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Skull caps, gold uniforms and camaraderie

During the Mets' pre-game workouts, a number of players wore skull caps. More than the usual one, Jose Reyes.

What was going on? Terry Collins handed them out, in an effort to "lighten the mood a little bit."

Over in the visitors' clubhouse at Citi Field, meanwhile, the A's completed their pre-game work and returned inside to find a surprise waiting for them: Veteran equipment manager Steve Vucinisch had brought the team's gold uniform tops, worn only at home this season. The players had worn the gold tops every night in the A's five-game winning streak.

Then the gold-topped A's (with gray pants, not a great look) pummeled the Mets, who ditched the skull caps, 7-3.

The lesson, then, clearly is this: Save your bonding, uniform tricks for the actual game. Don't fire your bullet before the first pitch.

No, no, actually, there's no hard-core lesson here. Just a window into the day in the life of a couple of teams, and the importance, once more, of people management.

Do I think that the A's gold uniforms carry some special powers that allowed the A's to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning? Of course not. But I do think the way Vucinisch carried it out - hiding the uniforms in a back room, keeping the information from the media to create the visual surprise when the A's took the field - enhanced the workplace atmosphere.

And workplace atmosphere is important, especially in the marathon of the 162-game season.

There's no one way to create such an atmosphere. The Yankees, for instance, wouldn't do this sort of thing - partly because they don't have alternate uniforms, but also because it just isn't in their personality. It's an older group. 

Yet if you ignore that component, as previous A's manager Bob Geren appeared to do, you're creating an extra obstacle toward a championship.

And that's one to grow on.

--For my column, I wrote about Reyes, as promised, and wondered - if the team is out of contention - whether Sandy Alderson owed it to Mets fans to seriously consider trading Reyes.

First of all, as we've discussed, there's nothing precluding the Mets from trading Reyes and then trying to sign him over the winter. Alderson said yesterday that was a possibility, although it wasn't "Plan A."

Second of all, in recent years, I can think of only one example of a non-contending team not trading a player of this caliber and taking the draft picks. That would be Washington, with Alfonso Soriano, back in 2006.

When Soriano signed with the Cubs, then the Nationals received a sandwich pick and the Cubs' second-round pick, rather than the Cubs' first-round pick, because the Cubs (66-96) had finished among the 15 worst teams in 2006 and their first-round selection (third overall) was therefore protected.

So who did the Nationals wind up getting with those compensatory picks? With the sandwich pick, 31st overall, they selected Josh Smoker, who is still just in A ball and isn't ranked among Baseball American's Top 10 Nationals prospects. With the Cubs' second-round pick, Washington went with Jordan Zimmermann, who is enjoying a breakout season this year, five years after Soriano could've been traded.

So you can see the risks inherent in holding onto the player in this scenario. That's not to say there are no risks associated with trading the player. But you're likely, naturally, to get a quicker payoff, like Seattle is with Justin Smoak from last year's Cliff Lee trade.

--The Mets announced yesterday a new financial involvement with Tuesday's Children, a group for children of parents who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Mets deserve an immense amount of praise for the work they've done on 9/11, really since that awful first day. They've been at the forefront, compared not only to the Yankees but among any business, anywhere.

Bobby Valentine led the way back in those early days, and as Mets COO Jeff Wilpon pointed out yesterday, longtime vice president of media relations Jay Horwitz has carried the torch since Valentine departed the organization.

--Have a great day.


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