Yes, all baseball teams have plenty of low points in a given season but last Wednesday night it sure felt like rock bottom for the Mets when Atlanta Braves centerfielder Ender Inciarte ran like a thoroughbred, jumped like a high hurdler, and got his glove over the Citi Field fence to rob Yoenis Cespedes of what appeared to be a game-winning home run with two outs in the ninth inning. The end result was a bitter 4-3 loss for the Amazin’s to finish off getting swept in the three-game series by the Braves who occupy last place in the NL East although in fairness they have played very well since the All-Star break.
To use the title of a Dinah Washington classic, that was updated by Esther Phillips, “What A Difference A Day Makes.”
The following night the Mets found themselves going back and forth with another subpar division opponent, the Philadelphia Phillies. In the 11th inning the Mets were down 8-6 and it looked like their wildcard berth hopes were going to get a further negative jolt. With two men on base and one out shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who is arguably the team’s MVP this year, belted a hanging slider thrown by the Phillies’ Edubray Ramos into the right field stands to give the Mets a come-from-behind 9-8 win.
I asked Mets manager Terry Collins the following day whether he was concerned that if the Mets had lost that game to the Phillies things might spiral out of control for his team that is one of three teams fighting with the Cardinals and Giants for the two available National League wildcard card spots. Collins deliberated for a moment and then said, “We have veteran leadership in the clubhouse so I wouldn’t expect that.”
There is no doubt that Thursday’s win gave the Mets a lot of positive momentum in their four-game series with the Phils as they wound up taking 3 of the 4 games including the Sunday finale, by a mammoth 17-0 score. Even the game that they lost on Saturday night, 10-8, felt uplifting as the Mets rallied from a 10-0 deficit.
I asked Mets general manager Sandy Alderson if he could recall a situation where a team went from the agony of a walk-off loss caused by an amazing catch to the ecstacy of winning the next game with a home run that lifted them from what appeared to be certain defeat. Alderson told me that none came to mind but quickly added, “Thankfully the order of things came the way that they did.”
As I wrote last week, Phillies management would be better off financially if their team lost to the Mets in Flushing since it would mean at least 20,000 Mets fans buying tickets at Citizens Bank Park for each of the three games there this coming weekend assuming that the Mets were still in postseason contention. “Another team’s general manager told me the same thing!” Alderson chuckled.
Dalilah Muhammad, who won a gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles competition at the Rio Olympics, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field last Tuesday night. Muhammad, is a Cardozo High School alum, and lives and trains in Los Angeles where she has decided to stay after graduating the University of Southern California.
Muhammad participated in the Millrose Games, track & field’s preeminent event, when it was held at Madison Square Garden but declining interest in the sport by the public has now relegated the Millrose to the Armory in Washington Heights. It remains to be seen whether the gold medals won by Dalilah Muhammad and her fellow Americans in track & field at the 2016 Olympics will raise her sport’s profile.
Former Mets Ike Davis and Josh Satin were back in town last week as they were part of the Team Israel roster in the World Baseball Classic Qualifying Tournament that was taking place at MCU Park, home of the Mets’ NY-Penn League affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones. Team Israel was mostly comprised of American players who were either Jewish or could claim that at least one grandparent was Jewish.
While many players are rolling their eyes at Tim Tebow’s attempts to become a big league baseball player, Ike Davis is not one of them. “He is a phenomenal athlete; a beast. It may take at least two years for him to get up to major league standards but I wouldn’t bet against him.”
Josh Satin had bounced around to the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres Triple-A minor league teams after being released by the Mets following the 2013 season. He announced his retirement from baseball following a concussion he incurred in June and decided to make the World Baseball Classic his last hurrah. “I am considering going for an MBA degree at UCLA or getting involved in commercial and residential real estate investment,” Josh told me of his post-baseball career plans.
Israel won the WBC Qualifier by defeating Brazil and Great Britain twice. They will be playing in Seoul, South Korea when the World Baseball Classic gets underway in March.
Gary Sheffield, who played for both the Mets and Yankees, is now a studio host for Turner Broadcasting’s baseball coverage. TBS held a press event last week to promote its upcoming coverage of the American League Championship Series and Sheffield, as was the case when he was a player, wasn’t afraid to speak his mind at the Time Warner Center.
He didn’t mince words when it came to how the Yankees handled Alex Rodriguez as he defended their decision to release him. “It didn’t make sense to have him on the roster if he didn’t have the ability to play at a major league level anymore.” I asked him if he was ever worried about his skills deteriorating as he was getting older. “I kept myself in fantastic shape and watched what I ate. I could have kept playing if I wanted to but I wanted to pursue other interests and spend more time with my family.”
Gary Sheffield is a nephew of Dwight Gooden and he was well aware of how Darryl Strawberry alarmed a lot of people by saying that he was back on drugs and was on death’s door. Gary assured me that to the best of his knowledge Gooden is in very good health.
Sheffield will be joined in the studio by Jimmy Rollins, who appears at peace with ending a stellar fifteen-year MLB career, most of which time was spent as a stellar shortstop with the Phillies. Jimmy was always gregarious and funny whenever I spoke with him and I have a feeling that he will be a breakout star for Turner Broadcasting.
Former Mets pitcher and current broadcaster for them on SNY, Ron Darling, will be the lead analyst for TBS on the ALCS as has been the case the last few years. He admits that he will have to do a lot of prepping for it since he primarily sees the National League covering Mets games.
Darling admitted that he heard from more than a few unhappy Yankees fans when the first time that he called their games on TBS. He said that he is happy that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. “I think that they now see more as a New Yorker than a Mets guy,” Ron said with a grin.
Tom Glavine caught a lot of grief from Mets fans when after giving up seven runs in the first inning against the Marlins in the final game of the 2007 regular season, which ended the Mets’ postseason hopes that year as the Phillies overtook them in the NL East standings, he said that while his performance was disappointing it shouldn’t be labeled a tragedy. Glavine’s perspective was that no one lost their life over it.
I remember defending Tom in this column the following week and writing that he was 100% right which of course made a lot of understandably frustrated Mets fans unhappy. I immediately thought of Tom Glavine’s comment when I first heard the tragic news about very talented Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez who lost his life in a boating accident early Sunday morning.
There is no bigger name in golf history than Arnold Palmer who passed away at the age of 87 on Sunday. I only met Palmer in 2004 when the NFL Players Association held a celebrity golf tournament in Clifton, NJ. Arnold Schwarzenegger had just been elected governor of California and he confirmed to me that in the 1960s the leaders of the Pennsylvania Republican Party reached out to him to run for governor. “I did think about it but I decided that it wasn’t for me,” he replied. He then graciously asked if I had gotten everything that I needed for my column.
Cinnamon seems to be the hot food ingredient for fall. Last week I reported how Nabisco had just introduced Cinnamon Donut Chips Ahoy Cookies. This week Thomas’s, which is most famous for their English muffins, is debuting both cinnamon raisin and cinnamon swirl breads.
The inevitable chillier weather also means that many of us will turn to heartier foods to cook. The problem is that many of us are too tired to turn on the stove or oven after a long day of work. Ithan Market (ithanmarket.com), which is a well-known for its gourmet prepared meals as a retail store/restaurant in the tony mainline Philadelphia suburb of Radnor, is now shipping its legendary chicken pot pie all over the world. Ithan uses Bell & Evans organic chickens in its pot pies. The best part is that you can heat them up in a microwave.