Author: Mark Healey

For Mets Fans By Mets Fans: The Queens Baseball Convention

Posted on

QBC2Last year, I opined that the New York Mets were doing their fans a disservice by not holding a FanFest, Winter Caravan or similar promotion to gets fans excited about the upcoming year.

There is NO reason for not trying to do this with the Mets fan. With all of the aforementioned ability to support and promote their own product, especially with tickets sales being down every year since Citi Field opened, the idea that the Mets don’t have an annual Fan Fest is incredibly short-sighted.

Well, many Mets fans agreed, and the folks from MetsPolice.com and The7Line.com have banded together to throw their own FanFest; The Queens Baseball Convention, or QBC as it is referred to in social media.

Shannon “Shark” Prior and Keith Blacknick, the pair behind blog site Metspolice.com, have teamed up with Darren Meenan of The 7 Line clothing brand to bring the first ever Queens Baseball Convention (QBC) to McFadden’s bar in Citi Field on January 18.

The event is a fan fest for Mets fans of all ages to enjoy and meet team legends, including Ron Darling, who was on the 1986 World Series team, and Ed Kranepool, who was on 1969 championship squad.

“Even if I wasn’t involved in it I was going to be there,” Meenan said. “It’s something that will bring fans together, whether you’re a young kid or someone who just likes jerseys. There’s something for everybody.”

Meenan is correct; as in addition to the appearances of Kranepool and Darling, there is a full schedule of events.

The New Media roundtable will kick off the QBC, moderated by yours truly, and features a collection of some of the biggest names in the Mets blogging and podcasting world; Matt Cerrone (MetsBlog.com), Greg Prince and Jason Fry (FaithandFearinFlushing.com), Kerel Cooper (OnTheBlack.com), Steve Keane (KranepoolSociety.com), Mike Silva (ESPN LI 107.1/96.9FM), Taryn Cooper (KinersKorner.com), and Ed Ryan (MetsFever.com).

For tickets, info and special deals, please visit QueensBaseballConvention.com

Jamal Anderson Says GO PLAINEDGE!

Posted on Updated on

My nephew Kevin Walker, a senior starting WR / PR for Plainedge, and his teammates are facing Lawrence at 2pm later today at Hofstra, as for the third straight postseason Lawrence and Plainedge will meet to decide the Conference III Nassau championship.

One of my favorite players of all time, former Atlanta Falcons great and Pro Bowl running back had this to say to Kevin and the team via Twitter

Here’s a preview from MSG Varsity:

http://www.msgvarsity.com/long-island/primer-plainedge-vs-lawrence-football-1.1540611

A Wilpon Blast From The Past

Posted on

I can’t predict what’s going to happen, he’s a different guy. He has the strongest desire I’ve ever heard about not ending his career without making it in New York. That’s motivation. I have high regard for what he has left. I think he will be an important addition to this club.  He has one wonderful, smart and strong-willed wife, she loves Greenwich, where they live. She’s ecstatic. She wants to be here. They want to be here. It makes a difference. He’s going to live in Greenwich when he’s through playing. So he has a lot of motivation.” – Fred Wilpon, on the return of Bobby Bonilla to the Mets in 1999.

Awesome. 

Gotham Gridiron: Notre Dame Preview 2013

Posted on

One of my former pals at the Associated Press, Frank Nolan, has been writing a preview of Notre Dame football the last few years and I thought I’d share it here:

NOTRE DAME PREVIEW 2013
BY Frank Nolan

It’s been quite a year.

ndfootballweekendsNotre Dame started the 2012 season unranked, with some wholly unqualified sources (see, yours truly) predicting a mediocre 8-4 record. Improbably, the Irish won all the games they ‘should have’ and pulled off a few upsets, finishing the regular season with a 12-0 record, a unanimous #1 ranking, and a spot in the National Championship Game. The dominant ND defense was led by all-everything linebacker Manti Te’o and a talented line. The offense was just good enough, and redshirt freshman Everett Golson improved significantly during the second half of the season.
Things were looking up. Way up. Finally.

And then January 7th rolled around. And the Irish got rolled by the Tide. And thus began the offseason from hell. Te’o’s fake girlfriend got the most headlines, but the program will be more impacted by the suspension of Golson for the 2013 season, the permanent loss of starting linebacker Danny Spond (and temporary losses of contributors Nicky Barratti and Tony Springmann) to injury, de-commitments from three five-star recruits, and the transfer of receiver/returner Davonte Neal. And of course there is the matter of Brian Kelly’s flirtation with the NFL, which we probably start hearing about again in a few months. Given the drama of the last 8 1/2 months, this season cannot start soon enough. And it will, tomorrow.

The bad news is obvious: Te’o and Tyler Eifert, the two best players on the 2012 team, are now on NFL rosters. Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood, who each rushed for over 1,000 yards a year ago, are also gone. As is Golson, at least for this season. Those are very big holes to fill on a team that needed every effort and a few improbable plays to eke out more than one of its 12 wins. And this year’s schedule is very difficult, highlighted by the season finale against a Stanford team ranked near the top of every preseason poll.

But there are positive signs as well. At least on paper, this is the most talented Notre Dame team in twenty years. Kelly has put together consistent and stellar classes, and a few of the Weis-era bright spots return as seniors and 5th year players. Seven of 11 starters remain from last year’s defense, which is led by preseason All-American defensive linemen Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. Three starters on the offensive line are back, including standout left tackle Zack Martin. The starting receivers are all back. The running backs, while unproven, are talented and plentiful. The coaching staff somehow had no defections in the offseason. While the Irish will play Michigan in Ann Arbor and Stanford in Palo Alto, they will host USC, Michigan State, Oklahoma and BYU, all teams they beat on the road last season.

Where does that leave us? With a lot of questions and a team that prognosticators have ranked anywhere from 5th in the country to 22nd. So let’s break it down by position. In the spirit of celebrating 2012′s team, which became fairly passe after the beatdown in Miami and whatever the hell that was with Te’o, I will proceed in the same order I did a year ago.

Cornerbacks – Bennett Jackson (SR, Captain), KeiVarae Russell (SO)
Nobody expected Jackson and Russell to play as well as they did did last year. Neither had started a game on defense before 2012, much less at the cornerback position, and Russell was a true freshman. They both played well throughout the season (with the notable exception of the Alabama game). Highly touted freshmen Cole Luke and Devin Butler will provide some depth. Lo Wood, who was slated to start going into 2012 before suffering a season-ending injury, could provide more support if the rumors of his imminent transfer prove false.

Wide Receivers – TJ Jones (SR, Captain), Davaris Daniels (JR), Chris Brown (SO)
Kelly has convinced the local media (and perhaps himself) that Jones is a 1st round NFL talent. He did have 50 catches last season, but has never taken over a game, even when defenses were keyed on Eifert. But Kelly rarely talks up guys who can’t contribute, and by naming Jones captain and punt returner, Kelly is not hedging his bets. Daniels was a rare bright spot in the Alabama game. He looked big, fast and athletic, even against SEC talent. Brown is the best deep ball threat, although the likelihood of Rees throwing 50 yard strikes is very low. Corey Robinson, a true freshman and the son of NBA hall of famer David, has impressed the coaches this summer. Like his dad he is a late bloomer. He’s already 6’4″ and growing and has made very difficult catches against the first team defense during the open practices. CJ Prosise may supplant Brown in the slot, and senior Daniel Smith should also see the field.

Quarterback – Tommy Rees (SR)
This just hurts. With Golson out, the team’s biggest weakness is at the quarterback position. Rees did have some solid moments during spot play for Golson in 2012, but I still have nightmares about his countless fumbles and inexplicable interceptions from the last two years. His coaches and teammates have fallen all over themselves explaining that Rees has improved, but there is no question the offense is more limited without Golson. Rees will need to be able to make the longer throws (30+ yards) and save broken plays from time to time to allow the run game to gain traction. Thus far he has simply not been able to do either of those things with any consistency. The upside is that Rees is able to stay cool under pressure and he’s made several dramatic plays late in games. Perhaps the best thing that could happen to this offense is for a consistent receiving target to emerge. Last season, many of Rees’ biggest moments came from his ability to find Eifert despite everyone knowing what was coming. Hopefully Daniels or Jones or Robinson can help fill that void. It also should be interesting to see Rees run the newly installed pistol offense, which ND will be running on occasion. Regardless, Rees’ play will be the difference between an 8-4 season with a mediocre bowl and a 10-2 season with a BCS bowl. If he completely falls apart, look for Andrew Hendrix or possibly true freshman Malik Zaire.

Safeties – Austin Collinsworth (JR), Mathias Farley (JR)
Farley returns as the free safety, where he played very well last year. He is fast and physical, and made a key backfield tackle on the goal line stand against USC at the end of the regular season. Collinsworth, along with freshman star Max Redfield, Elijah Shumate, and John Turner, will try to fill the void left by Zeke Motta.

Note: Most of the safeties will also factor into special teams. Kelly has said that special teams have suffered during his tenure due to a lack of depth of talented players. Because he did not want to risk injuries to his starters, he has used special teams to develop younger guys (that is where Collinsworth starred before missing all of 2012 with an injury). Now that the team is more loaded with talent, Kelly may place more of a focus on special teams. So far, that has been the single biggest weakness of his Notre Dame squads. Well that and throwing fades inside the 10 yard line.

Defensive Line – Stephon Tuitt (JR), Louis Nix (SR), Sheldon Day (SO)
Along with the fame, money, and women that come along with writing this preview, each year I enjoy engaging in hyperbole about the most exciting and dominant players on the team. Last year it was Eifert and Te’o. Before that it was Mike Floyd, Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen. This year the focus is on Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix. Tuitt is second only to Jadeveon Clowney among college football defensive ends. During the first game in 2012 Tuitt ran back a 77 yard fumble; by the end of the run he was still distancing himself from the pursuing skill players on the other team. He had 12 sacks a year ago, and got more physically dominant while playing smarter as the season went on. Tuitt had surgery in the offseason for a hernia, so he’s put on weight. We will see if that affects his mobility and quickness, but the coaches have so far laughed that off. Nix is arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the country, and without question the best Twitter follow among any athletes, professional or amateur. Nix is also one of the few players who looked good in the Alabama game, and if he stays healthy he should be able to play nearly every down this year. Sheldon Day got significant minutes last year, and Kelly has talked him up during summer camp. He is talented and experienced enough to balance this line and help provide loads of opportunities for the linebackers and safeties. Along with Tuitt, Day is a pass rushing threat. Kona Schwenke is a solid backup for Nix, but with Tony Springmann out for the year, depth is a problem. If there are no significant injuries, the line should provide the backbone for another dominant defense. And we should enjoy it while we can. Nix and Tuitt will be NFL bound at the end of the season and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will most certainly have his choice of head coaching positions if this defense plays well in 2013.

Offensive Line – Zack Martin (5th, Captain), Chris Watt (5th), Nick Martin (JR), Christian Lombard (SR), Ronnie Stanley (SO)
Much has been made about Nix’s return to the team, and rightfully so. But Zack Martin coming back is equally significant. He is a three year starter, two time captain, and one of the best left tackles in the country. His brother Nick will replace Braxton Cave at center. Watt solidifies the strong left side of the line, which will be tested by the defensive lines of Michigan State, Arizona State, and Stanford. Lombard will start at right guard, moving from his former position at right tackle. Sophomore Ronnie Stanley will step into right tackle, and Kelly has indicated freshman Steve Elmer and sophomore Connor Hanratty will also see the field. There is experience and depth and size (average is over 300 lbs) for the first time in a long time. Hopefully Kelly takes advantage.
Linebackers – Prince Shembo (SR), Carlo Calabrese (5th), Dan Fox (5th), Jaylon Smith (FR)

Linebackers – The official party line in the spring was that junior Jarrett Grace was poised to replace Te’o at one of the inside linebacker spots. It now appears that there may be a rotation of sorts, with Grace sharing the two inside spots with Calabrese and Fox. The worst news of the offseason is the loss of Spond, who announced last week that he will no longer play football due to a serious medical condition. He will be replaced by Smith, who is the best defensive prospect ND has landed since Mr. Lennay Kekua himself. Shembo, most known for his pass rushing, is the star of this unit. Junior Ishaq Williams will hopefully live up to his billing as a 4-star prospect out of high school. He will see time on the outside and as a down lineman when the team switches to a 4-3.

Tight End - Troy Niklas (JR)
The last four ND tight ends are currently starting in the NFL: Eifert, Rudolph, Carlson, Fasano. Niklas is a big step down from that group, at least so far. But he’s enormous, which helps in the run game, and considering he moved from the offensive line a couple of years ago his receiving skills are above average. Ben Koyack and Alex Welch provide some depth here and true freshmen Durham Smythe and Mike Heurmann are the latest additions to the strong ND tight end pipeline. Anywhere other than at ND (or in the NFL) this would be a position of strength.

Running Back – George Atkinson (JR)
Atkinson is very, very fast, and his breakaway speed has been evident on kickoffs (see, USC 2011) and against bad defenses (see, Miami and Navy 2012). He will start the year at kick returner. But while he’s had more carries than the rest of the team’s backs combined, it does not appear that he has set himself apart as the starting tailback. That is partly due to his competition: Amir Carlisle, a transfer from USC who was injured all of 2012; Cam McDaniel, a small, quick back who played well in garbage time in 2012; sophomore Will Mahone; and true freshmen blue chippers Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant. Bryant is particularly intriguing. He is a big, fast back who was recruited by every top program in the country and is physically ready to play already. Kelly ran the ball far more often in 2012 than he did in 2011 and 2010, particularly late in games and with a lead. With an experienced and physical line this group of players has the potential to equal last year’s rushing output. One caution: Kelly also likes to use his backs as receivers so the loss of Riddick’s versatility in that regard will be felt.

Prediction:
Stanford is the toughest game on the schedule, and that would be a difficult win even with Golson. BYU, Michigan State, and Oklahoma are also good, particularly on the defensive side. Those games are all later in the season, by which point we should know if Rees has settled in and if Kelly has maximized his running back talent. Michigan is in week two, which is great for Notre Dame given the current Michigan injuries and young roster, although quarterback Devon Gardner is very good. With those five teams on the schedule, along with ASU and USC, another undefeated season is extremely unlikely. But the fact remains that there is a ton of talent on this team and Kelly has proven to be steady in command (something I thought I’d never write).

Everett Golson or not, I think this team will ride another strong defense and ball control offense to go 10-2 and make a BCS bowl game. Where they will promptly get smoked by an SEC team.

The Mets, The Plan; Still Skeptical After All This Years

Posted on

HarazinTwo GMs in Mets history had a plan that evolved into a winning one; Bing Devine and Frank Cashen. Each inherited some of the worse baseball talent in the entire game and within a few years, saw their drafts, signings and trades result in a World Series winning team.

Some would put current Mets GM Sandy Alderson into that class. Alderson has turned two All-Star players making a lot of money (Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey) into highly touted prospects Zach Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud. He and his staff, including J.P Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta, have also done a nice job in rebuilding and revamping the minoe league operations of the ballclub.

But as of yet, Alderson and Co. has had very little success in finding talent at the MLB level. Though Marlon Byrd has enjoyed some success, especially of late, the team’s complete lack of offensive firepower has turned this season into another irrelevant one.

With every passing day, the Mets fan base is growing more and more frustrated with the state of the team. Though the “Super Tuesday” debut of Wheeler and continued stellar work by Matt Harvey resulted in a sweep of the first place Atlanta Braves, the team imploded again on Wednesday night.

Fire Terry Collins! The Wilpons are cheap! What has Sandy Alderson and his front office really done in three years…we’re WORSE!

or

This is a plan that Alderson put in place from Day 1. We Mets fans need to be patient, they know what they are doing. Look at the teams that did spend money this offseason, like the Dodgers.

That’s a brief summary of some of the thoughts of a large portion of Mets fans on sports radio and social media, and to a certain extent they all have a point.

Despite the presence of Harvey and Wheeler, another solid season from David Wright and Daniel Murphy, there have been few standout moments from the rest of the roster. To a man, almost every player that Alderson has imported this offseason has been a failure.

It doesn’t mean Alderson is a failure, or that he’s a terrible GM, but the “Sandy is doing a fabulous job, he has a plan, and we just have to be patient” mantra is inaccurate.

Some folks like to say that any criticism of Alderson for this current roster is “hindsight” and unduly harsh, but aren’t GMs supposed to make teams progressively better, not worse? I am fully aware of Alderson’s money woes, but not sure I can say he’s always been:

http://network.yardbarker.com/mlb/article_external/aldersons_shrinking_payroll_in_quotes/8122600

Now as for value, let’s look at some of the OFs Alderson could have signed for similar to equal value for the 2013 Mets:

Endy Chavez – When in doubt, bring back and old favorite who will make the fans smile as Rome burns. The fact that he’s been been far better than the departed Colin Cowgill should be noted.

Ryan Raburn – Versatile veteran helping Indians battle for AL Central. Can also play the infield.

Nate Schierholtz – In some ways, the opposite of every player the Mets imported this offseason; productive and consistent.

Ryan Sweeney – Not a game-breaker, but a good defensive OF who doesn’t fall apart when he doesn’t get a ton of playing time.

Lets be real clear; methodology is secondary to performance. This is pro sports and GMs are graded on results. And given the fact that the Mets have had so little money to spend, and that Alderson has wasted 10.5 million this season on Shawn Marcum and Frank Francisco alone is cause enough to render his performance to date as incomplete.

Kool Aid is not served here, and pom-pom waving is for children and folks who follow college football. I have heard Al Harazin, Joe McIlvaine, Steve Phillips, Jim Duquette, Omar Minaya and now Alderson tell me about “The Plan”. I have heard Fred Wilpon promise “a new direction” many times, and to a certain extent with each of his GM hires, his family’s clumsy and catastrophic interference with said “Plan”.

Alderson still has to find some offense, and we are hearing that he plans to trade for a significant impact player in the coming months. He will likely have to deal some pieces from the improved minor league system he’s revamped. Money and prospects are short in supply for the “New Mets” with “The Plan”, so I’m hoping that Alderson plans on improving his ability to supply the talent at the MLB level that he’s been unable to provide at this point.

When that happens, you’ll see me start to believe in this current regime’s version of “The Plan”. Until then, it’s just another attempt to sell a flawed product to a miserable yet loyal fanbase.

Tim Leary: A Cautionary Tale

Posted on

Tim_Leary_(Mets)As the New York Mets get ready to begin the Zach Wheeler era, anyone who has followed the team as long as I have knows that the excitement of a young pitching prospect making his major league debut is tinged with more than a touch of fear.

I’m not talking about the “Generation K” debacle (though it certainly applies), but instead hearken back to another young hurler who was touted as the next great franchise pitcher; Tim Leary.

While doing research, I came across this New York Times article about the aftermath of the Leary injury, and found it fascinating.

As Leary progressed in his first spring as a Met, despite his statistics and raves from opponents, he says it became more and more obvious to him that he was uncomfortable. Nothing was wrong with his arm, but Leary was troubled by the way he thought he was being used.

In 1979, his junior year at U.C.L.A. and the year he became the Mets’ first selection in the draft, Leary struck out 111 batters in 148 innings. In his first professional season, with Jackson of the Class AA Texas League, Leary struck out 138 batters in 173 innings, and he was named the league’s most valuable player.

But Leary did not see himself as a strikeout pitcher. He preferred to rely on intelligence and a range of pitches. ”Play with the batters’ minds,” he says. That was not the Mets’ plan.

”I know he thinks that way,” Bill Monbouquette, the Met pitching coach and the organization’s minor league instructor last year, said recently. ”I’ve said, ‘Tim, you have a chance to be a power pitcher. A power pitcher doesn’t mean you’re going to go out and strike out 13, 14 or 15 a night. It means you’ll be hard to hit.’

”He’s said, often, ‘I’m a guy that gets ahead of the hitters, and gets everything over. I consider myself more of a ground-ball pitcher, making them hit the ball and making the guys catch the ball.’ ”

That was clearly not the style that made Leary the talk of the Mets’ camp. Leary had discussed his reservations about being a power pitcher with Monbouquette, but not with Joe Torre, the Mets’ manager last year, or Bob Gibson, the pitching coach. ”There were no lines of communication,” Leary said.

I’ll be watching Harvey / Wheeler Day with antiipation like everyone else, but forgive me if I will be sitting on my hands mos of the time.

Unforgiven: A Mets Gunslinger Returns

Posted on Updated on

sell-teamI don’t know if I’d call myself “a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition” but I have to admit, I do feel a bit like William Munny out of Missouri today. Part of this feeling comes from being out of the loop for most of the last few months, and partly because I’m seeing and hearing things in the Mets blogosphere that irritate the living hell out of me.

As for my absence; I’m proud to announce that I’ve “graduated” from my Front End Web Development course at General Assembly and my project; a re-design and re-launch of Gotham Baseball is coming soon. As for the other, the list is long.

My pal Shannon over at MetsPolice (which awarded me the “Gunslinger of the Year” Mazzie award earlier this year) is calling Mets fans that didn’t show up to Banner Day “front runners”.

Here’s the problem. 99 Banners.

Last year the Mets had about 300. This year, 99.

I can do math, that’s down 66%.

What the hell am I supposed to do if the Mets decide not bring Banner Day back in 2014? What possible argument would I have?

I have never went to a Banner Day in my life. I have no problem with any fan that cherishes it, or puts an illogical level of importance on said event that is built for little kids (which is nice), or pom-pom fans to gush about their team even when its an embarrassment (which is pathetic). But “front runner”?

Seriously?

A Mets fan has ever right to refuse to attend games because the team, once again, is a joke. This is not 1984 with a slew of pitching (and positional) prospects just waiting for a Gary Carter or a Keith Hernandez to take it to the next level. This is a franchise still in the throes of a major financial armageddon with an ownership that keeps telling us that they have a plan, and a GM who sounds like Baghdad Bob every passing day.

Are Lee Child fans that refused to go see “Jack Reacher” because casting Tom Cruise as Reacher was akin to calling Colin Cowgill an MLB outfielder “front runners”? No. Because people have the right to determine that they’ll say no when they are asked to participate in a circle-jerk.

If the Wilpons refuse to have an “Oldtimer’s Day” or choose not to celebrate the 1973 Mets, or continue to ignore what a Fan Fest would mean to the fan base because “Banner Day’ was under-attended, then it is on THEM.

Some people can’t afford to drop 200 bucks to take their family to see a Mets game. Even on Banner Day. Maybe they want to wait and see what the next Tom Seaver looks like in person instead of watching Shawn Marcum make millions to throw 85 mph fastballs. Maybe, just maybe, thses fans feel like they are owed a decent ballclub after 30-plus years of mostly wasted, stupid baseball?

I have said it before, and I will say it again; until the Wilpons sell or put a team on the field that demonstrates the same financial commitment that they are asking of us, they can go screw. If they cancel Banner Day because fans are fed up and stayed home, it’s just another reason to demand the Wilpons to sell the damn team.

***

Another pal of mine, John Delcos, took Mets Triple-A manager Wally Backman to task the other day for answering a question honestly about prospect Zach Wheeler.

Yesterday, Las Vegas manager Wally Backman told a local radio station: “Personally, I think if he has a couple of more starts like his last start he’ll be headed to the big leagues, and rightfully so.’’

Huh? I don’t recall GM Sandy Alderson saying something like that.

I’m not saying Backman is right or wrong in his analysis or projection of Wheeler, just wrong in saying anything of that nature in the first place.

Backman manages Triple-A Las Vegas. He does not speak for the Mets’ organization, and his comments put undue pressure on everybody, from Backman, to Wheeler, to Terry Collins, to Alderson.

Once somebody from the organization, even Alderson, suggests a timetable, a clock starts ticking. So, what happens if Wheeler isn’t up in two starts? What then? Another timetable? You can’t keep teasing the fan base that way.

Backman is out of line in making such statements. But, could it be he spoke because the Mets don’t have a policy in place on how to publicly handle Wheeler?

John, I respect you, and enjoy your work, but c’mon.

Backman answered the question posed to him as honestly as he could. I prefer that to Alderson’s vague “There will come a time when his performance converges with our needs.” nonsense. As for teasing the fanbase, I’ll take Backman speaking honestly to Alderson make-believe “considering” players like Justin Upton as possibilities “that just didn’t work out” for the 2013 Mets.

I guess I will just keep my front-running ass at home hoping that one day the Wilpons’ ability to run a major-market baseball teams with higher aspirations than “having a chance” will “converge” before my 50th birthday.

Going 9 Fantasy Baseball Is Back!

Posted on

G9 FANTASY OVALVery happy to announce that my show “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” is BACK on the SiriusXM airwaves tonight; 10pm-1am ET on Channel 210 (Sirius) and 87 (XM) … my new co-host is Dan Strafford and Fantasy Baseball experts Mike Gianella (Baseball Prospectus), Joe Pisapia (FantasyBlackBook,com), and Michael Salfino (Yahoo Sports) … hope you can listen in. All of your calls are welcome, 888-963-2682 is the #!

Race, Baseball and the New York Mets

Posted on

luis-castillo-pedro-martinez-and-johan-santanaMatters of race are never easy to discuss or write about. In today’s media landscape, where short blurbs and slideshows dominate content, the difficulty of writing about complicated things like race is especially hard.

In baseball, the number of African-Americans is dwindling and players from Latin American countries are on the rise. Add in ownership, media that covers the sport and a fanbase that remains predominately white, there is always potential for disconnects about race.

I’ve written about race before, trying to understand how during the 2011 offseason how there wasn’t a single African-American interviewed for any of the then-five managerial openings in baseball.

I wonder if Jackie Robinson — who was in the last days of his life during the 1972 World Series when he chided MLB for not yet having hired an African-American manager — would prefer everyone wearing “42″ on Jackie Robinson Day, or MLB making sure its teams were adhering to policies the sitting commish put on the books himself?

For weeks I have been asking current African-American coaches about this non-existent market for their services. Each one has declined to be interviewed, even off the record, for fear of potential blowback. The baseball beat writers I have contacted have each given a collective shrug at the question. One went even farther than that:

“Not sure I understand your point. should teams put on a show?’

I’m not telling anyone who to hire, but unless teams expand the talent pool and include African-Americans in their respective managerial searches, how can a qualified candidate get the exposure he needs to get to the next level?

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is very high on his third base coach Bo Porter, but he hasn’t gotten a single call this offseason. Porter is a fantastic instructor and could be an asset to any club. Yet he sits and waits.

To the credit of the Houston Astros this offseason, they not only granted Bo Porter an interview, they were so impressed with his presentation, he got the job.

But let’s be clear; I’m not happy that Bo Porter got a job because he was black, I’m happy that an organization that is looking to change everything about how it has done business in the past has also embraced the responsibility of making sure it has crossed all of its T’s and dotted all of it’s i’s.

Ultimately, I am pleased because I think Bo Porter is going to be fantastic manager.

***

I took my share of heat for writing the article, folks accusing me of playing “a race card” and such. But facts supported my argument. I also made sure that I spoke to several people in baseball about the issue; a former GM, a broadcaster, several coaches, and a few players. For me, having multiple sources on board creates as close to a fail-safe position as any journalist can have, especially when discussing and asking such issue such as race.

It’s not as apparent, especially recently, that every writer takes those same measures, and the end result is accusations about agenda, faux controversy and tabloid directives.

Recently, both Andy Martino, former Mets beat writer now baseball columnist for the New York Daily News and Adam Rubin, the beat writer for ESPNNY reported an incident that recently occurred between Mets minor league proapects Zach Wheeler and Aderlin Rodriguez.

Martino:

Zack Wheeler, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, was reprimanded last weekend along with teammate Aderlin Rodriguez for an on-field incident that led to ethnic tensions in the Mets’ minor league clubhouse, according to organizational sources.

Rubin:

In a recent intrasquad game, Wheeler drilled third base prospect Aderlin Rodriguez in the hand with a pitch, and Rodriguez feared his hand was broken. Sources said Rodriguez subsequently told Wheeler that if he missed Opening Day, Wheeler would too. (Not a good career move to allegedly threaten the top prospect in the organization, by the way.)

Rodriguez had pimped a home run off Wheeler during a previous intrasquad matchup. Some in the organization were glad Wheeler displayed a mean streak in retaliating with the suspected purpose pitch, although not thrilled about having an in-house plunking. (It’s still not officially established Wheeler hit Rodriguez on purpose. Wheeler has denied it.)

It turned out Rodriguez’s hand was not broken, and he actually homered again in a regular minor league game days later.

Rubin, who has covered the team far longer, is the only reporter who covers the team as an organization (often traveling on his off days to check in on the Mets’ top prospects during the course of the season) is no stranger to reporting controversial Mets issues. Yet, there’s no mention of any “ethnic tensions” in his article.

Where did the ethnic tension come from? Because Martino quoted a source saying that “The American guys and the Latino guys were yelling at each other”? Were there any punches thrown? Nope. Were there any racial epithets or slurs used in the argument? Apparently not because Martino didn’t report it. So why the “ethnic tensions” in the headline, in the subhead and in the body of the story? Because Wheeler is American and Rodriguez is Dominican?

Both Rubin and Martino say Rodriguez was “pimping” after he hit his home run. Using Martino’s logic, can’t I now accuse these writers of racial bias? Do Latino players ‘pimp’ and white players just “hot-dog” or “show-up” the pitcher? Sounds silly? Yes, because it is, and so is Martino’s “story”. If you have a racial slur being used, the you have a story. If not, you have zilch.

But then again, race and rabid speculation is a Martino staple.

There were a few players turned off by how the Dominican Republic team was celebrating during the WBC Martino asked David Wright about whether his old teamate Jose Reyes and his DR teammates were acting. Shockingly Wright had no problem with it. But some others did, and that, according to martino is clearly racist:

Guys like Willie Bloomquist instead decided to furrow their brows.

“I’m not saying what they’re doing is wrong,” the infielder said of the DR theatrics, according to Anthony McCarron. “They’re playing with emotion and that’s fine.

“How you show your emotions, I think, is another thing. It’s just a matter of your view on the game of baseball and what your view is on respecting opponents and the uniform.”

Oh stop. No, seriously, please lighten up. If Captain America does not think that the Dominicans “disrespected the game (and what a loaded and dreadful term that is)”, everyone else needs to chill, yes? And did Wright find all the dancing disrespectful?

“No,” he said, with an answer quick and firm. “It’s energy. It’s intensity. And different teams show it different ways. That’s what made the atmosphere so great — you had the contrast in styles. It really was awesome.”

And you know what would be even more awesome for Wright, the Mets, and fans of outer-borough baseball? A little more flair on the field and in the stands, like it was in the old Los Mets days.

Granted, his accusations were subtle in that doozy of “a story”, but Martino has q fep as a writer who inserts race in his work.

The headline is all you need for this doozy:

Mets fans have lost patience with second baseman Luis Castillo, and it is hard to ignore race factor

Mets fans have lost patience with second baseman Luis Castillo, and it is hard to ignore race factor

Luis Castillo got booed because he was not a very good baseball player. Yes, he played hurt, and yes, he hit hit .300 in 2009. But yes, he was a terrible signing. And given that his contract was immovable, many fans looked at Castillo ( and lefty Olkver Perez) as one of the reasons it was hard for Mets to improve during terrible seasons in 2009-11. But race? Aside from the fact that Martino doesn’t give any reason for his charges in the story — outside of his own speculation and that of a “friend” — it’s just another example of a writer pushing his own agenda.

I’ll go even further to point out some realities for Martino, who regularly provs he has as much of handle on Mets history as the team’s ownership group.

Pedro Martinez, Mookie Wilson, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Jose Reyes, Cleon Jones, Tommy Agee, Ed Charles, Felix Milan, Edgardo Alfonzo, Al Jackson, Rafael Santana and Hubie Brooks number among some of the Mets fans’ favorite players over the 51-year history of the team. To accuse the fan base of racism because they didn’t cheer for Luis Castillo is appalling. Almost as appalling as Martino including the “Mets fans are racist” theme in the later chapters of “The Mets” the hardcover retrospective that the Daily News put out last season.

Yes, Andy, racism is a part of our society, baseball, the Mets and in the stands. But one of these days, it’d be nice of you could actually prove it when you choose to “report” it.

Ronnie & Me

Posted on Updated on

PopWhen I was a young boy growing up on E.39th Street in Flatbush, most of my days were spent on wondering if the Mets dealing Tom Seaver to the Reds was somehow my fault.  Perhaps if I had spoken directly to M Donald Grant, I could have told him that Doug Flynn would never hit a lick, Steve Henderson was simply not good enough, Dan Norman a suspect, not a prospect and that Pat Zachry was made of paper mache.

Why the passion?  Blame my dad. After his first two sons showed little interest in sports, let’s just say that when I started to mime swinging a bat at two years old, he knew he’d have someone to watch a game with. Not that he loves me any more than he does my brothers or sister (he doesn’t; he’s a great dad to all of us), he just knows that when he wants to know who the Mets are planning on using as their left-handed specialist, he knows who to call. Otherwise, I’m just one of his four kids. That’s fine with me.

Maybe one of the reasons that my father is such a good one is because he grew up with nothing at all.

Ron Healey spent most of his childhood at St. Vincent’s Home for Boys.  My siblings and I don’t know much about those days for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that he likely doesn’t remember them too fondly.

Most of what I know about his times there are the good things; playing ball with his buddies like Hank, Sep and Sarge, and getting to – on the weekends – go to their houses from time to time for a taste of a real home.  I’ve often wondered what that must have been like, having to go back to the darkness after a glimpse of the light.  But to his credit, and my everlasting gratitude, he never complained about it, never was consumed with bitterness about it, and sure as hell never took it out on any of us.  He was adamant that his kids would have everything he didn’t.

For him, not being far from the shadows of Ebbets Field was an escape from loneliness.   Cheering for his Brooks was probably the greatest joy he experienced during those dark days.  It was during those rare afternoons of getting to go to a game that more than likely turned mere fandom into baseball fever.

He handed down that wonderful gift to me, the love of the Great Pastime, and it’s the main reason you’re reading these words right now.

Whether it was his story of running into a young, athletic “guy who looked like a ballplayer (Willie Mays) so we ran after him and got his autograph” or his taking me and my buddies (when he really couldn’t afford to do) in the 1974 Dodge Dart (Special Edition) to see the dreadful post-Seaver Mets of the late 70′s, I was hooked and hooked early.

My dad’s a Mets fan these days (and has been since the Dodgers left Brooklyn), and he still won’t read (or says he doesn’t) read anything I write about the Yankees.  “I hate the Yankees,” he says, quite matter-of-factly, as if it were a natural state.  “I want them to lose every game they play.”

It’s quite possible he might not read this, but I suspect that even if this piece was about the Bombers, he’d sneak a peak to see what his “Markito” has written.

We still talk as much baseball as we ever did.  He probably watches as many (if not more) games than I do, and given the fact that he’s a dead-ringer for Terry Collins, the Mets manager, I think he roots for the Mets just a little bit harder lately.

551842_10150928626202440_98954212_n

I don’t love my dad because we share a love for baseball. I love my dad because he went from being an orphan with nothing, to loving and supporting a family all of his life. He was a rough and tumble street kid that was never ashamed to hug his kids. Despite having a really good city job, still went to night school to get his degree from Brooklyn College, because he wanted to instill in his children the value of a college education.

I could go on and on. But all I really want to say is, Happy 75th birthday, Pop. You’re the best.

And thank you.