June 2008

“One is the Loneliest Number”


bxp30237.jpgOn June 29 in Baseball History…

  • 1916 – The Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds played a nine-inning game with just one baseball.

I read this seemingly innocuous little tidbit in the New York Times sports section yesterday morning.

But then I started thinking about

  1. All the foul balls sent into the stands in any baseball game.
  2. All the times I’ve seen pitchers ask for a new ball.
  3. All the times I’ve seen an umpire throw a ball out of play.
  4. All the home runs I’ve seen hit out of the park.

and it made me wonder:

Did they only HAVE one ball? 

If so, did they offer some kind of inducement for fans catching foul balls, er–THE foul ball–to “ante up” THE one game ball so that the game could continue? 

Just how dirty and beat-up did this one baseball get after nine innings of play?

And who got to KEEP this legendary baseball?  It seems that it should’ve been kept for historical purposes, no?

Just some random thoughts that I pondered yesterday…it beat ruminating on the reasons why the Mets seem to remain hell-bent on staying a .500 team.

Mets Get Out of a Jam

TrafficJamAlert.jpg…actually, avoid two potential ones all together!

Honestly, I am not a fan of interleague play in general and of Yankee-Mets matchups in particular.

But I did enjoy a sidebar story that came out of this weekend’s Subway Series: 

the transport of the Mets and Yankees players from Yankee Stadium to Shea Stadium during rush hour on a Friday afternoon and how it affected fellow New Yorkers.

Because of a rain-out during the previous Subway Series at Yankee Stadium earlier in the season, the Mets and Yankees faced each other Friday afternoon at Yankee Stadium for a make-up game.  Then, that evening, both teams (and the media) had to get to Shea Stadium for the first of a three-game Subway Series there.

The personnel’s inter-borough journey would’ve been a challenge on any day and at any time of day, considering the busy corridor they needed to traverse and the bottlenecks that occur far too often upon it.  Yesterday, however, presented a few additional challenges:  the first game was a very long one–almost four hours, and (2)their expedition was to take place on a Friday night in the summer.  While Friday afternoons are always “getaway” days and usually times of high volume on the roads, the problem is compounded in the summer when many are getting away to the beach or to the Hamptons.

  • Anticipating the gridlock that would be created, an industrious Newsday writer covering both games, brought his running shoes and made the inter-borough trip by foot.  He later shared his colorful story with readers.
  • I also read of a couple of fans attending both games who had a rather unique strategy for the day:  they intended to imbibe at Yankee Stadium and empty their bladders at Shea Stadium.  Hmm.

My family’s challenge did not involve a time element:  we were attending only the second game.  However, one should never underestimate the challenge of travelling from New Jersey to Queens with there being a game at Yankee Stadium.  Not having the physical conditioning to even consider a foot race and disliking crowds and traffic in general, our family was not sure we even wanted to FACE the challenge. 

Therefore, my husband–with his family’s approval–attempted to sell our tickets for Friday night’s game on StubHub.  This was one game we all figured would be best viewed in the comfort of our own home on high definition television. 

When the tickets did not sell, however, we changed our minds and decided to brave the masses on the road in order to attend.

~

We gave our time of departure much forethought.  It was decided that the best way to avoid the traffic created by fans departing Yankee Stadium following the first game would be for us to be well on our way BEFORE the end of the first game. 

As it turned out, our strategy not only afforded us a more or less routine trip to Shea, but it unexpectedly provided us the opportunity of sailing by Yankee Stadium–southbound on the Major Deegan Expressway–at the very MOMENT that Carlos Delgado hit the first of what would be two home runs for the Mets–this one a grand slam!  As I quickly opened the sun roof, we all three screamed, and I vigorously waved my Mets cap.


photo08.jpgWhen we arrived at Shea, there were many fans already there.  It appeared that others were aware, as we were, that it had been arranged that both teams were to travel by bus with police escort from the Bronx to Queens with road closures being scheduled during their transition.

Arriving at Shea without any of the logistical snafus we had envisioned and feared, it was actually delightful to, later, find out some details about the two teams’ post-matinee conveyance–both on the radio and in the newspapers.

Although traffic was halted enroute to the Triborough Bridge and on the other side–on the Grand Central Parkway–to ensure a quick trip for the players and the members of the media who accompanied them, apparently many drivers along this route were well aware of the purpose of the stoppage.  Many of the presumably inconvenienced drivers were not scowling, waving fists or the like.  Rather, they were leaning out of car windows, yelling cheers of encouragement and flashing player jerseys in signs of recognition as the buses passed.


car002.gifAs New York Times sportswriter George Vecsey so wittily observed in his column today:
 

Normally, I hate it when traffic is blocked in New York because some presidential candidate is mooching campaign funds in our town. Over the years, I have had a few paranoid thoughts and words and gestures toward assorted Bushes and Clintons, Gores and Kerrys, when some bridge or parkway was inexplicably shut down. But it’s different when traffic stops for something socially redeeming, like a baseball team.

It had to be a redeeming feeling for Mets officials, too, knowing that their arrangements had enabled the Mets to play in the Bronx until about 6PM and walk into their Club House at Shea for their 8:10PM game having taking only twenty-eight minutes door-to-door!  (Apparently, the Mets had made similar arrangements for the team travelling TO Yankee Stadium that morning:  a trip that had taken only seventeen minutes!)

If only Mets officials could collaborate in such a way as to assure a Mets’ victory…sigh.

We’ll get ‘em tomorrow.

 

“In Baseball, You Play in a PARK!”

I will miss the humor of the irreverent George Carlin, who passed away yesterday.

I particularly loved how he examined words, colloquialisms, common expressions, and the English language in general.

One of my all-time favorite “classic” Carlin routines was the one in which he contrasted the sports of baseball and football:

 

 

I grew up in Oklahoma–OU Sooners country–with nary a Major League Baseball team within 500 miles.  Never really embracing football and its popularity and having had to accompany the high school football team in its travels as part of the high school band, I always particularly enjoyed Carlin’s underscoring the “tough” persona of football as opposed to the more “civilized” game of baseball.

Error Charged to Mets.

cowardlylion copy.jpgRegardless of whether or not one thinks Mets higher-ups made the right decision or erred in the firing of Willie Randolph early this morning, the general concensus in newspapers, blogs, and on talk radio seems to be that the way this move was made was “classless”, an act of “cowardice”, and just generally bungled.

For several weeks now, I had been growing more and more disgusted with the shameful way Randolph was allowed to “twist in the wind”.  Not only was speculation about his job status allowed to brew, it almost seemed that it was ENCOURAGED to brew.  One writer wondered if allowing anyone and everyone to have a chance to weigh in on the matter was the front office’s weasely way of taking a barometer reading of media and fan opinion before actually making a decision.   

The lack of a vote of confidence for or a clear dismissal of Randolph resulted in the media stirring things up and causing embarassment and distraction to the the players and managers.  The lack of assurance could not have inspired confident managing or playing.  My feelings that Willie Randolph deserved better than the continuing noncommital responses from his employers to questions raised about his status as manager were echoed in recent days, most notably in the New York Times.

But as inept as the handling of the situation by the front office has seemed over the past few weeks, the way the final blow was dealt reached an unparalleled level of gaucheness, reeking of cowardice and even seeming clandestine in nature.

Randolph was not fired while he was in New York.  The guillotine came down after he had made the long cross-country flight with his team following a grueling doubleheader on Sunday.  Instead of escaping the unwanted off-the-field brouhaha, Randolph and the team arrived in Californa to find the media circus awaiting them on the West Coast.  In spite of the unwanted scrutiny and commotion, Randolph and the Mets managed to come away with a hard-earned win.  I assume there was the usual obligatory post-game press conference, and only after that did Randolph finally return to his hotel, no doubt weary and still fighting jet-lag.  

I’m sure Randolph was not expecting pillow talk or a reassuring before-bedtime prayer when Omar met him at the hotel, but I wonder if even he was surprised at the maladroit way he and the public were notified of his termination.  The press release, filed in the dead of night–specifically at 3:13AM Eastern Standard Time, was well after even the die-hard New York fans like myself who managed to stay awake through Billy Wagner’s turn on the mound would be safely tucked in bed with SNY turned off.

Finding out the news this was morning was a rude awakening, with emphasis on the word “rude”.

It was not unlike opening the newspaper or turning on the radio or TV to learn of an inmate’s execution.

traffic_light_execution_sm.jpgThe perceived surrepticious nature of the whole scenario reminded me of the way in which death penalty convictions are carried out in this country.  With the exception of a few states, most executions are carried out at 12:01AM.  Although supposedly one of the reasons for this is that this gives the state the maximum amount of time to deal with any last minute legal appeals or temporary stays of execution within the 24-hour period of time during which the death warrant is “good” .

The lateness of the hour is traditional too because other prisoners can be more easily “locked down”.  Also, when the execution is carried out at such a late hour, the likelihood of any repurcussions or protests or unwanted attention in general–from within or outside of the corrections facility–is lessened.  

Whether intentional or not, the handling of the dismissal seemed covert, clandestine…a pusillanimous gesture.

One can argue that Willie Randolph got more of a benefit of the doubt and time to turn his team around than he deserved (not my opinion.)  One can argue that he deserved to keep his job through the All-Star break, through the end of the 2008 season, or through the expiration of his contract. 

I doubt one can find fans out there who would say last night’s dark-of-night firing was something Willie Randolph deserved.  

 

 

 

“Ac- cen- tu- ate the Positive.”

 

Although it’s getting harder and harder to do if you’re a Mets fan, this is my attempt at finding the silver lining in what has been an abyssmal patch of grey clouds that no weather system can seem to push through.  If Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters don’t lift your spirits and level of optimism, consider the following:

1.  Marlon Anderson is being proactive about emphasizing the team’s viability in a pennant race, even with their current record.  That’s not high-on-acquiring-Santana-as-our-ace Carlos Beltran giddily proclaiming the Mets the team to beat, but it is a testament to the fact that the passion is still there–to win and to motivate others to do so–at least in some of the players.

2.  As frustrating as Billy Wagner’s recent performances have been, at least he cannot be accused of being hypocritical:  he’s waited to meet the press after every single disastrous outing for a an honest self-flagellation.

3.  Other than his gaffe resulting in his needing a late pass to Sunday’s game, Ramon Castro has made very positive contributions in his last few starts.

4.  Even though his plate appearances have been inconsistent, Carlos Delgado has shown signs of a renewed commitment to getting his uniform dirty.

5.  Johan Santana did not get seriously hurt when he was hit by a pitch two starts ago, and he didn’t get hit in his start yesterday.

6.  No matter how dreadful Ollie Perez has been lately, at least he pitched more innings in his last start than Joba did in his last outing.

7.  Departing Shea earlier because the bullpen blows it means avoiding late-inning concessions, thereby saving me huge wads of cash and gobs of calories.  Speaking of huge wads of cash, it’s at least worth mentioning how much money our family stands to save if we are not purchasing post-season tickets.

(As I said, I’m looking for the silver lining, however THIN it may be.)

8.  Leaving the game prior to the eighth inning, I can avoid entirely the insipid Eighth Inning Sing-Along to the strains of a lame Monkees song that is pitched in such a low key as to render its sing-along properties more or less useless.

9. An early departure from Shea means I get out of the parking lot quickly and am home in record time.

Wait!  I was attempting to accentuate the POSITIVE! 

O.K., a bonafide reason to be upbeat:

10.  Mike Pelfrey’s awesome start on Wednesday night.

061108.01lowres.jpgPelfrey’s performance had so many feel-good things about it:  the fact that he’s a “home grown” product; the fact that he pitched eight scoreless innings and even got upset with Willie Randolph when he thought he was not going to be allowed to start the ninth; the standing ovation and cheers Pelfrey received when he came out to the on-deck circle to bat in the bottom of the eighth–an obvious indication that Willie had acquiesced to Pelfrey’s insistence he should stay in the game; a standing ovation WHEN HE STRUCK OUT; and–yes–even the chorus of loud boos Willie got when he removed Pelfrey after he allowed the first batter to reach base in the ninth:  indicating a crowd that was really into the game and tremendously supportive of a pitcher for once. 

(Regarding the latter, I am guessing that more fans than not realized the terrible disappointment it would’ve been had Pelfrey allowed another hit and thrown the game away or was given a loss for his remarkable outing.  I sensed the booing was less about questioning Willie’s managerial move than it was a way of showing Pelfrey support.  That’s why I actually felt kinda good about the boos at that particular time.)

Although Pelfrey did not get that win, he showed the fans, he showed Willie Randolph, he showed Rick Peterson, and he showed himself just how far he’s come.

That’s huge for the Mets:  the 2008 Mets and beyond.

 

 

With Apologies to Lerner and Loewe.

 

 


MaineCain.jpgJohn Main and Caine pitch mainly without pain.

A- GAIN! 

John Main and Caine will pitch if there’s no rain.

By George, I think I’ve GOT IT!

.
New York Mets

Starting Pitcher
 Name  Season/vs Wins Losses Saves ERA
 John Maine P  Season 5 4 0 3.66
  vs. Giants 0 0 0

San Francisco Giants

Starting Pitcher
 Name  Season/vs Wins Losses Saves ERA
 Matt Cain P  Season 2 3 0 4.38
  vs. Mets 0 0 0
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