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Terry Collins: Cap issue a distraction

NEW YORK -- Blame the New York Mets' 3-2 loss Monday to the Washington Nationals on the hats.

Mets manager Terry Collins did.

For the second straight day, the Mets found themselves discussing Major League Baseball's decision to deny their request to wear caps from emergency-service units during Sunday's game, which marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. On Monday, Mets player representative Josh Thole said he's hoping to change the policy for next season.

Collins thinks it's one big distraction.

"What's the attention been since we walked into the ballpark today? It's not on who we're playing, it's not on who's pitching. We all want to know which kind of hat we're going to wear tonight. And that takes away from the game," Collins said. "It all takes away from their preparation. They're all being asked questions that they're afraid to make an answer, they're afraid to say the wrong thing. We've got to start focusing on what the game is, because, when it's all said and done, that's all that matters."

The Mets wanted to wear caps honoring police, firefighters and
other first responders when they played the Chicago Cubs on Sunday
night. They wore the hats for batting practice and the pregame
ceremony, but MLB insisted they wear their regular caps during the
game.

Thole called the players' association Monday, a day after the
Mets were denied their request to wear the caps. He said he
wanted to discuss marketing and licensing possibilities but had not
heard back.

"I would like to just get it solidified so when next year comes
around whether it's the 11th or 12th it's not an issue anymore,"
Thole said before Monday's game.

Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president for baseball
operations, told The Associated Press on Sunday in a telephone
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."

Thole said after batting practice Sunday the players were
considering defying the uniform guidelines set by MLB, but several
minutes later he said the caps were a "no-go."

"It was coming from the top as if the fine to the ballclub was
going to be significant and that was something nobody wanted to
overstep the bounds there," Thole said.

Thole did not know what the fines would be, and MLB said amounts
were never discussed.

Caps similar to the ones the Mets wore during the game Sunday --
with an American flag patch on the side -- are on sale at mets.com
for $36.99. An authenticator collected the first-responder hats
used during the on-field tribute, and they will be sold on the
site, as well, with proceeds going to charity.

Mets third baseman David Wright was seen wearing a
first-responder cap in the dugout but he said Monday it wasn't a
"slap in the face" to the league. He insisted he wasn't aware of
the controversy until after the game and just wanted to honor the
emergency personnel.

When baseball resumed after the attacks, the Mets did go against
the league's orders to wear their regular caps during games.

Todd Zeile, the team's rep then, said the league would have to
rip the hats off their heads when they played their first game in
Pittsburgh on Sept. 17. The players were not fined.

"What Todd did in 2001, I think it was great," Thole said. "I
wish we could've been able to follow through."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.