Mets Merized Online » MMO Exclusives http://metsmerizedonline.com Mon, 02 May 2016 20:22:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.13 Talkin’ Mets Podcast: Down on the Korner, and the Ascension of Michael Conforto http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/talkin-mets-podcast-down-on-the-korner-and-the-ascension-of-michael-conforto.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/talkin-mets-podcast-down-on-the-korner-and-the-ascension-of-michael-conforto.html/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 00:09:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210881 yoenis cespedes 2

The Mets had another exciting week and are off to a 5-1 start to the homestand. April is over, but May brings another terrific edition of Talkin’ Mets.

This week I talk to Mark Rosenman, co-author of the book “Down on the Korner: Ralph Kiner and Kiner’s Korner.”

Mark and Howie Karpin are the first to write a book about the popular post-game show that many Mets fans grew up on.

I am also joined by Joe Trezza of MLB.com as we chat about the ascension of Michael Conforto into the league’s elite offensive talent.

We also opine about how the Mets would look if they had signed Ben Zobrist instead of acquiring Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes.

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Talkin’ Mets Podcast: Amazin’ Road Trip, Special Guest Jeff Passan http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/talkin-mets-podcast-rocking-the-road-trip-special-guest-jeff-passan.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/talkin-mets-podcast-rocking-the-road-trip-special-guest-jeff-passan.html/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 02:34:23 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210356 curtis granderson

This week I talk about the Mets successful road trip and opine how their power surge may not be the blessing that it appears. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports discusses his new book “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports.” I wrap things up by comparing Logan Verrett and Zack Wheeler.

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The Mets wrap up their road trip in Atlanta this afternoon with a familiar face on mound as Jacob deGrom takes on rookie Aaron Blair. Regardless of the outcome, the road trip has been a success with three consecutive series wins.

The Mets have gone home run crazy on this trip with three games in a row of back-to-back dingers, as we well as hitting two or more home runs in five consecutive games. Neil Walker is quickly making Mets fans forget Daniel Murphy, David Wright is showing some signs of his old self, and Curtis Granderson is looking to duplicate his 2015 success.

Yes, there are still plenty of kinks to work out. Matt Harvey looked better, but resembled a backend of the rotation #5. Jacob deGrom will clearly be limited today so the bullpen will be called on to bridge the gap. With Terry Collins admitting the lack of spring training work as an issue for his starters, are the young pitchers rounding into shape in games that count? Also, the team needs to start hitting with RISP. Is this group shaping up as a feast or famine bully offense?

It’s Sunday so that means another edition of Talkin’ Mets. What do you want to hear me talk about? Give me your comments, questions, concerns and thoughts.

My featured guest will be Yahoo! Sports lead baseball columnist Jeff Passan. We will discuss his just released book “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports.” Hear Jeff talk about how he turned over every stone from the amateur level all the way up to the big leagues in researching why there appears to be an epidemic of arm injuries in the modern game.

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MMO Fan Shot: A New York Mets Time Warp http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-fan-shot-a-new-york-mets-time-warp.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-fan-shot-a-new-york-mets-time-warp.html/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 16:02:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210196 wrld series

An MMO Fan Shot by by Laura (mookie4ever)

I’ve always been fascinated with the science fiction concept of time travel, and its potential effect on the present if you went back in time and changed anything. Being a Trekkie as an idealistic kid, the Star Trek episodes that included time travel caught my attention the most. One in particular, was “City on the Edge of Forever,” where Dr. McCoy went back in time to 1930s New York and somehow made the Star Trek crew’s future disappear, along with their ship. Kirk and Spock had to go back in time after him, figure out what he did and prevent or undo it, so the future would remain the same. But how to find him? With his currents in time theory, Spock proposed that time was fluid, it ebbed and flowed in rivers and eddies, and would eventually bring them all together to a focal point in time.

I’ve pondered this stuff from time to time, impossible questions, such as if JFK had lived, would the Vietnam War have still dragged on and on? How would the 60s and 70s have turned out? Would we still have landed on the moon without his words from the grave to spur us on?

And, similarly, now I ask myself: What if the Mets’ chances for a World Series championship this year would be better served by a more natural progression to success? Something more like 1985 into 1986 instead of the quantum leap of 2015 so far ahead of schedule. If they had just missed the playoffs, or lost to the Dodgers, would we be willing to trade that NLCS and World Series appearance if it guaranteed dominance and a ring in 2016? Think of how much more frustrated and hungry and motivated they’d be this year.

Remember how much of a chip on their shoulder the 1986 team came into that season with and how dominant it was all year long. Couldn’t have been a coincidence that they missed the postseason by just 3 games behind the Cards. And then they came out roaring, not quite out of the gate, but shortly afterwards, in 1986 and never looked back, running all over the league for 108 wins. Total dominance, championship ring, a team for the ages. A Mets team we didn’t even recognize, they were so damn good and arrogant and nasty and dare I say, Yankee-like? Still many fans’ favorite team, bless their bullying, partying souls.

Would we trade the wonderful surprise and fairy tale games of the 2015 postseason, I wonder? Would we trade the amazing home run tear of Daniel Murphy, the guy most unlikely to set a major league power record, the still-unbelievable sweep of the Cubs, the Syndergaard message pitch and challenge, the oh-so-close-to-perfect Game 5 story of Matt Harvey and heartbreak?

I don’t know, it’s a tough call. If they hadn’t won that game 5 in LA, we would have all known that it was only the beginning for this team, and marveled at how far they had come in a year. Wouldn’t we? We’d have gathered up our feel-good stories and memories of the year and said, next year they’re making it all the way. Disappointed, but feeling so proud of our Metsies and the great strides they took. Right?

But if it had gone that way, maybe other things would have been very different this year. Without the cold ending to his postseason and poor WS, Cespedes might have gotten his $100 million contract elsewhere.  Perhaps if Murph didn’t complete his major league record home run tear, he wouldn’t have looked for an expensive long-term contract and maybe taken a year or two here until Dilson was ready. (Think I’m reaching here for sentimental reasons—Mets were done with him.) Would David Wright still find the strength to keep up his iron man routine to fight through his spinal stenosis without that “most fun I’ve ever had in baseball” experience? Or would he be even more driven this year, not be patient enough to rest himself and land on the DL again? Such a lot of questions. This currents in time stuff is mentally exhausting.

The point is, nothing is a lock solid guarantee in baseball. Even that revered 1986 team, as totally dominant as they were, still needed harrowingly close come-from-behind miracle wins in two overtime game 6’s, and, according to Ronnie, a beer chaser, to seal the deal. It could have just as easily gone south for even them. So what’s to say this year’s Mets, even if they were pure and uncontaminated with a WS loss, could muster the will to go all the way, either?

Baseball schedules are meant to be wrecked, and the 2015 Mets so totally and irreparably destroyed Sandy’s carefully planned road to contention, that maybe it is just meant to be. Maybe those currents in time will swirl into the focal point of a 2016 Mets World Series Championship after all. Maybe these Mets are a team on the edge of forever. In any case, I’m not sure I would trade all that excitement, all those late nights, all those boys turning into men right before our eyes, or all that wonder in David Wright’s voice, for a more solid shot at a ring this year. I think it will be much more fun if it goes that way anyway, because, even with the zigzag path to greatness, I am convinced that we will witness greatness this year. It has already begun.

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This MMO Fan Shot was written by MMO reader Laura (Mookie4ever). Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Exclusive: Meet The Fan Who Rescued Mike Piazza’s Post 9/11 Jersey http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-exclusive-meet-the-fan-who-rescued-mike-piazzas-post-911-jersey.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-exclusive-meet-the-fan-who-rescued-mike-piazzas-post-911-jersey.html/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 15:52:32 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210122 Mets' Mike Piazza hits 8th inning homerun to lead Mets past

Thanks to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, we all discovered that the post 9/11 jersey worn by Mike Piazza when he hit his epic homerun, was put up for auction with Goldin Auctions. The jersey faced an uncertain future until a group of three die-hard Mets fans stepped forward and purchased the jersey for a record $365,000. Part of that group included Anthony Scaramucci.

For those who don’t know Mr. Scaramucci, he is the founder and co-managing partner of the global investment firm SkyBridge Capital, founder of the SkyBridge Alternatives (“SALT”) Conference and host of iconic financial television show “Wall Street Week.”

Despite his busy schedule, he was able to answer some of my questions regarding his Mets fandom and the Piazza jersey:

How did you become a Mets fan?

Growing up on Long Island, I got hooked in 1969 with the Miracle Mets and the 1973 team that made it back to the World Series. They could have lost every game after that. It wouldn’t matter to a true fan.

What is your favorite Mets memory?

I’d have to say winning the World Series in ‘86. Last year’s World Series run was also a thrill, seeing our young team get back to winning ways. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the franchise.

What were your recollections from Mike Piazza’s post 9/11 homerun?

The 9/11 attacks had an impact on all Americans, but especially those living in and around New York. It was almost guaranteed that you knew someone directly or indirectly who died that day. There was no precedent for how to respond to such a tragedy. When should life return to normal? Should sports resume, and if so when? Should we play games in New York? I felt very strongly that we needed to get things back to normal as quickly as possible to honor the fallen and send a message to the world that you cannot disrupt our way of life.

In the stadium, everyone was tense and uneasy for most of the game. Players were hesitant to make a hard slide or argue a call. Everyone was sort of going through the motions. When Piazza hit that home run, the place erupted, the old suspension system at Shea was literally bouncing, everyone was hugging each other and there wasn’t a dry eye on the place. It was an outpouring of grief and the beginning of the healing process for New Yorkers and for the country.

What did the jersey mean to you?

The jersey to me is a symbol, a symbol of American resolve and resilience in the face of unspeakable tragedy, a symbol that no matter the adversity we will always pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move forward. Some might say it was just a baseball game and it’s just a jersey, but anyone who was there or watching that day knows differently.

Why did you decide to purchase the jersey?

I know the jersey meant a lot symbolically to the people of New York – 9/11 first responders to families of the deceased to fans and former players – and when the opportunity came to get it back my partners and I just couldn’t let the opportunity pass. We wanted to make sure it came back home to New York to be displayed in the public domain forever.

At any point, did you ever consider wearing it around like George Costanza wearing Babe Ruth’s jersey on Seinfeld?

You didn’t think I would pay all that money without trying the jersey on did you? Unfortunately it isn’t quite my size. In true New York fashion, I’ve mostly been carrying it around in a garment bag on a cheap wire hanger.

Where is the jersey first going to be displayed?

We’re not 100% sure on that yet. All three venues where it will rotate (the 9/11 Memorial Museum, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Citi Field) have to figure out some display logistics, so in the meantime we’ll be showing it around and I’m going to bring it out to Las Vegas for the SkyBridge SALT Conference in May. Hopefully the flight stewardess has room to hang it up in the pilots’ closet.

How long will the jersey be on display?

We are writing a clause into the deal so the jersey will forever be displayed in the public domain, hopefully well after we’re dead and gone.

How do you feel when people thank you and your partners for purchasing the jersey?

I’m conflicted on that. On one hand obviously I appreciate the kind words and support, but I also don’t want to pretend like I’m some kind of hero for buying a jersey. There were thousands and thousands of heroes on 9/11 – workers in the towers herding others to safety, first responders rushing up into the burning buildings, volunteers digging through toxic rubble for days on end in hopes of finding one or two miraculous survivors. I feel fortunate that my success has put me in a position to contribute to a gesture like this, but the jersey and this moment isn’t about me, it’s about honoring the legacy of those who died that day.

What are your predictions for the 2016 season?  

I’m an optimistic guy, but I think the Mets are going to win the whole thing. We have one of the greatest pitching staffs of all time and it’s going to be fun to see those young guys grow. Management did a great job keeping Cespedes and making some nice additions to the team. It’s going to be a year to remember.

I would also like to thank Mr. Scaramucci for taking some time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. I would also like to thank him and his partners for purchasing the jersey and forever sharing it with the people of New York. When I tell my son about 9/11, I will also tell him how Piazza’s homerun uplifted our city and our country after the worst and most devastating terrorist attacks in United States history. 

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MMO Exclusive: Catching Up With Darryl Strawberry http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-exclusive-catching-up-with-darryl-strawberry.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-exclusive-catching-up-with-darryl-strawberry.html/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 15:32:37 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=209244  IMG_4345 2

Baseball players tend to disappear after retirement. Without the spotlight of national media, or admiration of thousands of fans, they fade back into mainstream society. They leave only memories, and their absence from the game makes it easy to forget that these guys we watched on TV are still real people. My mission is to make fans remember these forgotten players by seeking them out and talking to them in our quest to answer our burning question, “Where are they now?”

I recently ran in to Darryl Strawberry at a Syracuse Crunch hockey game and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the 1986 Mets, playing baseball in Queens and the Bronx, and his life after baseball.  A huge thanks to the Syracuse Crunch PR department for permitting us to do this interview.

For those of you looking to listen, here’s the podcast.

Noah: So you won a World Series, played on several contending teams, made nine all star appearences and put up some outstanding numbers over your career. Looking back on it all, what was your finest moment while on the Mets?

Darryl: The finest moment from my time on the team was coming to a place of winning. 1986 especially was a great year for us, winning the National League Championship after going through a great Houston ball club before winning in the World Series.

Noah: What was it like playing on that 1986 team? You guys could make a case that you were one of the best in history.

Darryl: Well we were, and we always will be one of the best teams in history. I don’t think (today) that you can find a group of guys who had such determination (to win) no matter what the circumstances were. We always knew how to battle back, and that’s what baseball is all about.

Noah: You also won rookie of the year in 1983 after being drafted first overall. How did you cope with the pressure of playing in New York as a high draft pick?

Darryl: Once I got to (New York) and got comfortable, my hitting coach Jim Frey helped me settle in (physically). Things started to work out for me because I started to come to the ballpark early everyday to prepare myself. As a young player you have to do that at the major league level to be successful.

Noah: Can you pinpoint any one player or coach who shaped you as a player or as an individual?

Darryl: Well I think I would say Jim Frey, the hitting coach at the time. He had a lot to do with helping me be successful during my rookie season. And then Bill Robinson and Davey Johnson came over and they really moved me forward in my career, helping me learn the game and play it the right way.

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Noah: We can say that -and Mets fans everywhere will agree with me on this one- game 6 of the 1986 World Series was one of the most iconic moments in Mets history. Take me through the last few innings of that game, what was the atmosphere like in the dugout?

Darryl: We were struggling there for a while because we didn’t know if we could come back. We started to put things together with hits here and hits there and we just tried to stay focused as a team. It didn’t surprise me to see guys coming through because that was what we were about that whole season. We were always in situations where we needed to come back in ball games and we knew how to do that.

Noah: What was your reaction when Jesse Orosco recorded that final out?

Darryl: It’s done! We finally did it, we are the champions of baseball. It was something that we all were striving for all season, and we didn’t know if we were going to accomplish it going in, but we did.

Noah: You faced some of the greatest pitchers in baseball during your career. Who were you most scared to face and why?

Darryl: I wasn’t scared, but facing the great Nolan Ryan was difficult for me. He was just a different breed, he had a different look about himself, and I never feared anyone until I faced him for the first time. There was a lot of fear in my heart then but as time went by, I started to get comfortable against him. I then got to a point where I believed I could face anybody, it didn’t matter who was on the mound.

Noah: After you signed with the Dodgers, was there anything you knew you would miss about playing in New York?

Darryl: Yeah the fans! Definitely not the media, even though I had some friends in there who treated me well. But a lot of them weren’t very nice because they didn’t know us, and they didn’t follow us everyday. They just spouted off opinions. But yeah, I definitely missed the fans most. They’re a very aggressive group, and I really loved that. I became comfortable with them, used to them, and their (aggressiveness) shaped my style of play.

Noah: Speaking of playing in New York, can you describe your experience playing for both the Mets and the Yankees? How was playing for each team different?

Darryl: The Mets are part of National League baseball, so it’s a speed game, and I got to run a lot. Going to the American League, it was about going for the homerun, which I was okay with. When I played on the Yankees, I had the chance to play on some great winning teams in 1996, 1998, and 1999 under the great Joe Torre. Playing for the Yankees was amazing and I also had some amazing years playing for the Mets.

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Noah: So now that you’ve been relatively out of the media spotlight for some time, tell me, what have you done since moving on from professional baseball?

Darryl: I’m an ordained minister now. I travel, I’m an evagelist, I preach the gospel. My ministry is Strawberryministries.org. I also spend a lot of time helping people. I have a (drug) treatment center in Florida called the Darryl Strawberry Recovery Center where I’m helping young people who struggle with substance abuse get better. It’s a chance for me to give back and show people that they can recover and that they can really change.

Noah: Where specifically has your retirement taken you?

Darryl: It’s taken me to a wonderful place. It’s better than baseball, better than anything that I could have ever imagined. I’m answering the call of my life and the call of God, who would have ever thought that I’d be preaching the gospel one day.

Noah: So tell me Darryl, do you have any regrets from your time with the Mets or your time in professional baseball?

Darryl: No regrets whatsoever. We all have a journey in life, and we all have to go on it; even though we don’t know what it’s going to be. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish the race (of life) and I’m just really grateful for the way my life has changed and the way that I’m finishing the race; giving back and helping others.

Noah: But that said, your career ended much earlier than it should have. You had 280 homers by age 29, and you were even drawing comparisons to Hank Aaron. Do you ever wonder what could have been?

Darryl: No, I never think about what could have been. I deal with what was and the way my course ran. I have no regrets. I think that too many people look back over the past and they can never move forward. I needed to move forward in my life and that’s what I did.

Noah: That’s a great way to be. Just switching gears now, I’m going to ask you a little bit about the Mets today. How closely have you been following the team?

Darryl: I really don’t follow them, I really don’t follow baseball. It’s nothing personal, my life is just very busy doing things to help others that I don’t really have a lot of time to (follow baseball) at this point.

Noah: Michael Conforto, the Mets’ current left fielder is another young talented left handed hitter who has a sweet swing just like you did. He was also a high draft pick. What advice would you offer a player like that for playing in New York?

Darryl: Work hard, have fun, and don’t get discouraged. There are a lot of ups and downs as you learn, but the most important thing is that you have to believe in your ability. I always believed in my own ability, no matter what anyone else had to say.

Noah: How do the 2016 Mets stack up to your 1986 Mets?

Darryl: (laughs) They don’t even compare, they’re not even close to what we were!

Noah: And lastly, if you could give any message to Mets fans today, what would it be?

Darryl: Just keep believing. Don’t get discouraged if the team doesn’t win right away. It took (my teams) a couple years to put the pieces together before we started winning. I know last year they made it to the World Series, but it won’t be a failure if they don’t make it back this year. As long as they have a great season and make it back to the playoffs, playing as well as they can, they’ll be great. Hopefully this team has made adjustments with learning the fundamentals of playing baseball because you have to make the plays in the World Series and the playoffs to win the championship. I hope that they’ve learned that over the past year.

Noah: Thank you Darryl, really appreciate your time.

Darryl: You got it.

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Talkin’ Mets: Harvey’s Struggles, Wheeler’s Rehab, Terry’s Short Fuse http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/talkin-mets-harveys-struggles-wheelers-rehab-terrys-short-fuse.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/talkin-mets-harveys-struggles-wheelers-rehab-terrys-short-fuse.html/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 01:29:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=209907 matt harvey

The latest edition of Talkin’ Mets is hot off the presses. In my opening monologue, I discuss Matt Harvey’s slow start and Terry Collins’ ability to handle the pressure of being the division favorite.

Our first guest Mike Vorkunov of VICE Sportscatches up with Zack Wheeler during his rehab. Then James Flippin of WOR joins me to take some questions from the Metsmerized Online community.

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The Mets offense has started to come alive, especially in the power department. With four home runs on Friday and another three homers on Saturday.

Yoenis Cespedes is red hot and has five RBI in this Cleveland series so far, He is hitting .391 (9-23) with four runs, three home runs and eight RBI in his last six games. Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson also homered as they each start to heat up. And what about Michael Conforto who has looked excellent since his bump to the third spot in the lineup.

Oddly enough, most of the Mets concerns in the last five days has been about their starting pitching. Jacob deGrom remains out and we hope his baby gets well soon. He was dealing with a sore right lat muscle. Matt Harvey has manager Terry Collins very concerned as the Mets ace saw gis record drop to 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA. And Steven Matz, who pitches this afternoon, had a start to forget last week, getting pounded for seven runs.

Luckily for the Mets, the young Noah Syndergaard and the veteran Bartolo Colon continue to cruise in the Mets rotation. Colon especially had a notable victory, passing Pedro Martinez for the second most wins among Dominican-born pitchers, and is within earshot of the all-time leader Hall of Famer Juan Marichal.

There’s lot’s to talk about.

Tonight I will be joined by WOR’s James Flippin as we read and discuss all your questions and comments and dissect this past week of Mets baseball.

The show should be available sometime around 8pm for you to download.

Remember to subscribe via iTunes or use the RSS Feed.

Now, let’s hear what you have to say!

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Talkin’ Mets: No Need to Panic Yet http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/talkin-mets-no-need-to-panic-yet.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/talkin-mets-no-need-to-panic-yet.html/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 00:44:52 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=209385 home opener cespedes introductions

Episode 2 is hot off the presses.

I talk about why you shouldn’t jump on the “panic city” bandwagon just yet. Hear my positives from the week (hint it involves the bullpen and up-the-middle defense) and my concerns about David Wright’s defense.

Howard Altman wrote a piece in the NY Observer entitled “Matt Harvey versus the NY Press Corps” and he will stop by to discuss it.

Finally, I answer some questions from the MMO community on how to keep the young pitchers healthy, the Mets hitting philosophy, platooning Curtis Granderson, and everyone’s favorite topic: Wally Backman as Mets manager.

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Tell Us Your Questions and Concerns for Tonight’s Talkin’ Mets Podcast http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/tell-us-your-questions-and-concerns-for-tonights-talkin-mets-podcast.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/tell-us-your-questions-and-concerns-for-tonights-talkin-mets-podcast.html/#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2016 13:45:27 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=209355 mets championship flag

This thread is to get some Mets and podcast related comments, criticism and questions for tonight’s Talkin’ Mets show.

It’s now been a week since Opening Night in Kansas City and a lot has transpired since then as the Mets head into this afternoon’s finale against the Philadelphia Phillies with a 2-2 record.

We’ve seen Michael Conforto and Neil Walker hit the ground running on offense, but some of the other hitters have yet to come around. The starting pitching has been solid, led by Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and even Bartolo Colon on Saturday.

The bullpen has also done the job with newcomer Jim Henderson flashing some early dominance late in games. Of course it wouldn’t be baseball without some injury concerns and the Mets certainly have a few things to keep an eye on there.

The good news? We saw the raising of the National League Championship banner at Citi Field in a rousing home opener on Friday night. There’s lots to talk about.

I will dedicate about 10 minutes to Q&A and hope to have some good commentary devoted to some of your questions and concerns.

Nothing is off limits! Have at it!

The podcast should be available around 7pm tonight.

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Featured Article: All In From The Start For 2016 Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/featured-article-all-in-from-the-start-for-2016-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/featured-article-all-in-from-the-start-for-2016-mets.html/#comments Mon, 04 Apr 2016 18:10:31 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208916 opening-day-baseball mets fans citi field

An MMO Fan Shot by Laura (Mookie4Ever)

Surviving as a lifelong Mets fan requires you to wall off your heart a little. You have to be cautious for your own sanity, because they will break your heart 14 out of 15 years. You naturally try not to get your hopes too high, so you can avoid the devastating lows that inevitably have come with this team.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda…. will drive you crazy, so when at all possible, you avoid looking back in too much painful detail. (I still have little personal memory of the 2000 WS games. Pre-Series hoopla, yes, actual games, no.) Similarly, you avoid looking too far ahead, too. Well, that strategy has worked for me in most years, anyway.

Which is why, with the Mets 7 games up and 22 to go last year, I was still telling myself, just enjoy the exciting ride, that watching meaningful September baseball was so much fun, that if they didn’t make it to the playoffs, I would be good with it.

As Gary and Ron and Keith started counting down the magic number using Mets uniform numbers, I was screaming NOOO! inside, fearing a jinx. Superstition goes along with this deal, of course, because of the decades upon decades of awful past disappointments and the Oh-So-Close finishes.

By the way, that little touch with the players’ numbers was my favorite part of the season to that point. It gave us a chance to share our connection to Mets history, and to honor all those guys, especially those we have lost. Little did I know then just how much fun and excitement was yet to come.

But here’s the thing about rooting for the NY Mets. It only gets really great and memorable when you go all in. When you give them your heart and really hang on for the ride, the magic truly happens, for me, anyway. It’s always a huge risk, but just like in love, no risk, no reward.

And so, of course, I finally did unwall my heart, and it was truly a magical journey. It seemed like we didn’t get more than 4 hours of sleep a night for the whole month of October into November, all while in a state of continual adrenaline rush, with all those heart attack postseason games. And of course, we did get our hearts broken in the end. But it was different last year, I actually was good with it — eventually.

First came the awful first week of grieving, actual physical grieving (to be honest it was probably mostly adrenaline withdrawal), to the point that I felt like I needed to have a little cry to get past it. I have to tell you, I haven’t cried over a sports team since I was a teenager with the ’73 Mets and Rangers, so this came as a shock.

Then, I painfully stumbled through various other stages of grief, from denial in the early morning hours of insomnia, to wallowing in the highlight videos, to the Hot Stove obsession, to finally watching MLB’s World Series Film, and my own brand of acceptance. You know, they really were so close in every game….

With this weird and wild offseason culminating in signing Cespedes, the crazy fun loose spring training, and the young stud pitchers looking so damn good, the rollercoaster is happily cranking up the hill again. Except, I’m hoping it’s more of a freight train ride like 1986. The Mets are finally ready to throw down and work their way back to finish what they started last year. The defending National League Champion New York Mets, that is, thank you very much.

I’m so excited for 2016 real baseball to start. First order of business will be to watch Matt Harvey and a quietly seething Mets team teach KC about the dangers of rubbing opponents’ noses in their past failure. Never before has the opportunity to settle Unfinished Business come so soon for any two World Series opponents.

This year, I’ll be all in from start to finish, hoping to hang on for another wild ride to the World Series with a happier ending this time. All aboard! #LGM

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This MMO Fan Shot was written by MMO reader Laura (Mookie4ever). Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Fan Shot: Baseball… The Family Game http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-fan-shot-baseball-the-family-game.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-fan-shot-baseball-the-family-game.html/#comments Sun, 03 Apr 2016 17:14:40 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208927 girl father first pitch

An MMO Fan Shot by MetsFanInParadise

The love of baseball runs through families. It’s passed from grandparent or parent to child. The bond baseball can form between between a father and child can be a special thing. It’s often portrayed in various art forms, and sports can be one medium across which the bond is built. The recent publicity about Adam LaRoche and his son is proof of this. One of my favorite movies is “Frequency,” which uses the 1969 World Series as a plot device, as a son tries to save his father’s life via a magical radio connection.

This will be the first baseball season I won’t be able to share with my father, Charles Martin Rosenblatt, who died a few weeks after the World Series ended last fall. Like many of us, the love of the game was passed down through the generations of my family, though it wasn’t a shared love to the extent that it is in some families.

As children, we think of our grandparents as, well, grandparents. The word often conjures up magic. Our memories of them are the sum of the hugs we sometimes didn’t get from our own parents, of kitchens smelling like sweet baked goods or savory holiday meals, of birthday and holiday cards with checks or $20 bills in them, and, for my generation anyway, of the rare airplane trip to Florida to visit them in Miami Beach-during the school year if you were REALLY lucky. We would return with exotic stories of Monkey Jungle and Sea World, airboat rides and alligator wrestlers But we don’t necessarily think of them as people, with complex personalities and relationships, particularly with their own children, our parents.

As I got older and understood the friction between my father and his parents, it made sense that Grandpa Abe was a Yankee fan, while my father grew up bleeding Dodger blue. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find that it had been an intentional choice on my father’s part, to oppose his father. The Dodgers had moved west before my arrival on this earth, which was almost simultaneous with the Mets taking the field for their first Spring Training. (In fact, the start of Spring Training is annually my greatest birthday gift.) By that time my father, like most NY-Metro area NL fans, had transferred his allegiance to them and eventually it found its way deep into my soul.

We only went to one Yankee game with my grandfather. It was in 1970 or 1971. I know that because it was Bat Day. Can you imagine giving out usable wooden bats to a stadium full of children today? Not miniatures, but right-sized for kids to use competitively. My brother was fortunate enough to get one with Bobby Murcer‘s autograph stamped on it. Murcer was maybe the biggest name on those putrid Yankee teams of the Interregnum, between the wild Mantle-Ford teams, and the champion Bronx Zoo teams made possible by the advent of free agency and George Steinbrenner’s deep pockets and obsession with winning. Some of the other stalwarts of those late 60s-early 70s teams were Horace Clarke, Walt “No-Neck” Williams, and Roy White, a steady performer who was good enough to hang in there long enough to reach the mountaintop a few years later.

For a long time there was a Rodney Dangerfield element to me. The world didn’t seem to respect me, so it’s no surprise my bat carried the faux autograph of…Curt Blefary. Who? Lets just say the name didn’t fire my imagination. So rather than hitching my fan wagon to the Yankees’ star I puttered along as a casual fan, reading biographies of everyone from Stan Musial (my favorite, who received minor-league tutelage from Dickie Kerr, one of the few good eggs from the 1919 Black Sox) and the Splendid Splinter to New York icons Ruth, Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and more.

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I watched and listened to whatever games my father put on the TV or radio, which consisted of Mets and World Series games, and we went to Shea from the Jersey suburbs periodically, whenever my father (or school, or summer camp) decided to get a trip together. But it wasn’t at my instigation. My baseball knowledge expanded incrementally in other ways, too. Everyone in my family shares a love of words, so we would play games like Hangman, and my father’s puzzles would sometimes consist of historical baseball players with unusual names, like Sibby Sisti.

So baseball was part of the background of my life until Aug 31, 1973, when my imagination was fired up by the battle cry, “Ya Gotta Believe.” From then on the Mets were a daily obsession, and of course the family was clustered around the TV for the entire postseason. Pete Rose, Bud Harrelson, Jon Matlack, Willie Mays, Mike Andrews, Catfish Hunter, Darold Knowles, and Reggie Jackson were some of the players who stood out, for better or worse.

In 1974 I started collecting everything Mets I could get my hands on — mostly freebies, because I had very little money. I stood in line when Rusty Staub signed photos at the Menlo Park Mall that winter, wrote to the Mets for decals and schedules, piled up the free portrait photos with reproduced autographs given out at the Getty gas stations for a summer or 2—I had stacks of Mike Philips, Doug Flynn, Skip Lockwood and Dave Kingman photos, and tried to collect at least one card from each year of the team’s existence.

One of my treasures was a 1962 Chris Cannizarro — the catcher Casey Stengel referred to as “Canzoneri” (a boxer of the time). I even acquired NYC subway car ads from somewhere.

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The family was breaking apart slowly, which seemed fairly common in the 70s, and I was unable to get us out to Big Shea as a group too often, but I remember a game in 1975.

It wasn’t hard to get field-level box seats at the time, the attendance was so poor, and they were only about $5.50, so I had a front row seat for the Expos’ Woodie Fryman‘s one-hitter against the Mets in 1975 a game which featured 4 former or future Mets in the Montreal lineup; Tim Foli, Mike Jorgenson, Pepe Mangual, and Gary Carter, in RF. John Stearns broke it up with a double. Fryman’s pitching coach that year? A former journeyman who had passed through Brooklyn at the start of his playing career so my father knew he had a noteworthy name—Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma (“Cal”) McLish.

Then I was off to college and pursuing solo adventures, such as driving in from Central Pennsylvania on Opening Day 1983 to find a scalper with a ticket and see Tom Seaver‘s return to the Mets. Getting my 1970 Plymouth Fury over the Poconos was an adventure in itself. I graduated in 1984 and, as previously documented, I went to quite a few games during 1986, but the only experience I got to share with my father that year was watching Game Seven of the World Series in my apartment. A few years after that I moved to Florida and my father stayed in NJ. For the next 15 years all we could do was talk about it.

In 2005 he finally decided to retire to Florida. All three of his children had moved down here in the interim, so he was very welcome. He came down in the spring and I found that the Mets would be here on his birthday, April 21st, so we (my brother also lives in this area) took him. The Mets won, 10-1, with Pedro Martinez starting and getting the win, and ex-Red Sox Doug Mientkiewicz hitting a grand slam in the second inning.

In 2006 we saw 2 or 3 games together. One was Aug 1, when Billy Wagner gave up a walk-off 2-run HR to Josh Willingham. I think that was the last regular season game we ever saw together in person (we also got to see them in Spring Training once or twice while the Baltimore Orioles were still based in Ft. Lauderdale-I never got up to Port St. Lucie until last spring). I fell on hard times for awhile, and my father found a girlfriend. He became a “snowbird,” spending the summer months in her home in Michigan. We watched games together, of course, either over the phone or on TV when he was in Florida, and talked baseball all the time.

Last summer’s glorious events went hand in hand with personal hardship and loss. During the Mets’ midsummer slog my father was rehabilitating from an automobile accident. Since he was in the Rehab facility where i work as Social Services Director, I was able to spend a lot of time with him and sometimes catch snippets of the games on my office computer. But by the time their turnaround seemed destined to land them in the postseason, the news had turned grim.

In August my father, discharged from Rehab and back on his feet, had gone belatedly with his companion to Michigan, to spend the end of the summer at her house. But the idyll quickly turned to tragedy, as he started to fall and lose the use of his right arm and leg, and he eventually checked himself into the hospital.

I was 6 rows behind first base on Sept. 5, the night Bartolo Colon made his famous behind-the-back flip. There was so much going on with our team that it would have been easy to be totally immersed in it: we were in between the 2 sweeps of the Nationals, and that was the weekend the controversy over Matt Harvey‘s innings limit hit the news. But it was also the night I found out about my father’s brain tumor.

The next couple of months were a blur. Trips to Detroit and countless phone calls with doctors were interspersed with “Tears of Joy,” but those weren’t the only tears I cried during that period. Since health care is my profession I took the lead in overseeing his care, signing forms and making arrangements to have him transported down here to spend his remaining time with his family. My brother and I watched playoff games with him in his hospital room in Detroit, and NLCS and World Series games with him from his Hospice room.

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He retained enough of himself to be able to croak “Lets Go Mets” as they won the pennant. I was hoping they’d give him a most satisfying send-off, but we all know how their story ended. Soon after, my father’s story also ended.

The Mets carried me through last fall, when my father’s illness and the responsibility for arranging his care could have overwhelmed me. But they brought me a joy that still gets me choked up. I wouldn’t have had the same passion for the game, and the team, without my father, who transferred his rabid loyalty to the Mets from the Dodgers like so many other fans of that time, and nurtured it in me.

Now another winter has passed, more quickly than most thanks to the length of our season. Baseball really is a microcosm of life, as many have written. It stirs when nature is doing the same; animals emerging from hibernation and new plants emerging from under the blanket of snow. It bursts forth in all its exuberance like the fruit and the fireworks of summer, echoed in the carefree freedom of children out of school.

It draws to a conclusion, strewing heartbreak for most and satisfaction for the few, as the harvest closes the chapter on the year’s productivity, and then all the equipment is put away and the long winter’s slumber comes round again. Baseball, like life, provides as many failures as successes.

Unlike the NFL, no team goes undefeated. Every team wins at least 50 games and loses at least 50. Unlike a field-goal or free throw percentage in basketball, a champion batting average contains twice as much failure as success. It’s a test of character; another thing we acquire, in large part, from our parents.

I’m expecting a fantastic season for the Amazins, capped by a more satisfying repeat trip to the Fall Classic. Every time I enjoy another “Happy Recap” I’ll think of my father with gratitude for helping me become the fan I am, and wish he was here to enjoy the season with me.

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This MMO Fan Shot was written by MMO reader MetsFanInParadise. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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Talkin’ Mets Episode 1: Road to Redemption http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/talkin-mets-episode-1-road-to-redemption.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/talkin-mets-episode-1-road-to-redemption.html/#comments Sun, 03 Apr 2016 04:20:34 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208875 harvey syndergaard

Thanks for joining me for the inaugural podcast of Talkin’ Mets. You can check out the show page here.

I think this goes without saying but nothing is off limits. This is a podcast that will strive to be fair and objective. Use this thread to discuss each episode and let us know what you liked or disliked as your feedback will help us improve future podcasts.

In this week’s episode, I am joined by Matt Ehalt of The Record, who previews the 2016 Mets. Matt and I talk about the poor spring, his take on the new additions, and whether the bullpen is really improved. Matt also gives you his biggest surprises and concerns going into the season.

I also talk about the “innocent climb” of 2015 and how nothing short of a World Series will lead to contentment for some in the fan base. I cap off the show with my 2016 Mets prediction.

I hope you enjoy the show and I am looking forward to contributing to this community which I have admired for a long time!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THIS WEEK’S SHOW

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MMO Exclusive: ESPN’s Jayson Stark Gives His Take on the Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-espns-jayson-stark-gives-his-take-on-the-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-espns-jayson-stark-gives-his-take-on-the-mets.html/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 13:30:47 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208479 david wright

Jayson Stark is most known for his work at the national level covering baseball for ESPN and as a senior writer for ESPN.com.  He’s been around the game for four decades, writing columns, authoring three baseball books, and reporting on ESPN and MLB Network.  I recently caught up with Jayson and he was kind enough to share some of his time and give me some of his insights and the perception of the Mets from outside the New York bubble. Please enjoy.

Noah: Coming off an unexpected run of success in 2015, what’s been the atmosphere surrounding the Mets in spring training?

Jayson: They’re very upbeat and they know that they’re built to win. They have the mindset that they are going to play baseball in October. That mentality is something we haven’t seen from a Mets team in a decade in spring training. The question now is – we know they’re built for October – can they get there?

Noah: Tell me about it. Who’s responsible for this change in attitude?

Jayson: I don’t think that it’s any one person or any one player. I think it’s just success. A reflection of finally having that rotation together, having Zack Wheeler on the horizon, and bringing Yoenis Cespedes back. This is the heart of a team that played in the World Series, played really well, and still matches up very well against a lot of other teams in baseball. I don’t think anybody has to give a pep talk, this team understands how good they can be.

Noah: How is this team different from ones in years past, both on and off the field?

Jayson: On the field, you’ve got a rotation that’s built to win any matchup against any lineup. Off the field, there’s finally a situation where there’s not a lot of controversy. They don’t have the debates over innings restrictions or have a lot of talk about how much money they did or didn’t spend. Nobody cares about the Wilpons or Bernie Madoff right now, and that’s refreshing. It’s just finally a baseball conversation, surrounding this team.

After Sandy Alderson came in, that regime spent a lot of time just tearing down what had been there before it arrived. (All of their actions) have been leading to this point. I’m not going to say they’re the perfect team, a team without holes. They’re a team that I’m going to pick to win the World Series. If you’re going to make a list of the six or seven teams in the sport that have the best chance to win the World Series, they’ve got to be on it.

yoenis cespedes

Noah: Size up the Mets offseason moves. What do you think of the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes and Antonio Bastardo?

Jayson: The Mets went into the offseason without any expectation that Yoenis Cespedes was coming back. In fact, they were fully prepared to move on without him.

With Cespedes, we saw what a franchise changing figure he could be over a short period of time. That said, he’s never been a franchise changing figure over the course of a full season. Still, he’s a really intriguing player with a certain aura about him, and he gets on streaks where he changes the face of a lineup. People can feed off of him when he’s on those rolls. But then he has other periods where he’s not that guy. The Mets are built in a way where he has to be the guy he was during the end of last season for them to be successful. There are questions in the minds of a lot of people in baseball over whether he can be that guy for a full season. Even so, he might only be in New York for just a year, and there’s no such thing as a bad one year contract.

Antonio Bastardo is a guy that I’ve seen pitch a lot and he’s got stuff that’s as good as any left handed pitcher in baseball. He doesn’t get hit hard, he’s got a big swing and miss component to his game. You don’t have to necessarily use him against just left handed hitters. I think in the way that the Mets use their staff and their bullpen, he’s a good fit. But like Cespedes, he goes on stretches where he doesn’t pitch with confidence, he gets himself in trouble by pitching away from contact and walking too many hitters. I think he can be really exasperating to watch because of that. Sometimes, when you need him in a big spot to be the guy, he doesn’t show up. On the other hand, you can match him up against any left handed hitter in the game and he’s got the stuff to strike them out.

With both guys, the upside is tremendous when they’re at their best, but they have that other side to them where they can be really frustrating players.

Noah: Of the young starting pitchers, who looks poised to take the greatest step in their development this year?

Jayson: That’s a really tough question. They’re all good options. I love Syndergaard. To me deGrom has already taken that next step towards becoming one of the best pitchers in the game. I also think that this is the year for Matt Harvey. He’s been a human highlight reel when he’s pitched, but this is the year where he pitches a full season, contends for the Cy Young and dominates from start to finish. He just has that look about him, he’s a star. So if I had to pick one, I would say him.

noah syndergaard

Noah: How are these young aces handling the pressure this season? They’re really being banked on to carry the Mets back to the playoffs.

Jayson: They’re a really confident group, and this helps them a lot. They’ve all done nothing except succeed, so why wouldn’t they be confident! I think the fact that there are four of them takes the heat off of any one of them. Harvey and deGrom are a little more advanced than Matz and Syndergaard. But I think this is one of those situations like on those great 1990′s Braves teams with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz where everybody feeds off of everybody else. It’s really a great situation to have.

Noah: So what should we realistically expect from the young aces this year? Is this when they all finally put it together?

Jayson: I really think that Matz and Syndergaard are going to find out how long the season really is and I think you have to factor that in to their performance expectations. I think you also have to wonder who stays healthy, statistics across baseball tell us that 50 percent of all starting pitchers go on the disabled list in any given year. So for the Mets, I think it’s a question of which two get hurt. But if they’re all healthy from April to September, this should be the best rotation in baseball, period.

Noah: We all know about the concerns surrounding David Wright‘s back, the spinal stenosis condition that was discovered last year, right now, what are the organization’s realistic expectations for him this season?

Jayson: Honestly, I think their bar is set low. I don’t think the organization would ever say that publicly, but I don’t think he’s a guy that they’re counting on for a whole lot. If you think about they way in which he was used, treated, and managed after he came off the disabled list, they were just trying to take care of him. This year they’re just going to try to get him through the season. Given what we’ve seen this spring, he’s barely played, I don’t think they expect a lot from him. This is the right approach. If you don’t expect much and you get more than you bargained for, that’s always a lot better than the other way around.

Noah: Is there any glaring weakness that this team acknowledges out of the gate?

Jayson: I don’t think that there’s a glaring weakness, but I do think that it’s team with some questions. We mentioned David Wright and their shortstop defense is certainly a question. I like their lineup with Cespedes back, a full year of Michael Conforto. But do I like their lineup more than the Nationals? I don’t know if I do. So I do think that there are questions, but no weaknesses. They’re definitely a team that nobody would want to play in October.

Noah: Now taking everything into consideration, what’s a realistic expectation for this team this season?

Jayson: Well if you ask them, they would say, “Win the World Series.” I think for me, a realistic possibility would be winning the NL East, get to October, and then it’s all matchups. There aren’t very many teams that they don’t match up with. It’s just a matter of getting there.

The National League is going to be very difficult to win. With at least five really bad teams and six or seven really good ones, there are going to be a couple teams that may win a lot of games, but not make it to October. That’s going to be the key for the Mets, making it there, and they should.

Noah: So what would constitute a successful season? Is it World Series or bust?

Jayson: I don’t like that way of looking at things, “World Series or bust.” I don’t think that it’s a fair way for any team to judge its season, not in this sport. For me, a successful season happens if they keep the aces healthy, win the NL East, and take your chances and see how good you are in October. I’d like to see these pitchers all take a step forward and see how good they can be. What a show, right?

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MMO Exclusive: Adam Rubin Sizes Up Mets As Spring Training Draws To An End http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-adam-rubin-sizes-up-mets-as-spring-training-draws-to-an-end.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-adam-rubin-sizes-up-mets-as-spring-training-draws-to-an-end.html/#comments Wed, 30 Mar 2016 12:30:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208477 terry collins spring

ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin is well known for his intensive coverage of the Mets, live tweeting games, interviewing players, and breaking stories as they happen.  I recently had the chance to talk with Adam and hear his take on the young aces, David Wright, and his expectations of the team this season.

Noah: Coming off an unexpected run of success in 2015, what has been the atmosphere surrounding the Mets this spring training?

Adam: Well it’s certainly upbeat, and it’s warranted. The starting pitching is absolutely elite. With the re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes, the hitting is very strong. The team understands that they are going to be the hunted this year and there’s going to be a lot of expectations of them. But they believe that they are justified in being the favorite in the national league this year.

Noah: Who’s setting the tone for this mindset?

Adam: Well Terry Collins met with the players at the start of spring training and said to them “you’re the hunted now.” But I don’t know if there’s any one person setting that tone. There’s just a lot of confidence, even from the younger players like (Noah) Syndergaard and Matt Harvey. These guys understand that they’re very good and they expect to win.

Noah: Obviously, the talent level on this team is different this year, but how is this team different also off the field?

Adam: With Harvey and Cespedes, there is a swagger that we haven’t really seen since 1986. I don’t think that this team has the same level of craziness, but that swagger is definitely still there.

Noah: For the first time since 2006, the Mets have some pretty decent depth. But that depth also pushes guys like Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares out of defined roles. Now with that said, what are their roles this season and how many at bats can we expect them to get?

Adam: Even though Wilmer Flores is likely not a starter at any position, he may get 400 or more at bats this year. When you think about David Wright, how many games is he realistically going to play? Is it 130, -that’s probably overly optimistic- is it 120, 110? Wilmer’s probably going to be the guy at third base barring something bad happening this last week of spring training. So that’s 40 or 50 games right there that he could play.

Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop looks like he’s going to avoid the disabled list to start the year, but he’s not going to play 162 games so Wilmer is going to get some time there. At second base, Neil Walker‘s numbers against left handed pitching aren’t great, so I bet Wilmer sees some time there as well. And then Lucas Duda isn’t going to face every tough lefty starter, so we may see Wilmer Flores there as the primary back up at first base too. Between the four positions, he could very easily get 400 at bats.

As for Juan Lagares, the resigning of Yoenis Cespedes directly affects him. I think it’s going to be largely like it was during the last two months of last season where Lagares starts against left handed pitching. Otherwise he’s a defensive replacement and a pinch hitter. So not a lot of playing time because the Mets don’t see a ton of left handed pitching, but certainly he’ll be in the mix.

The interesting wrinkle is whether he’s going to play centerfield or left field. Terry Collins recently decided to put Cespedes in center and Lagares in left. I don’t believe that’s going to happen during the regular season, but it’s something to watch.

Noah: What was the logic behind that positional switch? Moving Lagares to left and Cespedes to center doesn’t make a lot of sense, even though Lagares is clearly the better defender.

Adam: Terry’s rationale is that if Cespedes plays just one position, it might be easier for him (to adjust.) But Cespedes won a Gold Glove with the Tigers last year in leftfield before the trade. And Lagares won a Gold Glove in centerfield two years ago with the Mets. So I think that logic is ultimately going to prevail, (the move) just doesn’t make a ton of sense right now.

Noah: You mentioned David Wright and the concerns surrounding his back. Right now, what are the organization’s realistic expectations for him this season?

Adam: Sandy Alderson way early in camp mentioned 130 games as a possibility. But he’s just guessing. I don’t think anyone really knows (how much he’ll play.) David missed four months of last season with the spinal stenosis in his back. Now he knows how to manage it, but it’s not gone. We’ll see how his back responds as the year goes on. He did play the last month of last season plus the playoffs with some strategic rest. He’s going to be rested from time to time, he’s not going to start day games after night games in all likelihood. He’s also 33 years old now, aside from the back, you start seeing skills deteriorate a little bit. So how many games he plays this year is definitely an open question.

Noah: So what are the performance expectations for him this season? I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect 2006 or 2007 David Wright to show up again.

Adam: You’re right. Even aside from the back, I don’t see him generating those kind of power numbers again. He’s a guy who might hit .280 or .290 with 10-15 home runs and a fair amount of doubles. We’ll see what he is, I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that.

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Noah: Switching gears now, of the young starting pitching, who looks poised to take the greatest step in their development this season?

Adam: Well if you look at Tommy John surgery (recoveries), usually year two is a lot better than year one. Adam Wainwright for instance, had a full run lower ERA his second year back from Tommy John surgery with the Cardinals. So Matt Harvey could be tremendously better this year than last year; and last year was very good. They say with the exception of that blip against the Astros this spring, Harvey nonetheless has looked sharp this spring training. His slider is back, his fastball velocity is comparable to past years, but it has that late life back too. So certainly Harvey has a chance to take a big step forward.

Still, Noah Syndergaard might end up being the best pitcher of them all when all is said and done. When I asked the Mets players who’s the most intimidating pitcher in baseball, some named Greinke and Kershaw, but the people who named a Met named not Harvey or deGrom, but Syndergaard. It just shows you how much respect he has among his teammates.

Noah: Overall, what should we expect from the young aces this year? Is this when they all put it together?

Adam: There’s no reason to believe that any of them will take steps backward. These are all guys who are number one or number two type pitchers that on paper make up the best pitching staff in baseball. Certainly the Mets are blessed with young starting pitching and any one of those guys can have an elite season.

Noah: I think Mets fans and media can agree that this is the strongest team out of the gate since we’ve seen in a very long time. Still, is there any glaring weakness that this team acknowledges out of the gate?

Adam: Certainly the bullpen (has questions.) I don’t want to say it’s a weakness, but it’s not extraordinary beyond the closer. Jeurys Familia is very good, if you look at his regular season, he didn’t blow a save after July 30th -when he gave up that home run to Justin Upton- until the World Series. However, Addison Reed and Antonio Bastardo as the primary set up men are not extraordinary. Hansel Robles is also a work in progress. So the bullpen is one area to watch.

They also don’t have a lot of team speed, the fielding up the middle -especially with Cespedes in centerfield- is not ideal, and the catchers are working to throw out more runners. So those are some problematic areas, but every team has some issues. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the Mets’ issues compared to other teams’.

Noah: Lastly, what would constitute a successful season for this team? Is it really World Series or bust?

Adam: Well the fans would certainly be very disappointed if they didn’t win the World Series, but it’s not going to be an easy road back. I firmly expect them to win the division, or at least make the playoffs. The Nationals are still a strong team, and I wouldn’t write them off yet. With the Braves and Phillies retooling, I would expect the Mets and Nationals to get a lot of wins off of those two teams and make the postseason.

From there, I wouldn’t say it’s a crap-shoot, certainly the Mets’ starting pitching gives them a distinct edge in the postseason. Still, there’s a lot of talented teams in the National League with the Dodgers, Cubs, Giants, Diamondbacks, Cardinals shaping up to be strong competition. It’s really hard to say that the Mets will win the World Series or even be in the World Series because of the disparity between the several really good teams and the bad teams. There’s going to be a lot of competition. We’ll see what happens, but they will certainly be back to the playoffs.

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MMO Hall of Fame: Tug McGraw Believed When No One Else Did http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-hall-of-fame-tug-mcgraw-believed-when-no-one-else-did.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-hall-of-fame-tug-mcgraw-believed-when-no-one-else-did.html/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2016 13:00:22 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208026 Tug-McGraw1

Someone once said “A baseball team is a living breathing thing.” If that’s true, Tom Seaver is our heart, Gil Hodges our brain, Gary Carter our lungs (he breathed life into the Mets in Game 6), Bob Murphy our voice, Keith Hernandez our eyes. And Tug McGraw? Tug would be our spirit.

America has changed dramatically since Tug last pitched for the Mets. In 1974, a new car cost $3,750, a gallon of gas .55 cents. The biggest hit that year was Barbra Streisand’s ‘The Way We Were,’ the top grossing film was ‘Blazing Saddles’ and the highest rated TV show was ‘All in The Family.’ The nation was reeling from a president resigning in disgrace and tiring of troops in Vietnam.

Yet, despite the passage of four plus decades, we still feel Tug’s presence.

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Those of us who were lucky enough to see Tug pitch are getting older. And perhaps, as it often does, memory embellishes things. But watching Tug perform his craft was a sight to behold, a privilege. It didn’t matter if the Pirates were down by a run with the bases loaded with Willie Stargell windmilling his bat. It didn’t matter if the Reds had the tying run in scoring position with no outs and due up was Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench.

When you saw number 45 bounding out from the little bullpen cart and taking the mound, you knew—you just KNEW—everything would turn out okay. And three outs later, with Shea erupting in cheers, Jerry Grote walking to the mound shaking Tug’s hand and Tug shouting victoriously while slamming his glove against his leg, our thoughts were confirmed. Our fears alleviated. Tug made us feel better. Tug made us feel larger than life. Tug made us feel alive.

But his ascension to this level did not come overnight. It was a long arduous trek.

Frank Edwin McGraw was born in Martinez, CA on August 30, 1944. His mother nicknamed ‘Tug’ due to his “aggressive nature when he was breast-fed.” Immediately after graduating St. Vincent Ferrer High School in Vallejo, he was signed by the Mets on June 12, 1962. He was 17.

He spent one year in the minors, being used as both a starter and reliever and went 6-4 with a 1.64 ERA. The following year he made the Mets roster out of Spring Training, bypassing AA and AAA.

Tug was 0-1 with a 3.12 ERA in relief when on July 28 he made his first Major League start. The team was the Cubs, the location was Wrigley Field and the wind was blowing out. He lasted just 2/3 of an inning, giving up 3 ER before being hooked. The Mets lost 9-0.

Ya Gotta Believe!  ~  Tug McGraw

Ya Gotta Believe! ~ Tug McGraw

During that summer, the Mets were in Houston. America and Baseball was changing. For the first time ever the national pastime was played indoors in a stadium that resembled a UFO on the Texas prairie. Grass couldn’t grow inside so the game was played on a specially designed synthetic material called Astro-Turf. When a reporter asked Tug if he preferred grass or Astro-Turf, he replied, “I don’t know, I never smoked Astro-Turf.”

His second start was a complete game victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea. It was his first win in the big leagues. His 3rd start had him facing Sandy Koufax. Tug defeated Koufax, 5-2. It was the first time the Mets ever defeated the Dodger legend.

Tug finished 1965, both starting and relieving, with a record of 2-7 and a 3.32 ERA. He tossed 97 2/3 innings, whiffing 57 but walking 48. Decent numbers for a rookie on a team that went 50-112 and finished 47 GB.

That September, with war in Southeast Asia escalating, Tug, a US Marine, reported to Parris Island. He became a rifleman, adept at firing the M14 and M60. He later reported to Camp Lejeune where he became, as he humorously said, “a trained killer.”

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In 1966 he couldn’t regain his mediocre form. Still being used both as a spot-starter and in relief, Tug went 2-9 with a 5.52 ERA.

In 1967, he made 4 starts, going 0-3 with an embarrassing 7.79. Despite the Mets being an awful club and well on their way to another 100-loss season, even Tug couldn’t find a spot on the staff. He spent much of ’67 and all of 1968 in the minors. His career was on life support, his dream of being a big league pitcher hanging by a thread.

Early in 1969, Jerry Koosman got hurt. Manager Gil Hodges gave Tug a chance and put him in Kooz’s spot. This was Tug’s big opportunity. He could now prove to himself, a doubtful fan base and his manager that he deserved to be here.

Tug failed. He went 1-1 but his ERA was well over 5.00.

When Koosman returned from the DL, Tug was banished to the pen. He found his home.

Tug pitched exceptionally well, going 9-3, posted a career best to that point 2.24 ERA and fanned 92 batters in 100 IP.

However, he was erratic, streaky. And when the Amazins’ found themselves in the post-season for the first time ever, Hodges knew what was at stake. McGraw was too inconsistent to be trusted. He pitched just once, a game 2 slugfest, where he went 3 innings, allowing just 1 hit and 0 ER. He did not pitch again that October.

Tug would later say that 1969 was the turning point in his career. Although he had no impact on the post-season, he felt motivated by what the team did. “We were Goddamned Amazin!”

Quicker than a Nolan Ryan fastball and mastering his signature pitch, the Screwball, Tug became one of the premier closers in the league. He was respected by opponents, valued by teammates and adored by fans. He became arguably the most loved player ever to wear a Mets jersey. Tom Seaver was ‘The Franchise,’ the guy you’d enjoy sitting down and discussing Baseball with. But Tug was the guy you’d want to hang out with.

When he pitched in a game, Tug threw left-handed. However, when he loosened up in the bullpen prior to the game or played catch in the outfield with teammates, he threw right-handed. Fans frequently wondered who was that guy wearing Tug’s jersey.

The game was different back then. Closers didn’t come in to face just one batter. They earned the save. They stayed on the mound. No one cared about pitch counts. In 1970, Tug appeared in 57 games while tossing 90+ innings. He went 4-6 with a 3.28.

The following year, he went 11-4 with a 1.70 ERA, threw 111 innings in 51 games and recorded 109 K’s. Tug continued his dominance in 1972. He went 8-6, again posted a 1.70 ERA and set a team record of 27 saves, a mark that would stand until Jesse Orosco broke it in 1984. ’72 saw Tug picked for his first All-Star Game. In 2 innings of work he fanned 4 batters—Reggie Jackson, Norm Cash, Bobby Grich and Carlton Fisk—and picked up the win.

Tug McGraw had merited his spot amongst the greats of the day. And now, it was 1973.

Shockingly, once again, the Mets closer was erratic, unreliable and inconsistent. He found himself reduced to co-closer with Harry Parker.

On August 30, Tom Seaver suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in 10 innings to STL. The Mets fell into last place and were 61-71. And although they were just 6 ½ GB, they’d need to leapfrog 5 other clubs.

M. Donald Grant held a closed door meeting with the players.

He endeavored to motivate the team that’d been playing run-of-the-mill ball most of the year. Not much heart. He said they needed to believe in themselves, believe in each other and believe in their abilities.

Of all people to echo Grant’s generic speech Tug seemed the least likely. After all, he was 1-6 with an ERA north of 5. If anyone should sit there and keep his mouth shut, it was McGraw.

But not Tug. He began jumping around exuberantly, shouting and screaming, “Ya Gotta Believe! Ya Gotta Believe!” Some teammates chuckled, others rolled their eyes. Grant was offended and felt McGraw was mocking him. It was Tug being Tug.

Most likely no one really did believe. Perhaps Tug didn’t either.

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The very next day, August 31, the Mets won a thriller over STL in extra innings and rose out of the cellar. Winning pitcher? Tug McGraw.

It was one of those strange pennant races that seemingly no one wanted to win. As the Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, Cubs and Expos beat up on each other, the Mets beat up on everyone. Slowly but surely, the players started to believe. Fans started to believe. The Mets went 19-8 in September, Tug went 3-0 with a 0.57 ERA and recorded 10 saves in a month.

Number 45 took us on one hell of a ride.

Tug’s dominance continued into October. In the LCS he tossed 5 innings, scattering just 4 hits and allowing no runs. In the World Series against the A’s, he pitched in 5 of the 7 games, fanning 14 in 13 2/3 IP. It was Tug who picked up the win in crucial Game 2, a 12-inning affair that brought the Series back to NY deadlocked 1-1.

It was not to be. Despite falling short of another miracle, 1973 remains a true testament to the Mets will, drive and to believing.

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The following year, the defending NL Champion Mets struggled all season. They hobbled across the finish line going 71-91. Tug also struggled, going 6-11 with a 4.16 ERA.

If you were a fan in the 70’s, you remember–vividly and painfully–the tortuously slow disassembling of the club piece by piece. Seaver, Koosman, Jon Matlack, Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones, Buddy Harrelson, Jerry Grote, John Milner. All sent away.

But it was number 45 who was the first to go.

On December 3, 1974, Tug, along with outfielders Don Hahn and Dave Schneck, were traded to division rival Philadelphia in exchange for Del Unser, John Stearns and Mac Scarce. However, the trade was nearly voided.

The Phillies accused the Mets of sending ‘damaged goods.’ New York had been tightlipped about McGraw’s shoulder problems during the ‘74 season. The Phillies quickly discovered the arm issue was a due to a simple cyst. The cyst was removed and the trade went through. The Mets believed that at 30 years-old McGraw’s career was probably over.

He’d pitch another ten years.

Stats show that Tug actually put up better numbers in Philly than NY. They, too, grew to love their new closer and for the last half of the decade, as the Phillies appeared in numerous post-seasons while the Mets floundered and flirted with 100-losses annually, Tug established himself as one of the best of his era.

In 1980, Tug saved 20 games and cemented the Phillies first Championship in history. Before a sold-out Veterans Stadium, he whiffed Willie Wilson for the final out of Game 6, did a quick dance on the mound like Rocky and was hugged by teammates like a conquering hero returning home.

Tug turned 40 in 1982 and although putting up respectable numbers, found himself in a set-up role for closers Ron Reed and Ed Farmer. It was time for Tug to step aside and let the national pastime move on without him.

Tug remained in Philadelphia as a sports reporter for WPVI through much of the 1980’s and ’90’s. In addition to sharing his knowledge with young prospects and penning several books during his career, he wrote a syndicated comic strip entitled “Scroogie.” Scroogie was a screwball pitcher who pitched for a team named The Pets. The Pets star pitcher was a refined guy named Royce Rawls (a clear-cut tribute to Tug’s former teammate Tom Seaver,) The Pets broadcaster, Herb, wore loud multi-colored sports jackets, a homage to Lindsey Nelson.

It was while working as a special instructor to the Phillies during Spring Training in 2003 when Tug realized something wasn’t right. He’d been getting headaches, forgetting names of players he worked with daily. Occasionally he’d arrive at the ballpark at the wrong time. Sometimes he showed up and the stadium was empty, having forgotten the Phillies were across the state playing elsewhere. A trip to a doctor, then an oncologist and a battery of tests revealed that Frank Edwin McGraw had a brain tumor.

He was operated on and the outcome was labeled a “success.” Chances of full recovery were “excellent” and Tug, we were told, should “live a long time.”

However, the tumor was not excised completely. It metastasized and returned to a part of the brain that was inoperable.

Tug McGraw was dying.

His final public appearance came on September 28, 2003. It was the last game ever played at Veteran’s Stadium and before a sold-out crowd, Tug stood on the mound and recreated fanning Willie Wilson for the final out of the 1980 World Series.

A little over three months later, January 5, 2004, Tug McGraw passed away. He was 59.

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“Tug was one of the greatest characters in the game,” former teammate, friend and roommate Tom Seaver said. “But what people overlook was what kind of competitor he was on the mound. No one competed with more intensity than he did.”

Mike Schmidt said, “His passing is hard to take because his presence meant so much to people around him.”

Battery mate and close friend, Bob Boone, the first man to embrace Tug after that strikeout in 1980, stated, “He got more living out of his 59 years than anybody.”

Tug left behind 4 children and 2 step-sons. In 1966, he had, according to him, “a one night stand” with a woman named Betty D’Agostino. A son, Tim, arrived. But Tug didn’t accept the child as his own until Tim turned 17. Tug McGraw died in the Nashville home of his son. Both Tim and his wife, Faith Hill, were with him at the end.

Almost five years later, 2008, with Veterans Stadium gone, Tim McGraw walked to the pitching rubber at Citizens Bank Park prior to Game 3 of the World Series. He knelt down and spread some of his father’s ashes across the mound. Two days later, the Phillies won their second Championship.

Congratulations to Tug McGraw who joins Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza, Keith Hernandez, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, Cleon Jones and David Wright in our Metsmerized Hall of Fame.

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MMO Exclusive: Greg Prince Discusses “Amazin’ Again” and 2015 Season http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-greg-prince-discusses-amazin-again-and-2015-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-greg-prince-discusses-amazin-again-and-2015-season.html/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2016 17:05:43 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207882 mets win nlcs

We have a special treat for you today as beloved Mets historian, die-hard Mets fan and popular author Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing, was kind enough to answer some questions about his brand new book Amazin’ Again which went on sale March 15.

Amazin’ Again captures all the drama and magic of the New York Mets’ 2015 season that saw them capture the NL East from the Washington Nationals and then defeat the heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs to win the National League pennant.

Greg answers a few questions from me and also takes some questions from Mets fans in our MMO Community. Please enjoy…

Joe - I’m so glad to have a true keepsake and treasure to remember the 2015 season with your new book. At what point in the season did you know this was something you wanted to do. Was there a moment in the 2015 season that clicked and became the impetus for your decision to chronicle this exciting year for the Mets?

Greg – The thought crossed my mind in late summer, and a few readers were kind enough to bring it up on their own, but it wasn’t really on my radar until an editor friend of mine got in touch and suggested his publisher might be interested in a Mets Win the World Series book, the catch being the Mets had to win the World Series. This was literally hours before Game One in Kansas City. It was going to be a “quickie” book, designed to be out ASAP after the theoretical parade and draw in fans who conceivably couldn’t get enough of their World Champion Mets.

Well, you know what happened where that was concerned. I thought the project — which I’d been working on between games with the great hope that I could finish it and that would come to be — was dead once Game Five was over. But in a come-from-behind story worthy of the 2015 Mets, I was given the thumbs-up to continue, to expand and, thankfully, to take a little more time to complete it. The thinking was it had been such a milestone season for the Mets and they had achieved plenty in winning the pennant, so why not?

Joe – They say every season has a turning point, but I believe the 2015 Mets season had a few turning points. Wilmer Flores’ wild walk-off was certainly one of them, what other defining moments like that stood out to you?

amazin again greg prince

Greg – The perfect homestand in April reset expectations. In one ten-game stretch, it was as if the Mets stopped being that ridiculous team we’d all gotten used to and demanded to be taken seriously. If they clinched anything that early, it was a sense of self-respect, one that was contagious to us, the fans.

The other big moment, destined to be glossed over (except in my book), was triggered by the West Coast road trip that started July. They were teetering on the edge of oblivion, despite the great start, and weren’t hitting a lick. It was reasonable to expect they’d go to L.A. and San Francisco, face very good teams with, especially in the Dodgers’ case, extraordinary starting pitching, and scuffle. Instead they took two out of three in each series and then came home to sweep a pretty good Diamondbacks club. After all the flailing of May and June, they finished the first half on a 7-2 run and were within whispering distance of Washington.

Without that spurt, I doubt the Mets would have wound up in position to make the Flores home run or the National series matter.

Joe – What were your expectations for the Mets going into the 2015 season and at what point did you start believing that, “Hey, I think this team could go all the way?”

Greg – My well-honed cynicism, which dated to the Collapse of 2007, was willing to cede to the conventional wisdom that the Mets could break .500 in 2015. I thought the Wild Card was a stretch, but not out of the question. The 13-3 start really changed the stakes. The gradual separation of themselves from Washington in August, which culminated in the seven straight wins in Colorado and Philadelphia, made the World Series more a potential reality than a pipe dream.

Joe – 1973, 2000 and now 2015. All three years the Mets advanced to the World Series and lost. Can you draw any comparisons between those teams and which would you say is the best team in terms of talent?

Greg – It strikes me that the 1973 and 2000 teams were peaking within their eras.

Post-1969, the Mets were comprised of continually good pitching and hardly any hitting; in ’73, the stars aligned (several hot Septembers on offense, the legendary malaise of the rest of the N.L. East) to make that work. That group would turn over drastically after a disappointing 1974 and wound up, sadly, a shell of itself by 1977.

The 2000 team, I think it’s often forgotten, was the culmination of a great ascent: rise into contention in 1997, just miss the playoffs in 1998, come very close to the World Series in 1999, win the pennant in 2000. Then there was a precipitous dropoff the year after and another housecleaning that didn’t do much good.

We don’t know the next Met chapter that follows 2015, but what makes me believe this could be the start of something big is the pitching. How can you bet against a team packing three to five aces plus a legit closer? Throw in the signing of Cespedes and they go into 2016 far more solid than they did in 1974 or 2001.

If anything, the ’73 and ’00 teams had more proven talent, but that also meant the core members didn’t have many really good years left. That’s the difference between those years and 2015. Other than Wright, Granderson and Colon, you’re talking about core members who were and are getting better.

Just from a narrative sense, all three teams gave us great thrill rides. 1973 and the legacy of You Gotta Believe speaks for itself. 2000 is probably undervalued because of who the World Series was lost to, but that was one of the most satisfying regular seasons I can recall, not to mention we were party to a fantastic NLDS and awesome NLCS performance. 2015 had a bit more of the element of surprise when viewed from a preseason standpoint. It was crazy to think the 1973 Mets could win their division in August, but not in March. The 2000 Mets were coming off a playoff appearance and had added a top-notch lefty pitcher. Nobody was picking the 2015 Mets to beat the Nationals in March.

Joe – Terry Collins gets killed a lot by fans and critics. But here he is entering his sixth season at the helm of the Mets fresh off an improbable World Series run. Is it time for fans to embrace him?

Greg – Terry Collins is as subject to first-, second- and third-guessing as any manager in the game, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt on the whole. You can pick apart certain decisions from last year (and I do in the World Series chapter) but you have to admire how he handled his players. Five seasons in and I can’t recall any One Met Said criticism making it into the media. Keeping 25 men happy or at least not grouchy all year long is probably as big a deal as who pitches the seventh on a given night.

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And now some questions from the fan base…

Dark HelMet – In your long history of Mets-fandom, have you ever experienced such a seismic shift of a season than the week around the trade deadline where everything changed so dramatically for the Mets?

Greg – All in all, probably not. I’ve seen Met teams turn on a dime in the standings and I’ve seen Met teams make a flurry of moves, but I’ve never seen it all sync so quickly and so well. In one week, they bring up or in Conforto, Johnson, Uribe, Clippard and Cespedes and as soon as they do, they go off on a tear that completely flips the order of things in their division and sends them rocketing to the playoffs. You can’t ask for a bigger, better turnaround.

Kevin M. – There are a lot of fans that are of the opinion Alderson didn’t expect the team to be in the position they were in around trade deadline time. It’s said by some that if not for the Nats underachieving, Sandy wouldn’t have made the moves he did. So the question is, if we were 1.5 or more games back, instead of 1.5 ahead, do we still acquire help, and make a push, like we did to hold on to the lead, or are we sellers, and preparing for 2016?

Greg – One can never speak with certainty to unknowables. We do know that in July 2015, the Mets were hanging close enough so that the GM saw the merit in making moves, whereas in previous Julys, they were, at best, on the perimeter of maybe having a chance. If the Mets were a little further from first place or a playoff spot when the trading deadline came around last year…who knows? But I kind of doubt Alderson would have been as active. I think he said something to that effect along the way.

BarnRat – Other than the Pennant, what do you judge as the greatest achievement of 2015, and other than not winning the World Series, what do you judge as the greatest disappointment of 2015?

Greg – The best team achievement was psychological. They stopped being “the Mets” as we knew them. You know, the whole #LOLMets thing. It doesn’t exist any longer as an organizing principle of our fandom. In tandem with that, the Mets are no longer the “other” team in their own city. I don’t know that they “own New York,” but I do know that as we speak, the center of baseball gravity around here has shifted to Flushing. It happened so matter-of-factly that it feels less than momentous, but I believe (assuming they keep up the good work) it will mean a great deal, particularly to the generation of fans just coming of age. I’ve always told anybody who’d listen that this stuff is cyclical, and it is. The last cycle lasted 20 years was all, thus it was considered a given that the Mets were always “the little brothers” or whatever. As someone who lived through much better Met times, I knew that wasn’t the case.

Individually, the continued development of deGrom, the emergence of Syndergaard, the hint of Matz and the return of Harvey — none of which was in place a year ago — was collectively enormous. It’s easy to take this kind of pitching for granted now that we’re used to it, but wow…this kind of pitching!

Disappointment? Though it didn’t stop them from getting far, I’m sorry we didn’t get a full year of Travis d’Arnaud. I thought he was on his way to the All-Star Game when he game out of the gate as he did in April. I hope his progress continues. I suppose it’s also a downer that Juan Lagares has gone from key piece to outfield afterthought. He looked very good in the postseason and perhaps he will find his way back to the forefront for 2017 and beyond.

Greggofboken – The push to the pennant seemed to be the result of several factors: the acquisition of Cespedes (as a third choice), the strengthening of the Mets depth at the trade deadline, the return of key injured players, and the Nats’ failures due to injury or under-performance. Which of these, in your eyes was the single biggest determinant in our finish, how do your own conclusions differ from what you believe to be popular sentiment, and if you were to weight them how much of the Mets’ pennant was due to skilled planning vs. circumstances that broke the Mets’ way?

Greg – To win a pennant, almost everything has to go right, and I think that’s what happened. The Mets, even at their offensively lousiest, never sank more than 4½ games behind the Nationals. If Washington had played as hyped, it might very well have been a different story. But they were more human than thought, the Mets were a little better stocked than predicted (particularly once everybody was off the DL) and moves that couldn’t have been foreseen were made. Cespedes’s acquisition was clearly the axis on which 2015 tilted, but he didn’t do it alone.

Gus L. – We kept hearing and seeing how the Royals were relentless. However, it’s hard to believe that pitchers such as Volquez, a player that three teams gave up on and has a history of control problems, Cueto, a pitcher that down the stretch was so fragile and horrid that the Royals wouldn’t pitch him on the road, and a classic journeyman in Chris Young were able to shut down the Mets offense with such success. Did the Mets seem, or were they, psyched out over the grandness of it all?

Greg – I am tempted to say it was simply their year more than it was our year. Given that we led in every World Series game, that might be too handy an explanation, but if they didn’t seem unbeatable, they just seemed a little more — to use a Keithism — on point. They made enough plays that needed to be made and the Mets didn’t. I had a bit of a bad feeling about the long layoff between the NLCS clincher and the World Series opener, but I don’t want to put too much blame there, because I surely enjoyed the Mets sweeping the Cubs. I don’t think the Mets were psyched out. In the end, they just got beat.

It certainly sets up a way more fascinating season-opening series than anybody could have otherwise dreamed up for this year.

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You can purchase your hard cover copy of Amazin’ Again on Amazon for less than $15 bucks! I’ve already got mine and added it to my Mets book collection!

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Where Are They Now? Catching Up With Ron Swoboda http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-ron-swoboda.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-ron-swoboda.html/#comments Wed, 16 Mar 2016 16:46:24 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207463 ron swoboda  mets

Baseball players tend to disappear after retirement. Without the spotlight of national media, or admiration of thousands of fans, they fade back into mainstream society. They leave only memories, and their absence from the game makes it easy to forget that these guys we watched on TV are still real people. My mission is to allow fans to remember these forgotten players by seeking them out and talking to them in our quest to answer our burning question, “Where are they now?”

Today I chatted with former Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda about his playing days, The Catch, what he’s doing now, and his take on the Mets today.

Noah: What was your favorite memory from your time with the Mets?

Ron: I played in one World Series, and that was 1969. I’m in the midst of writing my memoir right now and I’m currently plowing through the segment of the 1969 World Series and weaving through all the amazing things that happened to us as a baseball team along with the incredible cultural things that were happening back then. It was an amazing time.

Noah: So you played on the Mets throughout the ups and downs of the 1960′s and the early 1970′s. How did the atmosphere around the team change before or during that 1969 season?

Ron: Well when you see your pitching developing like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Gary Gentry, and Tug McGraw -you know, good young arms- that look like people that can go out there and compete, you start feeling like the team is moving in the right direction. These things don’t happen overnight, and when you’re playing 162 games in a season, there’s such an incredible ebb and flow from week to week. we had never won anything, and then all of the sudden 1969 starts happening. We were still working out who we were as a baseball team, and that happened gradually. Then all of the sudden it came (together) in a big run during the last month of the season.

Noah: During your time with the Mets, you played alongside some legendary players and played under some legendary coaches. Can you pinpoint any one of them that shaped you as a player or as an individual?

Ron: I’m probably the wrong guy to be asking about who’s shaping you, I struggled a little with authority. (laughs) But when you play around people who knew how to conduct themselves, Guys like Gil Hodges, obviously. When you saw how he handled the ballgame as a manager, and you realized that you may disagree with what he’s doing, you might want to be out there playing and he’s got you on the bench but he had a pretty good idea of what he was doing. It doesn’t make it any easier to sit on the bench -which I did- but you knew that the pieces were in place (to win) and Gil knew that he had some buttons to push. I don’t know if a manager can make you something that you’re not, but when you play at the big league level, some coaches understand the game better than you do, and they’ll suggest some things along the way to make you a better player.

Noah: Near the end of the 1969 season, you played against Steve Carlton and the Cardinals. Carlton struck out 19 Mets but you hit two home runs to give the Mets the win. With the rest of the team struggling, how did you approach those at bats.

Ron: Well I was struggling too (laughs). Carlton had amazing stuff, and I never hit him very well in my career. I can’t explain how it happened except that it was one of those days where I actually wasn’t feeling very comfortable at the plate. St Louis was one of the few stadiums that had a batting cage behind the left field wall and I went out there and asked Ralph Kiner -who was one of the broadcasters for the Mets- if he could feed me some balls and look at me. “See if you can see anything (wrong), I’m lost.” So he fed me some balls and watched me swing, suggested a couple of things and before long, he said, “Boom! That looks pretty good!” He worked with me and somehow I got in a good frame of mind and faced Carlton that night. He was on his way to striking out 19 batters and I hit these two bombs off of him. (Laughs) I have to mention that he also struck me out twice and had two strikes on me each time I hit a home run.

Noah: During your time with the Mets, you weren’t really known for your fielding ability, even earning the nickname Rocky from New York media. However, you then made arguably the greatest catch in Mets postseason history in 1969. How did you work to become a better outfielder, despite being doubted by so many people?

Ron: Well I worked with Eddie Yost (the third base coach) and he hit me thousands of fungoes. Yeah I still made mistakes in the outfield because in the big leagues you play in these big tall stadiums where it’s hard to pick up the ball. I struggled with that in the minors, I was unsure of myself, nd the big leagues are the wrong place for self doubt. Still, I worked at it, and ultimately I got better. Was I as good as the catch I made in game four of the 1969 World series? Probably not. But I definitely was a better outfielder than a lot of people thought.

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Noah: Speaking of that catch, take me through that play, what exactly was going through your mind when Brooks Robinson hit that ball?

Ron: I had worked hard on getting good jumps on the ball and Brooks hit a line drive to my right that I broke hard for. Probably about 97 percent of the way there, I wasn’t too sure if I was going to catch up with it. But once you commit to a dive, you have to go for it completely, and that’s what I did. I made the catch on the back hand and caught the ball in the web. When it hit the web of my glove, I knew I had it. At the time, all I was thinking about was baseball, just reacting to the play.

Noah: Do you remember anyone in particular who had a memorable reaction to the catch?

Ron: There was this sports guy in Baltimore who said, “the only way Swoboda could make a living with his glove is to cook it and eat it.” I thought that was pretty funny, but my mom didn’t (laughs). But when somebody who is not known for their glove like me makes a play like that, they’re going to get a little attention. Especially in a pivotal game of the World Series.

Noah: Just switching gears now, what have you done since moving on from professional baseball and where are you now?

Ron: I’m actually speaking to you from New Orleans, and I’ve been here since 1981. When I got off the diamond, I ended up making a connection with WCBS in New York where I did local television sports for 20 years. It was a really fortunate thing. I was always looking for ways to express myself and my opinions, and people in New York knew me. So in many ways, it was a perfect match. When that was over, I started doing some color broadcasting for the triple A team in New Orleans, the Zephyrs, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I really love it, it’s not work. It’s given me a chance to stay close to the game and even learn a thing or two more about it.

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Noah: You’ve been in and around TV a lot, but you didn’t mention that you appeared in an episode of the sitcom **Everybody Loves Raymond** with some of your 1969 teammates. What was that experience like?

Ron: They were wonderful. That was a long time ago but it’s still very fresh in my mind. Ray Romano and that whole cast were so generous with us. Obviously, they wanted us to be as natural as we could. I think we did a pretty good job. We were lucky, it was a hit show and it played everywhere and we still get residuals for it (laughs). It’s crazy, but it’s still significant for me because I got to see the inside of a sitcom and I got to meet a bunch of really fabulous people.

Noah: Interesting take. So what do you think of the Mets today, and how far do you see them going this season?

Ron: The Mets are relevant, and the sky’s the limit for them. That team with the addition of Yoenis Cespedes last year along with that returning young pitching is going to be a much better team out of the gate. This offseason, they got a great deal for Cespedes and I think that Neil Walker can replace Daniel Murphy at second base. Overall, I really like what the team has done. Also, that experience of making it all the way to the World Series and getting beat by a better team will make them understand that they still have some more things to work on. It’ll put some purpose in their spring training as well. I expect them to be relevant and I don’t see any reason why they can’t get back in the playoffs in 2016.

Noah: You mentioned that talented young pitching staff, now who on it would you least like to face?

Ron: There’s a whole bunch of them. Harvey is somebody who you don’t want to see, Wheeler’s going to be back at some point this year. Familia coming out of the bullpen, he’s got nasty stuff. The toughest thing for (the group) is going to be getting to the closer. With Thor and Matz, you have a starting rotation that is as good as anybody’s in the game.

Noah: And lastly, if you could give any message to Mets fans today, what would it be?

Ron: Try to expect good things from the team. I got up to (Citi Field) for a couple of series last year. Including when they got Cespedes and swept the Nationals. I saw how good this team really is. (Last year) the Nationals looked beatable, the Mets looked formidable and Mets fans came out of the woodwork. All of the sudden, Citi Field came alive. There’s always been a lot of Mets fans, all the team has to do is show them something to make them come out. I think the team put players on the field that fans could get excited about and I think that Mets fans have every reason to expect something on the same order as last year.

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Where Are They Now? Catching Up With Jon Matlack http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-jon-matlack.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-jon-matlack.html/#comments Thu, 10 Mar 2016 14:00:46 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207054 jon matlack

Baseball players tend to disappear after retirement. Without the spotlight of national media, or admiration of thousands of fans, they fade back into mainstream society. They leave only memories, and their absence from the game makes it easy to forget that these guys we watched on TV are still real people. My mission is to make fans remember these forgotten players by seeking them out and talking to them in our quest to answer our burning question, “Where are they now?”

Today I chatted with former Mets pitcher Jon Matlack about his fine career, what it was like pitching alongside Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, what he’s doing now, and his thoughts about the Mets’ young aces today.

Here’s the podcast, and as always, I appreciate your comments.

Noah: So you pitched for the Mets for seven years, made a World Series and several All-Star appearances. Looking back on it all, what was your finest moment while on the team?

Jon: Oh boy, I don’t know how you pick one, there were several that were qualified to be in that realm. I guess I would say game two of the championship series against Cincinnati would probably be a highlight.

Noah: Speaking of that game, you shutout the Big Red Machine on two hits. You were a young pitcher then who had been roughed up by them twice earlier in the season. Were you at all nervous going into that game?

Jon: Probably more like scared to death. I had charted Seaver’s game the day before where we were beaten 2-1 on two solo home runs, one by (Johnny) Bench, one by (Pete) Rose. Tommy struck out 14 or 15 guys and just did a phenomenal job. And I’m looking at that chart thinking “what in the world have I got to do to beat these guys?”

Noah: Who were you most scared to face?

Jon: Well the irony was the typical fastball hitters weren’t the guys that I was most afraid of. It was probably Dave Concepcion and Tony Perez that I was a little leery of because of their ability to hit the breaking ball, especially the breaking ball that wasn’t a really good one.

Noah: And how did you maintain your composure?

Jon: I don’t know. I was just trying to do the best I could do to help us win a ball game. You get locked in on what you’re trying to do, stay ahead of the hitters and throw a lot of strikes. Keep the first guy off base. You get so involved with the job at hand that you don’t necessarily think about pressure and what else is going on around you.

Noah: As I mentioned earlier, you played on the Mets for seven years. Played alongside some great guys. Played under some really legendary managers. Can you pinpoint any one of them that shaped you as a player or as an individual?

Jon: Well I think Gil)Hodges, not because I played for such a long time under him as much as the type of individual he was and the atmosphere that he created in the clubhouse and in the dugout. Because I really didn’t spend much time there, I made the club full time in the spring that he died. And then beyond that, Yogi was most influential for completely different reasons. He was the type of manager that just said “here’s the bats and balls boys, go do your thing and let’s win some ball games.”

Noah: What was the craziest thing he ever said to you?

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Jon: I don’t know if there was anything particularly crazy, but I do remember having a difficult time understanding him when he came to the mound. During games for mound visits, and I finally asked Seaver, “How do you handle him?” And he said it’s really easy. “Whenever he’s done talking, if he doesn’t put his hand out, you say okay and he’ll go back to the dugout. If he puts his hand out, you put the ball in it and you go back to the dugout.” That’s about as basic as it gets. (laughs) It was pretty easy.

Noah: In 1973, you struck out 205 batters, which was a Mets record for a left-hander that stood for 35 years. How did you go about attacking hitters and finishing them off?

Jon: I don’t know if there was anything different from one year to the next. Except when I had my contract negotiation the previous year, one of the things the club pointed out to me was that they felt I didn’t strike out enough guys. So it became an emphasis for me to try and do that more so whenever I was in a situation where the strikeout was possible, I tried to pay more attention to how to get it. (My approach to) each hitter would have been different, how they approached an at bat would have given me some information as to what weapon to use best against them.

Noah: So you had a successful career overall, a career ERA of 3.18, 318 quality starts, however, you were only one game over .500 for your career record. Do you regret not having more opportunities to win, considering how well you pitched?

Jon: Well I think that the opportunities were there, I just would have had to have been better. In those circumstances, it’s just the way that the chips fell. My job, as I looked at it, was to keep our club in the game for as long as I was in the ballgame. That to me was (whether we were) ahead, tied, possibly one or two down, and that was me doing my job. I felt that I did that for the largest percentage of the time. So the win loss thing wasn’t something that I was really centered on as much as I wanted us to have a chance to win every time I took the field.

Noah: Switching gears now, what have you done since moving on from professional baseball, and as the title of the series says, where are you now?

Jon: Well now I am in River Ranch, Florida in a fifth wheel trailer, staying out of the snow of upstate New York where I live.

Noah: I totally sympathize with that up here in Syracuse.

Jon: (Laughs) As far as what I’ve done, when I stopped playing, I was in commercial real estate and raising horses for four or five years. I decided I wanted to get back into coaching and in 1988 started back as a stationary coach for the Padres. After a couple years with them, I went to the White Sox for a couple years, all in the minor leagues. Then back to the Padres, in 1996 I was the Tigers’ major league pitching coach. I didn’t make it the whole year, that September I got fired, but they hired me to be the minor league pitching coordinator and I did that for 16 years. Again, the ax fell, I went to Houston and did the same job for one more year, and since then, I’ve been out. From 2012 on, I have been a retired character.

Noah: Now the 2016 Mets were very similar to the 1973 Mets, just in the way that they’re built around strong young pitching. So do you see any similarities between the Mets young aces today and your rotation mates of Seaver and Koosman in 1973?

Jon: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of talent similarities, but the way the game is played is different. When you look at the six potential starters they have -Wheeler wasn’t in there because of injury- but you got deGrom, Harvey, Matz, and Syndergaard. Wheeler’s going to be back this year as far as I know and Colon’s still in the mix as a spot starter, a double header guy, or however they choose to use him. That’s a pretty strong rotation. The thing that stood out to me watching the series was the fact that it seemed like the staff in general tried to outstuff the opposition as opposed to pitch to what they saw and exploit a weakness. I don’t think they did nearly as well as they could have had they maybe used some of the aggressiveness of the Kansas City hitters against them.

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Noah: So how are these guys today different from you, Seaver, and Koosman?

Jon: In our day, we were given information about the opposition and then told “go use it how you want to and keep us in the ballgame, give us a chance to win.” And that was pretty much what an advance scouting report was all about. In today’s game -and I can’t say that the Mets do this exactly, but a lot of clubs do- they’re pretty much given a chart or a plan to follow. “This is how you pitch this guy, do not throw this guy a first pitch fastball…” They’ve got it down to if it’s 2:15 on a Tuesday afternoon and the sun is shining, you throw a breaking ball to so and so, the odds are really good at getting a ground ball. The game has become more computerized -fantasy baseball on the field- if you will, and I think it takes a lot out of the personality and the player’s ability to trust their gut out of it.

Noah: It’s been well documented today that the Mets pitchers are very competitive with each other. Did you have that same dynamic with Seaver and Koosman?

Jon: Absolutely. We had contests of various types going on all year long. It usually had to do with somebody buying dinner for the other two. Ironically, it all sort of went around. Koosy would win once in a while, Tommy once in a while, and me once in a while.

Noah: And specifically, what were those competitions?

Jon: Some of them had to do with who would be the first guy to not give the team a chance to win or put us in a spot where we would lose. Which guy would have the best batting average for the month, who had more base hits or an extra base hit. Something like that, it was all competitive driven.

Noah: So is there any one Mets pitcher today that you see some of yourself in?

Jon: There’s been a lot of comparisons drawn between me and Steven Matz. Whether or not they really hold to be true, I can’t tell you. From looking at him, he seems to have similar stuff, but what makes the difference to me is how you use that stuff, your ability to deal with adversity, your ability to feel the right decision at the right time, and a fearless approach to whatever adversary you may be facing. And I can’t tell you without having a sit down or being closer to him, whether he possesses any of that stuff.

Noah: Now if you could give any message to Mets fans, what would it be?

Jon: Oh man… Thanks for a great time when I was there. Mets fans are known to be tough, but I think if you give them an honest effort and give them the time of day -which I tried to most of the time- they’ll treat you real fairly, and that’s the way I felt.

Noah: And lastly, you gave up Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit. Can you just take me through that at-bat? And at the time were you really aware of the gravity of the situation?

Jon: I had no knowledge whatsoever that it was his 3,000th hit. I was just a young rookie trying to win another ball game, and having a tough day. We were behind, I think I ended up losing the game five to nothing. I was making a pitch that I was upset about, it was a breaking ball and I was trying to get it to the outside corner. When it left my hand, I was pretty certain it was going to be a ball so I was upset from that point, that dammit, that was a ball that was supposed to be a strike. He managed to keep his hands back, which he generally did very well, took that great big stride he was known for, and reached out across the plate and laced it into left center field for a double. I’m like damn, that’s pretty good hitting. He managed to hit a ball that’s not even a strike. But now the place erupts, there were not a whole lot of people there, but it gets very loud and I’m thinking it’s a double what’s the deal? They were giving him the ball at second base and at that point I noticed the scoreboard flashing 3000. That’s the first inclination that I had that it was a momentous occasion for Clemente.

Noah: Thanks so much for your time Jon.  Really appreciate it.

Jon:  No problem.  Have a good one.

Noah:  That does it for us on Where Are They Now, I’m Noah Wolfe.  Check back in a few days to hear what a member of the Miracle Mets had to say about that amazin’ year and his life today.

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MMO Fan Shot: What Mets Fans Will Miss About Daniel Murphy http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-fan-shot-what-mets-fans-will-miss-about-daniel-murphy.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-fan-shot-what-mets-fans-will-miss-about-daniel-murphy.html/#comments Fri, 04 Mar 2016 13:38:06 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207217 murphy collins

An MMO Fan Shot by  Laura (Mookie4ever)

Love him or hate him, Daniel Murphy left his mark on the Mets. He was a homegrown player, who was here through the dark years of sub-.500 teams, often providing the only bright spot at the plate to go along with his misadventures in the field and on the bases. Always entertaining, sometimes maddening, he was the perfect incarnation of a NY Met, ironically, because of his imperfection. He became our Murph and Oh Murph, a hardworking, blue collar underdog, whose fielding, mouth and emotions invariably got him into trouble, but whose pure hitting made our hearts sing.

2015 started off with a bang with the early 11-game winning streak, but by July looked to be more of the same old Mets. Of course, we know what happened next, and there was Murph, hitting .300 with 37 RBI smack in the middle of an unbelievable Mets stretch run. It was a wild exciting ride of a season that was a wonderful surprise to us Met fans.

Then he suddenly turned into a monster home run machine in the playoffs, putting the Mets on his shoulders to win the pennant. He even set a major league record along the way. Of course, we all know the fairy tale did not have the happiest of endings, with Murph right in the middle of that, too, but that doesn’t take away the magic of 2015. Now Murph has been replaced by a steady Neil Walker, seemingly a blue collar player himself, who will hopefully do very well here.

But still, many of us will miss Murph terribly. Here is my Top 10 list of things I will miss about him:

#10 Speed. He’s only got one, full throttle, all day, every day. We always got 100% of him every inning of every game. The Charlie Hustle of modern-day ballplayers.

#9 Defense. Making most routine plays and turning the occasional defensive gem, (see above, diving stop to end NLCS Game 1) unfortunately were obscured by his tear-your-hair-out errors. I always appreciated his aggressive effort on the field, even though it didn’t always work out.

#8 Courage. Standing tall in NYC. Owning every miscue like a man even while answering the same question posed in 15 different ways by the relentless New York media.

#7 Joy. Watching his face light up like a kid on Christmas morning whenever something wonderful happened, along with Tigger bounces. Lots of those last year!

#6 Passion. Seeing his “lion face” roar with fists up when he or a teammate made a great play or scored a crucial run. I always thought he was about to beat his chest like Tarzan but unfortunately never saw it happen. Lots of these last year, too!

#5 Clutch. The one player we looked for at the plate with a big hit needed. Usually delivered.

#4 Comfort. Knowing at least Murph would hit in most games, no matter how the rest of the team did. He can just flat-out hit, day in and day out.

#3 Buzz. Watching Daniel talk his way through a game was fun. From checking the location of each pitch with the ump, to chewing the ear off every defender he was near, he is a nonstop yakker every at-bat. I can only imagine how annoying he is to the opposing team. I guess the Mets will find out in 2016. And he is a walking sound bite. See Yowzers! and Above my pay grade.

#2 Filth. His dirty-from-head-to-toe-uniform showed us every day his hard-working, all-in attitude. He willed himself to play in the major leagues, kept himself there with his bat and whatever he had to do, learn new positions, or anything else his team asked him to do. There have been many, many below-average-defensive infielders that just faded away after a year or two. Murph made sure he would not with his commitment to hard work on the field and at the plate.

#1 Love. For his teammates, Mets fans, the game. Never once took credit for his major league record home run tear, giving it instead to his teammates and Kevin Long. Tugged at my heart when he said the best part about winning in the postseason was the gift of spending more time playing with the guys.

He obviously wanted to stay with the team, but after the Mets didn’t give him more than a sniff, and traded for Neil Walker, he had to do what was best for his family’s security. I feel bad that he will miss the raising of the pennant on opening day at Citi Field. Well, at least he doesn’t have to watch KC raise their championship banner.

Good-bye Murph, we will always think of you as a Met and welcome you back warmly when you visit. And good luck, except when you are playing the Mets. No one can ever take Murphtober away from you—or us.

(Photo: Anthony DiComo)

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This MMO Fan Shot was written by MMO reader Laura (Mookie4ever). Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Exclusive: Mets Top ’15 Draft Pick Desmond Lindsay http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-meet-mets-top-15-draft-pick-desmond-lindsay.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-meet-mets-top-15-draft-pick-desmond-lindsay.html/#comments Thu, 03 Mar 2016 14:02:55 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207171 desmond lindsay

The Mets selected Desmond Lindsay with their first draft choice (2nd round) of the 2015 draft from the Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota Florida. The 19-year old right-handed hitter played first and third base in High School but the Mets had every intention of putting him in the outfield when they drafted him.

Desmond ranked as high as #71 (Keith Law) on pre-draft prospect boards and was #102 according to Baseball America’s Top 500, just missing the Top 100. Mets director of scouting Tommy Tanous called him “an offensive machine” while former VP of scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said “I think he has as much upside as any player we’ve taken in the second round since we’ve been here”.

Now a center fielder, Lindsay, made his pro debut with the GCL Mets in the Gulf Coast League hitting .300/.400/.464 in 21 games before getting a well deserved promotion to the Brooklyn Cyclones. He struggled for the first time in pro ball with just a .574 OPS in 53 plate appearances in the New York-Penn League but was just 18 during the season and was over three years younger than the league average age.

Lindsay was kind enough to answer some questions for our readers. Please enjoy…

MMN – When did the Mets start showing serious interest in you and what was it like to be drafted in the by them?

Desmond – They started showing serious interest in me during the start of my final High School season. They were one of the teams who were around the most often. It was just a blessing to be able to get such a opportunity to go play baseball at the next level. I was very excited.

MMN – Did you have any thoughts of not signing with the Mets, instead honoring your commitment to North Carolina?

Desmond – I had pretty much agreed with the Mets that if they drafted me in the round they did, I would sign with them.

MMN – What was the transition like going from an infielder to an outfielder?

Desmond – It was very tough because I was competing against kids who mostly had been playing the same position for their entire baseball careers.

MMN – Who worked with you in the Met organization to make you better defensively?

Desmond – Benny Distefano, who is the outfield coordinator, worked with me the most and really helped speed up my learning process last season.

MMN – What was the biggest challenge for you in your first taste of pro ball?

Desmond – I would have to say learning to play the outfield, just because I was at such a disadvantage experience wise from everyone else.

MMN – What have you been doing this offseason to prepare yourself for the 2016 season?

Desmond – I’ve been pretty much working out every day following the strength program they gave us for the offseason. I was also in Port St. Lucie for a month training with Mike Barwis at the spring training facilities.

MMN – What was a typical day like at the Barwis camp?

Desmond – We would workout from 1 p.m. to about 3:30 p.m. every day during the week. Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays were lifting days. Tuesday and Thursdays were speed and agility where we would work on out running form and flexibility.

MMN – What would you say your strengths and weaknesses are as a player right now?

Desmond – I would say my biggest strength is definitely my offense and being able to hit the ball the other way. My weakness has to still be my outfield defense right now. (Laughs)

MMN – How would you describe your approach at the plate? Do the Mets staff talk about a certain organizational philosophy?

Desmond – The biggest thing they tell us is to not try to do to much. They really work on making us identify early and knowing exactly what to do with them. We always work on driving the ball to the opposite field and knowing our strike zone.

MMN – Your grandmother is a Mets fan, did you get a chance to follow the Mets playoff run with her?

Desmond – She loves the Mets and I grew up watching the Mets games at her house all the time. We talked almost everyday during their playoff run and were both very excited to see them in such a big stage.

MMN – What are your expectations and goals for yourself in the 2016 season?

Desmond – My biggest goal for next season is to keep progressing in a positive direction regarding my outfield play. Also, I would really like to be in Columbia with the Fireflies by the end of the season.

MMN – Thanks for answering some questions and good luck this season!

During the offseason, Desmond has also been involved in helping raise money for the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund which he was the first ever recipient of.

Definitely think there is a a good chance that Desmond finishes the year with the Columbia Fireflies and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him start the season with the Mets new Low-A affiliate. We are currently in the middle of unleashing our Top 80 Prospects and you can be assured Desmond will be in the Top 10.

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Featured Article: Wuilmer Becerra Goes From Throw-In To Big Win http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/featured-article-wuilmer-becerra-goes-from-throw-in-to-big-win.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/featured-article-wuilmer-becerra-goes-from-throw-in-to-big-win.html/#comments Wed, 02 Mar 2016 18:26:25 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=206938 wuilmer becerra

An MMO Fan Shot by Matthew Sitler

It was the 17th of December, 2012, when the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays made their blockbuster deal official. The deal involved the reigning National League Cy Young winner and two of MLB’s top 30 prospects. The Mets sent the Jays knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey and two catchers that were comfortable with his signature pitch: Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. In return, Toronto sent top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, elite pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, major league backstop John Buck, and minor league outfielder Wuilmer Becerra.

Obviously, the primary pieces of this deal for the Mets were Travis d’Arnaud and right-hander Noah Syndergaard. John Buck was also later used as a piece in the trade to acquire top second base prospect Dilson Herrera. However, Becerra, thought to be only a throw-in at the time, began to blossom into much more than just an added bonus.

In 2012, Wuilmer signed as a 17-year old Venezuelan international free agent. At the time of the trade, he was the 25th ranked prospect in Toronto’s weak system after playing just 11 games in the Gulf Coast League. The year 2013 was Becerra’s first full professional season and he displayed some modest numbers for the Gulf Coast Mets. In 206 plate appearances over 52 games, Wuilmer hit .243/.351/.295 with a home run and 25 RBI.

A promotion followed in 2014 for Becerra as his professional career moved onto the Kingsport Mets. This is where he would take the next step in his evolution to top prospect status. With significant improvement across all levels at the plate, Becerra became one to watch after posting a triple slash line of .300/.351/.469 with 10 doubles, seven home runs, 29 RBI and seven stolen bases. The big question would be if he’d maintain this level of production when he makes the jump to Single-A Savannah and their grueling environment for hitters.

In 2015, Becerra responded with his best season as a pro with the Savannah Sand Gnats (now known as the Columbia Fireflies). He played in 118 games and over 487 plate appearances Wuilmer recorded 130 hits, 27 doubles, three triples, nine homers, 63 RBI and 16 stolen bases. He led the team in many offensive category including doubles, home runs, RBIs and total bases. Becerra finished the season with an impressive slash line of .290/.342/.423/.765 and by the end of the season he was featured on just about every top ten Mets prospect rankings.

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In an exclusive interview last week with MMO, ESPN Prospect Analyst Keith Law said he’s probably three years away, but could move faster if he keeps hitting.

“I thought it was a real breakout year for him, where he always had the ability — Mets people were stoked when they got him in the trade — but you knew it was a long-term play for them. The approach there is good enough, so that he can get to the strength and to the power.”

Law was impressed that Becerra had his breakout in what he called a terrible park for power in Savannah.

“So maybe Becerra gets out this year, gets to the Florida State League and starts to hit for a little more power, maybe the next year he gets to Binghamton and then the power really blossoms, because he’s out of those deadly A-ball parks.”

His only concern with Becerra are some questions with his outfield defense, but he believes his bat will more than make up for any shortcomings. ”If he hits for the kind of power I think he’s gonna have, it’s not really gonna matter.”

Some scouts predict that if he continues to develop, Becerra will eventually surpass former first-rounder Brandon Nimmo to become the top outfield prospect in the organization. It’s simply amazing when you consider how much that R.A. Dickey trade has gleaned for the Mets organization, and it may not be too early to call it one of the greatest trades in franchise history.

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This MMO Fan Shot was written by Matthew Sitler. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Exclusive: Catching Up With Cliff Floyd http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-cliff-floyd.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-cliff-floyd.html/#comments Wed, 02 Mar 2016 17:23:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207052 cliff floyd mets

Where Are They Now? Cliff Floyd

Baseball players tend to disappear after retirement. Without the spotlight of national media, or admiration of thousands of fans, they fade back into mainstream society. They leave only memories, and their absence from the game makes it easy to forget that these guys we watched on TV are still real people. My mission is to make fans remember these forgotten players by having them talk to us and answer our burning question, “Where are they now?”

Today I chatted with former Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd to hear his take on the 2006 playoffs, what he’s doing now, and his thoughts on the current Mets team.

I am also kicking off a podcast to accompany the transcribed interview that you can listen to here, let me know what you think!

Noah: So you played on the Mets for the greater part of four seasons, what was your proudest moment while on the team?

Cliff: Well it goes back to ’06 and the postseason and you know we had, in my mind, the team that was destined to win the World Series and unfortunately it didn’t happen. But that was one of my proudest moments; being able to see the fans go crazy. You know, to see Shea Stadium swaying back and forth. You couldn’t go through a day without thinking about it. I was so stuck on getting that team to the World Series and winning it for those fans in Queens. And it didn’t happen, that actually still haunts me to this day.

Noah: The Mets were really mediocre before that 2006 season. What aside from the acquisitions of Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado really took that team to the next level?

Cliff: For me, it was more that we understood what accountability was. I think that when you look at the team we had, it was a bunch of veterans that just played the way we were supposed to play (the game). When you have that, I don’t care who the manageer is, you just flow together, and we had a good bunch. We really did. Everybody knew exactly what their roles were, and it helped so much mentally, just to be able to come to the park knowing that “even if I might not get it done today, we are going to get the win regardless.” Every once in a while we took the loss, and we also knew how to bounce back from those as well.

Noah: So was there any one player that shaped you as a player or as an individual during your time with the team?

Cliff: Man, I had so many different ones, Jerry Manuel was there, Rick Downs… But I could relate to Jerry because he was with me back in my Montreal days. He had managerial experience, coaching experience; he knew how to “keep the mind right” while allowing you to go through those trials and tribulations of a season. Especially in New York City too, playing on that stage while trying to figure out how to be successful and also deal with the fans and deal with the media, things like that. But on the field, he was always watching everything, critiquing my swing and things like that in addition to helping me just stay mentally focused. So I would say probably Jerry Manuel.

Noah: Just going back to the 2006 NLCS, Endy Chavez played left field for you when you were injured. And he really wrote his name into Mets lore with that tremendous catch to rob Scott Rolen of a home run. Now tell me honestly Cliff, if you were playing, do you make that catch?

Cliff: (Laughs) Nah man, I’m not making that one! You know, I was dealing with that Achilles injury, and in my mind, I woke up that morning around 6:00 and went to the doctor and got a shot in my calf muscle. I thought that it was gonna work itself down to the point where I could play. That’s what made me feel like we were going to the World Series. Because Endy Chavez made that catch, I knew I couldn’t have made that catch, that’s a home run for anybody in most situations. Your left fielder’s not catching that ball because most times your most versatile player’s usually in center. And in addition, with me being hurt, I definitely wasn’t gonna make that catch. Endy Chavez- athletic as he is -, was there in the right place at the right time.

Noah: You mentioned that you were injured during the series, but you were still called upon to pinch hit in the ninth inning of that game against Adam Wainwright who was really dealing. Looking back on it – I know you struck out in your at-bat against him – How would you have approached that at-bat differently?

Cliff: I think I would’ve just cut down a little bit on my swing. Knowing that I felt good, and I could hear the fans- and I never really heard them- when you focus and you’re in the moment, you never really hear them, but on deck I could hear the fans going “take us to the promised land, c’mon Cliffy, you can do this.” Everybody stood up when I walked to the dish to take that at bat. I probably wouldn’t have swung as hard as I was swinging. He threw me two fastballs, literally right down the middle. When you miss your pitches in this game, you’re succeptible to getting thrown the out pitch, and for Wainwright, the out pitch was that curveball. The rest was history.

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Noah: Yeah, Mets fans definitely know that. So, moving to the next part of the interview, what have you done since moving on from professional baseball, and as the title of this series says, Where are you now?

Cliff: Where am I now?  I guess I’m all over the place.  I’m fortunate enough to be able to stay in the game.  MLB Network has been tremendous, allowing me to give my expertise and knowledge on what I’ve learned playing this game, give our viewers an opportunity to get a different perspective on the game.  It’s been great, the fans have been great.  Also being able to do MLB radio on Sirius XM has been awesome.  I do a show from 2:00 to 5:00 with Casey Stern, three days a week.  It’s great, it keeps me going, keeps me in the moment as well, it keeps me updated on all these new players.  Once you leave the game, the players that you played with- a few of them are still left- but most times, the game does evolve, it comes full circle, and you get new players.  So, I’ve had to adjust to that, but I’ve invented a ball cap liner to go underneath the hats of young baseball players to protect them and keep safety first.  We just launched that last month.

So, I’m doing a lot of this and a lot of that, family is first and foremost important. I’ve got my son who’s playing baseball now, my two daughters and my wife. We’re down here in south Florida. I’m really busy, but really thankful that I had the opportunity to live that first part of my life (as a player) and now have a chance to still stay in the game and stay relevent. When people say “hey aren’t you on TV?”, I’m like “yeah.” So people do know that I’m still doing my thing.

Noah: Is that recognition something that made you choose to become an analyst after your playing career?

Cliff: That’s a great question. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve really thought about that at a particular time. If it falls in your lap, it just happens that way. You don’t really think that you can just go on TV, have this earpiece in your ear and have your producer talking to you, and you have the chance to speak your mind. My mind never worked like that. I was just keen on getting that fastball and doing something with it, that’s what I did for 18 years. So you don’t think that the opportunity is ever going to present itself, and when it does, you have to jump all over it or you’re gonna miss the boat. So you jump in, you don’t know if you’re any good. You ask questions, but you have to be careful when you ask people things like “Have you watched me? Am I good?” Because of course they’re gonna say “yeah keep doing your thing” Nobody will say you sound like crap, so you have to be careful, and you have to do your homework and do all the other things you need to do to be successful.

Noah: So you’re still around the game a lot, do you ever miss playing?

Cliff: Oh yeah. I miss playing 100 percent. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I missed my check more than I miss playing, but I think they go hand in hand. And those days of being around your boys in the locker room, getting to the stadium at 2:00 and getting some work in, that’s what I miss more. The laughing and the camraderie of being in the locker room, being on the team plane, and doing all the things you want to do, those are the things that I’ll always miss; and I can never get that back. For the most part, being able to go to the (MLB) network gives me that chance to be around my boys. When I got there, I swear, it was like being back in the dugout or the clubhouse, that’s how much fun we have.

Noah: As an analyst, you know I have to ask you this question. What do you see in this current Mets team, and how far do you see them going this year?

Cliff: Well I think that Sandy Alderson did a great job this offseason, I think when you look at what they had to upgrade – I don’t think it was much – bringing back Cespedes was huge, we saw enough last year in the second half of the season that made this a mandatory type of signing, the offense was absolutely horrific in the first half.

Getting some guys healthy, like Travis d’Arnaud – who’s coming to camp healthy this year – and David Wright. Sandy’s plan on how to play him makes a lot of sense, limiting him to about 130 games or whatever it may be depending on how strong he comes out of camp.

And then adding a lefty down in the bullpen for (Jeurys) Familia in Antonio Bastardo, he had a great year last year. They needed a lefty to come in and get some tough outs. All around, I think they did a great job. I hope Sandy recovers and gets back to 100 percent health wise, he did what he needed to do to make sure this team is ready to win the NL East.

Then fixing up the middle defense, you have guys like Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera who solidify the defense and allow the pitchers to relax and let guys put the ball in play. That’s a key for this young staff. Allowing them to grow, but also knowing that you can put them in situations where they can throw the ball over the plate and have guys make the play behind them.

Noah: You mentioned David Wright earlier, who you played with when he was a rookie. Now, he’s really the leader of this Mets team. How has he matured as a leader both on and off the field?

Cliff: I think from a leadership standpoint, everything that comes out of his mouth, he thinks about it, he knows exactly how to make sure he keeps the organization first and foremost. When you look at the team, he makes sure everything goes (smoothly). He has the right manager in Terry Collins to allow him to feel comfortable to say whatever he wants to say. It’s tough on him media-wise in New York City.

The numbers haven’t been there, but I think he’s handled it very well. I think when you look at how tough he is, that in itself is maturity part for me because as I mentioned earlier to you, accountability goes so far in this game and he’s been accountable for everything he’s done on the field and when you do that, you let your actions on the field do the talking for you as opposed to talking so much about what you want to do and just go out and play. He’s done a good job of that.

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Noah: The next top Mets prospect Michael Conforto is currently making the jump from being a successful minor leaguer to a successful big league player. You were really in the same position, you came up as a top prospect, how did you make that transition, and what advice would you offer to Michael today?

Cliff: Yeah you make that jump because you do what you need to do on the field. And your successful when you believe in your abilities. I think that’s the key for anybody. At the big league level, when you’re successful, and you believe in your talent, it just oozes out. I think Michael understands that right now, I think he sees the light. I think he knows the bright lights and the big city, he has to bottle that up and take it with him everywhere he goes. And know that no matter what happens, the opportunity he has here is his to keep.

All the fans want him, nobody wants to see him go back to Triple A. I think that as we watch him grow now, my advice to him is always find time for yourself, and when you get to the park, there are going to be times where people are going to pull you here and there, but stay in your lane. Don’t try to do too much, and if you think you’re not gonna do well, then take that number 30 off, because that’s a good number to have. (Just joking)

Noah: Definitely, yeah.

Cliff: He understands what to think. I was able to talk to him last year a bit; he understands that responsibility lies in his ability to do his job. Like anybody else, and I’ve always said this, if you don’t do it, somebody else will. The game won’t wait for you. He’s not the first (top prospect) and he won’t be the last. That’s just how cutthroat this game is, it’s business. So with the talent that he has, he has to just go out there and play and let (his talent) do the work for him.

Noah: So if you could give Mets fans any message today, what would it be?

Cliff: Buy season tickets for five years and see what happens after that. (Laughs) These guys that they have on the mound are going to make or break this team. And I don’t know what’s going to happen when it’s free agent time, and we’ve heard rumblings of the Mets signing them. I just think that now is when you reap the benefits of having that type of team. Just enjoy every minute. You know a winning opportunity in any sport is very small. When you have the pitching staff that the Mets have right now, you enjoy every minute of it because when it’s gone and you’re rebuilding, then you go through that time of where you’re complaining and you dislike all the other teams out there. But when you have this type of (winning) team, and these types of pitchers, you get season tickets and you show your love for the team.

Noah: So now my last question is about Tom Glavine. Before coming to the Mets, you absolutely raked against him, batting .400 in 39 at-bats. He then joined you on the team in 2003. So I guess the saying is “if you can’t beat them, join them”, was this just Glavine giving up?

Cliff: (Laughs) I don’t know man. Still to this day, when I tell people I used to rake him, you don’t know who you’re going to hit and see well. I can’t tell you one thing I picked up off of him that made me so successful, I really can’t tell you. You just don’t know. He put balls where my bat could get to them, and whatever he threw, I hit. He threw a lot of strikes, my mindset was go out there and swing at everything he threw, and we’ll see what happens after that. I took that approach every once in a while, I should have took it more in my career. I didn’t because I didn’t really think that pitchers were reliable enough to do that. But it allowed me to go to bat and have a different mindset against guys who threw strikes, and Glavine was one of them. I had a ton of success, and I don’t take for granted one minute of my at bats against him because because you could go out there and go 0 for 4 against him too. I appreciated and enjoyed it, but listening to him talk on the bench, you could see why he was so successful. He believed that his 85 mile per hour fastball was just as good as anyone’s 97 or 98.

Noah: Thanks so much for your time Cliff, I really appreciate it.

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That does it for us here today, check back in a few days to hear what a star pitcher from the 1973 team had to say about his time with the Mets.

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