Inside Baseball: Dysfunction at Citi Field is simply amazin’ - The Buffalo News
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Inside Baseball: Dysfunction at Citi Field is simply amazin’

It’s all just so Mets-ian. The craziness going on down in Flushing is worthy of creating a new word. It’s pretty absurd to think about all the things that have gone on in just the last two weeks. The Mets won 15 games in April, their best showing in the first month since 2007, and the front office apparently got offended at all the empty seats in Citi Field. Guess no one realizes how overpriced big-league baseball is in the Big Apple these days for the common man.

So they sent out a letter to hundreds of thousands of folks, topped by signatures of some of their all-time stars and beginning with the greeting, “To True New Yorkers.”

The letter discussed what’s up with the team and how things are looking brighter in the wake of four years of losing baseball. Then it said, “As players, we can tell you that what happens in the clubhouse and what happens in the stands – players and fans together, believing in each other – makes a tremendous difference with what happens on the field.”

It was pretty much a where-are-you letter. The Mets cracked the 4 million mark in attendance in 2008, Shea Stadium’s final year. They might not make 2 million this year. They entered Saturday just 4-11 this month, just about since the letter came out.

Former Mets pitcher and current SNY broadcaster Ron Darling signed the letter and said in an interview on WFAN Radio that he regretted it.

“I was asked to put my likeness and name to something, I didn’t read what was going to be put out there,” Darling said. “I didn’t do my due diligence to read what went out. It’s on me. It’s not on anyone else. I put my name on it. I put my likeness on it. I have to live with it.”

The loyalty letter started a cascade of craziness that has troubled the Mets the last two weeks. Remember, GM Sandy Alderson said in spring training that 90 wins was possible. Good luck with that with no Matt Harvey or when their payroll is at a very un-New York-like level of under $90 million.

On WFAN, talk host Mike Francesa announced he can no longer have any guests from the organization on his show because the team has banned them from appearing. The station lost the team’s broadcast rights to rival WOR after last season.

“This is just ridiculous. The Mets are acting like jackasses,” Francesa said. “They really are. They get what they deserve. I hope there’s 10,000 people in Citi Field in a couple of days. You can quote me: jackasses. You hear me?”

The team had to put out fires after a New York Times story said co-owner Saul Katz wanted to sell his shares because he has grown tired of propping up the team owned by brother-in-law and business partner Fred Wilpon. Katz quickly denied the story, in which the paper reported the team lost $70 million as recently as 2011 and has lost more than 58 percent of the revenue from its prime seating since Citi Field opened in 2009.

On Wednesday, the Mets released veteran reliever Kyle Farnsworth two days after he saved the opener of the Subway Series against the Yankees.

Farnsworth had agreed to a 45-day waiver period in spring training and that expired this weekend. But he had been pitching well, with three saves in four chances, and it was clear the decision was motivated to save a good chunk of the $750,000 Farnsworth was owed.

Farnsworth signed with the Astros on Saturday, after initially saying he wanted to get a new job and “Hopefully find a team to play against this team.”

The wackiness ended, for now at least, on Friday, when the Mets accidentally sent a group email to its media list – complete with the full credit card information of Alderson. The email was apparently intended for a contact who could help procure Broadway show tickets. A second email said to disregard the first.

Another gaffe. So Metsian. What a shell of a franchise. And people actually wondered why this corner railed to get the Mets out of Buffalo?

Cue-to, Cue-to

While seemingly no one is noticing, Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto is having an incredible season on the mound in quite the bounceback from the “Cue-to, Cue-to” taunts he took while blowing up in last year’s NL wild-card game in Pittsburgh.

The right-hander is just 4-2 in nine starts due to poor run support – but leads the majors with a 1.25 ERA and 72 strikeouts. Cueto has allowed only five runs over his last 55 innings and ran down his accomplishments after Thursday’s three-hit shutout of the Padres:

• Cueto is the first big leaguer to start a season with at least seven innings pitched and two or fewer runs allowed over his first nine starts since Harry Krause of the 1909 Philadelphia Athletics did that over 10 straight starts.

“I didn’t know that was something that was there,” Cueto said through an interpreter. “Now that I know, I will say, ‘Thank God that I’m the guy doing it after 100 years.’ ”

• Cueto now has six straight starts of eight innings or more and no one has done that in the big leagues since Cliff Lee compiled 10 straight in 2010. No Reds pitcher has done it since Tom Browning in 1989.

• No Reds pitcher has worked at least seven innings in his first nine starts since Bucky Walters did that for his first 20 outings in 1944.

TV troubles

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny really should have bigger things to worry about but he clearly wasn’t happy last Sunday in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park when the subject of ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” national showcases was being discussed.

The Cardinals are in a stretch of playing the 8 p.m. game three times in four weeks, and all on the road.

There was a game in Wrigley Field, last week’s game in Pittsburgh – the first Sunday nighter for the Pirates since 1996 – and next week’s in Cincinnati. The Cards made the maximum six appearances on the game last year, with MLB and ESPN officials naturally pointing out it’s a tribute to the franchise and its wide fan base.

“That’s the answer that they keep giving us, is that we should be grateful,” Matheny said. “But I have to tell you, there is no gratitude for this. I understand for the good of the game, but there is no benefit for us. Our fan base is going to be able to pick up our games on TV.

This isn’t like back in the day where if you get coverage from them it’s the only time people are going to get to see you. People all over the world are picking up our games.

“I don’t think it’s taken into consideration at all that it makes it harder for us. You get in at 4 o’clock in the morning and … if they tell you that playing the next day that’s not going to affect you, I’d say they’re wrong.”

The Cards have a particular tough slate next week. They play the 7:05 Central time game at Cincinnati, then fly back to St. Louis overnight and have a 2:05 Memorial Day matinee against the Yankees.

“I think a little more consideration needs to be given to the fact that it beats a team up,” Matheny said. “Our job is to win games, and I feel this is something that affects us one way or another. There is nobody out there fighting for us on this.”

Around the horn

• The Indians have moved former Canisius College pitcher John Axford out of the closer’s role after a couple of ninth-inning blowups. Manager Terry Francona is now splitting duties between Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Scott Atchison and Marc Rzepczynski, depending on situation.

Axford signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal in the offseason after finishing the year in St. Louis. He’s 1-3 with a 4.41 ERA and nine saves in 11 chances this year. Axford saved 110 games for the Brewers from 2010-2012.

• Jose Fernandez’s Tommy John surgery is the death blow for the upstart Marlins for this season. Yes, they entered Saturday just 1½ games out of the lead in the NL East but they were just 5-16 on the road and now without the guy who can lead the rotation. Guys keep blowing out their arms but let’s keep saddling them with artificial pitch counts all through the minors. That’s not working.

• Another sign that Bud Selig might actually be serious about retirement come January: The formation of a succession committee by the Major League Executive Council. Cardinals owner William DeWitt, Jr. will chair the seven-man panel. Selig became interim commissioner in 1992 and served nearly six years in that role before taking the job on a permanent basis. His terms ends on Jan. 24, 2015.


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