Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Support for R.A. Dickey

I've read a lot the last couple of days about the Mets asking R.A. Dickey not to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I understand the business point of view the Mets have to take - they don't want one of their starting pitchers to get hurt. However, as a Met fan I fully support Dickey's decision to continue on with his charitable journey, as he is climbing to raise money for the Bombay Teen Challenge and raise awareness about sex trafficing. Is there a chance he could get injured? Of course, but doesn't that chance exist with everything anyone does? Will it hurt the team if he can't play? Of course it will. However, as far as I have heard and read he has properly trained for this climb and understands what it takes to make the trek. I think it will be an even more powerful statement if he continues in the face of the Mets requests to not go. I think it shows that baseball and sports in general is not the most important thing in the world. In this country especially professional athletes are worshipped for their scoring average, home run total, or passing yards. Then at times their off the field work is appreciated. But here is an athlete that we know loves and respects the game as much as anyone else saying he wants to be more than a baseball player - he wants to make a difference even if it could impact his baseball career. I think the Mets should be supportive. I'm sure if making the trek up the mountain has an impact on his contract Dickey has been properly advised about it. The Mets have made their feelings known. Now if he says I understand and wants to continue the Mets should applaud his efforts and wish him the best. It's the right thing to do. They should be so lucky to have such a man represent their team.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

No Rush to Judgment on Braun

Ryan Braun is the quintessential good guy in sports. It also doesn't hurt that he is a good looking guy too. People seem to like him and as far as his character has been displayed on and off the field he has always been thought of to be a class act. So when news broke last weekend that Braun had failed MLB's drug test, the whole baseball community was in shock. When it happened to A-Rod I think people believed he did it, but didn't want to. Manny Rameriz faced a similar reaction. People just wanted them to be clean for the sake of the game. However, I think the reaction afforded Braun is less judgmental and leaning towards the idea that this must be a mistake. I think the public and even the often news hungry, quick to crucify media have all stood back in the days after the news broke to press pause and wait for Braun's side of the story to come out through the appeals process. This is how stories like this should be handled, but often it isn't. Our society is usually quick to judge, but for some reason Braun gets some room to say listen first. Perhaps it's his accolades that make us respect his position more - he is the reigning NL MVP. Or perhaps its the way he handles himself on and off the field that makes the public and media' pause. He handled Jose Reyes' bunt and exit to win the NL batting title like a true professional when everyone else complained. As for off the field, it has been said that is does a lot for the community. Looking at both these reasons, it seems as if the latter reason would be the prevailing reason the public and media are giving Braun some time to be heard. A-Rod and Ramirez were both stellar baseball players, but their attitudes and even some of their actions were not looked upon favorably.

Time will tell though as the appeal process goes on as to whether Braun failed the drug test. Although, even a failed test isn't indicative of any intentional wrong doing. Perhaps he took something with a banned substance in it without knowing. Unfortunately, this isn't a defense unless what he took happens to the be on the very specific list of items deemed to be safe by MLB for players to use. It's unfortunate whatever the result is, for Braun will always have to answer questions for the rest of his playing career about this matter. Also, it's unfortunate for this team because they may lose the superstar they just invested a lot of money in for 50 games. And it's unfortunate for the sport deemed to be America's Past Time because it yet again takes a hit concerning cleaning up the game and its end product - talent and competition.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Reyes Watch is Over

It is being reported now that the Miami Marlins and Jose Reyes have reached an agreement for 6 years and $106 million. Sandy Alderson, Mets GM, has acknowledged this evening that they could not compete with the Marlins latest offer. He also stated that they were not contemplating trading David Wright. With that said, Wright now becomes the longest tenured Met. It appears the by stating this Alderson is hoping to keep fan interest by retaining one of the two superstars on the team. However, there has been no talk of offering Wright an extension this off-season other than ideas posed by Met writers/bloggers.

It will be interesting to see what the Mets decide to do now as far as free agents are concerned. They are clearly in the market for a closer and it was even mentioned earlier that they may have reached out to Francisco Rodriquez's (K-Rod) people. Also it is thought that they will seek other arms for the bullpen. As the starting rotation goes it seems pretty set with Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, John Niese, RA Dickey, and Dillion Gee. However, with Pelfrey having a less than par year and the question of how Santana will be bounce back from injury there is also an option to seek another started for the rotation. It's unfortunate that Chris Capuano just signed a two year deal with the Dodgers. Perhaps the Mets could have retained them with the money they were reserving for Reyes. The other big question seems to be second base. It has been thought for awhile that if Reyes were to leave Ruben Tejada would take over at shortstop and Daniel Murphy would be the primary second baseman with Justin Turner filling in at time. However, there are a couple of problems with this lineup. Murphy has already had his knees injured twice while playing second base. Also, they have to have someone on the team that can back up shortstop which would mean that would be caring two middle infielders on the bench because Turner probably can't back up shortstop except occasionally. Also, Alderson has already said that Murphy was available for trade decisions so it will be interesting to see who opens up next spring at second base.

With Reyes departure it appears that the Mets organization got one of their many off-season questions answered, but definitely not the answer they wanted. But there are still many more questions that remain and hopefully with the biggest issue now closed the organization can move ahead with other matters.

Say It Ain't So Jose ...

ESPN Deportes is reporting that the Miami Marlins have offered Jose Reyes a 6 year deal worth $111 million. If this report is true it appears that Reyes will not be returning to the Mets. It was around this time last year that I woke up early in the morning to see that Cliff Lee had signed with the Phillies - horrible news. But tomorrow if I wake to see Reyes will be taking the field next year in the horrendous uniforms with Miami across his chest it will probably be the worst sports news I have ever received. Growing up a college sports fan players generally leave on good terms - or at least the players that mattered. DeJuan Wheat wore out his eligibility. Fransisco Garcia was given Rick Pitino's blessing to leave early - he was ready and he needed to take of his family. The list could go on and on. And sure I missed them when the left, but it was expected. Professional sports though is a different game altogether. I have been an Eagles fan since college, but even when Donovan McNabb was traded I wasn't sad. I was hoping that Michael Vick would ultimately take over the quarterback role, even though Kevin Kolb was slated to (and eventually Vick did). I claimed to be a 76ers fan, but really I was just an Allen Iverson fan. When Iverson left I lost interest. But the Mets - I love the Mets. And since I've only been watching for about four years to me I can't imagine a Mets team without Jose Reyes. Reyes was by far the most exciting player on the team and without his presence I can't imagine what the team will be like. It has often been said that if David Wright is the face of the franchise, Reyes is the heart and soul. It will be hard to sit at Citifield and never see number 7 lead-off the bottom of the first inning. It will be hard to see Ruben Tejada take the field every day at short stop. But it will probably be the hardest to see him at Citifield sitting in the visitor's dugout. I understand professional sports is a business, but its hard not to love certain players. I was sad when Carlos Beltran left, but I knew it was coming. Reyes is different though. He has the longest tenure as a Met. His name is all over the record book. He is a special player - it would just be nice if he continued to shine under the bright lights of New York. But I guess there is still room for a little hope. He hasn't signed anywhere yet, but even I - the most optimistic Met fan - am thinking that the Jose Reyes Saga is about to come to end and it's not going to be a happy one for me and the rest of the Mets fans.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Op-Ed on the Concept of the Student-Athlete

When I signed up to tutor student-athletes at the age of eighteen at Temple I was handed a paper to sign. The paper listed a bunch of rules and regulations on the sheet. I don't remember them all, but I remember there was a list of things you couldn't give a student-athlete including birthday cards. Weary of creating an NCAA violation I asked a girl in my class for a book I lent her back because she was on the volleyball team. I felt silly asking for it back, but at the time I took my job seriously. My boss told me that they never really hire incoming freshman, so I felt like I was being given an opportunity that normally wouldn't exist. I tried my best to led many student-athletes to a path of achieving a good education. Sometimes this meant going above and beyond simply checking their work. I created practice exams and even entertained group tutoring sessions in study hall. Sometimes though I think I was too helpful, as one time a football player tried to tell people he had a 24 hour tutor. Because the guy was for the most part nice and respectful, I laughed it off and treated it like a joke. I was dedicated though because as much as I believed in my own ability to be successful I also believed in other's ability just as much.

Not only did I try to do the best job possible, I also loved it. I grew up loving sports and being a part of the athletic program at Temple made me feel like I was a part of something. Plus being a tutor allowed some insight into the world of college athletics - especially one of the money making sports - football, as I primarily worked with the football team. Even at a school where college athletics isn't a big time program priorities still remained on sports for certain students, while academic concerns were a facade. I remember during spring practice for football the coach called out players for their outstanding work on the practice field. What the coach failed to realize or cared to realize was that some of the players he rewarded with acknowledgement were barely staying eligible. In fact some of them were on their way out the door thanks to Temple's deficiency point system and NCAA academic standards. And many of the players had complaints about the requirements and the lack of help their football status was giving them. Some were mad that their coach didn't have more relationships with professors to give them passing grades. One player complained that no one was checking up on his attendance in class. Another player said the deficiency point program was created to target and rid the school of football players. Many of these players failed to take responsibility for their own actions. Many failed at school. And although I cannot defend these players inability to study and do the work on their own, I think part of the blame lies with the NCAA and athletic departments and universities themselves for creating a culture of entitlement and power. Many of these players felt that because they were Division I football players they deserved to be treated the stereotypical way other athletes in Division I football were treated - the rumored preferential treatments of the players at places like USC, Notre Dame, etc.

And the rumors have proven to be true often. But the truth goes beyond the rumors. Not only are players and coaches aware of preferential treatment there appears to be a vow of silence among schools to keep what they know to themselves no matter how wrong the information is. I've heard rumors of a lack of warning for positive drug testing, players passing course work down from team member to team member, etc. Coaches know what goes on, but they pretend not to hear. They don't want to out their players and have problems with winning on the field. They ignore the practices that are harming the student, but propelling the athlete. We've seen these actions at Miami and Ohio State. They are disappointing and unfair to the people that played by the rules. The rules everyone, even myself pledged to follow. And what does the NCAA due with such violation of rules, they decide how best to handle it without causing themselves any undue hardship - which means so it has as little impact on their money as possible. It was always funny the OSU players got to the play in the bowl game last year, but if they returned they would be punished. Does that sentence really seem to be for the student-athlete? It appears to create a disincentive to return to college and head off to the NFL, where not everyone makes it and most of the contract money isn't guaranteed.

I think the NCAA and college athletic departments miss their marks often. I care about the student part of the student-athlete. But my arguments in this debate on the concept of the student-athlete aren't often understood or heard because the NCAA and college athletic departments don't seem to care about the student-athlete. Sure they have rules, but some of these rules seem more like an exercise of power rather than putting the student first and giving these students a chance to make something of themselves other than athletes.

Of course there are always exceptions to these ideas. There are obviously some places that do focus on the building of young people's character and propelling them for the future. For example, at my Alma Mater John Chaney had a history of taking local kids onto this basketball team. Sure they were still talented, but they weren't the top recruits necessarily. He invested in the whole person, not just the talent. All coaches, athletic departments, and the almighty self governing NCAA need to be on the same page, especially when it comes to athletes of the two big money making sports - football and basketball. There are only so many spots in the NBA and NFL and I've heard too many guys talk about how they should be in the league, are going to make it in the league, and deserved to be in the league. I don't discourage their dreams. I think dreams are a crucial part of life, but I do encourage plan B - when handed a free education take advantage of it. And I encourage that they surround themselves with people that only believe in their potential on the field, but off the field and this group of people should include their coaches and other parties guiding their athletic opportunities. I know I did my part. I'm happy to say I positively affected at least a few people's educational aspirations.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Freedom Hall Flashback

I have yet to walk the halls of the KFC Yum Center. I hope this college basketball season I will get a chance to go to a game there even though the name and logo on the outside of the building is horrible. I still think "The Bucket" would have been a better choice. However, being immersed around fans of the other team when I watch the Cardinals play on the rode isn't as fun as being among my fellow Cardinal fans. I miss the C-A-R-D-S cheers and the introductions of the players as everyone stands, claps, and cheers - the best player always getting the loudest ovation.

Although I haven't been to a home game in a few years, I have so many great memories of the days the Cardinals took the court at Freedom Hall. Trying to decide my favorite memory ever at Freedom Hall is difficult. I watched some great games there and also battled through some tough losing seasons. I wasn't at the game when Reece Gaines scored like 10 points in less than 30 seconds against Tennessee. I was there to see Reece Gaines and the rest of the team win the Conference USA championship though. I was also there for Gaines' senior night. I was there for a few of the games during Taquan and Francisco's years of dominance. I wasn't there for DeJuan Wheat's last home game which was disappointing, but I was there when he got injured in an exhibition game and I was angry that I only got to see him play for about five minutes. I was there for at least one victory over rival Kentucky.

All these moments were certainly great, but my most vivid memories are less about the outcome of the game and more about some specific event during or after the game. I remember when we beat Carolina and the coach - I don't remember his name - was a former assistant who had taken over for the legendary Dean Smith after he retired. North Carolina played a horrible game and afterwards as the press conference played on the large screen hanging over the middle of the court the coach looked defeated. He took the blame for everything. I remember after we beat Kentucky I was so excited I saw Hajj Turner walking through the tunnel and ran over and said hi and he remembered who I was (and thats a story for another day). After another Kentucky game I remember walking right past Saul Smith - one of my least favorite Kentucky players. Then there was the time my sister walked under the rope around the court to go ask Nate Johnson for his autograph as he sat on the bench during warm-ups. When I tried to follow her I of course got stopped by security. But I have to say my most intense memory and probably my all time favorite visual from Freedom Hall was during the first game I ever went to Samaki Walker stood at mid court on the Cardinal logo waving him long arms up and down encouraging the fans to make some noise. I can close my eyes and still see him there, white uniform, #52 in red on it, as the other players stood around the free throw line.

That game would be the only game I ever got to see Samaki Walker play in person at the University of Louisville. He left to chase an NBA dream and probably avoid any more NCAA problems. I tried to follow his NBA career and last I heard I believe he got into some legal trouble. But I can ignore all those things and remember him in that one moment. In that moment he was my favorite player - even over DeJuan Wheat for that season. How good would the team had been the next year if he had stayed - the year we made it to the Elite Eight and lost to North Carolina? Alex Sanders was the center. He was decent, but he was no Samaki Walker. Had be stayed our team would have been amazing - Walker, Wheat, Alvin Sims, Damien Dantzler, and Nate Johnson if my memory serves me correctly. But he didn't come back and sports, as well as life in general, is always full of what ifs. But thank you Samaki for that one moment, that great first memory of Freedom Hall.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


J-Roll ... Jimmy Rollins ... baseball player ... aspiring music producer ... Jose Reyes wannabe. Jimmy Rollins seems to always be worried about what the Mets are doing, especially Jose Reyes. Rollins made some comments coming into the playoffs about Reyes' now infamous bunt single incident to end his season and possibly his career with the Mets. Reyes, in case you didn't know, was competing against Ryan Braun for the NL batting title. On the last day of the season Reyes played a day game, got a hit at his first at bat, and then left the game. Braun didn't play until later and he had every chance to take the lead from Reyes, but he ended up not getting a hit at all. Braun has since texted Reyes to congratulate him and has repeatedly said he has no problem with what Reyes did. So why does Rollins? Because Rollins has a problem with anything Reyes does. Years ago Phillies players complained that Reyes "pimps" his homeruns. Reyes isn't a homerun hitter, so I'm not sure how often the Phillies see this occur. What they do see occur is a talented athlete play hard and have fun doing it. He isn't showing off or being arrogant - he is being Jose Reyes. Wouldn't we all like it if we had a job we loved? Perhaps Rollins doesn't understand Reyes' love for the game because maybe he doesn't have that love for baseball. But regardless no player should judge another player, especially one they know nothing about.

For the most part, Rollins always sounds jealous of Reyes. And he should be jealous. There is a free agent market that will begin shortly - Reyes and Rollins are the top short stops in the mix. Rollins has been busy making negative statements about Reyes to boost his free agency appeal. And thats fine - Reyes doesn't need to do that. Reyes has for the most part been out the limelight since the season ended (well except for his nude photo shot as part of ESPN's body issue). Part of the reason of course is the Mets are not in the playoffs, but despite that he is one of the big name free agents about to hit the market and everyone - well everyone that loves the Mets - is just waiting to see what happens.

As for Rollins plans to put a negative image of Reyes out there, it may back fire. If you are busy trash talking a player in a situation that had nothing to do with you and has nothing to do with the series you are about to play in it makes you look a little petty and a little classless. Yes trash talking is part of sports, but his comments were not needed and again the NL batting title had nothing to do with him. Professionals say "Congratulations" and move on - they don't harp on a player just to make themselves look good. Not to mention although both Rollins and Reyes are the top names in their position for the free agent market there are two different markets. There will be the market of teams that will throw a lot of money at Reyes and then when Reyes signs there will be teams that need a short stop that make an offer to Rollins - an offer that will be less years and less money. Rollins is the second choice, unless a team that needs a new short stop can't make an offer for Reyes.

And just one final note ... Rollins was asked in an interview if he would be interested in coming to New York. Well the Yankees have a short stop in Jeter and he isn't going anywhere next year. If the Mets don't resign Reyes, the job is Ruben Tejada's. So there is no spot in New York for Rollins, but even if there was he isn't welcome here anyway. Thanks, but no thanks.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Vote: Who Will Win the World Series?

The playoffs begin today with two AL match-ups: Tigers vs. Yankees and Rays vs. Rangers. The NL teams take the field tomorrow. With an exciting finish to the regular season lets see if the playoffs can provide similar intrigue leading up to the World Series. Many people predict that the Phillies will take it all with a starting pitching rotation that is the best in the league, with the pitching staff leading all of Major League Baseball with an ERA of 3.02. However, one can't forget that the playoffs are full of great, quality players that can be difference makers. There are 13 players in the playoffs that have 30 or more home runs, which means with one crack of the bat they can change the whole direction of the game. The Rangers and Yankees statistically may be the most offensively powered teams. The Rangers lead all of Major League Baseball in batting average, are second in slugging, third in runs scored, second in home runs, and third in RBIs. The Yankees lead in home runs, are second in runs scored, and third in slugging percentage. But statistics aren't always indicative of success - the Red Sox lead in runs scored, hits, and RBIs, and with all of that they couldn't make it to the playoffs. Teams need more than offensive power to win - they need smart defense and good pitching - a complete team effort. Plus, in sports anyone can be beaten on any given night. Anything is possible. Even AJ Burnett can pitch a good game every once in a while.

So vote for World Series pick below and leave a comment with why you picked your team. Thanks!

World Series Prediction: Who do you think will win?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jose Reyes: The Champ

After yesterdays bunt single to give Jose Reyes a batting average of .337, Ryan Braun took the field later that day against the Pittsburgh Pirates and went 0-4 with a batting average of .332. Reyes won the NL batting title and released a statement saying:

"I just want to say I’m humbled and honored to win the batting title. It means so much to my family and my country, the Dominican Republic. I have been through a lot over the past few years so this really means a lot to me. It’s also very special to be the first Mets player to win a batting title. There have been so many great players throughout our history. I want to thank Terry Collins, my coaches and all my teammates and of course all the Mets fans who have always supported me and been behind me 100 percent.”


I would also like to add that I have no problem with Jose wanting to leave the game after he got the bunt single. Reyes has never been one to disappoint the fans, he plays his hardest when he is out on the field. If he felt like this was that important to him than as a fan, a fan that went to Citifield yesterday solely to watch him play, I respect his decision. He has given so much to the fans with his exciting play and love for the game that I think people shouldn't complain about his decision. He deserved this, he was entitled to make his choice. I respect his decision, I think he is an amazing athlete, and am happy that he becomes the first player in Mets history to win a batting title - now come back and do it next year.

Wow What a Night

Last night and slightly into this morning baseball was at its best. As the final games of the season ended just after midnight, the Wild Card winners were much different than what had been expected at the beginning of the month.

Boston suffered the biggest collapse ever and will be spending their post-season at home. In a season where they got off to a bad start losing their first five games, then went on at times to lead their division, they finished third in the AL East. Their primary problem was pitching. John Lackey, who they signed a $82.5 million contract for 5 years in December of 2009, had the worst year of his career with an ERA of 6.41 - more than two points higher than his career average of 4.10. But even with the pitching problems there is one mainstay in their bullpen - Jonathan Papelbon. And last night with a 3-2 lead the Red Sox handed him the ball in the bottom of the ninth, and to their disappointment Papelbon blew his third save of the year.

As for the other side of the AL Wild Card the Tampa Bay Rays came from behind in the wild card race and took the lead when it mattered - on the last day of the regular season. During game 162 the Rays were down 7 - 0 to the Yankees and it looked like their only chance to get to the playoffs would be if Boston would lose and then the Rays would have to beat them in game 163. It wasn't looking good for the Rays for most of the games. Then suddenly the Rays mounted a ferocious comeback in the eighth and ninth innings that included the 30th home run of the year by Evan Longoria. And the game stayed tied with every baseball fan anxiously waiting until the bottom of the twelfth when Longoria hit his second home run of the night - 31st of the year - that stayed slightly fair win the game for the Rays.

If the AL Wild Card wasn't exciting enough for you there was also an NL Wild Card battle going on. The Atlanta Braves, the team that lead the Wild Card coming into the month, was playing divisional opponent the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves took the lead in the bottom of the third inning 3-1, but the Phillies came back with runs in the seventh and ninth innings to tie the game up. The Braves offense never resurged after that third inning lead and the Phillies won the game in the thirteenth inning thanks to an RBI single by Hunter Pence. The crucial point of the game though came in the ninth inning when the rookie closer, Craig Kimbrel, experienced one of his worst outings of the year walking three and giving up the tying run, ultimately blowing his eighth save of the year.

Since the Braves couldn't hold on to the lead, the St. Louis Cardinals took the NL Wild Card with a fairly easy victory over the Houston Astros winning 8-0.

What made last night so remarkable besides the down to the wire finishes and extra innings was the teams involved in the games. In one game you had one team fighting to get into the playoffs against one team that already locked in the top spot of their league. With nothing to play for the Phillies didn't just rest and let the Braves them. They played as they did every other game this year - like it mattered. And as for the Baltimore Orioles - they played their hearts out against the Red Sox knowing that no matter what the outcome is they weren't going anywhere after that game. Teams play for pride every day of the year, even if that victory doesn't lead them to the postseason. Congrats to the victors of the Wild Card for battling a long season down to the very end. As for the teams with the biggest Wild Card collapses ever in their respective leagues, the Red Sox and Braves, see you in 2012.

And for those reading this that may not watch baseball and believe it is boring or slow - you missed an amazing day in sports yesterday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Emotional Day at Citifield ... Please Stay Jose!

Last night I stood in my front of my TV in my studio apartment in the East Village jumping up with my hands in the air then clapping repeatedly for Jose Reyes as he hit his second home run of the night and gave the fans a curtain call. I wished so badly I had gone to the game. This morning I woke up and took the long subways ride, taking the 6 and 7 trains, to Flushing, Queens because I wanted to be there to see Reyes in case it's the last time he wears a Mets uniform. As I sat on the subway the thoughts of a possible departure by Reyes brought up the same feelings I had when my favorite player ever to play at the University of Louisville, DeJuan Wheat, left. For Wheat's final season at Louisville my parents got a ticket package deal where we could go to five games, unfortunately one of those games wasn't senior night. A friend of mine got tickets to the game, but instead of taking me - the biggest Louisville fan in our school - she took someone else and I was heartbroken. My parents tried to get tickets but they were sold out, so the closest I would get to seeing Wheat's last home game at Freedom Hall was on TV. After that day I got to meet Wheat at the basketball banquet, but it wasn't quite the same. When the basketball season started the next year I sat in the stands with my dad and friend Elizabeth and watched Cameron Murray lead the team as the point guard against Western Kentucky. A lot of people didn't like Murray, but I did. But no matter how much I liked Murray, I felt like something was missing from that game - DeJuan Wheat. I anticipate that next year if Reyes doesn't return I will feel the same way. I will love Ruben Tejada, I will cheer for him like everyone else on the team, but something will be missing from that Mets infield - Jose Reyes. The difference though between Reyes and Wheat is that Wheat had to leave because his eligibility was up, but Reyes can come back. And I would probably love Tejada a little more if he was playing to the left of Reyes at second base.

Once I got to the game I bought the cheapest ticket I could because I'm currently not on a project. I watched a little bit on the lower level as some of the players warmed up, but eventually made my way to the promenade section of Citifield. As Reyes approached the plate for his first at bat in the bottom of the first inning I stood up with many other fans and applauded him as the crowd chanted JOSE JOSE JOSE. Reyes got a bunt single, which put him at .337 for the batting average - leading Braun in the NL batting title race. Then suddenly Reyes vacated the base and walked towards the dugout. Justin Turner came out to pinch run for him and fans started to boo. Everyone at the game was there to see Reyes play and after one at bat and one inning of defense he was sitting in the dugout out of everyone's view. Everyone thought Collins had pulled him and I was furious. How could he do that to the fans? Later it was explained that Reyes had asked to be pulled if he got a hit and Collins wanted to honor his request. I no longer felt angry because it was Reyes's request. I think as a fan I know how much Reyes loves to play and loves the fans, so I respect his decision because he could have not played at all since he came into the game with the lead for the batting title.

So with Reyes gone in the first and David Wright pulled a couple innings later the players on the field were basically all players playing for a place next season. I eventually got over my anger about not getting to see more of Reyes and Wright and enjoyed the game - especially the hometown kid, Mike Baxter's first home run in the Majors. As the eighth inning game around I started to make my way to the lower level because I like to leave as soon as the game is over to make the express train, but today I felt like I couldn't leave Citifield. I have a very special connection to the sports teams I love. For me being at a game for the Mets or Louisville basketball is almost like my escape or the place to go where everything just feels alright. I got cut from my project this week, I'm hopeful to get on another one, but being at Citifield today just revived me a little. It's the same way going to Freedom Hall always made me feel like I was somebody. Whether it was Nate Johnson signing an autograph or Hajj Turner remembering who I was or waiting as the players ran out in the tunnel before the game I always felt like I was a part of something. Among the players and the fans I fit in. I think there are some people that don't always understand that, but also I think its something that a lot of diehard fans like myself can relate to. So as the ninth inning came around I stood at the top of the section behind the Mets dugout and people started chanting JOSE JOSE JOSE and JOSE REYES and PLEASE STAY JOSE. There were #7 shirts every where and signs begging him to stay and saying thanks. The ninth inning came to an end with a Mets victory over the Reds 3-0. Reyes led the players in the dugout out to the field to shake hands. As the players returned and proceeded to the dugout entrance to the clubhouse a player, I believe Angel Pagan, suddenly flicked his hat into the stands. Other players followed him and some even ran to the other side of the field to throw hats to the those fans. Jason Pridie handed a bat to someone, Willie Harris followed his leave. It was unbelievable to see such interaction with the fans. The Mets players are by far some of the classiest, most appreciative professional athletes I have ever seen. But the fans still wouldn't leave. They wanted one more moment with Reyes. I wouldn't leave either. I made my way a little closer to the dugout. You could just feel it - everyone loves Jose Reyes. Every Mets fan standing there didn't want that moment to end because they knew when the left the ballpark Reyes would no longer be a Met. I stood there with them and clapped and cheered. JOSE JOSE JOSE ! Then eventually he appeared. He walked out of the dugout and turned around to face the crowd smiling, carrying signs, clapping repeatedly and saluted them. He waved, he made a motion to show his love for the fans. If this was his last game as a Met I will never forget that moment - it was the send off he deserved. Hopefully its not a send off though, but a thanks for everything and see you next year (in a Mets uniform).

I'm certainly not glad to be unemployed right now, but because of that I got to see the Mets last game of the year and that was something nice, something special I won't forget.

Today was probably the most emotional sporting event I have ever been to and I've been to a lot of games, including Louisville's last trip to the final four and three subway series. But I hope in the long run it was overly emotional for no reason because Reyes comes back. But just in case he doesn't ... Thanks for the memories Jose! Thanks for the exciting triples, the multi-hit games, the amazing stolen bases, the unbelievable defensive play, the smiles, the excitement, the love of the game, and even the claw/spotlight. You certainly made a mark on the Mets - in the history books and in the hearts of fans. Now please come back and make some more ... I truly believe you and David can be the center of team that wins the World Series.


Video of crowd chanting after the game:

Mets Review

Today the Mets played their last game of the season and it ended with a 3-0 victory thanks to a complete game shutout effort by Miguel Batista. The game had two notable hits. The first was a bunt single by Jose Reyes to give him a batting average of .337. He left the game after that hit and now awaits for Ryan Braun to play tonight to see if he will hold on the NL batting title lead. (More to come on Reyes in a separate opinion post later). The second notable hit was Mike Baxter's first Major League home run. Baxter grew up in Queens and one can imagine how much hitting a home run in front of the hometown crowd must have felt. The other run was driven in by Nick Evans.

All in all the season has been a difficult one for the Mets as they miss the playoffs and finish under .500. However, despite their overall record there were many high points to the season. They had a great stretch were they played division champions Detroit and Texas extremely well. They took both games from the Phillies in a doubleheader with come from behind wins. They played an extraordinary game against the Yankees where the struggling Jason Bay got the walk off RBI. Young players came up to the big leagues and played well, in place injured players. Jose Reyes had an amazing year. Jason Isringhausen got his 300th career save. And RA Dickey had a stretch of 12 consecutive quality starts. These are just some of the great moments that occurred this season.

With that said the Mets will need to do some things to improve the team this offseason. The first order of business is whether Reyes comes back. There is also the question of whether the Mets will re-sign Chris Capuano. Capuano wants to be a starter and with Niese, Gee, Dickey, and Pelfrey back the question really is how Johan Santana comes back from injury. The Mets are hoping Santana, who missed the whole year, will be ready to go for the team in spring training, but no one can predict whether he will suffer any setbacks. Capuano would be a great person to have just in case, but as mentioned earlier he wants to start and if he feels like he won't be able to here he might pack his bags and go somewhere else - two big name teams in the area in the need of some pitching: Red Sox and Yankees. Besides issues with re-signing Reyes and Capuano, there are a couple of other positions the Mets will need to look at. First there is the chance that Angel Pagan will not be back with the Mets next year. A lot of people have been saying that the Mets are not happy with mistakes he has made and may look to fill that need with a free agent. One of the most talked about outfielders in the minors, Fernando Martinez, isn't a likely replacement because he has suffered many injuries in the past couple of years. Also it appears that even though Jason Pridie has done a good job filling in for Pagan, he probably isn't an everyday player. Another position that will get some attention in the offseason is catcher and off course the bullpen could use some improvement - a closer will definitely be needed. Bobby Parnell is talented, but he isn't a closer and putting that kind of pressure on him probably isn't good. Manny Acosta's play of late though has been promising which definitely helps out the bullpen.

Given all of these considerations, the offseason will be interesting for the Mets and anything is possible. Obviously what happens with Reyes will be a big part of the decision making for the front office. It will be interesting to see what the 2012 Mets will look like. Also, it will be interesting to see how Santana performs when he hopefully returns next year and how the young pitchers in the minors may impact the team. Will Wheeler, Harvey, Familia, and Meija make any appearances in the big leagues next year? All four are said to be tremendous talents. Only time will tell what who the 2012 Mets are and where that team goes.

Thanks Mets for the memories. See you in Port St. Lucie.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All Eyes on Reyes

With three games left in the season for the Mets everything has to do with one guy - Jose Reyes. Will he win the National League batting title, the first Met ever to do so? Will he re-sign and be in the blue and orange next year? If you are a diehard Mets fan you are routing for him to win the batting title, but the ultimate thing you want is for him to stay around and win a World Series some day as a Met.

His talent alone would greatly improve their chances at bringing the World Series back to Flushing. His name is all over the Mets' statistics book, as it should be since he is the Met with the longest tenure. He leads in all-time steals, runs, and triples. He is second in total hits and at-bats. And as I mentioned before he is in a National League batting title race with Ryan Braun, with an average of .334 as of today. One would have to think that since he is only 28 years old, he would continue to play at this level for sometime.

Besides these amazing statistics Reyes also brings so many intangibles to the Mets. If you watch Reyes he is always smiling when he gets on base or when he crosses home plate. If he doesn't get a hit he is visibly frustrated. He conveys his love of the game for the fans to see and the fans show there appreciation by chanting his name throughout the game. He is simply the heart and soul of the Mets.

But one must also remember the no matter how much fans adore Reyes, this is still a business. When it comes time to negotiate years and dollars the Mets' front office is fully aware that Reyes has suffered many injuries in his career, including being on the disabled list twice this year for the same hamstring injury. With so many things to consider in the Reyes free agency saga, this off-season will have every Mets fan sitting on the edge of their seats until Reyes makes his decision.

The Mets without Reyes may be fine, as Ruben Tejada (his likely successor if he doesn't come back) has matured and improved a lot throughout the season. But even with Tejada's baseball skills and intelligence he isn't Jose Reyes. You can't replace the intangible things. You can't survive without a heart. But the decision is out the fans' hands and lies in two parties - Reyes and the Mets. Now its time to just watch and wait. Hold on Met fans it's going to be long off-season.