The Almost Official Site of Author Matthew Silverman


April 1, 2008

Through with Luck

Over the years I’ve given up many habits I used to live and die by and today I’ve got one that might be the hardest of all to break: Luck. Sometime after two o’clock last September 30, I realized it was all over. If there is such a thing as luck, I’d used mine up. At least for baseball. I hope whatever personal luck or fate or whatever there may be remains intact to keep me from getting hit by a bus, from getting on the wrong flight, biting into a McE. Coli patty, and so on. The Mets will have to go on without any of my charms and talismans. All except this little thing I saw at a shop counter around Christmas that simply reads, “Lucky Baseball Stone.” I won’t skip it across a pond, but I won’t be bringing it to any games. It’ll sit here on my desk as a reminder of how foolish it all is.

I’m not getting rid of my previously “lucky” Mets stuff. I have a mountain of it and am an easy mark for any gift-giving occasion. (One day I will collect and photograph all my Mets stuff in one place, but such a photo may have to be taken from the Met Life blimp.) I have and will continue to wear this stuff with pride and purpose despite living in an area that remains supremely Yankified. Yet the inhabitants are not as universal or as smug as when I arrived here eight years ago. The freedom fighters are making gains in the northland.

I will, however, forgo wearing this shirt on this day because they won, not wearing that on that day because they lost, or doing anything because I think it might somehow help squeak out a Mets win. I even walked into Flushing Bay in 1993—with another half-insane friend—to prove some kind of point and pay off some foolish bet after the Mets finished behind an expansion team. (The Marlins cannot lose enough times for me.) Like someone overcoming a more serious problem, just admitting these things in my past makes me feel foolish and low. But I did all that. And more.

As part of my change, I also must say that I have nothing to do with the New York Mets’ fortunes…other than their finances what with the tickets, the cable bill, and people buying me all this blue and orange stuff. Any thoughts regarding my ability to change their luck are nonsensical rigmarole. I’m sure many have been tempted to think this way in moments of weakness and insecurity. Sitting on a couch, with the club perhaps thousands of miles away, as the batter steps out and the pitcher gets the sign again and each second piles on another and the count is 3-2 and the score is 2-1 and the inning reads last…it is hard not to try to will some influence into a powerless situation. Carlos Beltran looks at strike three no matter what I am doing 150 feet away. It is a great curveball not great magic.

I can quote A.E. Housman and decry, “Ter[r]ence [Long], This Is Stupid Stuff.” www.bartleby.com/123/62.html. While Mithridates died old, a ninth inning can be a thousand deaths: the end of the seat worn to a nub, the hands together, nails chewed to bits, “And here’s the 3-2 pitch…fouled back again.” It is ripe for bargains made with any who might listen. Just make it the way I want it, you mumble. Shall I pace right to left? If it so pleases. Shall I take my hat and punch it? (You may remember how well it worked for Charles Emerson Winchester in that M*A*S*H unit in 1951. www.tv.com/mash/a-war-for-all-seasons/episode/43403/recap.html) Shall I move to this seat for better mojo?

It doesn’t work. I finally came to this cruel, harsh realization last year. I always knew it didn’t work, but I didn’t accept it until my personal and professional future was on the slab and the hooded brute with the axe got into position. I learned the executioner’s name just before he struck the blow. Glavine.

When I found myself in the church where I was baptized, lighting candles on the morning of September 30—and I don’t live near there—I realized I had a problem. When I was stuck in traffic, having rushed from a family gathering to a memorial service, and tuned in during the second inning to catch the clipped bits of news spaced out by Howie Rose to let people such as me slowly become aware of the horrible revelation. “The Marlins with an 8-1 lead…” It all ended right there for me. The game. The season. The lucky life. Kid stuff over. At 42. Oh, the humanity.

I should have learned it while listening to Bob Murphy with my Tootle-Oop Radio dangling off the handlebars when the Dodgers scored three in the ninth to beat the Mets in…you pick the year under Torre the Beleaguered. But there were so many other signs of hope. Boldly putting on the record “Give Me Shelter” in a friend’s dorm room moments before the Mets rallied to tie Game 7 in 1986, the rally-inducing chicken wings, the cup with the last bit of beer that we passed around like chalice in extra inning in the Todd Pratt game. It rings as false now as the story of Pratt the backup hero who turned up a steroid cheat. I’ll forever take the win and the feeling that day, but the man who performed the deed is no longer a hero in my eyes. As empty as the cup that hit the ground as ball cleared the wall.

So we’re flying without a net here. No more lucky stuff. Just stuff. I hope I can follow through. It won’t be easy. Wish me luck.

April 3, 2008

The first week of the season brings the Mets by the Numbers book-signing Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Bayside Barnes & Noble at the Bay Terrace Shopping Center at 23-80 Bell Boulevard storelocator.barnesandnoble.com/storedetail.do?store=2562 and the MBTN book launch party Sunday at 1 p.m. at Stouts, 133 West 33rd Street www.stoutnyc.com/index.html. And look in this Sunday’s New York Daily News in “The Score” for Mark Lelinwalla’s piece on Mets by the Numbers and an invite—as if you needed one—to the party. But I have news of another party the final week of the season…

Book Your Tickets

MetSilverman.com Picnic Area Game, Wednesday, September 24, vs. Cubs, 7 p.m.

The Last Homestand at Shea

I have secured tickets for Shea Stadium for a game the final week of its existence from the unique view of the Picnic Area seats for a large group of fans. It’s the last week at Shea against the old-time rival Cubs. Picnic Area seats can’t be purchased from the club except in bulk, so this is really your last chance to sit in the Shea bleachers. And it may be the last affordable ticket to Shea Stadium you’ll ever see. On the night of Wednesday, September 24, 2008 five days from the final scheduled game at Shea, there is a spot in the Picnic Area with your name on it. And for Shea Stadium, considering that a free buffet with soda or water included, considering the place is in its last week (though one can hope for a little more time), and considering the prices if you pay as you go (or when you go to the new stadium), this is a very reasonable night of entertainment:

Each game ticket includes 1 buffet with (soft) beverage.

Here is what’s on the menu: 
Mixed green salad, Potato salad, Penne a la Vodka, Shea Bubba Burger, All-beef hot dog with sauerkraut, Popcorn, Cracker Jack, Unlimited soft drinks and bottled water, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Brian Schneider, Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Tochu Fukidome, Kerry Wood (he’ll be in the bullpen next door, the Cubs hope)

Reserve your spot now because the price will go up as we get closer to the end of Shea’s days. I don’t really have a choice in the matter.

Some unforeseen service charges from Aramark make the $60 price and $6 beer a loss leader on my end, but I’m a man of my word and anyone who commits early to go will get the $60 original price, provided we complete our transaction by June 30. On July 1 it goes to $65 and $7 for beer. On September 1 it goes to $70 a ticket and $7.50 for beer (unlike Shea I’d rather make change than charge $8 for a beer).

I still think this system is easier to decipher than the willy-nilly Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Value pricing the Mets have for every series. Here’s the MetSilverman.com pricing structure for the September 24 game in a nutshell.

  Order before July 1st Order between July 1-August 31 Order between September 1-24
Tickets $60 each $65 each $70 each
Beer Coupons $6 each $7 each $7.50 each

Book your order

Because this started as a book promotion, I have a special on autographed books. For each book you purchase from me, I’ll take $5 off the price of a game ticket. There are four Mets books to choose from:

100 Things Mets Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die ($18), Mets by the Numbers ($16), Meet the Mets ($13), Mets Essential ($12)

U.S. Postal shipping is included. I will inscribe whatever you request. Mets by the Numbers will be signed by both Jon Springer and me. I don’t usually sign Meet the Mets unless requested (it already has reproduced editors’ signatures).

Please send Paypal payments to: payments@metsilverman.com. Since paypal charges a fee, please add 3.5% of the total for Paypal orders.

Money Orders (preferred) / Checks do not require an extra fee and can be mailed to:                                                                                                   

MetSilverman Picnic Game                                                                                                                                      Box 387                                                                                                                                                            High Falls, NY 12440

Tickets will be sent via U.S. Mail. You will have to pay the shipping fee if you want it sent via another carrier.

Please include in your paypal / mail order: your name, address, contact number, email address, number of game tickets, number of beer coupons and which (if any) books you are ordering. Also include what you would like inscribed in each book. Be sure to follow up with an email to Matt@metsilverman.com with the information and your paypal name, in order to avoid any confusion. 

Example paypal order before July 1st: Two game tickets($120) + four beer coupons($24) + Mets by the Numbers ($16) - $5(book discount) + 3.5% paypal fee = $160.43 paypal payment to payments@metsilverman.com

If you don’t want the books or already own them, no problem. You can just order tickets for the September 24 Picnic Area game. (Likewise, if you want inscribed books and not tickets to the game, just add together the book prices. Tax and shipping are included.) So there’s no confusion, please send an email to Matt@metsilverman.com and tell me if your check is in the mail.

Don’t be afraid to tell your friends about this event or buy them a ticket. The whole reason for this is to have fun and make our own little farewell toast to Shea. Prost!

Disclaimer: Once you purchase the seats or books, they are yours. In the event of any weather or other event that might lead to cancellation, postponement, or something that keeps you from attending, you’ll have to take it up with the Mets or whoever kept you from coming. If you get in trouble with security, you’re on your own.

This will essentially be the last noncorporate party at Shea. As Ralph Kiner used to say at the end of Kiner’s Korner, “If you can’t make it out to the ballpark, we hope to see you right back out there.”

April 10, 2008

Something Looks Different

Wait, don’t tell me…it’s not the traffic circle that mimicked Shea’s symmetrical dimensions, or the four-star hotel and conference center out in left field (it’s got to be easier to stay there than to try and park), or the free view of the field from the walk on the subway, and the beer’s always been $8, right? Oh, it’s the new circle out in left field!

All kidding aside, that’s a very classy tribute to the Shea family. Without Bill Shea, we may all have been gearing up for yesterday’s women’s NCAA championship. (The Vols at least made it a good day for someone with orange in their color scheme.) And the new addition in left field at Shea makes Tom Seaver’s 41 stand out even more amid the other four circles honoring people who didn’t play for the Mets. (Much as we adore Gil Hodges, he’s not up there for his 65 games as a Mets player.) The “Faith and Fear” T-shirt www.printmojo.com/faithandfear/Store/Product.php?ProductID=10535 will certainly still suffice because anything you buy at the ballpark—including the popcorn—has the final Shea Stadium logo on it. It’s never to late to honor your home.

April 17, 2008

You’re Kidding Me

Saw Gary Carter last night. Not gloving a Bobby Ojeda pitch in an SNY Classic, but in person. He actually knew who I was. Kind of. Jon Springer and I, along with Original Mr. Met Dan Reilly and former Brooklyn Dodger George “Shotgun” Shuba, handled the overflow at Bookends in Ridgewood, NJ, for the Carter signing of his book, Still a Kid at Heart: My Life in Baseball and Beyond. It was written with Phil Pepe, the longtime newspaperman. He wanted a cut of our royalty for the night as we served as David Johanson to Carter’s The Who, to borrow another great act that once played at Shea.

As I’ve gotten older, I think Gary Carter got a bad rap from a lot of people in New York. In the rough and tumble 1980s, the reporters and the public seemed to want their stars a little skewed; ready, willing, and able to knock back a few cold ones, smoke if they needed to, and dabble in other pursuits that ended late in the night. Carter played the toughest position in baseball. He was extremely good at it. The best in the National League once Johnny Bench, who also wrote the foreword in Carter’s book, relinquished the mantle. While there is some debate as to whether Carter should have worn an “M” on his cap on his Hall of Fame plaque for the now forgotten Montreal franchise, he accepted the choice that was made for him by the Hall poobahs. And for all the hellions on that 1986 Mets, he’s your lone Hall of Famer. That’s a lesson for you kids out there (though I still like to pretend I’m too young to make such a statement).

After the large crowds at Bookends had dispersed and we had talked to a few people still a little dazed from meeting such a courteous Hall of Famer—and the man who snapped a slump to win Game 5 of the ’86 NLCS and whose single started the World Series rally that will ne’er be forgotten among the Mets faithful—Jon Springer (he’s doing a Mets by the Numbers signing solo Thursday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m. at Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s Word Books) walked with me down the stairs to do what hundreds had done earlier. I brought along his book for signing as well as a gift, a copy of 100 Things Mets Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, after I checked what number he’d been listed under in the countdown. Number 43 was certainly respectful. It was behind iconic teammates Keith Hernandez (14) and Mookie Wilson (32), plus manager Davey Johnson (16) and a dual entry at 34 for two casualties of that mid-1980s nightlife: Doc and Straw. Carter would have ranked even higher if he’d been a Met for longer than five years. (John Olerud, one of my all-time favorite Mets, didn’t even make the list because he was on the club for just three fantastic years.)

Jon Springer, who carried a copy of Mets by the Numbers, and I were introduced to the Hall of Famer and we made our offering. That’s when Carter said that Bill Ames from Triumph Books, the company that published 100 Things as well as Carter’s new book, had already been given him a copy of 100 Things. He was looking forward to reading it. It made me very glad I’d purchased his book and descended the stairs to meet him before he packed up. I look forward to reading his tale told by, as the book jacket even says, “an irresistibly upbeat personality.” That personality rubbed off on me. Sometimes there’s a little letdown after these events on the inevitably long drive home through the dark, but meeting many nice people at Bookends, plus an audience with Kid, a nice supper at Ridgewood’s multi-TVed “The Office,” and viewing the Mets’ decisive rally on the screen between bites of grouper made everything seem bright in Carter Country. The time just flew.

April 22, 2008

You Complete Me

September 6, 2006. That’s 206 games ago. And counting. That is the last time the Mets had a complete game. If you look at the raw numbers from last year, you’ll see that Tom Glavine and John Maine each had one, but that is a mirage. Rain cancelled those games after six and five innings, respectively. Last year marked the first time in Mets history the club went an entire year without a nine-inning complete game. The 1962 Mets, the worst baseball team since the 19th century, had 43 complete games and only 40 wins. The most CGs the Mets have had are 53 in 1976, the last full year of the Seaver-Matlack-Koosman triumvirate.

There are many reasons why the complete game has gone down the tubes throughout baseball. Stronger hitters, technology that allows hitters to better study pitchers, overprotecting young arms, Quest Tech, Tony La Russa, whatever…throw 100 pitches—120 absolute max—and you’re done. Add in the pitcher’s spot coming up in the National League lineup and there’s even less chance for a complete game. So? The lack of complete                  Fans overthrow the bullpen in 1986                 games kept the Mets from winning the division in 2007. And it may keep it from happening again.

Through the first 19 games of the season, the Mets are averaging almost five pitchers per game. On Saturday, a day the Mets held the Phillies to two runs and won, they used seven pitchers. Through 19 games, three relievers have already made double-digit appearances. Duaner Sanchez, who just came back from 21 months off for shoulder injuries, has already been used four times and warmed up another night. Oliver Perez, the last Met to throw that elusive nine-inning complete game in ’06—and that is probably attributable to his pitching the nightcap in a doubleheader (the last single admission twinbill at Shea)—has twice been lifted in the sixth inning with a shutout in 2008. I’ll gladly extol the virtues of the manager and his staff when the Mets go nine innings, but it’s getting harder and harder to imagine that scenario.

One day it would be great if someone stole Rick Peterson’s pitch counter and a guy pitching a great game stayed in there. If a Met had a no-hitter going, would he get the chance to finish the game? It’s hypothetical. And I’m not only picking and Rick and Willie. Through the first three weeks of the season, there have been just 10 complete games among all 30 teams. But if you’re going to count pitches, for God’s sake, also count how many pitchers you’re using and how often they’re going in. Complete games don’t matter nearly as much as complete meltdowns like last September. That’s something none of us can ever see again.

April 28, 2008

Crocodile Cheers

Only in New York can you get a hard time even when you finally do something right. Here’s Carlos Delgado, off to a horrible start, finally hitting a pair of home runs—the first time a Met has done so this year—and he enters the dugout to receive congratulations from his teammates. Fans have booed him mercilessly, writers have called him “done,” and the wishful thinking is that he’ll do the right thing and retire so the Mets can throw that money at someone else. For a day, at least, he looked like that guy we saw in all those Baseball Tonight highlights circling the bases wearing a Blue Jays uniform. The same New York fans, who get off on booing anything that moves, now demand that he come out and bask in their latest capricious reaction. Carlos stays in the dugout. Good for him.

I’m not a fan of Carlos Delgado. Was glad that the Marlins, who should have known they were about to embark on another player giveaway spree, kept the Mets from getting him in 2005. Was annoyed that the Mets traded for him in 2006. Yet was, like everyone else, pleased when he made the ’06 Mets lineup hum for the first time in what seemed like forever. And wished he was boiled in oil for comments about being “bored” as the Mets were melting like plastic soldiers in a fireplace during The End in ’07. To prove my point, I was on record with the Destroy Delgado Bandwagon in the 2008 preview article in Meet the Mets: “Cocky, outspoken players are great when a club is winning, but after what the Mets and their fans endured in the fall, many wish his contract were already up instead of paying him $16 million this year.” Now, like the fickle boobirds who cause their neighbors to cringe, I’m joining in the flip flopping.

Go Carlos. Finish that overgenerous contract in style. Hit as many home runs as you can and never come out for a curtain call. Don’t tip your cap to the crowd. There was this guy named Ted Williams who didn’t do it at Fenway Park until three decades after he retired. You, sir, are no Ted Williams, but Ted would tell you if he were around today, you’ve got Moxie.

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