Athletics

Can Mets afford to sign star SS?

549386.jpg

Can Mets afford to sign star SS?

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- The biggest win for the Mets this season may have come this week in a federal courthouse. The team's owners have been relieved from much of a 1 billion lawsuit filed on behalf of the victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Whether that gives the financially hobbled ballclub more flexibility to retain Jose Reyes remains to be seen. Mets fans will be watching, for sure, after New York's third straight losing season and fifth in a row without a playoff appearance. In a year that was described from the start as transitional, the Mets brought in a new general manager in Sandy Alderson and a new manager in Terry Collins. Yet Reyes, clearly, was the exuberant face of a team that went 77-85. The dynamic shortstop won the NL batting title on the final day of the season, drawing some heat after leaving the last game after a bunt single in the first inning. He led the major leagues with 16 triples and was superb in the field. He also made two trips to the disabled list with more hamstring trouble, derailing an MVP-like season. He's now in line to file for free agency after the World Series. Alderson said Thursday he expected discussions to begin with Reyes' agent "in the next day or two." "We were fortunate to experience an outstanding year from Jose. There is obviously some uncertainty as to where he's going to be next year," Alderson said. "We will see where that takes us." "We will try to be as creative as we possibly can and look at what's available across the board," he said. But can owner Fred Wilpon, who told Sports Illustrated this spring the Mets were "bleeding cash," afford one of this offseason's most desirable free agents? Can he afford not to keep the team's most popular player and biggest draw? Despite the losing record, the Mets did make strides on the field under the enthusiastic Collins in his first managerial job since 1999. Their real trouble, though, came in the board room. -- Attendance dropped to a low not seen since 2004, hurting revenues. Wilpon has said the Mets could lose 70 million this year. -- The Mets put a portion of the team up for sale this winter because of the financial uncertainty created by the Madoff mess. -- A 200 million deal to sell a minority share of the team to hedge fund manager David Einhorn fell through and now Wilpon and co-owner Saul Katz are looking to sell 20 million shares to family members and other investors. Alderson and the players insisted the off-field trouble did not have any effect on their play. And despite several key injuries to stars early, the Mets remained on the margins of the NL wild-card race into July. They traded closer Francisco Rodriguez and All-Star Carlos Beltran -- New York improved to 55-51 on July 28, they day he was dealt. "That team we put together in spring training, I know that if we had been out there we would have been a lot different-looking club than what we ended up being," Collins said. Ike Davis was off to a promising second big league season before a mild collision with David Wright turned into a season-ending bone bruise in his ankle. Wright missed two months and Johan Santana did not pitch after having offseason shoulder surgery. Reyes had a remarkable first half, but missed the All-Star game with a hamstring strain and re-injured it in August. Still he finished with 101 runs scored, 39 steals and a .337 average. "Certainly every day I hope the shortstop returns because he gives us the best team," said Collins, who had the 2013 option for his contract exercised Tuesday. With the stars out, several youngsters proved they could play at the major league level. Justin Turner lost out in the competition for the second base job in spring training but took advantage of his April call-up and batted .354 with runners in scoring position. Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda also showed they belong. Duda, who hit several long home runs, could be the starting right fielder next year. "I think there's a lot of optimism moving forward," Wright said. "We had some young players come up and make a name for themselves. I think that you like the feeling that is in this clubhouse every day." While Mike Pelfrey (7-13, 4.74 ERA) took a huge step backward after being named the Mets' No. 1 starter with Santana out, Dillon Gee (13-6) became first Mets rookie to win at least 13 games since Dwight Gooden won 17 in 1984. "I really thought a lot about taking the next step in the offseason and getting even better," Pelfrey said. "After April ended, I thought it got better. Obviously not where I wanted to be, but it got better. I think it's going to help me better prepare for next season." The 24-year-old Jonathon Niese won a career-high 11 games in his second full season in the rotation, and R.A. Dickey was stellar down the stretch to finish with a 3.28 ERA. One area of concern is the closer role. Collins wanted 27-year-old Bobby Parnell with his 100 mph fastball to seize the spot but he was only 6 of 12 in save opportunities down the stretch. With the hefty contracts of Beltran and Rodriguez off the books for 2012, along with those of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez -- both cut during spring training -- the Mets should have some flexibility. But Alderson has said that the team's payroll would be in the range of 100-110 million next year, down from more than 140 million this year. One area the Mets might spend on is making Citi Field friendlier for their struggling power hitters. Alderson has indicated that the team is looking into lowering the 16-foot left-field wall and bringing in the fences at the spacious ballpark, where New York hit just 50 homers this year and 162 in the three seasons since it opened. Wright has hit only 22 homers at Citi. In 2008, the Mets' last season at Shea Stadium, he hit 21 homers at home. Jason Bay, who has struggled mightily in his two seasons in New York, hit just six of his 12 homers at home and had a .374 slugging percentage overall this season, the lowest of his career. All told, the Mets got off to a 5-13 start, then went 12-16 in September. In between, not so bad. "I would have hoped that we could have done better, not only in the overall season but even finishing up," Alderson said. "One of the disappointments for me was that we started poorly and ended poorly. First impressions are important and last impressions are important. We did a lot of good things between those two bookends but I think the poor start and difficult finish may obscure some of that," he said.

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

Bruce Maxwell: Kneeling for anthem not 'disrespecting my country or my flag'

OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.

It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.

Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.

He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.

“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”

Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.

After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.

“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”

A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.

“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”

Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.

“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”

Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.

“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”

Madison Bumgarner, Gorkys Hernandez make statements in win over Dodgers

mad-gorkys-us.jpg
USATSI

Madison Bumgarner, Gorkys Hernandez make statements in win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — A 2-1 victory Saturday night at Dodger Stadium all but assured that the Giants will not lose 100 games. They still could, sure, because any sort of downslide is possible in this 2017 season, but they would really have to finish with some sort of ugly stretch. 

Still, it’s been a long season, so it was no surprise when Madison Bumgarner admitted to some sleepless nights since Opening Day. As for Saturday night …

“It’s going to be much easier to go to sleep tonight, because we won,” Bumgarner said.

The big lefty did the heavy lifting, throwing 7 2/3 dominant innings and offering one more reminder that his shoulder is 100 percent fine after a season-halting dirt bike accident. Bumgarner topped out at 93.5 mph, and even though Bruce Bochy thought Dodger Stadium might have had a hot gun on this night, the swings told the story of a good fastball. Bumgarner said this was as good as he has felt in a while. 

“He did look strong,” Bochy said. “He did have really good stuff tonight. It was really crisp.”

It was the kind of night that reminds you that, for all their issues, the Giants will start 2018 with a leg up on many others. They have Madison Bumgarner and you don’t, and that should lead to plenty of good over the course of 32 or 33 starts. 

“I think it’s good for the club to know, hey, he’s back,” Bochy said. “This is the kind of ball we can play.”

It was the brand Bochy appreciates: A strong start, a good bullpen, strong defense, and just enough offense. That’s how the Giants will win in 2018, if they are to do so, which bodes well for the man at the center of Saturday’s offense. The Giants plan to move Denard Span to left field and acquire a new center fielder, but they still lack depth in the organization, and Gorkys Hernandez has made it clear he would like to stick around. He had three hits — including two doubles — and a walk, scoring both Giants runs. 

After a slow start that almost got him released, Hernandez took off over the summer, providing a high average and sparkling defense at three spots. A left wrist tendon issue has slowed him in September, but he surprised the staff by being available for the final two weeks of games, and he said he’ll play through the end of the year before considering any rehab options 

“He certainly has made a statement,” Bochy said. “He’s one of our better athletes. He can play anywhere in the outfield, and what’s impressive is how he’s come on with the bat. A kid like this that plays defense the way he can, and shows he can do some things with the bat, he’s in the mix.”

Hernandez said he loves playing in San Francisco. He intends to spend his offseason getting healthy at his home in Scottsdale before competing for an outfield job. 

“Every time Bochy puts me in the lineup I’m trying to show everyone that I can be here and that I can be part of this team for a long time,” he said.