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Manny Ramirez Dealt To Chicago White Sox

According to a number of media outlets, including ESPN, MLB Network and SI, the Los Angeles Dodgers will send Manny Ramirez to the Chicago White Sox on Monday as a straight waiver claim, receiving zero compensation for the outfielder.

The White Sox will be responsible for nearly four million dollars in salary and deferred money due Ramirez, according to SI late Sunday night.

Last year, the Sox claimed Alex Rios and received him in similar fashion. Rios has been better for the Sox this year than he had been in Toronto for the past couple years, but is still a questionable gamble at his salary and production.

This move, however, clearly indicates that the Sox are going for broke with an expiring roster. Paul Konerko, AJ Pierzynski, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel are just a few of the names that might not be back on the South Side of Chicago next year: eating a lot of money is a calculated move by Sox GM Kenny Williams to jump-start the struggling Sox.

The Sox opted to not bring back Jim Thome after last year, who signed for $1.5 million with Minnesota. They also allowed Jermaine Dye to walk away as a free agent; Dye is still unemployed. However, the DH-by-committee approach has been a failure in Chicago, as Mark Kotsay, Jones and other haven’t been able to consistently get on base or generate offense.

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Patience Help New York Mets Tame Stephen Strasburg, but K-Rod Blows Save

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, it is patience that gives a baseball team confidence.

The New York Mets were able to tame Washington’s uber prospect Stephen Strasburg in his shortest start of his young Major League career on Saturday, even if many of the near 40,000 crowd had left by the time the Nats walked off with the victory in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Strasburg was as good as advertised in many respects, but the Mets were able to build the 21-year-old’s pitch count up to 96 and force him out after just five innings. If he missed with his fastball, the Mets would make him throw another one, then another, and then one more. Patience was the key.

Okay, “tame” might not be the most accurate term to describe how the Mets figured out the rookie, but Strasburg did throw more pitches than ever before while striking out the fewest batters in his sixth big league start.

Still, he hit triple digits on his fastball on a sunny and humid day in the nation’s capital, and he had a lively changeup that kept the Mets guessing. But Strasburg gave up four hits and three walks, allowing two runs and three walks and leaving on the end of a 2-0 deficit.

Strasburg had pitched into the sixth inning in each of his previous five starts, and in three of these games he did not walk a single guy. He wasn’t quite that good on Saturday, but it is important to note than once again he received very little run support.

In the last four games Strasburg has pitched, the Nationals have scored just three runs combined, including the two today.

With no help from his offense, and another dominant outing from journeyman knuckleballer R.A Dickey, Strasburgh was fortunate to pick up a no decision and remain at 2-2 on the year. Dickey should have been 7-1 and he would have been had K-Rod not blown the save.

As nasty as Strasburg’s was, New York’s batters were able to lay off fastballs away and breaking balls inside at Nationals Park, capitalising instead on patient at-bats and occasional mistakes.

Although he hit 100 MPH on his third pitch of the game, the Mets were able to watch a number of his harder offerings early to force the pitch count up. In many respects, the outing was a carbon copy of his second start against the Indians on June 13 (5.1 IP, 95 pitches, 2H, 1ER, 5BB, 8Ks).

Alex Cora, the second batter Strasburg faced, passed on three consecutive 99-MPH fastballs away to draw a five-pitch walk, and Ike Davis had a pair of good at-bats against the rookie. He was able to lay off a trio of 92-MPH changeups outside to draw a first-inning walk and he fouled off a high-80s changeup and low-80s curve in the third before singling on a fastball to right.

Josh Thole, too, looked good against S.S. He fouled off five-straight pitches before drawing a 10-pitch walk in the first inning and he was able to lay off a pair of curveballs down and in before doubling the Mets lead on a fastball up the middle. Jason Bay had given the Mets the lead in the first inning when he ripped a run-scoring double the other way.

After 37 pitches in the first inning, Strasburg was able to get through the second on just 11 pitches. But with the exception of Angel Pagan—who made three outs on a combined six pitches—the Mets put good swings on the ball and showed exceptional discipline against a very good hurler.

Strasburg started mixing things up more after he had been through the order a couple times, and this seemed to handcuff the Mets a little. Strasburg only threw a fastball four times in the fourth inning and then three times in the fifth—a total of seven times in 22 pitches—but even though he put up zeros he wasn’t on the mound to pitch the sixth after topping his previous high pitch count of 95.

Strasburg wasn’t terrible by any means, and it may even be a stretch to say that he was simply average on Saturday. He pitched well, but the Mets took a good approach. When they were able to take pitches, they showed that Strasburg was human at times when he was forced to challenge hitters on hitters’ counts.

Everyone forgets that Strasburg is just that…human. All of the hype and accolades will probably be well-deserved by the end of the year, but teams will eventually figure him out. Strasburg will have bad days, and if things conspire against him he will lose many more games, probably like he deserved to today.

On a wider note though, this game could be important for the Mets. They need to remain patient at the plate, take pitches, and select their zones. If they can do it against someone like Strasburg, they can do it against else they’re likely to face before the All-Star break. It was the right approach to take today, and you could certainly make the case that it’s the right approach for every game.

The free-swinging Mets hopefully learned a lesson today, and that can only be positive for the rest of the year. The result may not have been what they deserved, but that is baseball.

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Will the Real Casey McGehee Please Stand Up?

Casey McGehee delivered a breakout performance for the Milwaukee Brewers last season batting .301 with 16 homers and 66 RBI in just 355 at-bats.

McGehee then silenced his doubters by batting .300 with nine home runs and 41 RBI through the first two months of 2010.

His bat has since cooled, however, forcing fantasy managers to question McGehee’s true worth.

To completely understand McGehee’s value, let’s examine his relatively unknown past.

Drafted in 2003 as a 10th round pick, McGehee played first base, second base, third base and shortstop during his six-year minor league career. He also caught a total of 93 games at three different levels.

McGehee displayed doubles power in the minors and enjoyed his best season at Triple-A in 2008 with the Iowa Cubs (a team who’s home games I attended regularly as a scorekeeper for Baseball Info Solutions).

McGehee’s bat was a big reason for the I-Cubs success that season, as he hit .296 with 12 homers and 92 RBI in 550 plate appearances. Still, his future as a big league hitter appeared non-existent.

A September call up ensued, but the Cubs were forced to let him go at season’s end. The Brewers gave him a look during spring training the following year and he didn’t disappoint as he made the team as an infield reserve.

The former Fresno State Bulldog found himself in a platoon at second base with Craig Counsell by June and earned regular playing time at third base soon after.

639 at-bats later, the now 27-year-old McGehee has 28 career homers and 116 RBI in 189 games with the Brewers.

Because of his recent struggles (.209 average, three homers, nine RBI in June), fantasy managers are beginning to question his true value.

After some quick number crunching, it has become obvious to me that now is a great time to buy-low on Casey McGehee. Here’s why:

McGehee’s 2009 rookie campaign was viewed by some as a fluke and for good reason. In six minor league seasons, he hit .279 and never topped 12 homers in a single year.

Comparing his 2009 totals to his numbers through three months in 2010 suggests his success this year has been legit.

2009 394 58 16 66 .301
2010 316 34 12 50 .271


The biggest difference from last season is his drop in batting average, which can be explained by his 14.7 percent line drive rate (21.6 percent last year).

His 2009 BABIP (.330) has dropped to .288 this season, but should begin to rise as he breaks free from his recent slump. This will boost McGehee’s batting average as well, though he’s likely more of a .280 hitter.

McGehee’s walk and strikeout rates are both respectable and in line with his 2009 totals, as are his HR/FB and above-average contact rates.

At his current pace (over a conservative total of 550 at-bats), McGehee is on his way to a 66 run, 23 HR, and 97 RBI reason. Still eligible at second base, those numbers are extremely valuable considering top two-baggers Chase Utley and Dustin Pedroia recently hit the DL.

Looking forward to 2011, McGehee is a definite top 10 option at a dwindling third base position. In fact, you could argue he’ll be ranked as high as sixth among players at the hot corner.

Planning a trip to see Casey McGehee and the rest of the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park? Check out StadiumJourney.com for insider info on local transportation, nearby restaurants, and an in-depth review of Miller Park.


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Carlos Zambrano MUST Be Released By Chicago Cubs

On Monday afternoon, Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry announced that starting/relief/not-really pitcher Carlos Zambrano would enter some form of treatment program and would be placed on baseball’s “restricted list” until after the All-Star break.

Restricted? Does he have to trade his boxers for briefs for the next three weeks?

My suggestion is that the Cubs treat Zambrano the way he treated his teammates on Saturday, and the way he’s been treating his fans’ hopes for the last four years: open the door, kick, close door, deadbolt.

Zambrano is a wasted roster spot and, even worse, an epic disaster of a contract. While it seemed impossible to give away Milton Bradley last year, his deal was small enough that there might be another albatross out there; Seattle had their own mistake in Carlos Silva, and the Cubs struck a deal.

But Zambrano’s salary is comparable to baseball’s top-ten. There isn’t a team on the planet that wants a guy throwing garbage for $18 million a year.

If Tom Ricketts is sincere in his wanting to build a championship team at Wrigley Field before another 100 years expires, then trading dead contracts for other dead contracts isn’t what that work-in-progress should be. The Cubs got lucky with Silva; lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place.

Unless, of course, you’re past your prime, a head-case, or bad. Then your agent will get you a $10 million annual salary from Hendry a couple times each November.

If you wouldn’t urinate in your baby’s bottle and hand it to the child, why would Ricketts continue to expose these rookies to Zambrano?

Ricketts needs to separate the emerging new core of his team—Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner—from the overpaid feces formerly known as an ace. Additionally, sending him to the minors would only subject future generations of potential Cubs to this trash of a baseball player.

Buy him out, and let him go rot somewhere. Enough is enough.

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Buy or Sell: Don’t Let Scott Kazmir’s Sparkling June Fool You

While Angels’ southpaw Scott Kazmir struggled with a 7.20 and 5.97 ERA in April and May respectively, the 26-year-old has seemingly salvaged his season with a deceiving June.

In 23 innings (four starts) this month, Kazmir is 4-0 with a 2.35 ERA. What most fail to see is his 1.35 WHIP and 13/15 K/BB ratio, both of which raise red flags.

Fantasy managers have been gushing over Kazmir’s stuff since he was seemingly stolen from the Mets in the 2004 Victor Zambrano trade . The then Tampa Bay pitcher made his major league debut later that season and has disappointed ever since.

In 943 career innings, the 2002 first-round pick owns a walk rate of 4.09. After showing signs of improvement in recent years, Kazmir has left fantasy managers disgruntled once again, posting a 4.58 BB/9 in 72 2/3 innings this season.

Further, Kazmir’s career WHIP is a whopping 1.39, a number that will continue to hamper the Texas native. His Kyle Davis-like WHIP of 1.51 this season makes him useless in most leagues.

Kazmir’s high strikeout totals, which used to be a strength, have now become a weakness. After topping out with a 10.41 K/9 in 2007, Kazmir’s strikeout rate has dropped to 9.81 and 7.15 in recent years, before plummeting to a below league average 6.07 in 2010.

As if that’s not enough to scare fantasy managers away, Kazmir’s xFIP (5.37) and declining average fastball velocity suggest his fantasy value should be no greater than Felipe Paulino’s .

With five-plus major league seasons under his belt, (only two of which he’s topped 160 innings) it’s safe to say Scott Kazmir is one of the most overrated players in fantasy baseball. If you’ve been the unfortunate owner of the former pitching prodigy, deal him away for the freshest mound of cow pies you can find. They won’t win you any games, but at least this pile of dung won’t send your ERA and WHIP through the roof.



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Closer’s Corner, June 21: Brian Fuentes, Huston Street, Alfredo Simon and More

If you read this article posted back in March, you know why it’s important to keep an eye on your league’s waiver wire as save opportunities get shuffled around major league bullpens.

• Just last week, Diamondbacks closer Chad Qualls (who saved 24 games in 2009) was relieved of his duties after converting just 12 of his 16 save opportunities with an 8.46 ERA in 22 1/3 innings thus far.

Teammate Aaron Heilman earned the four-out save Saturday night against Detroit, but not before allowing two hits and a run to score. The 31-year-old, who has 11 saves in his eight-year career, has allowed a run in three of his last five appearances.

While Heilman is now the favorite to close games in the desert, he’ll be on a short leash. All closers have value, but this one comes with an elevated risk.

• Angels’ closer Brian Fuentes allowed three runs on four hits and a walk in a non-save situation Saturday against the Cubs. Through 17 1/3 innings this season, Fuentes has allowed five homers and owns an embarrassing 6.23 ERA.

Despite this, Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia issued a vote of confidence to the struggling closer. From the Orange County Register :

“I don’t think you’re going to look at a reliever’s ERA and grade him out on how he’s doing – especially in a short relief role like Brian’s,” Scioscia said. “A couple bad outings and it’s going to take a long time to get that ERA back where it needs to be.”

Fernando Rodney is the guy to own should Scioscia change his mind, as he converted all five of his save opportunities in place of the injured Fuentes earlier this season. Rodney’s peripherals , however, suggest he’s been the receiver of some good luck.

Fantasy managers should keep a close eye on this situation, but Fuentes remains the best long-term option for saves.

• As of Friday night, Manuel Corpas owned a sparkling 2.37 ERA and had converted nine of 11 save opportunities for Colorado this season. After allowing eight runs in two appearances this weekend against Milwaukee, however, his ERA has ballooned to 4.19. Despite this, Rockies’ manager Jim Tracy said he wouldn’t rush Huston Street back into the closer’s role upon his expected return from the DL on Tuesday.

Still, it’s expected that Corpas will relinquish the ninth-inning duties after Street turns in a few good outings. Street, who turns 27 in August, has recorded 129 saves and a 2.91 ERA since his major league debut in 2005, and is the guy to own looking forward.

• Orioles’ reliever David Hernandez converted on his first two save opportunities in Alfredo Simon ’s absence, but failed to record his third after allowing two runs on four hits and a walk with a 2-1 lead Friday night against the Padres.

Simon (who is 7-for-8 in save opportunities this year) closed Saturday night and appears to be the favorite in Baltimore from here on out. While Simon (just like Heilman ) has value, he comes with a great deal of risk.

First of all, he pitches for baseball’s worst team and therefore won’t be provided with many save opportunities. Second, his 13/9 K/BB ratio in 15 innings thus far suggests his 3.60 ERA isn’t exactly legit. While Simon does feature a mid-90’s fastball/mid-80’s splitter combo which has produced a ground ball rate of 61.7 percent, he doesn’t have the typical swing-and-miss stuff you’d expect from a closer. The 29-year-old is the guy to own, but his long-term value is quite cloudy.

Here’s the updated Closer’s Corner as of Monday. The second column lists the current closer, while the third column features a backup option worth owning.

Baltimore N. Feliz D. Hernandez
Boston J. Papelbon D. Bard
New York (AL) M. Rivera  
Tampa Bay R. Soriano  
Toronto K. Gregg  
Chicago (AL) B. Jenks J.Putz/M. Thornton
Cleveland K. Wood C. Perez
Detroit J. Valverde  
Kansas City J. Soria  
Minnesota J. Rauch  
Los Angeles B. Fuentes F. Rodney
Oakland A. Bailey  
Seattle D. Aardsma B. League
Texas N. Feliz  
Atlanta B. Wagner  
Florida L. Nunez  
New York (NL ) F. Rodriguez  
Philadelphia B. Lidge J. Contreras
Washington M. Capps  
Chicago (NL ) C. Marmol  
Cincinnati F. Cordero  
Houston M. Lindstrom B. Lyon
Milwaukee J. Axford T. Hoffman
Pittsburgh O. Dotel E. Meek
St. Louis R. Franklin  
Arizona A. Heilman C. Qualls
Colorado M. Corpas H. Street
Dodgers J. Broxton  
Padres H. Bell  
Giants B. Wilson  


Be sure to check back next Monday for another Closer’s Corner update!


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What’s Wrong With Aramis Ramirez?

While waiver wire gems such as Jose Bautista (18 HRs, 45 RBI) and Carlos Silva (8 wins, 2.93 ERA) are unexpectedly dominating fantasy leagues, perennial All-Stars such as Mark Teixeira (.211 BA) and Dan Haren (4.83 ERA) are struggling mightily.

The most perplexing case, however, is that of Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez . In 178 at-bats this season, the soon-to-be 32-year-old sports an embarrassing .168/.232/.285 triple-slash that even Mario Mendoza wouldn’t claim.

Normally one of the top sluggers at his position, (32 HRs, 105 RBI, .302 BA per season from ‘04 to ‘08) Ramirez has just 11 extra-base hits and 22 RBI through nine weeks of play this season. Some of this can be attributed to a BABIP (.189) that ranks second to last among batters with at least 180 plate appearances.

Another likely reason for Ramirez’s ineffectiveness is the sore left thumb that’s been bothering him for the last few weeks. The former Pirates farm hand has been in and out of the lineup recently while nursing the injury, which has disrupted his timing and rhythm at the plate.

While Ramirez is taking walks at an 8.1 percent clip, (7.3 percent career) his alarmingly high strikeout rate of 25.1 percent this season has overshadowed a respectable career mark of 15.5 percent.

Ramirez’s plate discipline stats, however, just cause more confusion. In 2009, Ramirez hacked at 31.5 percent of pitches off the plate. This season, that number has actually dropped to 29.9 percent.

Ramirez’s swinging strike rate is up slightly, from 9.0 and 9.4 percent in recent years to 10.4 percent in 2010, while his contact rate appears to be heading in the wrong direction as well, falling to 78.6 percent this season after topping 80 percent in each season since 2004.

The most eye-popping stat, however, lies within his batted ball totals. Ramirez has always been a fly-ball hitter, (45.1 percent career) but his 59.9 percent mark this season is the second highest among batters with at least 180 plate appearances. Further, his HR/FB rate is a shockingly low 6.1 percent this season (13.4 career).

Not coincidentally, Ramirez’s line drive rate is down to 15.3 percent this season, compared to 20.4 and 21.3 in ‘08 and ‘09 respectively.

Ramirez’s sore thumb is obviously effecting his ability to generate power, but it doesn’t explain his ineptitude before the injury occurred.

His three hits (one a HR) and two RBI Saturday night against Houston gave fantasy managers hope, but he followed it up with an 0-for-3 performance on Sunday before sitting out Monday’s contest at Pittsburgh.

If there’s any reason for optimism, it’s due to the fact that Ramirez tends to warm up as the summer months progress. A career .275 hitter with a HR/AB rate of 22.7 prior to the All-Star Break, Ramirez bats .290 in the second half, going deep once every 17.8 at-bats.

Of course, none of this matters if Ramirez doesn’t get healthy. A short DL stint to clear his mind and heal his thumb may be necessary.

While there’s no guarantee Ramirez will become productive anytime soon, his value is at an all-time low. If you can afford to carry the dead weight for a few weeks, make a move and wait it out. Sooner or later, his .189 average on balls in play will rise, and with it will come premium power at a surprisingly scarce position.


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2010 MLB Draft Reaction: New York Mets Pass on “Top” Arms, Sign Matt Harvey

So much for the New York Mets taking the best player available in the 2010 draft. So much for them taking a collegiate bat.

The Mets passed on Chris Sale, Zack Cox, Josh Sale, Deck McGwire, and Michael Choice in favor of Matt Harvey, a 6’4″ right-handed pitcher out of UNC.

The Mets had the coin to spend on a guy over their slot, so it seems odd that they went with a pitcher who wasn’t universally expected to go inside the top half of the first round.

Harvey was taken in the third round by the Angels in 2007, but he has developed so much since then. He is the ace of the staff and a legitimate innings eater for the Tar Heels down at Chapel Hill. Still, this isn’t 2007 when he was Baseball America’s top high school prospect at Fitch.

He threw 96 innings in 2010, compiling an 8-3 record with an ERA slightly above 3.00. More impressive is Harvey’s near 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, having logged 102 Ks and just 35 walks. That’s pretty good over 14 starts when you add in the fact that he throws a sinking fastball that routinely hits 94MPH.

Harvey reportedly has a sweeping slider and a plus changeup, and he is close to incorporating a curveball to give him a nice four-pitch selection. He hasn’t thrown it for a few years though, and even when it was his primary out pitch in high school, it wasn’t that great.

He’s another 21-year-old who measures in at more than 200 pounds (6’4”, 225 pounds) and his durability and ability to maintain the velocity on his mid-90s fastball late into games had him rising back into the minds of teams looking for a pitcher in the first round.

He has lowered his ERA by two full runs this season, being used exclusively out of the rotation while cutting back on his walks and logging more innings than ever before.

Alex Nelson of Amazin’ Avenue reports a 65 percent ground ball rate based on his heavy fastball, but says Harvey occasionally throws the ball across his body and has some control issues. Still, with those elite rates, expect a short stint in the Minors before a fast track to the Big Show.

His control will be the key to his success in the Minor Leagues, and he will need to work out a few kinks in his delivery if he is to prove that his low walk totals in 2009 really were legit. He averaged five walks per nine innings in ’09 and 6.3 in 2008.

He received All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball in his freshman year two seasons ago in 2008, when he held batters to a stingy .214 batting average and won the most games (seven) by any UNC rookie since 2004.

As a sophomore in 2009 he went 7-2 in 21 appearances (13 starts) and made a pair of starts in the NCAA Tournament, according to tarheelblue.com.

I rated him as the No. 3 pitcher likely to make a quick and successful move to the majors, which you can read about here, but while it’s very much a safe choice, I can’t help but think it could have been a little stronger.

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B/R Exclusive Interview: New York Mets Legend Mookie Wilson Remembers ’86 Fondly

Mookie Wilson is a household name in New York. He won a World Championship with the Mets in 1986 and played 10 of his 13 professional seasons in Flushing. Second on the Mets all-time franchise list for triples and stolen bases, being surpassed only by Jose Reyes, Mookie became part of one of the most famous plays in the history of the game when his dribbler down the right field line got between Billy Buckner’s legs.

I had the chance to speak with Mookie about that memorable Game Six victory, his new role with the club, the 2010 First Year Player Draft, the farm system, and the current state of the franchise.

Mookie turned 54 years old earlier this year, but the moment he hit that slow-rolling ball towards first base is a moment that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

“Oh boy, there’s so much that did happen in that game,” the South Carolina native said in a nostalgic voice. “It’s a topic of conversation everywhere I go and it feels like just yesterday.

“My memory of that game is very vivid actually, because it’s such a talked about topic. The one thing I do remember is how we felt when we were in the process of losing that game and that thought was going to wash out everything that we had accomplished that whole year and that was what was on my mind and everybody’s mind.

“When events started to unfold and things happened the way they did it was almost that we were destined to win this, because we really should have lost that game. We were very lucky.

“There were so many things that even happened before that ground ball. The wild pitch, the four guys before me who all had two strikes on them, it all set the stage for a situation that every kid wants to be in, and I just happened to be there and I was just thinking ‘don’t make the last out,’ you know, ‘don’t be that guy.'”

As Mets fans will tell you fondly, Mookie fought off several tough pitches to stay alive before forever etching his name into history with his ground ball that got through Bucker’s five-hole.

What many fans don’t know is that right field umpire Ed Montague picked up the ball, marked it with a small ‘X’ and gave it to the team’s traveling secretary Arthur Richman, who joined the celebrations in the clubhouse at Shea Stadium.

“I was excited, I didn’t know what I was doing really,” Mookie said with a laugh. “First of all I couldn’t believe what had just happened, but I took the ball from him, signed it and gave it back to him. At that point it really didn’t mean anything to me, it was all about winning the ballgame.”

From there, the history of the ball saw it making its way not to Cooperstown but instead to a pair of private collectors; firstly to actor Charlie Sheen and then to songwriter Seth Swirsky.

“Arthur called me the day or the week he was going to put it up for auction for charity and asked if I minded and I said ‘Na, go right ahead. I gave you that ball, you do what you like with it,'” Mookie added. “He thought enough of me to ask me first and I guess he was giving me first opportunity to get the ball back.

“Man, if I had known the value of the ball at that time though. I was never really that sentimental about that stuff, but I told him to go right ahead and when I heard how much it went for I said ‘boy, you’re the smartest kid in the world, Arthur.'”

Mookie was reunited with the ball back in 2006 when he attended the special 20th anniversary celebrations at Citi Field. He also met with the ball’s new owner Swirsky, who loaned the ball to the club for display in Citi Field’s new Hall of Fame and Musuem.

“I’ve seen the ball a couple of times, but to actually see it and be around it really is a great feeling. It’s almost like you touch the ball and you travel back in time. It’s a piece of memorabilia that will always bring back memories…where you were, what you were doing, and that, to me, is the centerpiece of the whole museum.

“Now I might be a little biased because I had a personal involvement in it, but when I went to see it again it was like walking back through time.”

The museum has attracted positive comments throughout the Mets community, especially from fans who were vocal about the club’s apparent lack of history when the stadium was first opened in 2009. Click here for a behind the scenes tour. Among its biggest fans is the Mets former outfielder who says it was worth taking the time over and doing correctly.

“As important as we thought it was, the management probably wanted to make sure the ballpark was in working order. It was a criticism of mine too, I’ll be honest, but I also understood that there were things were more pressing. Now that they have the museum together it is really good. It was worth the wait.”

Mookie is now back working with the Mets as an outfield and baserunning coach in the minor leagues, fresh off taking some personal time after his managerial stint down in Brooklyn with the single-A Cyclones.

“Once you’re a baseball player, you’re pretty much a baseball player for life and you always have to be involved,” he said. His love for the game is still evident in every word.

He was approached by the Wilpons, Omar Minaya, and other people within the organization during the offseason about working with the club to instill what he called a “new culture” down on the farm.

“They said that this position was open and that they really needed to focus on their defense and baserunning this season and that this was part of the new culture that they were going to develop and they wanted to know if I wanted to be part of it.”

With his affection for the club and his history with the Mets, Mookie was all too happy to accept the offer. He said a few new players have been brought into the system since he stepped away from the game three years ago, but that the depth throughout all of the Mets Minor League teams is very promising.

“We have a lot of talent at the lower levels and it’s unbelievable. We have power and speed and pitching at the lower levels—it’s going to take a couple of years to see that, but I think that’s where the patience and development is going to come in. We do have players that are going to be ready to able to help the big club, no ifs, ands, or buts about that, it’s just a matter now of the development of those players.

“In terms of depth, we are very deep with potential outfielders and with regards to the infield we have guys who are going to be ready to step in and who are going to be able to perform at the Major League. I’m not a pitching guy but it appears we have guys who are on their way, so we are deep in a number of areas.

“Everybody knows Fernando Martinez and if not for injuries here right now he might be in New York at this point. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is in AA right now and he is a very intriguing athlete, he can run, he has a good arm, he has power, he hits from the left side and even though he can play a lot of positions he is very good at center.

“We have another kid in AAA who I like right now is [Jesus] Feliciano. He’s a very, very good ballplayer, very complete, very smart, and he’s leading that league in hitting at this point. We have other guys who are coming up, a local kid who is very high on the chart called Carlos Guzman and we have a guy at Port St. Lucie called Sean Ratliff, just to name a couple of guys. We also have guys at A-level who are going to be very, very good ball players, but they have some ways to go.”

With all eyes centered on the MLB draft in Secaucus, N.J. Monday, rumors have been building about who the Mets will add to their farm system. Michael Choice, Chris Sale, Yasmani Pomeranz, and Zack Cox have all been mentioned in passing, but Mookie says that with the depth the Mets already have, they will likely be drafting the best player available rather than trying to fill a specific need.

“Because we are pretty deep in the organization that they may go for the best available athlete at the time,” he said. Once they are in the system, how fast they progress through will depend on their skills, maturity, and circumstance. Take Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada as examples, Mookie says.

“It’s going to be a matter of need and there are a lot of variables to take into account, such as the age and youth of a person. The one kid who was up there already but came back to AAA because of his age was Ruben Tejada, who is a very good player. Ike was taken up because of need and he is doing quite well.

“We have to see what the big club needs and whether it’s going to be detrimental or advantageous to the player, because it’s not always the ‘now’ situation, we have to worry about the future of the ballplayer.”

Still, with all of the problems in the rotation and the lack of a runaway favorite in the NL East, Mookie says there is a lot to be happy about in New York right now.

“There are some encouraging signs, but I think people will agree that they are inconsistent. There is a big disparity between playing at home and playing on the road and I think that some of it comes from the attitude of being relaxed at home in a new ballpark. On the road we just don’t know.

“The inconsistency is the issue right now. I wish I could say what is causing the inconsistency, but I’m not there on a day to day basis but once we can straighten that out, we’ll be pretty good. If we can hold the fort until we get completely healthy, that should make the world of difference.

“Right now we will look around July to gauge where we are. It’s still early but every day wasted is a day you don’t get back.”

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The Remarkable Story Of the Ball That Got Through Billy Buckner’s Legs

“A little roller up along first…behind the bag. It gets through Buckner. Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it.”

It’s a call that Mets fans have heard hundreds of times, and it’s a call that never, ever gets old. It’s the same call that brings Red Sox fans close to tears, and it’s the call that reinforced the Curse of the Bambino.

Mets fans of a certain age will tell you exactly where they were when Mookie Wilson’s groundball down the line went between Billy Buckner’s legs, and for people in New York, it is one of the most defining plays in the club’s 48-year history.

ESPN voted it as the second most memorable moment of the last 25 years (losing out only to the 1980 Miracle on Ice victory in Lake Placid which topped the 100-strong list) and the Mets voted it as their No. 1 historic moment of all time.

Lost in the excitement of Ray Knight hopping and jumping towards home plate on that October night in 1986 was the ball that created history. As the fans celebrated and the Red Sox filed away, right field umpire Ed Montague snatched it up from the floor, took a pen, and marked a small ‘X’ near the seam. Who would have known that some 24 years later it would be on display for fans everywhere to enjoy.

The baseball that Mookie hit—yes, the baseball—is now on display in the New York Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, and I had the chance to speak with the owner of the famous ball, L.A.-based songwriter Seth Swirsky.
“It was picked up in the outfield by the right field umpire and he put an ‘x’ on it and gave it to the Mets traveling secretary Arthur Richman,” Seth said.

“Arthur then went into the clubhouse and gave it to Mookie and said ‘This is the one’ and Mookie kissed it, everybody kissed it, and there is a tobacco stain, and there was just this big celebration, and the Mookie wrote on it ‘To Arthur, the ball won it for us.'”


After holding onto the ball for several years, Richman eventually put it up for auction in 1992.

Tina Mannix, the senior director of marketing at the New York Mets, said: “Arthur got the ball from one of the umpires and Mookie actually told me that Arthur called him to ask for his permission to sell it and give the money to charity.
I had always heard, ‘Grr Arthur Richman sold it.’ I never knew that he had sold it for charity and I never knew that he had asked Mookie’s permission to, which I think was great.”

Just to be sure that the ball up for auction was the “Buckner Ball”—as it came to be known—Arthur also wrote a letter to verify the ball’s authenticity. Dated May 26, 1992, he wrote: “This is the actual baseball, hit by Mookie Wilson, which went between Bill Buckner’s legs in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox at Shea Stadium Flushing, New York.

“Ed Montague, who was the right field umpire for that game, picked up the baseball. He later presented it to me, saying that he thought I would appreciate having it more than he would…This baseball is 100 percent authentic.”

The ball was eventually snapped up by actor Charlie Sheen for $93,500, and the star held on to the ball for almost eight years until he decided to part with a lot of his sporting memorabilia collection in 2000.

Seth said that when the ball was originally up for auction in 1992, he wasn’t collecting at that point. He said he didn’t think he even read about the auction. “I wasn’t a collector then, I was a songwriter,” he admitted.
“I started writing letters to baseball players in the mid ’90s for the fun of it to show my young son one day and they became my first best-selling book called Baseball Letters.
“In the midst of writing these letters I would find out different things about the players and I just got into the history of baseball in a big way and before I knew it I was bidding in an auction here and trading there.

“And then before I knew it I was getting these fantastic artifacts…Reggie Jackson’s third home run ball from Game Six when he hit three in a row, the letter Joe Landis wrote to Shoeless Joe Jackson forever banning him from playing baseball again for his ‘throwing of the World Series’ in 1919…”
That is where he was in April 2000 when Charlie Sheen was changing his life a little bit and decided to rid himself of his memorabilia. Swirski stayed up late into the night to bid on the ball and he came away with the high bid, well after 3 a.m. Eastern time.
“I’m a kid that grew up in Great Neck on Long Island. I was at the ’69 World Series.

“I was a kid that went to camp and used to bring a transistor radio and played shortstop on my camp team and right in between each play the whole summer of ’69 I’d pick up the transistor radio and hear ‘Al Weis hit a home run’ or ‘Tom Seaver struck out the side’ all the great Mets from ’69.
“So I’m a diehard longtime fan. I went to Shea Stadium, I went to the World Series at nine years old in ’69, and I really grew up with it. So for me to end up with it was a tremendously humbling experience and I was very glad to be able to lend it to the Mets, and I’m so, so happy that fans are getting a good feeling from it.”

Seth reunited Mookie Wilson with the ball when he brought it to Shea Stadium in 2006 for the 20th anniversary of the ’86 World Series victory and he said he had no hesitations about loaning the ball to the Mets for the inaugural year of the new museum.

As Eric Strohl, the senior director of collections at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, said: “As far as that moment in history goes, it was a pretty drastic part of Mets history. I would say that probably ranks up there as one of the most important moments in all of Mets history.”

While the ball may be seen as ‘priceless’ to some Mets fans, there is—like most things in life—a price attached if you dig deep enough. Seth actually got the ball at the bargain price of $63,945, almost one-third cheaper than what Sheen had paid for it some eight years earlier, and now it has rocketed in value.

While Seth and the Mets refused to disclose how much they agreed the ball was worth when they signed documents to have the ball on display at Citi Field, Seth said it is fair to say it has increased in value multiple times over.

“I’d say it’s worth between $500,000 and $1,000,000 if you look at some of the prices of equally-valued things…Babe Ruth’s home run at the very first All-Star Game in 1933 went for  $900,000, Mickey Mantle’s first home run ball almost $1,000,000, Mark McGwire’s home run ball—although it was overpriced at the time—went for $3.2 million.

“But for me, I want to share my pieces, I don’t want them hidden away. I just want
to make sure they are secure. I see myself as a guardian, someone who has a responsibility to keep these pieces in good shape. This is real, real history here and it’s
my job to protect it.
“I always imagine a nine-year-old kid walking through the new Mets museum with his dad and his dad saying to hi, ‘Let me tell you about that game.’ For me, that’s the Bobby Thompson game that my dad would tell me about. And I’m just imagining that kid being thrilled, and so any way I can give back to the Mets makes me completely happy.”

It’s not just fans who get a kick out of seeing the ball. One day, Seth was being interviewed on the field at Dodger stadium by legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, the man who made the now-famous call of that World Series moment.

Seth decided to bring the ball along to show Vin, and before he knew it he was surrounded by players and clubhouse staff all hoping to get a glimpse of the ball.

“Vin Scully takes me out on the Dodgers’ field and he’s asking me about my different books, and at the end of the interview I said ‘Can I ask you a question?’ He was taken by surprise, and I pulled out the Mookie ball because he was the one who made that famous call on TV…’a little roller up along first…’
“All of the players were on the field working out—it was the Marlins against the Dodgers—and Mike Lowell comes over. Then Bill Robinson, who was coaching first base for the Mets that night, comes over, and soon everybody is over there wanting to touch the ball.
“These players were 10 years old in 1986, 12, 13 years old playing in Little League, but they all came over when they were supposed to be going through their routines on the field. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“To them, that game [in 1986] was that same Bobby Thompson home run game; that was the shot heard around the world of their generation. That was the moment that was most crystallized. People could talk about Joe Carter’s home run that ended the World Series in 1992, but I don’t think it has the same kind of clout.

“It’s Toronto, it’s not New York City. It was the Mets-Red Sox. It had everything made for folklore. So I think that’s why it has an ‘otherness’ to it. And I mean, it was the ball.

“It’s never the glove. The game’s called base ball. It’s about the ball. It’s always about the ball. It’s never about the bat. The bat is a great piece, don’t get me wrong, the shoes Buckner was wearing was incredible, the glove, all of it’s good. I don’t denigrate anybody’s piece of memorabilia that goes to the play, but it’s about the ball.

“This ball mean something to me. I like things that tell a story. My heart is with the Mookie ball because I grew up a Mets fan. All that stuff about Buckner saying he had the original ball was bitter grapes. He was still very stung by it. How could he have the ball? I didn’t see him run out into right field to get it. Did you?

“The more that sees it, the merrier.”

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