Tuesday, July 07, 2009
"Why do you care so much?" she'd yell at me. (She wasn't angry. She just spoke loudly and passionately.) "You think they care about you? You think [insert athlete here] cares about what you're doing?"
The athlete in the above statement could have been anyone, though I remember references to Patrick Ewing and Boomer Esiason specifically.
Believe it or not, I was much more obsessive of a sports fan back then than I am now. And in the early 1990s it was the Knicks that were the object of my obsessiveness (probably a result of a combination of their [relative] success, the Mets' and Jets [very] lean years, and the baseball strike).
I remember the day I quit the Knicks, and took Aunt JoJo's words to heart. It was 1995 - Game 7 between the Indiana Pacers and Knicks, and Patrick Ewing missed a layup that would have sent the game into overtime. I still haven't seen this layup, my break with the NBA was so complete. After living and dying through the 1994 season, I saw most of the 1995 season, but I was working right outside Madison Square Garden the night of Game 7. We were listening to the game on the radio. (I tried looking up the video of the play on youtube, and found nothing. I think I'm happy saying I still haven't seen the missed layup after 14 years.)
Anyway, I watched people pouring out of the Garden with my head laying on the display counter feeling like someone had punched me in the gut. I watched those people, and they didn't look terribly disappointed. Or at least anywhere close to as disappointed as I was.
And I decided that probably felt better than the way I felt.
I resolved to take other things in life more seriously. Over the next few years, the NBA lockout and Patrick Ewing's involvement in the Atlanta strip club scandal helped me fully separate myself from the NBA, but I just couldn't cut ties with the Jets and Mets. (I get into the Rangers when I watch them, but I find hockey just doesn't stick in my gut like the other sports.)
But the point here is, I'm starting to feel that way about the Mets and Jets. I'd like to think it's not so much the losing as it is the way the team is (teams are, really) losing. I'm not getting the feeling anyone cares.
Dropped pop-ups, baserunning errors...these are the types of basics that are supposed to be givens with Major League teams.
I still love baseball. I love watching a random game on a summer night. I still love football. I still want the Mets and Jets to do well. I'm just feeling a lot less angst when they don't.
I'm also feeling a lot less inspired to write about these teams. So I think I'm shutting down the blog. Something happened after I hit five years - maybe it was the way the 2009 season was heading, but I don't think so. It started even in the early part of this year. I guess there were just other things on my mind.
That said, those other things on my mind might become my new writing passion - and therefore I might spend my time writing about things like family life, sports in general...maybe just some kind of humor about day-to-day life. So stay tuned, if you don't mind, for information about a new blog that I'm thinking about starting up. And thank you for five years of reading what I have to say.
This is not a good-bye forever, just a see you later for now. Because, as Aunt JoJo might say, "Why do you care about how many doubles David Wright hits? Do you think he is writing about how many diapers you change?"
Or, to answer her question, "Why do you care so much?", I might now answer, "I don't think I do." And if that's the case, I can't justify having you come back to this space every day.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
I just don't have it in me right now. Maybe I'll get to Citi Field later this week.
If I still cared I think I'd cry right now.
I've talked many times about how I can't stand bases-loaded walks, and how it seems like it's just become more and more prevalent in the past decade or so (let's date it back to, say, the 1999 NLCS).
And then you have the Mets' big-money closer not able to throw 3 strikes past the other team's closer.
Nice job, Mets. Fantastic.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
A couple of items of good news as well:
1) The place can get loud when it wants to. When Francisco Rodriguez toed the rubber against Albert Pujols in the 9th inning it was better than anything I saw on Opening Night. I want to see what the playoff atmosphere would be like there.
2) Someone with the Mets must be reading my blog. Because in the middle of the 8th inning, the Mets no longer play 'Sweet Caroline'...they do a "Meet The Mets" sing-along. Awesome. Just what the new ballpark needs.
I'll have some new pics and other Citi Field updates next week.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I think I'll address that another day. For now, I'm going to build on some feel-good momentum from last night and touch on a few topics that have been on my mind:
Last night, thanks to a class gift, The Wife and I were able to go to the Red Sox-Marlins game at Fenway Park. Despite the fact that the Red Sox missed the boat on building a new facility, there's always something special about watching a game at Fenway, especially at night, with the light towers. (Maybe because of 'Field of Dreams', I don't know).
It also helped that we had good seats, which is always a better viewing experience at Fenway.
As a nice bonus, last night also happened to be the 500th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park, so we received a commemorative baseball (on the way out the door; the Red Sox are not stupid) and other little giveaways throughout the night - we ended up with a free burrito. Rare giveaways at a place that doesn't really need to draw crowds with free items, so that was nice.
It made me think, though, that the Red Sox, while definitely successful between 2003 and 2009, have a bit of an advantage in that a sellout only needs to be 40,000 tickets sold (or less - 38,000+, I think). While that's more than teams like the Marlins and Nationals could dream of, I wonder how many other teams have had 40,000 for six straight years without being sellouts. The Yankees come to mind - even with their well-known troubles selling tickets this year, they are still over 40,000 a game. Just throwing that out there.
Some other things that have been on my mind:
Last night we happened to catch Brad Penny pitching for the Red Sox. With John Smoltz coming back into the Red Sox' plans for their rotation, rumor has it that Penny is expendable. (There are other options, but the Penny ones have caught my interest the most.) One of the teams rumored to be a destination for Penny is the Mets. I can't tell you how angry it would make me if the Mets traded for Brad Penny. They could have had him, on the cheap no less (unlike Oliver Perez and his 9+ ERA, high salary, and overall ineffectiveness), as a free agent. If they trade someone to get Penny, it might be the final straw that breaks the back of my already high level of frustration with the team.
Finally, you may remember a few years ago when I critiqued all of the Major League Baseball broadcasts. I didn't comment much on the Marlins guys, but I did mention that I was not a fan. They have not climbed the ladder too much in my view, and as I watch their 'sideline' reporter on occasion - I believe it's Craig Minnervini - they've dropped further. He creeps me out. One time in Arizona stands out in particular for me, when he leered at all of the girls in their bathing suits in a poolside interview. Well, that stuck with me, and it didn't go unnoticed last night when he made sure to introduce himself to Red Sox sideline reporter/former model Heidi Watney. Something tells me he doesn't go out of his way to make sure he gets to know the other male sideline reporters (which, it occurs to me, is not an extensive list beyond him) in the league.
So hopefully I'm getting back into updating the site more often. For some reason I hit the 5-year anniversary and maybe even a wall at the same time.
Again, I'll get into this more in a future post, but I'm feeling pretty upset with the Mets lately, though my enjoyment of baseball is still at its peak. Part of my issue is that it still feels odd for me watching the Mets play home games - I feel like I don't recognize anything.
Next week brings another trip to Citi Field. We'll see how things go after that trip. I'll have pictures and a new update on the new ballpark for sure by the first of July...but I will be updating before then as well.
Monday, May 25, 2009
A full slate of games, both afternoon and evening, on Memorial Day.
I've been commenting on this for years (see bottom paragraph).
Thank you, baseball.
UPDATE: I'm kind of liking these red Memorial Day hats around baseball today, especially on teams for whom red is not a primary uniform color. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Mets' logo looks like on the red. If it looks good, I might buy it. (Thanks to Phil Hughes for modeling the look.)
Sunday, May 24, 2009
No less disappointing...but almost as though, in retrospect, you could see 'it' coming.
The 'it', though, would have been a loss to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, rather than an NLCS Game 7 loss to the Cardinals.
And the 'it' was the fact that the Mets were beatable...nowhere more on display than during their interleague series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
That was the last time the Mets were at Fenway, and of course, all things considered, the season was pretty successful after the Mets were swept in an ugly three-game series in Boston. (Relatively, successful, when compared with 2007 and 2008, I guess.)
The Mets' struggles were personified in that series by Lastings Milledge, who looked lost in left field, clueless as to how to play the Green Monster.
I was at the first of those three games, and looking back, I had forgotten that it was started by Alay Soler. So the Mets' starting pitching is somewhat comparable to those days...although, I guess Livan Hernandez is a better bet than Soler.
But the point is that the past two days have been encouraging. It shows that the Mets can hang with the big boys...and the fact that they're doing it undermanned is even more encouraging.
The Mets won with Johan Santana on the mound Friday night...you hope that happens each time he takes the mound. Mike Pelfrey was in his top form on Saturday, and you hope he looks like that if the Mets are fortunate to make it into October...I'll take 2 first inning runs if he settles down like he did on Saturday - that's how he was when he was at his best beginning last July and lasting for the rest of the season. But all of what has happened so far has been without Jose Reyes or Carlos Delgado in the lineup, without Carlos Beltran in center field (he's been DH), and with the likes of Omir Santos making huge contributions.
And today features Tim Redding against Tim Wakefield. Wakefield has been strong so far this season, but the knuckleball is always dicey, so he could be hittable, and anything positive the Mets get out of Redding is huge.
But even more huge would be a sweep in Boston. It'll wipe the struggles in Los Angeles right from the slate...and give these Mets something that the 2006 team didn't have - the confidence they can hang with the best.
RANDOM STAT: I've been holding onto this one, hoping it continues...but running my baseball pool allows me to keep track of random things - like the fact that until yesterday, Detroit hadn't lost on a Saturday or Sunday all season. I'm sad that ended yesterday....but they're still 12-1 on Saturdays and Sundays.
CHECKING IN WITH THE DUCKS
It's been a while since we checked in with Hall of Famer Gary Carter's Long Island Ducks:
The Ducks have lost 7 of their last 10, and stand at 14-13, 2-and-a-half games behind Southern Maryland, in third place in their division. Some guy named Ray Navarrette, who plays third base, leads the team with 6 homers and 19 RBI. He also leads the team with 7 errors, but I guess with how he's been hitting, you keep him in the lineup.
We'll keep you posted.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
This series: 0 saves
Season total: 11
Monday, May 18, 2009
May 15: Mets win 8-6
May 16: Mets win 9-6
May 17: Giants win 2-0
Mets record: 21-16
We're only as good as he is : David Wright got the series off to a great start with four stolen bases on Thursday, and didn't slow down for the weekend. He finishes the four game series 10-15 with 9 rbi. Its no coincidence that as Wright has gotten hot in May (.450 avg, 19rbi), so have the Mets (12-4).
He's human! : Johan Santana finally has a stinker - giving up six runs on Saturday - but the offense picks him up battering Randy Johnson.
Obvious "Cain is Able" joke : The Mets learned what not many people know on Sunday, and that's how Matt Cain may be the most underrated pitcher in baseball. His performance on Sunday kept the Mets from the sweep, but taking three of four is still a pretty good weekend of work.
K-Rod Kount-down : The season is only a month and a half old, and we've already got a new segment for the series recap. We're going to follow Francisco Rodriguez as he tries to break the Mets single season save record.
This series: two saves.
Season total: 11
Current pace: 47
Mets record: 43
Next Up : three games at LA Dodgers
Saturday, May 16, 2009
That's a lame excuse, I know. But it's really all about the time of year right now. Read: It's not September.
It's hard for me to get swept up in the Mets right now. They've won ten of their last twelve. They have the best record in the majors in May. But that's the problem. It's only May.
And if 2007 and 2008 have taught me anything, it's that it doesn't quite matter where the Mets end May. It matters where they end up in September.
It's the ol', fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me thing. I was fooled twice. If it happens a third time, I don't know that I can handle the shame.
So I'm not getting caught up in all of this. Which is a shame, really. Because the Mets have been playing some exciting ball. A couple of late-inning rallies on the west coast. David Wright has 9 doubles! They're doing it without Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes.
But I haven't been staying up for the west coast wins. On a Friday night I didn't make it past the game-tying double in the seventh. I went to bed thinking the Mets would probably still lose the game. That's just not something I would have done in the past.
Maybe something will change when summer vacation hits, and I have the time to relax and watch the games. Maybe someone will drop a ticket in my lap to next weekend's series at Fenway Park and I'll get caught up in the excitement again.
But maybe I won't believe these Mets when they cry wolf until I actually see the wolf...in October.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
May 12: Mets win 4-3
May 13: Braves win 8-7
Mets record: 18-15
Not again : For the second time this season, Johan Santana allowed no earned runs - and lost. Its games like this that they look back on at the end of the season when its tied on the last day.
You messed up : Derek Lowe is 5-1 with an ERA of 3.80. Oliver Perez is 1-2 with an ERA of 9.97. Omar, you messed up.
Not over 'til its over : Down by three in the eighth inning, the Mets come back and win Tuesday's game in extra innings. Carlos Beltran draws the game winning walk, and he's quickly becoming the star of this team. His numbers this year are amazing.
First one to 81 wins : The NL East was supposed to be one of the best divisions in baseball, but only one team (The Mets) is over 500. The parity has led to a close division though.
NY Mets -
If one team gets hot, they could run away with the NL East in a hurry.
Next Up : four games at San Francisco Giants
Monday, May 11, 2009
Thanks to Omar Manaya's decision to go with Oliver Perez over Derek Lowe - here we are. Wouldn't Lowe be a nice #2 pitcher on this Mets team? Eh...I guess that's the next post.
Off to an abbreviated version of what we missed...
May 4: Mets win 6-4
May 5: Mets win 4-3
Mets record: 12-13
MR. MAY : David Wright starts to wake up in this series going 4-9 with 3rbi including a home run. And - perhaps most importantly to Johnnymets - he doubles twice.
Del-don't-got-it : Wasn't that Chris Berman's HR call for Delgado? "Del-got-it". Maybe I'm making it up. Anyways - Delgado's error on Tuesday almost cost the Mets the game. A little suspect over there.
May 6: Mets win 1-0
May 7: Mets win 7-5
Mets record: 14-13
Save me! : Four straight wins, four straight saves for Francisco Rodriguez. The Mets single season save record is 43 by Armando Benitez in 2001. Rodriguez is on pace for 47 saves.
See ya : The Mets hadn't shown much life (before this week), but at least the manager still has the blood pumping. Jerry Manuel tossed from Thursday's game when he made contact with an umpire.
This is not news : Johan Santana was awesome. Yawn.
May 8: Mets win 7-3
May 9: Mets win 10-1
May 10: Mets win 8-4
Mets record: 17-13
Yeah that's great but... : A sweep is huge, but a sweep over the Pirates shouldn't be. Good teams shouldn't lose to bad teams. Maybe the Mets are starting to show signs of a good team.
Who needs Derek Lowe? : Not the Mets when they're playing the Pirates. Three games and they give up just eight runs. And none of the pitchers were Johan Santana!
Seven straight is great : The seven game winning streak gets the Mets back over 500 on the season and puts them right back in the thick of things. For a team that was fading quickly, it could not have come at a better time.
Next Up : three games vs Atlanta Braves. SPOILER ALERT: The Mets lose the first game.
Monday, May 04, 2009
May 2: Phillies win 6-5
May 3: rained out
Mets record: 10-13
Worth every penny : Hasn't always been pretty, but Francisco Rodriguez is a perfect five for five in save opportunities this season after Friday night's game ender.
At least one of them is good : Two games, two home runs for Daniel Murphy. He's now hitting .320 on the season with an on base percentage of .376. His play as of late has been one of the few bright spots for a team that has lost eight of eleven.
"I feel embarrassed." : Say what you want about Oliver Perez (and I have - many times) at least he knows he stinks. Saying he felt embarrassed after his Saturday outing is a start. Four runs, six walks in 2.1 innings and the question is - now what? Bullpen? Minors? DL? While that decision is still to be made, one thing is clear - he's out of the rotation.
Yeah, about that...never mind : The problem with the internet is, when you write a bold prediction, you'd better hope its right because it usually stays online forever and everyone knows what an epic failure you were. This guy know exactly what I'm talking about. Give him credit for going out on a limb though.
Next Up : two games at Atlanta Braves.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
It's not just Oliver Perez, though his performance to this point hasn't helped.
It's not the fact that they walked in the winning run in the tenth inning against the Phillies on Saturday, though that makes my blood boil.
It's not that they seem to lack fire...though that's taking away from my enthusiasm.
It's a combination of all of those things, certainly, but mostly it's the fact that the Mets just aren't good enough right now to do anything this year.
I said it on Opening Night at Citi Field, when the Mets were cheered by the crowd that night...I said, "If it wasn't for the new ballpark, I bet this same group would be getting booed right now." Because while optimism usually reins during the home opener celebration, I think the fans are starting at the setting "fed up", instead of working their way in that direction. I'm as optimistic as they come, and I feel like there's a dark cloud (baseball-related, that is - which I'm starting to learn to ignore...more on that another day) following me around.
Maybe the Mets will turn out to be the best of what has so far been an unimpressive National League East...but that's not saying much. If the Mets are going to do anything in October, they need to make a change...and it has to come before the trade deadline in July.
I think Omar Minaya did a great job with the bullpen this offseason. But I don't know anyone who cares about the Mets who wasn't thinking that the rotation needed work. I never wanted Derek Lowe, but he was available, and so was a player like Brad Penny who was worth a flyer, among others. I wanted to believe that Oliver Perez would show up come the big games...but it doesn't get any bigger than a Saturday in early May when the manager says you have to prove yourself. And he flopped in that game. So Minaya failed the team there...and perhaps his hands were tied financially - but the money that went to Perez could have gone elsewhere.
And now the good work that went into building up the bullpen might have to be turned around to deal for the types of starting pitchers that could have been had in free agency. So a strength could be turned into a weakness in order to turn a weakness into a strength.
And it didn't have to be that way.
But if it doesn't happen....2009 is looking like a disappointment.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
April 28: Marlins win 7-4
April 29: Marlins win 4-3
Sunday, April 26, 2009
April 24: Mets win 4-3
April 25: Mets win 8-2
April 26: Nationals win 8-1
Mets record: 8-10
Waiting To Exhale : Francisco Rodriguez was brought in to make those 9th inning leads safe. Mets fans probably had trouble breathing when he coughed up the two-run homer Friday night to make it a one-run game. He managed to close the door after that.
What Else Is New? : Johan Santana was awesome Friday. 6ip, 10k, 1er. Here's how good he is - that one earned run allowed actually raised his ERA.
Pelfrey Steps Up : A day after Santana's gem, Mike Pelfrey pitches a gem (by Pelfrey standards) going 5.2ip, 2er, 1k. Its not great, but with Green, Parnell, and Stokes shutting the door after that - its just what the Mets needed.
Wait a second...WHO, WHO and WHO??? : Green, Parnell, and Stokes?!?!? Who the heck are these guys??? Apparently they're Sean Green, Bobby Parnell, and Brian Stokes. I guess the Mets media guide hasn't quite made it down to the Southern Bureau yet.
He's Not Good : Four starts this season for Oliver Perez and in three of them he can't get out of the fifth inning - including Sunday. If you're too sick to click on that game story here's the highlights from the AP writer:
-the erratic lefty has a 9.31 ERA.
-Perez could be in jeopardy of losing his spot in the rotation.
-“I’m really concerned about him at this point.” manager Jerry Manuel said.
-Perez has allowed 15 walks and 23 hits in 19 1-3 innings.
-He was booed off the field by a frustrated crowd of 40,023
BOOOO!!!! Yeah...you too!! : Perez wasn't the only guy getting an earful. From the same AP story: "even David Wright heard catcalls during an 0-for-4 day that included a run-scoring throwing error from third base. The All-Star slugger has fanned 23 times in 70 at-bats this season."
Next Up : three games vs the suddenly slumping Florida Marlins
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I'll be excited again in September, but I didn't really follow closely what had been going on this off-season.
But today's draft might change that a bit.
I didn't really think the Jets would go into the season with Kellen Clemens as their most likely option at quarterback. But it was looking more and more desperate if they didn't do anything at the draft.
I'm happy to report they did.
The Jets gave up a lot - but it should be worth it, drafting Mark Sanchez out of USC.
They traded their first and second round picks in this draft along with Kenyon Coleman, Abram Elam, and Brett Ratliff to Eric Mangini and the Cleveland Browns for the fifth pick, which they used to land Sanchez.
Here's why I'm confident:
1) If at no other position, USC quarterbacks have found success in the NFL....no matter how much playing time they got in college.
2) Sanchez seems to have a good head on his shoulders. The Jets, under Rex Ryan, will just be looking for him to make smart plays and not screw things up. Just manage the offense. Sanchez, probably the highest-profile draft pick in an otherwise drab personality year, handled himself very, very well throughout the process the past few weeks, and didn't screw it up for himself. I think that's pretty microcosmic of the job he'll have to do with the Jets.
3) It's not Kellen Clemens.
Listen, I'm sure Kellen Clemens is a decent guy. But I'll always hold it against him that he was the one pitted against Chad Pennington when Pennington should have been given a better deal than he was given with the Jets. And he didn't do well during that time, so I was not looking forward to that day when he eventually took over. Now we won't have to worry about that.
One final note - another reason I'm excited about this season is the coach, and the fact that it's not a Bill Belichik disciple taking over the team. Rex Ryan has not been afraid to speak his mind in the few months since he took over, and I like that. That was part of what made Herman Edwards fun as the coach of the Jets (when he wasn't telling bold-face lies).
Ryan has yet to steer the team wrong with any personnel moves, and I like what he's had to say.
I won't be saying much about the NFL between now and...I don't know...August? But I'll be thinking happy thoughts about the Jets and their new franchise quarterback between now and then.
Friday, April 24, 2009
I think anytime he steps on the rubber at that field, he's capable of throwing a no-hitter.
I especially thought that tonight, going against the Nationals, but he's already given up two hits as I write this.
Instead of a no-hitter, though, he's struck out 8 batters through 4 innings.
I'm telling you, something special every time he steps on that Citi Field mound. (Not that he's been too shabby on the road, either.)
It's one constant in this year that might be inconsistent with the Mets - at least we know what we're getting once every five days.
So if I'm in New York, and Johan Santana is scheduled to throw, I'm going. And if I can only watch on TV, I'll be watching.
It's going to be that kind of year for Santana.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
April 22: Cardinals win 5-2
April 23: Cardinals win 12-8
Mets record: 6-9
That was...uh...something : As Johnnymets put it in his previous post, a pretty uninspired performance by the Mets. A sweep against any team - even against a pretty good Cardinals team - is never good. Perhaps a trip home against an awful Nationals team can turn things around.
No Johan = No chance : Johan Santana didn't pitch in this series, and without him the Mets looked pretty awful. We wondered if starting pitching would be a problem on this club, and its pretty obvious now that it is. Check out the ERA's of the starting rotation...
Johan Santana - 0.46
Livan Hernandez - 7.31
John Maine - 7.47
Oliver Perez - 7.80
Mike Pelfrey - 8.10
Four of the five starters have ERA's over SEVEN. Omar Manaya's decision not to address the starting pitching this offseason is looking more and more questionable.
Batting Third... : Carlos Beltran moved up to third in the lineup, and responds with a three run home run. The 6-9 start isn't Beltran's fault - that's for sure. He's now hitting .404 on the season.
Batting First... : Is not the stolen base threat we remember. Jose Reyes has just three SBs this season, putting him on pace for 32 for the year. That's well below the 65 he's averaged in the last four seasons. Does he not have the green light?
Next Up : three games vs Washington Nationals
The Long Island Ducks open their season today.
And when they take the field, there might be some names and faces that look familiar to you.
Joining Gary Carter on the Ducks are former major leaguers the likes of pitchers Brad Halsey and Dan Miceli (not pictured), and outfielders Raul Gonzalez (Mets, 2002-2003) and Preston Wilson (I couldn't believe it either).
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
There's not as much as there was last year, when teams like the Giants and Dodgers were celebrating 50 years out west, and the Diamondbacks their 10-year anniversary. But a couple of teams have occasions to recognize.
Other than the two stadiums opening in New York, the biggest deal going on in baseball might be in Kansas City, where they are celebrating their 40th year as a franchise as well as the renovation of Kaufman Stadium. I'll have more on the renovation in a minute. But I also wanted to note that the Astros are wearing a patch celebrating 10 seasons at Minute Maid Park (nee Enron). I absolutely can not believe that park has been around ten years. I feel like all of these new ones were just built. Safeco Field is also celebrating 10 years this year, though it opened after the All Star break. And Pac Bell (now AT&T Park) also opened around the same time....I just feel like there's no way these parks can be 10+ years old. Time flies.
Anway, back to Kaufman Stadium. This park might just be the reason I want to visit all of these out-of-town ballparks. Growing up, I used to think there was nothing cooler than the fountains in Kansas City. (Still haven't been, incidentally.) The park got even more beautiful a few years back when they did away with the turf and put in natural grass. And now they've done a full renovation where the park looks very different - more like the new throwback parks, but it still kept a lot of its own charm.
(That's the way it looked the past few years on the left, renovated on the right. I couldn't find any really good pictures of the newer park...click to enlarge.)
Finally, there is one other significant difference that I have seen these past couple of weeks around the Majors - The Ballpark in Arlington (another new ballpark that is over a decade old) has its own new wrinkle: Its high wall in left field is now fronted by a "collapsable" scoreboard.
(Again, this was the best I could do for pictures.) It's a chain-link type fence, with the scoreboard images projected on there, and it absorbs impact. I think that's different from the one they have at the Rogers Centre in Toronto - I think this one wobbles more - I think the one in Toronto is sturdier.
Anyway, check it out if you get the chance - I love all of these little changes from year to year across the majors.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I understand that it's only two weeks in, but I don't feel like we know very much after seeing two weeks of ballgames played.
The Mets are an example...two full weeks into the season, and they're .500. Perhaps it's indicative of how they'll be all season, and in 23 weeks they'll be sitting at 81-81 (though I doubt it). I wish they had jumped out of the gate, a la the Marlins, and set a tone. But that just doesn't seem to be the way this year is going to go. And not just with the Mets.
Some pitchers' performances this year have been out-of-character. For every Johan Santana or Zack Greinke, there is a Cole Hamels or Tim Lincecum. I don't mind hitters being slow the first couple of weeks, but pitchers are supposed to be ahead of the batters at this point, and I feel like we're not seeing that much.
Perhaps it's too much of a 'fantasy baseball' view on the sport, because with many of these players I focus on their stats for fantasy reasons, and what I thought would be a good fantasy team is having a terrible start...but I feel like it's an overall trend to start 2009.
Speaking of trends...I think now's a good time to stop and look at the starts of 2009 and figure out what's legit and who will fade:
-You read it here first, the Florida Marlins will be a threat all year long. This 11-2 start is no fluke - they have the pitching to hang in the East and in the National League Wild Card races all season.
-Speaking of pitching, the Kansas City Royals have it too. Gil Meche and Zack Greinke shut down the high-powered Texas Rangers offense last weekend. Their 7-5 start is pretty legit - I stand by my pre-season prediction of a better-than-.500 record for K.C. this year. Greinke, by the way, hasn't given up a run in 20+ innings so far this year (he has a 34-inning scoreless streak dating back to last season).
NOT FOR REAL:
-The San Diego Padres will fade. It may be sooner, it may be much later in the season (my prediction is early July), but they are not as good as their 9-4 start might lead you to believe. I do love that they got off to such a good start after everyone predicted them to be the worst team in baseball (a bold prediction in a league in which the Nationals exist), but I think they'll sink towards the bottom of the National League fairly soon. (I'm not even going to waste a paragraph going into how "For Real" Washington's 2-10 start is...the Mets have no excuse losing to them at all this year.)
-Baltimore has already begun their fade from the top of the AL East, and Toronto will follow soon after. They're 10-4, and good for them...but too many injuries to an already-thin pitching staff has them playing with smoke and mirrors (and Roy Halladay) right now. Likewise, the Rays' basement-dwelling days, with their 5-8 start, are bound to end soon.
And I just hope everything normalizes pretty soon...because I'm feeling right now like this is shaping up to be a very abnormal baseball season.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Todd Coffey of the Brewers (I had the Brewers' feed of the game on Sunday) says that from the visitors' bullpen at Citi Field it's a terrible view - you can barely see second base. He says he has no idea what's going on in the game. There's a monitor, he says, but it's on a time delay. Coffey called the bullpen "poorly designed".
And upon further review, he's probably right.
All in all, it doesn't bother me. The visitor's bullpens always get the short shrift in new places - call it part of the home field advantage.
It's a unique design, the bullpens at Citi Field. The benches are right next to one another. The other day the SNY cameras showed Pedro Feliciano just hanging out and talking to one of the Padres' relievers.
What I wonder is when things turn sour out there. The image of bench-clearing brawls is always of the bullpens emptying and relievers trickling in from the outfield to join in the fray on the field.
Citi Field may become the first park in baseball history where the players leave the bench...and head for the bullpen for the brawl that starts out there.
MORE APPRECIATION: Just publicly showing appreciation for what you already know - the Southern Bureau rocks. I love the series-ending recaps. It's also comforting to know that when I'm sick, like I was this weekend, the blog won't go for days without an update. Also, good nuggets of information - no sooner did the Southern Bureau suggest that Luis Castillo would be back to batting second than he was...for a day.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
April 17: Mets win 5-4
April 18: Mets win 1-0
April 19: Brewers win 4-2
Mets record: 6-6
Oh yeah...he's on the team : Its only been two weeks, but here's hoping Gary Sheffield's 500th HR isn't the highlight of the season. Half the fans probably didn't even know who he was.
Simply the best : But everyone knows who Johan Santana is. He once again shows why he's the best in the game with his dominant performance on Saturday. Citi isn't "The House That Johan Built", but its going to be a place he's going to win a lot of games.
1 HR, 4 rbi : That's not David Wright's line for this series. That's his line for the ENTIRE SEASON. Is Citi Field the wrong stuff for Mr. Wright? (ugh...that pun was awful. I'm so sorry).
I'm going to check out the '86 trophy while getting a burrito : Johnnymets wasn't the only one not happy with the exclusion of the Mets Hall of Fame at Citi. Thanks to all the complaints, the Mets will be adding it soon. And where is the only logical place to put it?? The food court, of course.
Next Up : three games at St. Louis Cardinals
Friday, April 17, 2009
Thanks to Southern Bureau Grandpa Edition for the heads up about the Styles article. Must admit - the WSJ isn't part of my daily reading.
April 13: Padres win 6-5
April 15: Mets win 7-2
April 16: Padres win 6-5
Mets record: 4-5
Shea it ain't so : Not exactly the best of starts at the new Citi Field. Losing two of three to the Padres? At least the opener was close - unlike the OTHER New York team.
Citi...um...Shea...um...what do I call this place? : Not everyone is on the "Citi Field" bandwagon. And you can buy a shirt if you're one of those people.
He's no Johnnymets but... : Obviously Johnnymets summed up Citi Field better than most, but Padres starter Jake Peavy seemed to like it too. He said, “The ballpark is beautiful. They did it right." The only complaint - no hot water in the vistors clubhouse.
Trade you? NEVER! : Luis Castillo has bounced back nicely from the constant off season trade rumors and "dump this bum" talk. He's hitting 385 to start the season. If he keeps it up, you'd have to think he'll be hitting second again soon.
Next up : three games vs Milwaukee Brewers - and their bench coach Willie Randolph.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I wanted to give you some visuals to illustrate what I was talking about yesterday. Here's the gate comparison I was talking about comparing San Francisco to Citi Field (maybe it's not entirely accurate, now that I see the pictures...incidentally, it was SBC Park when we were there. I kept calling it AT&T Park...I don't even know what it is now. And I've given you the side view of Citi - that's where these high gates are):
And then here's the field comparison I was talking about with PETCO ("Where The Mets Go") versus Citi Field, particularly with the outfield walls:
A couple of more comments about the experience:
-We parked in the lot, and were lucky enough to choose a spot near an exit (we got to the park around 3:30 for the 7:10 start, so we had our choice of spots), which turned out to be a direct shot right out the door. That was lucky.
-But it was great that we had the car there. Since we were there so early, we were waiting for the gates to open, and that's when one of the vendors right inside the gate decided to start selling the 'collector's edition' programs for the first game at Citi Field. (He kept looking over his shoulder like he was doing something wrong, selling them through the gate.) So after I bought the program, rather than carry it around all night, I was able to put it in the car and keep it in nice condition. I was excited about that.
-Interestingly, there was texting interference all night. Clearly I didn't have much trouble sending out texts, since I was able to update Twitter all night, but when I tried to send a picture of the big flag to the Southern Bureau to post on the blog, it wouldn't go through. Then, when I walked through the concourse later in the night, a bunch of texts started to pour into my phone that had been sent hours before. So if you texted me Monday night, that's why I didn't reply.
Finally, Justin in NYC sent this e-mail, which I'm not sure he meant for publication, but I will anyway. Not only is it a good point, but it illustrates how he keeps an ear to the ground for me from the NYC radio stations, which I appreciate:
Lots of people were calling up and complaining to Francesa today about how they thought Citi Field tried so hard to embrace New York's national league history, that it was ignoring Met-specific history.
They were saying it looks like Ebbets Field and has the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, but none of that has any direct link to the Mets except that Wilpon grew up in Brooklyn. Your thoughts?"
I think this is an interesting point, because it's sort of what I'm getting at when I talk about the Mets Hall of Fame. At Shea Stadium, it was hidden outside the Diamond Club, which I didn't actually go into until last year, the final year of its existence. In other words, the casual fan never saw it. And I don't know where that is at Citi Field - but obviously it's not prominently displayed, because I didn't see it. I would love if it was in the Rotunda, but I don't think it is. (This is what the Arizona Diamondbacks did so well - they have their 2001 trophy front and center as you walk in - and they have zero history. It spices up an otherwise boring ballpark. In Pittsburgh, where there's a ton of history, there's not much visual evidence of it. One of the flaws of a beautiful ballpark.)
But we need to remember, when thinking about this, that the Mets represent National League baseball in New York City. The whole reason they are blue and orange is because of the Dodger blue and the Giants orange. So there is sort of a connection to those teams, and I think it's an appropriate connection to Ebbets Field.
Yes, I would have liked for there to have been a mention of the 40th anniversary of the 1969 champions (which I'm sure will be celebrated this year, but has been overshadowed by Citi Field), and I would love for the Mets to trot out the 1986 Mets every game. I also think the orange stripe around the outfield walls would look cooler on a blue wall, showing the Mets colors. But the championship banners are flying in the new park, and the exterior of Citi Field (you can see it a little bit in the picture at the top) has pictures of Mets from every era.
What history the Mets have is displayed. You just have to look for it. And there's nothing wrong with the Mets carrying the New York National League baseball torch. So long as, now that they've introduced the world to their throwback ballpark, they start putting more of an emphasis on their own history.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
It's just that this ballpark visit was different. It wasn't a visit at all for me...it was a test run. I could make snap judgments on Nationals Park and PETCO Park ("Where The Mets Go") because they were visits. One-time deals (though some of them I liked so much that I may go back in the future).
With Citi Field, I will be going back. Often. And I had to see how it fit, so to speak. Use whatever analogy you like - I was trying it on for size; I dated those other ballparks, this one I am going to marry (that's kind of a weird one). I didn't expect to feel that way - I was over-the-top excited about going. But once I was in the park I knew it was going to be a different kind of visit.
Don't know where else to put this, so I'll do it here, I guess. If you were following me on Twitter last night (which turned into a pretty neat summary of events in the end), you read that I walked past Fred Wilpon outside the park. I am terrible when it comes to recognizing famous people. But I notice when there's an important-looking older person...and we walked past an important-looking older person that looked a lot like Fred Wilpon. So I said to my dad, "Was that Wilpon?" We walked back in the direction we came from, since the other way was a dead end, and passed him again, talking to Mike Lupica. Hence, the picture. I would like to say I barged in there and shook his hand and said, "Congratulations on this fine-looking ballpark" (or maybe I should have asked his permission to take Citi Field's hand in marriage [if it's such a weird analogy, why am I continuing with it?!]), but I did no such thing. I did snap the picture, though, which is kind of an intrusion of privacy that I usually wouldn't do. So I'm getting there.
OK. Now to the park. First of all, there's no denying the park is beautiful. When you think about Shea Stadium versus Citi Field, it's obviously no comparison. Just look at it up at the top of this post. The exterior, modeled after Ebbets Field, reminds me of AT&T Park, as I wrote the other day, with its high iron gates and the curved-window look. I've never been to Coors Field, but the light towers at Citi Field remind me of its light towers. And it's funny the Padres were in town last night, because the outfield walls/dimensions/layout remind me of PETCO ("Where The Mets Go").
What I'm not buying, and I hinted at this on Twitter last night, are some of the biggest deals people have been talking about this whole time. All I've heard about is the overhang in right field, reminiscent of Tiger Stadium. Well, it's not that much of an overhang. Yes, it juts out to the field eight feet, but only where the wall suddenly goes back in right. So it's not the entire right field overhang. No one had made that clear before. And there's been all this talk of how fans can get right up to the visitors bullpen and harrass the opposing relievers. From what I saw, that's not true - there are a lot of barriers...or else you need a ticket for that kind of access that I didn't have.
The bullpen area (that's it above, through the gate), seems to need some work. From what I could tell, it had one of the nicer-looking entry points into the park, but it was really empty. I got the impression from a couple of places that the Mets didn't quite know what to do with them yet. This was one - there are picnic tables set up, as well as the old apple from Shea (new apple also shown at right), where people can take pictures. But it was kind of empty. No concession stands...so I guess you have to carry your food to these tables.
Speaking of concessions, all anyone had been writing about was the centerfield food area, so that was mobbed (I like how they kept the skyline there above the restaurant...not sure if that's the actual skyline from atop the Shea scoreboard). Luckily, quick thinker that my dad and I are, we figured everyone and their brother was in center field...other concessions were probably empty. They were. I had a chicken sandwich, which was good...but everything was very expensive.
The opening ceremonies were nice, but I would have liked some more history. I heard there were old-timers in the building - they should have been introduced and trotted out. Seaver to Piazza was good, and I liked the continuance from the end of Shea...but there could have been more.
(Incidentally, just to throw out a prediction, I bet the Yankees do something involving the old Yankee Stadium when they open the new one Thursday. Like walking across from one to the other. It's still standing...and that has to be by design - they can't possibly be that behind schedule. I'll have some (not-so-great) pictures of those two parks later in the week. )
I feel like I'm throwing out way too much information here, but I have a lot on my mind about this park. So here it continues:
My biggest flaws with the park are:
Someday the Mets will buy out the surrounding area and put in some restaurants and make the area surrounding the ballpark an enticing place. Like Pittsburgh/Baltimore, with their fan walks. They can't exactly duplicate San Francisco's exterior because San Francisco has the water right there, but anything other than junkyards and scrap heaps would be a better backdrop.
Another problem, though I didn't look much for it, was I don't know if the Mets Hall of Fame is displayed any more prominently at Citi Field than it was at Shea. I'll look into that more over the summer.
I already mentioned that there were a couple of places in the park that seemed not-thought-all-the-way-through - the bullpen area was one, and the area above the Rotunda is another. It seems like a usable space, but not a lot is there right now. Maybe that's a good thing...it's not too crowded.
The exits were terrible. Perhaps that's because no one really knew where they were going and it was the first time 40,000+ were trying to leave at the same time - but I didn't see anything other than some crowded stairwells trying to leave the upper sections of the park.
One last complaint (for now, I guess), is that when you come out of the rotunda in the front, you don't walk right out and see the field. There are walls there (some sort of restaurant or the press boxes or luxury boxes are in the way, I think). One of the best things about the park in Houston, and Fenway Park first and foremost, is when you walk out of the tunnel and see the field. I was hoping the field would be right beyond the Rotunda, but it wasn't. You have to walk a bit to get that view at the right - and then the overhang is so low it made me a bit claustrophobic. I didn't love that.
I did love the Jackie Robinson Rotunda - very unique, very appropriate, it's something that sets Citi Field apart.
I loved that there was organ music all night long. My dad made the excellent point that at no point was there blaring music - and the organ played "Meet The Mets" before the game - nothing beats that.
I loved that the first hit at the park for the Mets was a David Wright double. I love that the Mets have a home park that people won't be making fun of. I didn't mind the billboards - people are saying it's too corporate - I think it adds a minor-league-type feel to the park. It feels more throwback that way.
I love that I'll be able to keep going back to this place and find out new things and get more comfortable there as the years go on. I love that this is the place my children will go when they go to Mets games, and I'll be able to compare it to Shea Stadium the way my dad was comparing it to the Polo Grounds for me last night.
Despite the fact that I left the park last night thinking it wasn't perfect (and therefore had no shot of living up to my expectations), I love Citi Field. Like Shea Stadium was for the first 30 years of my life, Citi Field is going to be a sort of home away from home for me. I had 30 years to get acclimated to Shea. I've only had one day at Citi Field.
I can't wait to go back.