(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
The Mets lost all seven games that they played with the Chicago Cubs this year but that was before the Mets made numerous upgrades before the July 31st trade deadline. Their longtime franchise face, David Wright, who has hit well thorough out his career at the Cubs home, Wrigley Field, was also on the disabled list then.
In a briefing with the press the day before the start of the Cubs-Mets National League Championship Series showdown, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson felt confident that his team could match up well with the Cubs and joked that he would be very content if the Mets’ final 2015 record against their Chicago rivals would be 4-10 with of course the four wins coming when they were most needed.
Although they are renowned for their history of baseball futility, this current Cubs team has a fairly new owner in Tom Ricketts; a new manager with Joe Maddon who is arguably the best in the game; and a plethora of young talented players. In short, these are not your parents’ or grandparents’ Cubs.
I asked Sandy Alderson if the regurgitation of Cubs folklore such as the curse of the billy goat; the black cat that appeared in front of their dugout in Shea Stadium in 1969 during a crucial September game with the Mets; unlucky Cubs fan Steve Bartman who went after a foul ball at the worst time in the 2003 NLCS with the Marlins that Cubs outfielder Moises Alou might have been able to catch; and finally the fact that their last World Series championship took place in 1908, was a lazy media narrative.
Alderson broke into a broad smile and said “Well I majored in history at Dartmouth so I don’t want to be too dismissive. There are always lessons to be learned.” His tongue was firmly planted in his cheek and he finally came clean by saying that the Cubs’ frustrating history just added a little background color to this series.
Mets manager Terry Collins was asked about the Mets having made four cross-country flights in nine days in their grueling five games with the Dodgers in the National League Division Series having a fatiguing effect. “Oh, were very tired,” Collins admitted but then added that he thought that his team would feed off of the energy of the fans at Citi Field.
He was right of course as the Mets beat the Cubs in Game 1 by a score of 4-2 thanks to Matt Harvey’s brilliant pitching and the next night in Game 2 they triumphed 4-1 as Noah Syndergaard was every bit Harvey’s equal. Playoffs superstar Daniel Murphy homered in both games while closer Jeurys Familia was the ice man coming in relief and shutting the door on the Cubs. The Mets also beat the Cubs two best pitchers, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta.
I was frankly surprised that the Chicago sports media did not ask Major League Baseball to seek out Curtis Granderson for one of the many pre-game press conferences with players that were held before Games 1 & 2 of the NLCS.
Grandy is a proud native of the Windy City and he is an investor in a restaurant group, The50/Fifty. Ironically another investor is Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. “Ironically, I have never met him,” Curtis told me during batting practice Saturday.
One of the more humorous sights during Game 1 was watching Cubs catcher David Ross flailing his arms trying to will a long fly ball down that he hit down the left field line fair. Had it stayed that way it would have been a home run but instead it went just foul for a long strike. Ross admitted to me that he was channeling Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk who hit a similar type of fly ball in the tenth inning of Game 6 of the World Series against the Reds 40 years ago. “His ball however stayed fair,” Ross said with a chuckle.
I ran into Modell’s CEO Mitch Modell in a Citi Field elevator on Saturday. Arguably no one has more riding on the Mets’ success, outside of the team itself, than Modell’s which makes a fortune in celebratory merchandise after any New York team advances in a playoff and particularly when one wins a championship. I asked Mitch if he has to gamble and have merchandise printed in advance before the winning team has been determined. “Yes, and we’ve gotten burned more than a few times!” he admitted to me.
Even though TBS drew great ratings for Game 2 which featured teams from the sizable New York and Chicago markets, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” game between the Patriots and the Colts got over triple the ratings. Some of that has to do with a cable vs. a broadcast network but it more likely has to do with the dominance of the NFL over Major League Baseball when it comes to nationally televised games.
Veteran pitcher Barry Zito announced his retirement via The Players Tribune website whose CEO is Derek Jeter. Like Bernie Williams, Zito is a talented guitarist and will now dedicate himself full-time to a professional career in music.
Electronic Arts is using animated clay figures bearing the voices and likenesses of Odell Beckham, Jr. Rex Ryan, and other NFL notables in YouTube videos to promote its Madden ‘16 football video game.
In other video game news, Nintendo just released Guitar Hero Live which gives players a chance to apply their strumming and picking skills in a simulated concert setting. Next month Nintendo will roll out Mario Tennis (based on the popular Super Mario Brothers characters) which gives players a chance to serve and return with either forehands or backhands.