Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Carlos Beltran Trade: Mets Rebuild Without Entering Rebuilding Mode

In March, the New York Post's Joel Sherman correctly predicted that the Mets would trade a core star at the deadline for a top pitching prospect. Only Sherman thought it would be Jose Reyes for the Reds' Homer Bailey. Instead, on the day the Carlos Beltran deal became official, the new-look Mets scored nine runs off of Bailey.

Who would have predicted last spring that the Mets would be able to use Beltran, still trying to come back from knee surgery, to land a top pitching prospect? That the debt-ridden Mets would be able to throw in four million dollars in the deal? And that the Mets would hold on to Reyes with increased hope of re-signing him?

Almost every sportswriter last spring thought Reyes was a goner. ESPN's Buster Olney thought that the "Mets will seek ‘power arms,’ in a deal for Reyes, and says the Giants will be interested."

Reyes may yet leave the Mets. There is no guarantee that Wheeler will pan out. A few years ago, many considered Bailey one of the top two pitching prospects in baseball. The other one was Phil Hughes. While it's too early to write off Bailey or Hughes, both have been disappointments so far relative to expectations.

Beltran, underrated and underappreciated as a Met, is irreplaceable with the current roster.

But Beltran, 34 with bad knees, is not part of the Mets' future, especially as a Scott Boras client. Even if the Mets had no money issues, should they have given Beltran the kind of money and years Boras will demand?

Madoff or no Madoff, it would have still made sense to do what the Red Sox did with stars like Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon - let them go while they still had something left, but bring back top prospects with which they could retool. With the supplemental pick the Red Sox received for Pedro, they drafted Clay Buchholz. One of the picks they got for Damon turned out to be Daniel Bard.

If the Mets had kept Beltran, they would not have gotten any draft picks. But getting a top prospect was even better. As risky as prospects are, draft picks are even riskier. Better to get a top-ten pick from a couple of years ago, who has had a chance to show in professional ball that his reputation is deserved. Someone like Wheeler, the sixth pick in 2009.

But if Reyes had been traded at the deadline, it would not have mattered how many Zack Wheelers the Mets got back. The Mets would have been in full rebuilding mode.

Last year, the Padres almost won the NL West. Then they traded Adrian Gonzalez in the prime of his career. The Padres supposedly got a great haul of prospects from the Red Sox. Maybe those prospects will pan out one day. But today, the Padres are in last place, 14 games under .500, while Gonzalez is a top contender for AL MVP.

If the Padres get lucky, Anthony Rizzo, the first base prospect obtained from the Red Sox in the Gonzalez trade, will turn out to be another Gonzalez. But then, as he approaches free agency, the Padres will have to trade him.

This spring, the Mets looked like they were turning into the Padres - a low-budget team with little hope of contending on a regular basis. The future is still uncertain, but with both Reyes and Wheeler in the organization, it looks a lot brighter than it did just a few months ago.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thoughts on the Kei Igawa "Lost Yankee" Article

I read with interest The New York Times' big article about Kei Igawa, and how he is playing out his $20 million, 5-year contract in the minor leagues. I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him. Even though he's got all that money, he's in what amounts to a dead-end job. No matter what he does in the minors, he will never get to pitch for the Yankees' big-league team again. And he desperately wants to pitch in MLB -- he twice turned down the chance to go to Japan, in favor of staying here.

Although the article let Brian Cashman play down the luxury-tax issue, it is actually a big reason why Igawa is where he is. The $4 million a year Igawa makes doesn't count towards the Yankees' payroll, unless he is put on the 40-man roster or pitches in the majors. Cashman denied that this money issue had anything to do with Igawa not getting a call-up since 2008, but how could that be, when his numbers are better than many of the journeymen and retreads who have gotten called up to the Yankees?

Once the Yankees decided they were never going to give Igawa a shot at the majors again, I do think the Yankees should have bitten the bullet on his contract and given him his freedom, financial consequences be damned. There's something cruel about taking away a player's hope like that, and dooming him to season after season in the minors, with no chance of getting to achieve his dream of pitching in the majors. People talk about sticking to your dreams, and eventually, they will come through. But until his contract ends, Igawa will never get the chance -- not even one start or relief appearance -- to pitch in the majors, no matter how hard he works.

Although the article makes a big point about how Igawa lives in Manhattan, and has his translator drive his car with him to Scranton or Trenton, Cashman made a rather snotty remark about that as well, saying that "Yeah, he’s passed me on the drive down to Trenton.. He drives faster than his fastball." What was the point of that gratuitous slam, other than to be a jerk?

On the other hand, Igawa comes off as an honorable, uncomplaining person in the article. I don't know how Igawa would have done with another chance with the Yankees, but Cashman doesn't really know, either. And it seems to me that they should at least give him a shot at a September callup spot this year, just to be fair, at the end of his contract.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Squawker Media Alert: Lisa on South Florida Radio Saturday Morning

Squawker Lisa will appear on South Florida radio's "New York Sports Report" on Saturday, July 23, at 11:15 a.m.

"New York Sports Report" is hosted by Larry Milian - aka The Amigo - and Phil Dizz Domanic. It airs Saturday mornings. During the week, Larry co-hosts the very popular morning drive time radio show "Armando and The Amigo" on WFTL Sports 640 AM.

You can listen live online here at 11:15 a.m. Saturday, and follow the guys on Twitter here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mets' First Half: From Clawback to Claw

At the start of the season, the Mets appeared to be going down the drain - both on and off the field. At the All-Star break, things look better - both on and off the field. But is optimism justified, or merely a product of lowered expectations?

The dominant Met story last winter was Irving Picard's clawback lawsuit hanging over the franchise. As a result, Jose Reyes looked to be a goner.

As for the players, Johan Santana was out indefinitely, Carlos Beltran was a part-time player who could no longer play centerfield and Jose Reyes had to prove he could stay healthy.

Now Reyes has come back stronger than ever, and the trade of Francisco Rodriguez increases the odds of Reyes remaining a Met. The future remains uncertain, but at least the outlook is brighter than in the spring. And who would have predicted that Beltran would play in almost every game and make the All-Star team?

Along with the trade of K-Rod, another off-the-field bright spot was the announcement that David Einhorn will invest $200 million in the franchise and become a minority shareholder.

However, Fred Wilpon's ill-advised comments denigrating Reyes, Wright and Beltran and warning of huge losses and payroll cuts temper hope that the franchise is headed back in the right direction. The clawback lawsuit is still out there. And Einhorn's deal has not been finalized yet.

While it would be nice to eventually begin a Mets' half-season in review without mentioning finances, it would be even nicer to not have to mention misdiagnosed injuries to star players. Unfortunately, David Wright played for a few weeks with a back fracture and Ike Davis was told to wear a protective boot that ended up making his ankle worse.

But, as mentioned above, Beltran has been healthy and Reyes was healthy before getting hurt earlier this month. Reyes is due back soon and the injury is said to be minor, though with the Mets' history, we won't know for sure until he is back on the field.

While the Mets have had bad injury luck with Wright and Davis, the same can't be said for Chris Young, who was the Mets' best starter at the beginning of the season before he went down for the year. The only reason the Mets were able to sign Young in the first place was that he was such an injury risk. Nobody could reasonably expect both Young and Chris Capuano to make it through the season healthy and productive. And the severity of Santana's injury makes any expectations for him a longshot.

Capuano, though, has been a pleasant surprise, and Sandy Alderson also came through with Rule 5 pickup Pedro Beato. Scott Hairston has had some dramatic homers off the bench and as a backup.

Alderson did not do as well with the other Rule 5, Brad Emaus, who quickly showed he didn't deserve the second base job. Blaine Boyer also didn't make it out of April. D.J. Carrasco was sent down, but did return.

Justin Turner has been a good addition, but Alderson can't take credit for him - Omar Minaya acquired Turner last year.

While the Mets hitting has been better than expected, this remains a punchless team without Wright and Davis. And Jason Bay has cooled off again after his recent hot streak, renewing fears that he will never get his act together at the plate as a Met.

The pitching has also been better than expected, with the starters rebounding from a slow start with a strong last few weeks. The bullpen has also been solid.

Of course, the main component of the bullpen was just traded, and the number 3 hitter (Beltran) is likely to be next.

With ownership in turmoil and a dispirited fan base, it would be easy for the team to give up hope, as they appeared to do the last couple of years. But under new manager Terry Collins, the Mets display a spirit not seen in some time around here. The hitters have even started doing their version of the "claw" when they reach base. Collins' infusion of a more positive attitude has some talking about him as a candidate for Manager of the Year.

But Collins has also benefited from the greatly lowered expectations. Last year, Jerry Manuel's Mets were eight games over .500 at the break. They finished 79-83 and Manuel lost his job.

If, as seems likely, the Mets trade Beltran, 79 wins might be optimistic. Not to mention that the Mets currently have no proven closer, which would seem to be a necessity for a team that plays lots of close, low-scoring games.

Still, under Alderson and Collins, there is a lot more reason for hope than there was under the old regime, both for the rest of this year and for the future. It doesn't look like there will be meaningful games in September, but there will be meaningful developments. What will the Mets get for Beltran if he's traded? Will they make other trades for prospects? Will Einhorn finalize his deal? Can Johan make it back? (I have a bad feeling about Ike, so I'm not including him in this list.)

So here's to a second half with more talk of claw than clawback. Let's Go Mets!

Squawker Media Alert: Lisa Will Be on the Radio Today

Lisa will be on Brian Sinkoff's "Sound-Off With Sinkoff" radio show today at 4:30 p.m., squawking about the prospects for the Yankees in the second half. Something tells me Derek Jeter's name will also come up. If you live in the Albany area, turn your radio to 104.5 FM, or you can listen to her live by going to ESPN 104.5 The Team's website.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughts on Christian Lopez, Derek Jeter, and "Doing the Right Thing"

So, it looks like Christian Lopez, the starry-eyed Yankee fan who caught Derek Jeter's 3000th hit, is going to get bailed out of the whole mess the Yanks put him in by giving him $50,000 or so worth of "free" tickets and memorabilia. (And by the way, given that players and coaches have to pay taxes on the complimentary tickets the team lets them have, the team should have known in the first place that this was going to be an issue for Lopez. Just saying.)

Anyhow, Miller High Life has offered to pay his taxes, saying "you should be rewarded for doing the right thing, not penalized." Modell Sporting Goods and Steiner Sports are giving him a minimum of $25,000 each, and he also is getting a 2009 World Series ring out of it, among other things. Topps is putting him on a baseball card, saying that "We thought what he did captures the essence of what baseball and the Topps company is about." (Is that what baseball is all about -- giving away an item worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for free to an millionaire MLB player? Just saying!)

How much the fan will end up with is unclear; some say he won't have to pay taxes on the money, but Ed Behrens, a CPA who lives near Lopez, told the Times Herald-Record Lopez would likely have to pay 28 percent federal tax, and 7 percent city tax, on the money and merchandise the companies gave him. But he did say that the fan "can enjoy his fame and maybe break even in this."

You know, I'm glad Lopez is getting some help for the financial mess he is in, and I hope he does enjoy his 15 minutes of fame. And this damage control on the part of Yankee/MLB sponsors will make his life better. (That's what it is -- damage control. I kinda doubt Lopez would have gotten anything from them if it weren't for 1) the tax stories, and 2) the news about his crazy-expensive student loans!)But I will never believe that giving away a ball worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars for free to a guy worth hundreds of millions is somehow a moral obligation, or the right thing to do. I will never think that a guy still living at home with his parents, who has over $100K in student loans, owed the baseball he rightfully caught to somebody who just built a house the square footage of a supermarket. It's not "classy" to do that -- it's ridiculous. It's the equivalent of scratching off a winning lottery ticket and giving it away to Jeter, just because.

"Doing the right thing" would be returning Jeter's wallet to him if you stumbled upon it without expecting a thing in return. But this ain't it.

Is this what our celebrity-crazed society has become? That Derek Jeter is entitled to a ball for free that his estate could eventually sell for $1 million just because he's famous and people admire him? Puh-lease. Guess what? The 3,000 hit achievement stands, with or without the baseball. I accept that baseball is a business, and everything that goes with it. But don't tell me it's a business, then, that when a fan catches a ball fair and square, he should somehow be expected to to turn it over for free, without expecting a thing in return. There would have been nothing greedy or wrong whatsoever about Lopez selling what he caught, or in giving the captain right of first refusal to pay for the ball.

Oh, and by the way, all Derek Jeter himself has so far personally given to Lopez is a "grip and grin" photo op and a hat with the Captain's picture on it, although he is supposed to sign some memorabilia for him. He certainly didn't help with the tax mess. That's gratitude for you. Will moths will fly out of No. 2's wallet the next time he opens it?

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Report: Mets Trade K-Rod to Yankees for Luxury Seats, Memorabilia

Francisco Rodriguez is headed to the Bronx. In return, the Mets will receive four Champions Suite tickets to each remaining Yankee home game and any postseason games, as well as bats, balls and jerseys signed by Derek Jeter.

The Mets will distribute the Yankee tickets to loyal Met season-ticket holders, who will now be able to attend meaningful games in September and October.

The Jeter memorabilia will be put on display in a new exhibit at the Mets' Hall of Fame, tentatively titled "Salute to a Star Shortstop Who Will Definitely Be Playing in New York in 2012."

One potential snag in the deal concerns the taxes the Mets will owe on the luxury seats and memorabilia. The bill could be as high as $15,000. The Mets are said to have asked prospective new partner David Einhorn to chip in, but have not yet received a reply.

Another issue involves K-Rod's new agent, Scott Boras, who says that K-Rod will only make the move to the Bronx if he receives some memorabilia of his own, namely the ball K-Rod used to walk Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded in 2009, resulting in the Yankee closer's only career run batted in. K-Rod would also like a shirt with a picture of Mariano and the inscription MR1 (Mariano Rivera First RBI).

Told Ya So: Christian Lopez to Face Huge Tax Bill for "Free" Yankee Tickets

Finally, the New York media has realized that the "free" tickets Christian Lopez got in exchange for giving Derek Jeter's 3000th hit ball back aren't going to be so free after all; the New York Times figures he will have to pay at least $14,000 in federal taxes on those tickets. Sure took the press long enough to figure this out -- and they still haven't realized he will have to pay state taxes, not just federal, on the 50K of swag he got from the Yankees. So much for all the great karma the universe was supposed to bestow on Lopez for his deed, huh?

I was talking about the issue with friends on Facebook on Saturday afternoon, as soon as we heard about the Yanks giving Lopez the tickets, and I wrote a Squawk on Sunday talking about the fact that he could be facing a huge tax liability on the $50,000 or so in tickets and merchandise that the Yankees gave him in exchange for the ball. So I can't believe it took two days for the press to realize the tax implications. All they would have to do is remember what happened when the "Oprah Winfrey Show" guests got those "free" cars, and then realized they would have to pay taxes on them. There was such a to-do over the tax issue, that when Volkswagen gave away its new Beetle in Oprah's last Favorite Things Show, VW agreed to pay for all the taxes and fees.

Or the press could have paid attention to what happens in sweepstakes and TV game shows. I know this personally from winning two different trips via sweepstakes what a huge hit the taxes are. I loved the trips; the taxes, not so much, especially since I had to pay taxes on the full rack rate and full hotel rate for the voyages, even though I could have bought the trip cheaper myself on the open market. The same thing will happen with Lopez for those overpriced seats that would be worth below face value on StubHub.

Anyhow, even though most of the press was all aflutter about how selfless and classy Christian Lopez was for giving the ball back to Jeter, I made it clear I thought he made a huge mistake right from the beginning. And now that is has come out that he has over $100,000 in student loans, at the ripe old age of 23, to pay, (not to mention that he still lives at home, while Jeter, the beneficiary of his generosity, lives in "St. Jetersburg," one of the biggest homes in Florida), I feel even more strongly that Lopez thought with his heart, not his head, and it will be something he will regret in the near future.

But too many people have confused what Lopez did -- giving a ball back for free to a ballplayer worth hundreds of millions and a franchise worth billions -- to being the equivalent of Lopez, say, returning Jeter's wallet without asking for a reward. For example, ESPN's Rob Parker compared what Lopez did to when Parker found Dave Winfield's 1977 All-Star Game ring, and returned it to him. While Parker absolutely did the right thing, it's not the same issue at all.

Jeter was not entitled to that ball, and certainly not for free. And the last time I checked, Jeter wasn't giving out any freebies, either. The fans who attended Saturday's game will have to pay for their Jeter DJ3K hat and t-shirt, featuring a picture of their hero, just like everybody else who wants it. (Incidentally, I got a lot of grief and angry denials last week for noting how the "team first" Jeter was marketing an individual accomplishment. Um, did y'all see what he was wearing in the postgame Saturday? a DJ3K t-shirt of himself, and Yankee hat with his own logo on it? Does he play for the New York Yankees, or the New York Jeters?)

The reality is that DJ3K is being marketed to death, with game-used dirt, $550 commemorative watches, and all sorts of products Jeter and the Yankees and Steiner Sports and all of Jeter's corporate partners will make a killing on. So much so, that the Bob's Blitz's site wondered whether the real reason Jeter skipped the All-Star Game was because he had whole slew of Steiner Sports DJ3K items to sign. The items are hyped with this line: "PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A PRE ORDER, THESE ITEMS WIL [SIC] BE SIGNED WITHIN A FEW DAYS OF JETER RECORDING HIS 3000TH HIT." Hmmmmm. Wonder when the captain is signing them? Is writer's cramp the reason he can't appear in the All-Star Game?

Anyhow, Christian Lopez sold the Golden Ticket he had -- the baseball -- in exchange for some overpriced seats that are on the foul lines, not between the bases, and don't even entitle him to visit the Legends restaurants and bars. Even Jay-Z and Reggie Jackson told Lopez at Saturday's game he was making a mistake. But he apparently was too young, and too "starstruck," as he described himself, to realize the tax issues. Not to mention all the money he left on the table.

For his part, Lopez had this solution to the tax issue:
"Worse comes to worse, I'll have to pay the taxes," he told the Daily News on Monday. "I'm not going to return the seats. I have a lot of family and friends who will help me out if need be.

"The IRS has a job to do, so I'm not going to hold it against them, but it would be cool if they helped me out a little on this."
Bet mom and dad, who already have him still living at home, are thrilled with the idea of paying taxes for this. And good luck getting that kind of coin from your friends, dude.

The thing that made me laugh out loud was Lopez's thought that "it would be cool" if the IRS "helped me out a little on this." Right. The government is facing record deficits, but the feds are going to give Lopez a pass here, just because? Gimme a break.

Funny thing is that Lopez is still too starstruck to ask for money from the people who really owe it to him -- Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees. Because besides gracing him with his presence, the only things Jeter himself has given Lopez is a hat with Jeter's face on it, and some memorabilia he will sign for him. Whoopee.

Maybe it's time for the captain to step up and pay Lopez's tax bill and student loans. This isn't a handout -- this is the rightful payment for the ball that Lopez was too starstruck to request. The ball is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is only fair that the Yankees do this. Jeter makes $105,000 a game. He's selling game-used dirt for $177.99. The least he can do is kick Lopez some money to make up for his taxes and student loan debt. And even then, it's not even close to what the ball is really worth.

Anyhow, it's going to be interesting to see what happens here. Get your popcorn ready!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Should Derek Jeter Attend the All-Star Game?

So, there's a whole media and fan kerfuffle over the fact that Derek Jeter is not going to the All-Star Game. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports sez that it's because what has been described as "emotional and physical exhaustion."  And San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson complained about all the missing in action players at this year's All-Star Game, saying:

"I would say that you would show up, unless you need these three days to recover,” Wilson said. “You are representing your team, so it would be good to be here.” He also said that "it’s one of your duties as a player, out of respect, knowing that there was a guy that really wanted to be on the All-Star team, and his stats were right there, and he would have loved the chance to be here.” Wilson said that "whether you’re taking it for granted or just think it’s a grind, I always think about the pitcher who is better than me at this moment.”

Anyhow, I understand why a lot of fans are upset that Jeter isn't at least just showing up, the way the injured Jose Reyes is, especially since 1) Jeter is getting a reported $500K bonus for  being elected, and 2) Jeter got a lot of votes this year because of the 3,000 hit chase. But personally, it doesn't bother me, because I never thought his numbers deserved the All-Star nod in the first place this year. So why would I be upset that he didn't show up at an event that I thought he shouldn't have been elected to in the first place? Backhanded defense, I know, and I totally understand why others feel differently, but it doesn't really matter to me, and I can't be a hypocrite about it and say it does.

So, I want to hear what readers think -- I've already heard a lot on the subject on my Facebook page. What do you think? Should he have gone to the game or not? Tell us about it!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On Derek Jeter's Tremendous Day, And Christian Lopez's Short-Sighted Decision

Yesterday was Squawker Jon's birthday. Before we went out to dinner to celebrate his big day, we were yakking on the phone watching Derek Jeter go for No. 3000. When Jeter hit a homer off David Price on a 3-2 pitch, I literally screamed, I was so stunned and amazed!

Last week, two gambling sites sent me information about the odds that the captain would hit a single, double, triple, or home run for No. 3000. The odds were 1-4 (as in overwhelming!) that it would be a single, and 10-1 that it would be a homer. So seeing Jeter hit a homer, when he hasn't hit one in Yankee Stadium for a year, was pretty remarkable and exciting. The rest of his game wasn't too shabby -- 5 for 5, including a game-winning hit. All in all, it was one of the best days Derek has ever had, although I groaned when Michael Kay opined, "Fairy tales can come true, it has happened to 2." Congrats, Derek! What a day!

Anyhow, not long after Jeter hit the homer, I asked friends on Facebook what would be the price they would want if they had caught the ball. I said money, while others had a variety of suggestions, including season tickets, memorabilia, and, yes, money. Some said that they would just be happy to meet Jeter.

Of course, we now know the rest of the story -- 23-year-old Christian Lopez, a Verizon Wireless cell phone salesman from Highland Mills, NY, caught the ball, and asked for nothing in return in exchange for giving back the ball to Jeter:
"Mr. Jeter deserved it. I'm not gonna take it away from him," Christian Lopez said. "Money's cool and all, but I'm 23 years old, I've got a lot of time to make that. It was never about the money, it was about the milestone."
I know some fans thought this was great, but personally, the word running through my mind about this fan was "sap." The fact that the Yankees were so willing to give him four Championship Suite seats for the rest of the season including the playoffs and World Series, worth somewhere around $50,000 or so should have been the clue as to how much the ball is really worth. It's definitely worth six figures, and some have said it could be even worth more than the $752K paid for Barry Bonds' 756th home run ball.

Here's why Lopez should have asked for money:

* He could be facing a huge tax liability. Last year, the Houston Astros gave a fan 315 gift certificates for Shipley's Donuts, entitling him to a free donut and coffee with each one.  In addition, he also got a "reward" from the Internal Revenue Service, when they sent him a 1099 form showing the contest winnings as income. I won't be the least bit surprised if the IRS (and for that matter, the state of New York) gives Lopez a tax bill on these tickets.

* The Yankees, MLB, Steiner Sports, and Derek Jeter are all going to make a lot of money on the 3000th hit event known as DJ3K. Jeter himself wore the new DJ3K shirt and hat featuring a logo of himself in the postgame presser. I got emails within 20 minutes of his hit, extolling how I could buy, among other things, a Jeter autographed ball commemorating the event for "just" $699. So why can't the fan who caught the ball actually make a little something off this?

I heard people say that Christian Lopez showed he was a true fan for giving the ball back. Well, he may be a true fan, but I think it also showed he was pretty naive. The Yankees don't give out free tickets to fans down on their luck. Why should a fan have to act like a billion-dollar franchise is some charity case, and offer to give the ball back for free? As much I love the Yankees, I realize baseball is a business, but that should go both ways. Getting some memorabilia and autographs for giving back a journeyman player's home run ball is one thing. But the Yankees and Jeter himself are treating DJ3K as big business -- they're not exactly giving away the t-shirts and hats and game-used dirt, after all. What's wrong with a fan getting some cash for the ball, a very valuable commodity?

* Some said that it was worth it for Lopez to return the ball, as his name will go down in history for what he did, like Sal Durante returning the 61st home run ball to Roger Maris. But there's more to the story than that:
...Sam Gordon, a restaurant owner in Sacramento, Calif., offered Durante $5,000 for the ball. Durante accepted and Gordon returned the ball to Maris, who had told Durante to try to make some money off the ball. 
Gordon had made the offer of $5000 before the game, and used photos of him returning the ball to Maris to promote his business. I had heard the story for years about how the selfless Durante returned the ball, but it turns out he did make some real money off it (five grand was the average salary in 1961), and that was in a time when people didn't go memorabilia-crazy, like they do now. Good for him.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jeter's 3000th Hit Takes Precedence Over the Team

I have been biting my tongue all week over Jeterpalooza, where the fact that the Yankees have gone 1-3 since Derek Jeter came back to the team is completely overlooked because the Captain is about to get his 3000th hit. I find it more than a little ironic that the player who is supposed to be all about team, and not individual achievements, has a reality show, a bracelet, sneakers, and a slew of endorsements lines up, all about his personal numbers. It is his right to do all that, but it's a little jarring, not to mention counter to his team-first image.

Not to mention his whining about the "negativity" surrounding the achievement. Oh, boo bleeding hoo. Some reporters dared to mention his current numbers, and that's "negativity"? Puh-lease.

Don't get me wrong, Jeter being the first Yankee to reach 3000 is a big deal and a great achievement. But it shouldn't take precedence over the fact that the team has looked terrible this week, after going 14-4 when the captain was on the DL. And, as I always say, switch the player in this scenario from Jeter to A-Rod, and tell me what the reaction would be.

I finally reached my limit this morning, when I read all the hysteria about the big, bad Tampa Bay Rays refusing to play a day-night doubleheader Saturday, and the Yankees not scheduling a regular doubleheader, which means that Jeter only has two games, not three, before the All-Star Break   And all the sob stories about fans with tickets to Friday's game, who will miss out on seeing history. Guess what? As John Sterling says, you can't predict baseball. Even if the game was played, Jeter could have gone 0-5. Would those fans demand their money back?

As for the Rays, they did what is best for their team, not Derek Jeter. What the heck is wrong with that? As Evan Longoria said, "It's not like he's not going to get another hit."

Even Joe Girardi has appeared to lose perspective. He said, "I don't know if I've ever been a part of something this big." Oh, please. I think hitting a game-winning triple to win the clinching game in the 1996 World Series was a little bigger. Or catching a perfect game. Or being part of the 1998 Yankees. Or leading the Yankees to victory in the 2009 World Series. What is Joe thinking? Whatever happened to the team being more important than the individual? Good grief.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Always Great to Get the Best of the Great Mariano Rivera

Two years ago, Mariano Rivera closed out the Subway Series by walking with the bases loaded and getting his 500th save. I enjoyed Sunday's game a lot more. It was only the fourth time Mariano has failed to come through against the Mets.

In 2006, Mariano took the loss when David Wright got the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth in a game in which the Mets had trailed Randy Johnson, 4-0.

In 2001, the Mets beat Mariano with three runs in the top of the tenth to break a scoreless tie. Mike Piazza, Timo Perez and Todd Zeile had consecutive run-scoring singles. As with Sunday's game, the Mets rallied with two out and nobody on.

In 1999, Mariano was charged with both a loss and a blown save when Matt Franco, pinch-hitting for Melvin Mora, singled home the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the ninth.

And now, in 2011, with two out and none on, the Mets rallied behind the unlikely combination of Jason Bay (walk), Lucas Duda (single) and pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino, who singled home the tying run.

Before the rally, it had been a pretty depressing day. The 52-run, four-game outburst earlier in the week looked more and more like a complete fluke, as the Mets were punchless for the fourth game in a row, and three of those were without anyone close to Justin Verlander on the mound.

Jose Reyes had his MRI in the morning, but the Mets kept putting off announcing the results. One would think if it were good news, they'd want people to know. What were they hiding?

R. A. Dickey did not allow a hit in the first four innings, with Squawker Lisa frequently mentioning he had a no-hitter in an attempt to jinx him. In the fifth, Dickey lost his no-hitter, his shutout, the lead, and soon was out of the game because of tightness in his buttocks (Squawker Lisa, insert Met joke here).

I sometimes forget that Dickey is going to be 37 in October. This is his second injury scare in a few weeks.

So as the storm clouds gathered over Citi Field, they seemed to be gathering over the Mets as well. I would not have predicted at the time that the Mets would rally against Mariano, win the game in extra innings, and both Jose and R.A. would appear to have minor injuries.

Five days after hitting the Mets' first grand slam in almost two years, Jason Bay was the hero. Great to see a Met getting a pie in the face for a change.

The Mets also got good news on the All-Star front, with Jose being named a starter and Carlos Beltran also making the team. Reyes obviously deserved to start, and while Beltran did not merit a starting slot, he is a worthy runner-up.

Squawker Lisa, here in the National League, we like to elect All-Stars who are having All-Star seasons. Albert Pujols is a perennial All-Star, the dominant player of the last decade, but even before he got hurt he wasn't having a year up to his usual standards. So he'll be staying home.

Granted, the American League did deny perennial All-Star Ichiro a spot on the team. But Josh Hamilton somehow ended up in the starting lineup. (At least the game is being played at night, since Hamilton claims to have trouble seeing during the day because his eyes are blue.)

But then there's the situation at shortstop. Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera is having an All-Star year. But Derek Jeter has five rings, while Asdrubal is one of five Cabreras in the majors - and he's only the second-best. (Lisa, I'm referring to Detroit's Miguel, not Kansas City's Melky.)

Otherwise Asdrubal leads Derek by substantial margins in batting average (.294-.260), homers (14-2), RBI (49-20), runs (53-39) and steals (12-7). Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci puts Asdrubal eighth on his top ten list for first-half AL MVP.

Jeter returns to action Monday night against Asdrubal's Indians, so we'll get to see the elected AL All-Star shortstop square off against the deserving AL All-Star shortstop.

The only good thing about Jeter making the All-Star team is that he's likely to get a taste of batting at the bottom of the order. The middle of the lineup (3-7) figures to be something like Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton, David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. That leaves Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Alex Avila and Derek Jeter.

With his 14 steals, Granderson should lead off. And Cano should bat second. That leaves Avila and Jeter for the bottom of the order.

Joe Girardi's probably glad he's not managing the All-Stars this year. Imagine having to tell Cano he's batting eighth so Jeter can keep his rightful spot at the top of the lineup.


After Sunday's game, Mariano has a higher career ERA against the Mets (3.28) than every other team except the Angels (3.36).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

On Keith Hernandez, Jose Reyes, A-Rod, and the Citi Field Fences

I'm exhausted from doing the Snoopy Dance over the Yankees beating the Mets. But I do have a few comments on the game last night.

* I thought that ball Alex Rodriguez hit last night was one of the hardest-hit he had had all season long. Yet, in Citi Field, what should have been a homer became a double, thanks to that 16-feet fence in left field. No wonder David Wright and Jason Bay don't hit the home runs they once did. Cifi Field really needs to change the dimensions.

* As Squawker Jon noted when he was on the radio this morning, Jose Reyes' game is perfectly suited for Citi Field. A-Rod said that Reyes was the "world's greatest player," something that caused a little bit of controversy. But I noted to Squawker Jon that it's too bad Fred Wilpon doesn't share Alex's sentiments!

* I hope Ivan Nova gets to stay in the Yankees' rotation, even with Bartolo Colon and Phil Hughes coming back. He's earned the spot, and has really grown as a pitcher this year.

* I know Keith Hernandez is the Mets' Derek Jeter, the untouchable hero, but I was really ticked off over his offensive "where's the purse?" comment last night? It's 2011. Can Hernandez find a way to make a point without ultimately denigrating women? Of, course, he'll get away with it, because he's Keith Hernandez, but it's still annoying.

Squawker Appearance on South Florida Radio With The Amigo

Last weekend, Squawker Lisa appeared on South Florida radio's "New York Sports Report." On Saturday, July 2, at 10:30 a.m., it's my turn.

"New York Sports Report" is hosted by Larry Milian - aka The Amigo - and Phil Dizz Domanic. It airs Saturday mornings. During the week, Larry co-hosts the very popular morning drive time radio show "Armando and The Amigo" on WFTL Sports 640 AM.

Both Squawkers first appeared on one of Larry's shows back in 2007. Lisa has appeared with Larry numerous times since, and I have also put in a few appearances around Subway Series time.

You can listen live online here at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, and follow the guys on Twitter here.

As for the game, it's frustrating that the Mets were outhitting top American League teams on the road during the week, but stumble at home and lose at what is supposed to be their own style of play. I can't complain about Jose Reyes trying to take the extra base in the seventh inning and getting thrown out - Jose's aggressive baserunning helps the Mets a lot more often than it hurts them. But it would be nice if Jon Niese could lay down a bunt, especially when the Yankee pitchers from the DH league are able to do so.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Squawker Jon's Critique of Squawker Lisa's All-Star Ballot

Lisa, at least you didn't vote for Derek Jeter, who is closing in on the "honorary All-Star captain" phase of his career. And you acknowledged that, while Russell may have muscle, as John Sterling likes to say, he also has a .230 batting average. But you've got to give the Red Sox their due.

Mark Teixeira beats Adrian Gonzalez in homers, 25-16, but that's it. And Teixeira hit 16 of them at homer-happy Yankee Stadium. Otherwise, Gonzalez is hitting .352 with 71 RBI, while Teixeira is hitting just .243 with with 63 RBI.

Travis Hafner may be hitting .336, but he missed a month of the season and has just seven homers. Meanwhile, David Ortiz, everyone else's All-Star DH, is hitting .305 with 17 homers.

We agree on Alex Avila, Robinson Cano, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson. But your last outfielder is Nelson Cruz, who has 18 homers, but is hitting just .237. I voted instead for Jacoby Ellsbury, who could end up with a 20-50 year - he has nine homers and 25 steals to go along with a .300 batting average.

In the National League, we agree on seven of the eight picks. We both voted for Brian McCann, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks (though I nearly split my ballot with Brandon Phillips), Jose Jose Jose, Aramis Ramirez (thanks to his hitting five homers in the last week, he does have the best stats in this weak category), Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun.

Oddly enough, the only place we disagree is that you voted for Carlos Beltran and I didn't. Don't get me wrong - Beltran's been so valuable to the Mets that I don't want him to be traded even though it's in the best long-term interests of the team. But hitting .281 with 12 homers and 54 RBI in the first half might get you comeback player of the year, but there's another NL outfielder with 20 homers , 58 RBI and a .296 batting average. So my choice was Lance Berkman. The fact that the Yankees let him go at the end of last season is just icing on the cake.

Other NL outfielders who have put up stats equal to or better than Beltran, particularly because he doesn't run much anymore, are Carlos Gonzalez and Andrew McCutcheon. (There's also some guy named Shane that I refuse to include - I have my own biases. I will vote for Phillies, just not Victorino.)

So while I'd like to see Beltran named to the team, I don't hold out much hope (Hunter Pence is another good candidate, and he could end up being the Astros' representative). At one point, Dillon Gee and Francisco Rodriguez looked like possibilities, but now it appears that the only Met at the All-Star Game will be Reyes, making it that crazier for the Mets to allow their one All-Star to leave.

My All-Star Picks -- Or, Why I Voted for Four Yankees, Two Mets, and Zero Red Sox

So, I did my 25 All-Star votes online last night, just before the deadline. Here's who I voted for:

American League:

1B - Teixeira, Mark
2B - Cano, Robinson
SS - Cabrera, Asdrubal
3B - Rodriguez, Alex
C - Avila, Alex
DH - Young, Michael and Hafner, Travis (I voted some votes for each)
OF - Bautista, Jose
OF - Cruz, Nelson
OF - Granderson, Curtis

I got some grief on Facebook last night from Boston fans for choosing Mark Teixeira over Adrian Gonzalez. Sorry, I am not going to vote for Red Sox. Yes, I am biased that way. Same with David Ortiz -- he will not get my vote. I will root for the Sox as part of the All-Star Game that night, but that's as far as it goes!

Note that I voted for Alex Avila over Russell Martin for catcher. As much as I like Russell -- he's one of my favorite players this year, and I dig that one of his middle names is "Coltrane"! -- this was an easy choice, as Avila beats him in almost every category.

And no, I did not vote for Derek Jeter. Sorry, there is no justification for picking him for the All-Star team this year. After 2010 was the worst season of his career, he is having an even worse 2011. The flip play, and Mr. November, and the rings, and the dive into the stands should have nothing to do with making an All-Star ballot pick for this year.

National League:

1B - Fielder, Prince
2B - Weeks, Rickie
SS - Reyes, Jose
3B - Ramirez, Aramis
C - McCann, Brian
OF - Beltran, Carlos
OF - Braun, Ryan
OF - Kemp, Matt

On the other hand, Reyes highly deserves an All-Star starting slot. I gave Carlos Beltran my vote, too, something even Met fan Squawker Jon did not do!

I could have voted for Lance Berkman, but I didn't. It ticks me off that he didn't get into shape until it was time for a new contract. No wonder some people in Houston are peeved.

And please note that this is the first All-Star Game since 2007 that I did not vote for Yadier Molina for catcher. Four years of giving Squawker Jon the what-for on that was enough!

Who did you vote for in the All-Star Game? Tell us about it!

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