Monday, January 25, 2016

See classic Bruce Springsteen photos in NYC

I recently got to see the opening of an exhibition on famous photos of Bruce Springsteen from his prime creative era. (Most are from the mid to late-1970s, back when he was doing great albums like "Born to Run," "The River," and "Darkness on the Edge of Town." my personal favorite. These  photos are taken by some of the top rock photographers of the era, including Lynn Goldsmith. You can see them for free at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in Manhattan until February 9.

"The Ties That Bind" gallery exhibition opening was co-sponsored by Macari Vineyards. And it was packed! Lots of great Springsteen photos on display. If you go to the exhibition, you'll see the original photos that became the covers for "Darkness" and "The River." 'Here are some of my favorites. Go to Morrison Hotel Gallery's website to see more and read more about it :

"Corvette Winter," Bruce Springsteen, Haddonfield, NJ, 1978
© Frank Stefanko, 1978

Bruce Springsteen, Asbury Park, 1979
© Joel Bernstein, 1979

Fast Food, Bruce Springsteen
© Jim Marchese, 1981

Bruce Springsteen At the writing table in his bedroom, Holmdel, NJ, October 1979
© Joel Bernstein, 1979

Bruce Springsteen
© Joel Bernstein, 1979

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mets finally stop pulling snow job with return of Cespedes

We've been hearing how close the Mets are to overcoming any financial concerns for years now. First it was getting rid of Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez and not re-signing Jose Reyes. A couple of years later, it was the expiring contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay. Finally, it was increasing revenue by getting to the postseason.  But while even the Kansas City Royals raised their payroll to $130M, the Mets were content with no major signings and a below-average payroll of 115M.

And then the Mets finally put their money where their mouths have been.

Without Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets would not have made the World Series last year. If you're not going to sign him, you need to find another way to make up the lost offense. Before yesterday, all the Mets had done was reshuffle their infield, and for the outfield, add Alejandro de Aza. 

In 2015, de Aza had seven HR and 35 RBI in 325 at bats while playing for three teams. Cespedes hit 17 HR with 44 RBI in 230 AB after joining the Mets. For the season, he hit 35 HR with 105 RBI and a .291 BA for the Mets and Tigers. That might have been a career year - or it might have been a star player from Cuba reaching his potential in his fourth season in MLB at age 29.  It's worth a three-year deal to find out which one it is.

Kudos to Sandy Alderson and the Mets front office for apparently getting Cespedes to leave a lot of money on the table. Kudos to Mets ownership for finally getting the payroll back towards where it was the last time the team was good. And kudos to local columnists and fans for putting on the pressure to get something done.

Now the Mets have gone from a team in danger of reverting to mediocrity - Fangraphs had just projected them to win 83 games in 2016 - back to a playoff contender. The revamped Cubs still look formidable, but at least the Nationals won't have Cespedes and Daniel Murphy flanking Bryce Harper in their lineup.

On the day of the biggest local blizzard in years, the Mets finally stopped trying to pull their financial snow job.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mike Piazza and the days when the Mets reached for the stars

Mike Piazza reached the pinnacle of the baseball world this week when was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. On Friday, I had the opportunity to be there when Piazza stood at the pinnacle of New York, on the 86th-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building, talking about what makes the Big Apple so special to him.

Piazza found it "euphoric" to be "back here in New York as a Hall of Famer, the way people just honor you, hearing the 'way to go Mikeys' when you’re walking around. It’s a lot of fun."

He praised the "passion of the fans" in New York, noting that, "as a player, you can choose, it can really be a lot of pressure – some guys don’t respond well to it, or you can use it as a catalyst to get better, and for me it was the latter. I was blessed to do that."

Met fans were blessed that management traded for Piazza during the 1998 season, eventually jump-starting their offense. Then the Mets gave Piazza a big contract after the season even though they already had someone at his position (Todd Hundley). Within two seasons, the Piazza-led Mets were in the World Series.

In 2015, Sandy Alderson made a midseason trade for Yoenis Cespedes, eventually jump-starting their offense. At the end of the season, the Mets were in the World Series. But if Cespedes ends up in the Hall of Fame, it doesn't look as if he'll be wearing a Mets cap.

There may be valid reasons to avoid giving Yoenis Cespedes a long-term deal, but spare me the excuse that the Mets have no room in the corner outfield. Even if Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto perform as hoped, (which is no sure thing given that Granderson turns 35 in March and Conforto has just a few weeks of MLB experience, during which he was primarily a platoon player) Granderson's contract has just two years to run, so the Mets will soon need to fill a void regardless.

I'm glad Alderson is doing better, but I don't want to hear him say that the Mets are spending again because their payroll has gone up $35 million since 2014 when their payroll dropped $50 million just two years before that.

What would the traditionalists say
about using a bat as a selfie stick?
This has been a special year for the Mets - a trip to the World Series and a trip to Cooperstown for a player who considers himself first and foremost a New York Met. Seeing Piazza in person and hearing him praise teammates John Franco and Al Leiter made me nostalgic for 2000, a year I generally try to forget because of how it ended.

I've been a lot more able to appreciate 2015, since the Mets' success was so unexpected and it didn't end with a loss to the Yankees. But it would be nice to experience another world championship at some point, and unless 2016 Mets management starts acting more like the 1998 version, it may be a long time before we see another title - or another Hall of Famer in a Mets cap.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Paul DePodesta would rather work for the Cleveland Browns than the New York Mets

The Jets ripped my heart out yet again Sunday, but at least I could take solace in the fact that I was not a fan of the Cleveland Browns. As ESPN notes, in a little over three years, crazy owner Jimmy Haslam will have had four coaches, four GMs and three team presidents/CEOs. What NFL executive in his or her right mind would want to work in such an environment? Apparently none, since Cleveland's latest hire is none other than the Mets' Paul DePodesta.

At first glance, it seems insane to leave a team that just made the World Series for a team in another sport that last won a title during the early days of Beatlemania. A team whose troubled quarterback reportedly put on a disguise to party in Vegas last weekend when he was supposed to be recovering from a concussion. Maybe DePodesta wants to be the next Theo Epstein, who brought a championship to the title-starved Red Sox and is well on his way to doing it again with the Cubs. Maybe he thought he was going to the Cleveland Cavaliers. More likely, before too long it will be DePodesta who will feel like wearing a disguise.

The last time a prominent member of the Mets organization left the team after a World Series appearance for a surprising destination, Mike Hampton claimed it was because of the school system.  Perhaps DePodesta will claim that he just wants to be closer to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

But what if DePodesta simply decided that the time was right to leave the Mets? That his marketability would never be higher after the 2015 World Series, because that was as far as this franchise was going to go? Maybe DePodesta saw a franchise still unwilling to spend and figured that there was no place for the Mets to go after last season's unexpected success than down. Every article about DePodesta talks about how smart he is, and he knows what is really going on behind the scenes, as opposed to people like me who continue to naively hold out hope that the Mets will upgrade their offense before the 2016 season starts.

In the meantime, let's see who the Mets pick to replace DePodesta. I just hope it's not John Idzik.


The Baseball Bloggers Alliance is holding a parallel vote for the Hall of Fame. Here are the players I voted for, in alphabetical order.

Jeff Bagwell
Ken Griffey Jr.
Trevor Hoffman
Edgar Martinez
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Alan Trammell

Unlike Squawker Lisa, whose ballot is here, I am not ready to support Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. While Bonds would have been a Hall of Famer without steroids, it is far less clear with Clemens. At age 33 in 1996, Clemens had come off four straight mediocre years with the Red Sox, who were happy to let him leave. According to Baseball Reference, Clemens was statistically most similar in those years to Dwight Gooden. But while Gooden failed to realize his Hall potential, Clemens went on to four more Cy Young awards and 162 more wins with the help of his, uh, workout regimen.

What I find particularly galling is how many people refer to Bonds and Clemens as among the greatest players of all time. I concede it could be true with Bonds. Let's say he didn't do steroids and ended up with 625 homers instead of 762. Still pretty amazing.  But would a clean Clemens have topped 300 wins, let alone make it to 354?

With all the statistical analysis in baseball, it would be nice to see someone speculate on how Bonds and Clemens would have done without the juice before we start considering them for GOAT.

When I first heard about the Mike Piazza rumors, my reaction was to cover my ears and start yelling out nonsense syllables. Based on everything I've read and heard, I'm a lot more confident in giving the PED label to Bonds and Clemens than I am to Piazza and Jeff Bagwell. But I'm admittedly a biased Met fan.

And even if Clemens eventually gets in, at least let it not be alongside Piazza. Clemens has ruined enough special Piazza moments already.

Mike Mussina was a very good pitcher for many years, but he was never considered close to being the best pitcher in baseball, much less even on his own team. Mussina never won a Cy Young, finishing second once, and never finished higher than 19th in the MVP voting. 

Curt Schilling may have won far fewer games than Mussina did, but he was a more standout performer in his best years, particular in the postseason. Schilling also never won a Cy Young but finished second four times. He had two top-ten MVP finishes and finished 11th and 14th two other times.

Most of all, Schilling was sensational in the postseason, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.968 WHIP. Schilling was the co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, with a 1.69 ERA and 0.656 WHIP in three starts. In the 2004 ALCS, Schilling and his bloody sock earned one of the most famous postseason wins ever.

I also voted for Alan Trammell, who, according to Jay Jaffe's JAWS analysis is more worthy of the Hall among shortstops than future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and current Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.


Squawker Lisa, I'm glad you resisted temptation when you saw the complete ballot -

Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Luis Castillo, Roger Clemens, David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Glaus, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Trevor Hoffman, Jason Kendall, Jeff Kent, Mike Lowell, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith, Sammy Sosa, Mike Sweeney, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker, Randy Winn.

- and did not cast  a vote for Luis Castillo. You could have specified that his Hall plaque be sturdy enough that it would not break if he dropped it.

I'm also glad you did not vote for Billy Wagner, knowing that I would not be able to forgive his 16.88 ERA in the 2006 NLCS. But while Wagner's regular-season numbers are actually worthy of Hall consideration, his overall ERA in 14 postseason games was 10.03.

As for Hampton, at least his induction ceremony would make for a nice Colorado school trip.

Let the arguments begin: Here is my MLB Hall of Fame ballot

Jon and I are proud members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. And each year, the organization votes on their choices for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While our group's votes don't actually count towards the real HOF, they are nonetheless instructive as to how baseball bloggers' choices compare with the ones from the Baseball Writers of America.

Anyhow, these are the 32 names on this year's ballot: 

Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Luis Castillo, Roger Clemens, David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Glaus, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Trevor Hoffman, Jason Kendall, Jeff Kent, Mike Lowell, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith, Sammy Sosa, Mike Sweeney, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker, Randy Winn.

And here are my 10 choices, in no particular order:

Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Ken Griffey Jr.
Curt Schilling
Mike Mussina
Jeff Bagwell
Trevor Hoffman
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Edgar Martinez

I have changed my mind on some of these candidates over time, like the BBWAA writers have. (A few years ago, I would not have voted for Mike Piazza or Mike Mussina; now they are on my ballot.) I also can't do like the Murray Chasses of the world and only vote for Ken Griffey Jr., due to the steroid issue. (And what a joke is it that Chass still has a vote, when he hasn't written for a newspaper in eight years, and is now a blogger just like yours truly!)

And yes, I did put Curt Schilling, arguably the greatest Yankee-killer of all time, on the list. So sue me! I also voted for Bonds and Clemens. You can't have a real HOF without them.

I debated whether or not to include Mark McGwire, but left him out. If the ballot had 12 spots, though, I would have included him.

Anyhow, these are my choices. Who are yours? Comment below!

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