Terry Collins: Cap issue a distraction

Updated: September 13, 2011, 12:45 AM ET
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Blame the New York Mets' 3-2 loss Monday to the Washington Nationals on the hats.

Mets manager Terry Collins did.

For the second straight day, the Mets found themselves discussing Major League Baseball's decision to deny their request to wear caps from emergency-service units during Sunday's game, which marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. On Monday, Mets player representative Josh Thole said he's hoping to change the policy for next season.

Collins thinks it's one big distraction.

"What's the attention been since we walked into the ballpark today? It's not on who we're playing, it's not on who's pitching. We all want to know which kind of hat we're going to wear tonight. And that takes away from the game," Collins said. "It all takes away from their preparation. They're all being asked questions that they're afraid to make an answer, they're afraid to say the wrong thing. We've got to start focusing on what the game is, because, when it's all said and done, that's all that matters."

The Mets wanted to wear caps honoring police, firefighters and other first responders when they played the Chicago Cubs on Sunday night. They wore the hats for batting practice and the pregame ceremony, but MLB insisted they wear their regular caps during the game.

Thole called the players' association Monday, a day after the Mets were denied their request to wear the caps. He said he wanted to discuss marketing and licensing possibilities but had not heard back.

"I would like to just get it solidified so when next year comes around whether it's the 11th or 12th it's not an issue anymore," Thole said before Monday's game.

Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations, told The Associated Press on Sunday in a telephone interview the decision was made to keep policy consistent throughout baseball.

"Certainly it's not a lack of respect," Torre said. "We just felt all the major leagues are honoring the same way with the American flag on the uniform and the cap. This is a unanimity thing."

Thole said after batting practice Sunday the players were considering defying the uniform guidelines set by MLB, but several minutes later he said the caps were a "no-go."

"It was coming from the top as if the fine to the ballclub was going to be significant and that was something nobody wanted to overstep the bounds there," Thole said.

Thole did not know what the fines would be, and MLB said amounts were never discussed.

Caps similar to the ones the Mets wore during the game Sunday -- with an American flag patch on the side -- are on sale at mets.com for $36.99. An authenticator collected the first-responder hats used during the on-field tribute, and they will be sold on the site, as well, with proceeds going to charity.

Mets third baseman David Wright was seen wearing a first-responder cap in the dugout but he said Monday it wasn't a "slap in the face" to the league. He insisted he wasn't aware of the controversy until after the game and just wanted to honor the emergency personnel.

When baseball resumed after the attacks, the Mets did go against the league's orders to wear their regular caps during games.

Todd Zeile, the team's rep then, said the league would have to rip the hats off their heads when they played their first game in Pittsburgh on Sept. 17. The players were not fined.

"What Todd did in 2001, I think it was great," Thole said. "I wish we could've been able to follow through."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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