Remembering Dana Brand

I got the call about a week and a half ago, when the days were blurred together by a fever that had me bed-ridden and a flu that would take two weeks to beat. I could barely talk or think, but Lynn Cohen (of was calling to tell me that Dana Brand had suddenly passed away.  Dana – whom we’d just seen the Saturday before at a joyous (despite the Mets loss) GKR event, flanked by his smiling family. In fact it was Dana who email-introduced me to Lynn back in 2008. He had a way of bringing Mets fans together – of bridging the faceless voids between urls to gather avid, vocal blogging fans face-to-face.

The first time I met Dana in person he was doing just that – summoning Mets bloggers, the kind of fans he wrote about and considered his brethren, to celebrate the launch of his book, Mets Fan. That was September, 2007 (an eternity ago in blogger-time) and I urge you to read about the event in Dana’s own words here.

But the memory I’ll hold most dear of Dana was the day I got to see what a wonderful father he was. Almost exactly a year ago, June 10th 2010, Lynn got a bunch of last minute tickets in Citi Field’s Bridge Terrace. Never heard of the Bridge Terrace? I hadn’t either, but I’d seen the seats – little green cafe tables directly above the Mets bullpen, in front of the Shea Bridge. I arrived solo, planning to watch the game pretty much on my own, enjoying the sun and Johan Santana on the mound for the first game of a double-header.

But then I saw Dana sitting with his lovely daughter Sonia, and they waved me on over. I hesitated internally – I didn’t want to interrupt daddy-daughter time, but Dana and Sonia could not have made me feel like less of an imposition. Dana was so open that way. If you knew him at all you could understand why he literally wrote the book – Dana loved talking to Mets fans, about Mets fans, and about Mets baseball. And so as the game went to pot pretty quickly – it was not a good day for Johan – Dana, Sonia, and I mostly kibbitzed. Before the game, we peered over the side of the bullpen at the birds-eye view of Henry Blanco’s tattooed arms catching Johan’s warm-up pitches. We marveled over the sound of the ball hitting the mitt. I heard about Sonia’s college life, saw Dana proudly nodding. I heard a bit about Sonia’s new boyfriend Pete and noticed the gleam in her eye when she talked about him.

And then Lynn came on by holding something magical. Two tickets to the 2nd game of the double-header. These past few post-collapsalypse years the words “magical” and “Mets tickets” haven’t been used together all that often, but these were 2nd row seats. Behind the Mets dugout. Almost on the dang field itself. Lynn said, “These seats have to go to someone who’ll appreciate them.” That someone was obviously Dana.

But Dana didn’t hesitate. He even managed to hide what might have been personal disappointment. He just said, “Oh, we can’t. Sonia has to get home to Skype with her new boyfriend.” Dana was going to give up 2nd-row dugout seats…so that his daughter could talk long distance on a computer with her boyfriend. Because that’s what she wanted, and he wanted what she wanted.

But, no. That was so not going to happen.

I don’t remember exactly what I said to Sonia, but it was along the lines of, “Girl, you can talk to your man anytime. Look at these seats!” I could see her getting excited about them. The kind of seats non-corporate Mets fans usually only get to dream about. And I’m so glad I had even a little part in convincing Sonia to delay her Skype chat with Pete, because the game that night was amazing. Jon Niese’s one-hitter. We were all gabbing about it the next day. Dana wrote about the whole experience, the day game and the night game in the seats, here.

Knowing that Dana and Sonia had that night together, at a place that may not have been Shea but was still pretty special, to watch one of the greatest Mets games in recent years, and in those seats, warms my heart. To know that they won’t again breaks it. But I imagine that night was just one lovely memory in an overflowing treasure trove of them.

Dana was a great writer, a die-hard Mets fan, and a special guy. We will miss him, and he won’t soon be forgotten.

If you’d like to participate in a memorial at Citi Field for Dana on July 16th, please click here. I’ll be in Florida for my grandfather’s 90th birthday, but I’ll be sending lots of loving thoughts back to Flushing.

My 2 problems with Ike Davis

Mostly, the Mets first baseman? Love him. How can you not like Ike? He’s even got his first hr of the season under his belt, he’s hitting well, and he’s dutifully minding first. 

What he’s not doing? 
Do you see it?
1. Haircut. Ikey baby. You’re in dangerous pre-mullet territory. Not even Piazza could pull off the mullet. 
2. Chew tobacco. Chaw. Gross. Too gross to screenshot, but Ike’s been spitting it all around first base. Ike, you’re so close to being a role model. Home grown, eager, polite. Let’s get rid of the gross and cancerous. 
Years ago Pick Me Up Some Mets called out worthy role model dear David Wright for wearing pleated pants. He soon hired a stylist. Coincidence? Well sure, probably. But let’s go Ike – to the hair dresser and then maybe some Chantix. You’re better than this!

On the cusp of Opening Day, two of our fan brethren…

I know I’m not the only one who feels a stab of excitement when an item of Mets memorabilia like a banner or a ball cap pops onto the TV screen. One of us! It’s a fictional one of us! While experimenting with images for my new Tumblr I snagged these screenshots of two of our TV own.

So now we got Pete Campbell, Mad Men account exec forever in the shadow of dashing Don Draper, and Lily Aldrin from How I Met Your Mother, played by awesome Buffy alum Alyson Hannigan. Pete would have been with the team since it started in 1962, and Lily’s character is a NYC native, and so perhaps she was raised loving our boys in Queens…


Kevin Burkhardt on Chip Hale’s preparation

Despite the unfortunate outcome of Friday’s rubber game against the Marlins, I loved hearing Kevin Burkhardt’s insight about what goes into Mets third base coach Chip Hale’s preparation for both team defense and base running.

At the top of the broadcast, KB ran a clip showing how Hale uses the computer to evaluate both the Mets and the opposing team. Watching how he can pull up individual plays with a click of the mouse was fascinating, and Kevin later explained how these plays are connected to lists. But let’s let him explain it, with this transcript from the bottom of the 5th:
Chip Hale gets here at 1 oclock in the afternoon, and really one of the first things he does is go to the computer. He figures out how how this team is going to play defensively for the night. And how he does that, in this computer he can put in any split you can possibly imagine: left, right, how they’ve done the last month, anything you can imagine he puts it in. And not only that, they can pull up hit charts, and off those hit charts he can pull up highlights to see just about anything he wants to see to determine how he’s going to put together the defense. 

When he does that he then puts together a sheet that each player gets on their bench when they come in for the day, and on that sheet it tells the players where they’re going to play against each batter. It’ll also have little nuggets about, ‘this batter likes to bunt on one strike,’ ‘this batter likes to steal 3rd,’ little tidbits of information that are helpful to the fielder. And then what Chip will do next, he’ll stay on that computer, and he’ll look at the outfield arms of the other team. Of course as a 3rd base coach, you want to know who’s doing what…He looks at what they’ve done lately. He basically will pull up the last month on video, and he can see any throw that these guys have made. So he’ll pull one up and watch where the opposing team’s runner is as a guy is getting the ball. So let’s say Raul Ibanez is making a throw home to get somebody out. He’ll watch where the runner is on the base pass when Ibanez gets the ball. So if it was a good throw home and the guy’s out, Chip has an idea, kind of comparing speeds, ‘alright I have an idea if my runner is here, I may not send him the way Ibanez is throwing lately.’ That all goes into this.”

Very cool stuff, KB. As always, the SNY broadcast offers great viewing even if the outcome of the game is…let’s use the word frustrating

But last night was an impressive Pelfrey-led win, and who knows what tonight will bring? Let’s Go Mets!


Me on PIX news. Oy, K-Rod.

Saturday evening found me on the 7 train off to watch the Mets play the Phils, an uneven match up of Misch vs. Halladay, when I received a text from awesome WPIX field correspondent and Pick Me Up Some Mets friend Debra Alfarone. 

This would be K-Rod’s first game back after his two-day suspension for…sigh…beating his fiance’s father in full view of the clubhouse family lounge. At the time, Mets fans figured he was back–our hot head closer on the day of his public apology. Debra was at Citi Field interviewing fans to see if they accepted K-Rod’s apology, and to see what happened next. 
Before heading in to watch the game with a friend, we stopped off to talk with Debra about what K-Rod needed to do to smooth things over with his teammates. The clip caught the last part of the interview, and I’ll add the caveat that I’m much more comfortable writing than speaking! K-Rod’s actions were bad enough before–and I can’t say (as the clip says) that I do think management would have forgiven him–but now the fans are unlikely to ever speak his name well again. And there’s no hope of making up his actions to his teammates.
K-Rod’s temper turned out to make him a bad teammate, embroiling his comrades in the worst way in his own personal turmoil. He’s out for the season, likely never to wear a Mets uniform again, and now our beleaguered team has no closer. Help us Hisanori Takahashi, you’re our only hope.

Here’s K-Rod’s last time entering the field. The boos were louder on the broadcast. Badly done, K-Rod, injuring yourself, your family, and the team we root so passionately for.

But despite the unfortunate circumstances, this past Saturday, I loved seeing talented Debra Alfarone at work, and I hope PIX features many more of her segments to come. Here I am with my friend Tobey, Debra, and her awesome cameraman. Add in a green-themed cap giveaway for Irish Day (Tobey and I got the very last two at the left field gate!), steak tacos, and a frozen mango rum drink to the great company, and we proved it’s still possible to have a fun time at Citi during a disappointing season. 

R.A. Dickey knows why the Mets are still in it

alg_mets_dickey.jpgThere are a million reasons to love RA Dickey, arguably the Mets’ biggest happy surprise of 2010. You might think the latest reason was his dazzling 8+ inning shut-out against the validly strong Cardinals, but in fact, the very latest “I Love Dickey” moment came after the game, in the dugout talking to Kevin Burkhardt. 

In his genuine, humble yet determined way, Dickey captured exactly the tenor and essence of his team:
You can say a lot of things about the 2010 New York Mets, but you don’t ever say that we don’t play hard. I mean we’ve got–you look at Angel Pagan’s uniform, and Jose Reyes after a thirteen inning heartbreaker last night, coming off a 2 and 9 road trip–we don’t give up. And we’re not gonna give up.”

Well said, Dickey, and I’m sticking in there with you. Let’s Go Mets. 

Home field advantage: Roar of the fans or heads of the players?

house2.gifHome sweet home. It’s as if the Mets have a corresponding embroidered sampler hanging in the clubhouse. Perhaps Mrs. Met has gotten crafty lately?

It’s tempting for fans to claim partial credit for the Mets’ success at Citi this season. We’re so supportive! Our loud approval gives the team the extra motivation it needs to actually hit the ball. We are awesome, like a magic fingers bed, massaging our Metsies into stellar offense and victory.
But really, when you consider the variables that might be most significant for the Mets’ home winning percentage this year, the biggest one is simply that–the Mets win at home. And the Mets lose on the road. Not only do they all know it, they must think about it all the time. It’s in the players’ heads, which means it’s in their bodies, their confidence, their stances, their patience, their hitting. This season, home has been a safe haven while the road has been nothing but bumpy. Once the pattern started, the Mets internalized it. Now what must be done is to shake that standard loose.
Baseballers are mental. Why else go through routines and superstitious tics if not to put one’s mind at ease? The team needs to feel safe on the road, as confident and sure as they are at home. Perhaps this means taking part of Citi with them, like a cherished teddy bear to clutch in the dark. So how can we bottle Citi Field and send it on the road? Some Pick Me Up suggestions:
  • Get Danny Meyer to ship Shake Shake burgers and Blue Smoke ribs with the team. The aroma of Citi’s delicious food will transport the players–like Proust’s madeleine–back to their happy place.
  • Use television magic to make the team think they’re in Citi. Turn the outfield wall of any away ballpark into a giant green screen to project more outfield, just like home. Then, surprise! Extra home runs for you.
  • Fancy up away locker rooms. Send a design team ahead to install as many amenities as possible so the team feels as perk-heavy as they do in their own clubhouse.
  • Bring beat down cars and auto parts to sprinkle around visiting parks so the team thinks it’s entering right at Willets Point.
  •  Send the team on the road with a truck full of Queens water. Use the water in away toilets, showers, water fountains. Clearly it has magic powers.
  • Hypnosis. Convince the boys they never left the comforts of Citi. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. Now cluck like a chicken. 
Meanwhile, all this week, don’t forget to vote in the MegdalforGM poll!