First Trip to Citi Field

April 23, 2009

Ah, my first trip to Citi Field. I have the 15-game Friday pack, and it is the first time I have ever had a ticket plan with the Mets. My tickets are in Left Field in the Promenade Level. The ticket is $20 per game.
There is plenty of parking, with about 14,000 less seats and the more spots available due to the construction being completed this makes it easier to get to Citi Field by car. Be prepared to pay $18 to park. I like to park by the Marina, it is the easiest way out after the game. If you can take the 7 train, it’s only about a 15 minute trip from Grand Central Station.

Shea is nothing but a square piece of dirt right now. Only the memories remain. Many of those memories are shown around the walls of Citi Field, which does have an Ebbets Field facade to it.

Anything was better than Shea. This is true on so many levels. Escalators that work perfectly, there are even elevators, and the support staff at Citi Field are nice and friendly, and you almost forget you are in New York City. They must have hired a 1,000 people. Luckily, most of the people that worked at Shea seem to be living at Shady Acres.

This place is about the concession stands. They surround the concourses. The prices were about the same as Shea. The food options were robust. I ate before the game. A hot dog is $4.75, $6.50 to $7.50 for a beer, there are burger places, pizza, sausage & peppers, tacos, burritos, etc. Behind Center field is the Shake Shack that is very popular with even more options. The one problem with that place is that the scoreboard blocks your view of the field while you are there. It was cool to see the old Mets sign with the NYC skyline above it that used to be over the old Shea scoreboard.

Bill Veeck once said that, “The knowledge of the game is inversely proportional to the price of the seat.” He said this decades ago long before there would be 5 levels of club seating, seat licenses, waitress service to seat, etc. God, if he was alive today, what he would say. There are 5 Clubs at Citi Field, a different one for the ticket you hold. I do not have access to any of them. I have sat in Club Seats before, it is nice, but it is only good if you get free food with your ticket. Most of the Clubs at Citi do not give you free food. The real Met fans who probably sat in the Orange and Blue Levels in the past have mostly migrated to the top. The infamous Cow-Bell Man is up with us. Most of the “Let’s Go Mets” chants started with our sections, the people who paid 3 figures for the seats seemed content to sit on their hands, and hope the Mets win by at least 2 points.

My seat is no wider than it was at Shea, but there is more leg room and cup holders at every seat. And the rows are situated where you can see over someone regardless of height instead of looking between people’s shoulders. I am in the 6th row of section 534, I have a very nice view of the field, every seat faces home plate, which was something that was an adventure at Shea where you had to turn your body to see the pitcher. The height of my seat is about the equivalent to the Mezzanine level at Shea, so the view is not necessarily a nose bleed view. There are obstructed views and my seats are not immune from that. Because the seats overlap the Left Field wall, anything hit to the wall cannot be seen below you. I knew this when I bought my tickets, but, I wanted to be part of this place, and I was not going to spend thousands to get the perfect seat.

It is not a big deal to me that the seats are green and the wall is black. Everyone will learn to live with that. The Phillies have blue seats and a green wall at their park which does not really match their colors either. I would have rather seen a nice design built into the seats like the ones that exist for the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles and Manchester United.

The Jackie Robinson Rotunda is very nice, but it is 45 years too late. This should have been part of Shea and not Citi Field. The Mets have 47 years of history on their own. Yes, most of it is tragic and laughable, but some it is actually historic. The Mets are only one of three teams since the 1962 expansion to capture multiple World Series titles. The Blue Jays and the Marlins are the other two, and the only team to capture 4 Pennants. While, I am huge Brooklyn Dodger fan, I am in the 90 per cent majority who was not alive to see Jackie play. I would say only about 2 or 3 per cent of last night’s attendance actually saw a game at Ebbets Field, my father, who is 68, is in that 2 or 3 per cent.

While Dodger fans loved Jackie, he was not their favorite Dodger, the fans of dem Bums favorites were Pee Wee Reese, the most beloved, the Duke of Flatbush, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, who also managed the Miracle Mets (and should be in the Hall of Fame!), Roy Campanella, and the Reading Rifle, Carl Furillo were all more popular in Brooklyn than #42. What I would have done with the Rotunda would be to incorporate all 3 New York National League teams, the Dodgers, the Giants, and the Mets into one. The Field does not really have much at all in terms of Mets items associated with it. The banners hang from high flag poles out in Right Field and are hardly noticeable. Citi Field almost makes the Mets feel like a first-year expansion team with hardly any history. Now, I am not saying we needed to make a Benny Agbayani, Mel Rojas, or Tsuyoshi Shinjo Rotunda, but I think true Met fans wanted to see pictures of Tom Terrific, Doc, Darryl, the Kid, I’m Keith Hernandez, Ronny Darling, Mike Piazza, Johnny Franco, Gil Hodges, Davey, and some pictures of today’s Mets stars adorn the building. Everyone likes to wax poetic about Brooklyn, and it is a special place, and the borough is making a renaissance, but if Brooklyn was so great, how come the team moved just 2 years after a championship. You can blame Walter O’Malley and the city all you want, but attendance numbers dwindled, and the Trolley Dodgers are never coming back. We have the Mets, and the true fans bleed orange and blue, not blue and white. I look at the New England Patriots, a team that has been around for the same number of years, and with actually less history, now has a new stadium, a team Hall of Fame, a shopping area called Patriot Place, pretty good ticket prices except for the Club Seats, and that place is all about the Patriots. Citi Field should be all about the Mets.

Now to the actual game, seeing Gary Sheffield hit his 500th Home Run was special, and only done 24 other times, but what made it even more memorable was that it tied the game. A game that the Mets were cruising after the first inning, but fell asleep for the next 6 innings and trailed 4-3. Gary’s pop off the bench gave the Mets a spark that in recent years was sorely missing. The bullpen was tremendous, keeping the Brewers off the scoreboard for 4 innings, and Luis Castillo, a cross to bear for Met fans, comes through again in ’09 with a walk-off winning RBI infield single.
The crowd was about 36,000, last night, about 6,000 short of a sellout. Unfortunately, I think there will be fewer sellouts due to the high ticket prices, and that the celebs and CEO’s that that the Wilpons thought would flock to the park, are here, but the demand was not overwhelming, due to the economy and the greed of the Wilpons’ favorite season ticket holder, Bernie “Arthur Ponzarelli” Madoff.

I will be making a trip to the new Yankee Stadium this season; I drove past it last night, and it looks jaw droppingly good. I will have a write up about the $1.6 Billion new Coliseum for the Bombers. I think the Mets $800 Million was pretty well spent, it will take a while to get used to the home field, but it is our home, and hopefully the memories, like the one I had last night, will add to the Ulti-Met times to come.

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Recap of Jon Stewart’s Interview With Jim Cramer

March 13, 2009

I really liked Jon’s interview with Jim Cramer. Jon’s questions and video evidence of Jim bending the rules was terrific. But, Jon is pointing his blame at the wrong person. The blame in this are the investigative financial reporters, lies not just at CNBC, but every network that had a chance to expose more of the fraud.

Is CNBC at fault, sure it is. Is it more at fault than the CEO of Bear Stears, Wachovia, or Lehman Brothers? No. Are reporters more to blame than a clueless Federal Reserve or an incompetent Securities and Exchange Commission? Heck no. Those are the people he should be interviewing.

Jim Cramer is not really better than anyone else on Wall Street. He really does not pretend to be. He has taught me and many others a few things about the stock market. I have made money thanks to his recommendations, my research, and working with my financial planner. Anyone who just listens to his advice without doing any additional research is crazy. Could he have known more than he led on? Probably. But, even if he did, few would have listened. You can go back to my youtube clip on Peter Schiff where he was completely laughed at, click on the link if you don’t believe me. Most of us were making money and we were happy and did not care that we were skating on paper thin ice.

The stock market and the economy reminds of me of baseball in 2009. We knew years ago that these players (companies on Wall Street) were artificially juiced, but we really did not make a stink about it until it hurt us in our own pockets, or if someone hit 73 home runs in a single season that we did not personally like. We liked seeing McGwire belt out 70 in a year, even though we knew he was a fraud. He brought us to watch baseball again and the 500 foot homers were really cool. But, when Bonds was doing it, the red alerts went off. Over 100 baseball players, like Wall Street executives were nothing but pathological liars.

The people that Stewart should have asked his poignant questions are the CEO’s, and other executives that are actually in banking, not an entertainer. We can question and learn from the past, but we have to have the right people step forward and be honest. It is 2009, and the damage has been done, it is time for new ideas, honest solutions and never going back to the days of being sold a fraudulent house of cards. Interviewing Jim Cramer is about equal to interviewing Tim McCarver.

By the way, I loved how during the last commercial break there was a commercial for Bank of America. What a double standard, that is! Hey, we can pick on banks all we want, but we will take their advertising dollars! Welcome to the Daily $how!


Another Buck for A-Rod

February 11, 2009

Let me begin this column by stating that I am a Mets fan, and I have no bones to pick here.  Man, Joe Torre, is one lucky guy. He fails to win a World Series in his last 7 years as Yankee manager, despite the Yankees spending a stimulus worthy amount of over $1 Billion in payroll, and you hardly hear a peep of blame.  In fact, most Yankee fans were sad to see him leave.  I do not think Joe wanted to come back with the current management structure of the Yankees, and I do not think the Steinbrenner Sons wanted Joe back.  It was bizarre for New York.  In other cities; they are a little more patient.  Jeff Fisher has been the only in coach in Tennessee’s history, and Bill Cowher was in Pittsburgh, and did not win a title until his 14th and final season with the Steelers.

Yes, Joe won 4 World Series in 5 years, and that is undeniable.  He was also very fortunate to step into a very good situation.  And last year, Manny Ramirez falls in his lap as he decides that Fenway park will never get wi-fi in the green monster, and moves to an area more comfortable for him, La-La Land.

Last week, his book, The Yankee Years, was the talk of the New York sports world. People were reacting that the Yankees were not going to retire his number 6, and that there would not be a Joe Torre Day someday at Yankee Stadium.  Now, it seems like that may happen a lot sooner than you think.  This week the book seems to be as memorable as Bill Parcells’ book about his last season in the NFL when he coached the Jets in 1999.  He returned to coach the Cowboys in 2003.  Personally, I think Joe’s book is overblown.  What I disagree with the book is the timing.  It reminds of me that car that makes a fast turn to cut in front of you, and then proceeds to drive under the speed limit.  You then look in your rear view mirror and see there was no one behind you.  My point here is, Joe couldn’t wait?  Joe couldn’t wait until his managing career was over to release some details that he thought were sacred cows of the clubhouse?  Did he need the money that bad?  I believe Joe Torre is a nice man, but I think he is a man who still likes the spotlight, and the spotlight he has as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers is not like he had in New York.  Joe, being from Brooklyn, knows their is no limelight in sports like New York baseball.

I think one of the most seldom asked questions in New York sports is what if Buck Showalter did not leave the Yankees after the 1995 season? People tend to forget that Buck took over the Bronx Bombers in 1992, after the 1991 season with Stump Merrill as Manager posting a 71-91 record.   Buck did not get along well with George Steinbrenner and was not really seen as a New York kind of manager, despite his success.

Buck ran it to unfortunate luck as Yankee skipper.  If the Wildcard system was in place in 1993, the Yankees would have won that.  In 1994, the Yankees appeared to be running away with American League East, they had a 6 and 1/2 game lead over the Orioles and had the best record in the AL with a 70-43 record.  No one would ever see how that season would finish as the 1994 baseball season ended prematurely on August 11th, due to the players’ strike.  Buck was named AL Manager of the Year in 1994 as a consolation prize.  In 1995, after a 144 game strike-shortened season; Buck led the Yankees into the playoffs for the first time since 1981.  The Yankees met the Seattle Mariners in baseball’s first ever Division playoff series. The Division Series originally ran with the Wild Card team hosting games 1 & 2 and the Division Winner hosting games 3, 4, & 5.  This would change after 1997; I can’t help but think that the Yankees would have won that series if it was a 2-2-1 series.  Just another unlucky piece for Buck’s resume.  It was an epic series, where the Mariners outlasted the Yankees in 5 games after a classic 12-inning finale.    There was a young 20 old shortstop named Alex Rodriguez on that Mariners team.

Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez was a natural.  He couldn’t miss. He tried out for Team USA while still in high school.  He was drafted first overall by the Seattle Mariners.   Major League Baseball could market him as the next superstar, young, good-looking, a boy with a Latino roots but born in America and could speak to people of so many backgrounds.  He could have been to Latin-Americans, what Joe DiMaggio means to Italian-Americans,  what Willie Mays means to African-Americans, and what Sandy Koufax means to Jewish-Americans.  An American born of a minority race with unparalleled talent that would be talked about by generations of fans as their personal baseball icon.

Somewhere along the line the boy known as  Alex Rodriguez became A-Rod.  Arod is a Sindarin word that means noble.  Unfortunately, for Mr. Rodriguez, his version of A-Rod has a hyphen and now it means something totally opposite of the Sindari counterpart.  His numbers were piling up in Seattle, and then he went to Texas in 2001, where he would sign that monster 10 year/$250 million contract.  After three years of terrific stats, his Rangers failed to make the playoffs and the Yankees would trade for him in 2004.

When Alex came to New York, he was given his king’s salary and given all of the media spotlight.  But, there was no key to the city to be rewarded, because this was not his team.  (If LeBron James becomes part of the New York Knicks in 2010, you will see what the key to the city really looks like).  A man by the name of Derek Jeter has the key sealed until he retires.  Jeter is a New York icon, and held the position that Alex grew up playing which was shortstop.  You almost feel bad for A-Rod.  He is kind of like what Maris was when compared to Mantle.  The only thing is here, Maris, I mean A-Rod, makes over $20 million per season and will not receive an ounce of pity.  He would move to third base, and it would be the hot corner for him in more ways than he could ever imagine.  This week it became an inferno.

Derek Jeter was supposed to be a good player, he made it himself great through his hustle, running down to first base on almost every at bat, going after balls that few would dare, and then in 2004 by diving in to the stands and risking his body and his possibly his career to make a catch.  It was a play that was completely Jeter-esque, but it is a piece of the game that does not seem like it is in A-Rod’s repertoire.  The heart of Jeter well overshadowed the supreme talent of A-Rod.  It is a very large shadow and it is one you do not get away from if your cocky, unfeeling, and make the front page headlines for who you are dating rather than the back page headlines for his accomplishments.

A-Rod had his chances to make add to the Yankee legacy, but it was not meant to be. I wonder what Yankee fans would be saying about A-Rod today if it were he and not his predecessor at third base, Aaron Boone, who hit that home run to win the 2003 American League Championship Series.  I also wonder what would have happened if he had homered in extra innings in either Game 4 or Game 5 of the 2004 American League Championship Series to knock out the Red Sox, instead of having to be part of a dubious legacy.  But, when the chips were down, A-Rod could not deliver.  Over the years, he became the other K-Rod, or my personal favorite, Double Play Rod.

You look at A-Rod and you are not really sure that it matters to him.  He knows he is great, heck, he will tell it your face.  But, to be great in sports, especially when you play in New York, and double that when you play for the Yankees, you need to be a champion.  He had been a Yankee for 5 seasons, and the Championship cupboard was bare.  Could it get any worse for A-Rod?  Oh yes.

A-Rod came out this week and admitted he had used steroids in his time with the Texas Rangers.  Ok, let’s set the record straight, he didn’t come out, he was forced out by a Sports Illustrated report that said he had tested positive for steroids back in 2003.   After appearing, voluntarily, on 60 Minutes in 2007, and stating that he never took steroids, he now puts himself in the world of first class baseball liars along with  Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and the list grows each and every day.  One thing you didn’t think A-Rod would do was take steroids.  He did not really show any physical build up like those mentioned in the prior sentence.  With his talent, did he really need to do it?  But, he did it.  He is digging a hole so deep, that I do not know how anyone can come out of it.  There is just one thing that I don’t understand; I may find myself rooting for A-Rod.  I may not be alone.  He is about as steep of an underdog as there is right now, and New Yorkers always love an underdog.  If he can pull himself out and show the heart that matches his skills and lying ability, he just might redeem himself.  Will this happen?  I have no idea, but I am going to tune it.  I bet you will, too.

Like the opposing team’s manager his Mariners defeated in 1995, A-Rod did not have much luck in the Bronx.  Unlike Buck, he may get a chance for redemption and a chance to change his luck. Also unlike Buck, A-Rod’s wounds are mostly self-inflicted and he cannot undue the damage that has been done, but he may get a chance to do something good.

I wonder what else Joe Torre knew, maybe he will save that for his next book.