Mets Merized Online » Barry Duchan http://metsmerizedonline.com Tue, 25 Nov 2014 19:11:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.5 Bing Devine Brought the Mets A Championship and “The Franchise” http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/bing-devine-brought-the-mets-a-championship-and-the-franchise.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/bing-devine-brought-the-mets-a-championship-and-the-franchise.html/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 16:00:46 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167667 As we continue to wait out the Sandy Alderson era for a return to former Mets glory, here’s a little something about another Mets GM who helped engineer the first championship in franchise history in 1969. I’m talking, of course, about the great Bing Devine.

bing devineDevine’s tenure as General Manager of the Mets spanned the years 1965 to 1967 in between stints with the St. Louis Cardinals where he engineered some of the greatest teams in Cards history.

I would hardly call his work with the Mets perfect, especially since he had the final call on drafting Steve Chilcott over Reggie Jackson, but he was certainly an aggressive executive who while building up the farm system was also always looking to improve the team with trades and waiver pickups

In his 2004 book, Memoirs of Bing Devine, he states that in 1967 alone, the Mets made 54 deals.

While many of the players acquired did little or nothing to help the Mets, seven of those players, Tommie Agee , Ron Taylor, Cal Koonce, Art ShamskyJ.C. Martin, Al Weis  and Ed Charles were later instrumental in helping the 1969 Mets win a World Championship.

Earlier in Devine’s tenure, he had also dealt for Jerry Grote and Don Cardwell. Grote, of course, was a significant part of the Mets turnaround, both with his stellar defense and also for being charged with helping to develop a cadre of young and inexperienced pitchers who would eventually become the pride of the franchise. None of these players carried a high price tag or cost the Mets any promising young talent.

seaver-tom_ryan-nolan_69Add to Devine’s accomplishments that it was completely upon his recommendation that George Weiss agreed to put their name in the hat for the Tom Seaver lottery.

“The Franchise” would become the only Mets player ever enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

Devine recollected that Weiss was reluctant to spend the $50,000 the Mets would have to pay Seaver if they won a drawing for him in April 1966.

“George Weiss was against it,” Devine told famed author Peter Golenbock. “He didn’t know anything about him. I made a big case, and I recall it was only hours before we had to make a decision and agree to that, and George Weiss finally shook his head, I’m sure not wanting to do it, and said, ‘If you people make such a big case of it, go ahead.’”

It was also Devine and his assistant Joe McDonald that persuaded Weiss to keep Jerry Koosman who he was preparing to release after a poor season in the low minors.

Devine’s time with the Mets was relatively short, but he certainly accomplished a great deal in that time. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2007 at the age of 90 at his home in St. Louis.

Devine once said that success required more than a sharp baseball intellect. “You have to be lucky,” he told The Evansville Courier in 2003. “And you’re never going to get lucky if you’re afraid to make a deal.”

Did You Know?

It was a trade engineered by Bing Devine that had the greatest impact on Major League Baseball and changed the game forever.

On October 7, 1969, Devine traded star center fielder Curt Flood, along with Tim McCarver, Byron Browne and Joe Hoerner, to the Philadelphia Phillies for Dick Allen, Cookie Rojas and Jerry Johnson.

Flood refused to go to Philadelphia, ultimately challenging baseball’s reserve system that bound players to one team. His suit against baseball set the stage for free agency, and was undeniably one of the most pivotal events in the game’s history.

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Turn Back The Clock: Mets’ 1971 Off-Season http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/turn-back-the-clock-mets-1971-off-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/turn-back-the-clock-mets-1971-off-season.html/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 20:57:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167426 Seaver-Koosman-Matlack - Copy

With all the talk about possibly packaging young players in a trade to fill the Mets’ obvious needs for 2015, I was reminded of the 1971/72 offseason. In 1970 and 1971, the Mets had identical 83-79 records as the Pirates won the division both years. Still, there was reason to be optimistic that the Mets could rise to the top again in 1972.

By 1971, the Mets brought several players to the big leagues who showed promise including John Milner, Ken Singleton, Mike Jorgensen, Tim Foli, Teddy Martinez, Leroy Stanton, and pitchers like Jon Matlack and Buzz Capra. The team already had plenty of pitching talent, led by Tom Seaver, Gary Gentry, Jerry Koosman (who had an off-year) and the veteran Ray Sadecki. And Nolan Ryan, always erratic, still showed promise of being as good as any of them. What the team lacked was power. Kranepool, Jones, and Agee tied for the team lead with 14 home runs each. Plus there was an obvious need for a third baseman as recent years showed that Joe Foy, Wayne Garrett, and Bob Aspromonte were not the answer.

The off-season started with the October 18th trade of Jim Bibby, Art Shamsky, Rich Folkers, and Charles Hudson to the St. Louis Cardinals for Harry Parker, Jim Beauchamp, Chip Coulter, and Chuck Taylor. This was a relatively inconsequential trade, although eventually Bibby did become a very good major league pitcher.

This was a time before free agency. GM Bob Scheffing had work to do, and it would require more trades, but he seemed to have the excess talent to bring the Mets back to the top with a few good moves. Ever since the 1971 season ended, talk among Mets’ fans and writers seemed to center on the team’s possible acquisition of third baseman Ron Santo from the Cubs. Adding Santo would fill the hole at third base while providing the Mets with the power bat they’d been seeking as well as a positive clubhouse influence and a team leader. The problem was that any package the Mets might offer the Cubs would leave Chicago with a hole at third base and didn’t seem to make much sense for a team that had just finished the season with the same 83-79 record as the Mets. As is still the case today, fans conjured up trades that would help the Mets and seemed fair in terms of what they may have to give up without regard to the needs of the team on the other end. (Did you think this was a new phenomenon?)

White Sox power-hitting third baseman Bill Melton was also mentioned as a possible target for the Mets. I have no idea how close they came to actually making any deal, but by the end of the Winter Meetings, the Mets still hadn’t made their anticipated big move. Then on December 10th, the Mets announced that they had traded Nolan Ryan along with Stanton, minor league catcher Francisco Estrada, and pitcher Don Rose to the California Angels for perennial American League All-Star shortstop Jim Fregosi with the intention of moving him to third base. This has come to be considered as one of the all-time worst trades in baseball history, but if I remember correctly, at the time many Mets’ fans were glad that the Mets didn’t give up Gentry rather than Ryan and were more disappointed by having to throw in Stanton.

Ryan, of course, had that blazing fastball and “unlimited potential” but in 1971 beginning with his appearance the day before the All-Star break, he was 2-9 with a 7.62 ERA , averaging under 4.0 innings per start and more than 10 hits and 10 walks with only 6.75 strikeouts per 9 innings. There was even a chance he wouldn’t make the team the following year.

Fregosi was coming off an injury-plagued .233 season, but the previous year, he had hit .278 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI – and the Mets expected that the transition to third base would be easy for him. (This was one of many deals and signings that the Mets made for players who were former all-stars that never worked out!)

Fregosi suffered a broken thumb in an infield drill getting accustomed to playing third base in spring training while all the young position players competed for the few open jobs in the lineup or on the bench. Then, on April 2nd just before the start of the season, Mets’ manager Gil Hodges died suddenly of a heart attack and Yogi Berra was named as his replacement.

rusty Staub

At the same time, the Mets stunned their fans by acquiring Rusty Staub from the Montreal Expos for three of the young players who were fighting for jobs on the Mets – Singleton, Foli, and Jorgensen. Although all three had the potential to be good major league players, Foli was blocked by Bud Harrelson, the “glue” of the Mets’ infield, Jorgensen was one of three lefty first basemen along with John Milner and Ed Kranepool and Singleton’s job in right field now figured to be filled for many years to come by Staub, one of the great professional hitters in the game. Before the deal, I don’t remember reading or hearing anything about a potential Staub deal for the Mets, but back in those days, resources were scarce compared to today’s social media.

The Mets entered the 1972 season as favorites to win the division and got off to an impressive 25-7 start. In May, the Mets acquired Willie Mays who although well past his prime added even more excitement and professionalism to the club. It seemed like 1972 would be the year the Mets would return to glory. There was a great mix of experienced veterans, players just entering their prime, and promising rookies (Matlack and Milner). Then, the injury bug struck – BIG. Suffice it to say that key players like Staub, Grote, Harrelson, and Cleon Jones missed a lot of time and the Mets won just 83 games (again), finishing third.

How does this all relate to the present day? Once again the Mets seem to have an excess of young players. The question is how to parlay that talent into a winning major league team ASAP. The 1971/72 Mets made one terrible deal and one that might have paid off immediately had Staub not been injured. Unfortunately, when you trade seven players for two, and then one gets hurt while the other fails to perform, it comes back to bite you. Especially if you don’t have the depth to replace them.

Letting Bibby go because they had plenty of other pitching prospects was also a mistake. Look at the list of players the Mets traded in that one off-season and you can see how short-term goals come at a great cost. The Mets did have that “fluke” pennant in 1973, but many dark days followed.

The present-day Mets could go for free agents like Michael Cuddyer, JJ Hardy, or Torii Hunter or offer a package of players for an established star. Names like Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Starlin Castro, and Yoenis Cespedes have been mentioned and while if they stay healthy, they would certainly bolster the Mets’ chances next year, would you give up 3 or more young players to acquire one of them? As much as I want to see the Mets win next year, the off-season of 1971/72 is a cautionary history lesson.

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What Will The Mets Do This Off-Season? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/what-will-the-mets-do-this-off-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/what-will-the-mets-do-this-off-season.html/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:38:36 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=165981 Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta visited MCU Park Wednesday night, likely to check out first-round pick Michael Conforto. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Well, it looks like another sub-.500 season is close to the end, and we can expect Alderson and Collins back, so it’s time to look at what the off-season might have in store for the Mets. I think we can eliminate “spend big and acquire two or three major stars”, but it’s still somewhat of a mystery what the Amazins will do. Here are a few possibilities. 

1. Minor Tinkering Only: With Matt Harvey coming back and progress from the likes of Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud, Juan Lagares, and Lucas Duda, we can hope for continued improvement from them along with better seasons from David Wright and Curtis Granderson. Just add a few pieces via low-cost free agency or minor trades such as another righthanded hitting 1B/LF type, a veteran utility infielder, and a couple of arms to replace Carlyle and Eveland. Maybe replace a coach or two. This, is of course, the ultra-conservative approach. It assumes any trade of Colon, Gee, Niese, or Murphy will be instigated by the other team involved and that the return will be in the form of more prospects or relatively inconsequential major leaguers.

2. Trade Prospects for Established Players: Will Alderson go this route to fill the holes in left field and shortstop? Such names as Yoenis Cespedes, Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Yunel Escobar, Starlin Castro, etc. have popped up from time to time Obviously the value of each in terms of the talent the Mets will have to give up varies and whatever deal the Mets make will undoubtedly be considered an over-payment by some fans, but at least the Mets can say they are serious about challenging for a playoff spot in 2015.

3. Trade Pitching Prospects for Hitting Prospects: This probably won’t improve the team’s chances in 2015 but there are plenty of fans drooling over the Cubs’ Addison Russell or Javier Baez and think trading 2-3 of our top prospects for either one of them would be a great deal. Count me out on that one.

4. Unload Veteran Players: Trade Colon, Murphy and/or Gee for whatever they can get in prospects and use the money saved to sign a Melky Cabrera or Nelson Cruz to a multi-year deal.

5. Get A Star: Target one particular star player and offer whatever prospects it takes to get him. The player has to be potentially a major difference maker such as Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, or any other established star in their class. Of course, we are also talking major salary commitment.

Personally, I am hoping for option #2, but I’m expecting option #1.

What do you think? What do you want the Mets to do (be realistic, please – selling the team is not an option!) and what do you expect them to actually do?

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May 22, 1998 – The Mike Piazza Trade http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/may-22-1998-the-mike-piazza-trade.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/may-22-1998-the-mike-piazza-trade.html/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 19:21:06 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=156547 mike piazza

It was 16 years ago today that the Mets acquired Mike Piazza from the Florida Marlins. Oh, if we could only make the same kind of trade today !

A legitimate cleanup hitter, certainly one of the best in the game for one major-league ready prospect in Preston Wilson and two maybes in Geoff Goetz and Ed Yarnall, neither of whom ever contributed on the major league level. Of course, a long-term commitment to Piazza was an essential part of the deal.

Unfortunately, there is no one available to the Mets, probably at any price, who comes close to a player with Piazza’s hitting credentials, at age 30 or less. There’s no one like that on the market, and certainly not at catcher.

The Mets’ need for a legitimate cleanup hitter should trump any need for an upgrade at shortstop or the bullpen where Wilmer Flores and a group of young pitchers, some already on the big league roster, others down at AAA, deserve a chance, but who do the Mets have to drive in runs?

Who do the Mets have who opposing pitchers fear in a close game? There is certainly no answer and I don’t know of a single player who may be available even for a price far beyond what the Mets paid for Piazza when they included two prospects ranked in the Top 100 by Baseball America.

A few months ago, I suggested a Noah Syndergaard for Jose Bautista deal which was shot down by 100% of readers who chose to comment. I’m not saying I’d do that now, but wouldn’t the outlook for 2014 be a lot brighter if that deal was made this past winter, before committing to Chris Young and Curtis Granderson?

I don’t have the answer, but this looks like another boring lost season unless some dramatic move is made and fast. Any ideas?

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Amazin’ Trades of the Past: Bobby Ojeda http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/trades-of-the-past-bobby-ojeda.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/03/trades-of-the-past-bobby-ojeda.html/#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2014 07:25:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=79755 Continuing this series of posts on the best trades the Mets ever made, if Bernard Gilkey was the only hitter to have a career year after being traded to the Mets, then Bob Ojeda was clearly the first, last, and only pitcher to similarly have a career year after coming to Flushing.

Ojeda had been a decent, if unspectacular starting pitcher for the Red Sox for a few seasons. The Mets had been impressed with the work another former Boston lefty, John Tudor, had done with the Cardinals and were seeking a similar pitcher, so they inquired about Ojeda. Coming off a 1985 season in which he was 9-11 with a 4.00 ERA, Ojeda was definitely obtainable, but the Sox were still able to attract what seemed like a pretty hefty price from the Mets.

Calvin Schiraldi was among the Mets’ best young pitching prospects, Wes Gardner looked like the Mets’ best young reliever and John Christensen and Laschelle Tarver were AAA outfielders who looked ready to contribute on the big league level. The Mets sent all 4 to Boston for Ojeda, a pretty good minor league pitcher named John Mitchell, and a couple of other minor leaguers, Chris Bayer, and Tom McCarthy. At the time of the deal, few fans expected Ojeda to be anything more than a fourth or fifth starter and it looked like the Mets were overpaying in prospects for a mediocre pitcher.

But Ojeda had a tremendous year for the World Champion Mets in 1986, going 18-5, 2.57 and placing fourth in the Cy Young balloting. An off-season freak injury made 1987 a lost year for Ojeda, and after that, he was just so-so for the Mets, but his big year in 1986 made this trade one of the best ever for the Mets.

Although the Mets have dealt for one-time aces throughout their history from Warren Spahn and Dean Chance to Frank Viola, Bret Saberhagen and Johan Santana, it was the Ojeda deal that will remain as the only one in which an established pitcher went on to have a career year right after the Mets acquired him.

Since 2009, Bobby Ojeda has been the lead analyst on SNY’s Mets pre and post game coverage.

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Mets’ Prospects of The Early Years: Bud Harrelson, SS http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/mets-prospects-of-the-early-years-bud-harrelson-ss.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/mets-prospects-of-the-early-years-bud-harrelson-ss.html/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 22:54:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=148055 Back in 1963 and 1964 when fringe-major leaguer Al Moran and later, aging veteran Roy McMillan were playing shortstop for the Mets, the minor league system was developing two promising shortstops, one of whom who would hopefully be the long-term heir to the job. On the Mets’ Raleigh farm team, the shortstop was Wilbur Huckle, a hustling good-hands type who was signed to his first professional contract at age 24. At Salinas, there was a spindly 150-pounder with a strong arm and good range but who was error-prone and barely hit .220, a 19-year-old Californian named Derrel (Bud) Harrelson.

Huckle went on to play 8 years in the Mets’ farm system, never getting called up to the Majors, but still became somewhat of a mini-cult figure because of his name and appearance (red hair and tons of freckles) and his reputation for being the first player to shower and leave the clubhouse after a game. Harrelson, on the other hand, despite his unimpressive batting statistics, quickly became a hot prospect and of course, eventually one of the key cogs for the 1969 Championship team and 1973 pennant winners.

buddy harrelson

After spending 1963 and 1964 in the Class A California League, Harrelson was jumped all the way to AAA Buffalo in 1965 where he hit a surprisingly high (for him) .251 and began to be taken seriously by Mets’ fans as a prospect. He was even brought up to the big club at the end of the AAA season for a quick look. In 1966, it was back to AAA where the Mets had relocated to Jacksonville. There, Bud’s roommate was the newly-signed Tom Seaver. The 2 Northern Californians became fast friends and Bud began to switch-hit to take advantage of his speed and lack of power.

Although he never really became a good hitter, he did become a smarter one, and his arm, defense, and field leadership made him a fan favorite and a team leader, a vital cog in the lineup. If his offensive numbers didn’t measure up to what one might expect from a prospect, his on-field contributions surely did. Other memories of Bud : the National Guard Duty that kept him out of the lineup in 1969 and gave the even-lighter-hitting Al Weis his opportunity to shine, the 1973 fight with Pete Rose that brought Bud to national prominence, the trade to the Phillies that reunited Bud with TugMcGraw and produced his best hitting year and so much more, but let me just say that Bud Harrelson was definitely one prospect who made it as promised.

Harrelson, of course, went on to be a Mets’ coach, manager, and eventually Manager and President of the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks, a born and bred Californian who became a lifelong New Yorker and a member of the Mets’ Hall of Fame, one of the most prominent names in Mets’ history.

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Mets’ Prospects of The Early Years: Dick Selma, RHP http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/mets-prospects-of-the-early-years-dick-selma-rhp.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/mets-prospects-of-the-early-years-dick-selma-rhp.html/#comments Sat, 01 Feb 2014 14:16:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=146772 $_1

Dick Selma was probably considered the Mets’ top pitching prospect from the day he signed a $20,000 bonus contract in early 1963. The small (5’11, 160 lbs.) but hard-throwing righthander out of Fresno, California was assigned to Salinas of the California League in 1963 where he led the league in strikeouts and ERA and was named the league’s top rookie and best pitching prospect.

Selma was expected to be the future ace of the staff and after a couple of so-so years in the higher minors, burst onto the major league scene in 1965 with a shutout over the Braves in his second major league start in which he struck out 13, then a Mets record. His fastball was always impressive but his control was inconsistent and his stamina was questionable so the Mets never could quite decide whether he’d be better as a starter or reliever.

In 1968, he got off to a 6-0 start then slumped to finish at 9-10 but with an impressive ERA of 2.75 with 3 shutouts. The Mets decided to put Selma into the expansion draft where he was chosen by the Padres for whom he was the Opening Day starter and winner in 1969. By then, the Mets had Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, and Ryan with Les Rohr and Jon Matlack among their top pitching prospects, so you could say the loss of Selma wasn’t significant. Still, there were probably players the Mets protected that would never achieve what Selma already had and would continue to do at the major league level.

Later in 1969, the Padres traded Selma to the Cubs where he again both started and relieved and also took on the role of unofficial bullpen cheerleader and general rabble-rouser for the Cubs’ faithful. In ‘69, of course, this made him a prime enemy of the Mets and their fans, but we all know how that turned out, so there were few hard feelings toward Selma once the season ended. That winter, Selma was on the move again, going to the Phillies in a deal for Johnny Callison. Selma had 22 saves for the Phillies in 1970, but it was all downhill for him after that.

So, you could say Selma had a decent major league career, maybe not what you would expect from a so-called premium prospect, but still better than many. An interesting footnote about Selma is that he was one year ahead of Tom Seaver both in High School and at Fresno City College. Selma was unquestionably regarded as the better prospect although Dick liked and respected Tom and supposedly put in a good word for him when the Mets were considering putting their name in the special lottery for Seaver. I find it hard to believe that Mets’ management would have given much weight to Dick’s recommendation if they weren’t already going to make a play for Seaver, but we can add it to Selma’s positive resume as a Met.

Dick Selma passed away on August 29, 2001.

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Mets Prospects of the Early Years: Cleon Jones, LF http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/mets-prospects-of-the-early-years-cleon-jones-lf.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/mets-prospects-of-the-early-years-cleon-jones-lf.html/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 13:50:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=146317 cleon jonesCleon Jones played both football and baseball at Alabama A&M when the Mets signed him in the summer of 1962 to report the following year. Unlike Kranepool and Swoboda, Jones was not a big-money bonus player who was touted as a surefire big leaguer from the day he signed, but in his first year in the minor leagues, Cleon quickly vaulted to the top of the Mets’ prospect list. He even made his way to a cameo appearance in centerfield for the Mets at the Polo Grounds that same year, 1963. I remember it well because I was at that game.

In a young organization, short of prospects, Jones was a standout, batting over .300 at both Class D Auburn and Class B Raleigh. He showed that combination of speed, power, and arm that was truly rare in the Mets’ system in those early years. He wasn’t ready for the big leagues and struggled for a few years shuttling between the Mets and AAA Buffalo.

Prior to the 1968 season, the Mets made two moves which turned out to be turning points for Cleon. First, they hired Gil Hodges as their new manager. Then, on Hodges’ recommendation, the Mets swung a deal for Tommie Agee, former AL Rookie of the Year, a true centerfielder, and a childhood buddy of Jones. Agee was a more outgoing personality than the shy Jones and he seemed to help bring Cleon out of his shell.

CleonjonesIf Jones never quite became a superstar, he did indeed have some excellent years, with 1969, of course, being his best, as he battled Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, and Matty Alou for the batting title. Jones wound up hitting .340 as one of the Mets’ integral players in that great Championship year.

Fondly remembered for his contributions to the 1969 Championship team and the 1973 NL Pennant Winners, Jones also was the focus of 2 negative incidents. In a one-sided loss to the Astros in 1969, Manager Gil Hodges walked on to the field to remove Jones for not hustling, a move that seemed to help bring the team together and pump Cleon up for a strong finish. Later in his career, Mets Chairman of the Board M. Donald Grant thoroughly humiliated Jones when he made him apologize to his wife and Mets fans for being caught in the back of a van with another woman during Spring Training. That was probably the beginning of the end for Jones with the Mets.

Jones is deservingly a member of the Mets’ Hall of Fame and remains one of the best hitters to be developed by the Mets’ organization. He was certainly one prospect who, if he didn’t quite reach the lofty expectations fans may have had, certainly made his mark as an all-time great Met.

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Old Time Mets: John Stephenson http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/old-time-mets-john-stephenson.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/old-time-mets-john-stephenson.html/#comments Sun, 26 Jan 2014 16:58:30 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=142213 john-stephenson-296x300If John Stephenson is remembered at all by fans of the early Mets, it’s as the last out of Jim Bunning‘s perfect game. He was so overmatched in striking out, the Mets might as well have plucked a fan out of the stands at random and asked him to get a hit off Bunning.

At the time, if I remember correctly, Stephenson was hitting a feeble .149 and it didn’t get much better for him.

Yet, almost amazingly Stephenson spent parts of ten years in the major leagues and was regarded as a decent lefty bat off the bench who could also fill in at a few positions by the time the Angels picked him up in the early ’70′s.

Johnny Stephenson came to the major leagues in 1964 solely because of the rule in effect at the time which required a big league team to carry second-year pros on their 25-man roster all season or risk losing them on waivers. To say that Stephenson was not ready is an understatement. He had a terrible “sweep” swing, the kind that’s usually corrected in Little League, and although he was considered primarily a catcher, the Mets didn’t play him there at all in the 1964 season.

If Stephenson ever had a big hit for the Mets, I don’t remember it. If ever there was a player I thought would never return to the majors after his one-year “trial”, Stephenson was the one. But somehow after getting to the Cubs, his swing was reconstructed and he actually became kind of a threat as a lefthanded pinch-hitter.

When you look at his lifetime numbers, a .216 average in nearly 1,000 at-bats with little speed, and below average defense, you marvel at how he managed to have such a lengthy career. When anyone says it’s a lot easier to get to the big leagues these days with more Major League teams and fewer farm teams, I point to the improbable career of John Stephenson, a player of minimal talent who managed to hang around for parts of ten years with four different teams.

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Mets Top 20 Prospects: The Early Years http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/mets-top-20-prospects-the-early-years.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/mets-top-20-prospects-the-early-years.html/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 13:00:27 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=140129 jerry koosman

Technically, this is not a list of the Mets’ Top 20 Prospects going into the 1964 season, but rather a list of the 20 most prominent prospects who were signed by the Mets between 1962 and 1964, before the first Amateur Draft in 1965.

It does not include players drafted or acquired from other organizations.

As with most prospect lists, some went on to be stars, others had some level of major league success, and some had just a cup of coffee in the big leagues either due to injury or because they just weren’t good enough.

Only one really got away, Paul Blair, who was drafted by the Orioles out of the Mets’ organization, and only two never made it to the big leagues at all, Hank McGraw and Paul Alspach.

In future posts, I’ll take a closer look at some of the lesser known of this group, but for now, here are my two working lists of the Mets’ Top 20. The first is in approximate order of ultimate major league value, and the second one is based on the hype and anticipation of each prospect with a brief blurb about them.

1. Jerry Koosman
2. Paul Blair
3. Cleon Jones
4. Tug McGraw
5. Bud Harrelson
6. Ed Kranepool
7. Dick Selma
8. Ron Swoboda
9. Larry Bearnarth
10. John Stephenson
11. Dick Rusteck
12. Kevin Collins
13.Dennis Musgraves
14.Grover Powell
15. Danny Napoleon
16. Jim Bethke
17. Ron Locke
18. Shaun Fitzmaurice
19. Hank McGraw
20. Paul Alspach

Here are the same twenty players re-ranked in order of their “prospect hype” at the time:

1. Ed Kranepool – The prized prospect with future stardom expected.

2. Ron Swoboda – By far, the greatest pure power prospect signed by the Mets (maybe to this day).

3. Cleon Jones – No hype when he signed, but quickly established himself as the organization’s best all-around prospect.

4. Dick Selma – Hard-throwing righty regarded as a future staff ace.

5. Tug McGraw – Lefty showed great stuff as he moved up through the system.

6. Bud Harrelson – Outstanding defensive shortstop who didn’t hit a lick in minors.

7.Grover Powell – One of 3 pitchers on this list who pitched a shutout in his first major league start.

8. Larry Bearnarth – Former St. John’s star who made the big club after one year in the minors.

9. Dennis Musgraves – Showed outstanding promise in his brief stint with Mets, but an injury derailed his career.

10. Dick Rusteck – AAA ace who pitched a shutout in his first appearance with Mets and never won another game.

11. Jerry Koosman – Put it all together after some mediocre work in minors that almost got him released.

12. Hank McGraw – Tug’s older brother, considered a top prospect, but his free-spirited ways didn’t endear him to conservative Mets’ management.

13. Danny Napoleon – Incredible year in the NYP League vaulted him to majors, but had minimal success.

14. Ron Locke – Great numbers in NYP League didn’t translate to the majors.

15. Kevin Collins – Future hope at third base, dealt away in Clendenon deal, never really made it.

16. Shaun Fitzmaurice – Notre Dame star touted as centerfielder of the future, but stalled at AA.

17. John Stephenson – Best remembered as last batter in Bunning’s perfect game.

18. Jim Bethke – Over-matched at big league level and never did much in minors either.

19. Paul Alspach – One-time prospect became minor league journeyman.

20. Paul Blair – No hype whatsoever and grabbed in first-year draft by Orioles.

Presented By Diehards

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How The Miracle Mets Were Built: (Part 1) The Spring Of 1968 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/how-the-miracle-mets-were-built-part-1-the-spring-of-1968.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/how-the-miracle-mets-were-built-part-1-the-spring-of-1968.html/#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2014 09:03:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=105554 2014 is the 45 year anniversary of the 1969 Mets. Enjoy this special feature and welcome to Part One of my four part series entitled, How The Miracle Mets Were Built.

nolan ryan tom seaver spring training 1968

Turn Back The Clock 46 Years – It’s the Spring of 1968.

Spring training of 1968 saw the Mets coming off another last place finish but with a few glimmers of hope for the future. There was a new manager in Gil Hodges and a new center fielder in former  A.L. Rookie of The Year Tommie Agee who came to the Mets in a deal for their best hitter, Tommy Davis.

Tom Seaver had a brilliant rookie year in 1967, winning 16 games and establishing himself as the team’s first legitimate #1 pitcher, but there were still a lot of question marks in the rotation. Optimistic Mets fans could point to an impressive crop of pitchers coming up through the farm system and maybe a couple would be ready to contribute in 1968. Other than Seaver, veteran Don Cardwell figured to fill one slot in the rotation. Dick Selma was still around, although he had been something of a disappointment so far. Tug McGraw and Jerry Koosman had been the best starters at AAA Jacksonville and maybe they were ready to contribute on the major league level. Another young pitcher, Danny Frisella would get a shot too. If all else failed, veterans Cal Koonce and the recently re-acquired original Met, Al Jackson might be pressed into service. Any of those guys might also wind up in the bullpen along with carry-overs Ron Taylor and Don Shaw. Veterans like Bob Hendley, Billy Short, and Hal Reniff would also get looks. Touted youngsters like Nolan Ryan, Les Rohr, Jon Matlack, and Gary Gentry were considered legitimate prospects, but didn’t figure to be ready for a couple of years, at least.

ed charles jerry koosmanBehind the plate, Steve Chilcott and Greg Goossen were touted as future stars, but in the meantime, light-hitting (.195) Jerry Grote and J.C. Martin would have to suffice. Kranepool at first and Swoboda in right were still regarded as possible foundation players, but neither had lived up to their initial promise so far. Jerry Buchek was the incumbent at second base and was expected to be pushed by lefty hitting Ken Boswell who was regarded as a solid bat even though his minor league numbers didn’t reflect that. Defensively, Boswell was considered adequate at best. Shortstop Bud Harrelson had shown he could do the job in the field, but would he hit? Third base was a crap shoot with rookie Kevin Collins and ex-White Sox hopeful Dick Kenworthy likely to compete for the job. Buchek might play third if Boswell won the job at second or there was always veteran Ed Charles, a non-roster invitee whose play in 1967 led the Mets (and likely every other major league team) to believe that he might be at the end of the road.

Joining Swoboda and Agee in the outfield, Cleon Jones, once hailed as the best hitting prospect in the organization would get first crack at replacing Davis in left field. Defensively, Jones would certainly be an improvement, but his .246 average in 1967 while playing all over the outfield wouldn’t cut it.  Art Shamsky, a lefty hitter with power had been acquired from the Reds, for whom he batted a woeful .197 the year before. Rookies like Amos Otis and Clyde Mashore also figured to get a look and Don Bosch was still around too if a defensive replacement was needed.

Could this team even make it out of last place ? Were the Mets really building a winner ?

Next up. A look at how 1968 turned out and the outlook for 1969.

gil hodges

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Those Amazin’ Mets: Dave Kingman, OF/1B http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/those-amazin-mets-dave-kingman-of1b.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/those-amazin-mets-dave-kingman-of1b.html/#comments Sun, 12 Jan 2014 12:30:07 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=139496

Dave Kingman was one of the most fascinating players in Mets’ history. Because he played in one of the Mets’ major down periods – the mid ‘70’s to early ‘80’s, you  don’t hear his name mentioned much in Mets’ retrospectives, but for a while, he was clearly the Mets’ biggest star and one of their very few drawing cards, at least at home. If remembered at all, it’s as a low-average power hitter, but Kingman deserves to be remembered for so much more.

Kingman was an outstanding pitcher in High School up through his sophomore year at USC, but coach Rod Dedaux thought he could help the team more as a regular player. Kingman reportedly wanted to stay a pitcher and it seemed at times throughout his career he was angry about something. That might have been it.

Kingman was  drafted by the Giants out of USC and rose to the big leagues quickly, mostly because of his prodigious power. At 6’6 with a long sweeping swing,  Kingman certainly looked the part. His long legs also gave him above average speed on the bases, but his defense was mediocre at best. Dave always seemed to give the impression that fielding was a part of the game he wasn’t very interested in.  It was ironic that Kingman who was made for the role of designated hitter spent the first 10 years of his major league career in the National League where he was forced to play the field.

dave-kingmanSince the Giants always seemed well stocked in the outfield and at first base, Kingman’s last shot at staying with the team as a regular was at third base, but found wanting there, he was sold to the Mets before the 1975 season. For a cash deal, this proved to be a great pickup for the Mets as “Kong” (a nickname he hated) went on to set a club record for homeruns with 36 in 1975 and broke it the following year.  Although it’s hard to say he was one of  the Mets’ most popular players since reporters characterized him as surly and uncooperative, he was certainly one of the few players  Mets’ fans came out to see on an otherwise dull and uncompetitive team.

Kingman hit some of the longest home runs in history while a Met, but like the greatest Met of all, Tom Seaver,  Kingman  let it be known that he considered himself underpaid and dissatisfied with the direction of the team and that led to a ticket out of town, being traded to San Diego on June 15, 1977, the same day  Seaver  was traded to the Reds. Kingman brought back the underwhelming package of mediocre pitcher Paul Siebert and future Mets’ manager, then fading utility player, Bobby Valentine. Toward  the end of the 1977 season, San Diego let him go and Kingman appeared for both the Angels and Yankees, helping the Yankees win the division.

Following the season, he signed a free agent deal with the Cubs, but eventually wound up back with the Mets during the early years of the Wilpon/Cashen regime in a trade for Steve Henderson. Although Kingman continued to hit some long home runs, once the Mets dealt for Keith Hernandez and seriously began to build a winner , Kingman’s value to the team declined and he was released at the end of the season.

Today, Kingman is remembered more for his sour disposition than his long homeruns, although as a Met he was relatively well-behaved. It was as a Cub that Kingman dumped ice water on a reporter’s head, and as an Oakland A, following his second stint with the Mets that he sent a female reporter a live rat. Despite hitting over 400 homeruns, no one (least of all, reporters who vote) considered Kingman a candidate for the Hall of Fame. But Mets fans like me will never forget the anticipation every time Kingman came to the plate, unmatched in Mets’ history.

Presented By Diehards

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The Mets’ First Two Great Prospects: Kranepool and Swoboda http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/the-mets-first-two-great-prospects-kranepool-and-swoboda.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/the-mets-first-two-great-prospects-kranepool-and-swoboda.html/#comments Wed, 01 Jan 2014 15:57:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=138598 Today, when teams discuss trades, prospects have inflated value based on what they MIGHT achieve according to scouts and also because they will be relatively cheap and under team control for several years to come. But prospects often don’t turn out to be big stars; some don’t make the major leagues at all. Even the greatest prospects fail more often than they succeed.

When a player already makes the big leagues at a young age and shows signs of being able to hold his own against major league competition while still a teenager or barely in his 20’s, it’s reason to get excited. The future seems unlimited and especially for a losing team as the Mets certainly were in their early years, fans begin to envision great things and a bright future for years to come.

The Mets’ very first great prospect was clearly Ed Kranepool who was signed out of James Monroe High School in the Bronx where he had broken Hank Greenberg’s home run records. In the days before the amateur draft, the Mets gave Ed an $80,000 bonus in 1962 with all the fanfare you’d associate with a #1 Draft Pick today. Kranepool was quickly brought up to the big leagues that same season after a brief and successful stint in the New York-Penn League. Although hardly ready at the age of 17, Ed was penciled in as the first baseman of the future and got a shot at the regular job the following year after Marv Throneberry was released. While Ed is remembered fondly as one of the heroes of 1969 and a solid contributor as a pinch-hitter for many years to come, without a doubt, he was a disappointment in terms of the expectations the organization and the fans had for him.

Ed was slow-footed and never hit more than 16 home runs in any season. Although he looked like he could be a .300 hitter and even got off to red-hot starts a couple of years, you could basically count on Ed to hit in the .260 range. It wasn’t long before the banner “Is Ed Kranepool Over The Hill ?” made its appearance at Shea Stadium. The Mets certainly wanted him to succeed, but bringing in players like Dick Stuart was a pretty good sign that the team realized that Kranepool would never be the player they expected. Ed was even put up in the 1968 expansion draft , still just 24 years old, and wasn’t taken by either Montreal or San Diego before the Mets pulled him back after a few rounds. I know there are still lots of Kranepool fans out there and certainly his career was considerably longer and more successful than many other players but he didn’t come close to what we all thought his “potential” was.

Ron SwobodaIn 1964, a powerful outfielder recently signed out of the University of Maryland made a remarkable splash in spring training. Ron Swoboda displayed prodigious power and for all the world looked like the future cleanup hitter for the Mets for years to come. He was so impressive that despite no minor league experience, the Mets started him in AAA Buffalo. He was a little overmatched at the plate and his fielding was atrocious so the Mets sent him to AA Williamsport. Swoboda’s season statistics at AA and AAA were extremely impressive for a player with no previous professional experience – a combined 17 home runs, 72 rbi’s and a .271 average. At the time, baseball rules dictated that first-year pros had to be carried on the major league roster the following year or be subject to a waiver claim, so Swoboda’s presence on the 1965 Mets was much anticipated.

And Swoboda started off red-hot in 1965, giving fans hope that here was a player who could hit about 40 home runs and drive in 85 to 100 runs every year. His poor defense would get better with experience as would his .228 batting average which he compiled in 1965. As for his 19 round trippers, that was just the beginning. Well, Ron never came close to even hitting 19 home runs in a season again and after 6 disappointing years with the Mets (1969 heroics aside), was traded away and never really achieved major league success.

Of course, both had their great moments with the Mets, but as prospects, neither measured up to the potential everyone thought they had. Would the Mets have even thought about trading either in their first two years ? Highly unlikely. It’s something to think abut when the Mets or any other team call their prospects untouchable even in prospective deals for established big league players. Great prospects don’t always become great ballplayers.

Presented By Diehards

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Paul Blair, The Met Who Got Away http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/paul-blair-the-met-who-got-away.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/paul-blair-the-met-who-got-away.html/#comments Fri, 27 Dec 2013 02:54:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=137082 Former Orioles center fielder Paul Blair died tonight at the age of 69. Blair played 13 seasons with the Orioles and four with the Yankees, winning two World Series titles with each team. Blair won eight Gold Gloves and was widely considered one of best defensive center fielders of all time. MMO sends their condolences to the Blair family. Here is an MMO Flashback originally posted in January of 2007 and written by Barry Duchan. 

In their long history, the Mets have had more than their share of young players who were dealt away and became stars with other teams. Nolan Ryan and Amos Otis are probably the 2 names mentioned most often. And the trading of future MVP’s Kevin Mitchell and Jeff Kent were in retrospect, major mistakes, too.

But the very first star the Mets let get away was Paul Blair who became nothing less than the premier centerfielder in the American League for 10 years while the Mets were constantly trying to fill the void. The Mets tried Jim Hickman, Johnny Lewis, Billy Cowan, and Don Bosch among others before landing Tommie Agee to fill the role nicely for a couple of years. Then, the drought began again with the likes of Don Hahn, Dave Schneck, Jim Gosger and Del Unser getting most of the playing time in centerfield while Blair and then Otis were still among the best centerfielders in the game.

Blair had always been a shortstop, until he got into the minor leagues. The Orioles made him a full-time outfielder, and he quickly became the top non-pitching prospect in their organization. The Dodgers refused to sign Blair out of high school, because they thought he was too small to make it the big leagues. He was signed by the Mets originally, for a $2,000 bonus. He played one year for the Mets’ Santa Barbara club in the California League in 1962, batting .228 while playing both infield and outfield.

The Mets didn’t have many prospects following the 1962 season, so their failure to protect Blair by putting him on the 40-man roster is tough to excuse. Obviously, the Orioles saw something in him that the Mets didn’t and drafted him as a first-year player for $8,000 while the Mets were still searching for anyone who could play centerfield.

Blair went on to have an excellent career. While his hitting was never his strong suit, in 1969, Blair hit .276 with 26 HR’s and 76 RBI. Oddly, the exact HR and RBI totals that Tommie Agee put up for the Mets, and with a better average than Agee. And of course, Blair had a much longer and more consistent career than Agee. So, letting Blair go was a mistake of major proportions. Especially when you figure that if the Mets had kept Blair, there would have been no reason to make deals for Cowan, Bosch, or Agee. So, the Mets could have used what trading chips they had for help in other areas.

When you talk about the ones that got away, no doubt Nolan Ryan will head that list, but Blair should be right behind him.

Rest in peace, Paul…

Presented By Diehards

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Mets’ Trades Of The Past – Mazzilli Goes To Texas http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/mets-trades-of-the-past-mazzilli-goes-to-texas.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/mets-trades-of-the-past-mazzilli-goes-to-texas.html/#comments Sun, 15 Dec 2013 14:00:20 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=135569 While Mets’ fans wait to see if Ike Davis or Daniel Murphy will be traded and what they might bring back, here’s a look at a trade that was unpopular with many fans at the time, but turned out to be a great move for the Mets in every way possible.

mazz_kissDuring the dismal years of the late 1970’s, Lee Mazzilli was the Mets’ centerpiece player. A first-round draft pick out of Brooklyn, and incidentally, one of the Mets‘ very best first round picks, especially when you consider the players drafted ahead of him*.

Mazzilli quickly rose through the farm system, displaying an exceptional ability to get on base, steal bases, play centerfield, and also hit with consistency and power from both sides of the plate.

Once Mazz reached the big club, he quickly became a fan favorite. He had the look and swagger and put up some nice numbers on otherwise terrible teams. His one glaring weakness was his arm. Ironically, Lee was ambidextrous and his left arm was considered stronger, but once he signed with the Mets, he was instructed to throw righthanded only.

Whether Mazzilli was a legitimate all-star major league centerfielder, he was certainly the best one the Mets had, at least until Mookie Wilson came along. Once Wilson came up, Mazz moved over to left and also played some at first base.

Then, in February of 1982, GM Frank Cashen made what we all thought was a great move for the Mets, acquiring slugging left fielder George Foster from the Reds for a package of spare parts. With Wilson in center and Dave Kingman at first, Mazzilli was destined for a utility role, something that didn’t sit well with him, especially since his mentor, Joe Torre had been replaced as manager by George Bamberger.

In the spring of 1982, Cashen sent Mazzilli to the Texas Rangers for two minor league pitchers, a return that Mazzilli himself saw as an insult and many of his fans agreed.

ron darling

Ron Darling was the Rangers’ #1 draft pick the previous year, a talented pitcher out of Yale who started out in Double-A where his numbers were just fair and his control disappointing. Walt Terrell was considered a fringe prospect at best, a low-round draft pick who put up decent minor league numbers.

Although the Mets didn’t reap any immediate results and had another awful season in 1982 as Foster proved to be a major disappointment, by the following year, Terrell was in the Mets’ rotation with Darling joining him in 1984. Darling went on to put up excellent numbers as a quality starter for seven years and Terrell, after a couple of solid, if unspectacular years with the Mets was traded even-up to Detroit for Howard Johnson, who became the Mets’ top home run hitter and a solid contributor for almost a decade. Terrell, meanwhile was a workhorse for Detroit, so that trade helped both teams.

To top it off, after drifting from Texas to the Yankees to Pittsburgh, Mazzilli returned to the Mets for the 1986 stretch run, replacing the released George Foster, and was part of the World Championship team serving mostly as an effective pinch-hitter. So, this was undeniably, a trade that worked out about as well as possible. We can only hope Sandy Alderson can come up with something similar before the 2014 season.

* Mazzilli was the #14 pick. Between #4 pick Dave Winfield and Mazzilli, the other players selected were Glen Tufts, Johnnie Lemaster, Billy Taylor, Gary Roenicke, Lew Olsen, Pat Rockett, Ed Bane, Joe Edelen, and Doug Heinold.. The only player selected in the first round after Mazzilli to have any kind of career in the big leagues was catcher Steve Swisher.

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MMO Flashback: Remembering “Hot” Rod Kanehl http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/mmo-flashback-remembering-hot-rod-kanehl.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/mmo-flashback-remembering-hot-rod-kanehl.html/#comments Sun, 15 Dec 2013 04:33:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=135587 I want to thank Nick Diunte of The Examiner for reminding me of this piece that was first posted by Barry in 2007. Today is the anniversary of Rod Kanehl’s  passing. He was one of the first homegrown, fan favorites, the Mets had. Enjoy.

* * * * * * * *

With all the posts I’ve done on the early days of the Mets, I never once mentioned the name of Rod Kanehl, who in his way symbolized the 1962-64 Mets as much as anyone else. If Marv Throneberry and Choo Choo Coleman represented Mets’ ineptitude, then Kanehl was the embodiment of the every-man quality that helped to popularize the Mets.

For those of you too young to remember Kanehl, he was the all-purpose utility man for the early Mets, who played every position except pitcher and catcher, and no doubt, would have played those, too, if only he was asked.

Kanehl hit the first grand slam home run in Mets history on July 6, 1962 in a 10-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

How good a ballplayer was Rod ? Well, let’s just say if he was a better hitter, a better fielder with a better arm, and a better baserunner, he might have been Joe McEwing. That might be a little unfair, because Kanehl was actually a pretty good baserunner. But so are a lot of guys who never get the chance to play pro ball.

Rod’s “best” position was second base. Unfortunately, he never mastered the double play pivot, which is fairly important for a second baseman. He also played a lot in the outfield where he would pursue flyballs with reckless abandon. In fact, that’s what made Casey Stengel notice him in the first place.

Kanehl spent several seasons in the Yankees’ organization, mostly at the lower levels, but one year in spring training camp, he impressed Casey with his constant hustle. So, it was on Stengel’s recommendation that the Mets drafted Kanehl for their AAA team prior to the 1962 season. Every knowledgeable baseball man, including Mets’ President George Weiss saw Kanehl as no more than minor league fodder, but he hustled his way on to the roster with Casey’s support and hung around for three seasons.

What endeared Kanehl to Mets’ fans was his genuine “regular guy” quality. Today, with even utility infielders making a million dollars a year, it’s tough for the average fan to identify with any big league player. But Kanehl, who was probably making no more than the average school teacher, cop, or truck driver, was truly the ordinary guy who happened to be playing in the big leagues.

Kanehl would ride the New York subways and buses, and converse with fans on a man-to-man basis without any condescension whatsoever. Rod would hang out with fans all the time. He appreciated their support and they appreciated his hard work, hustle, and desire, even if you got the feeling that maybe the fellow who played shortstop on your weekend softball team was just as good a ballplayer as Rod Kanehl and maybe he was.

Kanehl was certainly grateful for the opportunity to play in the big leagues. Had Stengel not brought him north, he no doubt would have been doomed to a lifetime in the bushes. In appreciation, Kanehl attended Casey Stengel’s funeral, reportedly the only ex-Met player to do so.

“Do you know that the very first banner the fans hung up in the Polo Grounds had my name on it?” Kanehl told Sports Illustrated in 1966. “We hadn’t played a game there yet, but there it was. It said: ‘We love the Mets.’ And under that, ‘Rod Kanehl.’ ”

Sadly, Rod Kanehl died from a heart attack on Dec. 14, 2004. He was 70 years old. In spite of his limited ability, Kanehl will always have a place in Mets’ lore.

Presented By Diehards

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Noah Syndergaard for Jose Bautista? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/noah-syndergaard-for-jose-bautista.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/noah-syndergaard-for-jose-bautista.html/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2013 05:40:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=132120 Blue-Jays-Bautista

The Mets have multiple needs if they have any hope of being a contender in 2014 as we all know, but certainly at the top of that list is the acquisition of a legitimate power hitter to hit behind David Wright. While I certainly have no inside information on the subject, let’s just suppose that the Blue Jays realize that sending Noah Syndergaard to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal was a mistake that they desperately want to rectify.

Syndergaard, who is now widely regarded as the Mets’ top prospect and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball is probably the last player the Mets want to trade, but suppose Toronto offered Jose Bautista, one of the premier power hitters in the game even-up in a trade for Syndergaard. No other players, no financial concessions. If you’re the Mets, do you take this deal?

Yes, I know, Mets fans would rather have Giancarlo Stanton or Troy Tulowitzki or another under-30-year-old, but that isn’t happening unless the Mets package 3 or 4 of their best prospects, and even then, who’s to say those players would even be available or that no other team can top the Mets’ offer?

Of course, no player comes with a guarantee and the Mets have a long record of failure when they have dealt for stars past their prime – Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, and George Foster to name just a few. Then again, the Mets have had a lot of top pitching prospects who never fulfilled their promise.

Bautista, who is 33, will earn $14 million a year for the next 2 years with a club option for 2016. He is coming off 2 injury-shortened years but the previous 2 years, he led the American League in homeruns. His stats for the last 4 years are :

2010  54 HR  124 RBI  .260
2011  43 HR  103 RBI  .302
2012  27 HR   65 RBI  .241
2013  28 HR   73 RBI  .259

The Mets could immediately plug him into right field and the cleanup position in the batting order.

Most likely, if the Mets approach Toronto about Bautista, the Blue Jays will request a package including Syndergaard as well as other players, probably willing to toss in a few spare parts or b-level prospects, but if it came down to a one-for-one exchange, would you like to see the Mets do it ? Should the Mets only consider trading Syndergaard for another young player and if so, who? Or should the Mets absolutely refuse to part with him?

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Memorable Mets: Catcher John Stearns Was One Tough “Dude” http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/memorable-mets-catcher-john-stearns-was-one-tough-dude.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/memorable-mets-catcher-john-stearns-was-one-tough-dude.html/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 01:32:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131204 john stearns sheaIn the 1973 Amateur Draft, right after the Texas Rangers selected the highly regarded and ultimately ill-fated David Clyde with the first pick, the Phillies used the second selection to take catcher John Stearns out of the University of Colorado.

The next two picks both turned out to be hall-of-famers, Robin Yount and Dave Winfield. Since Bob Boone was just starting what would turn out to be a long tenure as the Phillies’ #1 catcher, it’s a little hard to understand why they would have taken Stearns over Yount and Winfield. Stearns, of course, never achieved anything close to HOF level, but after being traded to the Mets, he had a pretty good career. He might have fit in even better with a contending team, but the Mets were awful during Stearns’ entire tenure as catcher, while the Phillies with McGraw as bullpen ace and Boone as catcher were perennial contenders in the ’70′s and early ’80′s.

The December 3,1974 trade that involved Stearns and Tug McGraw was an interesting one. McGraw had some shoulder trouble during the 1974 season, and the Mets had some doubt whether he would return to form. So, trading McGraw along with two nondescript outfielders for Stearns, one of the best young catching prospects in the game, Del Unser, an experienced centerfielder and well-regarded leadoff hitter, and Mac Scarce, a lefty specialist who looked like a cinch to win a spot in the bullpen seemed almost like a no-brainer.

The “Dude”, as he was called, wasn’t quite ready for big league duty, but by 1977, he replaced Jerry Grote to become the team’s number one catcher and despite a string of injuries, was good enough to represent the Mets in the All-Star game 4 times.

1978 mets yearbook stearns

The 1978 Mets Yearbook cover boy was solid all-around with exceptional speed for a catcher being his trademark, but he never really became a big star and certainly wasn’t in the class of Yount or Winfield.

Also, Stearns was injury-prone leading to a lot of missed time and ultimately a shortened career, and in retrospect, his numbers weren’t all that good, although they were better than what most of his teammates produced.

Stearns will be remembered as a hard-nosed, hustling player on some terrible Mets teams. Unser and Scarce were both disappointing, so the trade will ultimately be remembered as McGraw for Stearns, so Stearns was in effect, “replacing” a true Mets’ hero and one of the game’s great personalities, and it was kind of unfair to put that onus on him.

John Stearns later served as a coach and minor league manager with the Mets. He’s also manged in the Washington Nationals system, and after being a scout and catching coordinator in the Seattle Mariners organization, he was promoted to manage their Triple-A affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers, in 2013.

“I feel fortunate to be working for the Mariners, and whatever they need me to do,” Stearns recently said. “We have a lot of young prospects on this team. We really do. I’m excited about being down here.”

Like so many young players who came to the Mets in trades, the fans had high hopes for him which were never quite fulfilled, but Stearns was solid and did put in a few good years with the team.

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The Original King Of Queens http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/the-original-king-of-queens.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/the-original-king-of-queens.html/#comments Sun, 06 Oct 2013 02:53:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=130757

Dave Kingman was one of the most fascinating players in Mets’ history. Because he played in one of the Mets’ major down periods – the mid ‘70’s to early ‘80’s, you  don’t hear his name mentioned much in Mets’ retrospectives, but for a while, he was clearly the Mets’ biggest star and one of their very few drawing cards, at least at home. If remembered at all, it’s as a low-average power hitter, but Kingman deserves to be remembered for so much more.

Kingman was an outstanding pitcher in High School up through his sophomore year at USC, but coach Rod Dedaux thought he could help the team more as a regular player. Kingman reportedly wanted to stay a pitcher and it seemed at times throughout his career he was angry about something. That might have been it ! Kingman was  drafted by the Giants out of USC and rose to the big leagues quickly, mostly because of his prodigious power. At 6’6 with a long sweeping swing,  Kingman certainly looked the part. His long legs also gave him above average speed on the bases, but his defense was mediocre at best. Dave always seemed to give the impression that fielding was a part of the game he wasn’t very interested in.  It was ironic that Kingman who was made for the role of designated hitter spent the first 10 years of his major league career in the National League where he was forced to play the field.

Since the Giants always seemed well stocked in the outfield and at first base, Kingman’s last shot at staying with the team as a regular was at third base, but found wanting there, he was sold to the Mets before the 1975 season. For a cash deal, this proved to be a great pickup for the Mets as “Kong” (a nickname he hated) went on to set a club record for home runs with 36 in 1975 and broke it the following year.  Although it’s hard to say he was one of  the Mets’ most popular players since reporters characterized him as surly and uncooperative, he was certainly one of the few players  Mets’ fans came out to see on an otherwise dull and uncompetitive team.

Kingman hit some of the longest home runs in history while a Met, but like the greatest Met of all, Tom Seaver,  Kingman  let it be known that he considered himself underpaid and dissatisfied with the direction of the team and that led to a ticket out of town, being traded to San Diego on June 15, 1977, the same day  Seaver  was traded to the Reds. Kingman brought back the underwhelming package of mediocre pitcher Paul Siebert and future Mets’ manager, then fading utility player, Bobby Valentine. Toward  the end of the 1977 season, San Diego let him go and Kingman appeared for both the Angels and Yankees, helping the Yankees win the division.

Following the season, he signed a free agent deal with the Cubs, but eventually wound up back with the Mets during the early years of the Wilpon/Cashen regime in a trade for Steve Henderson. Although Kingman continued to hit some long home runs, once the Mets dealt for Keith Hernandez and seriously began to build a winner, Kingman’s value to the team declined and he was released at the end of the season.

Today, Kingman is remembered more for his sour disposition than his long home runs, although as a Met he was relatively well-behaved. It was as a Cub that Kingman dumped ice water on a reporter’s head, and as an Oakland A, following his second stint with the Mets that he sent a female reporter a live rat. Despite hitting over 400 homers, no one (least of all, reporters who vote) ever considered Kingman a candidate for the Hall of Fame. But Mets fans like me will never forget the anticipation every time Kingman came to the plate, unmatched in Mets’ history.

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Featured Post: Let’s Just See What Happens… http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/featured-post-lets-just-see-what-happens.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/featured-post-lets-just-see-what-happens.html/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 19:28:07 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=130381 wright 221 homers

It’s been quite a while since I wrote my last post. During that time, like most Mets fans, I’ve resigned myself to another season of mediocrity. The ownership is cheap, the general manager doesn’t care, the manager isn’t very good and the talent just isn’t there to compete.

Well the season has come to a end and already the fans are up in arms because “a team source” says that the Mets won’t spend big money on free agents and Terry Collins and his coaching staff are all coming back. So what can we expect but another year of uncompetitive dull baseball ?

Fans want the Mets to go after some big-name free agents and maybe package 4 or 5 young prospects for a “stud” like Giancarlo Stanton. Well, I look at it this way. Suppose before the 2013 season started, I told you that the Mets would finish the season with approximately the same record as the Blue Jays, Giants, and Phillies. Yes, those same Blue Jays who dealt prospects for three of baseball’s best starting pitchers (Dickey, Johnson, and Buehrle) and arguably the game’s most exciting player in Jose Reyes, the World Champion Giants and our arch-rival Phillies loaded with proven talent like Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Papelbon, Howard, Utley, Rollins, and an up and coming star in Dominic Brown. Now THOSE teams had disappointing years.

Last off-season, I thought the Mets should look into bringing back Lastings Milledge from Japan to provide some righthanded punch in the outfield. Instead, the Mets signed Marlon Byrd. I have to admit that was a much better move.

Of course, there were disappointments – Ike Davis for sure, Ruben Tejada, and Matt Harvey’s season-ending injury just when it looked like the Mets had their new Seaver or Gooden. Obviously, you aren’t going to win any pennants when guys like Mike Baxter, Andrew Brown, Omar Quintinilla, and Justin Turner get regular playing time, but I still have hopes that players like Wheeler, d’Arnaud and Lagares can be part of a bright future. I would have hoped that Collins gave more playing time to Flores so we could see if/where he might fit in. Most likely, he’s trade bait. I would have also liked to see Vic Black given more chances to close rather than LaTroy Hawkins, but it’s hard to fault Hawkins’ work. There will be changes for sure, but there is no quick fix, no matter how much the team spends. It’s easy to say that if you don’t compete for the big-money guys, you can’t win, but Oakland in particular, has shown that’s not necessarily true. And as far as replacing Collins, before the 2012 season, the Red Sox hired a “proven winner” in Bobby Valentine and they had their worst year in memory.

And by the way, Marlon Byrd had a better year than Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Hamilton, or Albert Pujols to name just a few. Projecting the team’s future with players like Montero, Syndergaard, Puello, Nimmo, and Dom Smith is fun, but probably meaningless. Let the Mets surprise us and become winners again. It may not happen in my lifetime, but if it does, it will be special. I have no trades to offer, no surefire free-agent signings, no master plan. As long as I’ve followed baseball and as much as I thought I knew, there’s no way I would have predicted that Chris Davis would be better than Ike or that Kyle Seager would be better than his more highly-touted college teammate, Dustin Ackley, who looked like a future star at UNC. And having seen a bunch of UNC games living in Chapel Hill, there’s no way I expected Matt Harvey to outshine Andrew Miller or Daniel Bard. Yes, I know I’m rambling and changing the topic, but after 50 years of following the Mets, it’s time to sit back and hope for the best and not think I know more about putting together a winning team than the men who are paid to do it. However the Mets can bring us a winner, I’ll be grateful for it when it happens. A fan is someone who supports a team through thick and thin. And I will stay a Mets fan.

bleed orange & blue  button

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