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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Omar Minaya: Chance For Redemption



One thing has been apparent to me as a Mets fan for 47 years. The most important thing on my mind and my most important priority is for the team to win. I challenge every Met fan on site to disagree that although we care about everything that is "Mets", winning takes the prize.

For better or worse for the past couple of years we have discussed both the good and bad moves that Omar Minaya, the Mets General Manager, has made. Personally I have flipped flopped so many times I feel like a spinning dreydel not knowing which side I'm going to land on.

I loved the moves that got Pedro, both Carlos, Johan and K-Rod to the Mets. I cringed with Castillo signing and the bringing to the team to 40+ geriatrics to this club. I felt there were deals that could have happened and questioned many those that did.

Along with everyone else including Vegas Sportsbook Directors, we all thought the Mets with their improved bullpen would certainly be able to make up the ground in order to catch the Phillies, even though they improved themselves this winter as well.

We all know what happened and although there is still a glimmer of hope because Jerry has finally learned, and admitted as such, that a set lineup is the way to go, the climb back to playoff contention does not rest on a 4 game winning streak.

Omar certainly reached a low point in his tenure this week and all the damage control that the Wilpon's are trying to do, still leaves Omar in an unenviable position of having to speak to the media on a regular basis and try to convince them that he is sincere and righteous with them.

Author Poll:
Would You Make This Deal?

* Yes
* No


This is not a position any General Manager wants to find himself in especially in New York where the scrutiny is 1000 times more than any other city in the world.

OK, so is there anything that Omar can do in order to redeem himself with the Mets faithful and at the same time put his team in a better position, not only to get back into the race with 60 games to go, but to once again be considered one of the favorites for 2010?

The answer is Roy Halladay. He is available for the right price and don't kid your self, the Mets have the goods to get him, but it's not going to come cheap.

First, it's a well known fact what the Blue Jays want in return in order to get this deal done. They want a major league pitcher who is with the big club. They want another pitcher or two, one with the big club and one who is a very good prospect that will reach the major leagues within 2-3 years would easily fit into the rotation and one regular high level prospect who will be a quality major league hitter.

The Phillies have not made that offer, neither have the Angels. It was once reported the Mets did so. That wasn't true because if that original offer was made by the Blue Jays even Omar would have jumped all over it.

I like Mike Pelfrey a lot. He has shown tremendous improvement over the last three years and who really knows what his ceiling is. Could it be as high as Roy Halladay? I believe not. Here's the package that the Blue Jays would not turn down.

Why?

Simply put, it's infinitely better than what any team has offered them so far.

Along with Mike Peffrey, the Mets would send Bobby Parnell, Brad Holt and Ike Davies to the Jays. Maybe they will throw a minor prospect back at us in return. Frankly, I don't care if they do or they don't.

Ray Halladay, as we speak is the best pitcher in baseball. A combination of Halladay and Santana would make CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett look pale in comparison. I would make this offer right now before some other team like the Phillies up their offer and give them both Happ and Drabeck plus two of their top hitting prospects.

Omar, this is you chance for redemption. Make this deal and 95% of the negativity you are now receiving will do an about face. If you want to have a job next year despite your "vote of confidence", I would suggest you get on this immediately and while you're at it, I'd give your buddy Adam Rubin a call and give him this exclusive. You owe him that much.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Make You Bets Today



A little change of pace here. There are some of us out there that take shots about our teams, our opponents, ownership, managers and players. How many comments have I seen where people say I could do better than these guys.

So now living in Vegas, and being right there for the action and the money that changes hands every second, 24 hours 7 days a week. I stopped at a sports book this morning and grabbed a couple of betting prop sheets. Here are some of the latest odds for baseball for the remainder of the season.

Now if you want you can put your money where your mouth is and send Vegas Rich all your money so I could place your bets. Of course I can also wind up disappearing for a while after I get the dough.

I hear Cabo is very nice this time of year.

Odds to Win 2009 National League Pennant

TEAM OPENING LINE CURRENT LINE

Dodgers 7/1 7/5

Phillies 4/1 3/1

Cubs 2/1 9/2

Cardinals 9/1 6/1

Giants 15/1 9/1

Brewers 15/1 12/1

Astros 15/1 12/1

Rockies 20/1 12/1

Marlins 15/1 16/1

Mets 3/1 18/1

Braves 12/1 22/1

Reds 17/1 29/1

Diamondbacks 8/1 90/1

Pirates 40/1 90/1

Padres 40/1 110/1

Nationals 40/1 500/1

The biggest disappointment by far for those who made their bets in April are the New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks. Both teams were solid picks in their division to go on to the playoffs and advance to the series. Neither one right now apparently to the Las Vegas odds-makers have a chance. The Dodgers due to their excellent play all season long have made the biggest jump to become the overall favorite right now but in talking to a number of bettors this morning, the sexy pick is now the St. Louis Cardinals after their recent pick ups.

I see the Phillies heading back to the series with about 60 games to go. They are pitching well enough but when a team steps on the field each day and expects to score 8 runs or more each game they know they are in pretty good shape. Vegas thinks so too.

My Longshot of longshots - The Atlanta Braves.

Odds to win 2009 American League Pennant

TEAM OPENING LINE CURRENT LINE

Yankees Even 2/1

Red Sox 5/2 2/1

Tigers 10/1 9/2

Angels 3/1 5/1

Rays 3/1 10/1

Rangers 21/1 11/1

White Sox 10/1 14/1

Twins 7/1 15/1

Mariners 35/1 25/1

Blue Jays 15/1 35/1

A's 20/1 90/1

Orioles 40/1 90/1

Royals 30/1 95/1

Indians 8/1 115/1

The biggest disappointment to date in the AL would be the Rays and the Twins. People who bet on the Tigers and the Rangers are feeling pretty good about their chances for once in the playoffs anything can and surely will happen.

I still like my April pick of the Red Sox but I'm not ruling out the Rays. New York is known for September collapses and this year will be no different. This time I see the Yankees folding like a bad hand at the World Series of poker. Sorry HBOB.

My Longshot of longshots: The Texas Rangers.

I take all types of cards except Christmas Cards.LOL.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Help From Below: Why Not Now?





That certainly is not the Omar Minaya who is seen as a "Dead Man Walking" if Tony B. remains in the Mets front office, but this is not necessarily about either of them yet it's about both of them. Makes sense yet? I didn't think so.

We need to set the ground rules for this discussion if you want to take blasts at me in the comment section. First off if you believe for one second that the Mets have a chance to go about 48 wins over the next 65 games or so please move onto the next Mets article.

If you believe like I do, and was one of the first people to tell you to pack it up and "Wait Til Next Year" at my midseason report, then I would be extremely interested in your comments both pro and con.

Forget the trade deadline, the other teams don't see the Mets being able to help them get better and we don't plan to give up whatever good prospects we hope we have and totally kill a barren farm system that we have.

OK, with that said it is customary for teams, usually the ones out of the race, to start to make call ups from their farm systems when the roster is expanded to 40 players on September 1st. Then the team gets a chance to evaluate those players and see how they fare against far superior pitching and hitters if they are pitchers.

When contenders call up these guys most of them languish on the bench and by osmosis they are expected to "feel" like they are in the major leagues. Once in awhile a team strikes lightening in a bottle and someone makes a splash in September and ultimately goes on to great things.


Who would be the first player non pitcher you would bring up?

Feliciano

Thole

Tejada

Peterson

Garcia

Other

None


Those guys are sure fire prospects that are supposed to succeed.

The Mets are far from loaded down on the farm considering that both their AAA and AA teams are at the bottom of their divisions, but there are some interesting players in there that I personally would like to see take a swat or a pitch at today's big leagues.

My point is, can it really hurt? Can they do any worse than those players we have out there now? Plus if the answer is yes it would be worse, I ask you so what? The worst thing that could happen is we move up a couple of spots in the amateur draft.

So I ask you to look at these guys. I know you could make a case for each of them not to come up. I can too, but again so what? Some might say if they come up and are over matched it will hurt their confidence for the future. NONSENSE. These guys are spending their entire life's existence to play this game on the highest level. I'm not worried about their confidence and I'm sure they're not as well.

From Buffalo. That's an easy one.

Nelson Figueroa: 6-4 2.32 ERA 80/23 strike out to walk ratio.

Jon Niese: 5-6 3.82 ERA 2 complete games, 2 shutouts, won five of his last six starts, and has an 86/26 SO to BB ratio. I guess he's worked on his fastball because his curve was already ML ready.

From Binghamton. Now this is where I say "what the heck, go for it"

Josh Thole: .341 BA .409 OBP and 858 OPS. NOOOOOOO let's just keep Brian Schneider in there.

Ruben Tejada: .278, .350, .714. NOOOOO let's bring back A. Reyes and Angel Berora and Ramon Martinez, yeahhhhhhhh

Josh Peterson: .326, .409, .851 NOOOO let's keep having Tatis lead the world in double plays. Come on.

Emmanuel Garcia: .263, .315, .668. He only has 17 stolen bases. When David Wright leads the team in SB's you know you're in trouble and when was last time he stole a base? Thanks Jerry, you moron. Sorry, I get carried away. Old guy that I am.

Tobi Stoner: 2-2, 2.68 ERA 28/13 SO/BB ratio and how about a 0.87 WHIP.

Believe me, these guys may just be a spark to those guys who we don't send down in their place just to let them know we mean business and if you don't produce while 10 games behind we have taken the first steps in re-making this team which is not such a bad idea.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Anatomy of a Franchise" New York Mets: Part V - "Grant's Tomb"




1974 was a big transition year for me. For the first time in my 29 years I was venturing out of the safety net of the New York City, Connecticut, and New York State area and venturing into new uncharted Philadelphia Phillies territory down the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 4 better known to most as Cherry Hill.

We actually didn’t live there but close enough so that when people asked me where I lived that was the most recognizable. Later, after just a few months there, it became simply known as South Jersey which in reality is a state all of its own.

Unlike North Jersey that has a healthy selection of New York Mets fans, in 1974 there was only one New York Met fan in South Jersey. Me, and here I was starting a new job, in a new area still only 90 miles away that seemed like another continent.

South Jersey starts just below Trenton, goes east to the Jersey Shore to Seaside Heights, and south to Cape May. It is completely 100% Philadelphia fans in every sport out there and maybe some time somewhere in the future during football season I will tell a similar story about the Eagles, but for this series the Phillies ultimately play a pivotal role in my life.

The Mets were coming off a pretty surprising season ending to 1973. The won the National league Pennant beating the Big Red Machine and went to game seven of the World Series before losing out to the Oakland Athletics.

Hopes and aspirations were high for the Mets and I was as excited as the rest. In those days being a fan was just that. I believed everything I read and I saw nothing but positives in the world around me. Are you listening both Nick’s and Mike Kent? The Mets were good the year before so why think they would be anything less.

Here’s their 1974 opening day line up.

1. Wayne Garrett 3B
2. Felix Millan 2B
3. Rusty Staub RF
4. Cleon Jones LF
5. John Milner 1B
6. Jerry Grote C
7. Don Hahn CF
8 Bud Harrelson SS
9. Tom Seaver P

Not a bad lineup. Nothing scary like a Big Red Machine but pretty solid offensively and a sound defense and the pitching staff of Seaver, Koosman and Matlock that wasn’t too shabby. Should have made a pretty decent year, yes? NO! The Mets finished with a 71-91 record and a 5th place finish.

The “Big Three” were terrible. Seaver went 11-11. Koosman went 15-11 and Matlack was 13-15. Tug McGraw went 6-11 in relief with 3 saves. Cleon Jones had the highest batting average for the starters at .282 and John Milner lead the team with 20 home runs and 70 runs scored. Rusty led the team with 78 RBI’s. The team just plain stunk.

I had the mis-fortune not to travel back to the NYC and see Met home games at Shea and that begin a twenty year period where I only made 5 trips to see the Mets at Shea Stadium but had the opportunity to go to over 100 games against the Phillies and others at Veterans Stadium which I’ll say at this point in time was one of, if not, the worst baseball park to watch a game in that I have ever attended.

As bad as it was, it was still a chance to watch my team for better and mostly worse at this time as a visitor in a foreign land.

The Mets got off to a terrible start that year and never recovered. By June 1st they were 8 games below .500 and by the All Star Break they were 13 games below and done for the year. I went to 2 games that year with Ellen and I wondered if her streak would now continue on the road as well.

The first game was on June 22nd and even then some faithful Met fans would travel down from the city but nothing like it would be in the mid 80’s when the Mets got back on top. The Phillies took a 5-0 lead into the fifth inning and the game was over. Mike Schmidt had a hit, Larry Bowa had 3 and Dave Cash had 2. I could tell then that they had the makings of a special team but that would come really into play during the next 5 years. The final Score was 5-2. We didn’t talk on the way home.

The second game we went to that year was in September, the first of a three game series. There was virtually no one there since the Phillies would end the season going 80-82 and when the Phillies didn’t win they hardly drew big crowds. So we sat right over the Mets dugout about 4 rows up and the Phillie Phanatic, who was just getting hit feet wet then, was the most entertaining part of the festivities.

Once again this time by the 4th inning the Mets were down 4-0 but they scored two runs in the fourth. It wasn’t enough as Steve Carlton won his then 16th game of the year and once again Larry Bowa had three more hits and I was beginning to wish that my team could have the likes of a Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski.

Little did I know or recognize at the time that the Phillies were coming into their own and I was intrigued by their play and the personalities on their team.

So now Ellen’s losing streak had increased to 11 straight Mets losses and I was having more misgivings about having such a bad luck charm waking up with me everyday. So, was the die cast? Not quite, that wouldn’t happen until we hit 20 but that’s just getting a little ahead of myself.

The Mets made some changes in 1975. Joan Payson the Principal owner passed away and since no one in the family had any interest in the team or baseball itself, they gave control of the franchise to one M. Donald.Grant. Grant had actually been with the Mets since its second year in existence until 1978.

Grant was far from a baseball man. Whitey Herzog who actually was the Director of Player Development when the Mets won the World Series in 1969 told Grant to his face that he didn’t know “beans about baseball”. In later years, like when I first thought of writing this article and I stumbled on this fact, I often wonder what could have happened back when Gil Hodges died if Whitey Herzog could have stepped in and managed this team. But Grant and the whole Mets organization were still so enthralled with the Dodgers, Giants and Yankee connections, (sound familiar today?) that Yogi Berra, Roy McMillan, Joe Frazier, and Joe Torre were the next Met Managers that followed Gil, while Whitey was leading the St. Louis Cardinals to championships in the 80’s.

Grant’s most famous move was the ultimate Met blunder trading “The Franchise” Tom Seaver along with slugger Dave Kingman on the now famous “The Midnight Massacre” on June 15th 1977. Met fans will never forgive Grant and this move set the franchise back many years. Shea Stadium attendance was so drastically reduced that it was common for the beat writers to refer to Shea Stadium as “Grant’s Tomb.”

The trading of Tom Seaver was like a dagger in my heart. The Phillies had already reached the playoffs in 76 and would do it again in 77. I rooted for the Mets but it was no secret that I also liked the Phillies and knowing the Mets were going in the wrong direction, once I felt they were eliminated, I openly rooted for the Phil’s.

I took my son to his first Phillies game that year. It wasn’t against the Mets. That was my first and very costly mistake. All I remember is that the Phillies won and this team in red had new young fan. What a blunder on my part that I regret to this day, but you’ll see in part VI just how much worse that situation became when I lost my son’s fan hood forever and ever.

In 1975 the Mets finished 3rd with an 82-80 record and in 1976 they improved to 86-76. Ellen and I went to 3 games in 75 against the Phil’s. They lost all three. I went to 2 other Phillies Mets games with my son who was 5 and my daughter who was three. We went 2-0. Her streak now stood at 14 and she decided that maybe she was bad luck. DUH. 0-14 and she just started to put the pieces together? OYE.

In 1976, the Phillies won the National League East and with Dick Allen, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, Dave Cash, and Garry Maddox. They were a fun team to watch and heck during the season and the off season as well a week wouldn’t go by and you would run into one of them at the store, in a restaurant or in a movie. They all lived in South Jersey and this was the local team.

Ellen lost a pair of games that year moving her stellar record to 0- 16.

By 1978 Grant was gone, but he left with 2 more miserable seasons where the Mets went 64-98 in 1977 and 66-96 in 1978. I continued to go to most Phillies Mets games each year at the Vet but now mixed with Phillies - Dodger games and Phillies - Reds games.

1979 and 1980 produced two more 90+ loss seasons for the Mets and with the Phillies winning the World Series in 1980 it was no longer a secret that the Phillies were a more enjoyable team to watch and although I started each new season with high hopes and expectations for my Mets I had no trouble at all rooting for the Phillies.

I hate to say this but if this is a life story then things that happen need to be reported. By 1979 Ellen and I had gone to 23 Mets games and they lost all 23. Now this may sound silly to 99.9% of those people reading this but after 12 years of this streak plus other non-mentionables we split up. That’s life, it happens and although I have joked about the streak, any marriage breakup where there are small children involved can never have a happy ending.

I had soured on life. My marriage had failed my team stunk up the joint because there was no leadership or identity with the city I loved. By 1980 I knew that the only way the Mets were going to be a successful franchise was to totally move in a different direction and turn its back on its Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants past. They needed to establish their own identity like the New York Jets.

So what did they do? The Payson family sold the Mets to Nelson Doubleday for 21.1 million dollars. Doubleday became the Chairman of the Board and turned the team over to Brooklyn born and bred and lifetime Brooklyn Dodger fan, Fred Wilpon and named him the club President.

Now 28 years later we still have the New York (Brooklyn Dodger) Mets, and you wonder why I almost left the fold to what has now become our most feared rival since the Braves.

Stay tuned for Part VI, “The Re-Birth Theirs and Mine”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Anatomy of a Franchise"; New York Mets - Part 1 - The Inception



This is the first part of series which will tell the Mets story for the past 47 years as well as events in my life which correspond to those times. Hope you'll enjoy it as much as I will writing it.

Before I get started, for those who do not care for long articles you may want to skip this one. As I write it, I'm not sure just how long it will be, but it will focus on many things that have bothered me throughout the 48 seasons I've have watched, grown up, and loved, the New York Mets.

It was April 10th 1962. The very next day I would celebrate my 17th birthday. I was a Senior at Midwood High School in Brooklyn New York and my life was well again because baseball, real National League baseball, was back in New York City where it truly belonged.

My boyhood team, the Brooklyn Dodgers abandoned me at the end of the 1957 season seeking out greener pastures in Los Angeles California which for me at the tender age of 12 was as devastating a heartbreak that I could recall in my life.

My Dad, a lifelong Giants fan got the tickets for opening day at the Polo Grounds where he, as a kid himself, watched some of the all time greats play there in the '30s through the '50s.

He was my hero and at 17 I was not ashamed to tell anyone that I got my love of baseball and life through him. Little did I know that in a little more than two years later he would be gone from me forever.

I was so excited because the weather forecast for the Mets opener said mild and sunny with high's in the upper 50s with zero possibility of rain. I awoke early knowing that I would be at the game in a few hours and I was happy to miss a day at school.

Hell I was a senior, I had been accepted at Northeastern University in Boston as well Albany State College and Long Island University in Brooklyn. I was holding out for my first choice, Syracuse University but I knew I had to make a decision soon.

Back to the weather. When I awoke around eight it was raining like cats and dogs and the revised forecast was forgetaboutit, the game was postponed by 11:00AM. Now what?

Game two, scheduled for my birthday, was not a sellout so that hero of mine made a couple of calls and told me all was well and we would still be able to catch an opening game-day to remember.



WRITER'S UPDATE

I now see where this is going so I have decided this will be way too long for one single article, so I know pronounce this a "series" with I'm not sure how many parts, so please if you love baseball and the Mets in particular, bare with me.

So on April 11 1962, my Dad and I got on the D train and headed into "the city" to Meet the Mets. The 1962 team came about as each National League team left a few unprotected players which the Mets and the Houston Colt.45s would chose from.

These were not front line players by any stretch of the imagination and the two clubs differed on how they would stock their team.

The Houston club would stock their team with young, unproven and not well known players. Given this was Houston's first time in the majors it made perfect sense. The Mets were owned by Joan Payson and George Weiss, the man who built the Bronx Bombers of the '50s and '60s was the Mets first general Manager.

Weiss knew that by bringing in former Dodgers and Giants despite the fact that they were well past their prime would draw fans to Coogans Bluff.

Little did I know at the time that this first stroke of lousy ownership and General Manager ineptitude would be the stamp placed on this franchise that still permeates today 48 years later and the reason behind the motive to chronicle this series.

Former Brooklyn Dodgers on that 1962 Mets team. Don Zimmer, Roger Craig, Charlie Neal,and Clem Labine. Former New York Giants included, Hobie Landrith, Ray Daviault, Johnny Antonelli, and Joe Pignatano.

The starting lineup for the 1962 New York Mets.

Richie Ashburn CF

Felix Mantilla SS

Charlie Neal 2B

Frank Thomas LF

Gus Bell RF

Gil Hodges 1B

Don Zimmer 3B

Hobie Landrith C

Roger Craig P

Now if this were the lineup say five to seven years earlier they had some fine all stars in this group loaded with speed and power and decent defense. I think the average age was around 48 or so, at least it seemed to me that day. Did I care? no. With a hot dog in one hand and a Needix Orange Drink in the other I felt as alive as I have ever been.

The game itself was over before I knew what I had to eat. The Mets lost and another eight straight after that. As so many fans know, they went on to lose 120 games that year and I was 1-8 but couldn't care less.

If I remember correctly that year, I saw Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Eddie Matthews, Ernie Banks, and Hank Aaron. Not too shabby at all.

I was turned down at Syracuse and decided to go to Northeastern University in Boston. Early that fall of 1962 I got to go to Fenway Park for the first time and was completely blown away. Love at first sight.

Coming soon...Anatomy of a Franchise: The New York Mets, Pt. 2—Lost in Space.

"Anatomy of a Franchise: New York Mets - Part IV- Was 1969 a Fluke?



Bob Scheffing was promoted to Mets General Manager after the untimely death of Johnny Murphy in January 1970. The Mets had just come off of their “Miracle” season of 1969 with their first Playoff, World Series, and Championship in its brief seven year history.

The two sided answer to the question, was 1969 a fluke? would be answered in the next coming months as the Mets prepared for yet another Spring Training in St. Petersburg Florida, where they shared the training facilities with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Bob Scheffing came to the Mets organization after a career as a player with a little over 500 games with the Cubs, Reds, and Cardinals. A rather pedestrian .263 career lifetime average set no fires blazing in that realm.

He managed both the Cubs and the Tigers, did a little broadcasting, and some scouting before becoming the Mets GM.

I have nothing against the man personally, and his only point of note in Mets' history is that it was under his tenure that Nolan Ryan was traded to the Angels for Jim Fregosi in what has been called the most lopsided trade in Mets' history.

Scheffing was put in a corner by Ryan. Nolan, clearly not a big city boy, absolutely hated New York and wanted out of this city in the worst way.

So what did Scheffing do?

He sent him to LA.

Now that was a real small town in 1971.

Right.

Here was a great opportunity for the Mets' ownership to build this franchise and make it a force to be reckoned with for the next decade. They went with a relatively inexperienced person in a front office position where they needed a power guy.

This, now looking back, begins the pattern of poor moves that we still see almost 40 years later.

Here is the starting lineup for the 1970 Mets.

1. Tommy Agee CF

2. Bud Harrelson SS

3. Joey Foy 3B

4. Cleon Jones LF

5. Art Shamsky 1B

6. Ron Swoboda RF

7. Wayne Garrett 2B

8. Jerry Grote C

9. Tom Seaver P

This was a pretty good team, and it was expected to be near or at the top of the National League Eastern Division.

The Mets finished the 1970 season with an 83-79 record. They had the same record in 1971 and 1972, and, although the pitchers did well, the lack of hitting and run production resulted in three straight third place finishes.

I moved to Vernon, Connecticut in August of 1970 because a good teaching job became available at a small private school specializing in Special Education. My wife, when the Mets' record was now a glimmering 0-8, was pregnant with out first child.

The house we rented had one of those huge roof top antennas, which rotated 360 degrees. So I was now able to get both New York as well as Boston TV channels as clear as day.

Life couldn’t get better than this.

Prior to the 1972 season, one of my boyhood heroes that I got to know personally, who carried himself with dignity and pride, passed away. Gil Hodges was dead at 48 years old from a massive coronary heart attack, just like my Dad.

My memories of the years (following the '69 Mets until the “Ya Gotta Believe” Tug McGraw’s rallying cry in the summer of 1973) were that of a fan who now expected his team should and could win all the games they played.

Neither the team nor I, I’m sorry to say, had a whole lot of enthusiasm.

I had an excuse. They didn’t.

When they started their great comeback in the summer of ‘73, the Mets sat in the cellar in the east with a 61-71 record. Yogi Berra, who was as much fun as Casey Stengel in the sixties, made one outrageous statement after another that kept the media close and put the spotlight on a team that seemed to cherish the limelight they were in.

Every baseball fan knows his best quote of that year, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” That was Yogi’s answer when asked about the Mets' chances that summer.

On Sept. 3, 1970, Ellen and I drove to the city in my 1967 Dodge Charger with more horsepower beneath the hood than in all of General George Custer’s Seventh Cavalry.

I was so positive that “Her Streak” was going to end that day, I promised her dinner at Mama Leones in the city the next day.

The Mets had beaten the Phillies 5-0 the previous day and had won three of their last four, so the NL Eastern Division had five teams within six games of first place, all of them with a losing record.

Oh the mediocrity, or oh the parity, depending on your perspective.

The Mets led 3-2 going into the fifth inning, and I was feeling good.

Craig Swan was pitching well. He had given up a run in each of the first two innings, but we had scored three. I figured if we win the game and end the streak, I might even consider the request to have a third child, which was very much on Ellen’s mind at the time.

Barbara Lynn Marsh came to us on Jun. 25 that year, and I had her in Mets pink from day one, while my now almost 3-year-old son, Russell Michael, was sporting his first Gil Hodges first baseman’s glove.

My dream, however, was short lived as Greg (The Bull) Luzinski blasted a two run home run off Swan as the Phil’s went on to defeat the Mets 6-3.

Guess who never got to Mama Leones that next day.

She was lucky I took her to Nathans for dogs and fries.

Over 30,000 of us went home thinking that no way were the Mets going to make it to the postseason, and her streak stood now at nine.

Of course, wouldn’t you know it, after my trip to Shea, the Mets went on to win 18 of their next 25 and win the pennant with an 82-79 record.

Now this was a miracle.

Every lifelong Mets fan alive knows that these underdogs of underdogs went on to beat up the Big Red Machine in the playoffs, and Bud Harrelson kicked Pete Rose’s ass.

They also just missed winning their second World Series in five years as they led the powerful Oakland A’s three games to two, with Seaver and Koosman to pitch Game Six and Seven.

But that victory was not meant to be.

That year ended another streak in Mets' history. They finished over .500 for five consecutive years. They had the opportunity to become a dynasty with this team. The ownership made poor decisions from the GM down.

Mrs. Payson might have been a wonderful little old lady, but she knew squat about baseball and turned the operation over to people who knew little more than she did. The fact that they did as well as they did, during these five years, was because they had kept some of the talented pitching core together with the exception of Nolan Ryan.

Plus, frankly, during this time the rest of the National League wasn’t having any breakout teams as of yet.

This trend will only get worse during the next 10 years, which I call “The Lost Years” coming to you in part five of the Anatomy of a Franchise.

Thanks for listening.

"Anatomy of a Franchise" New York Mets: Part III - 1969 AMAZIN



What the New York Mets achieved in 1969 was truly amazing and the world witnessed not only mans first steps on the moon but equally remarkable, the first World Championship by a National League team in New York in 14 years.

I had just turned 24 that April and I was unable to attend opening day on April 8th where the Mets lost to the newly created Montreal Expos expansion team 11-10 in front of 44,541 fans.

What had become a tradition of sorts was to try to go to the game on April 11th, my birthday, where the St. Louis Cardinals were coming to town and the proposed match-up was going to be Steve Carlton vs. Jerry Koosman. I was stoked, only in those days no one ever said the word stoked.

Jerry Koosman was a left handed pitcher who complimented Tom Seaver at the top of the Mets staff. In 1968 he went 19-12 and actually had one more victory than Tom Terrific. With 7 shutouts, I was there for one of them, and a .208 ERA I couldn’t wait to see him against Carlton.

Steve was the sharper pitcher that day and Joe Torre hit a monster homer off Koosman as my wife Ellen and I moved from the upper reaches of Shea Stadium down to the box seats right over the 3rd base dugout. You see it was pretty easy to do that since only 12,591 showed up for that classic pitching match-up.

Since my wedding on August 25th 1968 my wife and I attended five Met games. We went 0-5. Hmmm. The stirring of rumbling deep within my mind was staring to take shape. Wait until you hear my final scorecard with Ellen and me at Met games. You will not believe it. But you’ll have to wait a segment or two for those results.

By the way, a step backwards a couple of days, here is the starting lineup for the 1969 opening day New York Mets.



1. Tommie Agee CF
2. Rod Gaspar RF
3. Ken Boswell 2B
4. Cleon Jones LF
5. Ed Charles 3B
6. Ed Kranepool 1B
7. Jerry Grote C
8. Bud Harrelson SS
9. Tom Seaver P

Most sportswriters and other so-called prognosticators picked the Mets to finish near the bottom of the newly created divisions. I thought they had a chance to do better than expected. Maybe an 81-81 record, but I could never foresee this team winning 100 games, sweep the powerful Atlanta Braves team led by Hank Aaron, and then go on to beat the “unbeatable” Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

Bing Divine who succeeded George Weiss as General Manager left after one year to go back to his beloved Cardinals. He was succeeded by Johnny Murphy. Murphy had a decent career as an American League relief pitcher. He played for the Yankees and some of his teammates included Babe Ruth, Joe D, Lou Gehrig and Bill Dickey. He pitched along side of Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. That’s some pretty good company.

Murphy’s promotion to the top GM position came at the same time the Mets were developing some of the best young pitchers in baseball. Unfortunately Murph never had the chance to become a long standing GM as he died suddenly from a massive coronary in January 1970.

In my opinion, this was the turning point in the Mets history that has haunted them for the next 40 years.

This team’s future which looked so bright as the new decade launched would soon be in disarray for years to come.

Getting back to the 1969 season, there were so many different accounts of what happened that I’ll only point out a few that I personally witnessed.

By May 27th, after suffering from a five game losing streak the Mets stood at 19-23 in 4th place and nine games behind the Chicago Cubs who by their own accounts were already planning on what look the playoff tickets would have. Black (cat) and blue would have been my choice.

On May 28th I was back at Shea to see the San Diego Padres. All Jerry Koosman did that night was pitch 10 innings of four hit ball with 15 K's. Tug McGraw pitched a scoreless 11th as I hoped my bud (Ted Blecher) and I wouldn’t have to sit through a 20+ inning game.

Cleon Jones reached first base on an error by Roberto Pena who was playing third. Billy McCool (one of the great sports names of all time) then struck out Ed Kranepool. Frank Reberger then gave up a single to center to Ron Swoboda. Cleon moved to third. Jerry Grote was then intentionally passed to load the bases.

Believe it or not, and I swear on all that's holy, that what happened next would change not only the Mets season but bring me immense pain and pleasure within 20 seconds of each other.

With the bases stacked, Bud Harrelson smacked the first pitch, a screaming line drive right at us. I dove, (I could do that then) for the ball, missed it and broke two fingers on the railing as my friend Teddy snagged it like he was Brooks Robinson.

I was screaming so loud (what a wimp!) that I missed Buddy’s single up the middle to win the game.

The Mets went on to have an 11 game winning streak and by the All Star Break they were 53-39, in second place and just five games behind the Cubs. They went 34-16 during that stretch. I went to one more game with my wife during June. Grant Jackson shut us out and beat Don Cardwell 2-0 Hmmm.

On August 13th the Mets came staggering home from a miserable road trip ending in Houston where the Mets were swept and fell into 3rd place 10 games behind the Cubs. This called for drastic measures.

August 16th is my brothers’ birthday and he had no love lost for the Mets but never in his life had he ever turned down free tickets to a game, especially since I was taking him to Shea as a birthday present. I’m sure he would have rather had the cash but he agreed to go. My wife stayed home. I wonder why.

The Mets went on to win that game 2-1 and by the way my brother catches a foul ball off the bat of Bud Harrelson as I was hiding under my seat.

The rest is history.

The team went on to win 38 of their next 49 games and miracles were alive and well in Flushing Meadows.

My wife and I went to one more game that season and given the play of the team down the stretch I knew my curse with her was over. If not maybe well maybe, nah we didn’t think those things. Besides, my mother would kill me dead if I came over to her place some night and I told her I was leaving my wife because she’s bad luck for the Mets.

Anyway, the game, an 8-2 loss to Bob Veale on September 19th.

I’d love to tell you that I attended playoff and World Series games that year but I promised to keep this truthful with only a touch of literary license. So, no, the best I could do was watch the games on the tube like millions of fans across the country.

You know the story for sure. The Mets went on to glory and I think it was in the second or third week in November that a couple of my childhood buddies suggested we drop in and talk to Gil. So off we went to Gil who still lived on Bedford Avenue about three blocks from our apartment on Kings Highway and East 23rd Street.

Sure enough, as he often did when we were kids, Gil and Joan were home and we sat and talked baseball with him. His house hadn’t changes a lick in almost 20 years. As we walked out the door Gil said, “Hey guys want to see something cool?”

Like we would say no.

He then opened a desk draw and flipped a ball to me. I didn’t drop this or break anything. It was just a ball signed by a player whose signature I could not read. The ball had a black smear on it. I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me?” He just smiled as I tossed it back to him.

Simply “Amazin."

"Anatomy of a Franchise" : New York Mets - Part II - Lost in Space




The 1960s, among many other things, were known for the next level of television programming. If the '50s were the “Golden Age of TV”, then the 1960s were “The Teenage Years.” Oh my God!

I was a big Star Trek fan. I wanted to be Lincoln Hayes from the Mod Squad and Colonel Gallagher from 12 O’clock High. I didn’t watch the show that lent this article it’s name, however.

I was told it was about a family that was lost in space. It had an old guy (no interest there), a whiny kid (oh yeah, just wonderful), and a talking robot that Spock would have said was interesting but totally illogical.

Not for me by a long shot.

My high school years over, I spent most of that summer watching the inaugural New York Mets team lose game after game after game. Seriously, the best part of really the first seven seasons was watching some of the greatest players to have ever played the game showcase their skills at the Polo Grounds.

Case in point, I’m really not sure if it was 1962 or 1963 and the St. Louis Cardinals were in town to play the Mets. It was about a zillion feet to dead center field and Willie's catch off Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series was still being talked about in the stands eight or nine years later.

Lou Brock was a dead red fastball hitter. His strike zone was from his ankles to his eyeballs and nobody I had ever seen or even have seen to this day could actually “tomahawk” a ball 550 feet with a swing from his eyes.

That is exactly what Brock did that day and the ball landed about 15 rows up just to the right of dead center field. To this day it was the hardest hit ball I have ever seen. Awesome doesn’t describe it appropriately.

1963 to 1968 were the years that the Mets were literally "Lost in Space." The team totaled 51 wins in 1963, In their first year (1964) at the new home of the Mets and New York Jets they won 53. 1965 produced 50 wins, actually three less wins than the previous year. 1966 was the first year that the Mets didn’t lose more than 100 games.

Wes Westrum replaced Casey Stengel in 1965, and Bing Devine of St. Louis Cardinals fame became the General Manger in 1967. So, now was the time to move ahead right? Wrong. In 1967 the Mets took another step backwards and lost 101 games again.

There were some good moments during those years but mostly more of the same from Year One. There was a game in Chicago that they won, 19-1, setting up the events that eventually led to the "Black Cat" in 1969. But more on that in part three. . .

The shiny red apple was unveiled at Shea Stadium in 1964, and every time a Met would hit the ball out of the park, the apple would rise from ground and the fans would go wild. It got stuck no fewer than five times that summer, continuing the futility of this team.

My boyhood hero Duke Snider signed with the Mets in 1963. Believe me, his better days were behind him, but oh, that swing!

I could imitate it perfectly, and in my own mind, that was the reason I made the Freshman Baseball Team at Northeastern University in the Spring of 1963. I played second base, had deceptive speed for a chubby guy, and could turn a mean double play.

In a game that spring against Boston University, in front of a rowdy crowd of about, oh, 59 fans, a guy about a foot taller and 30 pounds heavier than me tried to break up a double play and ploughed right into my rather ample gut.

He knocked himself out cold.

I turned the double play, we won the only game of that rain shortened season, and it took seven teammates to carry me off the field.

This was definitely the highlight of my college career.

That spring the Mets signed Jimmy Piersall, a true nut case whose life and antics reached the big screen in a fine baseball movie called “Fear Strikes Out,” starring our even more famous nut case Anthony Perkins; Psycho anyone?

These lost years also brought to the team the makings of, unbeknown to all of us, the Miracle Mets. Bud Harrelson and Ron Swoboda came in ‘63. In '64, it was Tug McGraw, Jerry Koosman.

In 1965, Nolan Ryan signed, and the Mets traded Houston for Jerry Grote. Duffy Dyer and Jim McAndrew came in 1965, along with Ken Boswell, too.

For the 1966 season, Danny Frisella, Amos Otis, Ron Hunt, Jim Hickman, and Don Cardwell came to town.

However, the best acquisition in New York Mets history happened when The Mets' team name was picked out of a hat, giving the Amazins the first pick in the Amateur Draft. That pick turned into a strapping pitcher named George Thomas Seaver.

For me to think that Tom Seaver could have just as easily become a Brave or a Philly makes me shudder; it would have changed the course of the Mets history, as well as mine.

In 1967, pitchers Gary Gentry, Cal Koonce, Jon Matlock arrived, and perhaps the key to the championship season to come came with the arrival of Tommy Agee along with Art Shamsky.

The lovable losers finally seemed to be going in the right direction.

My life was like a roller coaster, going ahead and seemingly backwards at the same time. In June of 1964, I lost my Dad. We had talked that spring about going to some games that summer at the new Shea Stadium, which had just opened a few months prior.

I had to leave Northeastern that year because my responsibilities and priorities were forced to change.

An interesting sidelight to those events that spring: about two weeks before my Dad succumbed to a massive heart attack on his 50th birthday, I had talked to him about changing my major to Journalism and pursuing as career as a sports journalist.

It never happened.

My baseball career ended as I broke an ankle in 1964 and my world class speed evaporated in the lobby of the Brooklyn Paramount Theater which was the gymnasium for Long Island University, which became my home for the next three years.

At least I was home to see many games at Shea and a couple of road games in Philly at Connie Mack Stadium.

Vietnam and “The Draft”, and I don’t mean the baseball draft, were on the horizon. Hippies had arrived, protests raged at college campuses, and my heroes of the '60s were gone.

The day after June 5, 1968, my best friend Teddy Blecher and I camped out all night in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the city and waited for the casket of Bobby Kennedy to arrive.

I had walked the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant with Bobby in 1966 when he ran for Governor of New York. For me, it was a loss of the greatest magnitude.

On Aug. 25, 1968, at the ripe old age of 23, I got married to a beautiful blue-eyed blonde from the city. She was not a Mets fan. She liked the Yankees.

I should have known it wouldn’t last.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mets Memories: Doug Flynn




Looking back into the Mets past is fun these days especially since the 2009 New York Mets are seemingly going in a different direction. Plus here is not the place to discuss the present and future it’s a place that myself and and hopefully a long list of viewers who are over 40 years old can look back and remember a different era in baseball where the news of the day was the game and not who was taking this or who was using that.

Doug Flynn’s most notoriety was the fact that he was a part of the June 15th 1977“The Midnight Massacre” which sent “The Franchise” Tom Seaver packing his bags and sending him off to Cincinatti for Doug, Pat Zachry, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman.

Dave Kingman, for all you nostalgic Met fans, was also traded the same day to the San Diego Padres ( I almost said Chargers) for Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert.

Flynn did not receive the wrath of the Mets fans and neither did Henderson. I feel sorry for Pat Zachry who was booed mercilously as one might think he caused the trade. Pat’s nostalgic piece will be next in this series.

Doug Flynn was born on May 25th 1951 in Albany new York. He came up with the Reds in 1975 and was part, albeit a small part, of the “Big Red Machine” from 1975-1977. In his 2 1/2 seasons in Cincinnati he played in 218 games. He was never a serious threat to unseat perennial all star Joe Morgan but he was productive in his time there.

In 379 at bats he collected 104 hits for a .274 BA along with 13 doubles, 3 triples and 2 home runs. He drove in 45 runs. When he was traded to the Mets he immediately became the Mets starting shortstop but was quickly moved to second base.

He played with the Metrolpolitans for five years and became a fan favorite. He batted 8th in the order for more than 95% of the time and played 469 games at second, 165 games at short at 2 at third during his career as a Met. His overall numbers were far less than spectacular.

In five years he played in 636 games. His BA for the period was .234. He had 58 doubles, 26 triples and 5 home runs. He drove in 155 runs but he was best known for his outstanding defense and his overall hustle on the field.

After leaving the Mets in 1981 he bounced around the majors for another 5 non noteworthy seasons and retired in 1985. In 1980 he won his only Gold Glove of his career beating out Davey Lopes, Joe Morgan and Manny Trujillo.

Flynn managed the Gulf Coast Mets in 1997. He has now returned to his home in Louisville KY where he is currently a banker.

Doug Flynn played with the Mets in some of their darkest moments in their existence. He was part of “Grants Tomb” which will be thoroughly discussed in my next segment of my self acclaimed series “Anatomy of a Franchise” due out next week.

You will find it here as well as on www.rsmclosersblog.blogstop.com.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Six Degrees in it's Entirety

Earlier today, I posted my part in the article called Six degrees of Separation From Charlie Manuel. I had a great time trying to follow the instructions of the originator. (Cindy Poe) here is the total article with contributions from other members of the Bleacher Report where about 10,000 of us think we're Mike Lupika or Jimmy Breslin.

Six Degrees of Charlie Manuel

By now you know a bunch of stuff about the All-Star game. You know the winner, what league has home field advantage for the World Series, and the MVP.

But in this article we’re hoping to present you with the stuff you didn’t know about the All-Stars that made the game possible.

After reading for months about draft picks, prospects, trades, players, and the life of Charlie Manuel, it occurred to me that Charlie’s been everywhere. He was even a star in Japan and that’s a feat – Barbie couldn’t even make it there.

You’ve all probably heard of the oracle of “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Supposedly any actor in the world can be connected to Kevin in six steps or less.

Well, this is the “Six Degrees of Charlie Manuel.” And although Kevin Bacon was one of the top picks for actors who now look like lesbians, I guarantee you Charlie is nowhere close to holding that honor.

This project is the cumulative effort of Bleacher Report contributors Christian Karole, Bob Warja, Richard Marsh, and me. The idea is my brain-child, but I can take just a slight bit of credit for it because I have only one child and a very small brain. Most of the information I credit to the guys listed above.

You might think it’s a wussy year to do an All-Star game association between the NL manager, Charlie Manuel, and the players because the lineup is laden with Phillies, but I guarantee you, Charlie is closer to his players than you think – not quite as close as I’d like to be – but in any case, let’s get started.

The information on this first bunch of All-Star’s was compiled by Christian Karole. He’s the B/R co-community leader for the Phillies, B/R columnist, and you may not know – high school student. My hat’s off to him. After finishing up a year of school, he sat down to do incredible research for this project and I just can’t thank him enough. I think you’ll see why.

Christian Karole’s Roll Call

Chase Utley
Second Baseman, Philadelphia Phillies

In 1969, a young Charlie Manuel made his major league debut. His father had committed suicide in 1963 before his signing with the Minnesota Twins, so Manuel was determined to get somewhere in life. Although his career never panned out much, Charlie was able to stay in the majors for six seasons before leaving for Japan.

Chase Cameron Utley was born in 1978 in Pasadena, California. In April of 2003, Utley made his major league debut. Since then, Utley has played in five full major league seasons, this current one being the sixth. Charlie Manuel also played six seasons in the majors. While Utley will be playing for many more years to come, at this moment, they've both played six.

When Charlie Manuel got to Japan, he became an instant star. Utley also played in Japan as a star, just under a little different circumstance. In 2006, Utley was selected among baseball's best and traveled to Japan with a team of All-Stars to compete against Japanese players.

In 1975, Manuel played on the Los Angeles Dodgers with a man by the name of Ron Cey. Cey went on to play for the Chicago Cubs, and in 1986, was a teammate of current Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer. Of course, Moyer and Utley are now teammates, and Manuel is managing them both.

Here's another tid-bit: Utley bats left and throws right, and Manuel does the same.

Hanley Ramirez
Shortstop, Florida Marlins

Hanley Ramirez's former teammate, Arthur Rhodes, is the engine that gets this one going. Although Rhodes has not played for a single team for more than one season since 2003, he was a mainstay in the Baltimore Orioles' rotation and bullpen for quite a few years. During those years, a catcher by the name of Rick Dempsey played alongside him. An amazing 23 years before, Dempsey had made his major league debut. The year I'm alluding to is 1969, which was Charlie Manuel's first year in the bigs. Coincidentally, both played for the Minnesota Twins that season.

After their playing days ended, both Dempsey and Manuel became coaches. In 2005, Dempsey was the third base coach for the Baltimore Orioles, a former team of his. The man he was replacing was Sam Perlozzo, who had been promoted to interim manager. In this past offseason, that same Sam Perlozzo was selected by Manuel to be his third base coach.

Going back to Perlozzo's playing days, you'll find that he was a member of the 1977 Minnesota Twins, Manuel's former ball club. Even more odd is the fact that Manuel played with a pitcher by the name of Geoff Zahn in his final season, 1975, and Zahn went on to play for the Twins in 1977 with Perlozzo.

You think that's all? Sam Perlozzo wasn't a major league hit, just as Manuel wasn't, so what did he do? He followed Manuel's example and left for Japan. For his lone season in Japan, Perlozzo played for the Yakult Swallows in 1981. In 1980, Charlie Manuel's last year of any type of professional baseball, he was a member of the Yakult Swallows.

Now that's interesting.

Josh Johnson
Pitcher, Florida Marlins

Arthur Rhodes shows up again here, and for obvious reasons. Josh Johnson was on the 2008 Florida Marlins, which means that he was also teammates with Rhodes, just as Hanley Ramirez was. What does this mean? It means that the connection between Johnson and Charlie Manuel is the same as it was for Ramirez.

Yet, looking past that, there are a few more ways to connect Manuel and Johnson.

First of all, Johnson broke into the majors against the Phillies in 2005, Manuel's first year as the Phillies' skipper. Also, Johnson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Manuel's first team, as I've stated, was the Twins, who call Minnesota their home. Finally, we are left with one last bond between the two: they both bat left-handed and throw right-handed.

It's not much, but it's something.

Dan Haren
Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks

Dan Haren is arguably the best pitcher in baseball right now. In 2008, Haren played with Randy Johnson, who has made his case as one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball over the course of his career.

The Big Unit, Johnson, was born in 1963, the year Charlie Manuel's father committed suicide as well as the year of Manuel's first major league contract. Johnson was teammates with a third baseman named Graig Nettles in 1988 with the Montreal Expos. Nettles began his playing career in 1967 with the Minnesota Twins. His last year with the Twins was in 1969, which of course was the year Charlie Manuel began his major league career, and for the same team, the Twins. I'm sure you're sick of the Twins and the year 1969 by now.

Nettles was born in 1944, batted left-handed and threw right-handed, and played for the Cleveland Indians. Manuel was born in 1944, batted left and threw right, and managed the Cleveland Indians. Both also battled and have survived cancer.

Nettles also pitched for the San Diego Padres in 1986. One of his teammates was the memorable John Kruk, who of course went on to play for the Phillies from 1989-1994. During those years, Kruk was a teammate of Mike Leiberthal, who also went on to play for the Phillies. Cole Hamels, the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008 for Manuel's World Champion Phillies, pitched a few of his first major league games to Leiberthal, completing the circle.

Tim Lincecum
Pitcher, San Francisco Giants

On May 6, 2007, Tim Lincecum made his major league debut for the San Francisco Giants. He took the mound against the Philadelphia Phillies, led by manager Charlie Manuel. Lincecum was replacing right-hander Russ Ortiz in the rotation due to injury. Russ shares a last name with David, a current member of the Boston Red Sox, and former member of the... Minnesota Twins. (In case you have forgotten, the Twins were Manuel's first team).

David Ortiz began his career in 1997 with the Twins, when Hall of Fame player Paul Molitor was also a Twin. Molitor was born on August 22, which connects him to me, since that’s also my birthday. Why does that matter? Well, er, I'm a Phillies fan. Does that work?

In all seriousness, Molitor played with a familiar name in 1991 for the Milwaukee Brewers: Rick Dempsey. If you have forgotten, Dempsey played with Manuel in 1969, and both later became coaches. Also, Dempsey replaced Sam Perlozzo as third base coach for the Orioles, and Perlozzo is the Phillies' current third base coach. This then continues with Perlozzo's and Manuel's playing careers in Japan.

Adrian Gonzalez
First baseman, San Diego Padres

Adrian Gonzalez is a tremendous baseball player. He has quietly put up stellar numbers in his five year career. But honestly, the man doesn't have a strong association with Charlie Manuel, except for one connection: Randy Wolf.

Randy Wolf made a name for himself in the Phillies' rotation after eight years of service with Philadelphia. During that time, he played with numerous current Phillies, and was also a player under Manuel for two seasons, in 2005 and 2006. After moving on from the Phillies, Wolf became a member of the Dodgers in 2007 before pitching for the Astros and Padres during the 2008 seasons. This means Adrian Gonzalez was also his teammate.

So after all of that, it becomes clear that the lone connection between Gonzalez and Manuel is the fact that Wolf played under Manuel and with Gonzalez, correct?

Not quite, there's more. After further investigation, I was able to find that Wolf also played with former Phillies closer Jose Mesa. Earlier in his career, Mesa was a member of the Baltimore Orioles. And one of Mesa's teammates was Rick Dempsey (see Hanley Ramirez – if not read about Manuel/Dempsey). Man, these two keep coming back to each other.

But wait, there's more. (I admit, I lied when I stated there was just one connection.) There is, in fact, another interesting group of players that connect these two.

Rene Gonzalez, who I found relates to Adrian solely based on last name, played in the majors for 13 seasons while playing for seven different clubs. Rene played for the California Angles on two occasions, in 1992-1993, and 1995. In 1992, Bert Blyleven was a teammate of Rene's on the Angels. Twenty-two years prior to that season in 1970, Blyleven was a member of the Minnesota Twins, just as Charlie Manuel was.

Ryan Howard
First baseman, Philadelphia Phillies

Ryan Howard has made a name for himself as one of baseball's most elite and consistent power-hitters. But this relationship has absolutely nothing to do with power.

Ryan Howard's current teammate, Jamie Moyer, has been in baseball for 22 long seasons. One of those came as a Chicago Cub in 1986, the year Moyer first pitched in the majors. Also on the Cubs that year was a commonly known name to many Phillies fans, and a member of one of the fastest infields baseball has ever seen: Davey Lopes.

In Lopes' third season in the bigs, 1974, Charlie Manuel was preparing to end his career in the United States. Yet, before Manuel left for Japan, he signed on to play for the Dodgers in 1974 and 1975, meaning he and Lopes were teammates for two seasons.

Today, Davey Lopes is still remembered by Phillies fans for two reasons: 1) the controversy he was involved in during the 1977 NLCS when he was incorrectly called safe at a crucial point of game three, and 2) he is the current first base coach for the Phillies.

So there’s one last little connection: Davey Lopes is the first base coach and Ryan Howard plays first base.

Orlando Hudson
Second baseman, Los Angeles Dodgers

Orlando Hudson was not signed by the Dodgers until February 21 this past offseason, as many other clubs felt he was a risky pick-up. Well, for most of this season, this "risky" signing has worked out well for the first-place Dodgers.

Speaking of those Dodgers, their manager, Joe Torre, can surprisingly be linked to Charlie Manuel. When he first began his career for the Twins in 1969, Manuel played alongside Joe Grzenda. Grzenda ended his major league career after the 1972 season, which he spent with the St. Louis Cardinals. Another member of that Cardinals team? Joe Torre.

Also, the Dodgers' third base coach, Larry Bowa, was the previous Phillies manager before Charlie Manuel joined the team.

Finally, Hudson's teammate, Manny Ramirez has two connections to Charlie Manuel. First, Ramirez played under Manuel for the Cleveland Indians when Manuel was the Tribe's hitting coach. The second is through a player by the name of Shawon Dunston, who was Manny Ramirez' teammate in 1998 with the Indians, also during the time Manuel was the hitting coach. Yet Dunston's linkage to Manuel goes further than this. Dunston, an outfielder who played for 18 seasons, was a member of the Chicago Cubs in 1985, the same year as Ron Cey. Cey, who was mentioned above within the Chase Utley connection, was a member of the 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers, just as Manuel was, along with Davey Lopes.

That’s it from Christian. This next list is from Richard Marsh aka “Vegas Rich.”

Rich has compiled quite the resume since joining B/R and I’m thrilled he joined in this task, especially since he’s a huge Mets fan and I cheer for the Phillies. But soon after I approached him with the idea, I started getting cold feet. Hey, I’ve taken my vows – the last thing any of us needed was something else to be married to. But he hung in there and just like me, found that the research this project required was actually enjoyable. I’ll put my hat back on just so I can take it off for Rich too.

All-Star Picks from Vegas Rich

(Poe’s Note: Since Carlos Beltran was on the DL, Rich choose to do Carlos Lee).

Carlos Lee

Outfielder, Houston Astros

I’m finally getting the hang of this. Let’s take Carlos Lee. This is a bad boy hitter not to be confused with Derrick Lee who also hits for a ton. Derrick plays for the Cubs who may never win a World Series in this century. Now Carlos, who swings the lumber for Houston (gee, I hope I didn’t get these two guys mixed up and I’m way too lazy to check it out) has a connection, ever so slight to Charlie Manuel.

Carlos Lee played with Carl Everett for the 2003 Chicago White Sox. Carl Everett played with Charlie Hough for the 1994 Florida Marlins. Charlie Hough played with Charlie Manuel for the 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers. See how easy that was. (Boy am I dense)

Jason Marquis

Pitcher, Colorado Rockies

Jason Marquis is tied with two other pitchers for most wins in the majors right now at 11. Not too shabby, especially when he calls Coors Field his home park. He’s connected to Charlie Manuel this way. Jason played with Tom Glavine with the 2001 Atlanta Braves. Glavine (traitor) played with Jerry Royster for the 1988 Braves and low and behold Jerry Royster played with Charlie Manuel on the 1975 Los Angeles Dodgers. Are you getting to see a pattern forming here?

Francisco Rodriguez

Pitcher, New York Mets

Lets move on to Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez (yeah!) and see if we can find some connection to Charlie. Oh no, can’t find one so I’ll make one up. Charlie’s sister’s college roommate’s brother’s dad stopped at the same gas station in LA where at the next gas pump K-Rod’s auntie’s brother-in-law’s son was in a frenzy because he couldn’t find the tickets for game 3 of last year’s NLCS at Dodger Stadium. When asked what he was looking for, he replied “I see your Swartz is as big as mine.” If you believe that, I have some bridge property to sell you in Brooklyn.

David Wright

Third Baseman, New York Mets

Now surely there’s a personal connection to Charlie Manuel right? None that I can find so I’ll make up one that is definitely more to be fact than fiction. David’s hitting instructor is Howard Johnson. HOJO’s manager in 1986 was Davey Johnson. Davey became a manager with the Los Angeles Dodgers and as we know at some time in the mid 70’s, Charlie played for those same Dodgers.

There you go and I didn’t need any reference guide for that one.

Johan Santana

Pitcher, New York Mets

Now we have Johan Santana, the Mets ace and Charlie’s nightmare every time the Phillies have to face him. This too will ultimately come back to the Dodgers. Johan was a teammate with Ruben Sierra while playing for the 2006 Minnesota Twins. Ruben played with Tom Paciorek (now that’s a name out of the past) for the 1986 Texas Rangers (they were pretty good back then; they just couldn’t beat the Yankees). Of course Tommy played with Charlie with the 1974 Dodgers. (What a surprise.)

Three more to go.

Freddy Sanchez

Second Baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates

Let’s see what I can dig up on Freddy (soon to be traded) Sanchez. Freddy played with 100 year-old Jose Mesa for the 2005 Pittsburgh Pirates. Mesa played with Rick Dempsey for the 1992 Baltimore Orioles, and low and behold Rick Dempsey played with Charlie Manuel for the 1972 Minnesota Twins.

It would have been a lot shorter to say that Charlie managed Jose Mesa in Philadelphia a couple of years back but that would have been taking the easy road.

Miguel Tejada

Shortstop, Houston Astros

Moving on with this assignment, I had the good fortune to draw Miguel (how old am I?) Tejada. Let’s see where this goes. This is a good one. Miguel (we’re good friends now) sang with – NO – I mean played with Kenny Rogers for the 1999 Oakland Athletics. Kenny, who is old as dirt, played with Charlie Hough for the 1989 Texas Rangers. Well, you already know the connection to Charlie Hough and Charlie Manuel (if you were paying any attention to this at all) but there’s just a little twist to this one.

No there isn’t. Gotcha. Both Charlie’s played for the 1974 Dodgers. (You are so easy.)

Ryan Zimmerman

Third Baseman, Washington Nationals

Last but not least, Ryan Zimmerman. This one is very cool. Lots of new names.

Ryan played with Tomakazu Okha (are you kidding me?) for the 2005 Washington Nationals (they really sucked). Okha (are you serious?) played with Tim Raines (now that was a five tool player) for the 2001 Montreal Expos. Tim played with another great player, Graig Nettles for the 1988 Expos and here’s the connection to Charlie. Nettles played with Charlie Manuel for the 1969 Minnesota Twins.

That’s it for Vegas Rich. You’re halfway there. The list of guys I was fortunate enough to review is below.

Mo’ from Poe

First I have to credit Baseball-Reference.com and the MLB pages for all the teams. Then I’ll credit the great Oz for giving me temporary use of a brain. And now, I’ll give you my list.

Ryan Braun

Outfielder, Milwaukee Brewers

We could start with the association between Charlie Manuel and the Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun for the fact that Braun played in the 2008 NLDS championship that the Phillies took from the Crew.

But did you know when Charlie Manuel played for the Minnesota Twins in 1972, he played with a guy named Steve Braun? Bet you didn’t care either. And Steve and Charlie both bat left and throw right. It’s also true that Steve is the name of Ryan Braun’s youngest brother who was drafted last year by the Milwaukee Brewers. But the 2009 MLB All-Star, Ryan Joseph Braun, shouldn’t be mistaken for Ryan Zachary Braun who’s an MLB right-handed pitcher even though the Brewer’s outfielder has recently been reprimanded for criticizing his own team’s pitching.

Shame on him.

Raul Ibanez

Outfielder, Philadelphia Phillies

Of course Raul is the “Pride of the Phillies.” Literally. He’s on the “Pride” lithograph this year. But did you know Charlie Manuel was drafted by the Minnesota Twins as an amateur free agent in 1963 but didn’t debut in the majors until 1969? That’s the year he played with Graig Nettles. Then Nettles went on to play with Jeff Huson in 1988 with the Montreal Expos, and Huson played with Raul Ibanez for the Seattle Mariners in 1998.

And all four players bat left and throw right.

Raul Ibanez was also a favorite of Pat Gillick when he was in management for the Mariners from 2000-2005. Gillick was instrumental in bringing Ibanez to Philadelphia for a possible career record-breaking season with the signing of a 3 year $30 million contract.

On a further note, Raul Ibanez and Charlie Manuel both appeared in articles I’ve posted on B/R for their alleged use of performance enhancing drugs.

Betcha didn’t know that.

Heath Bell

Pitcher, San Diego Padres

I imagine Heath Bell was voted into the All-Star game because of his 1.49 ERA over 34 games. Or the fact that he’s one of the league’s leading closers with 23 saves in 24 opportunities in his first full year in that position since San Diego traded Trevor Hoffman to the Brewers.

He had planned on taking his kids to Disneyland during the break but Orlando will have to take a back seat to St. Louis. Wow, if I had a quarter for every time I said that.

In 2004 Bell pitched for the New York Mets along with another great – left-hander, Tom Glavine. Glavine debuted in the MLB at the age of 21 and had a career that spanned 22 years. He’s a two-time Cy Young award winner, and one of only 24 pitchers in major league history to earn 300 career wins. As we all know, Glavine was released by the Braves on the same day that Randy Johnson chalked up his 300th career win.

Glavine pitched in the league so long he played for the Atlanta Braves in 1988 with Jerry Royster. That was Royster’s last year playing major league baseball, but earlier in his career he was on the Los Angeles Dodgers roster with an outfielder named Charlie Manuel who was finishing up his last year in pro ball in 1975.

Chad Billingsley

Jonathan Broxton

Pitchers, Los Angeles Dodgers

Here’s a two-fer. During their stints with the Dodgers, both Billingsley and Broxton pitched with four-time consecutive Cy Young award winner and eight-time All-Star, Greg Maddux. But you might not know that Maddux played with Davey Lopes on the 1986 Chicago Cubs which finished with a losing record of 70-90, putting them in fifth position of six teams in the NL East – their division at the time.

Then Lopes played with Charlie Manuel for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974, the year the Dodgers won their division and the NL championship but lost to the Athletics in the World Series 4 games to 1. Lopes, who led the national league with 77 stolen bases in 1975 and 63 in 1976, is 25th on the all-time stolen base leaders list with a career total of 557. Now he’s the first base coach for the Philadelphia Phillies, hanging with Charlie in the dugout and coaxing guys to second base with his stopwatch.

How’s that for a connection.

Matt Cain

Pitcher, San Francisco Giants

You may have known that Matt Cain had a seven-game winning streak this season that contributed to his 10-2 record, his 2.42 season ERA, and his election to the All-Star game. And you might have guessed that Matt played with Barry Bonds for the Giants in 2005. But what you probably don’t know is while Bonds may have been playing enhanced ball in 1986 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, right-handed pitcher, Rick Rhoden, was also on the roster. That was the year Rhoden pitched his way to an All-Star roster spot, tied for 5th in Cy Young voting in the NL, and won a Silver Slugger award. And in 1984 he had an eleven-game hitting streak (yes, hitting streak), one of the longest in history for a pitcher.

In 1974, Rhoden played his first year in the majors for the Los Angeles Dodgers with a guy who was one year from retiring – Charlie Manuel. Charlie only played four games that year, as did Rhoden, so I’d like to allege that he and Charlie found plenty of time to talk. Maybe Charlie, the man who’s been known to start a debate anywhere over philosophies of hitting, helped him out with his batting.

Hey, it could’ve happened.

Hunter Pence

Outfielder, Houston Astros

In 2007, Hunter Pence managed a 3rd place finish in overall voting for National League Rookie of the Year. Of course he trailed fellow 2009 All-Star Ryan Braun who was ROTY and runner-up Troy Tulowitzki by over 100 votes. But his performance was more comparable than the vote suggests. And now he’s playing in his first career All-Star game.

Good for him.

In his first major league season, he had the honor of playing with seven-time All-Star, Craig Biggio. That would be the three-time Golden Glove and five-time Silver Slugger’s last year in baseball. In his illustrious career, he played in six NL Division Series, two NL Championship Series, and one World Series but never earned a ring.

Biggio also played with Rick Rhoden for Houston in 1989, and we already know Rhoden’s 1974 connection to Charlie Manuel.

At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Justin Upton

Outfielder, Arizona Diamondbacks

Justin and his brother BJ (Tampa Bay Devil Rays) are the highest drafted brothers in baseball. Justin joined the 1998 expansion club, the Diamondbacks in 2007, the year they won the NL West but lost the Championship to 1993 expansion team the Colorado Rockies. 2007 was also the first year veteran pitcher, ten-time All-Star, four-time Cy Young winner, World Series ring bearer, and now 300 club member, Randy Johnson, came back to Arizona after an unproductive two-year run with the Yankees.

I hope Justin got his autograph.

Anyway, Johnson has played in the big leagues so long he was a teammate on the 1988 Montreal Expos with Graig Nettles.

That’s not the first time we heard that name. Charlie played with Nettles in Minnesota in 1969.

It’s a small world.

Shane Victorino

Outfielder, Philadelphia Phillies

What can I say? I’m a huge Phillies fan, a huge hustle fan, and a huge fan of Shane Victorino. You could say I was Shane-ing when Shane-ing wasn’t cool. There’s nothing that toots my horn more than trying, and Shane is the embodiment of try. I just wish he’d try to show us more of his body.

I’m sorry, was I thinking out loud?

Shane was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 6th round of the 1999 amateur draft. Wait, that sounds familiar. Wasn’t Chase Utley drafted by the Dodgers in an amateur draft? Yup. In the 2nd round in 1997. Both were drafted straight out of high school but Shane went to the minors while Chase became a scholar.

Anyway, the connection is, Chase Utley is undeniably Charlie Manuel’s favorite player. But since Shane’s return from the World Baseball Classic where he got absolutely zero play time and came back with a healthy coat of rust, he’s done nothing but accumulate stats.

Currently he’s second in the league in runs with 62 and hits at 107, he’s tied for second in triples, and he’s batting .308. But there’s no doubt he won the last spot on the NL All-Star roster due to his performance in the days preceding the close of voting.

And at 5’9”, Shane proves size doesn’t matter.

Jayson Werth

Outfielder, Philadelphia Phillies

I could just say Charlie’s connection to Jayson is personal – Charlie personally picked Werth to replace the DL’ed Carlos Beltran, but did you also know Werth played with former Phillies pitcher, Tom “Flash” Gordon, who’s played for 21 seasons in the MLB? That’s such a long career that in 1988 Gordon played with Kansas City Royal’s first baseman and designated hitter, Bill Buckner, who played ball with Charlie Manuel in his last year in the MLB in 1975 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Also, Jayson’s stepfather, Dennis Werth, played five seasons in the MLB, his grandfather, Dick Schofield, played 21 years in the majors, and his uncle, Richard Craig Schofield, played for 14 years. But Jayson’s 2009 All-Star appearance is the first MLB award ever earned by any of his family of major league baseball players.

And he has Charlie Manuel to thank for that.

Brad Hawpe

Outfielder, Colorado Rockies

Brad Hawpe can connect to Charlie Manuel ironically through more Charlie’s. Hawpe was a member of the Rockies when Charles Johnson played his only year with Colorado in 2004. Charlie Johnson played with Charlie Hough for the 1994 Florida Marlins, and Hough played with the last Charlie – Manuel for the 1975 Los Angeles Dodgers.

But another connection is that Brad Hawpe was 24th in MVP voting the year Jimmy Rollins was selected National League MVP in 2007, and Rollins was a member of the 2005 All-Star squad with Albert Pujols who is making his eighth All-Star appearance in nine seasons by playing on Charlie Manuel’s NL team this year.

Brian McCann

Catcher, Atlanta Braves

Brian McCann was playing for the Braves with Julio Franco in 2005, and Franco has played with the same Charlie Hough that connects to Brad Hawpe. Only this time, Hough was playing with the 1990 Texas Rangers. Over Hough’s 25 seasons in the MLB he was elected to the All-Star roster only once – in 1986 while he was still in Texas.

McCann, in contrast, has appeared in four All-Star games in his five seasons in the majors. And both Charlie Manuel and Brian McCann bat left and hit right.

And McCann, just like 2009 All-Star team member, Jason Marquis, played with Tom Glavine for the Atlanta Braves. As Vegas Rich pointed out earlier, Glavine played with Jerry Royster for the 1988 Braves, and Jerry Royster played with Charlie Manuel on the 1975 Los Angeles Dodgers.

It’s definitely a small world.

Last but not least, we were joined by the immortal Bob Warja. Bob is the Chicago Cubs B/R Community Leader, he’s ranked #1 among Chicago Cubs and MLB writers, and he sits among the front page top writers on B/R. If there was an All-Star game for writers, Bob would be there huffing and puffing, so you can imagine how humbled I was to have him join us.

And as a seasoned writer (like Vegas Rich), he took very little time to make his points.

Bob’s Job

Yadier Molina

Catcher

Ryan Franklin

Pitcher

Albert Pujols

First Baseman

St. Louis Cardinals

Yadier Molina, Ryan Franklin, and Albert Pujols have all played their entire careers for Tony LaRussa. Tony was born on the 4th in 1944, just like Charlie Manuel, albeit in different months of the year. Another similarity is that LaRussa and Manuel both were signed as amateur free agents, each played six seasons in the majors, and both finished their Bob Uecker-type careers with a batting average below the Mendoza line. Oh, and each has managed a World Series winner.

Francisco Cordero

Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds

Francisco Cordero plays for Dusty Baker with the Reds and both Baker and Manuel were with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1975. Manuel was just finishing up his career, while Baker had been traded by the Braves to the Dodgers after the season ended.

Ted Lilly

Pitcher, Chicago Cubs

Did you know that both Ted Lilly and Charlie Manuel were born on January 4th? Do you care? Are you even still reading this? Anyway, both were with the Dodgers organization, and Lilly plays for Lou Piniella, who, like Manuel, has won a division title in each league. Each has one a pennant and one World Series title as manager.

Prince Fielder

First Baseman, Milwaukee Brewers

Prince Fielder’s father, Cecil Fielder, played in Japan just like Charlie Manuel.

How’s that for short and sweet.

The End

That’s it. Thanks for reading. Again, kudos to the guys who helped. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Now I must go rest my brain.

Six Degrees of Separation: Charlie Manuel



Six Degrees of Separation from Charlie Manuel

Are you kidding me? I’m not a Phillies fan, far from it. So how in G-d’ green earth did I get myself into something like this. Well there’s this girl named Cindy and I might be 64 but hell, I’m not dead. Besides she is a very talented writer and she has gone out of her way to help this old gut on more than one occasion. So OK, Here goes.

I’m finally getting the hang of this. Let’s take Carlos Lee. This is a bad boy hitter not to be confused with Derrick Lee who also hits for a ton. Derrick plays for the Cubs who may never win a World Series in this century. Now Carlos who swings the lumber for Houston (gee, I hope I didn’t get these two guys mixed up and I’m way too lazy to check it out) has a connection, ever so slight to Charlie Manuel.

Carlos Lee played with Carl Everett for the 2003 Chicago White Sox. Carl Everett played with Charlie Hough for the 1994 Florida Marlins. Charlie Hough played with Charlie Manuel for the 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers. See how easy that was. (Boy am I dense)

Jason Marquis has the most wins in the majors right now with 11. Not too shabby when he calls Coors Field his home park. He’s connected to Charlie Manuel this way. Jason played with Tom Glavine with the 2001 Atlanta Braves. Glavine (Traitor) played with Jerry Royster for the 1988 Braves and low and behold Jerry Royster played with Charlie Manuel on the 1975 Los Angeles Dodgers. Are you getting to see a pattern forming here?

Lets move on to Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez (yea) and see if we can find some connection to Charlie. Oh No, can’t find one so I’ll make one up. Charlie’s sisters college roommates brother’s dad stopped at the same gas station in LA where at the next gas pump K-Rod’s aunties brother in law son was in a frenzy because he couldn’t find the tickets for game 3 of last years NLCS at Dodger Stadium. When asked what he was looking for he replied “I see your Swartz is as big as mine”.)If you believe that I have some bridge property to sell you in Brooklyn.

David Wright, now surely there’s a personal connection to Charlie Manuel right? None that I can find so I’ll make up one that is definitely more to be fact than fiction. David’s hitting instructor is Howard Johnson. HOJO’s manager in 1986 was Davey Johnson. Davey became a manager with the Los Angeles Dodgers and as we know at some time in the mid 70’s Charlie played for those same Dodgers. There you go and I didn’t need any reference guide for that one.

Now we find Johan Santana, the Mets ace and Charlie’s nightmare every time the Phillies have to face this guy. This too will ultimately come back to the Dodgers. Johan was a teammate with Ruben Sierra while playing for the 2006 Minnesota Twins. Ruben played with Tom Paciorek (now that’s a name out of the past) for the 1986 Texas Rangers (they were pretty good back then; they just couldn’t beat the Yankees). Of course Tommy played with Charlie with the 1974 Dodgers. (What a surprise).

Three more to go.

Let’s see what I can dig up on Freddy (soon to be traded) Sanchez. Freddy played with 100 year old Jose Mesa for the 2005 Pittsburgh Pirates. Mesa played with Rick Dempsey for the 1992 Baltimore Orioles and low and behold Rick Dempsey played with Charlie Manuel for the 1972 Minnesota Twins. It would have been a lot easier to say that Charlie managed Jose Mesa in Philadelphia a couple of years back but that would have been taking the low road.

Moving on with this assignment I had the good fortune to draw Miguel (how old am I?) Tejada. Let’s see where this goes. This is a good one. Miguel (We’re good friends now) sang with NO I mean played with Kenny Rogers for the 1999 Oakland Athletics. Kenny who is old as dirt played with Charlie Hough for the 1989 Texas Rangers. Well you already know the connection to Charlie Hough and Charlie Manuel if you were paying any attention to this at all but there’ just a little twist to this one. No there isn’t, gotcha, both Charlie’s played for the 1974 Dodgers. You are so easy.

Finally last but not least Ryan Zimmerman. This one is very cool. Lot’s of new names. Ryan played with Tomakazu Okha (are you kidding me?) for the 2005 Washington Nationals (they really sucked). Okha (are you serious?) played with Tim Raines (now that was a five tool player) for the 2001 Montreal Expos. Tim played with another great player, Graig Nettles for the 1988 Expos and here’s the connection to Charlie. Nettles played with Charlie Manuel for the 1969 Minnesota Twins.

So ends this monumental task of trying to put together people from different generations and put them on the same playing surface today. In lieu of tonight’s all-star game this turned out to be a fun assignment even though I waited to the last minute to complete it and whined like a baby because I actually had to do some research.

Again, keep in mind, I’ll do just about anything for a cute babe, no offense Cindy but you qualify on all counts.

Vegas Rich.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

2009 Mid-Season Report: New York Mets - Wait Til Next Year



There are going to be a lot of Mets fans that are not going to be too happy with me after they finish this article. In fact, I'd venture to say that there will be a few who will refuse to finish it because they will say I'm not a true fan, I am being too negative, and that I am giving up the remainder of the 2009 season.

All of the above may be so, but since this is definitely an opinion piece if you don't mind, allow me to fire away.

The 2009 season started with so much promise it was very hard not to get caught up with the hype. For that alone, I plead guilty as charged. Omar did a credible job in the off season fixing the most glaring problem the team had in 2008. By adding Frankie Rodriguez, JJ Putz and Sean Green it certainly looked like, at least on paper, that the Mets wouldn't blow 29 games more or less.

If in fact they only blew half that number in 2009 and continue to smash the ball as they did in the previous year, it would not be unexpected to see the Mets be able to compete with the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies for the crown in 2009.

There was some criticism that Omar had a chance to improve the teams offense with the acquisition of Orlando Hudson and Manny Ramirez but he felt that his bench of Tatis, Cora, and Reed could get the job done and money was tight.

I expressed my displeasure at this as well as not resigning Pedro Martinez since I questioned a pitching staff whose 60% of the starting rotation was coming off surgery.

Even with all that I was right there and predicted in my article of predictions that the Mets would win the NL East and go on through the playoffs and meet and beat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

So I challenge anyone reading this to say that I was not on board with this team on opening day. I was also one of the first if not the first person in our Mets community to be delighted in the acquisition of Gary Sheffield. After commenting on it through very negative articles I wrote an article, I believe in May, thanking the Mets for making Gary a Met.

Then came the injuries like flies to the flypaper. Out went 3/4 of the core. Delgado, Reyes and Beltran were all out of the line up by June. JJ Putz went down. So did Angel Pagan, Alex Cora, and a host of minor players.

Even before the slew of injuries I started questioning the moves made by Jerry Manuel. Jerry had taken over for Willie Randolph last June while the Mets were struggling early which was unacceptable to management who needed a scapegoat for the collapse of 2007 and Willie was going to be that sacrificial lamb.

It was a terrible move at the time because the Mets faults were not Willies and not only did he not need to be replaced, they did it in such a non professional way the Mets organization was an embarrassment to the entire baseball community.

The rest of 2008 is history. Jerry led the team to a 3 1/2 game lead with 17 to go and let the Phillies do their September thing and let another flag get away and to add insult to injury they lost to the Marlins again on the last day and saw their Wild Card hopes go up in flames.

A correction here. Jerry didn't lead them anywhere. Carlos Delgado, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran led them to the heights they achieved and for the those who know and understand the game realized that the 2008 Mets were actually overachievers and Jerry got most of the credit as I cringed like I had a crystal ball to see into the future.

Jerry Manuel was NOT a good manager in Chicago. Yes he won a Manager of the Year award but with the team he inherited there Mike Kent could have got the White Sox to the World Series that year. BTW, that's a compliment Mike.

Jerry misused his bull-pen in Chicago and had a well known, in the public eye, feud with superstar Frank Thomas. His reputation confirmed by the Chicago media was that Jerry had a problem with veteran players simply because of all his line up changes. They did not know where their place was. Ultimately the players went over Jerry's head and as a result, there went Jerry's head as a manager in the major leagues.

Getting back to the Mets. Almost from day 1 in Spring training Jerry had Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy on his radar. For whatever reason and he never explained it to Church, the media or anyone he was not a Ryan Church fan. Perhaps maybe when Ryan was healthy he kept the Mets in the early 2008 race until he was nailed with the concussions.

His use of Church was abominable. 10 games into the season Ryan was batting .385 so Jerry benched him. He wanted to give Reed and Pagan more playing time. He took Murphy out of the lineup when he was batting .365 because he was having defensive problems in left and was trying to keep him away from facing left handers. At the time he was 3 for 8 against lefty's.

His constant everyday changing the line up gave whatever players he had out there no chance to get comfortable with their place in the order. He would say he was going to go with the hot bat and so what did he do? He stayed with Tatis after all he could do was hit into double play after double play ending so many Mets threats I lost count.

" No matter what, I'm going to rest Wright and Sheffield in tomorrows day game in Milwaukee because those guys are trying to carry the load by themselves". The fact that David Wright is hitting around .220 since Beltran left the lineup didn't seem to register with Jerry. So what happened?, Wright went 3 for 4 that night and Jerry had him in the lineup the next day. Since that game Wright is hitting under .200. Good job Jerry.

The Mets are 42-45. They are 6 1/2 games out of first place. They have lost 6 of their last 10. The Phillies are in first place. They have won 9 out of their last 10 and have put the problem of winning at home behind them.They stand at 48-38, ten games over .500.

Last year it took 92 wins to win the NL East. If the Phillies went .500 the rest of the way (doubtful) that would give them 86 wins and to beat them the Mets would have to go 45-30 the rest of the way. That is a pretty good possibility if the Mets gets their players back, but here's the problem. More likely than not the Phillies will not go .500 the rest of the way.

If they go another 10 games over like they did the first half they will finish with with 91 wins. In order for the Mets to catch them they will have to go 50-25.

Well folks, that ain't gonna happen. Not under Jerry Manuel. Not in a million years. That's .667 baseball and this team doesn't have spark or the guts to get that done.

Until A.Reyes bunted for a hit to lead off an inning the other night it was the first game it had been accomplished in the last 25 games. Until Angel Pagan stretched a double into a triple when was the last time that happened?. When was the last time you saw a hit and run attempt with a man on first or first and second? When was the last time you saw somebody move a runner by hitting to the right side? I could go on forever but I have already done that.

Despite early misgivings upon the initial announcement of the Church for Francouer trade, I decided I like it before Jeff's first start. He is 25 and his upside is far greater than Church, but it's not nearly enough.

If Minaya is still serious about making a run at this he must take a bold shot at Roy Halliday. You can not let the Phillies get him and Pedro to slam the door in our face. If it takes, Maine, F-Mart and Parnell and Murphy then so be it.

Will they even offer that deal to the Blue Jays? Not a chance. Why you ask? Because the Mets have pretty close to the worst ownership in baseball and a General Manager that has zero eye for future talent.

Now is the time for the Mets to be sellers for 2009 with the thought to rebuild this organization for 2010 and beyond. In my humble opinion there are only 3 untouchables on the Mets 40 man roster. They are the obvious ones to most. Jose Reyes, David Wright and Johan Santana. Everyone else, and yes Carlos( never hustle) Beltran my preseason MVP pick, has to go.

As far as 2009 is concerned, the Phillies are going to win this division by 10 to 15 games. The Mets will be battling out the Braves and the Marlins for second place.

They are, as of today, 7 games behind in the Wild Card race with 7 teams they have to climb over.

I have always hoped for best while expecting the worst. This is not negativity. This is reality. I swear to all of you reading this. I hope beyond belief that I am 100% wrong in my beliefs.

Do you really think I want to be seen wearing Phillie red on the Brooklyn Bridge replica under the sign for the ESPN Zone in front of the NEW YORK NEW YORK HOTEL AND CASINO in Las Vegas, Nevada this October and send those pictures to 30 Phillies writers on the BR? I don't think so. Christian will use it as a dart board. I can just see it now.

My hope is that the Mets organization, who are morons at best, will look ahead to 2010 season and start making moves that don't look like attempts at continuing to be a small market approach and be the step brother to the New York Yankees. It's finally that time to step up and become a force to be reckoned with for years to come and the best way to get that started is threefold. First the Wildon's need to sell the team. Second Omar needs to be replaced and third and best of all Jerry Manuel needs to go NOW!

Check out my series about my beloved Mets "Anatomy of a Franchise" here on Rsmclosers Blog by Vegas Rich