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Morning Digest: Mets and MLB Drop the Ball on First Responder Tribute



By Mike Silva ~ September 12th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest.

There was no Mike Piazza to homer off Steve Karsay last night. Even if there were, I doubt yesterday’s Mets- Cubs game could ever recreate the drama of September 21st, 2001. The Mets did a nice job honoring the ten year anniversary of 9-11. They had alums get involved all weekend and participate in charity events. The pre-game ceremony was also well done. It would have been nice to cap off the weekend with a win, but the thin Mets bullpen is not equipped to go long into extra innings. The ending on the field was not the most disappointing part, however, but rather the team and league’s refusal to allow the players to wear the hats of first responders on the field.

Back in 2001, you saw the Mets wear hats of the FDNY, NYPD, EMT, and PAPD, among others. The best part about this tribute was some of the hats were actually worn by the responders. It wasn’t just a facsimile, which brought even more meaning to the gesture. MLB actually tried to stop the team at that time, but Bobby Valentine and his group ignored the request and played the rest of the season with the caps. Yesterday, the 2011 Mets attempted to add the hats to the night’s festivities, but MLB and Mets brass put the kibosh on the idea. Unlike their 2001 brethren, the team adhered to the request and only wore the caps during the pre-game and in the dugout.

I don’t blame the players for this situation. It was the league and Mets front office who dropped the ball. In a clubhouse with 12 potential free agents, as well as a number of players with limited service time, it’s hard to see them going against a league that has shown a long memory for viewed indiscretions. Jose Reyes doesn’t get impacted, but a Willie Harris or Scott Hairston always has to think about the deciding factor being something off the field. It may be perception versus reality, but the world of MLB politics is cruel. Talk to any player in a similar position and they fear the political ramifications for speaking out when they are a component piece in this league. Maybe you could criticize David Wright and Jose Reyes, but it’s never been their personality to go against the grain.

The real culprits are MLB and Mets ownership. I understand the league wanting to have standards about the clothing on the field. You start to allow too many special hats and all of a sudden there is a marketing guru requesting a “Mickey Mouse night” where the players were mouse ears on the field for the purpose of advertising dollars. This wasn’t a situation where the Mets were trying to sell additional merchandise, but honor the people who serve New York City on a daily basis; the people who were first in the line of fire on September 11th. If you can’t rationalize that versus a “Mercury Mets” hat, then I fear this league is in worse shape than we all can imagine. Additionally, to respond by calling the hats “sacrosanct” is dishonest at worst and tone deaf at best. We aren’t talking about religious garb here; it’s replacing an article of clothing that has been compromised over the years for the purpose of selling merchandise. If the Mets decided to sell NYPD hats during the game the league would have more of a reason to complain.

The Mets ownership and front office not fighting back with the league is most disappointing. It shouldn’t be surprising considering the hot water ownership has been in over the last couple of years. Remember, they owe MLB about $25 million dollars. Despite the embarrassing financial situation the Wilpons have been in, Bud Selig has stood by them. You think he will look kindly to the organization embarrassing him on national television? Do you think Fred and Jeff Wilpon want to say “screw you” to the man that holds their ownership future in his hands? What should anger the fan base is how the team didn’t seem to anticipate this issue and petition the league before the season. It seemed like it all thrown together at the last minute. Did they not know it was the ten year anniversary of 9-11 this year? It’s been on the calendar for a decade.

I understand the league not wanting to open pandora’s box with the clothing criteria. There are too many sleazy marketing “legends” throughout the game looking to cash in with the next goofy promotion. Rules are rules and if you continuously ignore it, than what’s the point of having it in the first place? Todd Zeile was surprised by the league’s decision, but admitted  it’s a “slippery slope” to Adam Rubin of ESPN NY.

What disappoints me is the league couldn’t see the importance of this gesture to the fans. They look tone deaf and cold. It’s not like they haven’t bent the rules before. Remember, this is a league that enjoys an anti-trust exemption from our government. They could basically do what they want, when they want; and they have at various points throughout their history.

A great night, but one that may be remembered for the league and team dropping the ball on a simple request. A request that appears mundane on the surface, but holds a special meaning for the most important stakeholder: the paying customers

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I found Bob Klapisch’s column yesterday on the inner workings of how the Secret Service protected President Bush before and during Game 3 of the 2001 World Series very interesting. There is a level of detail by the Secret Service that you have to admire. Even George Steinbrenner and Joe Torre were treated as potential threats. Common people like us don’t think of each and every scenario that has to be addressed. Take this particular one for instance:

That meant placing sharpshooters along the upper ridges of the ballpark’s façade. Any observant fan could’ve seen them. What was less visible, however, was a second detail of marksmen atop the Bronx County Courthouse across the street. In addition, the Fire Department completely wetted down the landing zone near the infield where Bush’s helicopter was to touch down. The Secret Service didn’t want the aircraft’s blades to kick up a dust storm and momentarily blind the president or his bodyguards, thus leaving him exposed to a possible assassination attempt.

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Steve Phillips shared an interesting story on Sirius/XM. He talked about the Mets discussing how to get from Pittsburgh to New York in the aftermath of 9-11. During a clubhouse meeting some of the players were complaining about the lack of accommodations in the situation, which forced then backup catcher Vance Wilson to speak out. Phillips remembers Wilson, a rookie at the time, standing up and reminding the team how this inconvenience compares to what others were going through.

It turns out that each member of the roster donated a day’s salary to the charity. I confirmed the story and subsequent details with C.J. Nitkowski, a member the ’01 bullpen, during last night’s show.

In the end, that was a great group of guys from 1999 to 2001 that didn’t win a championship, but really were standup and hold a special place in Mets history.

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Another little know fact: Atlanta’s Steve Karsay was thrown out of the game after giving up Mike Piazza’s home run on September 21st, 2001. Karsay told me last night that he was frustrated with home plate umpire Wally Bell’s strike zone as he believed he was squeezed during the prior at-bat to Edgardo Alfonzo.

Karsay mentioned this during my 9-11 tribute show last night on 1240 AM WGBB.

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By the way, Karsay and I talked about the strange fact that someone is selling a picture of him from the Christ the King High School Yearbook on eBay. As of this writing there are no bids and the asking price is $49.99

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One last 9-11 point. In the aftermath of 9-11, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo decided to opine on politics. They blamed both Israel and American Jews for the terrorist attacks. Francesa also said the Jews he knows would go to war to defend Israel but not the United States. When callers challenged him he demanded they state their loyalty to America over Israel on the air. I heard these comments first-hand while driving on the Belt Parkway. Phil Mushnick of the NY Post has addressed this in various columns over the past decade. Despite Mushnick’s pressure and a letter by the ADL, WFAN has denied the incident and ignored any request for a response. They claim not to even have a tape! They have audio of the ten year anniversary show of Francesa and Russo, but not 9-11! Was I born yesterday morning? I find the fact that Francesa, Russo, and WFAN management has hid from their words for a decade to be a disgrace. I wrote about this over at my media commentary blog “Sports Media Watchdog,” which I recommend you read and let WFAN know their behavior is not acceptable.

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It doesn’t sound like Russell Martin‘s injured thumb is serious, but the Yankees cannot afford to lose their veteran catcher. Any extended loss would be disastrous to the team.

Martin has done wonders working with the staff this year. They love throwing to him, and Freddy Garcia has given Martin credit for his year to date. Garcia is having his best statistical season since 2005, when he won 14 games for the White Sox. Any coincidence he struggled yesterday with Jesus Montero behind the plate? Any coincidence that Montero went 0-3 with three strikeouts on the day he was asked to catch?

In order for this team to maximize Montero’s bat and the performance of their staff, they need Martin catching every day. Sure, they could spot Montero behind the plate once the division is clinched, but the kid needs to focus on hitting big league pitching, not managing a pitching staff.

It’s too late for Montero to take on that role. Honestly, it’s completely unfair at this point. If Montero makes the postseason roster I believe it will be at the expense of Jorge Posada, not Francisco Cervelli. I am a huge proponent of defense behind the plate. Ask any pitcher about how important it is to be comfortable with a catcher. This is not the time of the year to mess with the mojo that Martin and Cervelli have with the staff; except A.J. Burnett, of course.

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NYBD contributor Joe Delgrippo wrote a great piece for the site yesterday breaking down Jesus Montero’s mechanics and how it’s improved since the days Delgrippo watched him in the South Atlantic League.

What I like now in late 2011 is the new stance, a stance more balanced and compact. If you watch that video from 2008, Montero is more upright with less flex (or bend) in the knees. From viewing Montero at different points of his career, he changes his batting stance quite a bit. While I have not seen him live since 2009, I have seen quite a bit of video.

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Great story about Jorge Posada’s first game as a catcher:

Posada remembers his first start behind the plate. It was September 25, 1996, the second game of a doubleheader against Milwaukee.

“I think it was Kenny Rogers,” Posada said. “I caught a doubleheader, and he’s telling me he’s going to add and subtract (signs). If I call a fastball, he’s going to add and subtract (to signal a different pitch). I didn’t know what in the hell he was talking about. I’m glad he didn’t do it. I think Jimmy Key was there, and Jimmy Key said, ‘Don’t try it. Don’t do it because that kid is already nervous.’ So thank God for that.”

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We had a great show yesterday that included former Braves pitcher Steve Karsay, former Mets reliever C.J. Nitkowski, and anthem singer John Amirante. There will be a little delay getting the audio into the NYBD archive, but if you can’t wait till later, you can listen and download it over at 1240 AM WGBB’s Sports Radio NY. 

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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5 Responses to Morning Digest: Mets and MLB Drop the Ball on First Responder Tribute

  1. Sports Radio NY

    Here is the direct link to last night’s show: http://sportsradiony.com/audio/09112011-ny-baseball-digest/

  2. tommy sullivan

    FYI The Mets were selling FDNY hats @ the game last night..I was there

  3. Mike Silva

    Tommy
    Was it in the stadium or outside?

  4. Stu B

    Until I read this, I was not aware of Francesa and Russo’s stated position on Israel and American Jews. Wow. That confirms in my mind that they’re a couple of ignoramuses.

  5. UncleMario

    It seems that Commissioner Selig is mad that the Mets made the “hat flap” public. Was Selig really mad at the Mets or that he have to be confronted with another fiasco under his watch.

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