Posted in Autographs, New York Mets

2017 Mets Autograph: Chris Flexen

I’ve been collecting baseball autographs since I was a kid in junior high school. Over the years, I’ve managed to acquire a signed baseball card for more than 900 of the 1043 players who’ve appeared in a game for the New York Mets.

While I’m no longer as active in pursuing new autographs as I used to be, I still try writing to most of the rookies who go to spring training camp with the Mets every season to ask them to sign a baseball card for me.

This year, one of those rookies was a 22-year-old pitcher named Chris Flexen who’d never pitched above the Single-A level of the minor leagues. Maybe he thought he’d be pitching in New York this summer when he went to spring training, but I doubt that anyone else did.

An unimaginable string of injuries led the Mets to call Flexen up from Double-A in July, and he started nine major league games in 2017. I wish I could say he enjoyed storybook success, but Flexen fared about as well as you’d expect of a pitcher who was rushed too quickly. Hopefully he learned some things that will help him be a better pitcher in 2018 and beyond.

Earlier this week, I got my baseball card back with an autograph, so now Chris Flexen is represented in my collection. Sometime before the end of the year, I’ll have to go through this year’s additions and look through my signed cards to see if I already had any of the players who made their Mets debuts in 2017 to see where my collection currently stands.

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Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

Holiday weekend Mets items

Thanksgiving weekend was a quiet time for actual Mets news.

Noah Syndergaard spend part of his holiday helping to feed homeless people, per the Mets’ Twitter feed.

The Mets are reportedly one of two teams that have made an offer to free agent reliever Bryan Shaw.

Nothing against Shaw, who seems like a quality bullpen contributor… but the Mets have Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos and Jerry Blevins, not to mention unsuccessful starters Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, or last season’s middle relief crew that included Rafael Montero, Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker and Paul Sewald. There are plenty of arms that might be effective out of the bullpen and not nearly enough starters that they can count on. So maybe Sandy Alderson should prioritize his limited budget for offseason acquisitions a little bit better?

Queens Baseball Convention tickets have gone on sale, and you can even save a little bit of money if you buy them by tomorrow night to take advantage of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale.

This will be my first time going, and I’m looking forward to it.

Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

‘Tis the season

Baseball’s annual general managers meetings were held last week in Phoenix, Ariz. and the Winter Meetings will be taking place in Orlando, Fla. in a few weeks.

And until there is actual news, baseball columnists and beat reporters will be reporting on assorted rumors and preliminary discussions.

For example:

Ignore these stories unless you are bored or your job requires you to keep track of such things.

(I don’t really like the idea of Ian Kinsler playing second base for the Mets next year, if you’re curious. Sure, he’d be a defensive upgrade over Wilmer Flores… but Kinsler will be 36 next season and had a comparable on-base percentage and worse slugging percentage than Flores in 2017. Plus Kinsler will cost $11 million plus whatever players and/or prospects are needed to acquire him.)

Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

Bittersweet baseball

There’s been a variety of news since the end of baseball season. The Mets have a new manager and coaching staff, and will soon have a new and expanded training staff.

They’ve retained a couple of players and let some others go.

And I really haven’t had a lot to say about it.

I’d never heard of Mickey Callaway until news broke that the Mets had chosen him as their next manager – I hope he does a good job. Likewise, I’m not sure how much of a role coaches really play in the success of a Major League Baseball team or how good the guys the Mets hired are at doing their jobs, but I wish them well.

But I did want to mention a couple of news items I saw tonight.

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David Wright (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Mets captain David Wright will be inducted into the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame tomorrow night in a pregame ceremony in Scottsdale, Ariz. Wright played for the Peoria Saguaros in 2003 just months before making his big league debut.

I’m sure there will be another pregame Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Wright sometime within the next few years, as the Mets honor one of the best players in team history.

Before injuries cost Wright the last three years and will likely make 2014 the last full season of his career, it seemed like we’d be talking about his chances of being enshrined in Cooperstown one day. Now the only talk is about whether Wright can return to a Major League Baseball field or if he should retire.

It’s a bittersweet honor, to be sure.

Carlos-Beltran
Carlos Beltran (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Speaking of Mets greats who inspire bittersweet memories, Carlos Beltran announced his retirement this week after finally winning a World Series ring with the Houston Astros. But apparently he’s not ready to walk away from the game just yet — he’d like to manage somewhere down the road.

Hey, if Callaway doesn’t work out, maybe Beltran can have another chance to win a ring with the Mets.

Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

Changing times, changing teams

The New York Mets are expected to announce their purchase of the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs baseball team as soon as tomorrow, according to a report by Syracuse.com’s Mark Weiner.

The move will help the Mets consolidate their minor league baseball operations, with three of their top five farm clubs playing in New York State as of 2019. (The Las Vegas 51s have been the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate since 2013, but due to travel that has been less than ideal.)

When I was growing up, my father frequently took us out to the Scranton, Pa. area to visit some of his friends. He usually managed to time it so that the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Red Barons were home… and sometimes it worked out that they were playing the Mets’ affiliate, the Tidewater (and later, Norfolk) Tides.

It was a magical experience to be able to sit at field level and be able to ask the players for autographs at Lackawanna County Stadium. If we went out to Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium or Veterans Stadium, we sat in the upper deck and it felt like we were closer to the players at home watching on TV.

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John Maine pitches for the Norfolk Tides at Lackawanna County Stadium in 2006.

The last baseball road trip I took with my dad was Easter weekend 2006… we watched the Red Barons and the Tides open the International League season. I don’t remember who won the games (although I do recall one of them was played in just over two hours.)

I got autographs from a newly-acquired prospect named John Maine, who would make two starts in the National League Championship Series that fall; from Lastings Milledge, who would earn the ire of some of his teammates when he high-fived fans following his first MLB home run later that summer; from Ray Navarrete, who I’d watched win an Atlantic League Championship with the Somerset Patriots the previous year; and Jose Lima, who’d be pitching for the Camden Riversharks a couple of years later.

In 2007, the New Orleans Zephyrs became the Mets’ Triple-A team — and they play in the Pacific Coast League. Scranton Wilke-Barre became a New York Yankees’ affiliate. For a Mets fan and a Phillies fan, Lackawanna County Stadium lost its appeal.

In truth, the travel had gotten to be too much for him. We went to Atlantic League games closer to home for a few more years, until dad’s health declined too much for that to be possible.

It won’t be the same without him, but I’d like to go see a Mets’ affiliate play a Phillies’ affiliate again. In 2019, maybe I’ll get my chance.