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.
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.
Since few expected the Rangers to go very far in the NHL playoffs, it’s easy to rationalize their five-game loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. That’s cold comfort, however, to both Rangers players and fans, who will undoubtedly ruminate on three overtime losses preceded by blown third-period leads and punctuated by questionable referees’ calls.
Two particular referee calls may have been the turning points in the series.
The Mets have not had a winning season since Citi Field opened in 2009, and things appear unlikely to change in 2014, based on what we’ve seen so far. While they have not been exactly world beaters, on the road the Mets have played better as the visitors than as the home team.
Last week Daily News baseball columnist Andy Martino wrote that Mets management is concerned that the players are fatigued at home because of such factors as making appearances in the community; having to deal with smaller media outlets (a self-serving claim that fits the dailies’ agenda, Andy); and the large number of visitors permitted to go on the field before a game to watch batting practice.
The Giants drafted Syracuse University defensive tackle and Flushing High School alum Jayson Bromley in the third round of the National Football League Draft last Friday night. He joins Marco Battaglia, Kevin Boothe, and the Harmon brothers, Ronnie, Kevin and Derrick, as part of the small fraternity of Queens natives drafted by NFL teams.
While some self-proclaimed experts were perplexed as to why Big Blue selected him so soon, Giants general manager Jerry Reese expects Bromley to have immediate impact. While no GM is perfect when it comes to player selection, Reese’s record, particularly when it comes to defensive players, is pretty good.
Citi Field opened five years ago and the Mets have not had a winning season since. Throw in the last two years they played in Shea Stadium, 2007 and 2008, when they were in first place in September in the National League East only to wind up behind the Philadelphia Phillies, and Mets fans must feel as if they have endured a biblical seven years of famine. Well, fans of our Flushing heroes, get ready for year No. 8.
To say the fan base is dispirited is an understatement. Two years ago it appeared that Mets ownership was going to turn the page on player salaries when it settled with Irving Picard, the trustee seeking compensation for the victims of the Madoff Securities scandal. Picard had determined the Mets owners, Fred Wilpon and his brother-in-law Saul Katz, had been unjustifiably enriched by Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme even though they were not complicit.
Colin Jost, who with Cecily Strong succeeded Seth Meyers at the “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update desk, quipped, “Monday was Opening Day for baseball and a reopening of old wounds for Mets fans!”
As angry as Mets fans had to have been on March 31 watching their heroes fail to hold a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth inning, their spirits must have truly sunk the next day over the news that the team’s closer, Bobby Parnell, would go on the disabled list because of a ligament tear in his pitching elbow.
In an Opening Day filled with dramatic home runs, clutch strikeouts and a two out, ninth inning comeback, the second largest crowd in Citi Field history got its money's worth.
But even with a re-tooled roster and a rare sell out crowd cheering them on, they still looked like the same old Mets.
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.”
Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine stirred things up when he complained that the Yankees did not reach out to their community following September 11, 2001.
In fairness to Valentine, he was probably still steaming about a 2004 HBO Sports documentary, “Nine Innings From Ground Zero,” which spent the lion’s share of the time concentrating on the Yankees playoffs and seven-game nail-biting World Series loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fall of 2001 and how that helped cheer up New Yorkers needing a diversion. The Mets barely rated a three-minute mention in it from what I remember even though Valentine and his players spent a lot of time preparing boxes of food and supplies. Shea Stadium was used as an emergency center for first responders because of its sizable parking lot which Yankee Stadium lacked. The MLB network replayed the documentary last week — carryitclearly.com.
The prize remuneration at the US Open is certainly substantial, but it’s basically coffee and cake money to the elite men’s and women’s players. Their big payday comes from corporate endorsements and sponsorships.
I asked Roger Federer about the large number of fans who wear his Nike-produced “RF”- logo hats and shirts. Federer said he was surprised and delighted to connect with his fans that way but added that he did not know how many units his line has sold over the years. “I guess that I could call Nike up and ask them,” he said. I surmise that since he is well-compensated by Nike, he can afford to be trusting.
A lot was made of Andy Roddick’s retirement last year, since he remains the last American man to win a tennis Grand Slam event: the 2003 US Open. What got surprisingly little play when he lost to Argentina’s Juan Del Potro in 2012 was that he was the last American men’s player left in the US Open at that point.
Things have not markedly improved for those who want to chant “USA!” at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this week and next. Yes, Serena Williams remains the top-ranked women’s player, but after her, things go downhill precipitously for the red, white and blue — in both genders.
Let’s assume that it’s a given that Alex Rodriguez purchased and used illegal performance enhancement drugs from sleazy Anthony Bosch and his disgraced Miami-based company, Biogenesis.
The way the New York tabloid media, particularly Daily News national baseball writer Bill “Hang ’Em High” Madden, covered the story, not only was A-Rod guilty but he should be treated like an al-Qaeda operative or North Korean spy.
Mets fans emitted a collective groan last Friday seeing David Wright writhe in pain after running hard to first base in the 10th inning of yet another extra-inning game. The immediate diagnosis was that Wright had a suffered a pulled hamstring in his right leg.
Unlike in past years, when Mets management would delay putting players on the disabled list in the hopes of some overnight miraculous recovery which never happened, Wright was immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list. The immediate consensus was that he would not play again until early September.
The Brooklyn Nets introduced the three iconic players that they acquired in a Draft Day trade last Thursday. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry all dressed in similar dark suits that reflected the Nets’ color scheme and all said the right things about wanting to win at least one last NBA championship.
“Like nearly everyone else I don’t like change,” said Kevin Garnett, an eighteen-year NBA veteran when asked about having to uproot himself to a new city. He credited Paul Pierce, who had played his entire career in Boston, for convincing him to accept this new challenge rather than retire.
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.
As the saying goes: One man’s trash is another man’s gain.
After waiting nearly two years for this day, the New York Mets showcased the foundation of their franchise Tuesday during a day-night doubleheader against the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, providing a beacon of hope for the team’s otherwise hopeless 2013 season.
New York Mets top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler is on the verge of the joining the big league club. Wheeler’s much-anticipated major league debut, scheduled for Tuesday in Atlanta, will inevitably bump a pitcher out of the Mets’ starting rotation.
Barring injury, there are currently two candidates competing to avoid being moved to the bullpen at Wheeler’s expense. Those two would be Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner.
“Well, if you are going to lose, you might as well lose fast,” is what I remarked to personable Mets catcher Josh Thole following yet another listless loss last year. Thole, who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in the RA Dickey trade over the winter, quickly replied with a smile “You got that right!”
I was thinking of that exchange with Josh after watching the Mets lose 2-1 in 20 innings to the Miami Marlins last Saturday at Citi Field. The extraordinary length of the game was not the main story. The galling headlines were that the Mets went 0 for 19 with runners in scoring position and struck out 19 times against pitchers who were not exactly the second coming of Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson.
These days, the New York Mets are not having any trouble finding new and creative ways to lose. Even by their impressive standards, this past weekend’s series against the Miami Marlins was unprecedented.
In 30 innings over two days, the Marlins swept a two-game series from the Mets at Citi Field. To put into perspective just how bad things have gotten for the Mets, the Marlins are 8-3 against them and 10-41 against the rest of baseball this season. That’s telling.
I spoke with Mets outfielder and Whitestone native Mike Baxter last Wednesday at Yankee Stadium as the Mets were in the midst of their four-game sweep of the Yankees, and I asked him if he was concerned there would be a letdown in the next series, held this past weekend, when the Mets traveled to Miami to play one of the worst teams in the majors, the Marlins.
Baxter did not pooh-pooh my question but understandably invoked the time-honored ballplayer philosophy of taking it one game at a time. “Let’s get through with this series first,” he responded.
Ruben Tejada will be out of commission for the Mets, rehabilitating his injured right quadriceps at the team’s minor-league complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Despite a disappointing start to the season for the oft-scrutinized Tejada, he shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle when he’s ready to come off the 15-day disabled list. It’s way too early for the team to give up on their promising shortstop.