Archive for the 'David Wright' Category

Baseball, the World, and Captain America

It is clear to see why David Wright is performing as well as he is in this World Baseball Classic. He has runners on base to drive in and hitters behind him to protect his at bats. Mets fans are likely drooling over what Wright might do for the Mets this season. However, unless general manager Sandy Alderson can somehow deal to obtain Jimmy Rollins, Brandon Phillips, Ryan Braun and Joe Mauer to hit in front of the third baseman, I would not get too excited.

This is not to say that Wright cannot have a big year for the Mets. He certainly can and has done so in the past with much less of a lineup than he is currently enjoying in Miami and hopefully in San Francisco for the WBC finals. The point is Wright has always been an all star player and criticisms often leveled against him were unfair in large part due to the fact he had absolutely no protection.

Wright’s stats over his career match the lineup he has had around him. He was great through 2007 then tailed off for a couple of seasons. Well no wonder, Carlos Beltran was often injured and so was Carlos Delgado whose hip completely deteriorated. Taking those two bats away from Wright had a profound effect.  He pressed and tried to pick up the slack and that led to developing some bad habits increasing his strikeout total and lowering his overall productivity.

So far in the WBC, Wright has driven in 10 runs and most in clutch situations. His RBI total leads the tournament so far.  In fact if it was not for David Wright, team USA’s players would all be back with their current clubs in Florida or Arizona getting ready for the regular season. Mets fans can be proud of their third baseman who has been appropriately nicknamed Captain America. That really is a good nickname for Wright.  He has looked forward to the WBC and he feels very proud when he puts on the USA jersey.

II have thoroughly enjoyed the entire tournament and think it is a great thing for baseball. Many in the media don’t because it disrupts spring training. Oh my, God forbid something should disrupt boring spring training where there are way too many games played by players whose numbers are in the 80s and 90s and we’ll likely not see at the major league level for years if ever.  And what if the players get hurt in the WBC, then what? Yeah I guess because players never get hurt in spring training. What would you rather see, a player getting hurt in the WBC playing baseball or pulling a rib cage muscle on the golf course after their work out? Most regular players no longer make the trip to away games in the spring.

Mike Francesa, the sports talk show host on WFAN in New York said the other day he watches none of the World Baseball Classic but yet he claims to be a huge baseball fan. His rational is that the WBC is not legitimate, that it’s just a made up thing. Huh? Isn’t the baseball regular season and post season just a made up thing? Isn’t baseball just a made up thing? Sorry but I am missing something?

The WBC has 28 countries (including the qualifying rounds) very interested in competing in baseball every four years. If we love the game and its stars, why would we not like the WBC? Is it a perfect tournament? No, not yet but it’s getting better and it will help the game overall as players from unheard of places around the world become the stars of tomorrow.  It actually shocks me that many of these players know of baseball let alone play it.

Sure, I know a lot of the players play in the major and minor leagues already and compete for other countries because of ethnicity  (at least one parent had to be born or a citizen of a foreign country). But many of the players did grow up in these foreign lands and love the game we take so much for granted.

Baseball is a great game and I am glad it is on the world stage with the WBC. Its growing popularity in years to come will hopefully reinstate the game in the Olympics. (They can have synchronized swimming in the summer Olympics but not baseball?)  The naysayers that turn their noses up to the WBC are missing the point. While baseball is the most popular game in the US (with all due respect to the NFL) it is not as beloved around the world. If the WBC cannot promote the game around the world, then what will? It’s a great idea and something I will look forward to every four years. And once it’s over this year, I will look forward to Captain America returning home.

WBC

When Chinese Taipei opened the 2013 World Baseball Classic against Australia in front of a packed house, it made me think that perhaps this tournament has gained some legs in four years since the last. The Pool B game was played at Intercontinental Baseball Stadium with over twenty-thousand in attendance. Intercontinental Baseball Stadium is a new facility and looked to be every bit as good as new modern minor league facilities in the United States, including the imported natural Kentucky blue grass field.

Fans cheered and beat their thunder sticks together as home team Chinese Taipei defeated Australia by a score of 4-1.

Then came game two.  The upstart Kingdom of the Netherlands shutout favored South Korea 5-0 in front of just 1,085 fans.

A similar situation occurred in Fukuoka, Japan at the Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome. The heavily favored Japan team of Pool A defeated Brazil by a score of 5-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 28,181. Then when Cuba faced Brazil the next day, there were only 4,000 in attendance. And with the place so empty, you could see just how ugly the 1980’s style retractable dome stadium looked. The Japanese are definitely stuck in the past with their cookie cutter domed ballparks with Astroturf and sliding boxes.

The point is people show up for the home teams but not for the out of towners.   Now I like the WBC and follow the tournament lightly. I do agree with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig that it is important to grow the game globally, that future talent at the MLB level could be coming from corners of the globe not conceived of just a few seasons ago. What concerns me is the lack of interest overall.

Most American fans see the WBC as a nuisance, just another opportunity for their favorite star players to get hurt and threaten the chances of their team having a successful season. I have to admit that I would be very upset if David Wright hurt himself while playing on the USA squad and were to miss time during the regular season. I also would find it hard to justify the tournament. Japan finds itself in the same situation having the second most powerful baseball leagues in the world. However countries like Italy, the Netherlands, and Australia want to prove something and for them, the WBC is their chance to present their talent on the world stage. Now granted, many players on these foreign teams are American major and minor league players whose ethnicity qualifies them to play. But there are a number of players on each team from their respective country and some day could be batting 5th at Citi Field.

Japan and Cuba moved on to round 2 having eliminated China and Brazil. Korea, who was favored to at least be a runner up in Pool B was ousted by this year’s Cinderella story so far, the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Chinese Taipei is also headed to Tokyo to take part in the modified double elimination round.

Today, Pool C and D of round 1 begin play with Venezuela facing the Dominican Republic in Puerto Rico and Italy taking on Mexico in Phoenix. Is there any doubt that Italy will have the best post game spread in the tournament?

Cuba will play the Netherlands tonight at 10PM (Noon Friday in Japan) at the Tokyo Dome in round 2. The Dome will be packed but I would guess that attendance will remain mixed overall. Big crowds will gather for home teams and an effort will be made to give away tickets for the other clubs. Let’s face it, as popular as baseball is, from a global perspective it is not going to compete with the Futbol World Cup, at least not yet.

Waiting On Wright

Update 11/30/12 – According to Mets beat reported Ed Coleman, David Wright has signed a contract valued at 138 million dollars. The contract will keep David with the Mets through the 2020 season. For more, go to Metsblog.com.

Original post…

Some have said the Mets should not have leaked the Wright deal to the press. On the contrary, the Mets had too. Quite simply, the offer on the table, apparently the final offer, is more fair than many would have negotiated. But Wright is deserving of the 140 million that  currently awaits a signature.

According to MLB Network’s Clubhouse Confidential last evening. Wright is the third best third baseman in baseball in terms of WAR (wins above replacement). That includes offense and defense. Speaking of defense, Wright should have won his third Gold Glove for 2012 but the award was given to Chase Headley. Wright was much better defensively.

At a time when few contracts of this magnitude are being offered, Wright would have to be insane not to take it. The contract would keep Wright a Met through the 2020 season. He would be the second highest paid third baseman in baseball behind Alex Rodriguez and it would be the largest contract the Mets have ever offered. If anything and perhaps finally, the Mets are showing loyalty to one of their own, something Tom Seaver unfortunately never experienced.

Wright has said all along he wants to play his entire career with the Mets. If the widely reported offer is true, then the Mets are saying they want him here too. And make no mistake about it my fellow Mets fans, there will come a time when we regret this contract. But Wright is a hard working athlete. So if anyone can continue to be productive on the back end, it could be David.

Then of course there is the uncertainty factor. What if Wright decides to try free agency next fall? What if he has a bad season? What if he gets hurt? Is he willing to walk away from 140 million bucks? It makes no sense to me if he does. And by the Mets leaking the information, at least it puts the ball in Wright’s court. If Wright turns it down, Alderson would be free to shop Wright for a bundle. No Mets fan could blame the Mets ownership then. Quite frankly, as good as Wright is, he is not worth more than Evan Langoria with the Rays but he will be paid more, much more.

Perhaps Wright really does not want to play with the Mets. I guess that could be a possibility but I am doubting that. This is probably a case of his agents and Alderson working out the details related to deferred payments and possibly restructuring Wright’s salary next year slated to be 16 million (the last season of his current contract). Hey if Wright really wants to win, why not move eight to ten million off of next year’s salary to be deferred to help the team spend that money elsewhere, like the outfield.

Clearly the Mets have made a generous offer to Wright. They have shown they really want him to remain with the team. They understand he is currently the face of the franchise and that they want him to be that through this decade. Now it’s up to Wright. Do the right thing. Sign on the dotted line so the front office can get on to other things.

Wright Ties Kranepool

David Wright played his first major league game on a Wednesday. It was July 21, 2004. In his first game, he did not get a hit against Montreal going 0 for 4. The next day, July 22, a Thursday noon time game played in the high nineties and very humid, David got his first hit in the majors. It was a double hit down the left field line. My son and I happened to be there that day sitting in the sweltering mezzanine section.

Tomorrow evening, again on a Wednesday, David will have his first chance of becoming the all time leader in hits for the New York Mets. Having gone 2 for 4 last evening, Wright tied Ed Kranepool at 1,418 hits. Kranepool’s record has stood since 1979.

Let’s put this record into perspective. Kranepool played 17 years with the Mets having debuted in 1962 as a 17 year old. Wright has tied Kranepool in just eight and a half years. That’s pretty impressive. While Ed Kranepool will always remain a Met favorite among fans old enough to remember, his prowess as an offensive player never approached the skills of David Wright. I’m sure Eddie would agree.

Wright is on his way to being one of the best home grown players to ever put on the orange and blue. He likely will sign a long term extension over the offseason (we hope). It is imperative that David remains with the Mets his entire career. Unfortunately, the Mets have never been very good at keeping their great players. Most notably was Tom Seaver who should have retired in a Mets uniform. The Mets cannot let it happen again. They cannot let a great player like Wright, the face of the franchise, walk away. Sandy Alderson must sign Wright and I am confident he will.

It seems like yesterday that my son and I sat in the mezzanine reserved seats that day in 2004 wondering what Wright would become. We knew he was good having read about his accomplishments in the minor leagues. But honestly I don’t think anyone sitting in old Shea Stadium that day had any idea of what a fine player and a fine young man Wright would become.

This season has been disappointing to say the least but it will hopefully be remembered for three exciting things–the Johan Santana no-hitter, R. A. Dickey’s magical season, that could end with him receiving the Cy Young award, and David Wright becoming the all time Mets hit leader. No its not a playoff appearance but we’ll take it.

David already leads the Mets with runs (787), doubles (321), RBI (813), strikeouts (1,007), Walks (614), total bases (2,386), and sac flies (58) tied with Kranepool. With 2000 or more at bats, Wright leads the Mets all time in batting average with .300. He is third in homers with 202, 50 behind Darryl Strawberry. Mike Piazza is second with 220 homers.

A Flawed System

Pablo Sandoval will start over David Wright in the All Star Game in Kansas City. Why? – Because he got more votes than Wright. Does Sandoval deserve to start? From the perspective of performance—no, not while Wright is in the same league.

The fact that Wright is not starting points out what a joke the All Star Game has become, at least in my opinion. While the game is supposed to celebrate its stars, instead it points out its contradictions.

In recent years, the winner of the ASG determines which league gets home field advantage for the World Series. This was a gimmick from the get-go. The ratings of the ASG have sagged over time. The powers that be set out to do something that would boost interest in the game. Why did fans turn away from the ASG to begin with? There are a host of reasons, some of which have little to do with the game itself.

In years past, the ASG was a way for fans in the host city to see stars they did not see on a regular basis. It also provided a TV outlet for fans to see super stars compete against each other. Unlike New York, most city’s had (and still have) one team. In those markets, the chance to see a Willie Mays or a Frank Robinson was remote at best. Sure, you might see them on NBC’s Game of the Week but ultimately it was rare to witness the greats of the game and it was quite a treat to see them in one setting.

The ASG served as a platform where all the stars could come together in one venue to play a game, a game where the stars from one league played against stars of the other. It was a great concept but over time its meaning has become deluded.

What else made the ASG great theatre was the fact it was played very competitively. Initially, players were not chosen by the fans. They were chosen by those in the game who knew who was having a great year and who was not. Plus not every team was represented. Only the best players made the team and often those players played the entire game. And sometimes, those players got hurt and no question that was an issue.

As free agency took hold and player contracts soared, owners became very leery in regard to their players playing in a game that was not very meaningful. That’s when we began to see the stars get a couple of at bats then out of the game they went. Even some players themselves did not see the great honor it was to represent their team at the ASG.

Of course today there is the issue of overexposure. Baseball in the media is everywhere—TV, radio, the Internet, and your hand held device. With ESPN, Fox, TBS, and MLB Network, you can watch many out of town games every week at no extra charge to your cable or satellite bill. A real junky can purchase the Extra Innings package for TV. The Internet has its own package—MLB.TV where you can watch or listen to every out of town game on your computer, iPad, or hand held device. Unlike years ago when the home teams did not even telecast every game, today you can overload on baseball for very little expense. With so much exposure to the game’s stars on a daily basis, the ASG has further lost its luster.

When the system was changed so that fans could vote, there was nothing stopping them from stuffing the ballot box. But it still was a primitive system requiring fans to fill out paper ballots and mailing them in or putting them in ballot boxes at the ballpark. Today, voting is done on the internet. You can vote up to 25 times per email address. As an experiment, I voted for Wright (and my other selections) 75 times by using three different legitimate email addresses. Seeing that Wright was way ahead I stopped voting because a) I figured he would win and b) I really don’t like voting like this.

Also, today all teams must have at least one representative on the ASG roster. Fair enough since every team usually has at least one star player. But a problem I see is the ASG managers try to get every player on the roster into the game. Then when players are needed at the end of the game, they are no longer available and the game is decided by all stars but not the best all stars. Up until last season, many stars climbed into their limousines and even left the ballpark before the game had ended!

The ASG used to be just the game. Today it is a three day event that begins on Sunday and goes through the conclusion of the game Tuesday evening. It begins with the futures game in the ASG ballpark on Sunday afternoon. There is a fan fest, a place for fans to gather, meet people in the game and take part in all kinds of activities. Home Run Derby on the Monday evening appears to be as big an event as the game itself. Plus there is a celebrity softball game too that helps give exposure to former players and stars plugging new sitcoms. Suffice to say, All Star week has become an orgy for the baseball junkie. The problem is the average fan could not care less and even the hard core fans, like myself, see many shortcomings.

The main problem as I see it, if the game is to determine the home field advantage for the World Series, then it must be played like a real baseball game and the fact is, it is not. The ASG is played like an exhibition, a showcase where all the stars get to play. Fine, if that’s what baseball and its fans want then don’t make the outcome determine who gets four home games in October. It is completely contradictive.

I do not understand why the best team with the best record overall simply does not get home field advantage throughout the playoffs including the Series. That’s the way it is done in every professional sport except baseball (and in fairness football but that is only because the Super Bowl is played at a neutral site). If the Yankees end up with the best record overall during the regular season, then they should have home field advantage if they get to the Series.

The argument against best team getting home field is the planning it takes to make hotel reservations, etc. Another contradiction is that now, the best teams in the NL and AL do get home field advantage through the League Championship Series. And now with ten teams making the playoffs, no one knows who will be in the World Series until the ALCS and NLCS conclude anyway. I’m not buying this excuse.

The ASG is flawed. I don’t care how Bud Selig spins it. If home field advantage is to teeter on the outcome, then the voting of players must change. If fans can vote up to 25 times with one email address, doesn’t that encourage stuffing the ballot? Why not limit one vote to one email address. At least that discourages stuffing to some degree. It’s unlikely each fan is going to open 100 email accounts to vote for their favorite player.

Here’s another idea, go back to paper ballots that can only be submitted at Major League ballparks. How’s that for getting serious?

Pablo Sandoval is having a fine year. He’s hitting .300/.362./.471 with 6 homers and 25 RBI. But Wright has been phenomenal with .354/.447/.560 with 9 homers and 50 RBI. The fact that Sandoval is starting over Wright says all that needs to be said about the All Star Game.

The New “Franchise”

Last night, David Wright hit his 192nd homer of his career. It tied him with Howard Johnson for third on the all time list. Wright is 61 home runs behind the Mets all time leader Darryl Strawberry and 28 behind Mike Piazza. Not bad company. Not bad at all.

There is no question that Wright will one day become the all time Mets home run leader if a) he stays healthy, and b) he gets a new contract and stays with the team. Memo to Sandy Alderson… Make this happen. You cannot let this player who came up through the system, has been a tremendous player and leader, get away. Please no. Not another Tom Seaver fiasco.

Here are some of Wright’s statistics…

Games: 1159 – 5th
At Bats: 4427 – 3rd – will pass Jose Reyes this season
Runs: 749 – 1st - recently passed Reyes
Hits: 1344 – 2nd  – will likely pass Ed Kranepool next season
Singles: 826 – 5th
Doubles: 307 1st
Triples: 19 14th
Home Runs: 192 – tied for third with Howard Johnson
Runs Batted In: 774 – 1st
Stolen Bases: 159 – 5th
Walks: 581 – 1st – just surpassed Strawberry with 580
Total Bases: 2265 – 1st
Sac Flies: 56  – 2nd
Average: .304 – 8th
Slugging: .512 – 4th
On Base Percentage: .384 – 7th

Is there any question of Wright’s place in this franchise’s history? He was voted the all time Mets third baseman for the 50th Anniversary All Time Team just a couple of weeks ago.

There have been many shortcomings of the Mets since Wright came up mid-2004. However, he has not been one of them. He has been a part of one Mets post season run, some teams with winning records with disappointing endings, and some dreadful clubs too. Alderson needs to extend Wright’s contract. If the Mets were to lose Wright then they lose their identity and I don’t care how many prospects the Mets could bring back. Wright is a generational player, he is the offensive “Franchise”. He is our Derek Jeter. Wright simply must stay and retire a Met. I don’t see any other scenario.

I Applaud Mets on Section for Autism

On Wednesday I took a survey sent to me (and probably sent to you too) from the Mets in regards to a “quiet area” in Citi Field.  The survey asked a series of questions to measure interest in having a section of Citi Field devoid of music, cheerleading, and other noisy distractions.  I had an idea of what they were getting at but was not one-hundred percent sure.

On Thursday morning, Craig Carton of the Boomer and Carton Show on WFAN radio was heavily criticizing the Mets for considering such a measure. He remarked that only the Mets could do something so stupid. Apparently later in the morning, I did not hear it, someone from the Mets informed Carton what they were up to with the survey. Carton’s tone changed dramatically.  The Mets are doing the necessary leg work to determine if fans of the Mets with autistic children would benefit from an area that would be lower key than the rest of the ballpark. Autistic children typically have auditory difficulties and process sounds much differently. Sounds of even moderate volume can overwhelm an autistic child.

I applaud the Mets for their actions. They are being a leader in an era when there are more and more children diagnosed within the autistic spectrum. I know about this. My son is autistic.

I first brought my son to a Mets game when he was ten years old. It was July 22, 2004 against the Montreal Expos, the day David Wright got his first hit as a Met, a double down the third base line.  The only baseball my son knew at the time was playing for a Challenger League baseball team, an organization we had been involved with (and still are) since the year 2000. I felt it was high time, autism or not, that my son sees his first Mets game. Just because he has autism doesn’t mean he should suffer any less than any other Mets fan–joke intended.

He was very quiet that day as we took in the game from the mezzanine reserved section, Shea’s third level on the third base side.  It was one of the hottest days of the summer and we were sitting right in the sun.  I asked him if he wanted to move to a higher seat in the shade, the ballpark was not filled for the 12:00PM start. He refused. To him, the seat he was sitting in was his. No way was he going to change it. Was he being a good patron, staying in his assigned seat we paid for or was it simply a symptom of his autism, one that does not easily allow him to modify the plan.

I kept him hydrated with bottled water much to the detriment of my wallet. I could see the heat was getting to him. Of course it did not stop him from eating a couple of hot dogs, ice cream, and some pop corn. Ultimately the Mets lost the game.  Johnny Franco, recently inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame did not have one of his better days as he gave up a two run homer to Tony Batista that decided the outcome.

On the way home to Jersey, we got stuck in traffic on the Major Degan.  The Yankees had been home that afternoon as well and their game got over a little after the Mets finished theirs (the Yankees won of course). The Degan was a parking lot. I guess the heat and excitement of the day was all too much for my son who decided to empty the contents of his stomach all over my back seat. It was brutal but he did feel a bit better, at least for a while.  Bumper to bumper it went until eventually I found an opening. I took I87 all the way to the Tapanzee Bridge, bypassing the GW, adding a good twenty minutes to my ride home just to get out of the traffic.  I got my son to bed as soon as we got home.

To this day I’m not sure if he had a stomach virus or he was just over heated and overwhelmed by the experience. My son is eighteen now and we still go to Mets games. However up until just a couple of years ago in anticipation of going to the ballgame he would often ask me if he would throw up after the game.  It is a symptom of his diagnosis which is PDD-NOS and OCD (Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), a common diagnosis within the Autistic Spectrum.  The worrying about throwing up comes from the OCD part. The association my son had made to going to a Mets game was puking. Now to some, especially Mets fans, that doesn’t sound so crazy. Certainly I have had many bad associations with Mets games and certainly seen bad enough play to make me want to hurl. In this case however, for my son, it was quite literal.

As the years went on and through the many therapies my son has had, this burned in association from his first ballgame has abated. Today he looks forward to our trips to Citi Field and would go as often as possible if finances permitted.

Although my son is autistic, he is very high functioning and we are grateful for that. Often when people hear of autism, the image they conjure in their mind is perhaps that of Dustin Hoffman counting cards in a Las Vegas casino. The reality is much different. Having managed and serving as the vice president of the Morris County Challenger Little League, I have worked with many children in the autistic spectrum as well as children with other disabilities. The range is dramatic. Some have very little ability to socialize and interact with each other while others, like my son, are very social, but still struggle with all the nuances that comes with typical social behavior.  The good news today is there is more and more intervention within the schools and the community. That’s what these kids need to help them cope in their world, a world we can only imagine.

There was a time, when my son was much younger, when loud sounds and startling events would frighten him. For example he could not stand fireworks or the sound a hair cutter’s buzzer makes during a haircut. Through much therapy, today he can. Had Shea Stadium had such a section as the Mets are now considering for Citi Field, I have no doubt I would have taken my son to a game much earlier in his life. I felt I had to wait until he had developed enough maturity to handle the stimulation that comes with a ballgame. You and I take it all for granted. But the bright colors, the many people, the loud noises from the sound system (not to mention the low flying aircraft heading out of or into LaGuardia), the video imagery from all over the ballpark can quite easily overload the autistic mind. We people without neurological disability can easily block out the extraneous. The autistic community and those with other neurological disabilities, to all different degrees, cannot.

There’s another good reason to have such a section. The families of children with disabilities share a special bond. You can’t know it unless you have a child with special needs. I don’t mean that to sound snobbish, it’s just the way it is. A section where families can come together, make new friends, and share their experiences helps them to understand they are not alone in their struggle to provide all that is necessary and to do the best they can for their special needs children.

I applaud the Mets for being proactive in this effort. They have done a lot in regards to making people aware of the autism epidemic, specifically holding an Autism Awareness Day once every year.  This past May marked their 10th annual event.

The Mets may often fall short on the field but here is a case where they are hitting it out of the park.