I was fortunate to be one of the bloggers invited to attend the Mets Holiday Party yesterday and it was quite the experience.
From the time I arrived at the frozen tundra of Flushing (it was a bit surreal as I was the only passenger getting off at the Citi Field-Willets Pt. stop on the 7 train and the wind was whipping and there was still wisps of snow on the platform. Then walking out of the station there was not a soul around the ball park. It felt like the kind of dream I’ve had after one too many late night slices of pepperoni pizza before going to bed) and walked into the Seaver entrance of the ball park, I had a very awkward feeling. The guard at the door asked me if I was “media” or a guest. I immediately turned into Ralph Kramden “Aaaaaa Humm-a-na-Hummm-a-ana, I don’t know” and with that I shoved a copy of the e mail of my invite at him. The guard made a call and told me to have a seat and when the check in begins, look for your name on the “media list”. Say that again but a bit slower? Sure enough on the “media list” we’re my name and my site along with other bloggers. After checking in, I walked to the elevator with Sweeney Murti, the Highlander beat man for WFAN. When I asked what he was doing here ( like I’m now the keeper of who belongs and who doesn’t) he told me he was covering this for the MLB Network (oh ok permission to come on board the ship) Knowing that he has mentioned he’s a one time Phillies fan, I asked him about the Cliff Lee signing and if he was happy or sad since he covers the Highlanders. It was here where I realized how much difference there is between the MSM and bloggers, Murti told be it didn’t matter to him as he has not rooting interest either way. It finally hit me, this is the man’s job. It doesn’t matter who wins or losses or who’s a nice guy or who’s a prick, he just covers the Highlanders as that’s his assignment. WFAN could tell him tomorrow that they are going to switch it up and have Ed Coleman cover the Highlanders and him cover the Mets and it would not phase Murti in the slightest.
There’s the difference, as a blogger I have an emotional attachment to the New York Mets. There isn’t any objectivity here. There is anger some (most) times and sarcasm and general wise ass-ness here but it stays within the Mets fandom. We can call the owner names and curse the OP and Castillo contracts for burdening the organization but if someone outside the “family” says anything we get our backs up and we stick up for the team and the organization. Now the last few years, this has been quite difficult. So my trek to Flushing yesterday was as much a fact finding mission to see what this new regime will do to cleanse the sins of the past administration as it was to try to find out if the team is headed in the right direction.
As our little group of bloggers stood around basically trying to figure out where to stand, where to leave our coats, and where the bathrooms were, we were saved by Danielle Parillo of the Mets P.R. who gave us the itinerary for the day (and for that I am grateful, Danielle) we were led to the media area and split into three groups, print, TV and bloggers. Yes, we had our own section. After the GM, MGR and players were done with the first two groups they were led to the bloggers section.
Sandy Alderson was the first to meet with us, we introduced ourselves and shook hands with the GM and then began the Q & A. It’s hard not to be impressed by Alderson. I perceive him as a man of cool and confidence, I don’t think much rattles this man. Each question was met with direct eye contact with the inquirer and there were no one or two word answers. The main questions were of course about pitching , Alderson made it known that was his main concern as well. He is not going to sign a pitcher just because his name is familiar with fans; this front office will do its due diligence from scouting reports to in depth analytical study on pitchers to find the right fit. Alderson’ personality is the polar opposite of most Mets fans, he’s patient.
Terry Collins was next to talk to us and if anything the man is intense. It is going to be quite intriguing to see how his high energy” if you’re not part of the solution your part of the problem” style will play in the Mets clubhouse. I explained to him my biggest grip with the team and organization over the last few years was the “woe is us” attitude from the ownership to the front office to manger, coaches and players where losing was accepted and injuries were used as a crutch. Collins let me know that this will not happen with this team, those days are over. He also said that this will be addressed on day one of spring training. As with Alderson, the Ollie Castillo question came up and Collins gave the same answer as the GM that both these guys won’t stay on the roster if they cannot produce. Collins also said that Ollie is on the list of starting pitchers come spring, so if anything the Ollie Castillo question will not be answered until the end of March. Patients Mets fans, patients.
Ike Davis was the first player to talk to us, when asked about Dave Hudgens the new hitting coach, Davis said he was thrilled as Hudgens is an “ASU (Arizona State University) guy and he also very happy that Ken Oberfell will be on the big league staff telling us that playing in Buffalo for Obie was the best baseball experience he’s had.
Carlos Beltran came by and the first impression I got meeting him in person for the first time, was how big he is. He’s very broad in the chest and shoulders so you can see where his gets his power from. He told us his knee feels great and that his has been working out and is ready for spring training. He said the Mets have told him that he is the centerfielder and that he is happy about that but if there is someone in the organization that the club feels is better suited for the position, he has no problem moving to right field. I get the sense that he wants to show he’s a team guy but I can tell he wants to show the skeptics he can still man the middle of the outfield. I asked him, since the knee is feeling better will we see the speed come back, he joked and said that at soon to be 34 years old he can’t run like when he was 24 and then asked me if I can still run when I was 24 (I was the oldest of the group) I laughed and said “I can’t run like I did when I was 44”, we laughed and Carlos said “I’m only kidding with you” like I’d take offense? We bonded Beltran and I get that contract extension ready Sandy!
Jason Bay says he is headache free and has no signs or symptoms from his concussion. He looks fit. Last season is still gnawing on him and spring training can’t come soon enough to suit him. I asked him how do the players stay below the noise and by that I mean the extensive media coverage, the talk radio loudmouths, the many bloggers and playing in a city where baseball season is 24/7/365. Bay said that playing in Boston helps with that but he said coming from Pittsburgh to Boston was a definite shock. He said that as professionals they can’t let the outside forces take away their focus.
After entertaining the kids by playing Santa Claus (Marty Noble who was attendance really should have donned that Santa suit he has the physic for the job) David Wright came over to us. I remarked to him “is there anything you won’t do for this organization”? He gave me that patented D-Wright smile and said he will do whatever it takes to help this organization. From talking to Wright, the impression I got was, he’s happy about the regime change. He didn’t say anything specific but the word he used a lot in our conversation was “discipline”. This is something that Matt Cerrone spoke about on my THIS CALL TO THE BULLPEN show last night, the players in the last few years have felt this sense of entitlement like they didn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that playing for the Mets was like a Supreme Court appointment. That is over and done. When asked about meeting Sandy Alderson, Wright again mentioned the discipline aspect of Alderson and how much he respected his baseball resume and just as important his dedicated service to the country. Wright told the group,he sees a lot of his father, a police officer, in Alderson. Wright also spoke of Collins and again this is just me speculating, I don’t think David was a big fan of Jerry Manuel . Wright mentioned how Collins is a motivator and will instill (that word again ) discipline. My take is that the clubhouse has been dominated by a bunch of players who feel they are on scholarship when all they are, are walk-ons. From listening to Wright it seems it the Mets were overdue for this change in management.
For more on the day at Citi Field with the Mets check out the great job that Rob Castellano of Amazin’ Avenue did in putting together a great video recap of the interviews.
Back when I started doing this blog eight years ago, I was envious of the bloggers at a now defunct site Elephants in Oakland who wrote about the Oakland A’s as they were given an audience with Billy Beane. As we all know the A’s under Alderson and Beane were the most progressive of front offices. The same thing when Theo Epstein took over the Red Sox and Paul DePodesta ran the Dodgers. Here I was as a Mets fan stuck with Joe McIllvaine a GM who much better fitted for a head scout or head of minor league development, Al “The Empty Suit” Harrazin, Steve “Lively Libido” Phillips, Jim “Never Had A Chance” Duquette and Omar “See Joe Mcillvaine Description” Minaya running my favorite team, turning a blind eye to present and future of baseball management. When I knew that the Minaya regime was ready for over throw, the first name on my wish list was Sandy Alderson and ownership came to its senses and hired him and not only Alderson but his top lieutenants Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi. To the average everyday Mets fan, who gets his Mets news from fish wraps and entertainers on talk radio, they don’t get the excitement of this new regime that resonates from those of us who sit on our laptops all day wondering you will manger Appalachian League Kingsport Mets but in due time they will. All the bitching and moaning about not signing a big ticket free agent is off base, this front office may be the best free agent signings in Mets history.