August 2016

Watch: Cespedes’ hits one to the Left Field Landing to give the Mets the win

With yesterday’s win, the Mets are now only 2.5 games back of the Second Wild Card in the National League

#ThePlusInMetsPlus: NYC Transit under one map? Is it possible?

In the last #ThePlusInMetsPlus, I talked about how traveling can be a hassle as it is, and to some, navigating the worlds fourth largest city seems like an impossible task, but if you study the subway map enough, you’ll be able to find some tricks and shortcuts that gets you to your final destination must faster.

But, first, I need to brag a little bit. I absolutely love the subway, as a kid, it was one of my top two favorite passions, along with Mets Baseball, and frankly still is. Also, I have a virtual map of the New York City Subway in my head, and I mean that. You could ask me how to get from Ditmas Avenue to Wakefield-241 st, or any other combination, and I’d be able to tell you the best subway route. However, keep in mind that I said: “Subway route,”  which is due to the fact that I’ve stared at a New York City Subway map for my entire life, and while I have an average understanding of the cities bus lines, there is a lot more to New York City transportation that people just don’t see.

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The traditional New York City Subway Map

While I was searching around at unique New York City transit maps, which I generally avoid, I found one map that caught my eye. Known as “The Bullet Map”, this map combines New York City Subway routes, Select Bus Service routes, and Local Bus routes.

This unique map unlocks connections that are hidden from the traditional NYC Subway Map, unless you look at a separate borough specific bus map, which tends to be confusing, as it doesn’t quite line-up with subway stations, and unlike the subway map, where it is understandable if you read it for a while, and has important colors that explain what line you are riding, the bus specific maps have arbitrary colors that do not indicate Limited Lines, or other important notes about the bus. The Bullet Map fixes that issue, take a look at a part of the map, and you’ll see what I mean:

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Now, it is a little “bland” compared to the traditional map, and if you’ve never looked at the traditional version, this might be pretty overwhelming, but figuring out the best possible route is important knowledge to have. Founder of the Bullet Map, Anthony Denaro, agrees with that, and says this on his website

This information is vital – it’s knowing which bus to take when you arrive at the subway terminal, how to get into the city on one fare, when Manhattan crosstown buses turn to start going uptown, and what buses serve your neighborhood to get you to the subway.

 

Getting increasingly interested by the minute, I asked Mr.Denaro if he had a minute to answer a few of my pressing questions. So without further ado, here is my interview with the founder of “The Bullet Map”:

How did you get started with these maps? I’m an avid map collector, but I usually don’t stray from the traditional map.

I got started with these maps with the thesis of trying to combine the subway and bus system – all five boros – on one map that flowed between the boros. Currently the bus map can’t be overlayed on top of the subway system map. The bus maps make the subway system hard to read and follow.
I think the current maps are excellent for one purpose – for bus drivers and for those who need to and want to know exactly where and how the bus runs. The general public doesn’t need to know that. They need to see a simplified version that makes clearer where they can transfer between subways and bus lines.
Why do you believe that SBS is deserving of being on the same map as the Subway? As a rider, I find SBS to be often just as slow as local buses, and actually try to avoid them at all costs.
 
I put the SBS lines on the map to bring awareness to them. There’s not enough of them to warrant their own network map. But there is big potential for them to operate much faster than locals, with more ridership and advocacy for dedicated lanes and smart signals.
 
I do find the SBS lines to be a little faster. In my experience they have been reliable in showing up and operating at regular frequencies. The big determiner was that an SBS route stops at “stations” whereas a local bus makes stops. I think the presence of station “infrastructure” – fare machines, countdown clocks – makes the experience of riding SBS more like an honest rapid transit, closer to the experience of riding the subway.
 
That said, the MTA and DOT absolutely need to do more to improve the speeds of SBS. SBS isn’t real rapid transit. There are major improvements to be made. I hope that all the SBS routes end up with dedicated lanes. And to take it further.. what if there were SBS routes that operate in highway medians with real station infrastructure – Ocean Parkway, Queens Blvd, the BQE, the LIE?
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A typical Select Bus Service bus operating on the M34 route

Is there a reason the map contains gray lines and not color sensitive by route like other Subway maps?
The early versions had light grey for subways, and dark grey for buses. I’ve since made a version that has the subway lines in their respective colors and the buses as grey.
There’s a lot of labelling of streets and routes on a bus map. Lots of little labels to be placed.  I chose to make the subway station indicators and the name test to be quite big for legibility.  This required placing the name titles directly above the station bullets. Having light grey lines freed up that space to place the names.
In the pre-history of making these maps, having light grey subway lines freed up a lot of space to overlay bus lines and their needed labelling.   Initially I was concerned that the colors of the subway lines would interfere with the readability of the bus line labels. But I’ve since come around to the iteration that has colored lines and I think it’s a net postive.
On your Twitter description, you say you are based in Los Angeles, so I’m curious why you chose New York as a target city to launch you maps?
I’m a born and raised NY,  I spent my whole life living in NYC – riding the trains, riding a bike, driving a car and lots of walking around.  I could, seriously, draw maps of the subways and streets from memories. I can name locations in movies and photographs instantly.  I’ve got a lot of NY in me. This project germinated from wanting to be able to see how to get around the whole city on one map.  I would jokingly say that this map is my parting gift to my home city.
I relocated to LA about 8 months ago and am enjoying getting to know it’s curiosities and how to get around it – on it’s trains, buses, on bike, on motorcycle.
What is your favorite New York City Subway Line? (Or SBS route…..) 
My heart belongs to the J train – it just does so many things, so right.  I think the stations between Alabama Av and Crescent St are really cool with their station canopies that are just beautiful.  The weird face sculptures at Cypress Hills and Woodhaven Blvd are the coolest pieces of art in the entire subway system. If you need to wait for a train indoors Chambers St is such a cool station.  At the end of it all, the J train comes frequently and is pretty fast for a local train.
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I too like the J Train for the R42 cars

What’s one tip you would give to a tourist trying to navigate the big apple?
Ask a few locals for directions. There’s never just one way of getting somewhere in NY but if you get two people to tell you the same thing, you’ll probably get to where you’re going.
This technically is a Baseball blog, so I have to ask you this: Favorite baseball team, and, do you have any predictions for the World Series?
I’m a Yankees fans. I keep my predictions to myself this year.
Finally how can somebody connect with you via social media, or learn more about your maps?
Sure thing!
Find me on twitter @anththonyjoey or @bulletmap and on Instagram @bulletmap
Thanks to Anthony for taking some time to answer questions for #ThePlusInMetsPlus!

#ThePlusInMetsPlus Dreams Polaris

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I hear the same thing over and over again from fellow bloggers, followers and the casual fans. Travel is difficult these days, and frankly, if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, it can be a hassle.

However, travel can be a lot easier if you take the right steps, but even if you do take the right steps, what do you choose? Do you take an international airlines flight, concede Wi-Fi, but potentially have better lounges? Do you pay extra for International First Class to ensure all-aisle access? Well, United Airlines is about to make that a lot easier  with the introduction of their Polaris Business Class Cabin, which is launching near the holiday season.

But first a bit of backstory: A few weeks ago, I was invited through MileagePlus Exclusives (a division of United Airlines’ award winning MileagePlus program) to attend a Polaris Showcase, but because of some un-related issues, it didn’t work out. Luckily, a member of the Exclusives team worked very hard and I got invited  to a similar, more family-friendly event, which was taking place during the Barclays Golf Tournament at the famous Bethpage  Black Course near Farmingdale, New York.

The first thing I noticed is that the employees were very, and I mean very knowledgable. I tend to think I have a fairly good understanding of United’s fleet, how it’s utilized and how they tend to run operations from a passengers standpoint, but the employees went above and beyond in giving  me the exact estimated timetable for aircraft delivery, and articulating very eloquently  the advantages and drawbacks  of the new Business class configuration.

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I know what I’m about to say is no new information, but when a person tells you what their personal presence is and lists some cons in addition to the pros of a product, it makes me feel like I’m taking to a real person, not a robot.

Overall I liked the ergonomics of the new seat arrangement,even though I had some trouble getting the seat to lie flat, as the toggle although very intuitive wasn’t super responsive.There was however more space than I had imagined. As a tall person (6 feet 4 inches) seats that are an inch shorter than my height with narrowing foot rests are not comfortable for me, but this was. According to a representative, the seat length goes up to 6ft 6in, which means I should have decent legroom.

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Struggling to take a photo while lying flat

However, the seat itself was not the most impressive thing about the space, the mobility and attention to small details is what is important. Here are a few examples: One the current BusinessFirst seat, access to chargers or USB involves going behind your head, and it’s near the only storage space, which means cords are prone to being un-plugged, this isn’t the case in Polaris Business Class, as the charging ports are off to the side, where they are easily accessible. Another noticeable improvement was the tray table, which comes from under the entertainment screens, not the armrest, which conceivably makes it possible to slide out should you need to retrieve something from an overhead bin or use the restrooms during a meal service.

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The seats weren’t the only thing on display during the United Polaris Showcase, there was a closest to the pin contest, in addition to a mock-up bar that would resemble a Polaris Lounge (more on that later) bar.

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One of the most interesting features of the showcase was a virtual reality simulator. And, frankly, I can’t really describe it, but I did find a version of it on YouTube:

Obviously, the best way to actually review a product is, to, well, be there in person, but from what I can see, the Polaris Lounge will offer amenities light-years ahead of the United Global First Lounges, let alone the United Clubs. There appears to be at least seven to eight warm dishes on offer, and it’ll be interesting to see how this works in practice. If the video is reflective of what we might see at a lounge, the Polaris Lounges could rank at the top of the charts for the best lounges in the United States, however, execution is key, and there is a lot to be seen.

After the virtual reality simulator, I tried my hand at the Closest to the Put competition, which was purely for fun. Additionally, I got to try some Trotter Project inspired hors d’oeuvres.

After we left the Polaris Showcase, we were given a “goodie bag” of sorts, which included actual Polaris Saks Fifth Avenue Bedding, and an authentic Polaris Leather Notebook which is made in Italy. Also, there were complementary United branded golf towels, commemorative golf balls, and branded lanyards which were made available to any individual visiting the showcase.

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Of course, this was a golf course, not an airport, so we were ushered to the United Fairway Club which was situated inside a tent of sorts adjacent to the 16th green, and it offered unparalleled views of the greater course.

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There were plenty of snacks, and a full service bar. I chose Water, and enjoyed on of the Beef Brisket sandwiches. I don’t think this catering reflected anything United will showcase on board or in a lounge, but it was a highlight of the day as a whole.

As a Premier Silver member myself, I enjoy flying United for the perks and benefits that comes along with the Premier status, and I’m excited to see United trying to step one foot in front of everyone else, instead of playing catch-up. Obviously the are a lot of un-answered questions, but if Polaris is everything that they say it will be, it would be my top recommendation for flyers going abroad. For baseball fans, Polaris won’t be as accessible, as it will only be present during long-haul international flights, but transcontinental flights to Los Angeles and the Bay Area (which have four combined baseball teams) will have improved Premium Service amenities that could reflect some details of the soft product of Polaris.

As Praveen Sharma, the Vice-President of loyalty and business development, said during an announcement during the showcase, United is listening to feedback that the customers are giving, and have even launched a dedicated site, United Airtime, to try to make sure they can deliver on that promise.

 

So, as I takeoff on United Flight 30 tonight bound for Munich, I’ll be able to have confidence that I’m crediting my miles in the right airline, and that I’ll be able to redeem in the future to try Business Class reimagined.

 

UniformLineup.com Mets May 2016 Uniform Recap

16-new-york-nl-mayIt’s been a long time since I’ve recapped our uniforms, so I’m going to try to catch up, now that UniformLineup.com is back up and running.


Here is a breakdown of the Mets May uniforms:

  • Home White Pinstripes: 8 games out of 15. (5-3 record) Paired with Primary cap.
  • Blue Home Alternate: 1 game out of 15. (0-1 record) Paired with Home Alt cap.
  • 1986 Throwback Alternate: 5 games out of 15 (2-3 record) Paired with throwback cap.
  • Road Grey: 13 games out of 14 (5 -8 record) paired with Primary cap.
  • Road Blue Alternate: 0 games out of 14 (NOT WORN) paired with road alternate cap.
  • **Special** Mothers Day Road: 1 game out of 14 (1-0 record)
  • **Special** Memorial Day Home: 1 game out of 15 (1-0 record)  

    And here is a breakdown of the Mets May Caps:

    • Primary Mets cap: 21 games out of 29 (10-11 record)
    • Road Alternate cap: 0 games out of 29 (NOT WORN)
    • Home Alternate cap: 1 game out of 29 (0-1 record)
    • Original Mets Throwback cap: 5 games out of 22 (2-3 record)
    • Special Caps 2 games out of 29 (2-0 record)

#ThePlusInMetsPlus: How I got to see the Mets play in St.Louis

If you are an expert with redeeming Credit Card Points, and a master at using Chase Ultimate Rewards and or British Airways Executive Club, you’ll want to skip this post, as it doesn’t reveal any groundbreaking information that you wouldn’t have already known. 


Last week, my family and I were trying to figure out where we should go for a few days for a vacation. We didn’t want the trip to exotic, or for that matter to leave to continental U.S.

At the same time, we didn’t want to shuffle down to Philadelphia for a night, and, being the big Mets fans we are, we looked at the schedule to see where we could watch a few games. This roadtrip fell during the only acceptable time frame where we could leave, so we were left with three options, Arizona, Frisco or St.Louis.

Arizona and San Fransisco both involved a lot of travel time, too much for a two night stay, even if a lot of the transportation was free, and considering St.Louis was also in the Wild Card hunt, it seemed like the place to be.

Unfortunately, after pricing out flights through Google Flights, the best price I got was around $600 roundtrip (keep in mind this was 10 days in advance), so I had to get crafty if we were going to be rooting on the Mets in St Louis.

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I had a lot of United MileagePlus Miles and some Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Redeeming United Miles was not going to be a smart choice this time, as the flight was only two hours, and United charges 25k roundtrip for any Saver award ticket within the United states, so the lowest award price would be the same if I’m traveling from NYC-Boston, or Miami-San Fransisco.

Using Chase points seemed like the best choice, but not through their Ultimate Rewards channel, I redeemed them by transferring them to a partner airline.

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Chase allows for transfers at a one to one ratio with all of the above airlines, hotels, and other partners. The best option for me was transferring 15,000 points to British Airways Executive Club, and use their “Avios” points to redeem a round trip flight on American Airlines, a British Airways partner through the OneWorld Alliance.

With that set, we booked a hotel and went to St.Louis to see the Mets win one and lose one, something I will be documenting on MetsPlus360 tomorrow!

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Is that really Gary Cohen?

It might be a blessing in disguise that the trade fell through

This is an article I wrote last year, talking about how the Gomez/Flores deal fell apart.

I think it’s fair to say the Cespedes deal ended up being a much better one for the Mets.

Mets Plus

Yesterday, it was reported by Andy Martino that the Mets have traded Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler for Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers. I was initially floored that the Mets traded Wheeler, who by all accounts is an ace on 20 out of 30 MLB Teams, and Wilmer Flores, who we have under control for three years after Gomez was scheduled to leave. Then we have Carlos Gomez, who is hated by 30 percent of Baseball players? Why? Watch this video:

And this one….

Let’s watch one more…..

This guy is not a good clubhouse presence, I don’t care how fast he is, a guy that is hard to not call a “punk” is not a guy that  the Mets should be going after. This trade not going through will pay dividends for the Mets in the end, but then again, only time will tell.

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Mets Memories: Flores hits one into the PartyCity Deck

Mets Plus

The date in July 31st, 2015. Two days after Flores was in tears for being traded, the game was tied, the Mets were down in the division, the stage was set….

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The 2016 Mets bore me. Seriously.

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The title says it all. I’m bored watching this team. I don’t know why, but these Mets don’t feel like “the Mets”.

On my last post I talked about how the lineup has gone through a complete turnover since last year. Here is an excerpt from that article:

Next, let’s look at the lineup. Last year d’Arnaud, Duda, Murphy, Flores, Wright, Cespedes, Lagares or Conforto and Granderson, a very “Met” team, were the players we put on the field. Today, besides d’Arnaud, Granderson and Flores, guys like James Loney, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, T.J Rivera, Ty Kelly, Justin Ruggiano, Alejandro De Aza and other newbies comprise the team, and there is an overall lack of team chemistry.

And it’s very true, there is no chemistry, and for me, as a viewer, I have no connection to any of these guys. None of these guys, with the exception of Grandy and Flores, are players I love seeing succeed. That doesn’t mean I actively root against Alejandro De Aza when he comes to bat, but, for lack of a better term, there is nothing tangible about these guys.

These players look like MLB players in orange and blue, not Mets players that I want to watch play every single day.

And that doesn’t mean every player has to be homegrown or have a lot of history with us, when Juan Uribe came over last year, I immediately felt like he was a genuinely likable guy, that I got excited for every time he came to the plate.

While having better team chemistry wouldn’t necessarily catapult us to the top of the standings, it would allow for the fanbase to get behind their players. Lately, at least for me, I feel like watching this team isn’t fun, and it’s not enjoyable, even when they win. That’s something I’ve never experienced in my time as a Mets fan.

Hopefully things get better in the future.

I’m already looking ahead to 2017

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I’ve been thinking about the 2016 Mets for a while now, how they will be able to get back on pace, how they are going to be able to grab a postseason slot, how they are going to re-bound for the injuries that have plagued them all year, and I think I’ve finally figured out what to make of the 2016 Mets: A team that just didn’t work out.

No, I haven’t given up all hope yet, they are still 4.5 games back from a Wild Card spot, which makes them mathematically alive and then some, but not any team can come back from that big of a deficit.

Take a look at our rotation, which we were hoping would look like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and by mid-June, Colon would take a bullpen role as Zack Wheeler returns. Now, with Matz injured and strongly considering season-ending surgery, the rotation looks like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and Logan Verrett, with Syndergaard also considering missing time due to bone spurs.

Next, let’s look at the lineup. Last year d’Arnaud, Duda, Murphy, Flores, Wright, Cespedes, Lagares or Conforto and Granderson, a very “Met” team, were the players we put on the field. Today, besides d’Arnaud, Granderson and Flores, guys like James Loney, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, T.J Rivera, Ty Kelly, Justin Ruggiano, Alejandro De Aza and other newbies comprise the team, and there is an overall lack of team chemistry.

I think that this year has just been a failure all together, and will go down as one of the low-years in Mets history. Too bad….