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What I’m Thankful For This Year (New York Sports Edition)

11/27/08

A happy and healthy Thanksgiving to everyone out there.

On this day of thanks, I thought it would be fun to list the 10 things I’ve been thankful for in 2008 when it comes to New York sports.

As a fan of the Mets, Jets, Knicks, Rangers, and Syracuse basketball team, I tried focusing on my teams but had to stray to come up with 10, especially with the teams’ lack of success.

10. The Major League Baseball All Star Game

I was lucky enough to be in attendance at the final All Star Game ever at Yankee Stadium.  As I sat out in the left field bleachers, I couldn’t see everything, but I made sure I stuck around for all 15 innings and all five-plus hours in watching the American League pull out the victory and claim home field advantage in the World Series.

Seeing all the legends like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron was a once in a lifetime experience, and the whole night was as good as it gets for a baseball fan.

9. October Baseball without the Yankees

Now, the Mets weren’t part of the postseason either, so I know I’m opening myself up here for major criticism. However, after having to watch the Yankees extend their season for 12 years in a row, enough was enough.

The fact that the team wasn’t able to make the playoffs in the final season of their historic ballpark was icing on the cake.  It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving fanbase.

Of course it only made things sweeter seeing Joe Torre get his Dodgers into the NLCS.  However, his firing was still the correct decision, right George?

8. Henrik Lundqvist

I’ll admit it, I don’t watch a ton of hockey, but when I watch the Rangers, I can’t help but marvel at how dominant king Henry can be between the pipes.  He stands on his head night after night keeping the team in games when the offense struggles.

Back in the spring, when the Rangers were looking to earn a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals, Lundqvist was sensational against Pittsburgh. Lundqvist led the squad when they weren’t able to capitalize on power play opportunities.

Lundqvist is quietly one of the five best athletes this city has to offer.  Write it down.

7. Jonny Flynn

After two seasons of missing out on the NCAA tournament, the orange have jumped out to a 5-0 start, including road wins on back to back nights against Florida and Kansas.  The big reason behind their early success has been the play of sophomore point guard Jonny Flynn, who is making a case as one of the best one-guards in all of America. His name has been mentioned in the same breath as guards like Darren Collison and Ty Lawson.

Flynn forced overtime Tuesday night with a game tying three with 6.4 seconds left. His ability to create shots for his teammates and score the basketball will make Syracuse a contender throughout the year.  He’s the best pure basketball player Jim Boeheim has coached since Carmelo Anthony.

6. Leon Washington

The Jets’ most valuable player in my eyes, Washington makes something happen every game.  You can pencil him in for making at least one game-changing play, whether it’s a long touchdown run or taking a kickoff back to the house.

Leon has been important in spelling Thomas Jones, and the two have formed a dynamic rushing tandem that has helped put the Jets on top of the AFC East, and in contention for a possible postseason run.

The quarterback handing Washington the ball has been a pretty big reason for their success as well, but more on him later.

5. The Escape, the Catch, the Upset

I’m not a Giants fan, but unlike the Mets-Yankees hate I’ve developed growing up, I always root for the Giants unless they’re taking on my Jets.

While my Jets were nowhere to be found in January, the Giants’ playoff run last season was something that any sports fan could appreciate.  Going on the road and winning games in Tampa, Dallas, and Green Bay, when the wind chill was -20, and defeating the previously undefeated Patriots was all sorts of fun.

Of course the moment from that game that I, like everybody else, will think of first was the escape of Eli Manning and the throw and catch to David Tyree, who pinned the ball against his helmet on the Giants’ final touchdown drive, setting up the game-winning score.

The game was phenomenal, the Giants won a hard earned championship, and the Patriots were denied their piece of football immortality.

4. Johan Santana

While the Mets’ season ended up being a waste, the performance of Johan Santana was anything but that.  Santana was brilliant, winning 16 games and finishing third in National League Cy Young voting.

It was his final two performances of the season, including his complete game, a three-hit shutout on the second to last game of the season (a game I was at), that electrified Mets fans and gave them hope that they would be able to avoid a second consecutive late season collapse.

Of course they didn’t, but that was no fault of Santana, who was pitching with a torn ligament in his knee.  For all the prospects and money Omar Minaya and ownership gave up to bring him to Queens, and in the midst of a very disappointing season, Santana certainly shined.

3. Donnie Walsh

I could have given Isiah Thomas a spot and spoken about how I’m thankful for his removal, but I’m going to group that with Walsh. Since being hired by owner James Dolan, Walsh wasted little time in removing Thomas as coach.

Walsh not only was able to effectively end the dreadful Isiah Thomas era, but he hired a proven winner in Mike D’Antoni. He has already begun to clear cap space for when LeBron James, among others, becomes a free agent in 2010.

The trades of Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph clear nearly $28 million of cap space going into the summer of 2010, when the Knicks will be primed to start a new era with James leading the way.

Walsh would have topped my list, but still hasn’t gotten rid of Stephon Marbury, although that probably isn’t too far off from happening.

2. Shea Goodbye

I’ve been going to Shea Stadium for nearly 15 years, and at 21 years old, aside from the places I’ve called home and the classrooms I’ve been in, there isn’t a place I’ve spent more time than the former home of the Mets.

Although the season didn’t end as planned, I was able to drive home from Syracuse to attend the final three regular season games in the history of the ballpark.  It was an emotional weekend, and it was great seeing the likes of Mike Piazza, Doc Gooden, and Tom Seaver one last time at Shea.

The final season at Shea also included Billy Joel as the last entertainer of the stadium, and I was lucky enough to be there when Paul McCartney came out.

All in all, some of my best memories were at Shea, and knowing I’ll never be there again to watch baseball is something that probably won’t sink in until I’m watching games at Citi Field.

1. Brett Favre

I can’t think of anything greater than one of your favorite players joining one of your favorite teams.  Such was the case when, in early August, the New York Jets acquired one of the greatest to ever play the game to be their quarterback.  Brett Favre was the centerpiece to an offseason makeover following a disastrous 4-12 season.

Bringing his one of a kind skills and child-like exuberance, the Jets find themselves at 8-3 and in contention for a division championship.  Favre has completely changed the culture in the Jets locker room.  Over the course of the season the group has come together as a unit and played the type of winning football Jets fans aren’t all accustomed used to.

Favre is easy to like and easier to root for, especially when he’s getting his team victories.

November 27, 2008 Posted by | Personal, Sports, Thoughts | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All ‘Shea’ Wrote

10/2/08

Last Sunday, Shea Stadium lowered it curtain for the last time, closing the book on 44 years of memories.

While the ball club crashed their own party by failing to qualify for postseason play for a second consecutive season, Sunday was as much about remembering and celebrating the life of a ballpark that saw it all, from baseball to concerts to religious royalty.

When it opened in 1964, the still infant New York Mets finally still lacked the talent to compete, but no longer lacked a home of their own.

Located on Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, Queens, Shea and it’s surrounding area leave little to be desired aesthetically, in fact more often than not the ballpark is referred to (being kind and keeping this appropriate) an eye sore (among many other lovely names).

When stadiums and ballparks go up today, the buzz word surrounding them is often ‘state of the art’, and while the Mets new home, Citi Field, will certainly fit the description, back in 1964 upon opening, Shea already seemed to appear outdated.

It didn’t help that less than 10 miles away sat another ballpark where another New York team played. A ballpark they said was built by some guy named Ruth. A ballpark where guys proclaimed they were the luckiest man on the faith on earth”. A ballpark that saw championship flags raised and a ballpark that saw both records and legends fall.

Ok, so Yankee Stadium has the history, the mystique and aura and the ghosts.

While Shea lacked all of the above, what it had was a team that gave New Yorker’s lovable losers, who brought National League baseball back to a National League town.

Those early years were as brutal as the traffic is getting there these days, but those Metsies (as Casey Stengal lovingly referred to them as) had charm.

It didn’t take long for Shea’s theater to feature its first true performer, as the right arm of Tom Seaver toed the rubber for the first time in 1965, the same year some kids from Britain sold the place out. From what I hear, they weren’t bad.

Beatlemania was fun, but it was four years later when miracles were made.

Led by Gil Hodges, who had already captured the hearts of New Yorker’s for so many years wearing Dodger blue, made those National League holdovers proud again with an Amazin’ finish in 1969, giving Shea some much needed interior decoration.

It won’t be soon forgotten that Shea hosted football too, and the Jets flying overhead had nothing on the

Just four more years later, another New York baseball legend, who told us it wasn’t over ‘til its over, had the Mets just a win away from a second championship.

Behind a rallying call so often still uttered, the ’73 edition of the orange and blue gave us “Ya Gotta Believe”, but ultimately gave us bitter disappointment.

The next decade saw icons take their final curtain calls (Willie Mays ’72 and ‘73), and also saw hometown heroes make unexpected exits (Seaver in ’77).

As Shea was hardly enjoying its teenaged years, it would be some teenaged stars that would be called upon to revive a drowning organization.

With a Doc and a Straw, the energy was back, even if the magic wasn’t (true Mets fan will appreciate the reference to one of the teams countless ill-fated marketing campaigns).

An MVP from St. Louis along with a ‘kid’ from Montreal, and the pieces were finally in place for Shea to host another October party.

With a game six groundball and game seven comeback, Shea was once again a house of champions, and once again the center of the New York baseball universe.

Another crushing playoff defeat in ’88 saw the end of an era in Queens, as young stars were quickly becoming troubled veterans.

As disappointment turned into embarrassment, and money couldn’t buy success, the dawning of a new era was arriving in the spring of 1998.

A Piazza delivery had a rejuvenated fan base buzzing, looking to quench it’s postseason thirst.

Just a year later, it was Piazza who delivered, as Shea prepared to get ‘wild’.

Never shy from dramatic, the Amazin’s brought with them back to playoffs some magic, as the names Pratt and Ventura were forever etched into both Mets and Shea Stadium lore for homeruns and grand slam…singles.

Another year, and another trip to the playoffs, this time with a National League crown to show for it.

A meeting with those cross town rivals scheduled, with more than titles on the line.

And although a mighty drive from Mikey fell harmlessly in the glove of Bernie Williams, the Yankees may have had their three-peat, but the Mets once again had significance (hardly compensation, but important none the less.)

Fast forward another year, to events that forever changed our lives.

September 11th, 2001 saw time stand still, and when it picked up again in the baseball world, Shea Stadium would serve as 55,000 seat therapist’s office.

Whether or not we should have been there was certainly a question, but by night’s end, doubts were erased with what many agree was the most significant swing Shea ever saw.

With broken hearts beating and crying eyes watching, Mike Piazza’s 8th inning home run might have given the Mets a lead, but more than that, gave a city a much needed chance to smile.

It didn’t win a playoff series, and didn’t clinch a championship- but it didn’t have to.

That swing was about more than baseball, and for the first time since those towers had fallen, New Yorker’s spirits were lifted.

After coming up short in 2001, Shea went silent again for another 5 years, surpassing the big 4-0 without any playoff celebrations.

Before there was talk of a new ballpark, there would be talk of the “New Mets”.

A superstar shortstop and a hot corner cornerstone, along with a hall of fame ace and all star centerfielder made up the framework of a new generation in Flushing.

Led by a GM from Queens and a manager from Brooklyn, it would take only two seasons for the “New Mets” to be National League East champions, dethroning 14 years of consistency down south.

In what few expected to be its final postseason party, Shea was home to a pennant clinching celebration it hadn’t seen in 6 years.

What few also expected, was watching the winners wearing the wrong colored caps, as a called third strike would make a legendary class go for naught.

Seeing it’s replacement finally take some shape, Shea watched it’s own demise slowly resurrect in its parking lost, while it watched the demise of its favorite tenants painfully play out within its walls.

Known simply as “the collapse”, the numbers 7 and 17 would forever be infamously synonymous with the Metropolitans, having nothing to do with a shortstop or a ‘stache’.

In 2008, Shea’s swan song wasn’t the only music playing, as the Piano Man hosted Shea’s last play…twice. With the help of some friends, including one who hadn’t seen Shea’s stage since he first graced it in ’65, Billy the Kid had the house rocking like it had some 40 years before.

Two weeks ago, we bid farewell to Yankee Stadium, known to many as the House that Ruth Built and baseball’s cathedral.

Among those who called it home included the Babe and Iron Man, a Clipper and the Mick. From Reggie and Thurman, to Donnie, Derek and Mo.

That other park in town, the one with the airplanes and the one that looked like it needed to be torn down not long after it went up, might not have been built by sultan of swat, or proclaim itself as religious arena.

Among those who call IT home were Tom and Tug, Daryl and Doc, Mookie and Mike, David and Jose. Not a Hall of Fame guest list per se, but not bad either.

To those who called Shea home, this author included, it might not have been the best looking and might not have fanciest.

It might have lacked mystique and aura, and it might have lacked a pretty white facade.

For all Shea might have lacked, it made up for with its familiarity and unexplainable charm.

To those who have called Shea home for any period of time, what it lacked in physical appeal it made up for with emotional sentiment.

Although few will argue it’s no longer up to the standards set by the new era of ballparks springing up, few will also argue that Shea will be torn down not having lived the fullest of lives.

It saw baseball and football, championships and heartbreaks, religious icons and rock and roll immortals.

But most of all, it was place where millions of people would gather for whatever the reason, not caring about what that place looked like, but more just how they felt once inside.

And more often than not, thanks to 44 years of moments and memories, they felt like they were home.

October 2, 2008 Posted by | New York Mets, Sports, Thoughts | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Billy Joel “Sheas” Goodbye

7/19/08

“Sing us a song, you’re the Piano Man. Sing us a song tonight.”

Last night at Shea Stadium, Billy Joel did that, and quite a bit more.

Those lines of course from what many consider to be Billy Joel’s unofficial anthem, “Piano Man”,
managed to provide the fans with what many had expected would be the final song of the evening, as was the case Wednesday night during Mr. Joel’s first of his two performances this week. Of course the final song of the night would belong to one Mr. Joel’s special guests, but more on that later.

While I wasn’t there Wednesday, I heard nothing but rave reviews, which including a detailed listing of the songs and guests Mr. Joel had show up, including The Eagles’ Don Henley, John Mayer, John Melencamp and Tony Bennett.

Not bad by any means, especially when you consider they were only side dishes to the main course of Mr. Joel who all in all gave fans 3 hours of performing.

Going into the concert last night, I had heard rumors of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Roger Daughtry of The Who and Garth Brooks all showing up, which only added to my excitement.

As both a fan of Billy Joel, albeit not nearly as long as almost everybody else at Shea last night, and the baseball teams which calls Shea home, it was the perfect storm of excitement for me.

To make a great night even better, I had seats on the floor, which gave my the ability to walk around the field of what I have often considered my home away from home, as I’ve probably spent as much time at Shea Stadium over the last 15 years than I have at any place other than where I’ve gone to school and where I’ve lived.

After spending a good hour and half roaming around the field, I finally settled into my seats and got ready for my first ever dose of Billy Joel.

Not only had I never seen Mr. Joel perform live, last night marked only the second time I’ve attended a concert, the first and only other being Sarah McLachlan a few years ago with my girlfriend at the time (a concert I thoroughly enjoyed, which I’m not ashamed to admit.)

The concert opened up with Mr. Joel singing the Star Spangled Banner, welcoming us to Shea and then getting right into his first song of the night, Miami 2017, during which he followed up a line in the song referencing the Yankees with an ad-libbed line about the Mets playing at Shea.

Most of the first half of his concert was filled with a mix of hits (The Entertainer) and songs that as Mr. Joel proclaimed weren’t hit singles whatsoever (Zanzibar), but everything he sang sounded great regardless, and was generally sung along too by almost everybody there.

Unfortunately, I’m awful with lyrics and showed up unprepared to sing along to anything more than a handful of songs and a chorus here and there, but it didn’t take away from the experience.

Tony Bennett showed up once again to deliver a very moving performance of New York State of Mind, which had the home crowd on it’s feet.

Garth Brooks was the second guest of the night, as he came out to sing Shameless. Mr. Brooks came out in a Mets jersey and hat, as he actually had been invited to spring training with the team back in 2000.

When I had heard Mr. Brooks was going to appear I really wasn’t all too impressed, however after hearing him perform I was left feeling stupid, as he and Mr. Joel sang together and sounded terrific.

During The River of Dreams, Mr. Joel snuck The Beatles’ Hard Days Night in, which was one of the really special moments of the night, as Mr. Joel was paying tribute to the band which first played Shea back in 1965.

A bit later on, Steven Tyler came out and performed Walk this Way which had the crowd going crazy and singing along.

The guests were sandwiched in between all of Mr. Joel’s biggest hits, which included hits such as We Didn’t Start the Fire, It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, and Captain Jack, which was among the few songs I was able to sing along with (at least partially…aka a few lines beyond the chorus).

What we all believed was going to be the final guest act of the night, Roger Daltrey from The Who came out to sing “My Generation”. Mr. Joel, who had already left his Piano stool, was in full rock star mode as he shattered a guitar into pieces following the end of the song, which had the crowd in a frenzy.

Throughout the night, Mr. Joel showed off the personality which has made him such a fan favorite, cracking self deprecating jokes and interacting with the crowd such as when he was informing us on why he was using a spray to keep his throat moist “because it’s not humid enough out, right?”

I’m too young to have grown up with his music or have much of an appreciation for what he has meant to New Yorker’s, however my first impressions of him in person, at the age of 59, were that I was watching a man who embraced what he has was doing, enjoying it with all of his heart, and truly loving the support he has gotten, not only during his two night stay in Queens, but throughout his career.

He was down to earth and came across as just another one of the guys, which is probably what has allowed him to be so symbolic to New Yorker’s as he has been able to enjoy great success while never forgetting his roots (he stated “to us, anything west of New Jersey is considered the west!”). And like I said, he poked fun at himself by suggesting pre-nuptuals before marriage (he’s currently in his third) and reminded everyone to drive home safely “not like me”.

Mr. Joel, after thanking Shea, set the crowd up for his first encore of the night, coming back out to sing my favorite song of his, Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, a sing in which I belted every word of, losing my breathe between verses and nearly bursting a blood vessel from shouting so loud.

After Only the Good Die Young, Mr. Joel once again left the stage thanking the crowd, but not before a helicopter was seen over the ball park, which caused Mr. Joel himself to look up with a look on his face that sort of hinted somebody had just arrived.

Upon returning for a second encore, Mr. Joel presented the crowd with the greatest surprise of the night, introducing Sir Paul McCartney, at which point I, a 21 year old male who if you ask anybody who knows me- knows I almost never get overly excited about ANYTHING, started screaming and jumping up and down no less than a foot or two in the air.

Paying no attention to the fact I had hurt my back pretty badly earlier in the week and was just starting to feel better, I re-injured it while jumping somewhere between 10 and 15 times screaming “OH MY GOD, THATS PAUL MCCARTNEY” as though it was 1965 and I was a fourteen year old girl.

The former Beatle had the crowd louder than it had been at any point that evening, and played “I Saw Her Standing There” and just like he had back in 1965, had Shea Stadium absolutely unconscious with excitement.

Following McCartney, Joel played a stirring rendition of Piano Man to which everyone sang along, the last chorus without the accompanying music which was awesome.

While we had all believed the show had reached it’s conclusion, Mr. Joel signaled to somebody to come back out, and back on stage was Sir Paul McCartney, this time taking over the Piano and playing Let it Be.

It should be noted that when Mr. McCartney came back out, despite having no feeling what-so-ever in my lower back, the adrenaline must have been working overtime because I started jumping up and down again, as though the Mets had just won the world series.

Singing Let it Be along with Sir Paul McCartney will likely go down as one of the single most memorable experiences I’ll ever be fortunate enough to remember.

It was as close to an out of body experience as I think a person is capable of having.

So fittingly, despite the night clearly belonging to Bill Joel, the Last Play at Shea had it’s final song performed by one of the men who played the very first song when those curtains first opened back in 1965.

Without question, one of the greatest moments and greatest nights of my life, and something that I’ll never forget.

For anybody interested, here is the set list from Friday night’s show

Star Spangled Banner
Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
Prelude/Angry Young Man
My Life
The Entertainer
Summer, Highland Falls
Zanzibar
Allentown
Ballad of Billy the Kid
New York State of Mind (with Tony Bennett)
Root Beer Rag
Goodnight Saigon
Don’t Ask Me Why
Keeping The Faith
The Downeaster “Alexa”
This Night
Movin’ Out
Under The Boardwalk/An Innocent Man
Shameless (with Garth Brooks)
She’s Always A Woman
Captain Jack
Lullabye
River of Dreams/A Hard Days Night
Walk This Way (with Steven Tyler)
We Didn’t Start The Fire
It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll To Me
My Generation (with Roger Daltrey)
You May Be Right

First Encore:

Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
Only The Good Die Young

Second Encore:

I Saw Her Standing There (with Paul McCartney)
Piano Man
Let It Be (with Paul McCartney)

July 20, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

Opening Day Has Arrived

3/31/08

opening-day.png

In this life of ours, there are few certainties we can rely on.

Benjamin Franklin wisely stated that the only two things you can count on it life are death and taxes.

Well Ben was around long before the beautiful game of baseball was invented, because another thing you can count on, when winter fades to spring, is that baseball takes it rightful place atop the sports world.

They call it the National Pastime, while most baseball fans treat Opening Day like a national holiday.

Opening Day is about more than baseball.

It’s about a fresh start.

It’s about putting the past behind us and leaving it there.

It’s about “there’s always next year” being this year.

Of course most of all, it’s about baseball.

The offseason seems as endless as the winter itself, and when February rolls around, the two most popular words a baseball fan will hear are pitchers and catchers.

Spring training begins, with Florida and Arizona the backdrop for our heroes’ return.

In March they get ready, as the season gets closer.

New faces and old, the excitement builds as Opening Day approaches, and those last handful of meaningless exhibition games linger on.

And finally, when you think it’ll never come, those skies look bluer and that grass looks greener.

Something you can’t even describe lifts you up, and reminds you that this year could be your year.

Baseball has returned.

Opening day has arrived.

* * * * *

shea.jpg

From a personal perspective, this Opening Day is somewhat more emotional than ever before.

For both Mets and Yankees fans, 2008 marks the final year of both Shea and Yankee Stadium.

As a Mets fan, I have nothing but the highest regards for Yankee Stadium, as the baseball fan inside of me knows all of the history and the mystique surrounding baseball’s greatest cathedral. It will certainly be missed.

When it comes to Shea Stadium, I can’t think of a place outside my home or a school where I’ve spent more of time growing up.

Serving as my home away home since I was 5, Shea is far more than just a baseball stadium to me.

I fell in love at Shea.

Not with a girl, but with a baseball team.

The Mets have become as big a part of my life as anything else, and while some could argue for all I’ve given they have yet to reciprocate with the taste of a Championship, they have given me something even more valuable.

An escape.

The best part about baseball, aside from winning, is having something that manages to transcend everything else going on in my life.

I’ve dealt with too many ups and downs in my life to count, however throughout all of it, between April and September, I know that at 1, 4 or 7 (10 when they’re on on the West Coast) the Mets will be there, distracting me from whatever it is I need to be distracted from.

Somebody asked me recently what my favorite thing in the world to do is, and after thinking for a second I realized that there isn’t anything which tops sitting in the Mezzanine, Section 5 row G seat 23 and watching a game.

One of the papers asked what aspect of Shea will be most missed, and with choices like the home run apple and the planes flying overhead (which actually will still be flying overhead next year), I immediately said it was just watching the game there.

Shea is without question among the least attractive ballparks in baseball, however for anybody who has been there (and spent as much time there as I have) you just embrace it for what it is.

It may lack the aesthetics of Yankee game or Wrigley Field, and it might not be state of the art like a lot of these other new stadiums going up (and for some reason, the bathrooms remain flooded on Opening day before a single game has been played) BUT…to me, and to Mets fans, Shea Stadium will forever be one thing and one thing only.

The home of the New York Mets.

It too, will be dearly missed.

March 31, 2008 Posted by | New York Mets, Sports | , , | Leave a comment

No Shortage Of Storylines as we ‘Shea’ Goodbye in 2008

3/28/08

(from my Sports Illustrated FanNation Blog)

exit.jpg

After 44 years, 4 National League pennants and 2 world series championships, Shea Stadium will be no more come opening day 2009, as the New York Mets will start play in their new home, residing just beyond the leftfield fence.

But while Citi Field remains a season away, 2008 has all the makings to put the Mets in position to send Shea off in style, perhaps raising a new championship banner when the new ballpark opens.

With Opening Day just a weekend away, the storylines heading into the 2008 season seem almost overwhelming.

Prior to their trade with the Twins, the theme early and often would have been the collpase.

Their late season disaster will remain in the minds of players and fans, as well it should.

The collapse should be a reminder to the young players and especially to the veterans that you can’t take a single game, a single at bat or a single pitch for granted.

That means no getting bored or complacent, regardless of how many games ahead or behind they mae be in the standings.

Fortunately, the collapse will probably take a back seat to the arrival of Johan Santana, arguably and considered by many to be the best pitching in the game today.

Santana’s Here, Pedro Still the Man

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Ok, so the best pitcher on the planet is now a Met.

He brings with him his Cy Young awards, his wins and strikeouts.

So how is it possible he might not even be the most important pitcher in his own rotation?

The answer to that is Pedro Martinez.

Santana, injuries aside, can be penciled in for anywhere from 16-20 wins, and an E.R.A. under 3.

Pedro, in my opinion, is the X-Factor in the Mets rotation.

If healthy, Pedro can give the Mets the most potent 1-2 punch not only in the National League, but in the majors.

Mike Francesa said it earlier in the week on WFAN, and I agree with the statement that if Pedro has a ‘Pedro’ year, the Mets can and should run away with the division.

And when talking about Pedro, his value extends beyond the pitchers mound.

Since day 1 in Queens, Pedro has become vital in giving the Mets a confident swagger, while also providing comic relief and a veteran presence with championship experience.

His antics seem to have no end, he always is smiling and knows how to keep his teammates lose.

When Pedro is in the dugout, the team just seems to be in a better overall mood, and thats no coincidence.

Hopefully for Pedro and Mets, his right arm provides as many smiles in the stands as his personality provides in the clubhouse.

The Maturation of Jose Reyes

jose-ugh.jpg

If you want to talk about antics and personality, look no further than the Mets shortstop.

Jose Reyes was never shy when it came to celebrations and handshakes, however when his slump became a contributing factor in the Mets late season collpase, many questioned Jose and how he handled himself, along with how his manager handled him.

I can’t put much blame on Willie Randolph, as it was important for Jose to be Jose, and for him to work through his struggles on his own.

While playing Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose on the loudspeakers could probably occur less, there is definitiely some growing up to do on his part.

Jose is a laid back guy who likes to have fun.

And lets not forget, the kid is in his mid 20’s, and seeing him smile reminds you that the game of baseball is supposed to be fun.

However, Jose has admitted that he needs to tone down his act, and concentrate more between the white lines.

I would have trouble understanding anybody who says that Jose needs an attitude adjustment, because his personality is right up there with Pedro’s, keeping his team loose and having some fun along the way.

When the team was winning, there weren’t any issues with how he played or how he acted, but the slump he went into changed that.

How much of the way he played and the way he acted affected his performance is something only Jose Reyes knows.

I would hate to see Jose Reyes take the field every night and sit in the dugout the same way Roberto Alomar did during his brief and very forgettable tenure in New York, with that sulky look on his face wondering what he was doing here.

Jose needs to have fun, but also needs to start taking some bigger steps forward.

The sooner he does that, the sooner Jose can smile with a ring on a finger.

Carlos Delgado is the Biggest Question Mark in the Mets Lineup

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With Moises Alou set to miss at least the first month of the season following surgery to correct a hernia, Carlos Delgado will assume the 5 spot in the Mets order, and will also assume even greater responsibility in doing so.

The top half of the Mets batting order is solid, with Reyes, Castillo, Wright and Beltran, however when you reach Delgado, Met fans have reason to be worried.

Not only did Carlos put up his lower power and average numbers since the beginning of his career (24 HR, 87 RBI, .258 AVG), but his age seems to be showing as he had a lot of trouble catching up to fastballs, and more times than not seemed to be up there guessing.

After a hip injury set him back a bit this spring, Carlos needs to prove he can stay on the field, and produce while doing do.

His defense is average at best, so you need to get the type of offensive production from him fans of his had come to expect (35+ HR, 110 RBI)

How realistic is that from a 36 year old player with nagging injuries in his contract year?

Your guess is as good as mine, however once thing all Mets fans can agree on is that if Delgado can produce the way he is expected to, especially for the money he is being paid, then the lineup is all the more dangerous, as Beltran gets the protection he had in 2006, making him all the more effective.

He needs to just keep taking the ball the other way, and if he can do that with regularity, Mets fans should be happy with the Carlos Delgado they see this season.

If not, look for GM Omar Minaya to seek help from outside the organization.

Mets-Phillies is the ne Mets-Braves (but don’t forget about them either)

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Until last year, the Mets and Braves were probably the most interesting rivalry in the National League East (dating back to at least the last decade).

Turner Field was a house of horrors for the Mets as nothing seemed to go right, whether it was Angel Hernandez blowing a call on a play at the plate (’97 or ’98), Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine shutting down a usually unimpressive Mets offense, or John Franco and Armando Benitez serving up game winning homeruns to the likes of Brian Jordan (2001).

In 2006, that all changed as the Mets were able to finally break through against their arch nemisis, sweeping a series late in the summer, propelling them to take the division away from Atlanta for the first time in 14 years.

Last year, the Mets found a new tormentor, along with new leading characters not named Jones.

The Phillies, behind an MVP season by shortstop Jimmy Rollins, made the lives of the Mets and their fans miserable by embarassing them over the final 7 games of the year, taking all of them.

As a result, the Phillies were playing October baseball, while the Mets were left to deal with the fact that Rollins had correctly predicted his team was tops in the NL East.

The once dead Mets-Phillies rivalry was renewed (if there ever really was one), and going into this season, the typically quiet Carlos Beltran proclaimed his team the one to beat, taking the rivalry from the field back into the headlines, where it seemingly began with Rollins speaking his mind before last season began.

Heading into 2008, the Phillies AND Braves are both expected to be competitive, and neither should be overlooked anymore.

The Mets may have proved Turner Field and the Braves no longer intimidate them, but for at least one more year Chipper will be doing all he can to bid an appropriate farewell to the ballpark he named his child after.

Mets and Phillies.

Mets and Braves.

Two rivalries.

One division on the line.

Lets the games begin.

One More Miracle?

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Shea Stadium has seen it all.

The Beatles played the first ever stadium concert at Shea in 1965.

The All Star game called Shea home in 1964, the year the park opened.

‘The Franchise’ arrived in Tom terrific.

Miracles were possible in ’69

‘Ya Gotta Believe’ was born in ’73

There was Rusty and Kranepool.
Doc and Daryl.

Mex and The Kid.

“Gets by Buckner”

A Piazza Delivery.

‘Wild’ Times in 99

A subway ride in 2000

Mikey’s magic after 9/11,

Omar, Willie, Pedro and Carlos bringing the “New Mets” to town

Division champs once again in ’06

Jose and David doing it the ‘Wright’ way.

There was Murph, Lindsay Nelson and Ralph.

There’s the apple and the airplanes.

The NBA is where amazing happens…

But Shea is where ‘Amazin happens.

In 2008, the Mets and their fans say goodbye to the place where many of us Mets fans have been raised.

And for all the knocks on it (and there are an endless amount), Shea will forever be remembered where anything was possible with the orange and blue.

Can the Mets leave Shea for the final time as World Series Champions?

Like I said, anything is possible.

March 29, 2008 Posted by | New York Mets, Sports | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment