MLB: Mets can't wear special NYPD hats

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MLB: Mets can't wear special NYPD hats

From Comcast SportsNet Sunday, September 11, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) -- Major League Baseball denied the New York Mets' request to wear baseball caps Sunday night honoring New York emergency service departments for their game against the Chicago Cubs on the 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations, told The Associated Press in a phone interview the decision was made to keep policy consistent throughout baseball.

"Certainly it's not a lack of respect," Torre said. "We just felt all the major leagues are honoring the same way with the American flag on the uniform and the cap. This is a unanimity thing."

The Mets wanted to wear caps honoring police, firefighters and other first responders like the ones they wore on Sept. 21, 2001, in the first professional sporting event in New York after the World Trade Center collapsed 10 days earlier. They spoke with Torre on several occasions over the course of the last month.

"They certainly understood and respected," baseball's decision, Torre said. "I certainly understood what they wanted to do in regards to wearing the hats. I used my history with the fact that we were in the World Series 10 years ago."

During the 2001 World Series, the Yankees wore caps with emergency service logos during a pregame ceremony, but wore their blue hats with a white interlocking "NY" for the games.

Torre also said there was recent precedence for the policy. The Washington Nationals wanted to wear caps honoring the Navy SEALs that were killed in Afghanistan in early August and the team was allowed to wear them before the game.

The Mets said in a statement Sunday they followed the guidelines set in a league-wide memo issued by MLB for games played on Sept 11.

Some Mets wore caps, such as "NYPD" and "FDNY," during batting practice. Player representative Josh Thole said he and his teammates were contemplating wearing those caps during the game.

"I think it will be a nice gesture," Thole said. "What are they going to do, fine us?"

Several minutes later he returned and said the caps were a "no-go" because he was told MLB was adamant.

"If we got a vote in, I think we'd want to wear the hats," David Wright said, "but at the end of the day Major League Baseball makes that call, and we're going to respect that."

Instead, the Mets wore their black caps with blue brims and a blue-and-orange interlocking "NY" when they took the field to face the Cubs.

Wright, though, was seen in the dugout early in the game wearing a first responder hat.

The Mets held a 24-minute ceremony of remembrance under dimmed stadium lights before the game. Fans held electronic candles as bagpipers and drummers stood on the infield and first responders lined the basepaths. Each of the Mets and Cubs escorted a member of "Tuesday's Children," a charity for families affected by the attacks, onto the field and they stood with the uniformed emergency-service workers.

A 100-by-300 foot flag was held by first responders and victims' family members.

Marc Anthony sang the national anthem, as he did on Sept. 21, 2001. Mike Piazza, who hit an uplifting homer in the eighth inning to help the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves that night, caught a ceremonial first pitch from New York native John Franco, a teammate on the 2001 squad.

The caps worn during the ceremony will be autographed and sold on Mets.com. Proceeds will be distributed to charities through the Mets' foundation.

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

The tumult around the Bears quarterback position this offseason – signing Mike Glennon, cutting Jay Cutler, not signing Brian Hoyer, now signing Mark Sanchez – was to be expected. (Well, not all the brouhaha around Sanchez; if there has ever been more hyperventilating around the arriving backup quarterback, it’s escaping my recollections of a quarter-century on the beat.)

All of that, and a lot of the noise around Mike Glennon is really missing a larger point. A couple, really.

GM Ryan Pace established fixing the quarterback situation as a top priority, something it has been just about since Jim McMahon left, with the exception of a few Jay Cutler years. Doing that to any meaningful degree with the castoff options available in free agency or via trades wasn’t ever going to happen. What Pace has done with the quarterback situation, however, is more than a little intriguing.

The quarterback additions and subtractions, coupled with also suggest a draft plan far from locked in on a quarterback. The signings of Glennon and Sanchez don’t mean the Bears have solved their quarterback position, but it does mean the Bears have positioned themselves with the distinct option of NOT taking a quarterback – this year.

But here’s the bigger point.

Even with the optimum quarterback solution unavailable – Pace arguably did go best-available in his and the coaches’ minds with Glennon and Sanchez, all derision aside – Pace’s goal needs to be building a team that can reach a high playoff level regardless of quarterback.

Meaning: defense. And while the 2017 free agent and draft classes did not offer must-have quarterbacks in most evaluations, there are those elite-level defensive talents, and every indication is that the Bears will look there, in the draft, and should be. It had that feeling when the Bears, with ample, money to spend, backed away from day one free-agency runs at a couple of pricey defensive backs. The Bears simply think they can do better for less in the draft.

A perspective: With a defense at its levels during the Brian Urlacher era, the Bears could reach the NFC championship game with what they have at quarterback now. They did, twice, with Rex Grossman and with Cutler. Sanchez got to AFC championship games in each of his first two seasons. The Bears reached a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as their quarterback. They went 13-3 in 2001 with a solid-but-unspectacular Jim Miller as their quarterback. They reached the 2005 playoffs with Kyle Orton as their starter most of that year, and should have been in the 2008 playoffs with him as well. The Bears reached the NFC championship game in 2010 with Cutler.

There is a common denominator in all of these situations, and it is within Pace’s grasp, and that was an elite defense. Rex Ryan had one with the Jets and Sanchez, Grossman and Orton and Cutler had theirs with Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman, etc.

Forget the quarterback situation for now. Nothing anyone, including Pace, can really do anything about it (other than land possibly Deshaun Watson, based on their turnout at his Pro Day).

But if Pace and his personnel staff do this right, they can lay in the foundation for something elite on defense that will transcend the quarterback, or at least allow the Bears to play more than 16 games in a season even if they do not have a great quarterback. With the Urlacher core defense, the Bears went to postseasons with four different quarterbacks.

The prime directive now for Ryan Pace is to create precisely that model again.

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Perhaps the best thing about the Johnny Oduya trade back to the Blackhawks, for both parties involved, was that Oduya wasn't needed immediately.

It's not that the Blackhawks didn't want the veteran defenseman, who helped them win Cups in 2013 and 2015, back in the lineup as soon as possible. Oduya was coming off an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated and missed about a month when he was with the Dallas Stars. He needed time to fully heal and with the Blackhawks in good shape in the standings and with solid depth at defense, he could.

Now with the playoffs right around the corner, Oduya is feeling more like himself.

Outside of missing two games that were the second halves of back-to-backs, Oduya has been playing steadily since March 9. Oduya's minutes have ranged from around 16 to 21 in games. He said he's now 100 percent healthy from his injury and he's feeling the difference on the ice.

"It makes a big difference," Oduya said on Thursday, prior to facing the Stars for the first time since his trade back to Chicago. "I mean, obviously sometimes you get more or less lucky, depending on what you get and the style of play and what you do or not. Skating is a part of my game I try to use as much as possible to get in good position and try to take away time from the opposition as much as possible.

"Even with battling and things like that, of course it's nice to feel more confident," Oduya added. "In any situation, you're in you want to feel confident on the ice."

The Blackhawks have seen that confidence in previous postseason runs and are looking to see it again in Oduya. Coach Joel Quenneville considers Oduya, "Mr. Reliability."

"You look back at what he delivered for us, not just the regular season, but he's been solid and reliable in the playoffs. He's assumed some important matchups and important minutes," Quenneville said. "Last year, we didn't have him on the back end and watching him this year, it was the perfect fit him coming back."

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The Blackhawks' defensive group hasn't changed much since Oduya's first stint here. The system probably hasn't been altered much, either. Still, Oduya's not taking anything for granted and is trying to get back on the same page quickly.

"Same as the last time I came into a great hockey team and I really just want to get up to speed and up to date as quickly as possible," Oduya said. "Little things that may have changed. I want to fit in as well as I can. That's the idea anyone has coming in late in the year. The guys here make it pretty easy; the coaching staff is familiar with the way I play and helps speed up things a little more."

The Blackhawks are trying to be their best heading into the postseason. So is Oduya. He needed a little extra time to get back to health and he may still need a little time to get back to speed, but he's just about there. 

"I feel pretty good. Of course it's a lot easier when you have guys around you you've seen before, a coaching staff," Oduya said. "It's a work in progress, anyway. I want to be better, I want to evolve with the team and want us to be better, too. It's a work in progress."