Archive | editorial RSS feed for this section

We Made It Through

18 Mar

By Jim Walters

Today, college basketballs bounce throughout the country and generations of fans stop in their tracks to watch the country’s greatest sports tournament. As the NCAA road to the Final Four begins this afternoon, it marks the start of a new sports season.

What makes this time of the year different is that it starts after the biggest lull in the sports year. Following the Super Bowl, there is this 4-6 week drop-off that ends with this tournament. When the tournament runs its course, baseball is waiting for us to carry our imaginations into the late Fall.

Last season’s lull was calmed by the World Baseball Classic which teased  fans with games between the world’s best. While it provided early competition, most fans spent their time rooting more for their players to stay healthy than for execution on the field.

This year, we had the Olympics which moved February along at a quicker pace. Watching curling was fine for a short while, and hockey became relevant in this country for two weeks. Yet, there was still a sports gap in this country that melts away today with each last-second shot.

We ride this tournament until the Sunday of Championship weekend. The Yankees and Red Sox open the baseball season that night.

On Monday, April 5th, we are presented with one of those special days in sports. The Mets and Marlins open the 2010 season at Citi Field in the afternoon. Later that night, the championship game is held in Indianapolis.

So, we made it through the snow, the cold and the harshness of the sports lull.

Finally we can say it, let the games begin.

Advertisements

What Could’ve Been

11 Mar

Share

By Jim Walters

Take yourself back to that fateful Thursday October night in 2006 when Flushing was the center of the baseball world. Shea Stadium was filled to capacity and the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals battled in the seventh and final game of the National League Championship Series.

We know about the Endy Chavez catch, the Yadier Molina home run and the Carlos Beltran strike out. We even remember Willie Randolph tapping Cliff Floyd to pinch hit and not sacrifice as well as the strong performance of an unknown starter named Oliver Perez.

What we sometimes forget is what happened in the bottom of the sixth inning when all the momentum in the world favored the home team after Chavez’ amazing catch. New York loaded the bases with the help of a Scott Rolen error, giving Jose Valentin the opportunity to come to the plate with the bases loaded and one out.

What would’ve happened to this franchise if Valentin drove in that run or if Chavez, who followed, was able to get a two-out hit. The Mets could’ve went on to win the World Series and maybe all of the September collapses that followed could’ve been different. We will never know.

On the day we heard Jose Reyes would be away from the game for as many as eight weeks, adding further panic to a beaten fan base that is still shell shocked from a snake-bitten 2009, I find myself thinking back to that October night when 55,000 fans believed there was no way that the Mets weren’t on their way to the World Series.

The Mets were on top of the world following the catch and the go ahead run was only 90 feet away with Valentin at the plate.

It’s been all down hill ever since.

2000 Mets Salary and Bonilla’s Pay Days

11 Mar

Share

By Jim Walters

As we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the 2000 National League Champion New York Mets, today we look at their payroll, and realize how times have changed.We also realize how one bad contract can burn a franchise for a generation.

In 2000, the Mets had only one player who made more than $9 million, with Mike Piazza earning a little over $12 million. Currently, the Mets have seven players who fit in this category.

Al Leiter ranked tops in salary for pitchers, earning $7.75 million. The second highest paid pitcher was Mike Hampton earning $5.75 million before cashing in the following year with the Rockies, which was of course secondary to the fine school system that only Colorado could offer.

The outfield on Opening Day cost the  2000 Mets approximately $14.5 million with Darryl Hamilton in center, Rickey Henderson in left and Derek Bell in right.  This year, the healthy outfield of Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran and Jeff Francoeur will earn a combined $ 34 million, a difference of $20 million.  With Beltran out and Pagan in, the combined outfield will still cost more that it did in 2000, with the three earning $16.5 milion.

While the days of Bobby Valentine and Mike Piazza are long gone, the financial arrangements of 2000 still effects this team. Bobby Bonilla, the disgruntled outfielder who was made the highest paid player by the Mets in 1991, was set to make $5.9 million in the year 2000. Tired of his attitude and poor play, New York released the outfielder, ending his second tenure in Flushing. Instead of paying Bonilla the $5.9 they owed him, the genius in the Mets hierarchy decided to defer his pay with interest.

The payment plan kicks in  next year,  July 1, 2011, as the Mets will pay Bonilla $1,193,248.20 every year until 2035. To give this some greater perspective, David Wright will be 51 when Bonilla receives his last paycheck from the Mets.

While Mets fans can scratch their heads over the contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, the financial agreements between Mets ownership and Bobby Bonilla takes the cake.

To read more about the 2000 Mets salary, visit Baseball Almanac.  To read more about this year’s Mets and their payroll, visit CBS sports.

Perez the next Koufax

9 Mar

By Jim Walters

Two weeks ago, Hall of Fame great Sandy Koufax worked with a few of the Mets pitchers. Koufax, a long-time friend of Mets Owner, Fred Wilpon, often makes this annual trip to Port St. Lucie to pass on his wisdom.

This year, it felt as if this visit by Koufax was the only hope Oliver Perez had left.  Perez, coming off of a disastrous, injury-plagued year, is healthy and confident. Mets ownership is counting on Perez to win 15-games, but few in the game or the stands believe it.

When Koufax was interview by reporters, he made reference to his early career where he was as inconsistent as Perez. Then, at the age of 25, things changed and he turned into one of the game’s greats.

So, I looked up both Koufax and Perez’ numbers to see how similar they are.

Koufax  pitched to a record of 36-40 in his first six seasons with the Dodgers. In his first two seasons, he only started 28 games. Perez went 45-53 in his first  six season seasons, only pitching in 40 games in his first two seasons. While the numbers aren’t identical, they are similar enough to see how Koufax could see himself in Perez.

In Koufax’s seventh season, his career changed. The year was 1961 and he went 18-13.  In fact, from 1961- 1966, Koufax pitched to an incredible record of 129-47, including three seasons where he won more than 25 games.

The game was different then as pitchers went deep into games and often completed them. In the current version of this game, few pitchers in this game finish their own starts.

Back to Perez. In his 7th and 8th seasons, his record was 13-11. His 8th season was last year when he only started 14 games.

Few believe Perez is going to do what Koufax did forty years ago. While he is only 28 and healthy, Mets fans have heard enough about potential. Perez’ inconsistency overshadows those moments of brilliance. His 2006 October performance is a distant memory.

What makes Perez so unique is that his talent was never in question. It is his mental make-up that people worry about. Can the switch go off and Perez become the number two starter New York needs him to be? Or will Perez continue to draw jeers from the crowd and a pink slip for his General Manager and Manager?

Two weeks ago, Koufax looked at Perez and related to the young lefty’s struggles. Koufax walked in those shoes but seven seasons in, he figured it out and became an all-time great.  For Perez and the Mets, the hope of this franchise lands in this inconsistent starter who could lead the Mets to October or he can continue to be the face of a losing franchise.

Share