VEGAS UNWRAPPED with Aaron Phillips & Ricky Cash


Friday, August 21, 2009

NY Mets: Continuing on the Road to Stupidity

I don't believe for one second that those fans on the BR who read my work would argue with anyone about how passionate I am about this team. It's no secret that I'm not a youngster like my three favorite proteges Mike Kent, Nick Adamo, and Nick Carlo but each one of them will tell you that the Mets are my first love and have been so since 1962.

This is not a plug for my "Anatomy of a Franchise series either.

I'm just frustrated as we all are about the current status of the Mets 2009 season. We can talk about all the injuries until we are blue in the face and we know that we can't change what has happened in the past but you would think this organization could at least learn from it. Do they? No.

The case of Gary Sheffield has me most disturbed today as I see that after all he has accomplished this year the Mets have decided more likely than not to cut the strings and let this guy, who virtually held this team together for 4 months, and send him on his way.

I have been a Sheffield fan for his entire career. Sure, there are a lot of negative comments out there about his past but no one can doubt his competitive nature and isn't that what every team needs to have on and off the field?

To this day in his 40th year he is still intimidating at the plate waving his bat and showing the bat speed of a 30 year old in his prime.

When I wrote this article on May 20th I was so pleased that Gary was living up to his billing and my thought even then was if we would get back our injured players he would surely look good surrounded by Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado.

However we all know that didn't happen so what did Gary do. He played well, he played hurt, he mentored just about every position player the Mets have. He provided the well needed leadership that was lacking on this team for so long.

David Wright was instrumental in bringing Gary to the Mets. He recognized long before our faithful fans that Gary was a perfect fit for this team regardless of whether he played 3 games a week or 6.

So now what do the Mets do? They put him on waivers. He was claimed by the Giants so they pulled him back. Now they have an opportunity to lock him up and finish his stellar career in a New York Mets uniform, his dream team since his uncle Dwight Gooden played for us in the 80's, and go out of here directly into the Hall of Fame.

The Mets pulled him back from waivers and now more likely than not they will release him. He will go to a contender and help them into the playoffs and what do the Mets get out of it? Nothing.

This is a continuous problem that the Mets organization have had throughout their history. The make stupid impulsive decisions without weighing the potential consequences. I have said this since they fired Willie Randolph, for all he did was win games as the Mets manager, and they continue to make these ridiculous moves as other teams help themselves we go backwards under the less than stellar leadership of the Wilpons, Omar and Jerry.

Mark my words everyone, I know this team as well or if not better than any of us out there and I can tell you for sure that unless there are major changes made in this off season in the Mets organization we will be watching World Series parades down Broad Street for the next 10 years and that's no exaggeration.

Please will someone in this organization please listen to the voice of reason and intelligence if I don't say so myself. Even my 3 amigos, I expect are going to be on my side with this, maybe. I just have to get Nick Adamo in a good mood. I'll probably have to trade him my QB or something like that.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Mets Police: Omar Minaya: I Told You So

The Mets Police: Omar Minaya: I Told You So

Omar Minaya: I Told You So

Of course, one game does not make a season but one must wonder why after the struggles the Mets pitching staff have had this year why Omar Minaya, supposedly a close personal friend of Pedro Martinez, didn't sign the oft injured pitcher both before or even after the season started.

I started this bandwagon all the way back in October. At that point looked upon all the intangibles that Pedro brings to a team including among others, a compulsion to win, a teacher, a motivator, a leader on and off the field, a loose fun guy that players want to have around, and a living legend who your own stars like Santana, Reyes, Delgado and Beltran look up to and respect.

Not to mention if Pedro was on the roster how hard do you think Manny would have pushed Boras to sign with the Mets and if you don't believe that you are foolish?

As the season got closer and it looked like there was going to be a competition for the number 5 spot on the rotation I brought it up again.

Here I talked about the fact I didn't think Pedro was done at all and explained that the type of injury he had required about 18 months to fully heal but more important was the fact that I tried to point out that Pedro was not the type of man that would "quit" on a bad note and his legacy to finish as a star was motivation enough to put out credible performances game after game after game.

I pointed out in this next article that the Mets had three pitchers coming off surgeries that although appeared to be OK anything could happen. Well it did. John Maine is off the shelf for the year. Pelfrey has taken a step backwards from last year, although if you remember he wasn't the same pitcher down the stretch last year as he was in mid-season, and Ollie is just Ollie.

The 5 spot in our rotation has given us far less than Pedro could have done. In fact the second through 5 spot has given us some of the worst numbers in baseball this year. Let me share.

Excluding Johan Santana (thank goodness for him) here's some ugly numbers for you. Those who have started games for the Mets this year only Jon Niese and Nelson Figueroa have a better than 2-1 strike out to walk ratio. The rest, well check out this mess, 343 strike outs to 254 walks and that includes Jon and Nelson. That's the worst in the league. They have won 31 games and lost 32. They have a combined ERA of 5.37.

Pedro's numbers last night in his first appearance. He had 5 strike outs and 1 walk. He gave up 3 runs in 5 innings and was in complete control. He struck out both Derrick Lee and Soriano with vintage Pedro change ups and hit 90+ on the gun when he had to. Two of the hits he gave up were bloops and looked just as fresh when he finished as when he started.

Now maybe he won't go 5-1 the rest of the way but his infusion into the already solid Phillies rotation looks like a sure bet that the Phillies are primed for a long playoff run come October while Omar's band of retreads will have us fight to stay ahead of Washington's surge for 4th place in the NL East.

Yes, Omar, I told you so and told all those critics of Pedro that this mans career was far from over and I already know what their response will be. They will say two things. First, will be but he's only pitched one game and the second, will be of course, he will win because the Phillies average about a trillion runs per game.

What I would like to hear is Omar come out and make a statement like "I made a mistake, and should have signed Pedro when I had the chance". If he did something like that I would back him 100% and fight to see him return. Will he do that and finally take responsibility for any of his poor decisions? Of course he won't and that's why he will be gone no more than 5 days after the season ends.

I wonder if the next guy is smart enough to sign Pedro to a two year contract. I doubt it. Too bad, I guess some people will never learn.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"Anatomy of a Franchise" New York Mets: Part VI - Building for Greatness

I want to dedicate this part of my self proclaimed series to Cathy. She is wife number two and although we are no longer together, she remains my dear friend. She gave me an incredible, bright, beautiful daughter and she deserves to be nominated for sainthood for putting up with me for 14 truly bi-polar years. Cathy who taught me that out of every bad can become a good, the only person whom I ever met that put others in front of themselves, I thank you for pointing and guiding me in the right direction. You are truly a special one of a kind person.

1981 dawned bright for the Mets and me because I began to think we were both on the same path of rebuilding for greatness. The Mets had lost 95 games in 1980 and the “streak” and my marriage to Ellen was over. By years end the talk of a possible player’s lockout didn’t strike me as a real serious possibility since Cathy and I decided to tie the knot, and that we did, on November 9th 1980.

I made her a promise that we would not attend any Mets games together and she was OK with that since baseball was not anywhere near the top of her priority list. Besides, I had a ten year old son and an eight year old daughter and they would make great partners to my many planned trips to the Vet to see the World Champion Phillies take on my Mets.

I need to clarify a point about my fanhood after I received many comments about my rooting for the Phillies during their great run from 1976-1983. I never rooted for them in any game they played against the Mets no matter how far out of the race the Mets were and although I was rightly perturbed at the Mets organization and the way they ran things then, (and still am today), I could never, under any circumstances, change my loyalties.

During the next 5 years the Mets were about to change the perception others had of them, at that time, from laughingstock to world champion and the team that everybody outside Brooklyn and Queens loved to hate.

Frank Cashen was brought in to be the General Manager in February of 1980 and although the Mets still had three straight losing seasons, one could see the handwriting on the wall and the excitement certainly found it’s way heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The Mets finally got it together in the amateur draft by getting Darryl Strawberry, Roger McDowell and Dwight Gooden. His trading for Keith Hernandez, Howard Johnson, Gary Carter, Sid Fernandez and Ron Darling set the nucleus for what some have called the greatest team ever for one single season that was 1986.

The 1981 team was managed by Joe Torre. Nobody at the time could have ever possibly imagined the future success that Joe would have achieved. In 1981, he had finished a very solid career with the St. Louis Cardinals and was entering his fourth year as manager of the Mets.

Here’s the 1981 starting lineup for the New York Mets.

Mookie Wilson LF
Frank Taveras SS
Dave Kingman 1B
Rusty Staub RF
Lee Mazzilli CF
Alex Trevino C
Hubie Brooks 3B
Doug Flynn 2B
Pat Zachry P

This was a historical year for baseball. For the first time in Major League history there was a stoppage of play during the regular season. This situation began what many people have called the end of baseballs supremacy as America’s Sport and greed on both sides can, in my opinion, be spread equally causing a real mess in what was supposed to be a great year for baseball.

June 11th was the last game the Mets would play in earnest for two full months. I could not imagine myself without baseball. If it were not for the fact that I was managing my son's little league team that year, I might have gone completely nuts.

I did manage to go to 3 games against the Phillies that year in June. At this point in time I’m going to bring a new character into the series. His name is Gary. He lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and he simply is the most addicted Phillies fan of all times.

Gary was just starting his accounting business in 1981. He had a booth in Montgomery Ward on Route 38 in Cherry Hill and he was pimping his newly formed Tax Return business. Cathy and I were shopping there one day when she said to me “Rich, since you haven’t filed a tax return for the past three years don’t you think it might be a good idea to talk to this guy?”

What happened next is something you can only get in Hollywood. Not only did I make an appointment to talk to Gary in his office, (in the attic of his Moorestown band box of a home), but it turns out, after he mentioned a letter he got from his Grandmother, that my Grandmother and his Great Grandmother were first cousins, or something like that. I have forgotten by now the connection.

So now I find that my accountant is my cousin and worse yet, an avid Phillies fan.
From this point forward our lives would intertwine for the next 28+ years.

So it was Gary and I who went to this Phillies/Mets series at the Vet. The Phillies won two out of three; I kept looking around for Ellen during the first two games. In the first game Larry Christenson outpitched Pat Zachry but the dull pain I got leaving the stands that day was that Tug McGraw got the save for the Phillies.

That pain was still festering pretty well in 1981.

The usual suspects Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa and Gary Maddox all had two hits with Gary Maddox hitting a winning two run homer in the 8th off Neil Allen who at the time was my favorite Mets pitcher.

The next day, the Phillies and Pete Rose, who had 3 hits, beat up on Mike Scott, who later would become a Mets killer in 1986, and Ed Lynch as the Phillies beat the Mets 9-7. Gary was his usual talkative self and proclaimed the Phillies would repeat as World Champions in 1981. I have to give him credit. He doesn’t say things like that any more probably because it took the Phillies 28 years to win another championship and despite the fact that this year I think they have a great chance to repeat, Gary is still saying it’s a long season. I wonder if he realizes it’s already August.

The next game I finally got a little measure of revenge. At least we didn’t get swept and believe me Phillies fans must have pretty dirty homes because Veterans Stadium is one place that you never ever have to wonder about having enough brooms on hand.

On June 3rd we finally got to Dick Ruthven with a 4 run 8th inning to break up a close game. Neil Allen got the save and Greg Harris, who only played one year out of 15 in a Mets uniform, got the win.

The Mets finished the “first half” at 17-34 and in last place, but after a two month layoff when baseball resumed on Aug 10th, The Mets went 24-28 the rest of the way.

In 1982 and 1983 the Mets lost 90+ games each year, but on June 15th 1983, the Mets traded my guy, Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey to the Cardinals for Keith Hernandez. Keith brought to the team a certain amount of legitimacy that would carry over for the next few years which would culminate in four incredible seasons, 1985 through 1988.

Joe Torre was replaced in 1982 with George Bamberger, a nice old guy who brought absolutely nothing to the table. Perhaps a little more patience with Joe Torre is great hindsight, but it took the Mets to lose 127 games before Bamberger was replaced by the gentle giant Frank Howard to finish the 1983 season.

In 1984 Davey Johnson was hired to lead the Mets to greater heights. Johnson was known to Mets fans for making the final out of the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

By 1984 the Mets had a completely new look. The starting lineup looked like this.

Wally Backman 2B
Jose Oquendo SS
Keith Hernandez 1B
George Foster LF
Daryl Strawberry RF
Hubie Brooks 3B
Mookie Wilson CF
Ron Hodges C
Mike Torrez P

Mike Torrez was certainly at the end of his career when he stepped on the mound for the Mets on opening day. As it turned out he gave up six runs and six hits in an inning and a third and that was pretty much it for Torrez career in the MLB.

Dick Tidrow another pitcher at the end of his career also saw action with the Mets that day. I guess his 9.19 ERA was enough for the Mets to see that his career was over as well.

The reason I bring this up is that this seems to be a never ending problem with the Mets organization that has with them for the full 47 years of their existence. They have a dream that somewhere in their wildest imagination some over the hill player will find lightning in a bottle and lead this team to the Promised Land.

“Hey guys, The Natural was a MOVIE”.

After losing that opening game in Cincinnati the Mets rattled off six wins, then lost three in a row, won three in row and lost three in a row again. It sure looked like this was a team trying to find its own identity.

By June 1st they were 22-22 and didn’t look like a team ready to challenge anyone. June was better as they won five more games than they lost. I had already gone to 4 out of the six games the Phillies played the Mets at the Vet and the Phillies won both series 2 games to 1. Unfortunately, I went to the 4 losses. I spent most of those days searching the stands for Ellen.

By the All-Star break the Mets had won nine out of their next ten and were officially contending for the NL East. Right from the break they took three out of four from the Braves in Atlanta and were right in the thick of the race.

By July 28th the Mets were 59-37 in first place and on a roll. Then all they did was drop the next seven games and wound up finishing 2nd with a 90-72 record.

I managed to get to one more Mets/Phillies game in September and I finally got to see a Mets victory. They came from behind with three in the 7th and three in the 9th to win 8-5. Darryl hit a tremendous blast off Al Holland in the ninth inning with two out and two on to put the cherry on top of the day. Mookie, Daryl and Hubie all had two hits.

On May 5th 1983 Cathy gave me a baby girl who I promptly named after Jamie Lee Curtis. I spelled it Jaime Leigh. To see where she’s at take a look at

Part VII will deal with the four most exciting seasons I witnessed as a fan of the Mets for all 47 seasons. 1985-1988 was absolutely fantastic. I went on my own personal in game winning streak that I doubt I will ever see again. They were truly great years. I sure hope you will share them with me.