Chipper Jones

A New Era

Something about the chill in the air in September that gets me wistful.  I think about baseball season coming to an end which is always sad.  I think about when I was a kid and school would start, which meant that leaves would change, plant life would die, and birds go south for winter.  Growing up at the shore it meant the bennies would all go home and make it enjoyable again.

Now that I’m older it reminds me not only of that piece of information (that I’m not getting any younger that’s for sure), but as sure as death and taxes, the Mets leave me wishing for more.

What’s more: I was also reminded of better days.  I remember watching Mets games in October as a child.  I remember watching Mets in the playoffs as an adult in October.

But ultimately, I was reminded of Chipper Jones not only in my youth but in his youth.  And though I rode him mercilessly, it brings me back.  To the simpler days.  To when I watched Mets postseason games at Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa’s house.  How when my dad told me when we were leaving San Francisco one year that Chipper Jones won the MVP award, I muttered, “Larry Fine.”

Some things will remind me that I’m getting older.  Like the fact that when I drink a milkshake my ass jiggles for a week. Like that I’m training for the marathon, and I’m not recovering from harsh workouts like I used to.  That I might need to invest in plastic surgery because gravity is taking toll.

But mostly that something weird is that I was sad to see Chipper Jones leave us at Not Shea for the last time.  Not that I’ll miss him kick our ass.  That part I won’t miss.

It means I’m no longer young.  The retirement of Chipper Jones means part of my youth is also gone.  Gone are the days of watching the Mets and Braves in the playoffs.  Yes, I know those were long gone.  But those memories I hold near and dear to my heart. The Mets will always be around, testing the very limits of futility.

I first learned about him in my 20s during the Braves hey-day in the late 1990s.  I got to know him intimately during the late season runs with those lovable black jersey wearing Mets in those years.  As sure as death and taxes, like the Mets leaving me to wish for something more, Chipper was going to stick it to us no matter what.

And yesterday we got to show some respect to the man who probably played the game the right way.  His name was never tarnished with PEDs.  His team was always in the thick of things late in the season.

As the pre-autumn chill hit the air, and the first football games were played for the 2012 season…I saw Chipper Jones take his last at-bat in Flushing.

And I was actually sad about it.

Like I said, it’s mostly for selfish reasons.  Most people know my slight obsession with Cal Ripken from the Baltimore Orioles.  When he retired, I was in my 20s still.  I drove down to Baltimore to see him play at home one last time for this retirement game.  I was sad to see him go but in a different way.  I never saw him intimately involved with killing my team personally.  I was sad for baseball that a great was leaving.

This time around is different.  It’s really the end of an era, for me as a Mets fan.

A generation has passed.  A generation of futility.  The one person to remind us of it was Larry Wayne Jones.  Now he’s no longer around to do it.

The only person reminding us of our futility is ourselves.

That’s no fun.

Let’s face it.  For years and year, Larry Jones made it a habit to kick our ass when it counted.  Now we just kick our own ass when we’re down and it doesn’t even count.  That’s no fun.  At least there was an element of collaboration there.  Now it’s simply self-defeatist.

A wise man once sang that “Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes,” and it’s time for goodbye again.  This time it means something.

It means we’re getting older.  It means another fall is going to pass, and turn into winter.  It also means that spring and summer will be around the corner once again.

It means that we’ll never see Chipper Jones play against the Mets anymore.  Some people are happy about it, but I’m sad.

It means that I have to acknowledge that I, too, am getting older.  And that’s no fun at all.

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Sucks To Be Them

Well, hello, everyone.  I’m back.  I apologize a) for the brief hiatus and b) for not really leaving an explanation.  Truth is, I was moving, and had the attention span of a three year old.  Even if I wanted to write, if I could string a coherent sentence together, that would have been enough of a win for me.

But I’m ready now.  After my break, I plan to come back this Wednesday with my first podcast in about a month, and then broadcast regularly.  Also, something else interesting happened.

Baseball wasn’t doing it for me.

I was a little shellshocked from the New York Rangers season, to the extent that it took me awhile to get back to baseball.  That’s not to say that I wasn’t paying attention or enjoying it.  From R.A. Dickey’s spectacular start to Johan Santana’s no-hitter to other events in baseball, I have to say I was preoccupied.  But in a conversation I had last night with Tweeter @Gardenfaithfull, this is what I had to say.

And that was that. This was after all, right after David Wright hit a walk-off single to win the game and blown save of Jonathan Papelshmear, oops, Papelbon.  It was the first time that I shrieked watching baseball this year.  It was the first time I was afraid my neighbors thought I’d be murdered since watching hockey.

So I guess All-Star Break came at an opportune time, since I have a better feeling of how the Mets should be performing, but also with the other indicators in the NL East.

And what I can say about the Braves, the Phillies, the Marlins and the Nationals?  Sucks to be them.

Hear me out.

So there’s the Braves. The Braves are currently in third place in the division, but have an interesting thing going on.  Famed Met killer (not to mention Phillies killer) Larry Wayne Jones is going on his retirement tour.  So in essence, with Bobby Cox gone, and Chipper near done, it’s the end of an era.  But the Braves will always have young talent coming through their ranks to keep things interesting.

Sucks to be them.

Recently, they lost their young stud starter Brandon Beachy to a season-ending injury requiring surgery.  This led them to sign Ben Sheets, the oft-injured once-upon-a-time wunderkind starter himself.  I have kind of a thing for Sheets, I just always loved him, but I know his limitations as a pitcher.  So they replace an injured pitcher with a perpetual injury risk himself.   The Braves will always be somewhat of a threat to the Mets, but to be honest, I don’t see them being much of a threat this season.  Jonny Venters has not had a dominant season, coming back down to Earth as he was pretty much bullet proof in the ‘pen last year.

The Marlins.  Or the MarLOLins as you’re apt to see on Twitter.  Miami has proved that, once again, championships or divisions are not won by backpage headlines.  In fact, I’m sure with a cast of characters like Hanley Ramirez (not exactly known for playing nice with people), Jose Reyes (whom we all loved as Met), Carlos Zambrano (nuff said), Heath Bell (bwahhahahahahaha), Mark Buehrle (actually, I don’t have a problem with him, but he was on the FA list so there), and manager Ozzie Guillen, we all thought this could go one of two ways: Jeffrey Loria was trying to garner interest in his new park by spending money on top names, or the team would peak in year one, only to have the contracts take them down and have a fire sale in a few years.

Suffice to say, both were off for me.  While the park has lost some interest with dwindling attendance some nights, the team is certainly not peaking.  In fact, whoever had the over/under of team turmoil happening before the season started won with Guillen making some controversial comments on Fidel Castro, when his team plays right in the heart of Little Havana in Miami.  Oops.

But that’s not all.  Two days ago, Guillen ripped into the pitching staff of his team for giving up 13 runs to the Milwaukee Brewers, losing a game in extra innings via walk off when Heath Bell blew a save (something we hear about quite a bit, actually).  Bell is getting paid an average $9mm per year for three years to close in Miami, and he has five blown saves to record as of today.  That’s nuts, as my friend Sully says, don’t let his contract ruin the season.

Sucks for them.

For everyone who anointed this team as world beaters at the beginning of the season, I told my friends on a podcast of predictions that I didn’t think they were going to go anywhere.  I was in the minority.  I did, however, say the Phillies would win the division until they gave me good reason not to think they would.

I think they’ve given me reason.  Roy Halladay was hit with the injury bug in May, but he should be nearing his return soon.  That didn’t take away from the fact though, that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were both out, formidable threats in the lineup.  Utley returned, kicking off a six-game losing streak with him on the active roster.  Then there was the curious case of Clifton Phifer Lee, who couldn’t buy a win with his $24 mm (till, you know, the Mets gift wrapped his first win for him).  Then Howard shows up, well on a return from his Achilles tendon injury, looking like he could be the next spokesperson for the bacon sundae at Burger King.

Sucks for them.

I know it’s only July, I know better than anyone that ANYTHING can happen between All-Star break and the last regular season game in September.  But honey, let me tell you, Rome is burning and Nero is fiddling, but substitute “Philadelphia” for Rome, and a fiddling Nero for I don’t know, some cheesesteak eating Eagles fan who got tired of waiting around for them to win a Super Bowl.  Look, Cliff Lee can go on a tear and win every single start from here on out.  Halladay could be the rug that ties the room together, and Howard might start smacking the crap out of the ball in his return.  It will also account that they are WAY behind in the game, Jimmy Rollins isn’t getting any younger, Shane Victorino’s days are numbered in a Phillies uniform (good riddance to that prick-torino), and Jonathan Papelbon is signed for four years, $50mm…and it’s as good as an automatic blown save for the Mets (okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point).  Oh and the beauty part?  Howard signed a gargantuan contract two years ago, that kicked in THIS YEAR: 5 years/$125mm.

Join me in a hearty BWAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

For the Nationals, though, it’s kind of curious.  I know, as it turns out, many good folks who are passionate about the Washington Nationals (follow @cnichols14 and @dugoutdiva for some good Nats tweets).  Though they are a division rival, I’m actually quite curious and kind of excited to see how they pan out this season.  I mean, I love Davey Johnson, that’s for sure.  As a Mets fan, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for him to do well no matter where he goes.  Then there’s the future is so bright, we gotta wear shades kids.  Of course, I’m talking about Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  But yeah.  Sucks to be them.

Of course, Harper is tearing shit apart and kicking ass, taking names, etc.  But then Strasburg thing is a curious case, as he’s infamously been given an innings limit of 160 innings, maybe a few innings more according to GM Mike Rizzo.  I guess when it was imposed (at the beginning of the season) or suggested, the Nationals making the playoffs might have been a pipe dream.  The reality is, no one is running away with the division now AND with the advent of not one but two wild cards, it warrants some serious consideration about Strasburg’s usage, coming off an injury to being used full-out to win a division, which could happen.

Sucks for them to be put in that situation.  Sacrificing the future, or going with the win-now? Oh and I almost forgot, the beauty part.  Remember when Jayson Werth bolted Philly and signed a ginormous contract with the Nats, for a guy who never had 100 RBIs ever in his career (99 was his peak)?  Well, he got hurt earlier this season, and has spent significant time nursing a broken wrist.  Yet, Ryan Zimmerman, with a 6yr/$100 mm extension last year (till 2019 with a 2020 club option), has not been having a great prove-my-contract-worth year with a whopping .241/.304/.374 and 7 HRs and 38 RBIs.  Ouch.

Well, what about the Mets, you may ask?  Well, they are not without their warts either.  In a conversation with Kerel Cooper from On The Black last night, I told him that I was happy to be dead wrong about the starting pitching this year.  (Video will be posted in a few days).  Doesn’t mean I won’t have my concerns about going into the second half.  Johan Santana may not have a Strasburg-like limitation, but he did come off a devastating injury last year.  R.A. Dickey has been the man, but according to the New York Post, Dickey is 1-1 with a 7.79 ERA against teams he’s faced previously this season.  That’s kind of an ouchie, considering we really need someone like Dickster to step up his game against NL East teams down the stretch.  Then there’s Jon Niese, whom you all know I love, but he often has conditioning issues (and a heart surgery coming up during All-Star Break…as minor/outpatienty it sounds…yeesh).  Chris Young and Dillon Gee have been holding down the fort, but with Young’s propensity for the long-ball, and Gee’s youth, they need to also step their second half up.  Oh and the bullpen.  It sucks.

Moving right along though, David Wright has been having an outstanding season and he’s not even playing for a contract!  But then, there’s someone like Ike Davis, whom most Mets fans are rooting for, but his bout with Valley Fever and an injury comeback has hampered his play significantly.  We have a dude named Duda in RF who clearly has no clue how to play the position, and my ass is on Scott Hairston’s wikipedia page.  What’s worse?  Daniel Murphy has improved at his role as an infielder…but may be trade bait for the deadline.

Which leads me to….sucks for them all.

Each of these teams have to think about whether they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline.  That will determine of course how much it sucks to be these teams.  Let’s recap, no one is running away with the division.  The Nationals are clear frontrunners, but anything can happen in the next half.  The Mets have been surprising, but can’t count our chickens as R.A. Dickey comes down to Earth and the bullpen with as many question marks as it has.  The Marlins…I doubt they will be buyers at the deadline, since they were already buyers in the offseason.  The Braves and Phillies look to be active in the trade market, but the Phillies are looking to be active sellers with names like Victorino being tossed around, or even Cole Hamels who is in a walk-year, and giving millions of reasons why he is worthy to be signed long term.

It sucks to be all of these teams.  Yet it sucks in a good way, because some of them can improve and it can easily become a two-horse race after the trade deadline.

Larry’s Fine

I leave town for a few days and the shit hits the fans with some of my teams doings in play and outside of the box.  The Mets made a kerfuffle though, when there was news that hit that they would honor Chipper Jones on his retirement tour.

I can’t really find anything sourcing it for sure (the announcement certainly didn’t come from the Mets directly), but the reaction to it was quite strong.  Mostly of the “let’s not do it” variety from the Mets fans population.

Let me tell you something.  I’ve spent a good amount of time in my Mets fandom dreading when Chipper Jones comes up to bat at a critical time against the Mets, and I cringe usually because the story seems to set itself.  Perhaps we dread him though being a Mets killer because we would see his team 18 times a year.  And let’s be fair, the Mets usually beat themselves at those times, not the other way around (Sorry to bring that up, but ’tis true).

But let me go on record to say how much this rumored honoring actually doesn’t bother me.

1.)  Larry Jones didn’t just kill the Mets.  Did you know he had better career numbers against the Phillies?  It’s just that when it counted, Larry would come up huge against the Mets.  But as I said before, those Mets teams generally beat themselves with shitty bullpens and bad thought processes.  Also, let’s be real the Braves were really really good in the 1990s.  I always felt that rivalry was more of a big brother/little brother variety, like “Why are you guys always picking on meeeeeee?”

2.) Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn.  These guys were not only baseball legends while they played, but were lifers with one team.  Those guys are hard to find nowadays. When they retired, every single baseball park practically gave them a send off that would rival any of their own players I’m sure.  It’s a respect thing.  And Larry Jones is Hall of Fame material, with or without the Mets killing.

3.) It’s not like the Mets haven’t done shit like this before.  They’ve honored Bobby Cox with a bottle of GTS wine, and Craig Biggio with a video montage prior to his retirement.  It’s a respect thing.

4.) It’s a respect thing.  Hey, you don’t have to like Larry.  But you have to respect him.  Kind of like the Yankees.  Okay, maybe not.  The Rangers fan base still uses “Potvin Sucks” as a chant for a guy that hasn’t played in like 30 years.  It’s a RESPECT thing at this point.  But at least Larry didn’t use PEDs or steroids or anything like that.  He doesn’t beat his wife, use drugs or drive drunk.  He just likes H00ters waitresses and sex.  Nascar too probably.

5.) He gets it.  Larry gets the rivalry.  We talked about this on the KinersKorner.com podcast, and that there was some awards ceremony and Larry had to give a speech.  He thanked the New York fans for reminding him what his real name was.  Though I hated him for his “Put on their Yankee gear” quote in 1999, he came around and gave the fans here a nod in the rivalry.

6.) They’re not giving a statue, people.  If they do honor him, it will be a video clip montage and his GTS wine.  Some have pointed out that the Mets never properly honored Gary Carter, but they’d honor Larry.  I disagree.  The Mets have always done right by him.  They didn’t retire his number, so what?  He had two good years and helped win a championship.  I get that.  He also had admittedly better years outside of a Mets uniform.

Let’s be fair folks: maybe the Mets have a tough time honoring their history because some of the players just weren’t good enough.  I mean, who will we put on a pedestal?  Tom Seaver is the only player wearing a Mets cap in the Hall of Fame, and potentially Mike Piazza will be too.  I guarantee his number will be retired one day, so what’s the harm in waiting another year to officially do so?  My point is, we need to take a reality check here and realize that we’ve honored the players we could with our version of the ring of honor in the Mets Hall of Fame.  For me, that’s good enough for the players who were good enough as Mets but not Hall of Fame material.

I have done my fair share of Larry Jones mocking, but he gets the rivalry and realizes his place.  He’s comfortable with it.  I’m comfortable with some kind of send off.  Let’s be nice and give him his due, but also never let him forget his name again.