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Posts Tagged ‘New York Mets’

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on October 4, 2011 at 7:17 pm

On the last day of the baseball season, New York Met shortstop Jose Reyes excused himself from duty after laying down a bunt single in his first at bat. Not wanting to jeopardize his lead over Ryan Braun for the best batting average in the National League, he sat and watched the final eight innings. Meanwhile, Braun went hitless in four trips to lose the title by .005. One has to wonder if Reyes’s agent suggested the move to make the prized infielder more marketable in the off-season.

The bar for such occasions was set high by Ted Williams, who owns the batting average record of .406 in 1941. Before the final two games of the season, he was hitting .39955. Rounded, that’s a .400 average he could have claimed while sitting out the doubleheader. But Williams played both games, saying he wouldn’t have deserved the mark had he not played. Williams went 6-for-8 in the twin bill to finish at 406.

In Reyes’s case, he weaseled out of three at bats. Shameless, but what’s new with the Mets? From ownership to management, to the medical staff, it’s been a dysfunctional organization under owner Fred Wilpon.

Two years ago, the Wilpon family was so awed with Jackie Robinson, it dedicated Citi Field’s rotunda to No. 42. Meanwhile, Met fans completed the tour without finding a trace of the club founder Bill Shea, as well as owner Joan Payson, general manager George Weiss and field manager Casey Stengel.

Where were the placards of Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Gary Carter? Seaver and Carter are enshrined in Cooperstown but were hard to locate at Citi Field. Wilpon grew up a Dodger fan and still is. Not until a fan backlash and media scrutiny were murals of Gooden and company hastily painted on Citi’s blank walls.

The Wilpons even tanked on the field dimensions at the Mets’ new stadium. The Mo Zone generates ad revenue but few home runs. David Wright is the prime example of a hitter suffering due to this cut-out in right field. Many a broadcaster has sighed, “That would have been a homer in any other park.” Balls blasted 415 feet fall into the right fielder’s glove or bounce against the screen for a long double.

Met General Manager Sandy Alderson needed a year-long study to remedy the obvious – move the right-field fence in or home plate out. And the Pikes Peak wall in left needs to be shorter than 16 feet. Fans want home runs and players love to hit ’em. They juice up a dull and slow game during hot summers.

The season began with hopes of ace Johan Santana returning in August. But his arm was never ready. The man won two Cy Youngs with Minnesota but tops off at 12, 13 victories in New York. And at what price?

Wright may not be a superstar but he’s an All-Star. And he regularly hit 30 HRs a year before moving to Citi, where batters need to swing from the pitcher’s mound to clear the fence. Still, why did Wilpon lash out at the second-best player on the team and the most loyal member of his team?

Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets’ closer, was more noted for punching out his father in law than shutting down hitters. Overpaid and over-hyped, he was traded to Milwaukee in mid-season. Meanwhile, the closer in the Bronx was getting accolades from the White House for saving his 600th game.

“Slugger” Jason Bay was signed for his power stroke after averaging 33 HRs and 110 RBI in two season prior to his coming to Flushing. But with the Mets, he’s averaged 9 HRs and 52 RBIs. The left fielder hit everywhere he’s played except in New York. The dead bat in the lineup comes at a $16M-a-year cost. During the last week of the season, Bay missed two games with the sniffles. The same day, Tony Romo of the Cowboys played an entire game with a broken rib.

And what’s it with the Mets’ medical staff? It can’t diagnose an ailment, be it Reyes’s hamstrings, Ryan Church’s concussion or knee of Carlos Beltran? The slugging right fielder made his own decision for surgery and missed half a season in 2010. Where was the communication? Disenchanted with having to pay him $18M for another season, the Mets sent him to San Francisco. In seven years with the Mets, Beltran appeared in zero World Series.

Now, the Mets cuddle up at the hot stove with a suspect ace, an undependable pitching staff, a meek-hitting clean-up man and a question mark at shortstop. Ike Davis returns to first base after missing half a season with an injured foot. Even that took months to decipher he didn’t need surgery. At least for now. Daniel Murphy hits .300 but where does the team hide his glove? Is Lucas Duda the best the team can do in right field? Does the team think it’ll win with the combination of Josh Thole and Ronny Paulino at catcher? Will Chris Young and Jerry Meija return from season-ending injuries? Will Angel Pagan ever hit .300 again?

For 2012, the Marlins have a new manager and new stadium. Washington has Stephen Strasburg for an entire season with Bryce Harper ready for MLB duty. MVP candidate Prince Fielder could be the Nats’ next first baseman. Philadelphia, favored to win the World Series, will again win 100 games. Atlanta will again threaten to win the Wild Card.

But the Mets seem headed for the cellar. On the field or off the field, year after year, the team nets newspaper headlines for all the wrong reasons.

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on August 9, 2011 at 10:10 am

One hundred and twenty million dollars over six years is a steep investment for a ball club. Especially the New York Mets, whose owner faces a one billion dollar lawsuit stemming from a private investment.

That kind of money buys a superstar or a couple B-level players. Spend it on a pitcher and the guy contributes every fifth day. Spend it on position players and the impact is doubled on a daily basis.

In Flushing Meadow, N.Y., Mets’ General Manager Sandy Alderson and Manager Terry Collins are dwelling on these options. So is owner Fred Wilpon. The triumvirate will decide if shortstop Jose Reyes stays or goes.

Wilpon sounded like a miser this spring when he told New Yorker Magazine, “Jose Reyes won’t get Carl Crawford money from me,” alluding to the $140M the outfielder received from the Boston Red Sox. But lately, Wilpon sounds wiser. All the man seeks is a return on his investment. Can you blame him after what he’s gone through with Bernard Madoff?

For the second time this season (and seventh of his career), Reyes is on the disabled list, courtesy of his tender hamstrings. Every time he moves, he’s in sprint mode – leaving the batter’s box, pivoting before firing to first base or turning into fifth gear as he scampers for a triple.

And don’t think the Mets’ braintrust doesn’t wince every step of Reyes’ way. One tweak – and there have been many – and it’s Buffalo’s Reuben Tejada taking over at shortstop.

Mets’ brass has to think…“If we invest in Jose, will we get another Carlos Beltran, Mo Vaughn, Bobby Bonilla, Billy Wagner, Mike Cameron, Jason Bay, Luis Castillo or Johan Santana – top-flight players who underperformed or became physically fragile for most of their Met playing days?”

Reyes has been selected to four All-Star games. Three times, he was hurt and unable to play.

If Met scouts can pinpoint a right fielder and catcher with which to spend $140M, why not consider it? At least Tejada can field and run. And he’s young with no injury history. OK, he’ll hit .250 but so do a lot of MLB shortstops.

Look at the Mets record. The team is .500 WITH Reyes. In late July, the club was one game above the Nationals who were in the NL East cellar. So if you’re paying one player to win games, how do you justify paying Reyes big bucks? The Mets have a ton of heart and fail to quit, no matter how many of their starters began the season in Buffalo. But they aren’t winning. Or challenging the Phillies or Braves. They may hope for a wild card but at the moment, they’re 9 games back – a mountain climb when those red-hot clubs never lose.

But Reyes’s agent, Peter Greenburg sees it differently. In the New York Post, he said this: ““We’ve done studies and over the last four years, we feel Jose’s injury-proneness is a little bit exaggerated. Early in his career he had some hamstring problems. The hamstring tendon issue really was just a misdiagnosis for a while, unfortunately.”

Exaggerated?” “Early in his career…?”

No, Peter, it’s reality and it’s happening now. Once again No. 7 is missing in action from the Met lineup, which just can’t afford to lose another quality player.

Tony Gwynn, now a San Diego Padres radio announcer, said Reyes deserves big money because he’s a “game-changer.” Really? Last time I looked, he wasn’t a “standings-changer.”

In a muted endorsement, Collins said of his prized infielder: “He’s a leader and brings energy and fun to this team, besides his ability.”

OK, but he doesn’t bring wins in excess of losses. Or the post season. The smile, giggling and “claw” signal after reaching base are fan-friendly but winning is what really matters and the Mets aren’t doing it enough.

For the Mets’ braintrust, that, alone should be the determining factor.



SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on July 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm

The game has changed,” Keith Hernandez said on a recent New York Mets’ broadcast.

This after the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez took about an hour to return to the dugout after grounding out. He was steps away from his dugout when Met pitcher Chris Capuano pitched to the next batter.

After a commercial break, Hernandez was still peeved. “Look at this, he’s practicing his swing in the dugout. Save that for after the game. The Marlins’ first baseman is throwing grounders to the infield. Every Marlin is on the field and Ramirez is still in the dugout.”

Broadcast partner Gary Cohen offered, “I guess you have to pick your battles,” as an SNY camera fixed on Marlin manager Jack McKeon, who stood at the dugout railing, staring through black-rimmed bifocals. So much for the moxie the managerial switch was supposed to provide the last place team in the NL East.

An inning later, when Marlin reliever Edward Mujica took the mound, Hernandez ripped off another beauty, “I see he’s up from his nap,” referring to a game last week when FOX cameras caught the pitcher sleeping in the bullpen. The next night, Mujica hung a sign around his neck which said, “Keep the camera off me when I’m in the bullpen.” Cohen lamely added, “Well, at least he made the situation humorous.”

Humorous? Like Hernandez said, the game has changed. Millionaires doing what they love and they can’t stay awake on the job? Taking their time to the point they personally delay the game. And nobody – not even an umpire – says anything?

Baseball proclaims to be fan-friendly with ball-tosses into the stands, swimming pools in the outfield, Hard Rock Cafe patio bars that look onto the field, box seats that are practically in play, kids running the bases as frequently as Jose Reyes, teenagers singing the National Anthem and children officially starting games, screaming “Play Ball” over the stadium loudspeakers.

But a lot is missing.

Twenty-three years ago, World Series viewers – especially Dodgers fans – were treated to sheer drama when a nearly lame Kirk Gibson limped to the plate and then jacked a home run off one of the game’s best — Dennis Eckersley. However, this week Carlos Beltran couldn’t grab a bat and help his team rally due to “flu-like” symptoms. He sat there in uniform while his Triple-A teammates whiffed at air in losing to the futile Marlins. Grab a Kleenex and get in the batter’s box. Think the sniffles ever kept Cal Ripken on the bench?

A day after the All-Star game, co-hosts at the ESPYs embarrassed themselves wearing fake beards while interviewing Giants’ closer Brian Wilson during a silly interview. On and on it went as the female host struggled to read her notes while pulling away the cape of a prop. Wilson is good but he’s no Dennis Eckersley. Or Rollie Fingers. Or Lee Smith. Or Trevor Hoffman.

Since it was All-Star Week, why couldn’t the ESPYs invite Hank Aaron or Willie Mays to reflect on their 50-something All-Star appearances? After all, the event needs juice with so many “stars” begging out to steal a vacation in the Caribbean.

At least Aaron and Mays would honor the game without a stunt. But why interview Hall of Famers when you can fool around on the set and bring attention to yourselves? Next broadcast, look for a segment on tattoos or earrings.

Which brings me to Justin Timberlake. During the All-Star game, Mark Grace was so excited, he forgot whom he was interviewing. Timberlake has as much to do with baseball as does Albert Einstein. Yet, we had to listen to this Gen-Xer wax on about the national pastime, gushing over Joe Buck’s “calling of the game.” Buck is good and he should be, growing up in a baseball family. But we didn’t need a reminder from a brake dancer.

Who knows, maybe MLB is trying to grab the young viewer. But what about older viewers? Or those who just wanted to watch a baseball game?

Think of how Mickey Mantle ran the bases on bad knees. Or how Jim Abbot had to flip his glove from a limb to an arm with a hand just to play defense. Or Ripken and Lou Gehrig, who played through muscle pulls, sickness and headaches because they loved the game. Or Sandy Koufax, who probably pitched through intense pain trying to extend his career. Or Carlton Fisk, who squatted for three hours every game at age 46 because he respected the sport.

Ah, respect. That’s what’s missing.

 

 

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on May 16, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Home mortgage foreclosures are at an all-time high. Ditto for credit card defaults. The national unemployment rate of 9.6% isn’t so bad considering it was almost 20% in Nevada and 15% in northeast Ohio. In California and Connecticut, state workers were required to take unpaid furloughs. Parishoners at one Northern Virginia church number five a day, asking for financial aid in this recession.

What about the auto worker in Michigan who is “riffed” at 55? Where does he take his riveting skills at that age? People have seen their investment portfolios dwindle to the point they don’t open the envelopes anymore. Others have flat-out lost their jobs. Some get so frustrated with the job market, they take something they’re far-less qualified for. Or settle for something part-time, So much for a college degree. Or an advanced degree. Or years of experience.

Hello Major League Baseball. Are you listening?

Still, game patrons are expected to wait in line to park a car for $30. Or $50 in New York. Or belly up to pay $90 for a mezzanine-level seat. Or $8 for a hot dog, $5 for Cracker Jack or $9 for a warm beer. Or $100 for a team-replica jersey.

The national pasttime? Puh-lese. Try taking your family of five to the ball park. That figures to a mini-vacation, financially. Do clubs forget that most games are televised for free?

Know why it’s so expensive? Look at the salaries paid to players without the credentials of a Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Ernie Banks. Guys you’ve never heard of draw $5-6-7M a year. Guaranteed! So much for incentive. Just where’s the motivation to perform when that check is direct-deposited at the bank, win or lose, home run or strikeout.

Consider these contract busts that the “ordinary Joe” is paying for.

Jayson Werth of the Nationals is hitting .231 after 38 games. This, after signing a 7-year deal for $126M. The Nats are barely ahead of the Mets, who reside in the cellar of the NL East.

Carl Crawford of the Red Sox is hitting .208 with 1 HR and 10 RBI in 154 at bats. Plus, he’s fanned 28 times in 38 games. All this after signing a 7-year deal for $142M. Boston is 17-20 and in third place in the AL East.

Jason Bay of the Mets is hitting .216 with 2 HR and 6 RBI in 74 at bats. He’s in the second of a 4-year, $64M contract. Last season, he amassed 6 HR and 47 RBI while hitting .259, before having his season end prematurely due to a concussion. A year before he signed, Bay clubbed 36 HR and drove in 119 runs for Boston. Can someone say “Green Monster?”

John Lackey, signed by Boston last year to a 5-year, $82.5M, is a blazing 2-5 with an 8.01 ERA. That projects to 8 wins for $16-plus million this year, or $2M per victory on the Lackey front.

Derek Jeter, hit .270 last year, his worst performance since his rookie year. Months later, he wanted a 5-year, $105M contract. So much for Yankee pride. The Yankees balked and settled for 3 years at $51M. So far, Jeter’s hitting .260 with a whopping five extra-base hits in 150 at bats. That figures to 20 extra base hits for the season.

The Red Sox will battle the Yanks for a wild card spot but the Mets and Nationals are going nowhere except the golf course come October.

So why would Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo fork over so much money for one player who probably won’t get the Nats out of last place?

Don’t ask fans – they won’t know whether they continue to attend games or not.