December 2016

Orange and Blue Thing Podcast; Is there such a Thing as too much access?

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Last night before heading home, I had the chance to listen to the first ever edition of the “Orange and Blue Thing” video-cast. It’s hosted by two of the better guys that are frequent at Citi Field and on the Mets-twitter verse: Darren Meenan, the founder of The 7 Line, and Brian Erni, former writer for MetsBlog.com and a lot of other major publications.

The podcast is a pretty relaxed show, done in a kitchen-bar area of sorts, with Mets memorabilia hanging and a beer keg is in between them. It’s not scripted and doesn’t have any “official” segments, and the production (done by Keith Blacknick) is fairly well done.

To start, there were a few “get-to-know” the host discussions, which were interesting, but what really turned me on was the conversation that ensued afterwards. The dialogue was about how having too much insider access can ruin the whole Mets experience. For Mr.Meenan, he was talking about how his perception on Terry Collins’ in-game decisions has changed since Collins openly shows his appreciation for The 7 Line Army at outings, and how when speaking to guys that work for the Mets, their attitude and love for the team changes after clocking in and clocking out of Citi Field every single day. For Mr.Erni, who got the chance to cover the team in 2013, he shared his feelings about being an official “beat writer” as opposed to a fan, and how that changes your fan hood. All in all a very good discussion, and before I weigh my two cents in, here’s a link to the video-cast so you can see what I’m talking about:

 

First off, I have had such a small fraction of the experiences that Mr.Meenan and Mr.Erni have had, that it almost makes me incapable to answer, however, I have gotten some daily credentials and invitations to some events, and my perception and experiences too have changed.

When I met Wally Backman in 2015 in Las Vegas, he was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, and, of all of the coaches and players I’ve tried to get interviews with, he was the most accessible, even though everyone seems to have bad things to say about his personality on Twitter. Unfortunately, the opposite happens just as much, like the hosts allude to many times in the podcast. This discussion really did have me think what I want to accomplish out of this blog. I’ve been doing this since 2013, and as I get more opportunities by the year, I want to maintain that “fan persona,” where I want to get angry at Eric Campbell for making that error at third base, but when you see him calling his family in the clubhouse tunnel 2,000 miles away from New York, you start to have a different feeling for the player.

Anyway, to reiterate, this is a really solid podcast. It’s not guys trying to tell you what you can find in newspaper, it’s conversations based on Mets experiences, and it’s fairly relaxed, like a morning show at night with beer instead of coffee, which seems to make the show better for the viewing audience, as it’s more of a good easy listen. I look forward to the future episodes.

 

 

Merry Christmas and Many More….

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Today is Christmas Eve Eve Eve, which, according to my calculations, is basically a holiday, right?

If it makes anyone feel any better, my Christmas shopping is still very incomplete, and while the Holidays are supposed to be a time full of relaxation and peace, I’m completing college application after college application and I have little to no time to blog about Baseball.

Lucky for me, if I did have time to blog about baseball, I’d basically be twiddling my thumbs, as the offseason is in a very dormant stage, which is always expected during this time of year, and could continue until New Year’s.

So, while I do personal preparations for my future, I wanted to take a second to thank everyone once again who was reading this. 2016 was a huge step in the right direction for my blog, I was able to share with you some amazing moments, and I expect to continue blogging about my passions for many years to come.

So, Merry Christmas, New Year’s, whatever it is that you celebrate, I wish you the best.

Top 5 All-Time Posts on MetsPlus

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MetsPlus.com will officially be leaving MLB.com, in two days. And before that happens, I wanted to share with you my Top 5 all-time posts on MetsPlus.com, since we joined MLB.com in April of 2014.

There are a LOT of posts that I’ve written over the past few years that I’m extremely proud of, but after an extensive review and a lot of decision making, I believe I’ve settled on five posts that I’d call my favorite.

#5: Culinary Citi, Parts 1 and 2 (May 2016)

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Yes, after interviewing some of the games best, doing some amazing things, eating my way through Citi Field was one of my favorite memories. While, the PIG GUY NYC Bacon on the Stick was very memorable, I also enjoyed the Fuku Chicken Sandwich, Box Frites, Keith’s Burger and all the other places that we went around to see.

I might do a Part 3 of Culinary Citi in 2017 if the Mets add some new options to the ballpark fare this Spring.

4. 11 Questions with Branden Wellington (September 2014)

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This pick is most likely a sympathy pick, as over the years I have interviewed people a little more well known than Branden Wellington, however, I was amazed by the professionalism and the willingness of the first person I ever interviewed for Mets Plus, and, it was truly an exciting interview. In the interview, Mr.Wellington shares his game day routine, favorite experiences, and on-screen moments.

#3 – NL Wild Card Game Picture Blog (October 2016) 

Had the Mets actually won the NL Wild Card game, this would have been considerably higher on the list, maybe even at #1. This was the first time for me doing a personal recap of a game I attended, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Looking back at that game two months later, I realize how amazing that game actually was, and how close the Mets came from playing the Cubs at Wrigley in the NLDS.

#2 – Top 5 Winter Meetings Experiences (December 2016)

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You have to give me some credit for putting a Top 5 List in a Top 5, huh?

Well, the Winter Meetings truly was action packed, and there were a lot of moments that were extremely unforgettable. The Trade Show was probably at the top of that, but meeting some of my favorite TV Personalities, speaking to Job Fair candidates, and interviewing a guy that was holding a sign in the lobby. This was truly a memorable and amazing week.

#1 Piazza Induction & Number Retirement (July 2016) 

 

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I mean, how can meeting Mike Piazza not be at the top of the list? This is actually two blog posts, the first part was my time in Cooperstown, New York for the induction ceremony, and part two was the actual number retirement, which I enjoyed a little more.

This, without a doubt, is my top Mets related memory of all time.

Honorable Mentions:

1) Citi Field Tour Recap (November 2016)

2) Fall & Winter Fest Review (Fall and Winter 2014) 

3) 11 Questions with Art Shamsky (November 2014) 

 

 

 

Mets sign two right handed relievers

Last week, I talked about how the Mets need to evaluate their bullpen situation with the possibility of a suspension looming for Jeurys Familia, and now, the Mets have signed two right handed arms to provide some depth.

Ben Rowen, who is 28 (pictured left), and Cory Burns, 29 (pictured right) both are journeyman that have had cups of coffee with major league clubs. Rowen has had two stints in the bigs, with the Rangers and the Brewers, in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Rowen is also one of the few players in the big leagues that deliver the ball with a sidearm delivery. Burns has also played for two clubs, the Padres and Rangers, but hasn’t played in a game in the bigs since 2013.

Ultimately, neither of these guys are game-changers. Both will be invited to Spring Training, and maybe one will make the team out of the gate, but neither of these guys will truly help the bullpen.

Between the two of them, I’m slightly more interested in Burns, as he’s a conventional pitcher that has had some success in the big leagues before, however, he will have to do a lot in Spring Training if he wants to get in a big league game this year with the Mets.

Our affiliation with MLB.com is coming to a close…..

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In 2013, two of my closest friends and I started the Pepper MLB Blog, a blog on “Blogger”, which took us less than two minutes to set up. Four years later, two hours of work is put into MetsPlus each day to make it as successful as it is today, and that is all thanks to an invitation to join the MLB.com Blogs Network back in 2014.

I don’t want to sound irritatingly grand about the state of MetsPlus, but, thanks to MLB.com, MetsPlus has risen to over one thousand daily page views and several hundreds of thousands of views per year. Additionally, MetsPlus has visited several Minor League Teams with Press Credentials, attended Two Winter Meetings, and have met people I’ve always dreamed of meeting, and one thing is for sure: That does not happen without the work and help of MLB.com and their invitation.

To set the record straight, though, the decision to detach my blog from the MLB.com family was two-pronged. One one hand, I’ve had the plan to expand since last offseason. During that post, I explained how I wanted to expand MetsPlus, and incorporate more “Plus”, which I did this year with #ThePlusInMetsPlus. However, I also said that I was going to take a two to three week hiatus to renovate the blog following the postseason, but that never happened, as I wanted to stay on MLB.com through the Winter Meetings.

The other part of the story is that MLB.com Blogs is also starting a new chapter with Medium, as opposed to WordPress, which MetsPlus is on currently.

While I could switch to Medium, I really don’t want to leave WordPress during a time when I have so much going on outside of the blog. I’m a senior in high school, and I’m currently applying to colleges, combined with regular school, and family visiting New York from out of town, exc. By and large, I don’t have a lot of free time, and it would have been impossible for me to learn a new platform and post regularly, so I decided to stick with  Wordpress.

I’ll be posting for a few more days, but I don’t expect to post at all from Christmas Eve until the week after New Years, when I will officially re-launch the blog.

My last official day with MLB.com will be on December 21st, and as I reflect on the last three years with them, I’d like to formally thank everyone at MLB once again for helping me establish my blog.

Mets Free Shirt Friday Designs for 2017

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A few days ago, the Mets revealed their Free Shirt Friday designs for 2017, and I can honestly say that in the four years that the Mets have done this Free Shirt Friday promotion, this is the best year as far as designs (despite the lack of Orange).

There are two non-traditional giveaways, with the April 7th Long Sleeve Shirt and the August 4th Replica Jersey.

Additionally, there are some designs that I’d buy if they were a regular shirt that I saw in the team store, like the July 21 Let’s Go Mets, the August 18th Mets insignia shirt, and the September 8th design.

As is always the case with these Free Shirts, there are some designs that make me shake my head, like the Jose Reyes Shirt in April (what does that say?) and the July 14th Mets “Skyline” shirt with three buildings that hardly resemble a Mets design.

All shirts can be acquired by attending the corresponding Mets Friday home game. Tickets can be purchased at Mets.com/FreeShirtFridays.

UniformLineup.com Mets August 2016 Uniform Recap

The August Uniform Recap is now up! After this we only have one more month before the final recap!


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Here is a breakdown of the Mets August uniforms:

  • Home White Pinstripes: 11 games out of 14. (7-4 record) Paired with Primary cap.
  • Blue Home Alternate: 1 game out of 14. (0-1 record) Paired with Home Alt cap.
  • 1986 Throwback Alt: 2 games out of 14 (1-1 record) Paired with throwback cap.
  • Road Grey: 14 games out of 15 ( 8-6 record) paired with Primary cap.
  • Road Blue Alternate: 1 games out of 15 (0-1 record) paired with road alternate cap.

  • And here is a breakdown of the Mets July Caps:
    • Primary Mets cap:  25 games out of 29 (15-10 record)
    • Road Alternate cap: 1 games out of 29 (0-1 record)
    • Home Alternate cap: 1 game out of 29 (0-1 record)
    • Original Mets Throwback cap: 2 games out of 29 (1-1 record)

 

Who will be the Mets Closer in 2017?

Ben Berkon, a sports columnist for Forbes Magazine (and previously SNY.TV’s MetsBlog) asked a question not enough people are asking. Who will the Mets turn to in the ninth inning in the beginning of the 2017 season?

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For one thing, it probably will not be Jeurys Familia, who was arrested in November for domestic violence charges, and, if the punishment is similar to that of Aroldis Chapman, the first person to be arrested under charges of domestic violence, Familia will be forced to sit down for the first 30 games. If MLB believes this is more serious, MLB might decide for a more lengthy punishment, similar to that of Jose Reyes, who was given a 52-game ban after shoving his wife.

So, when Major League Baseball annouces the suspension, the Mets will be without their all-star closer for about a month to a month and a half, and, considering how important Familia has been to this team, it’s important to evaluate and review what stop gaps the Mets could put in place until Familia is reinstated.

The best option I see is Addison Reed, who was extremely impressive as the Mets set-up man in 2016, who posted a 1.97 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP, and a 10.55 K/9, which are all extremely impressive figures. However, as lucrative as it may be to choose Reed as the interim closer, I’d prefer to leave Reed’s routine as is. Reed is a successful set-up man, and while he did flourish in the ninth inning opportunities he given, it’d be better to keep in eighth inning mode the entire year. Of course, that’s a luxury the Mets might not be able to afford if they cannot find another adequate replacement.

Another one of those “adequate replacements” could be Hansel Robles, who was rocky last year, but did look better towards the last few weeks of the year, and, if he’s able to be conditioned in Spring Training properly, I’d be willing to give him a shot. The only other option besides playing it by ear, which in my opinion never really seems to work, would be looking outside and acquiring a Jason Isringhausen, Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Valverde type guy, who is an older veteran that knows how to wrap up a game, but might not have much of a price tag associated with him, and will take a leadership role once Familia comes back, like LaTroy Hawkins in 2013.

This, to me, is the best option, but there aren’t too many arms that are established closers a few years away from retirement. One of those people that could be considered is Jim Henderson, but he appeared to run out of gas really early last year, and I doubt the Mets will re-sign him.

Whatever path the Mets choose, they should evaluate their options quick, as they could find themselves without a Familia until Memorial Day if things don’t work out…

Top 5 Winter Meetings Moments & Thank You!

I’m now home in New York, and I’ve completed my Winter Meetings journey, however, it was a trip that I will take a lot from, and it wouldn’t be possible without everyone’s readership, and the interest in the content that I produce.

Thank you for reading this last week, and for my final Winter Meetings related post until next year, I’d like to share my top 5 moments of the Winter Meetings.

#5 – The Random Interactions with Media Members: 

One of the most interesting aspects of the Winter Meetings has to be the fact that you can’t walk five feet down the hallway of the lobby without running into someone you would see on a major TV Network, like Greg Amsinger from MLB Network, or Buster Olney from ESPN.

One of those random interactions was with Steve Gelbs, the Mets on-field reporter who was very welcoming and friendly to me:

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#4 – Accidentally making your way into MLB Network

Accidentally is certainly the operative word here. You really can’t walk any where that doesn’t have a camera in your face, especially at this hotel, which only has one lobby, compared to two or three like we saw last year at the Gaylord Opryland. So, there are times in the day when you find yourself on a TV Broadcast.

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Sorry Mad Dog…

#3 – Having Conversations with people I wouldn’t otherwise interact with:

The review of the PBEO Job Fair was probably one of my favorite posts I wrote during the Winter Meetings, just because I got to interact with college graduates looking to get into the game of Baseball. Some of these kids were really nervous, and some of them were really experienced, and hearing their opinions on an event that could determine their future was really remarkable. Additionally, the post I wrote on Mr.Rochford was one of the most surprising for me, as it showed me just how devoted people are to the game of baseball.

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#2 – Brian Kenny’s Book Signing:

For those that don’t know, Brian Kenny is basically the modern Bill James. He is the current host of MLB Now, formally of Clubhouse Confidential, and is very astute with advanced statistics, or sabermetrics. I was very happy to pick up a copy of his book, Ahead of The Curve, which led to a fun chat about baseball and the MLB Network.

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#1 – The Baseball Trade Show: 

There is really no doubt about this one in my mind. I’ve always been un-sure what the Trade Show and the Job Fair was until this week, and now I have a first-hand experience on both. For those that haven’t read the review yet, I highly recommend doing so by clicking here. I hope to return to the Trade Show if I have the opportunity to do so in 2017.

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Thanks again for following my coverage of the un-official halfway point of the Baseball offseason. I look forward to the festive Christmas & Holiday season, and I’d like to wish you and yours the best. 

2016 Baseball Trade Show Review

One of the most important events that takes place at the Winter Meetings each year is the Baseball Trade Show, which is a massive venue that showcases the top products from premier businesses and organizations. There were representatives from all sorts of companies, from Hampton Farms Peanuts to a technology company called Revel.

The breakdown of the exhibits is as follows, according to the official website:

Promotional Products/Giveaway Items 71%
Retail – Apparel & Merchandise 49%
Player Equipment & Uniforms 30%
Entertainment – Gameday, Inflatables, Fireworks, Talent 29%
Concessions – Food & Beverage, Carts, Services 20%
Stadium Equipment – Seating, Video/Scoreboards, Padding, Turf 19%
Ticketing Software or Tickets 8%
Other – Architecture, Marketing & Internet Services, Education 6%

Personally, I have interest in all of those industries, and they are all a very important part of the baseball experience, so I was very happy when I heard I would be receiving separate credentials for the Trade Show on Tuesday.

Before, I go any further, however, I need to acknowledge Jeff Lantz, the Senior Director of Communications for Minor League Baseball for coordinating this for me, and helping me out numerous times throughout the process. He is a true professional, a class act that deserves a lot of credit, and I’d like to officially thank him here on this post.

When I received the credentials, I noticed their sleek design. New Era and Toledo Ticket Company were the official sponsors of the Trade Show, and Toledo Ticket Company actually manufactured the credential and the design.

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(Niko is actually spelt with a “k”)

The event was held in a large ballroom near the atrium level, called the Prince George Exhibit Hall, which, according to the folks at the Gaylord, totals 23,361 square feet, and has 24 foot-high ceilings.

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Welcome to the Baseball Trade Show!

I was quickly scanned by a friendly staff member, and I immediately saw how grand this Exhibit Hall was. The only thing I could somewhat compare it to was Fan Fest at the Javits Center, but even that doesn’t do it justice.

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Exhibits as far as eye can see….

Bags, for any giveaway item, promotion or sample that we received, were provided free of charge courtesy of Majestic.

I started in the southwest corner of the Trade Show, and instantly saw a recognizable booth. It was Coopersburg Sports from CNBC’s show The Profit. The owner was much nicer in person than he was depicted on television.

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Not a mini-bat guy myself, but it’s a popular collectors item.

Next up were a few things that I’ve seen at Citi Field. First was the ultra popular Dynamic Drinkware, which makes the special collectible cups that you can get when purchasing a large soda at the ballpark. They have some pretty cool designs including “live” cups.

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Another thing I recognized from Citi Field was the company that makes Fan Walk Bricks, called Fund Raisers Sports. They have done bricks at a lot of Baseball, Football and Public event spaces.

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I have a brick located in front of the Stengel Entrance, and it looks great. The owner, however, did confirm that bricks are bricks, and are subject to erosion. I’m very curious what will happen to the fan walk bricks in around 30 years.

One of my favorite exhibits were the booths related to tickets. Tickets.com, the company that the Mets use as their ticket portal, showed me their latest technology advances, and the things that they are doing. Tickets.com, at least to me, is the best way to purchase baseball tickets, and they are implementing seat selection on a mobile device for next season.

The other two companies, the Toledo Ticket Company (the company I mentioned earlier), and Worldwide Ticketcraft, discussed with me how mobile ticketing is hurting their business, but the niche market, of collectable tickets is keeping them alive and well.

While all of this was happening, buyers were walking around speaking to owners and making deals, and since I was a younger reporter, everyone seemed either very relaxed when talking to me, or, wanted to dismiss me quickly, both of which I understand.

One of the best interactions I had was with the guys from the American Cancer Society, who gave out free luggage tag-wraps, and shared their story. Both of the gentlemen were cancer survivors, and their work with the Cancer Society was truly admirable to me, so if, you have some time and can donate some money, you can do that by clicking here.

Some of the other people that I had good conversations with were people that designed scoreboard and scoreboard graphics, like Daktronics, the guys that installed the massive scoreboard in Citi Field two seasons ago.

I had a great discussion with the gentleman that designed scoreboards for Formetco about how line boards are being phased out for smaller box scores and larger irrelevant box scores. He agreed with me, and he explained how much the Baseball scoreboard has evolved over the last five years.

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Under Armour had a little area, and I could just imagine how excited they were, considering they are going to be manufacturing MLB Uniforms in three years with their logo featured front and center.

Another controversial manufacturer of on-field gear that was present at the event was New Era, which announced that their famous flag logo will be embroidered on all caps starting next year, something we got a bitter taste of in the postseason last year. Still, the folks were very nice and cheerfully gave me a collectible Winter Meetings cap as a memento.

Perhaps my favorite, booth, though was the #MiLBcommUNITY booth, which kind of reminded me of the Stand Up To Cancer tribute that is held annually during the World Series. I was prompted to draw on a placard what community meant to me, and I stood in front of a backdrop, and was told to tweet out the photo, which would automatically donate $1 dollar to charity, which was a win-win.

Overall, the Trade Show was a highlight of my time at the Winter Meetings. Getting to see everything that makes the baseball experience run as smoothly as it does. It takes hard working people to print out the ticket stock, create the machines that scan the ticket, and so on, and every time I go to I ballpark from now on, I hope to see that through a new lens.

Everyone at the Trade Show was very welcoming and very anxious and excited to share their products, and if I get the chance to come back to the Winter Meetings in Orlando in 2017, I’d be honored to come back to the Trade Show at meet new faces and discover new products.

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