By Mike Steffanos
In an article in today's Daily News, Bob Raissman dons his cranky hat and takes the Mets to task for going overboard in trying to protect the reputation of top prospect Lastings Milledge. Raissman is right on the money in condemning the silliness of the Mets official who suggested the team was considering suing Adam Rubin (unnamed in the story) for libel for saying that Milledge's "flamboyance" had made him unpopular in the International League after he sparked a bench-clearing brawl with a rough slide against the Braves' farm club.
This is the type of cartoonish strong-arm tactic the Mets have resorted to all too often in the past. Why they insist on making themselves look foolish in matters like this repeatedly is a question for which I have no answer. As a Mets fan I feel vaguely embarrassed by this, and that's an all-too familiar feeling over the years. The organization is showing signs of being run more professionally these days, but this is evidence that elements of the tragic past still linger. Someone from the Mets should be man enough, and smart enough, to apologize to Adam Rubin for even making this ridiculous suggestion.
Somehow, though, Raissman carries through to finding fault with Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez for not spending more time on the air discussing the baggage that Milledge carries with him:
When Milledge made his Shea debut Tuesday night, both voices were toeing the company line. The theme, coming from the top down, was of a bright tomorrow. Any baggage Milledge carried into Shea was to be ignored. On a night in which a potentially big and important part of the Mets future was unveiled, the past took a backseat.
So did the truth.
Then again, both Hernandez and Cohen probably already knew how certain members of the Mets hierarchy had gone wacko - even issuing threats - to anyone with the temerity to shed some real light on Milledge. Once they ran out of nasty and stopped screaming, Mets ownership must have realized they had nothing to worry about. Most of the local media had already rolled over for Fred and Jeff Wilpon, heaping platitudes on Milledge.
Either that, or they got hung up on the smoke-screen issue of the rather large cross Milledge was wearing around his neck.
So, there was hardly a word or whisper about how Milledge, during spring training, often had his watch set on "Pedro time," taking the star trip and arriving at the ballpark late. What about those legal issues Milledge encountered when he was drafted by the Mets in 2003? They were a figment of some reporter's imagination, right?
Okay, Bob, so let me get this straight. You feel like the conversation in the booth should have gone something like this:
Gary: And here comes Lastings Milledge to the plate for his first-ever major-League at bat.
Keith: Check out that hair, Gary, and that huge cross the kid's wearing. We heard this kid was somewhat of a hot dog, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised. Anyway, the young ladies in the stands seem to like it.
Gary: Speaking of young ladies, Keith, we should remind our viewers that, just before Lastings was drafted, he got into a lot of trouble for having sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend. And there were unsubstantiated rumors that he slept with even younger girls.
Keith: Speaking of sleeping, in spring training this kid seemed to like to sleep in sometimes and show up late for meetings.
Gary: Yeah, Keith. There are a few questions about the makeup of this kid. Perhaps the Mets should just try to unload him like they did with that young lefty a couple of years ago. Remember, the one that smoked pot and got into car accidents... What was the kid's name?
Raissman was right to be offended by the buffoonish reaction towards Rubin, but his attack on Gary and Keith was just dumb. It wasn't their place to drag up a lot of negative stuff on Milledge during his debut. They are responsible for calling a baseball game, not engaging in investigative journalism. Mets fans have had ample opportunity to read all of this stuff, which has been extensively covered in the press. There really was no place for it Tuesday night. If Milledge's "flamboyance" starts having an effect in the Mets clubhouse, then it becomes a story on the telecast.
NY Baseball Central: The Libel Threat
Mike McGann takes the Mets to task for the silly libel threat.
Newsday: Carlos Delgado
David Lennon reports on the vicious slump that Carlos Delgado is mired in, and the exaggerated shift teams are playing against him. Lennon cites hitting coach Rick Down on how the shift affects Delgado when he isn't hitting well:
What's happening to him is that he sees the shift and that they're playing him to pull, pull, pull. He's getting good pitches to hit, but he's getting over the ball at the end off his swing - rolling his wrist and getting topspin.
When he gets a good swing at it, he's going to get inside the ball with his hands and hit through the ball and get it into the outfield. Then it doesn't matter where the infielders are playing him. It's the same with Giambi. Neither one of them is getting paid to hit ground balls.
New York Times: Cliff Floyd
Ben Shpigel has a great feature on the Mets let fielder, and his willingness to mentor younger players -- including the one that will probably take his place next year.
Metstradamus: Barry Bonds
Metstradamus dares to eschew the prevailing opinions on the Giants slugger. For what it's worth, I agree with him completely.