Archive for the ‘Mets’ Category

ImageMy dad didn’t hand down a few things. One is the ability to fix stuff. Another is his love of the New York football Giants.

One of my dad’s favorite stories features the fatherly advice of Archie Manning after completion of the Giants over Patriots Superbowl sequel. In the story Archie the Elder counsels first born Peyton to steer clear of New York in his own landing rights scouting reports. Eli, on the other hand, has the thickness of skin to labor under the media glare. It’s the younger Manning with fewer expectations and greater poise. The verdict? Eli now leads the National League of Manning in Super Bowl rings.

But here’s the latest chapter: With the Jets signing of suddenly displaced Tim Tebow, Manning family relocation plans have boomeranged back to the Big Apple .

If the Mannings are a football’s family dynasty, Tebow is an aura that anchors the t-bow(n) in a gridiron trinity. His heavenly father calls the plays. And when he huddles with his new teammates next year what kinds of formation-making will he be scrimmaging? What other earthly improbabilities are now within striking distance or even his passing range?

1) If I can make it here: This is a locality that trades in stocks, not flocks. Will Tebow’s charisma continue to attract the ardent following that he did in Denver? Is anyone even in the position of posing as a charisma transition authority here? This potential impasse makes the tug between Tom Brady’s allegiance to Giselle Bundchen of Hollywood and the townies of greater New England look like a resolvable quandary. The last time a U.S. President’s popularity reached 90% George W. Bush stood in the post 9-11 rubble with bullhorn firmly in hand. That was probably the last time anyone ever sampled Manhattan as American soil. New York is no more an All-American city as it is any town U.S.A. or a town for that matter. Ancestral soul mates can wander below 96th Street for lifetimes and never share the same checkout line, subway platform, or rain check from their local Apple stores.

2) Back pages to fill: The void that the Jets have hired Tebow to fill is not an actual vacancy at quarterback but the empty column inches of empty tabloid fodder. In this game of inches where New York comes down in the Giants or Jets column depends on whose competing stories hold the popular sports imagination. Jet coach Rex Ryan is one losing season away from rousing and brash to boring and blowhard. Can the aura of Tebow grow coattails that extend past the bellowing and shadowy girth of Friar Ryan?

3) Quarterback by committee: Assuming the stranger-things-than-Jeremy-Lin-have-happened scenario, Ryan platoons Tebow with his underachieving incumbent starter, Mark Sanchez. Yet in terms of the air game, the juries still out on whether Tebow even qualifies for his pilot license. He’s got that canon of an arm whose misfirings remind us city elders of the opening credits to F-Troop — and that’s without fortress Tebow even being knocked off his mountings.

So if there’s a questionable cultural fit and a non-vacancy for a loose canon-armed quarterback, maybe Tebow’s speed, strength, and agility can grace the number one hard luck New York franchise — even if that team already fields an entire staff of misfires by committee. After all, that athleticism includes winning the James E. Sullivan award as the nation’s most outstanding specimen — in any sport! His raw gifts prompted Joe Collier this week to Tweet…

“If Tebow played baseball, would he swing the bat or would the ball just go over the fence with his willpower?”

What if he was a pitcher? JimyYankee2 cast a sardonic eye at Tebow’s unflattering passing stats to predict a 2012 mark of 20-10 with a 5.55 ERA on a team that scores 4.0 runs per game.

Back to that hard luck curveball of a boomerang within boomer range — The New York Mets. Those post Madoff Mets will lead the majors in one important column — salary attrition. In fact the drop-off is so precipitous it may be sending super agents like Scott Boras to the poor house. Plead Boras:

“The major franchises who are getting the majority of revenues should provide a product, or an attempt at a product, that has the near-highest payrolls commensurate with the markets they are in.”

Translation: big market teams like the Mets can only buy destinies, not build them, for the betterment of the shareholders, the players, and Boras. Boras is especially irritated that lean times afflict his second largest market as well:

“The New York Times’ Vincent Mallozzi notes, Boras once noted that the Mets and Dodgers ‘used to shop in the steaks aisle and now they’re in the fruits and nuts section.'”

But Tebow is not going Hollywood.  Before home-school gave way to high school, he did once play baseball before his mortal passions were covered in pigskin. Full disclosure: is this really news to anyone in Manhattan or the rest of America?

The real serum test for any future apparitions of Monsignor Met will be about what happens in the clutch. The one legacy bridging the team’s recent success with its more immediate failures is the inability to execute under pressure. Perhaps this is that thundering glide path in the deliverance of Tebow to Broadway: The shear theatricality of his unscripted rescues; his analytically-defying finishes in the face of accomplished stat-hounds.

This spring the Mets will move the fences in at forbidding Citi Field and ask their fans for a forbearance that dwarfs the size of the original TARP package. Tebow, on the other hand, can reign down the boomerangs. And he has only his savior to credit.

When I was a young, media savant living on Sound Beach LI, my lullabies were serenades from a firetruck red transistor radio. They were crackled codes from a Gigantor-like transmitter up island to a ravenous nine-year old of the North Fork on the knife-edge.

Chock it up to loss of reception and the never well-received plain old loss. Every broadcast was a light tap of a the glove pocket. And in the webbing landing Lindsey “the full” Nelson or Marv Albert + (John Andariese or “Big Whistle” Bill Chadwick).

Baseball may have been my best math teacher. The broadcasting crew was my seasonal theater club. Marv was my voice coach and the sports desk at Newsday (Stan Isaacs, Steve Jacobson, Joe Gergen, Joe Donnelley, Tony Kornheiser etal…) formed my english department. But the jet age appliance that connected us in the days before Sports Phone and Federal Express was Little Met Radio “LMR”). (This was the pony express days of the pre-digital era when letters had a fighting chance of arriving without zip codes).

I wasn’t going to touch LMR’s nervous, straining dial unless a pop of static bolted from the pillow muffled between its mouth to my ears: “Sorry mom. I don’t want to slump through another groggy tomorrow!” Little Met Radio couldn’t promise that Agee could drive home Boswell in time to protect Koosman’s complete game win. It couldn’t even guarantee free and clear access into the New York media control tower. But it could toggle between AM and FM — on and off switch included. It could deliver static in a whisper or blaring mono in glorious analog. It came with no camera, calculator, MP3 tunings, spell-check, or downloadable blow dryer — a surefire killer app for this period in hero worship. No marketing organization could trace my antennae landing in the rims of their spyglasses. I was connected on the receiving end only.

This summer I returned to revel in its fist-sized brick of simplicity. I stumbled on this lost generation of handheld and heartfelt wireless in someone’s showroom attic in Kittery, Maine. I bought a young solid state GE AFC. Its 4 volt EverReady heart was beating vigorously though the tunnels of antiquated formats,  relentless feature creep, and answers to trivia questions only a Met fan could endure.

But here’s one other timeless truth embedded with free delivery. It’s that I had as much choice over my programming as the materials used in the umbilical wiring of my own pregame show. True, I did switch allegiances from the Rangers to the Islanders before the expansion patsies were even a playoff threat. But for the most part all the requisite joys and sufferings were programmed for me:

  • Every hush in the radio crowd
  • Every refrain by our between period guest
  • Every lead change in the out-of-town scoreboard

… was based on the time and space extending through the stations on that Little Met Radio. Songster Al Stewart (“You’re on my Mind Like a Little Met Radio”) informed us that “sadly, we can’t choose who we fall in love with.” We should have learned this lesson through our sports teams. Winning the last game of the season — is that the perennial standard for relationship success?

I think my pal Garo summed up this sense of predestination best after the first of two epic Met collapses in ’07 and ’08:

“My life is great, everyone I love is happy and doing well and all my friends are in good places; why should the fortunes of men whom I do not know and might not even like matter to me any more than, say, the success of a community theater in Dayton? (The intensity of how their fortunes affect me is disturbing; I’ve been more upset over a given regular-season loss in the past ten years than I was when they got side-swiped by the Dodgers in 1988.)

I think it’s because I’ve inexplicably developed stage mother syndrome where they’re concerned. As in, maybe I’ve reached the end of my days of accomplishment, and I’ve decided to transfer all my hopes and dreams to them. As in, “Look! My team is in first place, and therefore their achievement accrues to me and I am not a failure!” Insane, I know, particularly since very few people in the world actually know I’m a Mets fan, and most of the people I know don’t even follow sports at all.

I have absolutely no idea what the cure is.”

Little Met Radio is not the cure for stage mother syndrome. But that baby monitor in vitro will continue to bark out the lurid details to impression-seeking, green ear buds. To fumble for the off switch would be to suffer — in the vacuum of radio silence.

Spanked in Baltimore
“We’re all Yankee fans?”
This ain’t no All-Star Game
For me 2 also-rans

Rolled the Dice K
Pray for a draw
Collapsing Papelbon’s location
Stuck in my Carl Craw

Out of the gate 2-11
Wiping out at 4-14
Cruising the rest of the way
On paper strapping-matic team

Not an empty seat
Not a dry eye
Not a contract not up for renewal
A blanket post season bye

Scutaro, Big Pappi, Pede ‘n Youk
The table-setters become dinner
You can’t keep down a good puke
The stench wafts into winter

Unloading Francona to the Cards?
Since when did nice guys finish first?
Imploding Theo to the Cubs?
And a Sawks fan can’t even curse

Billy Beane is a man who ate his own ego for lunch so he could feed a diaspora of major league misfits. In the newly released film Moneyball, the ultimate cressendo to this narrative sounds as farfetched as the chances for the release of Moneyball II. What could be a more tragic and poetic irony? His team loses in 2003 to the one assembled by Theo Epstein. Epstein descends from the same mountain of math parading the same Jamesian tablets of runs, hits, chapters, and verses. This tragedy is made all the more ironic by the scene that wasn’t cut: Beane turns down the chance to play after 2002 with sabermetrician kingpin Bill James and a payroll in an upmarket sports-crazed fishbowl called Boston.

I practice sublimation on a professional level. That means trying not too waiver to far from the middle between expressive and controlled behavior: READ: Bob Dole referring to self as “Dole.” It’s important to objectify one’s self through the eyes of others — not as a bystander but an active observer, a.k.a. writer. Nothing personal = everything impersonal. That skill takes on added importance after two and a half divorces, two religions, twenty residences, five careers (no crap jos need apply) and the assurance there’s no one else’s flat-footed shoes I’d rather walk in. It makes complete sense that the one group I would have as a member consists of insurgent iconoclasts. No one joins groups that would have them as members. We are a band of brothers. They are family to me. One of them, Bal (a bona-fide Jamesian disciple), accompanied me to Moneyball over the weekend.

Bal believes that Beane’s early fall from baseball grace led Beane to draw lessons on both a personal and communal level:

1. Laboring in obscurity can spell the difference between personal redemption and public humiliation (Beane fanned out in New York first)
2. Baseball scouts (a flock to which Billy once belonged) are speculators with no skin in the game that platforms their recommendations

We see that Beane’s idea of accountability is not based on raw potential but actual performance. We see him put up his own limited savings to consummate a deal and turn down an unnegotiated offer from the Red Sox that could have floated one-third of his A’s payroll. Not surprisingly, Beane has since parlayed his high stakes dealing into part-owner status in the A’s — talk about job security!

There’s another non-clinical term for “sublimation” called team work. There’s a scene where Beane confronts David Justice in a terra forma batting cage about the impending arc of his stardom. Justice is “more equal” than the other players because he consumes close to 20% of Beane’s 2002 payroll but his earning potential is powering down. It’s a classic lesson in free agency economics: “I don’t need the money. I need the recognition that I’m worth the money.”

Beane gives Justice a motivational sneak peak at the non-financial allure of retirement. That’s the humility of raising one’s leadership game just as a player starts to lose a step or two on the field. Mercifully there were no pep rallies or Gipper locker room speeches. The closest thing to a nosedive and comebacker narrative played out in the trivial media gossip about the blame and credit-taking. Beane was the fall guy and then Houdini when Art Howe was portrayed in the local press as the string-puller.

My favorite reconciliation in the movie is not between players, or lovers, or family members, or scouting reports but an abstraction. It’s a notion that Beane’s consuming obsessions dispense with deliberate clarity and speed: “I like to win. I hate to lose.” The polarity, it seems, is not equal.

Everything is in perspective — nothing personal.

The most fundamental disconnect of current state web 2.5 lies between our dual roles as content producers and consumers. It’s one thing to shed aliases and handles as fluidly as we’re pressed for passwords. It’s quite another to be torn between our need for peer approval and self-protection. That’s not a minor misalignment. That’s a deep and impassable identity crisis. How the two are reconciled is not the next big app. It’s the staging ground for the gathering storm perfection of:

* The rise of Facebook
* The fall of journalism
* The abyss of credibility

For the last five years or so we’ve been feeding the sociable media beast with friend affirmations. We want a sense of belonging, of inclusiveness. But if we pay for that community-building with back-scratches and platitudes that leaves a gaping hole between what we hope to be expressed and what we know to be true. It’s not that Facebook praises are empty but enforced by a culture of reciprocal transparency. As much as positive reinforcement is the elixir of choice for self-expression, it leaves us hungry for how others perceive us. It’s tone deaf to the indifference of outsiders. Those are the potential employers who background check us out. But they’re not looking for suitors, social circles, or listening to our echo chamber of megaphones.

They just want to know they can trust us and can’t just take our word for it.

What would happen if none of us were allowed to post to our own social media profiles? Would our friends make up for the shortfall? Could our enemies commit “face crimes” and libel us with half-truths and fabrications? In a regulated web, non-vested observers would honor their own reputations by speaking to objectives, standards, and rankings — not how they’ve been blemished by greatness or influenced by the people they’re profiling. Sounds like the ghost of journalistic myth-making? Sounds like a reason to pay for content in cash — not gratitude.

Build It — and They Will Dump

In the web 3.0 future to be this darker Facebook will be compensated from both sides of the message exchange. Anonymous enemies will get to post unsubstantiated kiss-and-tells once they sign-up. Group members will pony up too. But they’ll have to preempt these negative reviews with their own cathartic self-examinations. Post enough of these face-saving gestures and perhaps they can learn the actual identities of their blasphemers. Now that’s a business model no practicing journalist is in any position to bargain over.

The most intriguing difference in floating the counterweight to Facebook idea is that my peers see it as a license to print money. “You can’t call it ‘BlackFace Book’ — too facial,” one friend quipped. They suggested names like ‘Disgrace Book’ or even ‘Evil Facebook’ and the servers would crash from the endless lines of partisans queuing at the chance to shape a fair and balanced view for each profile holder: “can I subtract you as my enemy?”

However, when I rolled out the same business plan to a 20-something colleague they headed immediately for the cyber-bullying exits. ‘Controversial’ was the diplomatic term they used for unleashing the innert tensions between editorial control and open source opinionating. That perspective carries a greater educational value than any social or anti-social medium and the business models that will dwell there.

Birthstones and Data Tablets

Posted: March 17, 2010 in Mets, music, politics

On my birthday this year, my friend of 38 years Terrence Patrick “Canuck” Canade presented me with the gift of “data.” This was not a euphemism for friendly advice, stock tips, or score-settling evidence to break a friendship-straining stalemate. This was the keepsake of categorical rankings. From baseball stats to band composites, categorical listings are not offhand references. They are artifacts of record. They are tablets and they are stone. True, you can sort, filter, and classify this living testiment but gifts of data come wrapped in spreadsheets. They are definitive and fluid.

Our collective musical adventures are unhinged from boundaries of current time and storage space. We need not ever prune or liquidate our musical downloads the way we did our beloved ‘bums and less-esteemed CDs. So when Canuck archived our shared compilations of the bygone 00s I looked back over the decade the same way I used to reminisce over every Met game I attended while still in single digits. I listed out the final score, the winning or losing pitcher (depending on whether my team won), and even the attendance totals. Any of these records proved as evocative as any scorecard or newspaper clip.

In truth the most meaningful data to leave Shea was the visiting dugout phone number that Canuck and co-conspiring Bal pilfered after staking out the cleanup crew after an uneventful weeknight game in 1978. Their postgame squatting led to the ultimate intervention of Canuck’s Presidential impersonation when press secretary James “Bal” Taylor placed a congratulatory West Wing call to that same dugout number. It was to Pete Rose the night he singled off Craig Swan to break the NL hitting streak record. Rose took the call but later told the media he knew it was a prank because he campaigned in the prior electoral cycle for Gerald Ford. And I thought it was because Canuck sounded more like Dan Ackroyd doing Jimmy Carter. No worksheet holds a candle to that. Curiously it’s President Carter who has spoken out for Rose’s reinstatement for hall-of-fame eligibility.

Canuck’s email inscription that accompanied my data gift reads:

“Sol, thank you for sharing this wealth of tunes with us over the years. On this day when we reflect on aging, we salute you for keeping us musically young.”

Today on Canuck’s 48th birthday I echo the reverberation. Music springs eternal. It is not an ardent hope but a universal truth that music transcends all gifts. This understanding unhinges us from the finite and the sums of all our parts.

Dear Garo,

My b-day alarm failed last week. I leave you with this empathetic call to Met adversities:

Bearing any hurricanes to be named later the Mets have to play 34 more games this season. That’s almost 300 more innings of possible season-ending incurrences to the likes of:

Anderson Hernandez (.265 lifetime in minors)

Alex Cora ($2 million this year for being ‘scrappy’)

Ken Takahashi (40 year-old virgin … rookie)

Pat Misch (recalled by the big club three times since clearing waivers in June)

Lance ‘Bowtie’ Broadway (escaped last week’s pounding by the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs by coming to big citi)

Jose ‘Cameo’ Reyes (significant scar tissue won’t keep him from sharing pinch-hitting duties)!

Here are some of the leading season finishing options still in contention…

* Introduce pay-to-play pricing for fans who can pass the team physical and sign away their liability claims. This would bring the needed revenues to seed the depleted farm system and the necessary bodies. After all, the last 15 spots in the expanded Sep-member roster are currently filled by the remnants we have.

* Contract out Moises Alou as a fitness instructor.

* Sign 70 year-old Phil Niekro and his knucksie. He can pitch every inning, lead the league in innings (going away) and give the bullpen a well-deserved month off. Says Minaya, “We need a warm body to eat innings. It’s OK if he falls apart.”

* Invite Vince Coleman back to orchestrate the fireworks show for fan appreciation day.

* Introduce lotto-flavored value pricing where ticket buyers are refunded a fraction of their tickets if the occasion qualifies as a “no save situation.”

* Jump start health care reform by paying players to stay healthy, not to sign in 2010 on their inflated 2009 terms.

Says our blogosphere:

“My God, I have never seen such a downright fragile baseball team in my life.”

“I shudder to think about this season’s cratering becoming a much larger canyon.”

“There’s no truth to the rumor that I injured myself blogging about the Mets.”

So there you have it, G-man. These are the wounds that give life. Because (or in spite) of your suffering I am expected to fully recover and be ready for Spring Training. Happy Birthday to you and for all the healing you bring us.

Pelf-conscious Sol