Saturday Nights Not All Right
by LLOYD CARROLL
In 1973 Elton John had a big hit singing about how Saturday night was all right for fighting. That’s certainly not the case weather-wise generally for Mets games in April as well as most of May and September. The Mets have not scheduled any Saturday 1 p.m. games this year.
This past Saturday night the starting game time temperature at 7:10 p.m. was 41 degrees, and that wasn’t factoring into account the strong wind. It was very fitting that the Coca-Cola polar bear threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Wall Street Journal sports reporter Jared Diamond tweeted, “Is this a first in major-league history? Bartolo Colon’s age (42) is a larger number than the first-pitch temperature (41).” A number of Mets ushers I spoke with were also upset about the strange start time. Granted, it had rained during that afternoon, but that wasn’t the point.
Affable Mets second baseman Neil Walker expressed his preference for weekend day baseball to me in the Mets clubhouse prior to the game: “Aside from the weather being a little warmer during the day our body clocks are used to day baseball since most spring training games are played then.”
The Mets bats were as cold as the conditions as they lost 1-0, though credit has to be given to Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez.
Saturday matinee baseball games have long been a New York baseball tradition because they appeal to families. There is something very pleasant about watching games in the sunshine and getting home at a reasonable hour.
Mets reliever Jerry Blevins felt for his Yankees counterpart Dellin Betances when he was charged with a throwing error after fielding the Astros’ Carlos Correa’s infield grounder on Opening Day. Correa ran to first on the infield grass, which should have resulted in him being out. Betances made an awkward looping throw over the head of Yanks first baseman Mark Teixeira, and the Astros wound up scoring three runs that cost the Yankees the ballgame. Had Betances drilled Correa in the back, however, the umpires would have ruled him out and the Yankees would have escaped trouble. “That’s crazy that there would be an incentive to needlessly hurt a player. Baseball has to change that immediately,” said Blevins.
The Mets home opener this past Friday was special, and not just for the fact that the team raised its 2015 National League pennant at Citi Field. There was a moment of silence for longtime Mets public relations director Shannon Forde who lost her battle with breast cancer last month. She’ll be greatly missed.
Congratulations to longtime Fresh Meadows resident Gracie Nigoghossian on taking over one of the hardest jobs in baseball — running the Mets press dining room. Gracie succeeds Regina Corker, who retired and had done a wonderful job making sure that there were always healthy options on the menu.
The Phillies may have done the Mets a favor by taking two out of three games from them last weekend at Citi Field. It served as a reminder that the 2015 season is in the past and that there aren’t any sure things at the major league level.
The Fighting Phils may lack the Mets’ talent but you can’t accuse their players of tanking, as Mets SNY broadcaster Gary Cohen did during the Amazin’s 7-2 romp on Friday. They play hard for Manager Pete Mackanin, and it showed Saturday and Sunday.
Mets nominal ace Matt Harvey has lost his first two starts but that shouldn’t be any cause for concern. The Phillies have always had his number in what has to be a case of horses for courses. Harvey has not pitched badly so far but the Mets’ hitters have not been swinging their bats well when he is on the mound, so the two or three bad pitches that he has made in a game stand out. All pitchers need a little margin of error that their offenses should be creating.
A greater cause for concern is Jacob deGrom’s balky back, which stiffened up during his strong six-inning work Opening Day at Citi Field in the Mets’ lone victory over the Phils.
The Yankees got a measure of revenge against the Houston Astros, the team that defeated them in the 2015 wild card game last fall, by taking two out of three from them the first week of the season at Yankee Stadium.
What was most impressive was the Yankees’ offensive firepower that overcame early deficits in the last two games of their three-game series with the Astros.
Former Mets outfielder and current Yankee Carlos Beltran is in the final year of his three-year deal with the Bombers, but don’t assume that he will retire after this season. “I feel great and baseball is still fun for me,” he told me prior to last Thursday’s getaway game.
It has taken three years but the early solid play of second baseman Starlin Castro may finally make Yankees fans forget about one of their best homegrown players, Robinson Cano, who left the Bronx for the perennially disappointing Seattle Mariners. Cano will be back at Yankee Stadium this weekend as the Mariners make their annual trip to New York.
The start of the baseball season means that the Kentucky Derby is right around the corner. The Wood Memorial, held last week at Aqueduct Racetrack, has long been considered one of the best previews of the talent that will compete at Churchill Downs on May 7. This year’s winner was Outwork. It would be a great story for thoroughbred racing if Outwork could be this year’s American Pharoah.
The retirement of Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who played 10 years for Gang Green and never missed a game in that time period, did not get the attention that it deserved. His play slipped a bit last year and the Jets made it no secret that they wanted him to take a cut in pay, ostensibly so that they could-re-sign their QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ferguson said that the Jets’ public discussion of reworking his contract did not affect his decision because he was thinking about calling it quits anyway. I think that he was being diplomatic and did not want to burn any bridges with the only employer he had in his distinguished NFL career.
Jordan Spieth, who is considered America’s best golfing hope since Tiger Woods was in his prime, had to settle for a second-place tie with Lee Westwood at the Masters, the Kentucky Derby of golf, after an up-and-down final round. The winner was the relatively unheralded Danny Willett from Great Britain.
The best story of the Masters, however, was the performance of 58-year-old Bernhard Langer, who was in contention for the green jacket until he fell back to earth on Sunday with a six-over-par final round. The oldest person to ever win a golf major, by the way, was the late Julius Boros, who won the PGA Championship in 1968 at age 48.
Cooperstown, NY is best known of course for being home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame but the “birthplace” of baseball (history has shown that claim probably isn’t true) is also known for its apple cider and, apparently, harder beverages as well. A spirits company, Cooperstown Distillery, held a media event at the famed Greenwich Village baseball memorabilia store, the Bergino Clubhouse, to launch its latest brand, Spitball Cinnamon Whiskey. Cleverly named after what is now an illegal baseball pitch, Spitball is designed for those who normally eschew harder spirits for gentler aperitifs. In a further nod to Cooperstown’s tradition, the Spitball gift set is made up of glass baseball decanters.
Life and style
I have to admit that I am hooked on CNN’s Sunday night Kevin Spacey-narrated and -produced series, “The Race for the White House.” The series looks at past presidential campaigns and utilizes historical footage, candid conversations from the key operatives involved, as well as actors for re-creations. I have to give former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis a lot of credit for being forthright about the numerous mistakes he made in his failed 1988 bid for the White House, the race won by George H.W. Bush.