Browsing Archive August, 2009

Update On Jeff Wilpon and Pro Ball

Last week we discovered an inconsistency between the published bio / resume of Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and the memory of the 1983 Jamestown Expos manager.

Again, for your indulgence … this is what has been the “canned” bio for Jeff Wilpon, on the official websites of both Sterling Equities and the Brooklyn Cyclones:

jeff-wilpon-se

But, the manager of the Jamestown Expos back then — Moby Benedict — said that Jeff Wilpon never played for him.

It took a few days for the information to sink in around the blogosphere, but finally Shannon Shark of MetsPolice re-confirmed the facts, as posted on MetsBlog.

You know how us bloggers sitting in our parents’ basements can be quick to make assumptions and spew wild speculations that could significanly damage a person’s reputation. So before John Gonzalez or some other well-respected journalist accuses us bloggers of being irresponsible or not doing our due diligence, I provide you an update to the lingering question of Jeff Wilpon’s professional baseball career.

This from the June 21, 1998 edition of The New York Times (page ST-4):

From the time he was 10, Jeff Wilpon had been eager — maybe too eager — to follow his father. At that age he carried a homemade business card identifying himself as Director of Construction. His father, Fred Wilpon, was an owner of Sterling Equities, a real estate conglomerate he founded with his brother-in-law Saul Katz.

In 1980, when Jeff was a high school senior in Roslyn, N.Y., his father and uncle bought the Mets. Jeff was so gung-ho to join the front office that he gave up every boy’s dream — a potential career as a professional athlete. He had been drafted by the Montreal Expos out of college and believes he could have started at catcher in the major leagues, he said, but quit after one spring training session to join the family business.

“I always knew I wanted to do what my dad did,” he said, sitting, like his father, with legs crossed in Fred Wilpon’s office in Sterling Plaza, on Fifth Avenue at 47th Street. From time to time, his father glanced dotingly at him.

So there you have it — Jeff was drafted by Expos, as we confirmed, but his pro experience consisted of “one spring training session”. Now it makes sense that Moby Benedict didn’t remember him — Jamestown was in the NY-Penn League, a short-season rookie league that doesn’t begin play until June. By then, Jeff was long gone from the Montreal system and getting himself comfy in the Mets’ front office.

Though, I’m not sure what “one spring training session” means. I can tell you that after my own college career, I spent a few weeks at MLB spring training camps warming up minor league pitchers and playing in some scrimmages as a means of trying out. However, I do not label that experience as “professional”, since, technically, I wasn’t under contract and didn’t play in an official game. But maybe someone else would interpret that differently. Although it would certainly help my baseball instruction business if I told people I “played for the Sarasota White Sox”, I wouldn’t feel right saying it because, to me, it’s simply not true. But furthermore, I don’t want to gain clients because they think I played pro ball — I want them to come to me because they’ve heard I do a great job teaching baseball. You don’t have to be a pro ballplayer to be a good teacher — as they say, “those who can, do, those who can’t, teach”.

Similarly, there’s no correlation between playing baseball and running a professional franchise. In fact, I’m not sure there is another COO in MLB who has baseball playing experience above the Little League level. And if there is, who cares? What would it have to do with managing a $500M – $1 billion business?

But I digress. What I wanted to do today was present evidence that suggests that Jeff Wilpon spent some time (hours? days? weeks) in the Montreal Expos spring training camp in 1983. How you want to interpret that is up to you — and how Sterling Equities wants to describe it, is, obviously, up to them.

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Remembering Thurman Munson

thurman-munson

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Thurman Munson.

Yes, I know this is a Mets blog but it’s also my blog, and “Thurm” was, hands-down, my favorite baseball player of all time — and the reason I chose to don the “tools of ignorance”. (John Stearns and Jerry Grote are also high on the list — all three were cut from a similar mold.) But enough about me, this is about Munson. If you did not have the opportunity to see Thurman Munson attack, absorb, and often dominate a baseball game, I urge you to seek out old Yankees videos from the 1970s and consider getting Marty Appel’s recent biography Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain. Plain and simple, he played the game the way it was supposed to be played.

In the meantime, you can read John Delcos’ recent blog entry about Thurman to get an inkling of the kind of man and player he was (see, I’m not the only Mets blogger recognizing the former Yankee captain!)

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Mets Game 103: Win Over Diamondbacks

Mets 9 Diamondbacks 6

Mr. Beltran, take your time — we have a very capable switch-hitting centerfielder doing just fine while you’re on the mend.

Angel Pagan blasted a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth to lift the fans off their feet and the Mets over the Diamondbacks.

For the first time in a long while, the Mets engaged in a game that felt like a wound-up spring, ready to burst at any moment — and came out on the winning end.

The Snakes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 3 1/2 innings, but the Mets pulled off a four-run rally in the bottom of the fourth frame to go up by two. Unfortunately, the Mets had Oliver Perez on the mound, so that didn’t last long. Fortunately, Max Scherzer had nothing, and so the two teams traded scores for the next two innings, and were knotted at five-all until Pagan’s dramatic blast.

Pedro Feliciano earned his fourth victory of the season, as he was the only Met pitcher to retire more than one batter and not allow a run.

Notes

Perez took another step backward. Although he allowed “only” three runs and struck out 7 in five frames, he also walked 5 and allowed 6 hits (including one homerun). On several occasions Ollie “improvised” on the mound, playing cowboy and dropping down laredo style for reasons unknown. At least a dozen of his 112 pitches were a good six feet out of the strike zone, and had Brian Schneider scrambling. It was a minor miracle that he threw only one wild pitch and allowed only three runs (and I’m still trying to figure out how he didn’t hit at least two batters). There were several spots where a more disciplined team would have mounted a 3- or 4-run rally. For the second straight evening, we can see why the Diamondbacks are stinking up the NL West.

What a shame to see what’s happened with Max Scherzer this year. Scherzer has struggled with nagging shoulder injuries, and if I’m Arizona I might consider shutting him down at this point. This is a guy who AVERAGED 95 MPH last year, topping out at 98-99. On this particular evening, the Citi Field gun had him at around 92-93, with a couple touching 94. Now, 94 is still pretty damn fast, but a world away from 98-99. In comparison, remember how hittable Billy Wagner became when his velocity dropped from 99-100 to 93-94.

Slowly, these replaceMets are forging their way into the fan’s hearts. I’m beginning to believe that the team will be better off if Beltran, Delgado, Reyes, and the rest of the “cavalry” never return. Some of these guys are taking the bull by the horns and showing the world (and their crepe-hanging manager) that they can play this game. It’s kind of nice to see guys bust it out of the box, rather than make a decision as to whether or not they should run hard.

Speaking of hard-nosed players, my new favorite non-Met is Mark Reynolds. He may set world records for strikeouts and errors, but you have to love a guy on a last-place team diving over the tarp and nearly into the stands to catch a foul ball.

Oh, and how about Clay Zavada channeling his inner Rollie Fingers with that waxed handlebar mustache? When he came into the game I thought I fell into a time warp. And his middle name is “Pflibson”. I smell a fan club sprouting soon. Baseball needs more guys like this in the game. I’d pay to see a battery of him and Sal Fasano.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Diamondbacks play the third game of the series at 1:10 PM on Sunday afternoon. Mike Pelfrey goes to the mound against Jon Garland.

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Dangers of the Trading Deadline

vmartinez-bobbleMaybe it wasn’t so bad that the Mets remained status quo through the July 31 trading deadline.

After all, imagine how the organization would be lambasted if, for example, they traded someone the day before that player’s bobblehead day?

As you many know, the Cleveland Indians dealt All-Star catcher / first baseman Victor Martinez to the Red Sox yesterday. What they did not factor into the trade was the fact that tonight, in Cleveland, is “Victor Martinez Bobblehead Day”. The Indians have confirmed that they do indeed plan to go forward with the promotion.

But that’s not all … on Thursday of next week, the Indians are also going forward with a Victor Martinez chest protector backpack promotion!

Really, they don’t have much of a choice but to go on with both promos. First of all, part of the reason thousands of people purchased tickets to these evenings was to get the items. Secondly, the items have already been manufactured — it’s not like there’s time to rip off the heads from the figurines and replace them with Kelly Shoppach. And finally, there are the promotional partners, who spent their money many moons ago to ensure these evenings would occur and have their brand associated with them.

So for once, congratulate the Mets — by not trading their closer, Frankie Rodriguez bobblehead night can go off without a hitch on September 6th.

Over at Yahoo, “‘duk” has a number of suggestions to make tonight a bit less awkward for the Indians and their fans; among them:

“Combine a little imagination with some sandpaper and it’s actually a Sandy Alomar, Jr. bobblehead!”

“The bad news? We’ve traded Victor to Boston. The good news? You don’t have to go Christmas shopping for your jerk nephew who lives in Columbus but claims to be a lifelong Red Sox fan.”

“It’s still less fragile than Kerry Wood.”

“You think you’re angry now? Wait until the LeBron James t-shirts in 2011.”

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