi Field on Sunday, prior to his induction into the Mets Hall of Fame.
Piazza played for the Mets from May 1998 through 2005. As an Amazin’ he made seven All-Star teams, hit 220 of his 427 career home runs, and set a team record with 124 runs batted in during the 1999 season.
The Mets’ 3-2 come-from-behind victory last Sunday afternoon at Citi Field to close out the 2013 season meant that the team wound up in third place in the National League East with its 74-88 record. That wasn’t a cause for anyone to be popping champagne in the clubhouse, but considering that many believed the Mets would be battling the penurious Miami Marlins all season for the cellar, it was a major accomplishment. Hardly anyone had predicted that the Mets would finish ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies. Of course, that’s more of an indictment of an aging, overpaid and underperforming Phillies squad than it is a tribute to the Mets.
Nonetheless, Mets manager Terry Collins, who rightfully received an extension on his contract Monday, sees finishing third as an important launching point for the 2014 Mets. “I told Sandy after we swept the Phillies down there last weekend that we were going to overtake them in the standings,” Collins proudly said in his postgame press conference, referring to general manager Sandy Alderson. “This is important to us.”
It took a little over 49 years but the Midsummer Classic, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game has returned to Queens.
Unlike 1964, when Phillies outfielder Johnny Callison hit a dramatic three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning at Shea Stadium to win the game for the National League, the All-Star Game is literally more than just a game.
Mets flamethrowing pitcher Matt Harvey was the center of attention the week leading up to the All-Star Game.
Manager Terry Collins announced earlier in the week that Harvey would miss his scheduled Saturday start against the Pirates because he wanted to make sure that a nagging blister on his hand had time to heal.
It took a little over 49 years but the Midsummer Classic, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game returned to Queens.
Last year Mets general manager Sandy Alderson quipped, “A city of 800,000 people outvoted that of 8,000,000,” after the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval beat out David Wright to be the National League’s starting third baseman in the 2012 All-Star Game.
The stakes were certainly higher for the Mets, Wright, and yes, even Major League Baseball this year, since the 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. David has been MLB’s All-Star Game ambassador ever since it was announced that baseball’s midsummer classic would be played in Flushing this year. It would have been embarrassing for all parties if Wright had not been voted the NL’s starting third baseman this time.
Mets fans have not had much to cheer about in recent years, and it’s fairly safe to say that even the most optimistic can’t picture the boys in Flushing competing for a post-season berth this year.
It will be interesting whether Mike Piazza’s just-published autobiography, “Long Shot” (Simon & Schuster), will sway some of the crotchety members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who did not vote for him for the Hall of Fame to do so next year.
Mike states that he did indeed take supplements but they were completely legal at the time. It is hard to criticize an athlete who wants to perform better for purchasing products at the local GNC that anyone else can get. He categorically states that he has never taken an illegal performance enhancing drug.
There is no legitimate reason why Mike Piazza was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame last week. He was one of the best-hitting catchers of all time, and while it’s hard to say he was the greatest, he clearly ranks alongside Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Mickey Cochrane, Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk. Piazza’s defense was more than adequate and starting pitchers liked the way he called a game. He also was able to produce in the two largest American markets, Los Angeles and New York.
So why didn’t Mike get the requisite 75 percent of the vote, something which eluded every other Hall of Fame candidate in 2013? The scuttlebutt from the apologist analysts at the MLB Network was that the voters (current and retired members of the Baseball Writers Association of America) wanted to make sure that they didn’t rush judgment on any player whose glory days were during the steroid era, which roughly ran from 1995 to 2005.
The Mets teams of 1969 and 1986 were especially Amazin’, of course, but what if you could create a club combining the best players from each era? Or from any era? Here are my picks for an all-time Mets dream team, to wrap up my 15-part anniversary tribute to Queens’ hometown heroes. Miss any entries? Just hit the Mets link on qchron.com, and you can catch them all, tracing the team’s history from its genesis in the mind of Bill Shea through the end of last season. Now on to October!
The first years of the 21st century were not kind to the Mets, but after Willie Randolph took over as manager in 2005, things started to turn around, and the next year the Amazin’s took their first division title in nearly 20 years.
In 2000 the Mets made it to the World Series for the fourth — and, so far, final — time, but were beaten by the Evil Empire in the Bronx in five games. After that the team declined, and wouldn’t see postseason play again until 2006.
Star catcher Mike Piazza joined the Amazin’s in 1998.
The Mets really revved it up at the end of the ’90s, but kept the fans on an emotional roller coaster as they finished 1998 and 1999 in heartbreaking fashion, falling just short of the postseason in the former and losing the League Championship Series in six in the latter.
Reviving a tradition that ended 16 years ago, the Mets held Banner Day for fans on Sunday at Citi Field.
As the late Tug McGraw said, ya gotta believe. Yes, if you are a Mets fan ya gotta believe that in 2012, the Mets will celebrate their 50th anniversary as members of the National League, and the first of their next 50 years right here in Queens.
This is a team that has made its indelible mark on our national pastime. It is a team that came into existence only because Walter O’Malley, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Horace Stoneham, the owner of the New York Giants, decided that there was more money to be made out in California
than in New York. It is a team that was created to fill the void left by the sudden and shocking departure of New York’s two National League teams. They were the brainchild of Bill Shea, the prominent New York attorney who spearheaded the committee created by Mayor Robert Wagner to bring a National League team back to New York. At the same time, they were owned at first by Joan Whitney Payson, a multi-millionaire who had been a part owner of the Giants and who had been the only board member to vote against the move to San Francisco.
Jason Byczek of Glendale pays tribute to the catcher he idolized before Mike Piazza. Gary Carter's widow threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Thursday.
Jason Byczek of Glendale pays tribute to the catcher he idolized before Mike Piazza. Gary Carter's widow threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Last Friday’s Pinstripe Bowl, held at Yankee Stadium, drew over 38,000 spectators who witnessed Rutgers defeat Iowa State 27-13.
Three years ago, when the Yankees announced a new bowl game, one which would pit a top team in the Big East Conference against one in the Big 12 and the first to be held in New York since 1962, there were doubters, since the Big Apple is not known as a hotbed of college football.
Last Sunday evening the Mets held a beautiful 20-minute ceremony saluting those who put their lives on the line on that infamous day as well as honoring Tuesday’s Children, a support group for kids who lost a parent at the World Trade Center. It was a wonderful spectacle as bands and color guards from New York’s uniformed services marched on the field before the game. The lights dimmed for a moment of remembrance and then Marc Anthony delivered as stirring a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” as I have ever heard at a ballpark. Later Howard Beach’s own Pia Toscano, the former “American Idol” contestant, performed a resounding version of “God Bless America.” Two beloved ex-Mets, pitcher John Franco and catcher Mike Piazza, took part in the ceremonial first pitch.
The Mets were looking forward to wearing their NYPD and FDNY baseball caps, the kind the 2001 team wore every game following 9/11, but were shocked to discover that Major League Baseball forbade them from wearing the caps during the game.