MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE

Famous Last Words

One  of the great topics for debate when it comes to team sports is how much does team chemistry play in making a difference between a winning or losing team.  There are many who believe team chemistry is a bunch of bullshit and it’s mostly those in the sabermetric segment of baseball fans who take this position and feel that folks like me who believe in this part of the game are relics of the past and that whether you’re BFF’s with teammates or a big time snob, as long as you produce on the field that’s what counts. In some ways they’re right, Jeff Francouer had a million dollar smile and a ten cent approach at the plate while he was with the Mets.  Barry Bonds was one miserable prick in the Giants clubhouse but he is still considered one the best baseball players of all time (I’ll leave the PED discussion for another time) but there is still something about having a group of people who have the same goal, winning and will do whatever has to be done to achieve that goal. When you have that collective mind set, I feel you have a greater shot of being a winning team than if you have a team that is just a collection of talent who worry about their 2 for 4 day and their statistical resume than winning games.

I bring this up because of four teams I’ve watched over the last month or so, two teams that have that “team chemistry” one that doesn’t and one I think will have it.

I’m a Boston Celtics fan and if there is a team that thrives on chemistry and is the best case study on the subject it’s the C’s. For the bulk of his career, Paul Pierce was the best the Celtics had to offer but as the losses piled up with exception of a trip to the NBA Finals in 2001, Pierce was ready to bolt Boston until GM Danny Ainge made two deals that put the Celtics back into the forefront of the NBA,  obtaining Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. All three players were All-Stars and future Hall of Famers as well; this melding of talent would either be a big success or a major failure. It’s been a rousing success. All three superstars under the direction of Head Coach Doc Rivers have checked their egos at the locker room door and preached the value of teamwork to their teammates. Ainge also added a great supporting cast who all have the same team first mind set. Garnett uses the term “Ubuntu” which loosely translated from African culture means a sense of community. Yes it helps greatly that the team employs four players who are all time greats and one in Rajon Rando who will be in that same group when his career is over. When you watch the C’s play you know right away what the mission statement is, to win Banner 18 and to do it by any means necessary.

A team that is nowhere near having Ubuntu are the NY Knicks. Here is a team that is just a red hot mess.  The best guy in the entire Knicks organization is the GM Donny Walsh, who took over a disaster of a team, got them below the salary cap for the first since the inception of the cap, who then went out an acquired two superstar players and has made The Garden the mecca of basketball once again. For his hard work and dedication what did Walsh get in return, a knife in his back wielded by the clueless owner of the team Jim Dolan. The head coach Mike D’Antoni preaches offense, offense and more offense with his “7 seconds or less” fast break style. A style that will never win without the player’s ability to play even plausible defense, which the Knicks don’t do.  But the biggest problem with the Knicks is they have two superstars who don’t seem to know how to mesh. Amare Stoudemire was THE show for the bulk of the season with the Knicks. He was the focal point of everything from merchandising to promotion of the team, he was anointed the next great Knickerbocker. As the team had early success the chant of M-V-P cascaded from the fans at MSG, they loved their Amare. But wait, all of a sudden another superstar joined the team, this player was born in Red Hook Brooklyn but raised in Baltimore MD and won a National Championship with Syracuse and did everything in his power to be a Knick. Move over Amare make way for Carmelo Anthony.

Both these star players said all the right things at the ‘Melo presser (the same cannot be said of Dopey Dolan) and the first few games, the duo had Knick fans thinking it was 1970 all over again. But as the season has gone on, we see that both players are still trying to figure out who gets the ball when the game is on the line and how to get the rest of the roster to raise their game and guts to do what it takes to win games. We have seen ‘Melo glare at teammates who haven’t gotten the ball to him in crunch time and we’ve seen Stoudemire wonder what happened to the team he was the leader of and the coach trying to figure out how to appease two big egos. I guess you could say the Knicks lack “team chemistry”

Now the other tenant of MSG , is the exact opposite of their basketball cohabitants.  For long time NY Rangers fans like myself , the best trait of this Ranger team is they never quit and even in losses, it’s hard to get mad as they  are what hockey folks like to say a “lunch pail team” . Not only are they a hard working bunch but for the most part the Rangers roster is mostly home grown.  Ryan Callahan is the captain in waiting along with Brandon Dubinsky, Mark Stahl, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan  and King Henrik Lundquist  are all setting the tone for big run to the playoffs. No matter what happens in the playoffs, as Ranger fans we have to be pleased that the foundation of the team that will be a Cup contender for awhile has been set.  There is a very good blend of veteran and young players on this Ranger team. When you see teams like the Rangers play as hard as they do, as a fan your proud to say you root for that team. With the NY Rangers you have team and fan chemistry.

That brings me to the NY Mets. If your sole knowledge of the Mets was obtained through the NY beat writers, sports columnists and Twitter, you’d get the impression that this was the worst team in baseball. But if you watch the games and possess an open mind ,you’d come to the realization that the Mets are a pretty good ball club. Are they a World Series contender? Not this year. Will they be better than last year? No question in my mind they will.

There is a lot of familiarity with the players on the roster, most have played together either in the big leagues or in the Mets minor league system. R.A. Dickey had mentioned this during the off season that many of the guys on this team know each other very well. Dickey also mentioned that a baseball clubhouse is just like any work place, some of guys you’re close with and other guys not as close but when you put the same uniform you have that in common and that’s what’s important.

One of the biggest failures of the past front office staff was they let the clubhouse become fractured. The last two mangers seemed to polarize the clubhouse and that led to cliques forming between the players.  You can see this spring that the new regime realizes this has been a problem with the Mets as Terry Collins instituted the Sunday night bowling parties to try to form a bond within the team.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying if the whole team sat around singing Kumbaya  it will make the Mets a World Series winner, but if the TC and Sandy Alderson can change the climate of that clubhouse and Collins can get the team to buy into a team first mentality, that will be half the battle in getting the Mets winning games. I feel the seeds of that way of thinking have been planted. If the players realize that no matter how much money or how much time you’ve spent as a Met , means nothing  if you don’t produce something positive to the club, you’ll be gone.

Think about it, the past administration went out and brought in talented players at big money contracts and what do they have to show for it? A division championship and two players calling out their teammates for not stepping up and talking to the media (the infamous “they speak English you know” from Bill Wagner and Red Ass LoDuca towards their Latino teammates)   I think this will be a much better clubhouse and a much better Met team than most think. I can’t wait until a week from tomorrow and I really am excited for April 8th and the home opener. Forget about the mess the owners are in, forget about the nay sayers in media worrying about who the Mets fans are going to boo next. I’m not saying we should become a bunch of Pollyanna’s , but this Mets team looks like one we should be rooting for.

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YOU METS FANS ARE REALLY STARTING TO ANNOY ME

Maybe it’s me. I’ve been told that I can be a bit dense at times but for the life of me I can’t understand how some Mets fans feel that the recently completed road trip from hell was because of Carlos Beltran’ return to the lineup ? Now let me set the record straight here, I am not the President nor a member of the Carlos Beltran Fan Club, in fact I have called on the Mets to deal Beltran since 2008 and I would hope he has a great second half as getting out from his contract would a huge plus for the organization, but to say that Beltran has hurt the team chemistry by coming back, is beyond stupid.

This team is only acts as  a cohesive bunch when they win, once adversity hits and that by the way is how you measure this worn out word chemistry, the NY Mets turn into the French Army. After wining games, especially at home, shirts are flying out of pants, hats are tilted to the side, players are jumping up and “high fiving” it’s quite the spectacle. But when they lose, and they do this with regularity on the road, their heads are down, shirts stay neatly in their pants, blank stares into space replace high jumping hand slaps. No team in sports acts in such a bi-polar way than the NY Mets.

Now the fans are starting to get like that. Beltran is a “clubhouse cancer” they say, huh, if anything Beltran is a low flame kind of guy, but he produces both with the bat and the glove. He has looked very rusty with both so far since his return from knee surgery but it’s such a small sampling but who knows, maybe he will never regain his old form. The same fans that hate Beltran, have fallen in love with Jeff Francoeur and seem to think he was a big reason the Mets went on a nice run in June, I guess an OPS of .845 is impressive to some. If Beltran had a month like that he’d be an underachiever.

I really don’t get it. The Mets right now are playing their three best outfielders in Bay, Beltran and Pagan. Unfortunately, Bay and Beltran are struggling but what both have over Francoeur is they have a body of work that is All Star caliber, whereas Frenchy has a strong right arm and a great smile. I’d rather take the proven All Stars myself.

Again it comes down to what has been a problem in Flushing for the past couple or three years, this team is made up of some very fragile folks who turn to over cooked spaghetti when times get tough. See,  a guy like Jason Bay has surprised me as he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t make a lot of noise with his mouth and has proven to be capable of stepping up and performing when the spotlight is blinding as we saw when he went to Boston to replace Manny Ramirez. But then again when you have guys like Big Papi, Mike Lowell, Youk and Dustin Pedrioa it helps. The Mets don’t have anyone close to those guys on their team. Sure you have a  fake tough guy like Leader of Men, Alex Cora but there is no one (sadly David Wright isn’t one either) who says” jump on my back boys and I’ll carry you” the closet guy like that amongst the everyday players right now is Angel Pagan. It’s not the loudest guy or the rah-rah guy who fits the leader mold, it’s the guy who knows when to take pitches to get on base, who gets the big base hit with two out man in scoring position but Mets fans seem to think the louder you shout the more productive you are, that’s a fallacy. The People’s Cherce, Jeff Francoeur with all his personality had never carried a team but the guy Mets fans love to hate, Carlos Beltran has.

I can’t figure you people out sometimes.

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JEFF FRANCOEUR COMES DOWN WITH A CASE OF “THE DISEASE OF ME”

Jeff Francoeur, “Frenchy” to his fans and teammates has always portrayed  himself as a man of the people, a guy the MSM loves as he fills a notebook with great quotes, and a teammate to die for. But in reality, Francoeur is just another selfish guy whose true colors come out when times are tough.

Francoeur has made it known that if he is not going to play everyday as a Met then it would be best to have his fan mail forwarded to a new address. What a guy. Just as the team is reeling in a horrendous hitting slump and watching the season slip away, “Frenchy” acts like a rat and wants to jump the sinking ship.

What makes this more of a story is the fact that some fans of the Amazin’s have killed Carlos Beltran for having the unmitigated gall to work his way back from a catastrophic knee injury and don a knee brace that reminds one of Joe Namath circa 1970 to make a contribution to the team with his bat an hopefully with his Gold Glove defense. The bat is still there but the range in center field is rusty, no doubt but there are still some fans and a guy who gets paid to be on the radio who think that Beltran is the reason the Mets are losing because the precious team chemistry has been altered. The only one altering the chemistry here is their beloved Francoeur who is living up to his nickname by retreating when times are tough.

I wonder if the other General Patton on the team, Alex Cora yelled at Jerry Manuel after his stand up act yesterday before the Mets-Dodgers game when Omar Minaya made his way into the Mets dugout to speak to the press:

Jerry Manuel sat on the bench in the visitors’ dugout at Dodger Stadium for five hot minutes Thursday afternoon, when Omar Minaya entered from the stands. With cameras, tape recorders and sun in his face, the manager once again faced questions about job security.

Manuel flashed a broad grin and employed his favorite coping strategy, humor.

“O, what’s going on?” he yelled to the GM. “Did you say two-year extension?”

I’m pretty sure Fernando Nieve and Manny Acosta are the same person

My baseball season ended last night as my Babe Ruth team was eliminated from the play offs a win shy of reaching this weekends Championship Game. Last year we made to the Championship Game and came up short so this season not making it back to the final game is a disappointment. I have one more season with this team so hopefully next year we can take the title. So now it’s time to ice my old tired left arm that has thrown a lot of bating practice and put my fungo bat on the shelf for a few months. Now this frees me up for more trips to $iti Field and to clean out my garage. I don’t know which is worse.

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GGGGGGGGGRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I’m amazed how much some folks have their balls in an uproar over Gary Sheffield joining the team. Some are worried about team chemistry, how did that chemistry hold up the last two seasons? This team needs a bad ass even if it’s an over the hill one. The chemistry issued should be moot now that it’s known Sheff signed here because the “face of the franchise”, D-Wright called him and said that the Mets were the team for him.

What are you all afraid of? If Sheffield falls on his face he’ll be gone by the All Star break, if he produces, guess what? Your favorite team just might win the NL East

For all of you concerned with the psyche of Ryan Church think about this. Maybe Church needs a kick in the ass to get motivated. No, I’m not drunk, think about it. In spring training J-Man said the Dan Murphy was a better hitter and that Fernando Tatis would be Church’s partner in RF an now they bring in Sheffield as a way to put a carrot in front of Church to produce. I guess we won’t read about this from the scribes who have access to the team on a daily basis as they are too busy stuffing their faces at the Shake Shack concession at $iti.

Which brings me to Ollie Perez and it’s good thing it was cold and shity and $iti since most fans were busy trying eat their way from left field to right. You know what the season didn‘t start yet but I’m already fed up with how good he food is at $iti Field if it’s a choice of great food or a championship baseball team, I’ll eat a fucking bowl of Alpo okay!

Perez had no feel for the ball today he claimed as he not only lacked command but a clue as well but then again that’s Ollie Being Ollie.

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