New York Mets: Mike Piazza

Morning Briefing: Retire Piazza's 31!

February, 17, 2015
Feb 17
6:50
AM ET
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

FIRST PITCH: So, do the Yankees have any numbers left for their actual players? (More below.)

It’s now two days until Mets pitchers and catchers officially report on Thursday, but it’s nearly a full house already at the Mets complex.

Tuesday’s news reports:

Dillon Gee has not been traded, so he began working out Monday at camp. There are no active discussions with other teams. A team insider told ESPNNewYork.com that the Mets are willing to trade Bartolo Colon or Gee in spring training if another club has an injury. Otherwise, Gee likely is headed to long relief. Gee said he would do whatever he is asked, but he really, really wants to be a starter. (Watch video here.) Read more in the Post, Daily News, Times and Newsday.


Adam RubinDavid Wright fields a grounder during Monday's voluntary workout in Port St. Lucie.


• SNY officially announced Nelson Figueroa as Bobby Ojeda’s successor as in-studio analyst on the pregame and postgame show. That did not sit well with comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who tweeted his displeasure.

Speaking about his experience as a former player and how that will affect his approach, Figueroa told Neil Best in Newsday: “I think they'll respect that I'm someone who's gone to battle and been in the trenches and knows what it's like to be on the players' side and pick up the newspaper and read when you're not doing well. I think I'll be able to offer some insight as to why, maybe in a different way. I won't just criticize and jump on top of them and kick somebody while they're down."

Read more in the Post and Daily News.

• One gambling web site has set the Mets’ over/under for wins at 81˝. Heck, that would at least snap the Mets’ streak of losing seasons at six. That’s currently tied with the Houston Astros for the longest active skid in the majors.

• The Yankees will retire the numbers of Bernie Williams (51), Jorge Posada (20) and Andy Pettitte (46) this season. Former Mets manager Willie Randolph will be honored with a plaque in Monument Park at the Stadium, too. After those ceremonies, the Yankees will have retired 22 numbers. And once Derek Jeter's No. 2 officially goes out of circulation down the road, all the single digits will be unavailable.

The Mets, meanwhile, have retired only one players’ number: Tom Seaver’s 41, back on June 24, 1988. Managers Casey Stengel (37) and Gil Hodges (14) also had their numbers retired.

Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post advocates for the Mets retiring Mike Piazza's No. 31. Writes Kernan:

The Yankees have legacy players and they are not afraid to promote that legacy, even if there is a PED past as in Pettitte’s case. The Mets, meanwhile, sit it out.

They ignore their past, even when it’s staring them right in the face. Sure, the Mets don’t have 27 titles, but Mets fans have heroes. Mike Piazza should have his number 31 retired by the Mets in 2015. It should have been retired two years ago when Piazza was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame.

• Mike Vorkunov at NJ.com tries to contrast Michael Cuddyer's power potential at Citi Field versus his former home, Coors Field in high-altitude Denver.

From the bloggers … Blogging Mets is just not that into spring training. … Mets Report suggests team officials should be in no hurry to trade Gee.

BIRTHDAYS: Roger Craig, who had 46 combined losses for the Mets in 1962 and '63, turns 85. ... Former reliever Juan Padilla is 38. ... Brandon Brosher, a 36th-round pick in 2013, turns 20.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Which number should the Mets retire, if any?

Morning Briefing: We're back!

February, 16, 2015
Feb 16
6:50
AM ET
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.

FIRST PITCH: We’re back!

Pitchers and catchers don’t officially report until Thursday, but “Morning Briefing” already is reporting for duty.

Actually, plenty of Mets already are working out at the team’s spring-training complex, including Matt Harvey, David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Bobby Parnell.

Besides Thursday, other notable dates:

Saturday: First pitchers and catchers workout.

Feb. 24: Position players report.

Feb. 26: First full-squad workout.

March 4: First Grapefruit League game, versus the Atlanta Braves at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

April 6: Opening Day, at Washington Nationals.

Monday’s news reports:

Nelson Figueroa has signed a contract to succeed Bobby Ojeda as SNY’s pregame and postgame analyst on Mets telecasts, Bob Raissman writes in the Daily News. The Brooklyn-raised Figueroa went 6-11 with a 4.28 ERA in 32 appearances (16 starts) for the Mets in 2008 and ’09. He was in camp with the Mets the following year, but ended up on waivers and was claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies in what became a messy breakup.

• Joe Lemire in the Journal computed that the other 29 major league teams each added, on average, 15 pitchers this offseason from outside their organizations. The Mets added only two: Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin and Duane Below, the latter of whom is headed directly to minor-league camp. “We’re happy with the competition we’re going to have in camp given the number of young people that we have added to our [40-man] roster [who] have high upside,” Sandy Alderson told Lemire.

• Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record asks: Which team will own New York in 2015? Writes Klapisch:

Put it this way: Most major league executives don’t see the Yankees as anything more than an 84-win team this year. Las Vegas odds makers take an even dimmer view, predicting the Bombers' first losing season since 1992. The Mets project only slightly better, at 81-81, according to Vegas, but that's a step forward for a franchise steeped in a six-year losing streak.

Harvey doesn’t just make the Mets better on the field, he makes them more exciting to watch, more compelling to write about. He’s a latter-day Joe Namath -- full of swagger and ego, in love with the spotlight and the perfect medicine for Mets fans who hate ownership.

• Columnist Anthony Rieber in Newsday contrasts the offseasons of the free-spending San Diego Padres and the Mets. Writes Rieber:

It's hard not to get excited by the Mets' young pitching. Matt Harvey. Jacob deGrom. Zack Wheeler. Jenrry Mejia. Jeurys Familia. Noah Syndergaard and Long Island's Steven Matz on the doorstep. They all could be real good for a real long time. It's also hard not to get depressed when thinking about what the Mets could be if Alderson had more dollars at his disposal. If it were Mets fans instead of Padres fans who welcomed new owners last year.

Unlike the Padres, who had one of the worst everyday lineups in recent memory, the Mets didn't need a total makeover this offseason. But Alderson is banking on everything going right -- health from the pitchers, bounce-back years from [Michael] Cuddyer, David Wright and Curtis Granderson, continuing improvement from Lucas Duda, Juan Lagares and Travis d'Arnaud, and decent defense from the double-play combo of Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores.

• Mike Vorkunov at NJ.com notes that the Atlantis sports book has the Mets at 81 wins. (Take the over?)

• Also at NJ.com, Vorkunov presents the case that looming Hall of Famer Mike Piazza was a better defensive catcher than previously thought, because he was successful at framing pitches, based on a recent study by Baseball Prospectus.

Back in December, ESPN’s Mark Simon computed the numbers for current catchers for last season. Travis d'Arnaud got 79 more called strikes than the average catcher in comparable locations, which ranked 16th-best in the majors. Anthony Recker ranked eighth-worst in MLB, with 86 fewer strike calls than the average catcher. At the extremes, the Angels’ Hank Conger was best at +181. Miami’s Jarrod Saltalamacchia was worst at -169.

• Matt Ehalt in the Record, Kristie Ackert in the Daily News, and Marc Carig in Newsday examine five spring-training storylines to watch.

• Paul Ivice in Newsday looks at the competition among Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Eric Campbell and Matt den Dekker to make the Opening Day roster. At least right now, the bench projects to include Recker, Ruben Tejada, John Mayberry Jr., Nieuwenhuis and Campbell. Nieuwenhuis is out of options, so he would need to pass through waivers to be sent to Triple-A. The fellow lefty-hitting outfielder den Dekker can be sent freely to the minors without that exposure.

• Kevin Kernan in the Post profiles shortstop prospect Matt Reynolds, who hit a combined .343 with six homers and 61 RBIs between Binghamton and Las Vegas last season. Reynolds tells Kernan he gets his focus from his father, a former Army Ranger. Reynolds and Dilson Herrera should form the middle infield at Vegas to open the season.

• Actor/Mets fan Viggo Mortensen offers his opinion of the 2015 team in the Post.

• Gary Buiso in the Post quotes Mets fans’ thoughts about the upcoming season.

From the bloggers … John Delcos at Mets Report highlights 10 questions entering spring training.

BIRTHDAYS: Bill Pecota turns 55.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Will the Mets reach the postseason in 2015?

New commish weighs in on Mets issues

February, 10, 2015
Feb 10
9:04
AM ET

Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ESPN ImagesNew commissioner Rob Manfred visited ESPN on Thursday and addressed issues regarding the Mets.
BRISTOL, Connecticut -- New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he has no doubt that Mets ownership has the capacity to boost its payroll if it deems it worthwhile.

The Mets' payroll has swooned in recent years to un-New York-like levels. It stood at roughly $83 million last season -- in the bottom third of MLB teams -- and currently projects to narrowly crack $100 million this season assuming Dillon Gee is not traded.

"For a whole host of reasons, it's really not my position to predict when I think they need to spend," Manfred said during a visit last week to ESPN's campus. "I have had ongoing, numerous conversations with both ownership and Sandy [Alderson] about the Mets' situation. ... I think at the point in time that it is their judgment that it is effective to increase their payroll, they'll do that, and they will have the capacity to do it."

Manfred's lack of concern about the Mets' spending echoes the statements of his predecessor as commissioner, Bud Selig.

Asked point blank if the Mets have the capacity to boost their payroll now, given their seeming lack of appetite to pursue trades for big-ticket items such as Troy Tulowitzki and Ian Desmond to man shortstop, Manfred added: "I don't know what their internal considerations are with respect to individual trades, and it's not appropriate for me to talk about that. But I have never had a question about the Mets' capacity to spend if they decided it was in their baseball interest to spend money. I really don't believe that's an issue."

Vote 'em in: Asked about his advice to Hall of Fame voters about how to treat bulky players from the steroid era who never were caught by MLB, Manfred left little doubt about his preference: Don't assign guilt based on innuendo and withhold votes.

That could be viewed as an endorsement of candidates such as Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, since neither has been implicated in a steroid scandal, although columnists sometimes openly wonder about how clean they were, such as columnist Dan Shaughnessy in December in The Boston Globe.

"Everyone should keep in mind the difference between players who tested positive and were disciplined on the one hand, and players where somebody has surmised that they did something on the other," Manfred said. "I think, based on what you read in the media, sometimes those lines get blurred. And I think it's really important to keep that line in mind.

"I think it's unfair for people to surmise that Player A did X, Y or Z absent a positive test or proof that we produce in an investigation or whatever. It runs contrary to a very fundamental notion in our society that you're innocent until somebody proves you guilty. ... There are players out there that people talk about where there is literally nothing. They have nothing other than, 'He looked like X.' Trust me, from somebody who has spent a lot of time doing it, you can't decide whether or not somebody was doing steroids based on what they look like. That is not enough evidence to make that determination."

(Read full post)

Will Piazza have Mets cap? Dodgers? None?

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
2:07
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza is not headed to the Hall of Fame this summer, but his enshrinement should come as soon as 2016.

And that begs the question: Which cap should he wear on his plaque -- Mets or Dodgers? Or neither?

The curiosity is timely on Friday, since the Hall of Fame announced that it had selected, in consultation with Randy Johnson, an Arizona Diamondbacks cap for the Big Unit's plaque.

Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson explained: “The museum staff works with each inductee by suggesting an appropriate logo option, or no logo at all. For those whose most compelling contributions clearly took place with one team, a logo makes sense. For those whose careers were built significantly among multiple teams, not having a team logo is equally acceptable. Regardless of the selection, a Hall of Famer belongs to every team for which he played or managed, as well as every fan who followed his career.”

So, in Piazza's case, could no logo be the ultimate resolution?

Piazza spent eight seasons in New York and seven seasons in L.A. The Dodgers drafted him, but he reached the World Series with the Amazin's.

Piazza virtual lock for Hall in 2016

January, 15, 2015
Jan 15
8:58
AM ET

Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty ImagesMike Piazza should enter the Hall of Fame in 2016. It won't be as a Marlin.


NEW YORK -- In his third year of Hall of Fame eligibility, Mike Piazza appeared on 69.9 percent of ballots cast. That was close to the 75 percent threshold required for election.

According to Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe, Piazza therefore is a virtual certainty for getting elected next year.

Historically, 21 of the 22 candidates who received at least 69 percent of the vote one year but failed to reach the 75 percent threshold were elected the next year, according to Jaffe's research.

The lone exception: Brooklyn Dodgers great Roy Campanella.

Like Piazza, Campanella in 1967 appeared on 69.9 percent of ballots. The following year Campanella's vote total climbed to 72.4 percent, still shy of election.

Campanella ultimately was elected in 1969, having appeared on 79.4 percent of the ballots that Amazin' year.

So, in all, 23 of 23 candidates who have reached the 69 percent threshold have been elected within two years.

Piazza just misses in third shot at Hall

January, 6, 2015
Jan 6
2:03
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Next year may be Mike Piazza's year.

SportsNation

When it comes to Cooperstown, is next year Mike Piazza's year?

  •  
    95%
  •  
    5%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,846)

In his third appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, Piazza fell just shy of the required 75 percent threshold needed for election. He garnered 69.9 percent, receiving votes on 384 of the 549 ballots cast by eligible Baseball Writers' Association of America members. Piazza felt shy by 28 votes.

Piazza appeared on 57.8 percent of ballots in 2013 and 62.2 percent last year.

"We are confident that in the not too distant future Mike Piazza, the top offensive catcher in the history of baseball, will take his rightful place in the halls of Cooperstown," Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. "We look forward to celebrating that day with him, his family and our fans when it happens.”

Voters elected Randy Johnson (97.3 percent), ex-Met Pedro Martinez (91.1), John Smoltz (82.9) and Craig Biggio (82.7).

Martinez becomes the 14th player who appeared in a Mets uniform to earn selection to Cooperstown. He joins Roberto Alomar, Richie Ashburn, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Tom Glavine, Rickey Henderson, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn and Joe Torre. Only Seaver has a Mets cap on his plaque.

Mike Piazza slips as verdict day arrives

January, 6, 2015
Jan 6
7:17
AM ET

Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsMike Piazza may have to wait one more year for Hall of Fame election.


NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza and the rest of the Hall of Fame candidates will learn their election fates at 2 p.m. Tuesday. And it continues to look as if Piazza will narrowly miss the 75 percent threshold required for enshrinement to Cooperstown.

Roughly 32 percent of the ballots are public and have been collected by Baseball Think Factory as of Tuesday morning. Piazza appears on 76.1 percent of those ballots -- seemingly enough for election.

However, the public ballots typically overstate the percentage the candidate ultimately will garner by several points. That's partly because hardliners are less likely to make their ballots public, perhaps because they skew older and may be retired from sports writing and are less inclined to use social media and other means to disseminate their ballots.

So Piazza's third turn on the ballot may be a narrow miss, with ex-Met Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Craig Biggio being elected.

Piazza recently told ESPNNewYork.com: "I'm a super-traditionalist. As I said many times before, the fact that Joe DiMaggio took three ballots, and Yogi Berra, I think it’s a process. And that’s part of the prestige of the Hall is the actual debates and all the discussions that go around it. I just try to step out of it a little bit and just let the experts do what they do. And I get a lot of support. So I’m optimistic. We’ll just see what happens. For me, I just let the process play itself out and just be as positive as I can be.”

Piazza may be near-miss for 2015 Hall class

January, 5, 2015
Jan 5
9:10
AM ET
NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza should come close to Hall of Fame election in his third year on the ballot, but he may fall just shy of the 75 percent threshold needed for election.

Last year, Piazza appeared on 62.2 percent of the 571 ballots. He received 355 votes, shy of the 429 needed for election.


Adam RubinMike Piazza


This year's results will be announced Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET.

Hall voters do not have to make their ballots public, but a healthy minority chose to do so.

Among the publicly revealed ballots, Piazza is at 77.0 percent as of Monday morning, according to Baseball Think Factory.

However, those public ballots tend to overstate the final results. For instance, Piazza's actual percentage last year (62.2) was about 9 percent lower than the projected total based on public ballots.

Like a year ago, about one-quarter of the ballots cast are publicly known.

Another site, Ryan Thibs' HoF Tracker, counts vote pickups over a year ago.

Piazza has the most pickups of any player appearing on the ballot. Among the one-quarter of voters who have revealed their ballots, Piazza appears on 16 more ballots than a year ago. Doing some rough math, if that rate continued for all the ballots, Piazza would add about 64 votes this year. Add his 355 from last year and 64 new votes and that's 419 -- still about 10 votes shy of election.

As a result, it may be "wait until next year" again for Piazza.

If that's the case, this year's Hall class would include Randy Johnson (99.3 percent of known ballots), ex-Met Pedro Martinez (98.0 percent), John Smoltz (87.1 percent) and likely Craig Biggio (82.4 percent). Biggio missed election by two votes a year ago.

Meanwhile, for all the grousing about the decisions of Hall voters, this should mark the first time since 1954-55 that the Baseball Writers' Association of America elected three or more candidates in consecutive years.

Globe columnist: 'No' on Hall for Piazza

December, 17, 2014
12/17/14
11:55
AM ET
NEW YORK -- Grantland's Jonah Keri is compiling Hall of Fame ballots made public by voters, including mine. So far he's tallied 17 voters' ballots. And Mike Piazza appears on all but one. The lone dissenter: Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy.

Shaughnessy writes in the Globe:


Adam RubinMike Piazza is faring well in early returns for the Hall of Fame.


Objection to the Roids Boys is gradually eroding. As years pass and new voters replace older voters, it is likely there will be increased leniency. Each year there are more voters who don’t care about PEDs. The thinking becomes, “This was the era. They were all doing it.’’ Or, “Bonds and Clemens were already Hall of Famers before they started cheating.’’

Sorry, I am not there. No votes for guys caught using. And worse -- no votes for guys who just don’t look right. Bagwell and Piazza are the two players most penalized for this arbitrary crime. By any statistical measurement, Bagwell and Piazza are first-ballot Hall of Famers, yet their vote totals (62 percent for Piazza last year, 54 percent for Bagwell) remain considerably lower than their résumés merit.

A candidate needs to appear on 75 percent of submitted ballots in order to be elected. Last year, in his second year on the ballot, Piazza appeared on 62.2 percent of ballots.

Last year, 571 ballots ultimately were cast.

The new class will be announced Jan. 6 at 2 p.m.

Piazza told ESPNNewYork.com last week: "I'm a super-traditionalist. As I said many times before, the fact that Joe DiMaggio took three ballots, and Yogi Berra, I think it’s a process. And that’s part of the prestige of the Hall is the actual debates and all the discussions that go around it. I just try to step out of it a little bit and just let the experts do what they do. And I get a lot of support. So I’m optimistic. We’ll just see what happens. For me, I just let the process play itself out and just be as positive as I can be.”

Now pitch man, Piazza talks Mets, Hall

December, 12, 2014
12/12/14
2:11
PM ET


NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza spent a week in camp with the Mets last spring training. He hopes to do that again this upcoming March. Potentially, he could be visiting as a newly elected Hall of Famer.

In his second year of eligibility, Piazza appeared on 62.2 percent of ballots last winter. He needs 75 percent for election. This year’s returns are slated to be announced Jan. 6 at 2 p.m.

“I’m optimistic,” Piazza said during a conversation with ESPNNewYork.com while promoting Philips Norelco Shaver Series 9000. “I truly mean this: The fact that I’ve gotten such overwhelmingly positive support from the fans -- you see the way they are -- I mean, they’re super-dedicated. And it’s very, very flattering to me. It’s an honor.


Adam RubinMike Piazza discussed the Hall of Fame with ESPNNewYork.com.


“Look, I’m a super-traditionalist,” he continued. “As I said many times before, the fact that Joe DiMaggio took three ballots, and Yogi Berra, I think it’s a process. And that’s part of the prestige of the Hall is the actual debates and all the discussions that go around it. I just try to step out of it a little bit and just let the experts do what they do. And I get a lot of support. So I’m optimistic. We’ll just see what happens. For me, I just let the process play itself out and just be as positive as I can be.”

Piazza said he has not yet had a formal invitation to return to camp with the Mets next spring training, but he hopes it comes.

“My door is always open for them,” he said. “I haven’t talked to them specifically about this year. Obviously they’ve been busy with the offseason. I always look forward to coming down there.

“It’s just fun to get out with the guys. As much as I love my kids, it’s fun to get out of the house every once in a while and be around the guys again and talk baseball, and talk with the coaches. I saw Frank Viola down there and just talked about the history. It’s what it’s all about.”

Piazza and Travis d'Arnaud spent plenty of time together during the visit last spring training.

“First off, Travis is a great kid,” Piazza said. “He’s very humble. He’s got a great head on his shoulders. He’s been dedicated. You can just tell by the way his season went. It started out a little frustrating. He had to take a step back and collect himself and he finished strong. He knows he’s got a lot of work to do, but to watch his turnaround was very satisfying, and it was a lesson in being positive and staying humble and working hard and overcoming some frustrations. I’m happy for the guy. He’s a great kid.

“And, obviously, he said I was his favorite player growing up. So that makes him even better for me,” Piazza added with a laugh.

Piazza also has been involved with promoting baseball in Italy, as well as with that country’s World Baseball Classic teams. That, and his Mets visits, are enough to satisfy him baseball-wise. He’s not interested in the moment at a larger role, such as full-time coaching.

“Look, I’ll always love the game. And I’ll never say never,” Piazza said. “It’s just tough, because my family is still in the car business. And I’m on their board. And I go up there once every few months [to Pennsylvania] and help them out with the business. I have a few other business interests, which I’m kind of exploring now. As much as I, again, love the game and love coaching -- and I learn a lot by coaching -- I’d never say never. But it’s just right now I have other interests that are kind of taking the lion’s share of my time. So when I get to do the Classic or help the Italian team or come to spring training for a week I take advantage of it. It’s always fun to reconnect with the game.”

If Piazza is elected to the Hall, he could join a class that may include Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Randy Johnson -- who all are appearing on the ballot for the first time -- as well as Craig Biggio.

“It would be exciting,” Piazza said. “I remember catching Pedro before he even came to the United States, when I went to the Dominican. It would be like that full circle in a way. I remember going down there and catching this guy, watching this short guy that threw 95 mph and blew me away. I’m going, ‘This guy is going to be amazing.’ So it would be amazing. And Pedro and I, we had our battles throughout the years, too. We had a lot of tough games and brushbacks as well. We came up with the Dodgers. We had a lot in common. He was sad when he got traded. And it was a change for me when I got traded. It would be a lot of fun. So we’ll see what happens.”

As for his commercial (see video above) for Norelco's new shaving line "with contour detect technology to get the closet shave possible," Piazza suggested he’s actually not quite as fit these days as the video suggests.

“We had a lot of fun shooting the commercial, which actually made me look a lot more athletic than I am, which is kind of scary,” Piazza said. “But it was a lot of fun. I’m telling all the ladies that they need to go out and get this shaver for their guy. Now that I’m a father, and my daughters don’t like a rough face, this thing is great.”

First look: My Hall of Fame ballot

November, 25, 2014
11/25/14
8:58
AM ET
NEW YORK -- The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will announce its 2015 class of inductees on Jan. 6 at 2 p.m.

Eligible voters who have been members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America for 10 years may select as many as 10 candidates on their ballots.

Those candidates appearing on 75 percent of the submitted ballots are elected.

In a new wrinkle, candidates may only remain on the ballot for as many as 10 years, provided they continue to appear on 5 percent of the ballots cast. That's down from 15 years, although Don Mattingly (15th year on ballot), Alan Trammell (14th year) and Lee Smith (13th year) are grandfathered and remain.

Here is my Hall of Fame ballot. I used all 10 slots I was allotted, and still was unable to fit Lee Smith (whom I voted for two years ago, but now do not have room to include).

First-year candidates Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz get my vote. So does Mike Piazza, the ex-Met who garnered 62.2 percent of the vote a year ago -- within striking distance of the 75-percent threshold. The others: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tim Raines and Curt Schilling.

Raines reappears on my ballot this year. Like Smith, I voted for him two years ago, but could not fit him last year, when the class included players such as now-elected Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas.

Other notable players I omitted (for now, at least), include: Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina and Trammell.


Morning Briefing: It's Dice-K/Father's Day

June, 15, 2014
6/15/14
5:50
AM ET
NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: Before hitting the road for St. Louis and Miami, the Mets play a rubber game Sunday against the San Diego Padres at 1:10 p.m. at Citi Field.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-0, 2.95 ERA) opposes right-hander Ian Kennedy (5-7, 3.63) in the Father’s Day finale.

Curtis Granderson (left calf) indicated he expects to return to the starting lineup after missing three starts.

Sunday’s news reports:

• Sandy Alderson had a Q&A with season ticket holders on Saturday afternoon at Citi Field.


Jeff Roberson/Associated PressSandy Alderson is avoiding Twitter, but not beer.


The GM suggested there was flexibility to add to the payroll at the trade deadline and suggested it is too early to discuss the 2015 payroll level. He advised a fan who sought an assurance Daniel Murphy would not be traded to stay off Twitter and blogs and instead drink beer. Alderson also allowed for the possibility that Citi Field’s dimensions would again be altered next offseason, while noting that would not be a panacea for the Mets’ hitting woes.

“We have a couple of players on this team where their strength is right-center,” Alderson said. “The other part is to take into account entertainment value. People like run production. And if the ballpark is more hitter-friendly, there’s more action and maybe more interest and less frustration.”

As for trading some pitching depth for a bat, Alderson said: “One of the problems of trading pitching, regardless of how much you have, is that you can never have enough. There are a couple of things that make me cautious. You’re never quite sure who is going to succeed and who’s not, who’s going to get injured and who’s not. To some extent, there’s safety in numbers. I guess the short answer to your question is that we’d consider doing it, but we’re cautious about it.”

In response to Alderson’s quip about avoiding Murphy trade rumors -- when the GM said, “Do what I do: Ignore Twitter and try to ignore the blogosphere and have a beer when you go home tonight” -- columnist David Lennon in Newsday writes:

Don't forget to pick up a newspaper, we might add. And when you're done reading, it's good for covering your eyes for those Chris Young at-bats.

Writes columnist Ken Davidoff in the Post:

It’s possible that for a select group of the announced 38,269 on hand -- a bump for the 50 Cent postgame concert? -- the most aggravation might have occurred before the game started, when beleaguered Mets general manager Sandy Alderson danced around the issue of a payroll increase and sounded wary of trading his impressive pitching surplus for an impact bat.

Read more in the Post, Daily News and Star-Ledger.

• The Mets mustered only two hits against Jesse Hahn (Matt Harvey’s high school teammate) and three relievers as San Diego won, 5-0, Saturday at Citi Field. Zack Wheeler allowed four runs in five innings. Chris Young struck out in all four at-bats as his average dropped to .196. The Mets have lost nine of 11. Boosted by a postgame 50 Cent concert, the paid crowd was announced at 38,269.


Adam Rubin50 Cent provided postgame entertainment Saturday at Citi Field.


Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record, Times and at MLB.com.

• Anthony Rieber in Newsday catches up with ex-Mets Jose Reyes and Josh Thole. Both Toronto Blue Jays players feel for David Wright.

"I know he’s going through some tough times right now, but he’s a veteran guy,” Reyes told Rieber. “He’s going to do what he can do on the field. … After a little while, you just want to win. It’s not about the money, because we are already set. We’ve got a contract and it’s now about winning. We’re not getting any younger, you know? What is he, 31? I’m 31. I want to win. So I know about that.”

Said Thole: “It was there from ’09 through ’12 and it was, ‘Wait till next year, wait till next year.’ I always tell the guys: The hardest thing in the baseball world, in my opinion, is to play in New York for the Mets. No. 1, you have a bunch of young kids coming up. Every day, there’s something. A story. Everything is a story there. So you can get caught up into that quickly. It’s just a tough place to play. I would say it’s been the hardest for David. He just signed that bangin’ deal. It’s just weird.”

Eric Young Jr. went 0-for-6 with a walk and stolen base while playing both games of a doubleheader with Double-A Binghamton, the latter at DH. Terry Collins has suggested E.Y. Jr. (right hamstring) should rejoin the Mets on Monday in St. Louis.

Rafael Montero departed Saturday’s Las Vegas game after throwing five pitches with an injury to his left side, a team official told ESPNNewYork.com.

Travis d’Arnaud is now hitting .417 with four homers in 24 at-bats since a demotion. His two-run shot Saturday helped lift Vegas to a 7-1 win at Oklahoma City. Binghamton swept a doubleheader from Erie as Brian Burgamy went a combined 5-for-6. Hansel Robles tossed a shutout in the nightcap. Dilson Herrera and T.J. Rivera each produced RBIs representing St. Lucie in the Florida State League All-Star Game. A day after it was rained out, Brooklyn won its season opener, 8-2, against Staten Island. Read the full minor-league recap here.

St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (9-3, 2.15 ERA) will miss Monday’s start against the Mets at Busch Stadium because of tendinitis in his pitching elbow.

• Ex-Met Mike Piazza is attending the World Cup. He already has watched the opener between Brazil and Croatia. He plans to attend England-Italy on Saturday. “I’m not a frontrunner,” Piazza told Michael Lewis in Newsday while at a Sao Paulo airport. “I am pulling for the U.S. If they are eliminated, I’m rooting for the Italians.”

Piazza told Lewis he played soccer at age 9 and was a central defender. “I got some skills,” he said. “I can handle the ball.”

• Anthony McCarron in the Daily News quotes players on how they learned they were getting called up to the major leagues, including Wright, Harvey and Granderson.

From the bloggers … Faith and Fear finds yet another way to say there’s not much left to say about the state of these Mets.

BIRTHDAYS: Union chief/ex-Met Tony Clark turns 42. ... 2013 first-round pick Dominic Smith is 19. ... Brett Butler is 57. ... Jeremy Reed is 33.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Should Travis d’Arnaud return to the majors as soon as the minimum 10-day demotion period is completed?

Morning Briefing: From least to beast

June, 6, 2014
6/06/14
5:07
AM ET

Adam RubinThe Mets spend the weekend in San Francisco, home of aggressive seagulls.
CHICAGO

FIRST PITCH: The lowly Chicago Cubs completed a sweep of the Mets on Thursday at Wrigley Field. And captain David Wright summed it up this way postgame: “We didn’t play well at all.”

Now, things truly get challenging for the Amazin’s.

The Mets begin a three-game series in San Francisco on Friday. The Giants own an MLB-best 39-21 record.

Jonathon Niese (3-3, 2.69 ERA) opposes right-hander Matt Cain (1-3, 3.66) in the 10:15 p.m. ET opener at AT&T Park. Cain is returning from a DL stint for a mild right hamstring strain.

Friday’s news reports:

• Top prospect Noah Syndergaard’s return from a forearm strain had an abrupt ending. Syndergaard was forced to depart in the first inning with discomfort in his left, non-throwing shoulder after taking a jolt in a plate collision after uncorking a wild pitch. He was headed for X-rays late Thursday night.

Aside from the injury, Wally Backman told Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Syndergaard needed more minor league experience.

“Everybody thinks he’s on the Wheeler-Harvey type of system. I think he’ll stay here a little bit longer than those guys did, just to develop,” Backman told Dewey. “He’s a 21-year-old kid who’s got a very special arm. I think the organization wants to make sure that he’s right when he goes to the big leagues. With the pitching they have, there’s not a need to push him as quickly as Wheeler last year.”

Read more on the initial details of Syndergaard’s injury in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Post, Star-Ledger, Newsday and at MLB.com.


Win McNamee/Getty ImagesWith the 10th overall pick, the Mets selected Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto.


• The Mets selected Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto with the 10th overall pick in the draft. The organization did not have a second-round pick because they signed Curtis Granderson during the offseason. The draft resumes Friday afternoon, beginning with the third round.

How quickly can the power-hitting Conforto, a two-time Pac-12 Player of the Year, reach the majors? Paul DePodesta did not care to speculate.

A look at last year’s first round reveals Texas right-hander pitcher Corey Knebel (supplemental pick/39th overall by the Tigers) is the lone player to make his major league debut so far.

Four players from the 2012 first round have debuted in the majors: catcher Mike Zunino (Mariners, third overall, University of Florida), right-hander Kevin Gausman (Orioles, fourth, LSU), right-hander Michael Wacha (Cardinals, 19th, Texas A&M) and right-hander Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays, 22nd, Duke).

Oregon State’s season ended Monday with a regional loss to UC Irvine.

Read more on Conforto in the Oregonian, Post, Star-Ledger, Record, Newsday and at MLB.com.

• Frank Viola is due to rejoin the Las Vegas 51s on Friday as pitching coach. Viola underwent open-heart surgery on April 2. He represented the Mets alongside Mike Piazza at the draft on Thursday night.

Listen to a podcast of Viola speaking with WOR’s Pete McCarthy about Jacob deGrom and returning from open-heart surgery here.

• Out of an abundance of caution, the Mets reportedly will delay Matt Harvey getting on a mound for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 22. Harvey had aimed to get on a mound Monday. Read more in the Daily News.

• Piazza tells Jason Rubinstein in the Daily News that Citi Field is not the reason for the Mets’ woes.

“As a player, I played in some really tough hitters’ ballparks. I understand that [Citi Field] might not be a great hitters’ ballpark,” Piazza told Rubinstein. “But, to me, just take a step back, just hit the ball hard. Doubles and singles and walks are good, too. If you get the home run, you get the home run. There has to be a synergy, there has to be a plan offensively.

“It’s a tough game, and I’ve been there. You hit a ball into the wind and a guy catches it, then you're ticked off. It’s easier said than done, but you've got to find a way to push through it.”

Listen to a WOR podcast with Piazza here.

Vic Black surrendered a tiebreaking solo homer in the seventh to Anthony Rizzo and the Cubs ultimately beat the Mets, 7-4, to complete their first three-game sweep of the Amazin’s at Wrigley Field since 2004. DeGrom remained winless. The rookie was charged with four runs in five innings, but did not get much help from his fielders during a three-run second inning that included a failure to turn a double play by Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores.

Wright was double-switched out of the game in the eighth.

Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Journal, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record and at MLB.com.

• Cory Vaughn went 0-for-3 with a walk in his Triple-A debut as Las Vegas lost to Fresno. Jairo Perez’s two-run homer went for naught as Dunedin beat St. Lucie, 7-4. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• Jared Diamond in the Journal speaks with experts about the relative protection of hockey-style and traditional catcher’s masks. The hockey style appears marginally safer, but Travis d’Arnaud has switched back to the traditional style since returning from his latest concussion.

• D’Arnaud’s average has plummeted to .184, but Terry Collins is preaching patience.

• Dave McNary at Variety writes that a Lenny Dykstra movie is in the works. Read more in the Star-Ledger.

• Columnist Kevin Kernan in the Post writes about the influence of advice from Yogi Berra on Savannah’s L.J. Mazzilli, the son of ex-Met Lee Mazzilli.

• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger writes about how Lamar Johnson is adjusting to the abundance of information available compared with the last time he served as a major league hitting coach.

BIRTHDAYS: Bud Harrelson, now a co-owner of the independent Long Island Ducks, turns 70. ... Outfielder Jesus Feliciano is 35.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: What should the Mets do with Travis d’Arnaud and the catching situation?
NEW YORK -- Right-hander Jon Velasquez has considered retiring from professional baseball at least twice in the past few years, first after playing independent ball for the Rockland Boulders in 2012, then again when he went to winter ball last November to pitch for Santurce in Puerto Rico.

Eight months later, the 28-year-old Bronx native is pitching in Double-A for the Binghamton Mets, where he has a 3-2 record and 3.52 ERA in 19 appearances. He has produced a 0.913 WHIP.

He throws a fastball that sits at 93-94 mph, cutter and changeup while working in relief.


Courtesy of New York MetsJon Velasquez


“I wasn’t in the right state of mind. I thought the game was getting a bit unfair to me,” Velasquez said about his flirtations with walking away. “But I only know myself to play baseball and I knew this is what I wanted to do. Graduating from college and having student loans, it’s hard to deal with. It was getting hard to make ends meet at the time. That was pretty much what it came down to, because I wasn’t making much in indy ball.”

After graduating from Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx, Velasquez played college ball, picking up an associate degree in entertainment and sports promotion management, then a bachelor’s degree in management from Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Undrafted, he signed with the Phillies and rose to the Florida State League. In 2010 with Clearwater, he went 3-9 with a 3.19 ERA in 45 appearances (five starts) for the high-A club.

Velasquez subsequently was released. He pitched for Rockland in the Can-Am League in 2011 and ’12 and was prepared to walk away and get a regular job when his manager, former major league pitcher Dave LaPoint, called with an opportunity to finish the season with Camden in the Atlantic League.

Velasquez enjoyed the experience and returned for 2013.

“I was thinking about retiring and just moving on with life and getting a regular job,” Velasquez said. “My manager, Dave LaPoint, called me up like 12 days after our Can-Am season and asked me if I wanted to go out and play in the Atlantic League. I was like, ‘Sure.’ So I went there and played and had such a great time. I had a newfound love for the game after I went to Camden. They asked me if I wanted to play in 2013.”

Still, though, independent ball can be a difficult way to make a living. And Velasquez still did not get an offer from a major league club to join its farm system, even though he posted a 1.95 ERA in 61 relief appearances last year with Camden.

He resolved to go to winter ball in Puerto Rico to try to draw interest. If that did not work, he was done with pro baseball.

The decision worked out. The Minnesota Twins signed Velasquez less than a month after he arrived in Puerto Rico. Then things got interesting.

Because he had signed only a week or so before the winter meetings, Velasquez was exposed for the minor-league phases of the Rule 5 draft. The Mets selected him. Velasquez, not expecting such a move, found out via Facebook while trying to reach a Spanish-language baseball site’s alert on his phone. Velasquez is of Puerto Rican descent but not perfectly fluent in Spanish.

“I had a notification on Facebook and I clicked on it,” Velasquez said. “Usually they just put things up if I pitched the night before with how I did. I was like, ‘I didn’t pitch yesterday. Why did they tag me?’ And I started reading it. It was in Spanish, and I’m not really fluent. It takes me a little bit to understand. So I was reading through it and I kind of saw something about the Mets. As soon as I was like, ‘Wait, what’s going on?’ my agent called me.”

Organization leaders

Average: Andrew Brown, Vegas, .359; T.J. Rivera, St. Lucie, .356; Eric Campbell, Vegas, .355; Matt Reynolds, Binghamton, .352; Jairo Perez, St. Lucie, .351; Jeff McNeil, Savannah, .346; Kevin Plawecki, Binghamton, .335; Brandon Nimmo, St. Lucie, .332; Matt Clark, Binghamton, .331; Wilfredo Tovar, Binghamton, .313.

Homers: Andrew Brown, Vegas, 13; Taylor Teagarden, Vegas, 8; Matt Clark, Binghamton, 8; Allan Dykstra, Vegas, 8.

RBIs: Allan Dykstra, Vegas, 44; T.J. Rivera, St. Lucie, 44.

Steals: Jeff McNeil, Savannah, 14; Patrick Biondi, Savannah, 13; Dilson Herrera, St. Lucie, 13; Brandon Nimmo, St. Lucie, 9.

ERA: Kevin McGowan, Savannah, 1.66; Steven Matz, St. Lucie, 1.73; Darin Gorski, Vegas, 2.44; John Gant, Savannah, 2.67; Matt Koch, St. Lucie, 2.70; Ricky Knapp, Savannah, 3.09; Gabriel Ynoa, St. Lucie, 3.88; Luis Cessa, St. Lucie, 3.98; Noah Syndergaard, Vegas, 4.02.

Wins: Matt Koch, St. Lucie, 6; Miller Diaz, Savannah, 5; John Gant, Savannah, 5; Noah Syndergaard, Vegas, 5; Gabriel Ynoa, St. Lucie, 5.

Saves: Chasen Bradford, Binghamton, 11; Robert Coles, Savannah, 10; Vic Black, Vegas, 7; Randy Fontanez, St. Lucie, 7; Jeff Walters, Vegas, 6; Beck Wheeler, St. Lucie, 6.

Strikeouts: Darin Gorski, Vegas, 59; Dana Eveland, Vegas, 58; Noah Syndergaard, Vegas, 57; Miller Diaz, Savannah, 53; Dario Alvarez, Savannah, 52.

Short hops

• St. Lucie will have seven players in the Florida State League All-Star Game on June 14 in Bradenton, Fla.: second baseman Dilson Herrera, center fielder Brandon Nimmo, infielder T.J. Rivera, catcher Cam Maron, left-hander Steven Matz and right-handers Matt Koch and Randy Fontanez.

• Savannah placed seven players in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, which will be played June 16 in Hickory, N.C.: right-handers Kevin McGowan, Miller Diaz, Akeel Morris and Robert Coles, left-hander Dario Alvarez, third baseman Jeff McNeil and shortstop Gavin Cecchini. Gnats manager Luis Rojas will lead the Southern Division team.

Nimmo resumed playing Monday after missing three days with pinkeye. Rivera also just returned from a three-game absence because of soreness.

Frank Viola, who underwent open-heart surgery on April 2, is due to join Las Vegas on Friday as pitching coach. Viola and Mike Piazza first will represent the Mets on the opening day of the draft Thursday at Secaucus, N.J.

• The player to be named in the Ike Davis trade with the Pirates will not be announced immediately after the draft. The PTBN can be announced a year after he signed his first pro contract, not a year after he was drafted. If it does turn out to be Connecticut prep right-hander Neil Kozikowski, which has been speculated, he signed June 21. So the Mets would have to wait until the one-year anniversary to receive him. Kozikowski was selected in the eighth round and signed for an over slot $425,000 in 2013.

Rafael Montero walked four in 5 1/3 innings in his return to Las Vegas on Tuesday night. Combined between the Mets and 51s this season, Montero has walked 33 in 67 innings, or 4.4 per nine innings. That is the highest rate of his career by a wide margin. The rate was 1.6 per nine innings in 2011, 1.4 in 2012 and 2.0 in 2013.

Noah Syndergaaard is due to reenter the Vegas rotation Thursday after dealing with a forearm strain.

Cory Mazzoni, who suffered a lat-muscle injury starting for the Mets in the final Grapefruit League game, is due to pitch an inning in extended spring training on Wednesday for the first time since suffering the injury.

Rob Whalen, who raced to a 4-0 start with a 1.80 ERA through 20 innings with Savannah before developing an infection in his pitching hand, has been cleared to start throwing on flat ground.

Amed Rosario is not yet done with Savannah, even though he was transferred off their roster temporarily to clear a spot. The 18-year-old shortstop still will be joining Brooklyn when the New York-Penn League season opens June 13 at Staten Island. Rosario struck out in all five at-bats in his lone South Atlantic League appearance so far.

Jairo Perez, who missed two weeks in April with a right hamstring pull, now has enough at-bats to qualify for the Florida State League leaderboard. Perez checks in at No. 2, with a .351 average. Rivera, his teammate, is first overall at .356. Nimmo ranks fourth in the league at .332.

Morning Briefing: The sun 'll come out

May, 6, 2014
5/06/14
5:20
AM ET
MIAMI

FIRST PITCH: The sun came up today. At least it will soon. Sunrise is scheduled for 6:40 a.m. in Miami.

After a depressing series opener in which the Mets squandered seven scoreless innings from Jonathon Niese, Bartolo Colon takes the mound at Marlins Park on Tuesday. Colon (2-4, 5.65 ERA) opposes right-hander Henderson Alvarez (1-2, 3.28) at 7:10 p.m.

Colon allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Colorado Rockies in his last outing.

Tuesday’s news reports:

Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed three eighth-inning runs, one unearned due to Omar Quintanilla’s error, and the Marlins produced a walk-off, 4-3 win against Gonzalez Germen an inning later on Monday. Niese suffered the tough-luck no-decision despite tossing six scoreless innings and departing with a 3-0 lead. Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson had first-inning home runs.


Adam RubinMiami resident Mike Piazza and injured Brooklyn Net Brook Lopez cross paths during Mets batting practice Monday at Marlins Park. The Nets, in town to play the Heat, are staying at the same hotel as the Mets.


Niese’s ERA, shaved to 1.82 ERA, ranks fifth in the National League, trailing only Johnny Cueto (1.31), Jeff Samardzija (1.62), Jose Fernandez (1.74) and Julio Teheran (1.80).

"Give Niese a lot of credit," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "He looked good out there, and we had a tough time early on trying to figure him out. He pretty much shut us down."

Read game recaps in the Daily News, Journal, Times, Star-Ledger, Record, Newsday and at MLB.com.

Eric Young Jr. started a day after suffering a bruised right cheekbone as Terry Collins loaded his lineup with lefty bats against Marlins starter Nate Eovaldi. Juan Lagares entered the game off the bench and went 0-for-1, snapping a 13-game hitting streak. Read more at MLB.com.

• Noah Syndergaard allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings and Taylor Teagarden had a tiebreaking solo homer in the top of the ninth, but Jeff Walters suffered a blown save and Tacoma beat Las Vegas, 3-2, in Monday’s regularly scheduled Pacific Coast League game. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• Aware of the Marlins’ big production disparity at the plate between home and the road, Collins indicated the Mets would be stealthier with their signs to guard against potential theft.

Matt Harvey aims to throw off a mound for the first time in early or mid-June, Kristie Ackert writes in the Daily News. Harvey, rehabbing in Port St. Lucie, Fla., during the first two legs of the road trip, joined the Mets in Miami and will fly with the team to New York.

From the bloggers ... Faith and Fear could've seen Monday's loss coming from a lime green mile away.

BIRTHDAYS: Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who finished his playing career as a Met, turns 83. ... 2013 draft pick Ricky Jacquez, a 25th-round selection out of Central Arizona, is 21.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Which one player could Sandy Alderson reasonably acquire that would be the most beneficial to the Mets?

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
15 4.09 151 202
OTHER LEADERS
BAD. Murphy .289
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187