Mets morning briefing 3.4.12

March, 4, 2012
3/04/12
6:46
AM ET
The Mets play their third and final intrasquad game Sunday at 11:15 a.m., then have the first of their weekly team-camaraderie-building bowling events in the evening. (See the team bowling pairings here.) It will be an eventful few days after that, too, with Judge Jed S. Rakoff pledged to rule by Monday whether the lawsuit against Mets owners proceeds and Johan Santana scheduled for his first Grapefruit League action Tuesday.

Sunday's news reports:

• First baseman Ike Davis likely has valley fever, although he is not "currently" experiencing symptoms nor is he being treated with medication, the team said in a statement. Even though Conor Jackson suffered a severe case of valley fever while playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks that led him to describe the energy-sapping effects as "mono on steroids" to the Arizona Republic, many cases are resolved without issue.

The biggest quibble is with how the Mets presented the information. They maintained upon Davis returning to camp Feb. 23 following an exam in New York that (1) Davis had a "minor" lung infection; (2) he could resume activities without restriction; and (3) the issue was resolved in their minds. Yet valley fever, given the potential severity of its symptoms after as much as a three-week incubation period, hardly qualifies as a "minor lung infection." Davis is being told not to over-tax himself and get "run down," so he is not cleared without any restriction, even if he did play in Saturday's intrasquad game and has participated in workouts. The team also said he is "currently" not experiencing symptoms, implying there is at least a chance something could surface. Regardless, certainly when they announced the diagnosis of a "minor" lung infection upon Davis' return from New York to camp it was within the potential incubation period before the disease revealed symptoms, so they could not have known it would not become more serious.

Read more in the Post, Star-Ledger, Daily News, Newsday, Record and Times as well as columnist John Harper's take in the Daily News.

Jim Baumbach and Penn alum Randi F. Marshall in Newsday report on the Mets' finances via public records. They write:

The Mets' ballpark-related revenue, including parking, concessions, stadium advertising and more, has all together dropped more than 30 percent since Citi Field opened in 2009, and premium-ticket sales have fallen almost 50 percent, according to financial records. ... Concession revenue alone dropped 28 percent since 2009 to $10.9 million in 2011, and parking alone fell 37 percent to $7 million in 2011. Ticket sales for 10,635 premium stadium seats, about 25 percent of the 42,000-seat stadium, declined from $99.3 million in 2009 to $50.6 million through the end of the 2011 season.

An ESPNNewYork.com series in January relied on similar data, which was reviewed by credit-rating agency Standard & Poors. In Part 1, I wrote:

S&P credit analyst Jodi Hecht reported stadium revenue tumbled 12 percent last season compared with the previous year. The revenue from certain seats pledged to pay off the Citi Field bonds -- mostly those situated in the infield, which account for 41 percent of overall stadium revenue -- fell 22 percent. Merchandise, as well as food and beverage sales, each plummeted by more than 20 percent. Advertising revenue slipped 4 percent -- even with a fixed, $25 million annual payment from Citibank for stadium naming rights included in that calculation, and committed for another 17 seasons. Suite revenue fell 6 percent, with about one-third up for renewal this offseason. Hecht projected a further 10 percent drop in stadium revenue in 2012.

Mets executive VP Dave Howard has projected an uptick in revenue this season and a boost in attendance compared with 2011.

Meanwhile, another major financial issue involving the team should have more clarity by Monday night. Judge Rakoff has set tomorrow as the deadline to rule on Fred Wilpon and family's motion to toss the $386 million lawsuit brought by the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. If the judge declines that request and clears the way for the trial to take place, it will begin on March 19, presumably with jury selection.

Alternatively on Monday, Rakoff could award trustee Irving Picard $83 million -- allegedly the profits withdrawn by the Wilpons from the Ponzi scheme in the two years before Madoff was arrested. In that scenario, Rakoff could rule there is no need for a trial, or he could allow Picard in a trial to try to recover another $303 million in principal invested by the Wilpons with Madoff. The trustee would have to prove the Wilpons were "willfully blind" to signs of a Ponzi scheme in order to collect principal.

No matter the ultimate resolution in Rakoff's U.S. District courtroom in lower Manhattan, expect an appeal attempt by one or both sides to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Scott Hairston suffered a strained left oblique muscle in Saturday's intrasquad game and is due to receive a cortisone injection Monday. Hairston finished last season on the DL with that same injury, creating concern. The Mets are extremely thin in major league-ready outfield depth. Already, they were considering looking for a lefty-hitting outfielder that shakes loose from another camp at the end of spring training as an alternative to using Adam Loewen or Mike Baxter. If Hairston is not ready for Opening Day, Vinny Rottino may be the top righty-hitting option now in camp. For now, Loewen will get more reps in center field. The Mets are reluctant to carry a prospect such as lefty-hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the major league roster unless he regularly would start.

David Wright was scratched from Saturday's intrasquad game after experiencing left rib-cage soreness during the week. He is due to test himself batting today and fully expects to see limited action in Monday night's Grapefruit League opener against the Washington Nationals.

Read more on Hairston and Wright in Newsday, the Star-Ledger, Times, Record, Daily News and Post.

Mike Kerwick in the Record chats with Wright about his future. "I don't know what the future holds for me," Wright told Kerwick. "I don’t know what the future holds with our payroll. That's one of those things where you'll drive yourself crazy if you sit here and worry about that kind of stuff, because I certainly know that I have zero control over our payroll and I have zero control over the financial situation."

• Santana tossed an uneventful 40-pitch bullpen session and is on track to face the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday at Digital Domain Park, Terry Collins said.

• Single-game tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. The Mets also announced they will have three postgame concerts this season. That is following the model of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who regularly havce weekend concerts at PNC Park as part of a single-admission ticket with the preceding ballgame. On tap at Citi Field: REO Speedwagon (June 15), Cheap Trick (July 20) and Christian rock band MercyMe (Aug. 10).

Art Spander in Newsday catches up with Chicago White Sox first-year manager Robin Ventura. Writes Spander:

Nobody could have known what to expect when on Aug. 4, 1997, the Rangers' [Nolan] Ryan threw a fastball at Ventura's rib cage. Ventura charged the mound, Ryan put him in a headlock with his left arm, and, as seen in a much-watched video, pounded him with his right hand. Good chance Ventura will be reminded about that in Texas. Said Rangers entertainment head Chuck Morgan, "I'm sure we'll show [the video] Opening Day."

Andrew Keh in the Times profiles Tommy Neiman, who annually serves as the Mets' spring-training chaplain.

R.A. Dickey discusses with Andy McCullough in the Star-Ledger the knuckleballer's upcoming memoir "Wherever I Wind Up," which is due out March 29. "Well, I had been writing on it, off and on, for the last five years," Dickey told McCullough. "So I had a good bit of it already in place. I had to come up with 90,000 words. So I wrote, and I liked to write the baseball entries in the moment. So after the games that I pitched, or after a significant event during the season, I'd go back to the hotel room and write right there."

• McCullough profiles reliever D.J. Carrasco in the Star-Ledger. Carrasco is under contract for this season for $1.2 million. Writes McCullough:

In the 26th round of the 1997 draft, the Baltimore Orioles chose Carrasco, a junior-college pitcher with an unconventional delivery who longed to be a hitter -- and then cut him a year later. The Cleveland Indians signed him shortly thereafter -- and released him two months later at his own request. The next spring, the Pittsburgh Pirates bought his rights from a nearby independent league team -- for $1. “For a dollar,” Carrasco said last summer. “They purchased me for a dollar.” ... When the Pirates spent that dollar in 1998 to acquire Carrasco from the Johnstown Johnnies, they were contractually obligated to give him 25 percent of the fee. Except he never saw the miniscule sum. It was just another slight -- however minor -- in a career already pocked with them.

Eight years later, when Carrasco returned to the Pirates, McCullough notes, he asked for the 25 cents. He now has the check framed and hanging on a wall at his Texas home.

TRIVIA: After Willie Randolph was fired by the Mets, for which two managers did he serve as a coach?

(Friday's answer: Dave Kingman had the lowest single-season average in franchise history among players with at least 500 plate appearances. Kingman hit .204 with the Mets in 1982, while leading the National League with 37 homers and 156 strikeouts.)
Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Juan Lagares
BA HR RBI R
.314 1 7 8
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 3
RBIL. Duda 8
RE. Young Jr. 12
OPSJ. Lagares .816
WC. Torres 2
ERAJ. Mejia 2.81
SOJ. Mejia 18

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