baseball

Gotham Baseball: Endangered Species: The New York Baseball Player

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New York Empire Baseball founder Jordan Baltimore with one of his young players.
New York Empire Baseball founder Jordan Baltimore with one of his young players.

I’ve had the pleasure of covering big league baseball and being involved in youth coaching the last several years, and I have often wondered why the “New York Game” as we call it here at Gotham Baseball, isn’t as well-represented in MLB as are other parts of the country. Part of the problem is how MLB teams look for talent, as there seems to be very few MLB scouts on hand in NYC for even the best of programs.

Despite the obvious weather-related reasons why most kids playing baseball in New York don’t get as much attention as their warm-weather counterparts, we decided to look closer at the problem.
First we sat down with Jordan Baltimore, who runs a top grade teaching academy in NYC called New York Baseball Empire, which spends as much time training older kids to coach, as teaching younger ones to play.

Go to GothamBaseball.com for the entire interview…

 

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.

Ronnie & Me

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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.

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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.

Changing Sports Radio: Going 9 Fantasy Baseball on SiriusXM

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I am always doing things I can’t do — that’s how I get to do them. ~ Pablo Picasso

Before you roll your eyes at the headline, just give me a few minutes of your time to explain.

I am the host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball”, which airs each Saturday at 10am-1PM ET on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio channel (Sirius 210 / XM 87). And I think is the best show you haven’t listened to yet. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be doing it. If you know me, then you know this isn’t simple egoism. If you don’t, all I ask is your consideration.

I hear and read and of complaining about sports radio these days, and frankly, almost every time I do, I say, “Well, have you heard my show?” Almost nine time out of 10, I get the same reply, “Well, i’m really not into Fantasy Baseball.”

imagesCAWQZ9GFThat’s fair. But until you’ve actually heard the show, how can be sure that you wouldn’t be interested in listening to it? Because I have to tell you, if you are a baseball fa, you’d like it. A lot.

I’ve been doing the show from the SiriusXM studios in New York City for three years now, and with each new co-host and each new baseball season, I remain convinced that our product is as good — or better — than any all-baseball programming that’s out there.

If self-confidence doesn’t sway you, or the simple love of the American Pastime isn’t going to get you to listen, let me appeal to your sense of helping out a guy who’s worked his butt off trying to make it as an independent publisher, editor, writer and broadcaster since leaving Associated Press in 2006.

I’m a big believer in the marketplace determining the success of anyone in media, but I don’t have the deep pockets of a corporate entity to hire a PR firm to promote myself or my show. So I’m hoping you folks,  once you listen, will help promote the show for me.

If you’re a SiriusXM subscriber already, all I ask is that you give the show a shot.

If you’re not a current SiriusXM subscriber, please visit the Going 9 Baseball home page. If you click the “SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio” banner on the top, it will send you to the “Subscribe” page of SiriusXM. By using that banner, Going 9 will get the credit for a new subscriber, which gets the host and his show more exposure. It would be much appreciated.

I know it’s been a challenging time for a lot of people. many of us who are unemployed or underemployed and simply can’t afford another monthly bill. If that’s the case, try to sneak a listen on a friend or family member’s SiriusXM radio or mobile app. I would greatly appreciate it.

In the meantime, you can visit our website, our Facebook page or follow me on Twitter at @MHealeySports.com to keep updated. I also hope you’ll take the opportunity to give us your feedback on the show on the Facebook page as well.

Thanks so much. I really think you’ll enjoy the show.


PROGRAMMING NOTE
– This week, Going 9 Fantasy Baseball will air on Sat Feb, 23 from 11am-2pm ET. Also there will be an additional show on Sunday Feb. 24 from 4pm-7pm ET.

G9 FANTASY OVAL

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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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