— Days Without Shea —

As I said before, I had some technical difficulties Wednesday night and only managed to get a few photos the night the now mighty Mets beat the Marlins 7-6 in 12 innings.

Here is another view of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda:

There was some lively chatter in the latest Willets Point post about where all the businesses should go should the Iron Triangle be taken over by the city. The term "eye sore" gets used alot to describe the business district of Willets Point. Good news: I have the solution. And it came to me Wednesday as I stared out beyond the outfield walls of Shea and DIDN'T see the alleged eye sores. Here's my proposal (pay attention Mr. Mayor)...

Keep Shea!

You can't see Willets Point anymore because Citi Field is in the way. But move into Citi Field, Mets, and fans will once again see Willets Point. So it's elementary, my dear Wilpons. Stay at Shea. We can turn Citi Field into a mall. Better yet, we can move some of the Willets Point businesses into Citi Field. We still won't be able to see them and now the employees will have a sewer system. Everybody wins.
Citi Field don't look so bad now, does it?

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Filed under: Baseball | Mets | Shea
by Kingman on May 29 at 8:41AM
Break up the Mets!

We were there in Loge 13 last night as the Mets beat the Marlins 7-6 in 12 innings - the most dramatic victory of the year and perhaps the night the 2008 season started over in Flushing.

True, the Mets took two from the Spankees a few weekends ago, yet we were still skeptical. But after the Mets took two from the first place Marlins this week, you have to feel optimistic. The team played with hustle and passion. Fans cheered the effort and didn't wallow in the stands, glooming over the team's shortcomings.  Maybe there is some Love Among the Ruins of Shea. Maybe this team can still salvage the season and save Willie's job.

Stunning stat: The  win was only the second come-from-behind victory for the Metsies in 2008. And they earned it. 14 strikeouts from the pitching staff. Great performances from Schoenweis, Heilman and Wagner. You better win efforts like this.

But the heroes of the game once again were the lunch pail guys: Damion Easley and Fernando Tatis, getting the starting nods while Church recuperates and Delgado cools his heels. And Endy Chavez, getting his first RBI (!) Of the year with a 9th inning pinch hit home run.

My camera imploded before the game so I didn't collect my usual array of photos. Here is a shot of the Citi Field rotunda, taken before the implosion:


I was especially bummed to be camera-less as my childhood hero Rusty Staub was the Met celebrity on hand to turn the Shea countdown board from 59 games to 58.

The Mets also invited Brooklyn Cylcones season ticket holders onto Shea's field before the game for the National Anthem. Gee that's swell that the Mets would do something for their single-A team's season ticket holders.

I'm not going to go pitch-by-pitch through last night's games. But here are my observations:

* Great crowd on hand and in Loge 13. Lots of families and smart baseball fans and no fist fights in the stands for a change. Plus I got to hang with my Dad.

* The Mets should let Castro catch more often. He has a good way of dealing with his pitchers. In the 4th inning. Perez walked Marlin's cleanup hitter Wes Helms, then went 1-0 on Uggla. Castro went right out to the mound and chatted. Two pitches later, Uggla popped out. Yes Perez went mental later in the game and went too deep too often in the count, but at least he made it through 6 innings. Easley also went to the mound a few times to calm Ollie down. We need more of that.

* Did you see Beltran's catch to end the 5th? With two men up, Carlos went deep into the gap to snag a line drive that would have given the Marlins the lead.
Better than the catch: The Shea crowd cheered Carlos all the way into the dugout and the Mets gathered on the top step to exchange high-fives. This team came to play last night (love that cliche).

* Fernando Tatis. He's 33 years old, a career .260 hitter. He may not be the future of the Mets but this week, he is exactly what we need. His 12th inning, game winning double was tremendous and the team smothered him as if he had just clinched the pennant. Even better was Tatis' sacrifice fly in the 4th. After the hit, he pointed up to the sky and clapped his hands with glee. This is a guy thankful to be in a major league uniform and determined to take advantage of every chance. He's hungry and living for each at bat. That's a Met. Delgado, take notes.
* I'm loving  whoever is programming the tunes at Shea this year. For a minute, I thought it was 80's night. Here are some of tunes sampled at Shea Wednesday:

- Wang Chung (by Wang Chung. Awful song that refuses to leave my head for days after hearing it).
- Hold me now, by Thomson Twins
- Pressure, by Billy Joel. Played when Scott Olsen got into a jam early. A perfectly annoying song to rattle a pitcher. I love when they play that.
- Something about you, by Level 42. Played after Perez gave up a homer and a walk to lead off the 5th. An awful synth-rock ballad clearly written about a quirky left handed pitcher ("We're only human after all.")

But the best song choice: "Paint it black" by the Stones when Heilman warms up in the 8th.

Now lets see what the boys do to the Dodgers tonight. Vargas vs. Brad Penny. In his career, Penny is 5-12 against the Metsies, with a 6.21 ERA. Kingman Senior and Mater Kingman will be in Loge 13 tonight. Lets go for three in a row!

[May 29, 2008 9:29 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Vince said

I was at the game last night as well. The song by Level 42 is called "Something About You".

It was their only real US hit (they were pretty popular in the UK in the 80s).

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by Kingman on May 27 at 7:56AM
For Mets fans, the big question of 2008 is this: who will last longer, Shea Stadium or Willie Randolph?

According to the Loge13 Doomsday clock, Shea Stadium has 124 more days left in its natural life. Our blessed shrine will get a reprieve if the Mets make the post season, [I will wait for the laughter to subside]

What we don't know is how many days are left ticking on the Willie clock. And where is that darned clock? In Omar's office? Fred's? Jeff's? Who's in charge anyway?

I have avoided posting much about Willie lately here on Loge13. I enjoyed the notoriety of being the only Mets blog alive that hadn't written on the subject and frankly, blogging is boring when you write about what everyone else is saying.

And what is there to say? Randolph is a bad field manager. Anyone who has sat next to Ron Hunt in Loge13 has heard this said many times since 2005. And the problems go way beyond Willie. Anyone who watched last night's 7-3 embarrassment can see the issues on the field. Delgado's listless approach to the game. Castillo's hobbled hitting. The Pelfrey Experiment (A.K.A. the 7th pitcher in a 5-man rotation). Anyone who thinks Jerry Manuel or Lee Mazilli (or Gary Carter) can fix this may not be thinking through all the issues.

But as I pondered the Mets this weekend while on vacation, things started to get more clear. And the bizarre press conference Monday afternoon brought it home. Omar gathered the media and Willie in one room to once again give the Met manager a tepid endorsement. He's our guy, Omar said, but with enough loopholes that the average person could come away convinced Willie is NOT our guy. How is that fair to the  manager? What kind of message does that send to the destructive forces in the clubhouse? Omar could have said, "Willie is our guy. And if these players don't start showing some life, some leadership, some passion on the field, they are gone." But he didn't. He could have said, "Willie has until the All Star Break. Then we will re-evaluate." He didn't. Omar took no stand, and just let a problem that has dragged out for over a week/month/year continue to drag out.

And so I say: what has happened to this organization? The answer lies out beyond the outfield walls, hovering like a UFO from the planet Shopping Mall. Citi Field is what has happened to this organization. Management is too engrossed in next year that they have let this year slide. And along the way, they have forgotten how to deal effectively and benevolently with employees and fans. Show Willie support or don't. Praise your players when they perform and take them to task when they don't. Even Hank Jr. knows that (and by the way, The Spankees have just won 5 of 6). Our owners? They refuse to take their manager's call, making sure the press knows about this multi-time zone silent treatment. Nice.

And this lack of consideration is being applied to the folks in the stands too. It is now May 27. Partial season ticket holders at Shea Stadium STILL don't have any hopes for tickets in Citi Field. Yankee partial season ticket holders are picking out their seats. How does that show any respect to fans who have given their financial and moral support to the Mets for decades? Despite the state of the Mets, I'll be at Shea tomorrow night and I'd be in the stands next year if allowed. But that's not how this team operates. This operation prefers to let everyone dangle. And that's the problem.

As for who holds the Willie clock? The answer is: Willie. And it's set to June 3: the day Pedro is scheduled to return. Martinez has the gift of leadership, of cutting through clubhouse politics with his bonhomie and his mini-me's.If Pedro can't turn this team around, no one can.

[May 27, 2008 1:59 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Ron Hunt said

I think this is the lowest point in Mets history. In all my years I've never seen the club in as poor a standing with the media and fans. I blame the Wilpons! Willie, who I am not a fan of, deserves better treatment. This all started when they had a press conference after last season to announce that he was returning, with two years on his contract and they had the balls to have Willie attend the conference, just like yesterday. Why was he there? Does Omar wear Teflons sports jackets? Let's get this train back on track - release Delgado, bench Jose for enough time for him to realize how lazy he is playing, trade Beltran (as if anyone would take him - unless we absorb half his blotted contract). I can accept the many losing years we've had, we knew we were going to stink. But this is a new low, our clubhouse has become a country club. No one is afraid of losing their jobs, which is never good in sports. Think that with all that's going on that's negative, there have been no changes in the lineup or roster! What other club would remain pat in this situation?

[May 28, 2008 5:07 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Bobster said

Ron, I understand your disappointment, but the lowest point in Mets history? That began the day in 1977 when they dumped Seaver and continued until the Payson family sold the team. Remember those night games when they closed the entire upper deck? The Triple A roster impersonating as a major league team? All those last-place finishes? Shea was falling apart for lack of maintenance, and there was no brand-new ballpark beyond the outfield fence about to open. Now, those were truly depressing days (especially since the Yankees were kicking ass up in the Bronx.) What we have now is discouraging, but it can be salvaged. Back in '77-'78-'79 there truly was no hope.

[May 28, 2008 11:31 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Ron Hunt said

Bobster, while I agree there was no hope from 1977 and on (I still remember calling Sportsphone on 6/15/77 from the Flagship diner on Queens Blvd to hear about the Seaver trade) the fallout from the M.Donald Grant / Dick Young / Seaver thing was coming for sometime. And the subsequent down years as least lead to the selling of the team, but we knew the team was going to stink.

We all had high expectations this year and not only are they playing poorly but between the clubhouse friction, the self inflicted wounds from teammates and the manager, and the lack of leadership from the players, front office and ownership, I think this is a new low. And I don't see it getting better. Pedro may be our only hope.

[May 29, 2008 12:07 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Bobster said

It's a long, long season, Ron. We're not even halfway done yet. Remember 1973!

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The more we read and post about Willets Point, the more interested we are to meet that neighborhood's lone resident: Joseph Ardizzone.

AMNY.com finally gave Ardizzone a proper introduction to the world. Check out this excellent profile and Web video. The clip is a bit jumpy but the package is a great little piece of Net journalism.

Joseph Ardizzone is the mayor of Willets Point Boulevard.

Not that the title confers much prestige. Willets Point Boulevard is pockmarked dirt road that cuts through the Iron Triangle in Queens, surrounded on all sides by tin-roof chop shops and junk yards.

But for Ardizzone, it's home, and has been for all of his 75 years.

He is the only resident left in the distressed neighborhood, and has been for decades now.

And even though the city is trying pave over this blighted corner of the city and kick out all the businesses, Ardizzone says he isn't leaving -- and is rallying the rest of the neighborhood to the cause.

"I'm going to stay here as long as I can," said Ardizzone. "If they can do this to me what can they do to the future children of this country?"

When Ardizzone was a child, Willets Point was still mostly farmland, and his family kept chickens and goats on their property. The World's Fair in 1939-40 gradually started to change all of that, and by the 1960s and '70s, the chops shops and warehouses had taken over.

The rest of the families that made up the neighborhood eventually moved out, but Ardizzone stayed, living in the rooms that he grew up in, above a coffee shop.

"Where would I go?" he asks. "My sister is always trying to get me to move out, but I like it here. It's quiet in the evenings, and there is always somebody to talk to."

The Bloomberg administration is calling for a $3 billion redevelopment of the area, including a million square feet in retail space, a convention center, and a hotel. City officials have threatened to invoke eminent domain to push out reluctant businesses, and of course, the area's lone resident.

The plan is undergoing a land-use review by the City Council.

But the business owners say they are desperate to remain in a place, where there can be near their suppliers, and are looking to Ardizzone to lead the way.

"He's the king of the junkyard. This place is in his blood," said Frank Abissi, who has run a tire shop in Willets Point for 15 years, after relocating from his native Afghanistan. "He knows that if we have to close we can't support our families. I came to this country to work. What can I do?"

And as long as he's there, many folks feel like they've got at least a fighting chance to take on City Hall.

"They are going to have to drag Joe out of his home … and lock him up somewhere to make sure he doesn't come back," said Jerry Antonacci, whose family has owned a waste removal facility in the area since 1959. "You live in a place until you are 70-something years old, how are you supposed to move?"

He credits Ardizzone for organizing the opposition.

"Lots of people don't have the time to keep up, so he updates them, tells them what's going on. For a one man band, I'd say he's doing all right."

[May 27, 2008 1:49 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Ron Hunt said

I know I will be viewed as callous but the junk shops and car chop shops must go! This area has been a blight on the Shea area since Shea opened. It's a useless area that bring little value to the area, Queens or NYC. Has anyone ever gone there and spent money? Or used their services? This is simply a dramatic improvement for the area. Don't confuse it with O'Malley's removal of an entire Chicano community in Chavez Ravine to build Dodger Stadium. Without this type of urban improvement the entire city would still look like Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" set.

[May 28, 2008 5:14 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Bobster said

I both agree and disagree with Ron. The junk shops and chop shops are out of place across the street from Citi Field, but they aren't useless. They provide employment and services that have value. The city should relocate them to a more suitable area. Frankly, this area surrounding Shea has been an eyesore for decades.

[May 28, 2008 11:32 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Ron Hunt said

Please suggest a "more suitable area"?

Sounds NIMBY, to me.

[May 28, 2008 2:19 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Katharine said

Dear Ron:

You think the junk shops must go as you do not work or have a business there. Willets Point has over 250 business that employees over 3000 people who mostly take a bus, bike ride, or train to work. They have families and live in low income housing. What right dose the City have to come in and take property and but all these families out of work. Are we not having enough problems keeping jobs and our homes in this economy. There are enough people on unemployment the city should be helping and supporting these business not creating more people to be out of work.

[May 28, 2008 10:26 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Ron Hunt said


I don't mean to appear rude, and I understand people and their businesses will be displaced, and please keep in mind this blog was started because the Mets are screwing us mini plan holders and not offering us seats in the new park, but this is for the greater good. The city has two legal positions, eminent domain and right of way, that have weathered many legal challenges. We should, and must,find a place for the Triangle to relocate to, but it must go.

[May 29, 2008 12:05 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Bobster said

A more suitable area would be an area which is primarily industrial. There is a place for these kinds of businesses, but not across the street from a $500 million ballpark that will be attracting fans from all over the world.

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The Mets are on the rocks as they head to Colorado to face the Rockies.

The Mets have lost eight of their last twelve, have just put Alou in the 15-day DL (with rumors that his injury may keep him out longer) and are STILL dealing with Randolph's quotes from last Sunday. Apparently, the Wilpons aren't even returning his calls. Not a good sign for Willie.

Meanwhile, Dan Boniface of the Rockies blog On The Rox (“Where the glass is always half full”),  posted my answers to his questions. In case you missed it, here were the questions:

1) What's up with the Mets so far this season? What do you think it's going to take for them to start turning things around?

2)The expectations were obviously very high in regard to Johan Santana coming into the season. Has he lived up to those expectations?

3) What did you think of Carlos Beltran's comments pointed in the direction of the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins, and what do you think of Beltran's play so far this season?

You can see my answers on his blog now.

Meanwhile, here is what Dan had to say in response to my queries. Thanks alot Dan and good luck this weekend:

1) Rockies manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Bob Apodaca (both ex-Mets) have been in their jobs since 2002. How are these two regarded by Colorado fans and how have they held on to their jobs so long? Apodaca was highly respected as the Mets pitching coach during his tenure here.

One year ago, Rockies fans were calling for Hurdle’s job. It was supposed to be the big payoff-year of their youth movement. The Rox had just given Clint and GM Dan O’Dowd contract extensions on Opening Day 2007 and, by May 22, the team was 9 games under .500 at 18-27. I was even beginning to have my doubts, even though I picked them to win 91 games and the NL Wild Card coming out of the Cactus League.

Hurdle managed to keep the Rockies on an even keel, keep perspective and then something just clicked. Bob Apodaca took an injury-plagued pitching staff, nurtured some young guys and they ended up with the best second-half ERA in the NL.

The magical run to the World Series definitely launched a love affair between Denver and the Rockies manager. He was the grand marshal in parades, his charity work was suddenly big news, he was an instant local celebrity. He couldn’t even take his daughter to Starbucks in relative anonymity the way he used to before the World Series because fans were starting to wait there for him.

Now that the team has flopped to start 2008, the fair-weather fans have started to fall off the bandwagon, but I think the true fans still believe Clint is the best guy for the job. I can say that he has seemed a little more agitated with the media lately, but overall he’s still keeping things in perspective. I haven’t given up hope on him. I think he’s the best manager for this club, and for the NL All-Star team.

2) The Rockies are off to a rough start thus far. What are the key differences between the 2007 NL champion Rockies and the team the Mets are facing this weekend?

Where do I start?

THE GOOD: Aaron Cook and Taylor Buchholz are pitching amazing.

The one other constant has been the Rockies defense. They can still pick it like none other.

Off the bench, the lone improvement has been the addition of Scott Podsednik, who provides a ton of speed and a professional AB.

THE BAD: The absence of Kaz Matsui has been huge. But, I’ll get more into that in the next question.

The clutch hitting has been on hiatus. Brad Hawpe, who had 66 2-out RBI last year is struggling to produce. Todd Helton, who has never hit below .300, is hovering around .265.

And who can forget Tulowitzki? Even though Clint Barmes is hitting .350 in his stead, the Rockies could have Barmes over at 2B. They definitely miss having Tulo’s energy and the emotion he plays with. They feed on that.

THE UGLY: The other big differences have been in the rotation, where the Rockies are really suffering, with the exception of Aaron Cook. Jeff Francis, who won 17 last year, just earned his first win of the year on Sunday. Ubaldo Jimenez is finally starting to look better, although the Rockies are 1-9 in his starts. Franklin Morales was sent down to AAA to regain his confidence after a rough first few weeks of the season. Josh Fogg is gone; now sitting in the Reds bullpen.

The Rox have now had to call up their 2006 first round pick (No. 2 overall) Greg Reynolds to fill a rotation spot, and acquire a guy who wasn’t even good enough to make the Royals rotation, Jorge de la Rosa to fill another spot.

3) Do you guys miss ex-Met Kaz Matsui?

In short: Definitely!

His speed was a huge asset. It disrupted pitchers and could change a game. It caused havoc on the basepaths, where he stole 32 bags. Matsui hit.388 with 2-outs and runners in scoring position in 2007. He was clutch and the Rockies are missing a clutch bat right now, especially when it comes to prolonging an inning to get Matt Holliday to the plate.

At second base, the Rockies have gone through rookie Jayson Nix, they tried Clint Barmes there (who probably would have stuck had it not been for Tulo’s injury forcing him to shortstop) and now they’ve tried Jeff Baker, Omar Quintanilla and Jonathan Herrera there. It would certainly be nice to have Kazmat back.

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