May 17, 2012 – RCT: Backend of Bullpen Is Frontline Concern For Mets

BY JOE RINI 

Sometimes timing and perspective are everything. If some casino owning, roulette swinging, baseball genie asked manager Terry Collins before the season if he’d take a 4 and 2 road trip this past week against the Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins, he undoubtedly would have said yes. If the Mets three game sweep of the Phillies had occurred after the Mets bullpen squandered two ninth inning leads in dropping two out of three against the Marlins, they still would have soared north on the New Jersey Turnpike riding the wave of a stirring sweep in Philadelphia. 

Unfortunately for the Mets, the Marlins series followed the Phillies series, so a road trip filled with late inning comebacks was negated by Frank Francisco twice not being able to nail down the ninth inning, leaving the Mets to lament what might have been. More significantly, many began to question Francisco’s role as the Mets closer, especially after Collins removed him from Sunday’s game when he allowed the first three Marlins to reach base and then had to separate Francisco from arguing with the home plate umpire in the 8 to 4 loss. 

With a record of 1-3 and nine saves in 11 opportunities, Francisco has looked dominant at times, twice earning three saves in three consecutive games this season, but he also allowed runs in six out of seven appearances during a stretch in April. The nine for 11 stat is somewhat deceptive, as he clearly was responsible for blowing the game on Sunday, but did not get credited with the blown save. 

Following the loss Sunday, Terry Collins opted not to make an emotional decision and change his closer, and brought Francisco into the game Monday night to close out the Mets 3 to 1 win

against the Milwaukee Brewers. After allowing a run and putting the tying runner on base, Francisco retired the last two Brewers for his ninth save of the season. 

In sticking with his closer, and speaking of the bullpen in general, Collins said, “I don’t want to do is turn our bullpen inside out even though we’ve had a few blown saves. Everybody has. The minute you start changing everybody’s roles, it’s very uncomfortable for some of the pitchers in that bullpen.” 

In splitting the two game series against the Brewers this week, highlighted by seven shutout innings by 41-year-old Miguel Batista in the Mets victory on Monday, the Mets ended play on Tuesday with a record of 20 and 16, having won 7 out of their last 10 games, in third place, 2 1/2 games behind division leading Atlanta. Despite losing two of three to Miami this past weekend, the Mets have played exceptionally well against their Eastern Division counterparts with a 14-7 record within the division. 

https://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/05/17/backend-of-bullpen-is-frontline-concern-for-mets/


May 17, 2012 – RCT: Citi Field to Host the Major League All- Star Game In 2013

BY JOE RINI 

Major league baseball officially announced on Wednesday that Citi Field will host the 2013 All-Star game. This announcement formalizes what had been long expected since Citi Field opened its doors in 2009. 

Besides the actual game, there will be a number of other related events to entertain the fans, such as the Home Run Derby and a “Fan Fest.” Currently, the Mets have gone the longest between All- Star games by any franchise in baseball. The last time the Mets hosted an All-Star game was 1964 during Shea Stadium’s debut season. Forty eight years ago, the game was played in the daylight hours and Johnny Callison of the Phillies capped a four-run ninth inning rally by hitting a walk-off three run home run off Dick Radatz of the Red Sox for a 7 to 4 National League victory. 

The Mets second baseman Ron Hunt became the first Met to start in an All-Star game that day. Future Mets Joe Torre, Jim Fregosi, and Dean Chance were also in the starting line-ups that day and then Washington Senators manager Gil Hodges returned to New York as a coach for the American League. 

https://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/05/17/citi-field-to-host-the-major-league-all-star-game-in-2013/


May 10, 2012 – RCT: Mets Host Third Annual Celiac Disease Awareness Night at Citi Field

Mets Host Third Annual Celiac Disease Awareness Night at Citi Field

BY JOE RINI

On Friday May 4, New York Mets hosted

their third annual Celiac Disease Awareness Night at Citi Field to benefit R.O.C.K (Raising Our Celiac Kids) Long Island. 

R.O.C.K is a free support group for parents, families, and friends of children on gluten free diets and it also raises funds for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, the premier facility in the United States for celiac research and the treatment of patients with celiac. Prior to the game, Randi Albertelli of R.O.C.K and Dr. Peter Green, Director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, were honored on the field with the Spirit Award from the Mets organization. 

The event featured SNY’s Kevin Burkhardt hosting a pre-game party with gluten free food options for fans in The Bullpen Plaza while Elisabeth Hasselbeck of The View sparkled her way through the crowd greeting fans. Burkhardt and Hasselbeck, who both have celiac, have used their public profile to raise awareness to this disease and lend support to those afflicted with it. 

Hasselbeck, an active supporter and fundraiser for the Celiac Disease Center, is the author of two gluten free cookbooks, the latest being “Deliciously G-Free” and also markets NoGii, a gluten free protein bar popular even among non-celiacs. 

Burkhardt, who was diagnosed with celiac 10 years ago, was instrumental in getting the Mets to open a permanent gluten free food stand at Citi Field after seeing one in Colorado. While typical food concession stands at baseball games with their gluten heavy menus can leave slim pickings for someone on a gluten free diet, the Kozy Shack Gluten Free Stand at Citi Field offers Mets fans 

gluten free hot dogs, hamburgers, sausage and pepper heroes, products from Kozy Shack, and even the gluten free beer Redbridge. Therefore, even when it’s not Celiac Awareness Night, there’s always something to eat for gluten free fans at Citi Field. For Burkhardt, the feedback he has gotten from fans can be as simple and yet so profound as, “My son can eat at the game,” or “I don’t feel alone with celiac.” 

Celiac, an autoimmune disease affecting the small intestine and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, is triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Symptoms may include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and bloating. It is estimated that 1 in 133 Americans suffer from it yet 95% of those cases go undiagnosed. In fact, one of the most dramatic chapters of “Born Minus,” the memoir of Armand Miele, the publisher emeritus of The Rockland County Times, occurs when his serious health problems were finally diagnosed as celiac 30 years ago. There is no cure for celiac and the only treatment for it is to stay on a gluten free diet although Dr. Green reports that the Celiac Disease Center is currently researching non-dietary therapies for celiac in addition to studying why the rates of diagnosis are lower in the United States versus other countries. 

Dr. Green was effusive in his gratitude to Ms. Albertelli for organizing the evening at the Mets game, saying, “She is amazing as she continually organizes functions that greatly benefit the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. She is tireless in her efforts.” 

Fans purchasing tickets through this group ticket offer had reserved seating in the Excelsior Level where even more gluten free options were available. In the end, if any of them were feeling stomach pains at 9:35 p.m. on Friday night, it wasn’t because of the food – it was because the Arizona Diamondbacks rallied for three runs in the eighth inning to edge the Mets 5 to 4. 

https://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/05/10/mets-host-third-annual-celiac-disease-awareness-night-at-citi-field/



May 3, 2012 – RCT: With Pelf on the Shelf, Mets Ride Schwinden to Denver and Houston

BY JOE RINI 

With the curtain barely raised on the new season, Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey has exited the stage early in Act 1 of the 2012 baseball season. After dodging the injury bullet that had sniped at so many of his teammates since joining the Mets in 2006, Pelfrey underwent “Tommy John” surgery this week to repair the torn ligament in his right elbow, causing him to miss the remainder of this season. 

Ironically, his season was shutdown just days after Pelfrey had pitched his best game of the young season as he allowed just one run in eight innings against the Giants on April 21. Since Pelfrey established himself in the Mets rotation in 2008, he has been a durable if not spectacular pitcher for the team. 

In this pitching is a premium era, Pelfrey has been an innings eater, averaging 196 innings per season. Although his results have not always matched his durability, he pitched solidly in 2008 and 2010, so optimism for a bounceback year in 2012 after a disappointing 2011 was not unreasonable, especially with the former first round pick being eligible for free agency after this season. 

However, without a contract for next season, Pelfrey may very well have thrown his last pitch in the orange and blue. With more heralded and younger pitching prospects such as Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, and Zach Wheeler in need of minor league seasoning, the Mets dug a little deeper down the depth chart and called up 25-year-old Chris Schwinden from the Triple A Buffalo Bisons to replace Pelfrey. 

Schwinden pitched respectably in going 0-2 in four starts as a late season call-up for the Mets last September and had already thrown a complete game victory for the Buffalo Bisons this year. However, like someone being told that a winning lottery ticket was 

theirs to keep if they could find it in a minefield, Schwinden’s good news of being called up to the major leagues was tempered by the news that he had to pitch in hitter friendly Coors Field. 

Schwinden allowed 5 earned runs in 4 innings as the Rockies crushed the Mets 18 to 9 on April 27. With his next start this week against the Houston Astros, Schwinden will need the same determination that enabled this relatively low draft pick (22nd round of the June 2008 draft) to make the majors, stay in the starting rotation. 

Overall, the Mets rebounded from dropping a dismal double header to the Giants last week to sweep the Marlins and take two out of three from the Rockies in Denver before losing the first two of three against the Astros this week. Rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis continues to impress with his .300 plus batting average and stellar outfield play. 

Johan Santana pitched 6 more shutout innings while Lucas Duda and Ike Davis showed signs of breaking out of their early season slumps. The Mets return to Citi Field on Friday, May 4 to play the Arizona Diamondbacks before hitting the road to play division rivals Philadelphia and Miami. 

https://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/05/03/with-pelf-on-the-shelf-mets-ride-schwinden-to-denver-and-houston/

April 26, 2012 – RCT: Reyes Returns to the Scene of His Prime

Reyes Returns to the Scene of His Prime – Mets Defeat Marlins 2 to 1 

 

BY JOE RINI 

Six months after Jose Reyes trotted off the field in the first inning of his last game as a Met, he returned to the scene of his prime, playing his first game against the New York Mets as a Miami Marlin Tuesday night at Citifield. 

The Mets rallied to win 2 to 1 against the Marlins and Reyes was robbed of a first inning extra base hit, making it a perfect night for the Mets faithful. 

As the temperature cooled during the night, so did the reception for Reyes, who was greeted mostly by cheers in his first at bat but by increasingly vehement boos from the crowd of 20,192 as the game continued. 

Reyes was hitless in four at bats as Johan Santana as bounced back from a poor performance last week, and pitched into the seventh inning, allowing only one run and striking out 11 Marlins. 

Coming on a day where the Mets learned Mike Pelfrey may need season ending elbow surgery and that Jason Bay needed to be disabled for a fractured rib, manager Terry Collins called Santana’s performance “tremendous” as it the steadied the team after losing 5 of its previous 6 games. 

Leading off the game, Reyes’ first at bat proved to be one of the key moments of the game. Swinging early in the count, he drove the ball deep into centerfield when rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis made a leaping catch against the wall robbing Reyes of an extra base hit, a play Terry Collins later called “huge.” 

After allowing a single to the next batter, Santana kept the Marlins off balance as he retired 19 of the next 21 batters until a single by Giancarlo Stanton and a double by Gaby Sanchez in the seventh inning lead to the Marlins first run. 

Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson matched Santana as he also pitched into the seventh inning striking out nine Mets, but four consecutive walks by four different Marlins pitchers allowed the Mets to tie the score in the seventh inning. 

Batting in the eighth inning, after singles by Nieuwenheis and Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda smashed a single off the pitching hand of Marlins reliever Edward Mujica driving in Nieuwenheis with the game winning hit. Reliever Jon Rausch won his third game after a scoreless eighth inning and Frank Francisco picked up save number four. 

For several generations of Mets fans, Reyes became the latest Mets icon to return in the uniform of the opposition. 

Thirty-five summers ago, the loyalties of Mets fans were conflicted as Tom Seaver aka “The Franchise,” returned to Shea Stadium to battle the Mets on a Sunday afternoon in August as a member of the Cincinnati Reds two months after disagreements with ownership lead to a bitter parting. Seaver was dominant that day, striking out 11 en route to a complete game 5-1 victory which even included Seaver doubling and scoring twice. 

Fourteen years later in 1991, the emotions might have been less loving but the passions more heated as Darryl Strawberry returned to Shea Stadium on May 7. The Mets jumped out to an early 6 to 0 lead and even after a two run home run by Strawberry, the Mets still had a comfortable three run lead in the ninth inning with two outs but after an error and two infield hits, there stood Darryl Strawberry batting as the potential go ahead run until John Franco induced a forceout for the final out and a 6 to 5 Mets victory. 

More recently in 2006, Mike Piazza departed quietly for the San Diego Padres and saved the drama for his second game back in New York. Piazza was greeted by the fans like a long lost relative as they warmly cheered him when he homered off of Pedro Martinez in the fourth inning. One home run later, Piazza nearly became the unwanted house guest who refused to leave when he launched a potential game tying third home run in the eighth inning only to see his blast caught deep in centerfield. 

How will the latest Mets icon fare after leaving the swirling winds of Flushing for the sun and fun of South Beach? If history is any guide, Reyes may already have seen his best days as a player. 

While Seaver’s departure and 1977 was the start of a dismal period in Mets history, it was also Seaver’s last 20 win season. For Strawberry, the personal problems nipping at his heels began to overtake him, and while he was a valuable role player for the New York Yankees later in the decade, 1991 was his last truly superstar season. For Piazza, a potential date with the Mets in the 2006 NLCS was dashed by the Cardinals defeating the Padres in the NLDS and he retired one year later. 

However, Reyes is younger than his predecessors and he will be playing for a division rival where his performance positive or negative will directly impact the Mets. Signing Reyes was a risk for any team – the balky hamstring injuries come along with his dynamism. The standings and the box scores will determine whether the Mets breathe a sigh of relief over not resigning Reyes or bemoan a missed opportunity. 

https://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/04/26/reyes-returns-to-the-scene-of-his-prime-mets-defeat-marlins-2-to-1/


April 4, 2012 – RCT: Psst, Are You a Mets Fan? Yeah, Me Too

Psst, Are You a Mets Fan? Yeah, Me Too 

BY JOSEPH RINI 

I am a camouflaged New York Mets fan – literally. As a part of a game day promotion, they gave away jeep green Met caps at Shea Stadium a few years ago and I’ve worn it ever since then. It’s not a bad looking cap. People have complimented me on it. 

A while ago I was at the playground with my daughters and the mother of one of their friends look warily at me and like trained soldier saw orange and blue hiding under the jeep green and quietly asked, “Are you a Mets fan?” 

“Are you a Mets fan?” It’s become a question that seems to demand an apology like, “Are you still driving that 1980 Volare – you know the one where you can’t open the door from the inside?”(For the record, I unloaded that car years ago.) 

“Yeah,” I shrugged, “Although it’s been tough lately.” 

But instead of being greeted by a “How could you?” she relaxed and replied in relief, “We are, too,” and then she introduced me to her new dog, Mookie, as in Mookie “gets by Buckner, gets by Buckner” Wilson. 

The last few years have been especially difficult for Mets fans. As the Mets approach their 50th anniversary season, I can say the first 25 years, highlighted by historic figures Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges and Tom Seaver, rising stars Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden and championship teams in 1969 and 1986 were great. As for the last 25 seasons, well, not so much. 

My wife cannot understand my allegiance to the Mets. She’ll ask, “What have they ever done for you? Why root for a team that always loses when there is team that always wins in the same city? Why, because they won a world series 40 years ago?” 

“Not just 40 years ago,” I replied. They won it in 1986.” 

“Oh, 25 years ago. Big difference.” 

Alright, I guess she has a point. 

To be a Mets fan, is to root for the underdog. While Mets fans have loved their superstars like Seaver, Strawberry, and Piazza, they cherish the underdogs like rocky fielding Ron Swoboda, who rewards the fervently faithful fans with one of the greatest catches in World Series history or rotund Benny Agbayani, who plates game winning post season hits in 1999 and 2000. 

In fact, the highlight of the Mets offseason this past winter was not acquiring any new players but rediscovering original 1962 Met Choo Choo Coleman and his career .197 batting average after no one heard from him in over 30 years. 

Daniel Murphy appears to be the latest flawed fan favorite, a hustling high average hitter, who unfortunately seems to hustle his way into perplexing base running blunders. If the Mets win a world series with Murphy on the team, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls a Swoboda and wins a game by stealing home. 

By contrast, the Yankee formula for success is so simple it can be communicated by grunts. “Build stadium. Short right field fence. Get lefties to hit ball over the fence.” It’s worked for 90 years, so there was no reason to change it when they built the new Yankee Stadium. As for the Mets, their ownership decided to build a stadium with quirky dimensions. Unfortunately for hitters like David Wright and Jason Bay, this quirkification of their home park and their reduced home run production has them longing for a more inviting place to hit – perhaps the Grand Canyon. 

Let’s face it, no one seems to care or remember that for most of the 30 years before the mid 1990s, the Mets were the number one team in New York (check the attendance figures and the TV ratings from years past) or that even the hallowed Yankees went 18 years without a World Series win before 1996. 

When I was a young kid in Brooklyn there was one family that rooted for the Yankees on our block and they had to move to New Jersey. My goodness, if you’re a guy and you remember the last 

glory days of the Mets, your hair is either receding or turning gray. Today, we Met fans seem to walk in the shadows, the gloom of the last five years following us. It can seem hopeless… 

…but wait, is that ray of sunlight I see? Why yes, the sun is shining again as the cloud of Bernie Madoff has been lifted from the Mets … and did you see those six shutout innings by Johan Santana on his surgically repaired shoulder … and those ridiculously deep Citi Field power alleys have been shortened so that David Wright no longer needs a missile launcher to hit a home run…and John Niese looks like a 20 game winner … and the 25 lean years shall be followed by 25 years of plenty. 

April 5 is Opening Day. So while April 6 and beyond may be grimmer Reality Days, Opening Day is the day to let optimism reign, so let’s go Mets. 

https://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/04/04/psst-are-you-a-mets-fan-yeah-me-too/