The Almost Official Site of Author Matthew Silverman

June 9, 2008

Dad, You’re the Best

I read the local national baseball writers and TV guys every Sunday—the Times Book Review I’ll get to when I get to it—and so after blinking in disbelief at the television screen after the latest lost weekend, I got around to Neil Best’s Sunday column in Newsday. He recommended Mets by the Numbers for a Father’s Day gift. Not a quotable quote from Neil, but a hearty endorsement nonetheless, along with some other great Father’s Day stuff like the Mets DVD, some interesting football books, and Jim Nantz’s book. (One of my first big interviews back when, Nantz later saw my wedding announcement in the paper and greeted my fiancé like a long-lost sister when we ran into him, and he even recalled from the paper where she went to grad school; I didn’t even know it was WestConn. Nantz was a Jim McKay fanatic and he must be quite down.)

Anyway, I recommend that any loyal reader who’s of a mind to should read Neil Best. Not to blow smoke up anywhere it shouldn’t be, but New York’s four major papers each have some of the best sports TV columnists in the country. Those of you who consistently complain about Best, Mushnick, and yes, Raissman (Sandomir at the Times is beyond reproach), should spend time in some other “big league” city and try reading that crapola.

A few days after Father’s Day, Greg Spira and I will be doing a day-night doubleheader tour of Queens libraries. On Thursday, June 19, the Whitestone branch is hosting Greg Spira and I at 2 p.m. (151-10 14 Road, 718-767-8010) and then we go over to the Richmond Hill branch at 6 p.m. (118-14 Hillside Avenue, 718-849-7150). Though we’ll have books available for purchase, please bring your own books, your library card, and your Aunt Maggie the Mets fan. I’m sure the Mets will provide plenty to talk about because…oh, goody, there’ll be on yet another western swing.

June 17, 2008

Little Willie Goes Home

I think I’m like a lot of Mets fans who, tired of the constant West Coast start times for games, woke up to learn that the Mets won and Willie Randolph had been fired. A few coaches also hit the road, as is the Mets way (though rather than confuse anyone, they decided to keep both Sandy Alomars). I believe the ax came at 3 in the morning. Or, on Mets Standard Time, midnight. In Anaheim on Los Angeles.

As far as firings go in franchise history, this is pretty bad. Probably the worst. You know it’s pretty high on the list when Daily News writer Bill Madden, who’s been with the Yankees so long, says that “in the history of New York baseball, there has not been a more cowardly, indecent, undignified or ill-conceived firing of a manager.”

The Mets do have a precedent for bungled firings, however. The first ownership regime horribly handled the Yogi Berra terminus by first siding with him after a standoff with Cleon Jones, and then firing Yogi at the first opportunity after Cleon was released. M. Donald Grant reduced the franchise (both small and big “F”) to rubble, but the regime he presided over went through just eight managers in 19 seasons (including interims). The current regime has gone through managers at a similar pace: 12 in 29 seasons since 1980 (including Jerry Manuel). I’m counting Joe Torre on both lists because while the Grant regime hired him—flying Torre the washed-up player home for an interview while manager Joe Frazier had the club on the road in May of 1977—Fred Wilpon was president when the Mets fired Torre. And that firing was long overdue, I’ll add. (Willie had 12 more wins in 151 fewer games than Torre did with the Mets; it wasn’t only about horses, Torre’s genius only came to light when he made his Faustian pact to end up in the Bronx.) The point is, when Torre was canned in 1981, they did it the right way. On the day another miserable season ended. No airplane flights to California with an “aching in my heart.”

If you’re going to fire a manager during the season, look to the firing of Dallas Green. His old-school ways seem to lose some of his young players in August 1996 and, frankly, a team that hit as well as the ’96 club (the .270 average was the highest in club history to that point) and pitched that badly (the 4.22 ERA was the worst in 22 seasons) should probably axe the manager. Especially when that manager was a pitcher in his playing days. And when they replaced Green, they brought in a guy they believed in and let him bring his own pitching coach.

But what of Willie? I came across this program cover from Port St. Lucie last year that features some of the plotters who would do him in. He never lost faith in them, despite all signs to the contrary. They had a hiccup at the worst time in October 2006, and then the 2007 club had a prolonged and severe case of diarrhea in September. While wearing a white suit.

Now we say goodbye to the Willie era. Farewell the New Mets. Forever remembered for losing out in 2007 and not for burying the competition in 2006. Nothing else seemed to matter even though Randolph had the second-best percentage in club history (.544) and was 10 wins ahead of Yogi for fourth-place on the list behind Davey (595), Bobby (536), and Gil (339). All first-name guys.

Willie deserved to last the season. The general manager needs to show he still has full autonomy. Because that’s severely in question. The Wilpons may be looking for GM number seven soon (the Payson regime went through five). Someone has broken this one. And the players have won. Other than a few massive contracts and some different privileged players, is this club all that much different than 2004? That would be the year before Willie was hired for any of you Shea booers with short memories. Maybe you saw Art Howe when he was in with Texas the other day. Gary Carter was unavailable for comment.

I’ll admit Willie lost me a few times this year and I too pondered a change. But this change was handled even worse than the May 1990 drawn-out canning of Davey; he of the .588 winning percentage in New York. From the day Johnson was fired, it was sure as shooting that the team was heading toward a cliff and wouldn’t be content until it was rid of nearly everyone who’d helped get that second helping of world championship for the franchise. Thirds, anyone?

June 22, 2008

Matty’s Tix Don’t Come Off

Among the 3.8 million Shea Stadium tickets sold—or to be sold—this year, is a small parcel has reserved in the Picnic Area for the night of Wednesday, September 24, 2008 against the Cubs. It’ll be the last week of Shea—five days from closing time—and it should be a lot of fun. Who knows? Maybe we’ll win the lottery and Moises Alou will actually be standing in front of us in left field.

If you’ve never sat in the Picnic Area, it’s a great place to see a ballgame. The ticket comes with a buffet and the food is actually, to quote Rob Reiner from The Odd Couple, “good, hot, and plenty of it.” The Mets have reserved the remaining dates in the Picnic Area that week for “friends of the Scotts.” This is the your last chance to go where the home runs go.

For the whole shpiel about how to get the tickets you can gohere.

I’ve pointed this out before, but the Aramark people have put a vigorish on this thing like nobody’s business. Just having some fun with the situation, though the surcharge does make them seem like “unconscionable ballbreakers.” You can see Morrie below for a demonstration of how less reputable institutions collect such fees. (If you don’t like bad language, wait for Goodfellas to come on TBS or some other cable outlet and the scene will be chopped to sugar.)

Point is, after July 1, I’ve got to make the fee for the game $65 to break even. And after September 1, it’ll be $70. Just giving fair warning to everybody, and I mean everybody. If you send an email reserving the tickets or go through Paypal before July 1, I’ll process the tickets quickly for $60. And then I’ll get my shinebox.

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