By Bob Elliott
NEW YORK _ J.P. Ricciardi hopped the velvet rope to watch batting practice before Game 5 of the 111th World Series at Citi Field Sunday night.
The former infielder, now a special assistant to New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, Ricciardi paused to explain how he had a rooting interest in both the National League and the American League Championship Series this fall. He was cheering for:
His current team: the Mets.
And his former team: the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I was really pulling for those guys, following them, hoping that they’d win,” said Ricciardi, who served as the Jays GM from Nov. 14, 2001 to Oct. 3, 2009.
Ricciardi said he was happy for the fans, the city and GM Alex Anthopooulos, the man who took his place, getting to experience post-season play.
“You know Alex is like a little brother to me, he did a great job this season with all those trades,” said Ricciardi, who said the two had spoken a couple of times since Anthopoulos walked away from the Jays GM job after new president Mark Shapiro was hired.
“Alex seems more at peace, you know him -- he doesn’t want this to be about him.”
Jays scouting director Jon Lalonde hired Anthopoulos as a scouting co-ordinator in 2003 under Ricciardi’s watch.
“I don’t think Alex will be out of work long, he’s a guy who should be a GM somewhere,” said Ricciardi, whose GM days with the Jays overlapped with Shapiro when he ran the Cleveland Indians.
“I know Mark Shapiro well, he does a great job and has an excellent reputation in the game,” said the former Jays boss about the new Jays pres.
In the Ricciardi era he and Anthopoulos traded for sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, while Lalonde drafted Brett Cecil, Ryan Goins, Drew Hutchison, Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera.
And Ricciardi hired Gibbons as a bullpen catcher in 2002, promoted him to first base coach after Buck Martinez was fired. He made Gibbons the manager after Carlos Tosca was canned on a Sunday night in the Bronx in 2004.
“Pete Walker (pitching coach), Andrew Tinnish (assistant GM), Ron Sandelli (director of security) and Gibby, a lot of guys of staff ... I was pulling for them all,” said Riccardi. “And Mike Shaw too.”
Ricciardi was told that Shaw, the Jays award-winning travelling secretary, had lost a step.
“Since he caught in that Hall of Fame game against the Baltimore Orioles in Cooperstown in 2007?” said Ricciardi.
Ricciardi’s son Dante, an infielder like his pop, was drafted in the 39th round by the Seattle Mariners in June. He chose to attend school and will play next spring for the Georgetown University Hoyas.
“I was disappointed Toronto didn’t make it,” Ricciardi said, “but my wife Diane, she was probably most upset of anyone. Diane was heartbroken.”
PITCHING FOR POPPY: Royals Edinson Volquez said was going to dedicate his start in memory to his late father and he did just fine. He gave his team a chance to win pitching six innings allowing two runs -- one earned.
Volquez left Kansas City after Game 1 to fly home to Santo Dominigo in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday for the funeral of his father Daniel. He flew into New York Saturday. after the three-day trip home.
On the third pitch of Game 5 Curtis Granderson hit an 0-2 Volquez change up to right field for a 1-0 lead.
The Mets did not score again until the sixth when a lead-off walk to Granderson, a David Wright single and an Eric Hosmer clank loaded the bases. One out later, Lucas Duda lined to centre to knock in the second run.
Volquez pitched Game 1 on Tuesday without knowledge of his father dying.
“If they told me before the game had started, if my wife told me before I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to pitch,” Volquez said after the Game 4 Royals victory.
Edinson’s wife, Roandy, made the decision not to tell her husband because she knew his father would have wanted him to make his World Series start. He was met by K.C. general manager Dayton Moore when he left the game after pitching the first six innings in the Royals’ 14-inning victory. Inside the manager’s office Roandy gave Volquez the news.
“It was the right choice,” he said, “because I don’t think I am going to be able to pitch that day if I find out before the game.”
Volquez called his father “one of the greatest,” telling reporters how his father had bought him his first glove, his set of cleats and first glove.”
Volquez played catch in the Dominican on Friday to keep loose and when he arrived at Citi Field on Saturday, played catch before the game.
His pre-game plans were to dedicate his outing to his father, who he believed his father will be watching him.
“I‘m pretty sure my dad is going to be proud of me when I pitch,” he said after Game 4.
At home in the Dominican the whole family was gathered to watch and cheer.
“Your dad passed,” Volquez’s mom told him before he left, “but he was really happy to see you pitch in the big Leagues, your dream. He was real proud.”
He entered the dugout to hugs from every player and coach and he entered down 2-0, but the Royals tied it in the ninth to force extras.
FLASHBACK: Hours before the clocks were turned back Daniel Murphy’s play in the field reverted to Mets past World Series history. After hitting seven home runs in the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series his fielding flaws were forgotten and then game the eighth inning of World Series Game 4 on Saturday.
After back-to-back walks to Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain, Murphy charged and missed a ground ball between its third and fourth hops. The ball went under his glove, rolling to the lip of the right-field grass.
Zobrist scored to tie the score, while Cain raced to third and moments later the Royals were on the way to a 5-3 win.
The Mets lost Game 1 of the 1973 World Series 2-1 to the Oakland A’s when second baseman Felix Milan booted a third-inning Bert Campaneris grounder which led to two unearned runs. Ken Holtzman pitched the win as the A’s won Game 7 5-2.
Second baseman Tim Teufel booted a Rich Gedman grounded to allow the only run of the Game 1 as the Red Sox edged the Mets 1-0. The Mets won in seven.
Teufel is now the Mets infield coach.
SIGN OF A GOOD SKIP: When the Jays acquired Devon White from the California Angels he had spend part of the season at triple-A Edmonton for striking out too often and hitting the ball in the air too often. Cito Gaston installed him as the lead-off hitter and told him to keep the same approach.
That worked out well.
Same for Ned Yost when he put shortstop Alcides Escobar into the lead-off spot.
“I told him ‘Don’t change a thing. You be yourself,” Yost said. “Alex Gordon is the same. They don’t look for walks, but they’ve gotten to a point now that they continue to grow and evolve. They’re putting more balls in play. They’re starting to become a little more disciplined.”
JAYS TALKS: Forget the Anthopoulous to the Miami Marlins talk. Michael Hill is the GM and president of baseball operations ... Our crack desker Donald Duench says he thought the only job Anthopoulos would have left the Jays for would have been running the Montreal Expos in his hometown ... For Jays fans August and September was as good as it gets in the past 22 years. The team almost never lost, the 500 Level was alive with music and hills of cash were being stuffed into the Rogers Centre tills. Will it ever comes back? Remember Humphrey Bogart looking into Ingrid Bergman’s eyes in the movie Casablanca and saying: “We’ll always have Paris.” ... Jays fans can look at each other and say “we’ll always have August and September ... to remember.” ... Josh Donaldson was here for Game 4 but Mets management failed to ask him to give the roof report.
PRE-GAME: Mets Hall of Famers Cleon Jones, Darryl Strawberry and Mookie Wilson each threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Jones played 12 years with the Mets, hitting 93 homers and batting .281 (including .340 in 1969) and was part of the 1969 Miracle Mets, along with Leaside’s Ron Taylor, who beat the Baltimore Orioles. Strawberry played eight years with the Mets hitting 252 homers. Wilson played 13 years in the majors, 10 with the Mets and three with the Blue Jays and hit the dribbler down first base which Bill Buckner bobbled as Ray Knight scored from second base ... Tony Bennett, 89 years young, sang America The Beautiful ... Any night you can hear the Queen’s native sing is a grr-eat night.