Craig Calcaterra

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Mets’ PR executive dies after battle with cancer


NEW YORK (AP) Shannon Forde, who worked in the media relations department for the New York Mets for more than 20 years, died Friday night after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 44.

Forde’s death, announced by the team, was met with an outpouring of grief and condolences from players, executives and reporters across the sport. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who was diagnosed with cancer last year, said Forde “was an absolute inspiration to everyone in this organization.”

“She was courageous in her fight and never let her illness claim her spirit,” he said in a release. “That spirit will remain with the Mets, in our memories and in our hearts.”

Forde went to St. John’s University and joined the Mets in 1994. Her survivors include her husband, John, and two children, Nicholas and Kendall.

Jeff Wilpon, the chief operating officer of the Mets, said Citi Field “won’t be the same without her contagious smile and genuine personality.”

“She fought, fought and fought,” manager Terry Collins. “She came to work as long as she could. She loved her job and loved the Mets. I have so much admiration for the way she conducted herself the last several years.”

The Cubs drew 15,446 to a spring training game today

Sloan Park

The Cubs are beginning their third spring training at their new facility, Sloan Park, in Mesa, Arizona. It’s a gorgeous place. It’s also a big place, with a listed seating capacity of 15,000. That’s easily the largest spring training park there is, with no other place larger than 13,000. They’re skewing larger these days. The Arizona parks, which are generally newer, are larger than the Florida parks for the most part, but fourteen of the 24 current parks are still under 10,000. Sloan is Sovereign-class starship compared to the Constitution and Excelsior-class places in Florida and Arizona.

Today the Cubs played the Angels at Sloan Park in their first home game of spring training. They set a Cactus League record for a spring training game: 15,446 souls on board. The most attended spring training games of all time have been in major league parks like the old Joe Robbie Stadium, but those were one-offs. This is the biggest for anyone in their regular, permanent facility I suspect.

The attendance certainly speaks to the pent-up excitement of Cubs fans who enjoyed a 97-win season last year and acquired the biggest free agent position player in the game this past offseason in Jason Heyward. The future in Chicago is extraordinarily bright and it’s understandable that fans out in Arizona are excited. It was probably a fantastic atmosphere at Sloan Park today. At least until the starters all left after two or three innings and it became like every other exhibition game.

The crowd certainly says a lot about what spring training has become in general as well. This is not meant to be any sort of lamentation or a “back-in-my-day” kind of thing, but there is no escaping how different an experience spring training is now than it was even a decade ago. Crowds are bigger, tickets, food, beer and merchandise are more expensive (the food and beer is better too, it should be noted) and promotions are more formalized. Such things are likely inevitable and, as the crowds show, demand for spring training baseball is high so it follows that the prices will be higher too.

But there are some folks, older folks, like your author, who remember spring training as a different sort of beast. It still exists here and there, but it’s not going to be around forever. Dunedin, where the Blue Jays play, may as well exist way back in the early 1980s, for better and for worse. The¬†Phillies’ joint in Clearwater is newer and nicer, but still feels like old spring training in many respects. It’s hard to put a finger on why. Maybe the palm trees at the tiki bar out in left field. Bradenton and the Pirates is sort of its own beast — it’s a city park, with a modern training facility down the road — but it’s legitimately old timey. HoHoKam Park got an upgrade when the Cubs moved out and the A’s moved in but it retains an older feel. We lost Phoenix Municipal in that move too, however, and that’s kind of a shame. I miss the poured concrete. There were cats there too.

Change is inevitable. I try not to be nostalgic about most things and I’m not really spending a ton of mental energy mourning the loss of old spring training ballparks either. But it is worth noting the change and nodding at the passing of some of these places as they go. We’ll have plenty of time to carry on with progress after that nod. And their will be plenty of room in the new parks once we get there.

Jenrry Mejia claims that MLB was out to get him

New York Mets' Jenrry Mejia reacts after getting the last out against the Milwaukee Brewers during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 25, 2014, in Milwaukee. The Mets won 3-2. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia was given a permanent ban from Major League Baseball in January for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs for a third time. He was the first player to be given baseball’s harshest PED penalty and cannot apply for reinstatement for at least two years. There is an excellent chance he has thrown his last pitch as a professional in affiliated baseball.

Now he tells Ben Berkon of the New York Times that he was set up by Major League Baseball. That they were out to get him in what he calls a “witch hunt” and that they fabricated his second and third positive drug tests to do so. He further claims that the union did not sufficiently defend him. Major League Baseball denies Mejia’s accusations. The union gave no comment citing confidentiality provisions in the Joint Drug Agreement. Mejia has hired a lawyer to explore his options.

I suppose anything is technically possible, but this sure sounds a lot like someone lashing out out of frustration than it sounds like a plausible claim. While Major League Baseball did not cover itself with glory in past PED cases, those involved non-testing situations like the Biogenesis investigation and misconduct, to the extent there was any, centered around investigators in the field. Ryan Braun, for his part, accused Major League Baseball of mishandling his positive drug sample but those were accusations based in chain-of-custody protocols, not conspiracies.

More broadly speaking, and with all respect to Mejia, one must ask why MLB , even if it was out to get people, would target a middle reliever of little renown. If you wear a tinfoil hat 24/7 you could make out some unlikely but at least moderately plausible case that MLB, in the past, looked to single out superstars in some fashion. Even that sort of thing would be an amazing stretch, of course. To suggest that it decided to go after Mejia for some reason, however, is another thing altogether.

Here’s hoping this is just a case of a young man trying to process the likely end of his career and nothing that either has any bit of truth to it or, more significantly, doesn’t consume the guy as he tries to make sense of what he’s going to do with the rest of his life.