New York Mets

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

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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

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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

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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.

Rumor Mill Classic: Tom Seaver To The Yankees?

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71c594ac-1727-45f9-a279-f007812e5e7e_lgI was doing some research yesterday and I came across a couple of stories, one written in 1985 and one in 1986 season, indicating that Tom Seaver — the only current Hall of Famer wearing a Mets cap in Cooperstown – almost became a Yankee.

Tom Seaver, who had his greatest success in New York with the Mets, is about to return to the Big Apple–this time as a New York Yankee.

A source in the White Sox organization revealed that Seaver will be sent to the Yankees in a deal for Brian Fisher, a 24-year-old relief pitcher.

Of course, he wound up going to the Red Sox instead, and if not for a late-season injury, would have pitched in the 1986 World Series against his former team.

Farewell To The Kid: A Look Back at 2012

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gb_cover_06-12(This story first appeared in the Early Season 2012 issue of Gotham Baseball magazine. You can read the entire issue here MH)

“I’m aware of the fine nucleus the Mets have. They just missed winning the pennant last season. And I feel I can do my part to help them win a championship.” – Gary Carter, speaking to reporters after the December 1984 trade that sent him from the Montreal Expos to the York Mets.

“As easy as the trade for (Keith) Hernandez was, the trade for Gary Carter was much, much, much, much more difficult,” Cashen told Newsday’s Steve Marcus. “It took about 10 telephone calls and a couple of face-to-face meetings and was done over a period of a couple of months before I could finalize the deal. He [Expos GM John McHale] didn’t want to do it. I thought the possibility of getting him was slim and none. We needed a hitter and a catcher and he fit the bill completely. I hung in there for a long time, much longer than you do for an ordinary kind of trade.”

It was an extraordinary trade for an extraordinary player who would prove to be the crucial to the team’s 1986 World Series championship. He was the perfect guy at the perfect time. A “Captain America” type personality, a Gold Glove defensive catcher, and a MVP-caliber power hitter all rolled into one.

It’s hard to remember a more exciting time to be a Mets fan. Following two consecutive Rookie of the Year campaigns by Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, and an unlooked-for 90-win season by Davey Johnson’s 1984 club, the Flushing Faithful were thinking World Series for the first time in a long time.
.
And true to form, the Kid delivered the goods immediately

Carter’s Opening Day game-winning home run off of St. Louis reliever Neil Allen, a former Mets All-Star who had been traded for Hernandez two years earlier, raised the stakes at Shea Stadium to epic proportions. The drama of the blast (we didn’t call them walk-offs just yet), was matched by the upraised fist and the first of many passionate curtain calls “Kid” would be asked to grant for the rest of his tenure as a Met. And no one did a curtain call quite like Gary Carter. Pointing to the right side of the Shea Stadium crowd, then to the left, punctuated by a “YES!” fist pump, it made the fans love him even more. It also drove opponents nuts. Mike Lupica, the award-winning sportswriter from the NY Daily News didn’t really understand the hate back in 1986, especially for Carter,

“Gary Carter? Sure. Carter is a ham. He always has been. It`s his nature, he can`t help himself. Home runs send him into this high-five frenzy. This is news? This is bush? Carter waited a whole career to get a stage like Shea. He`s supposed to be Ted Williams all of a sudden?”

His best year for the Mets would be that 1985 season, but while the Mets would win 98 games, they would lose a tightly-contested NL East race to the Cardinals. Carter would be an All-Star from 85-88, but injuries and the team’s dependency on both his cleanup bat and handling of the pitching staff, would wear on his body. It was the last days of baseball before PEDs, and only through sheer will was Carter able to battle through. He was already 31 when he donned the blue and orange, so a long stint in New York was never in the offing. His knees had already been surgically repaired twice before coming to Gotham, and would be worked on three more times before he left. But it always was the quality of his Mets career that is remembered, not the quantity.

Carter would touch a lot of lives during his career, including my own. In the summer of 1986, it became apparent that my sister Nicole would need a kidney transplant. My dad – a huge Cary Carter fan dating back to his Expos days — was the donor, and when the Mets were taking on the Astros in the NLCS, we spent most of that postseason watching the games on hospital TVs. After the World Series, in which Carter did more than his share, my father wrote a letter to Gary telling him about our family. Not long after, both my dad and my sister received autographed pictures of Carter with personal messages attached, as well as an invitation for my dad, mom and sister to meet Gary at Shea Stadium. They did so during the 1987 season, and my family could not have been more touched by the personal way the All-Star catcher spoke with my sister. We had loved Jerry Grote and John Stearns in our house, and that guy Piazza surely was appreciated, but the Kid was the king.

He was reduced to a shadow of his former self in the 1989 season, hitting just .183 in 50 games for the Mets. He would spend his last three seasons as a decent backup catcher for the Giants (1990) and Dodgers (1991) before ending back up with the Expos in 1993, where he finally said good-bye to his playing career.

Carter had never won a World Series for the Expos, but the organization – despite whatever previous animosity had existed – not only retired Carter’s number, but threw him a big party to do so.

I caught up with Gary in 2001, when I was covering the first-ever season of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Carter had spent the last few seasons with the Mets as a roving catching instructor, and was in Brooklyn that week working with the Cyclones catchers.

After interviewing him for a piece I was preparing about Brett Kay, the young Cyclones catcher, he and I had a few minutes to chat. In what turned into an almost 45-minute conversation, I explained who I was, and thanked him for his kindness to my family. Instead of saying “Oh I remember” or some other phony platitude, he simply asked how my dad and sister (she had just received a second transplant, after a second transplant, this time from my brother), were doing. When I told him that my dad was great and my sister was doing even better, he grabbed me by the shoulders.

“That is amazing,” Carter said. “God bless your family, and God bless your sister.”

Later that year, Gary would be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. However, he was still waiting for his well-deserved induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame when it was announced in the winter of 2002 that he was 129 votes shy of getting into Cooperstown. It would mark his fifth straight year of eligibility, and with the declining health f his then-84 year old father Jim, Carter was – rightfully so – starting to get a little exasperated, especially when his wife – who had planned a huge surprise party for what most people predicted would be the year he would be inducted. Yes, he deserved the honor, but he wanted his father there to see it happen.

Jim Carter lost his wife to leukemia when Gary was just 12 years old, a devastating loss for both of them. Gary would raise millions of dollars during and after his baseball career to fight the disease as a tribute to his mom, and his burning desire to have his dad at his induction ceremony was foremost in his mind. To be waiting this long, many surmised (including this writer, who wrote a column wondering that same thing for the Associated Press that year), seemed unfair. Imagine what it felt for Carter, who was watching his then-84 year old father’s declining health before his eyes, trying to be democratic about the lack of support from West Coast writers who failed to vote for Carter time and time again. The same people who voted in Carlton Fisk into the HOF, first ballot no less, didn’t see fit to put Carter in the same class.

Consider this, Carter batted .262 with 324 homers and 1,225 RBIs, while Fisk batted .269 with 376 and 1,330 in 203 more games. Carter was an 11-time All-Star, won three Gold Gloves and one World Series ring while Fisk was a 10-time All-Star, won one Gold Glove and no rings.

Really?

A year later, Carter did get in, but while his father would live to hear the news, he didn’t last long enough to see Carter inducted. It was a crushing blow for Carter. But as he had always done before, he grinned, bared it, and moved on with his life. He was ready, he felt, to do something special.

In 2004, Carter angered some folks when he honestly answered some questions about Art Howe’s job status as Mets manager, saying he would be interested in the job if it was offered. The person who asked the question knew Art Howe was still the Mets manager, though it was pretty clear that he was a goner. So, when Carter, in his always honest fashion, said what was on his mind, he was vilified. Lying, it would seem, is the preferred stance in these matters. That fact remained that Howe was a dead man walking and everyone in New York knew it. It was time for a radical shift in philosophy.

In 2004, the entire baseball operations department, enabled and divided by ownership – was an absolute mess. Fred Wilpon, now the principal owner, was never comfortable with the hiring of Jim Duquette as the GM. Duquette, one of the best liked people in baseball, wasn’t a “star” in the elder Wilpon’s eyes. The son, Jeff Wilpon, had always championed Duquette as the person who had the combination of great baseball relationships and a healthy respect for statistical analysis (it was Duquette that pushed for the Mets to hire Rick Peterson and make him the highest paid pitching coach in baseball). Fred had tried to get Omar Minaya, once a trusted assistant to the now-deposed Steve Phillips, to share the GM duties with Duquette, an arrangement that both rejected. So instead, to “help” his “untested” GM, Fred Wilpon went to his old pal and scouting legend Al Goldis to serve as a “superscout” and assistant GM. The public meltdown of Duquette’s choice as assistant GM, Bill Singer (Singer was fired after making ethnic slurs and mimicking Dodgers assistant GM Kim Ng at a baseball function in the off-season), was bad enough, but his replacement, another legend, Bill Livesey (the man who helped build the Yankees farm system under Gene Michael), was the man who drafted Victor Zambrano for the Tampa Bay Rays. If you’re a Mets fan, you know that the June 30th deadline deal that sent Scott Kazmir to the Rays for Zambrano is still known as “Black Friday”. It would prove to the biggest backlash of criticism of the Mets in years, and it had gotten considerably worse since Wilpon had taken over sole ownership of the club in 2002. It would be the third straight season of below .500 baseball, despite the NL’s highest payroll.

In what was already a dysfunctional organization, chaos reigned supreme, and it was ownership’s fault. Accountability was (and still isn’t) a Wilpon strong point, but everyone knew – especially COO Jeff Wilpon – that hiring Art Howe in the first place was a awful mistake. He was aloof from his players, ill-equipped to handle the New York media, and lacked the kind of personality that would have allowed for the fans to support him despite his lack of tactical skills.

Carter as Mets manager made sense to a lot of people, even after his “insult” to Howe, including former Mets pitcher, minor league coach and now broadcaster, Bob Ojeda.

From the Daily News:

“(Ojeda) was aware that Carter was quoted last week as saying he’d like to manage the Mets, a faux pas that likely will hurt his cause … (but) he believes that Carter would be an ideal fit, even though he has no managerial experience.

“I don’t believe it takes a tremendous amount of experience when you played the game at that level for 20 years, especially as a catcher,” Ojeda said. “I really think Gary could pull it off. And he has the stature the Mets need right now. I’ve seen him get ticked off and step up and tell people what he thinks, They need leadership over there because right now the team on the field is a reflection of the front office – there’s no strong or clear leadership.”

There were those in the Mets front office that agreed, and told Gary to “sit tight, and we’ll get something done soon.”

Unfortunately for Carter, the sudden hiring (and demotion of Duquette) of Minaya was the worst thing that could happen to his major-league managerial aspirations. For one, like his old boss Phillips, Minaya wasn’t keen on 1986 Mets. For another, Minaya’s new assistant GM Tony Bernazard, wasn’t keen on personnel he couldn’t control. It didn’t take long for Bernazard to alienate much of the organization after his hire, but as he was the right-hand to the apple of Fred Wilpon’s eye, he was going to get most of the incumbent front office exiled anyway.

Even after Minaya’s hiring, many in the organization felt that Carter was going to be a coach on the new manager’s staff . When that changed, so did his immediate future. Despite spending years as a rover in the minors, and despite being in the Hall of Fame, the Met with a World Series ring earned as a Met wasn’t offered a Mets major league job.

Instead, he was offered a job Minaya thought he would refuse; managing the Low-A Gulf Coast League Mets. He would win Manager of the Year in 2005, taking the GCL Mets to the championship round. The next year, he would win MOY honors again, this time in the full-season A Florida State League, winning the FSL championship with the St. Lucie Mets. Current Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese pitched for him on both of those clubs.

“The one thing Gary stressed to us was team,” Niese told Newsday. “He said individual goals were meaningless. He said the name on the front of the uniform was more important than the name on the back. That’s what I’ll take from my two years with him.”

Carter knew that with the Mets having won the NL East in 2006, he wasn’t going to be the Mets manager in 2007. But he also knew that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark. It was no secret that Jeff Wilpon was furious about the heavily favored Mets’ loss to St. Louis in the NLCS, and blamed Willie Randolph for the loss. To be fair, while the Mets’ offense and bullpen struggled in the seven-game defeat, Randolph made some very strange managerial decisions with both his bullpen and in-game machinations that played a role in the team’s demise. Add in the fact that Randolph and Bernazard despised each other, and an organization that was in complete upheaval, Carter wanted to know where he fit.

Carter was told by Bernazard that the organization wanted him to manage the 2007 season in Binghamton. It was a promotion they said, and another step closer to the major leagues. Carter, whose knees had now been through five different procedures, had enough of the minor leagues. He knew all about the empty promises that had been made to Ken Oberkfell, who had managed several years in the minors for the Mets as well. The former infielder who had won a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 1982 had been a successful minor league manager at several different levels and, like Carter, had won his share of accolades, including a Manager of the Year award, But “Obie” had never even gotten an interview when Minaya decided to hire Randolph. So, when the Mets wouldn’t make any promises that he would be the guy to replace Randolph (and it was when, not if), when the time came, he declined the offer. When he said he’d be happy to return to St. Lucie, they informed him that Frank Caccitore had been already given the job.

From The New York Times:

“How do you not take a promotion if you want to manage in the major leagues?” Minaya said. “We gave him an opportunity and we offered him more money and a more high-profile job and he turned it down. What more could we do?”

Carter said that Tony Bernazard, a team vice president, told him there were two reasons the club wanted Carter to go to Binghamton: to follow the players he had coached in Class A and to learn how to use the double switch, a move usually made when relievers enter a game.

“I said, ‘Tony, I played 18 years in the major leagues and you’re going to tell me I have to go to Double-A to learn how to do the double switch?’ ” Carter said. “I can do that in my sleep.”

Jeff Wilpon will understand, thought Carter, so he contacted the Mets’ COO who had followed around Carter as a teenager. The younger Wilpon suggested Gary look for work elsewhere.

So much for loyalty.

So Carter tried to get hired by both the Dodgers and Rockies, but both jobs were given to someone else. Then the 2007 Mets blew a 7 ½ game lead in September and missed the playoffs. If the Mets didn’t get off to a great start in 2008, then Randolph would be gone. So Carter took the manager’s job for the Orange County Flyers in the California-based Golden League. He proceeded to win the 2008 championship and the steered the Long Island Ducks to the Atlantic League playoffs.

The Mets were playing uninspired .500 baseball in May of 2008 and Randolph would soon be a goner. Carter took one last shot and called old friend Jay Horwitz to see if he had any shot at getting the job. Then Carter made a mistake he would regret for the rest of his life, he told the whole truth and nothing but the truth during an interview to “The Mike & Murray Show” on Sirius Satellite Radio. He admitted the call to Horwitz and said the Mets could use a person with his experience.

He never worked in affiliated baseball again, for telling the damn truth.

“I learned that things can be taken out of context,” Carter told reporters when he was hired by the Long Island Ducks. “There was no intention whatsoever to undermine anybody. I was simply asked the question, “would you be interested?” Of course I would be interested in any capacity because that is where my passion is. If it’s not with the Mets, I would like it to be with maybe somebody else.”

Hall of Famer Gary Carter, exiled to the independent leagues by a .260 career hitter in Bernazard who had never served as a scout, instructor, coach or manager at any level in the minor or major leagues, believed he had no other recourse than to “campaign” for the job. It wasn’t like Gary had any real shot at the job this time, so to make a big deal about it seemed petty.

Yet everyone did.

“I’ve always been accommodating and it’s hurt me because I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve,” Carter told the Times during a contentious interview following the hiring of Jerry Manuel. “They throw me under the bus and two weeks later, (Willie’s) fired anyway. Yeah, so I’m the one to blame.”

In 2009 Gary Carter would find peace in baseball and combine it with his greatest passion; his family. Palm Beach Atlantic University needed a baseball coach, and with Kimmee Carter serving as the team’s softball coach, it was an easy “yes’ for the Kid.

Ray McNulty, writing for the TCPalm.com, couldn’t understand, like many of us, why Carter was taking a job at a Division 2 college.

So this is what it has come to for Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher who managed successfully in the minor leagues but can’t seem to get back to the majors — not as a manager, not even as a coach.

This, apparently, is the best he can do.

And that’s as sad as it is ridiculous.

“Not even many D-I schools in this nation have a Hall of Fame baseball coach,” said Lu Hardin, president of PBAU, where the baseball team compiled a 24-67 record the past two seasons.

No D-II school should.

But Carter lives in nearby Palm Beach Gardens. His daughter, Kimmy Bloemers, is the school’s softball coach. And, at age 55, after 19 major league seasons as a player and six years as a minor league manager, this was another chance to stay in baseball.

Maybe his best chance.

And that’s as sad as it is ridiculous.

Perhaps the worst part about the loss of Gary Carter was the Wilpon / Katz ownership not giving Cary Carter a last chance to say goodbye to the fans that loved him. One last chance to thank the man who helped them win their last championship. One last curtain call for the best of the 1986 Mets, the best damn team this franchise has ever had.

They chose not to. They chose to posthumously honor him. With a patch and a big sticker on the outfield wall.

Gary Carter deserved better.

The All-Time Gotham Baseball Team: The Complete Ballot

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gbwallpaperDuring my childhood in Brooklyn, my friends and I spent many a day on one of the stoops on East 39th Street arguing about whose favorite players were better. I know to the present day’s more sophisticated fanbase, this may seem trite, but armed with our newspapers or our memories from the previous night’s games, we made pretty good cases for our respective guys.

In the dark days following the inexplicable trade of Tom Seaver, those of us who were Mets fans could no longer claim the superiority of having the best pitcher in town. Maybe it’s because the post Seaver trade Mets were so awful is the reason I became so enamored with baseball history, particularly with NY baseball history. Oh, I still climbed into my dad’s 1974 Dodge Dart and went to Shea to root for Steve Henderson and my main man Lee Mazzilli, but wishing for the likes of players like Carl Furillo and Christy Mathewson also occupied my young mind.

Years later, while working at Associated Press, I came up with the idea (after reading a book about Jack Chesbro), that I wanted to create a destination for any baseball fan to read about the history of New York baseball, from the Mtuuals to the Ccylones, from the Babe to the Beltran, from Jackie to Jeter. So, Gotham Baseball was born.

This ballot is part of a long ongoing project that will be revealed later, but suffice it to say, it’s important we build the best team we can, so vote wisely!

Here is the complete ballot, from First Base to the ballpark. Please share with your baseball-loving friends.
















A Mets Fest, the Winter Caravan and Old-Timers’ Day

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For about two years now, I have been telling Mets fans to flex their ticket-buying muscles and force the ownership of the team to either sell or run the team in a fashion that befits a major market team with a new stadium and its own regional sports network.

Do I want to stay home? No. But how else can a fan show his/her displeasure with a dysfunctional franchise that has low to zero credibility? Yes, Mets GM Sandy Alderson may have made a shrewd trade to acquire top prospects in exchange for Mets fan favorite and Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, but hasn’t the window for winning a World Series been pushed back a few years now? Lowering expectations for the third straight year? That spells zero accountability to this fan.

Yes, I’m angry. I’ve rooted for this team since 1975 and have covered it since 1996. I love the team and distrust the ownership with equal passion. I’ve been told by many — including my wife — that I have allowed my dissatisfaction with the ownership cloud my judgement. So in an effort to make a positive impact rather than a negative one, I’d like to help the Wilpon ownership group from continuing to punch itself in the face.

The cheapest seat in the house on Opening Day? 63 bucks. Dumb. The logic behind it? Even dumber.

The Mets introduced two new alternate jerseys this offseason, as well as a new cap. The jerseys were promoted by email. And the new on-field cap? David Wright wore it — without any fanfare at all — in Nashville, as he was “re-introduced” to the fanbase with his new extension. Now that’s just silly. Fact: A contest to design a new cap, much like what the Brewers are doing, would have been smarter. It also would have allowed for a fan-type event during the cold winter.

The Astros were the worst team in baseball last season. Like the Mets, they have seen significant declines in their season ticket and overall sales for years, despite a new ballpark. How did they intro their new jerseys and caps?

They had a party

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20121102&content_id=40159356&c_id=mlb

The Reds have a new ballpark, had a great 2012, and are primed for another run at the NL Central title. They’re not considered a major market team. They’ve sold tickets pretty well the last few years. How do they get ready for the 2013 season?

Reds Fest

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.

The team used to do a Mets Caravan, but that stopped after the 2006 season. Is this why?

… (Carlos) Delgado and (agent David) Sloane were still taking their time, mulling offers from the Mets, Marlins, and Orioles. The Mets were about to stage their annual Winter Caravan, a somewhat corny old-school promotional event in which most of the team visits city schools, hospitals, and business offices to kick off the start of season-ticket sales. On a Sunday evening, during another conference call with Delgado’s agent, Wilpon demanded the first-baseman’s answer by the next day so as not to “interfere” with the Winter Caravan, Sloane says.

“I’m not stupid enough to believe they were serious,” Sloane says, still angry. “I knew what they were trying to do, which is why I told Carlos that when you’re confronted by a bully, you hit him in the mouth.” Sloane delivered his punch on ESPN, which suddenly ran a report saying the Mets had withdrawn from the Delgado sweepstakes. At midnight Sunday, a stunned Jeff Wilpon, watching TV at home, called Minaya, who spent Monday re-entering the hunt. To no avail: On Tuesday, Delgado signed with Florida. “I don’t think he ever really wanted to be a Met,” Wilpon says..

Old Timer’s Day - This year marks the 40th anniversary of one of the Mets faithful’s favorite teams, the unlikely “Ya Gotta Believe” pennant winners of 1973. First off, any excuse to get Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra and Willie Mays in the house, wearing #Mets gear, is a win-win, no matter the cost. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, it is another teachable moment for a young team trying to find its identity in a ballpark built for the owner’s friends from Coney Island Ave. Mix with a few HOFers is good for everyone. Great photo opps abound.

duke-dimag-mays-mantle

Lastly, like Banner Day, it’s another way for this ownership group to show the fanbase they actually care about the traditions that Mets fans miss most. Banner Day was a great way to begin that process, but Old Timer’s Day shows a real commitment; ’cause it costs time and money. Because it seems like that’s the problem.

“It wasn’t popular, it wasn’t effective, fans weren’t responding and it wasn’t selling very many tickets,” (Mets VP Dave) Howard says. “The fans spoke volumes. It’s a very expensive promotion and it wasn’t producing the sales and marketing results we wanted for that investment. It died of its own unpopularity “

Now, let’s be honest Dave, the landscape has changed dramatically for the team since the mid-1990′s. Its ability to ptomote and engage the fans for this type of an event is vastly improved. Also, given that the team’s endgame is to rebuild for the foreseeable future, you should be trying EVERYTHING to get fans in the ballpark. You can only watch Shea Goodbyw so many times.

I wish it was only a cost-effectiveness issue. But it’s not. Frankly, the Mets can’t even send out a promo video w/o doing something dumb like trying to avoid the existence of a 20-game winner who just won the organizations first Cy Young Award in almost 30 years. It is the fear of ridicule, of blowback and of honest feedback from a fanbase that’s tired of the losing and the stupidity.

In 1989, Davey Johnson was omitted from the list of some two dozen people invited to Old-Timers’ Day.

From the Times:

That’s as much my fault as anybody,” said executive vice president Frank Cashen, who dismissed Johnson last May 29. “I thought it was just the 1969 team we’re inviting and I’m still not sure who’s involved, but Old-Timers’ Day is supposed to be joyous and having Davey back might put us and him in an untenable position.”

Why?

If the Old-Timers’ Day crowd cheered Johnson, would the Mets’ front office and Harrelson be embarrassed? If the crowd booed him, would he be embarrassed?

Like many, many, many others have said many, many, many times, the Wilpons and by extension, their PR and Marketing departments lack a cohesive link to their smartest and most loyal fans.

Maybe it’s time to listen to a few of them.

The All-Time Gotham Baseball Team: The Pitchers

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christy-mathewson-biography-1

You give us the pitching some of these clubs have and no one could touch us, but God has a way of not arranging that, because it’s not as much fun. – Sparky Anderson

Great pitching is a tradition in Gotham.

From the earliest days of “base ball”, Gotham has seen its share of great hurlers; Candy Cummings, Amos Rusie and Buffalo great Pud Galvin to name a few.

It’s hard to imagine any of New York’s World Series winning teams without thinking of their great starters, and as the game has progressed, it’s shut down closers.

We’ve assembled what we think is a collection of the best pitchers Gotham has had to offer, and we admit it was hard to leave off names like Ron Guidry, Sal Maglie, David Cone and John Franco. We have our reasons for each selection, as well as each omission, but you’re going to have to wait until the Winter 2013 issue of Gotham Baseball to hear why.

We’re asking you vote for 2 (two) left-handed starters, 2 (two) right-handed starters and a closer. Once the votes are tallied, the Gotham Baseball panel of experts from all over the realm of baseball will make the final selections, which will be announced at an upcoming event at Foley’s NY, which was named Best Baseball Bar in NY by Gotham Baseball magazine back in 2011.

Right-Handed SP


Left-Handed SP


Closer


The All-Time Gotham Baseball Team: THE OUTFIELD

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298778_167741566654916_406827449_nYou’ve heard the song plenty of times; Willie, Mickey and the Duke. Usually, when some outlets do this kind of an “all-time outfield” poll, there’s really no need to, as the three aforementioned HOFers are always penciled in. Sure, some folks will argue DiMaggio over Mantle, and some will debate whether or not Snider’s numbers are comparable because he played in a bandbox, etc.

However, Gotham Baseball is being a tad more selective; in addition to including more modern players to the mix, we’re also asking our readership to select our all-time outfield by position, rather than a general “OF” designation.

Once the votes are tallied, the Gotham Baseball panel of experts from all over the realm of baseball will make the final selections, which will be announced at an upcoming event at Foley’s NY, which was named Best Baseball Bar in NY by Gotham Baseball magazine back in 2011.




308281_170998162995923_491930764_nGotham Baseball did a special issue devoted to the “holy trinity” of NY CFers in this issue, check it out for FREE:

http://www.gothambaseball.com/GB005_FALL2011.pdf

The Fred Wilpon Files: Whatever Happened To Bob Raissman?

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There was once a sports media critic in this town named Bob Raissman. He was a must-read, whether you agreed with him or not. I always felt he was more even-handed than the Post’s resident finger-pointer Phil Mushnick (still a great read, even though I agree with what he says about 2% of the time), while the current king of media watchdogs, Neil Best, didn’t start his Sportswatch column until 2005. So for me, it was Raissman and Mushnick, Mushnick and Raissman.

Raissman was never afraid to take on any subject, went out of his way to find and promote new talent, and was always willing to take on any opponent, even a powerful baseball owner:

Does anyone believe Wilpon, a successful businessman, did not make every attempt, work every angle, ask a slew of questions of all baseball sources at his disposal (not just Phillips), before opening his wallet to bring in a player like, well, let’s say, Mo Vaughn? Does anyone believe Phillips squashed the idea of Alex Rodriguez coming to the Mets without Wilpon’s input and approval? “Fred and I are only as good as the info we get,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon told the Daily News’ Adam Rubin. Hogwash. That’s not the issue. When the “info” was good, and the Mets went to the playoffs and World Series, Fred Wilpon shared in the credit. Now, ownership says recent “info” provided by Phillips was bad. Does that mean Wilpon should not share the blame? You can’t have it both ways.

Then, the Daily News became a sponsor of SportsNet NY, buying ad time on the partly-owned Wilpon network and producing the “Daily News Live” show, of which Raissman is a regular contributor.

Now, it is rare that any critical commentary of Fred Wilpon makes the Daily News period, let alone Raissman’s column. In fact, when Wilpon’s post-Madoff “Love Mer, Feel Sorry for Me” media campaign that blew up in his face, there was Raissman, defending the man he once mocked as “Skill Sets”:

“Wilpon can’t win. Face it, for years, in times of Mets turmoil, he’s been hammered for being PR’d up and carefully choosing his words. Now, when he flaps his yap, the heat comes down. In reality, Wilpon was just parroting what plenty of fans, and media types, have already said” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/24).

Then again, we’re talking about a guy who crossed the picket line during the 1991 strike at the NYDN, so having a conflict of interest isn’t anything new to Raissman.