Mets Merized Online » Bud Harrelson Mon, 20 Feb 2017 14:06:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Willie Randolph Says Better Days Are Coming for the Mets Sat, 08 Mar 2014 12:00:39 +0000 willie randolph 2

Twenty men have sat in the Met managerial hot seat. Some have served as momentary stopgaps, Mike Cubbage for only seven games. None survived long enough to rival the longest surviving managers of the modern game, guys like Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa. In fact, none wore the Met orange and blue for more than seven seasons. And, only five of the twenty; Davey Johnson, Gil Hodges, Bobby Valentine, Willie Randolph and Bud Harrelson won more games than they lost commandeering the Mets.

On Friday afternoon, Willie Randolph was a radio guest on WFAN. Randolph is working at the Yankee camp in Tampa and shared his perspectives about the changing face of the team in pinstripes, a team and franchise in transition.

Invariably, the discussion turned to whether or not Willie would like to manage again some day. Of course, that meant the subject included Randolph’s time as manager of the Mets.

The radio team tossed Randolph a gopher ball providing Willie the opportunity to slam his former team when it was suggested that the Mets certainly haven’t found a winning stride since management forced his departure. Willie was too classy to take the bait.

Randolph spoke fondly of his opportunity to manage the Mets. He voiced pride in the work he and his staff accomplished in changing the culture around the Mets, and felt the Mets were taking strides forward when he was at the helm.

Willie reported he follows the Mets each and every day to keep tabs on the performance of ‘his boy,’ David Wright. Like everyone else, Randolph is impressed with the stable of young Met pitchers and predicts if his former team can keep those young power pitchers healthy there will be better days ahead for his former team.

Randolph is hoping to get another shot to lead a major league baseball team from the dugout. Willie took time to discuss the importance of sabermetrics in a modern day baseball manager’s approach. He worried that some might have a perception that he’s an old school guy who doesn’t understand or appreciate the value of sabermetrics in modern baseball noting that’s simply not the case.

Here’s hoping Willie gets the chance he’s looking for. I always appreciated the class Willie brought to the Mets during his short stay as our skipper and his understanding of what it takes for a franchise to win. Willie’s departure and the way it was handled were an embarrassment at the time. Against that backdrop it was reassuring to hear Willie talking with excitement about the positive possibilities of our current Met team and it’s future.

Winningest Met Managers

Manager           Won - Lost  Pct.
Davey Johnson     595 - 417   .588
Gil Hodges        339 - 279   .549
Willie Randolph   302 - 253   .544
Bobby Valentine   536 - 467   .534
Bud Harrelson     145 - 129   .529
Yogi Berra        292 - 296   .497
Roy McMillan       26 - 27    .491
Jerry Manuel      204 - 213   .489
Joe Frazier       101 - 106   .488

Presented By Diehards

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

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

buddy harrelson

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

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

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

Presented By Diehards

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Around the Diamond – Shortstop Sun, 29 Dec 2013 17:05:27 +0000 buddy harrelson

In the Mets 52 year history, there have been 22 different players that would be classified as the “everyday” Shortstops. Three of them, Bud Harrelson, Jose Reyes, and Rey Ordonez, account for 23 (44%) of those seasons.

Who are the men who have played the most games at Shortstop in Franchise history? (year they were the primary in parenthesis)

10. Ron Gardenhire (1982) – Ron played 230 games at short (192 starts). In 1982, he hit .240 with 3 HR and 33 RBI.

8. (tie) Jose Vizcaino (1994-95) – Jose played 236 games at short (227 starts). In 1995, he hit .287 with 3 HR and 35 RBI.

8. (tie) Ruben Tejada (2012) – Yes, Ruben is on the list. He has played 236 games at short (227 starts). In 2012, he hit .289 with 1 HR and 25 RBI.

7. Roy McMillan (1964-65) – Roy played 335 games at short (326 starts). In 1965, he hit .242 with 1 HR and 42 RBI.

6. Frank Taveras (1979-81) – Frank played 372 games at short (354 starts). In 1979, he hit .263 with 1 HR and 33 RBI with 42 stolen bases.

5. Rafael Santana (1985-87) – Rafael played 478 games at short (427 starts). In 1985, he hit .257 with 1 HR and 29 RBI.

4. Kevin Elster (1988-91) – Kevin played 524 games at short (461 starts). In 1989, he hit .231 with 10 HR and 55 RBI.

3. Rey Ordonez (1996-99, 2001-02) Rey played 907 games at short (870 starts). In 1999, he hit .258 with 1 HR and 60 RBI. He also won three consecutive Gold Gloves (1997-99).

2. Jose Reyes (2003, 2005-08, 2010-11) – Jose played 999 games at short (992 starts). In 2006, he hit .300 with 19 HR, 81 RBI, a league leading 17 triples and a league leading 64 stolen bases. He was a 4 time All-Star (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011) and won the National League batting title in 2011. Jose was, in my opinion, by best Shortstop in Mets history.

1. Bud Harrelson (1967-74, 1976-77) – Bud played 1,280 games at short (1,213 starts). He was the starting shortstop on the Mets first two World Series teams. In 1969, he hit .248 with 0 HR and 24 RBI. He was a two time All-Star (1970, 1971) and won the Gold Glove in 1971.

Presented By Diehards

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Why I Love The Mets: Finalist #1 Sat, 21 Dec 2013 21:54:37 +0000 1969 miracle mets

We are getting down to the end of our Kindle Fire HDX giveaway. We’ve already posted our two Honorable Mentions and we now present to you our Three Finalists. From these three a winner will emerge. It was tough narrowing down 109 different entries – all of them fantastic – to these three, but we believe we made the right choices. After we post all three of our finalists, we will randomly choose the winning entry, as we will place the final choice in the hands of fate. So without further adieu, here is the first of our Final Three. 

Why I Love The Mets – Finalist No. 1

By John Cardillo

Let’s start with why I became a Mets fan: A strong desire to connect with a distant father.

I was 7-years old and playing with Matchboxes in the hallway, lost in an imaginary race of epic proportions – one no doubt featuring Speed Racer. I had a clear line of sight to the back door off the kitchen and was startled when my father burst through it.

Dad wore a smile as wide as one I’d ever seen on his face and he twitched like someone who badly needed to use the bathroom as he struggled to remove his shoes. He was frantically waving a white pennant on a stick. It featured blue and orange lettering and stapled to its widest portion was a team photo of the 1969 Mets.

“They did it! They won, they won, they won!! They actually won!!,” giggled the man that I knew only as serious, stern and sometimes sullen. He couldn’t be drunk; he was not a drinker. Who was this clown masquerading as my father?

At that moment, I didn’t care. To see my father so happy was a wonderful gift and I wanted to share his joy with him. I jumped to my feet and bounced around the hallway as only a boy could.“Yes! Yes! I knew they’d do it,” I screamed, my arms raised skyward. It was a joyous feeling I’ll never forget.

And that, my friends, is the day I pledged my allegiance to the New York Metropolitans for life.

I’d by lying if I said that was also the day my father and I bonded as I had hoped. He died of cancer less than 10 years from what may have been the happiest day of his life, without us ever achieving the classic father-son relationship I craved, but I remain a die hard Mets fan to this day,

Ironically, the reason I remain a Mets fan probably has more to do with my mother than my father. Mom was a war bride, born and raised in Paris, France, and a survivor of the German occupation of her homeland during World War II. Likely because of her childhood experiences, she was defiant, stubborn and a bit of a contrarian — all traits I inherited.

All the other kids on my street in the small bedroom community of Sparkill, N.Y., were Yankees fans. The more they ridiculed me for my allegiance to the Mets, the stronger my commitment to them grew. From someone who craved acceptance, it did not make much sense to hang onto Mets fandom, but as I said, I inherited my mother’s traits. To this day I much prefer to root for the underdog than jump on the bandwagon of a winning or popular team. It’s who I am.

Even my childhood best friend and next-door-neighbor Jay Oliva, who’s father would later become the president of NYU, was a Yankees fan. He didn’t ridicule me, though; he accepted my decision to love the Mets and defended my ability to do so. That’s a true friend.

The other kids in the neighborhood pretended to be the Yankees of that era: Bobby Murcer, Roy White and Thurman Munson when hitting; Lindy McDaniel, Mel Stottlemyre or Fritz Peterson when pitching. Not me. When hitting or fielding I was Cleon Jones, Bud Harrelson, Wayne Garrett or even Bruce Boisclair. When pitching, I was Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman or Tug McGraw.

I wasn’t afraid to be different and that made me a stronger person throughout life. People become Mets fans for many different reasons, but those that stay Mets fans have the intestinal fortitude to withstand the ridicule they’re sure to receive.

So why have I stuck with the Mets all these years? Many reasons. Loyalty. Defiance. Faith. Commitment. An underdog mentality. A belief in a miracles. The desire to again feel the euphoria experienced in 1969 and 1986. The list is endless.

I simply can’t imagine rooting for another team. I’m committed to them through thick and thin, good times and bad, sickness and health. I want to be there for the next miracle season.

Most of all, I want my grandchildren to see me so happy they think I’m loaded — and for that to be a memory of me they will never forget.

jerry koosman mets b&w

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Three Years Later And Mets Still Striking Out At Alarming Rates Fri, 20 Sep 2013 15:48:52 +0000 giants fans

Another loss, another dozen strikeouts for the New York Mets. This time the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner toyed with the Mets the way a cat would a mouse.

With the Mets at 1,299 strikeouts for the season (an average of 8.6 a game compared to 8.2 hits), it stands to reason a lot of pitchers have had their way with them this summer.

For all the talk of a lack of power, unquestionably the Mets’ primary offensive concern for hitting coach Dave Hudgens – assuming he comes back – is to focus on shaving down that whiff rate. No, make that hack at it wildly with an ax the way most of his hitters aimlessly flail at the plate.

Pause for a second to consider the carnage if the Mets had Ike Davis for a full season, and John Buck, and Marlon Byrd, and Lucas Duda, and David Wright. As it is, the Mets had two hitters with over 100 strikeouts – Byrd and Davis – and three more with over 90 – Buck, Duda and Murphy. Totally, they had seven with at least 75.

And, Murphy is supposed to be a contact hitter. Still, there’s time for Duda and him to break 100. It will take some doing for Juan Lagares (87) and Wright to do it. Lagares, for all the raves he’s drawn, he shouldn’t get that many Ks in just 112 games played.

As the Mets rallied in the ninth inning Wednesday night, manager Terry Collins raved about how his team worked the count, but doing so usually leaves the hitters with two strikes.

There’s no leeway after that. Wednesday was the exception; Thursday’s loss however, has usually been the norm.

There are a lot of theories why strikeouts are so prevalent in today’s game, usually falling on the emphasis on hitting home runs.


Davis, when he was here, said, “I’m a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs, and strikeouts are part of the game.’’

Did you notice how well that worked out for him?

The strikeout ratio with Mets’ hitters is alarming. If strikeouts were hits, consider these numbers:

Mike Baxter: .217 strikeout average/.191 batting average. SKINNY: He was the starting right fielder in the beginning, but has always been more effective as a pinch-hitter. As the Mets look to upgrade their outfield, he won’t stick with those numbers.

Andrew Brown: .296 strikeout average/.237 batting average. SKINNY: Just not acceptable if he wants to play part time, let alone full time. Has some power, but could produce more with better plate discipline.

John Buck: .269 strikeout average/.215 batting average. SKINNY: Gets a partial pass because of 15 homers and 60 RBI, despite a dreadful post-April slump. Also, because of what he gave the pitching staff, which is underrated. Still, consider what his run production would have been with a reduction of empty at-bats.

Marlon Byrd: .284 strikeout average/.285 batting average. SKINNY: In today’s game, an equal average is passable if there’s an element of run production, which there was with Byrd (21 homers/71 RBI).

Travis d’Arnaud: .212 strikeout average/.163 batting average: SKINNY: There hasn’t been enough of a window for him, but the first impression isn’t good. The Mets still don’t know what they have in d’Arnaud. As of now, Anthony Recker has given them more.

Matt den Dekker: .354 strikeout average/.250 batting average: SKINNY: There’s no doubting his defense, but the Mets wonder about his run production. His window has been too small to make a decision. He has speed and as he showed Wednesday makes things happen on the bases. He just needs to get on.

Ike Davis: .318 strikeout average/.205 batting average. SKINNY: That ratio says it all, especially when there’s little run production. Until his strikeouts significantly drop and on-base percentage (.326) improves, he’s not what the Mets need. For over $3.1 million, he’s no bargain.

Lucas Duda: .310 strikeout average/.232 batting average. SKINNY: Has not provided the run production (14 homers/31 RBI) to justify 91 strikeouts in 293 at-bats. His .351 on-base percentage is better, but there’s clearly something wrong with his plate discipline. Of his 68 hits, 29 have gone for extra bases, which is a good ratio, but he doesn’t make enough contact. His on-base percentage masks that deficiency.

Wilmer Flores: .222 strikeout average/.211 batting average. SKINNY: It took awhile for Flores to get here, and it will take significantly better than that for him to stay next year – regardless of what position he plays. Flores has five walks to go along with his 20 strikeouts, a ratio that should be reversed.

Juan Lagares: .242 strikeout average/.251 batting average. SKINNY: Way too many strikeouts for a young player, showing lack of knowledge of the strikezone and opposing players. Also showing lack of discipline.

Daniel Murphy: .145 strikeout average/.281 batting average. SKINNY: For his reputation as a contact hitter with plate discipline, Murphy’s 30 walks are not acceptable, and neither is his .315 on-base percentage. In comparison to Davis and Duda, I’d rather have Murphy hitting in the middle of the order where he could have more RBI opportunities. That is, unless the Mets add a bat in the offseason.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: .336 strikeout average/.189 batting average. SKINNY: He made a good first impression, but has been a bust since. Injuries are just a part of the story. He has little plate discipline with 32 strikeouts to 18 hits. Lagares and Matt den Dekker have clearly moved ahead of him.

Omar Quintanilla: .223 strikeout average/.227 batting average. SKINNY: No run production to speak of and is a throwback to the good field-no hit shortstops of the Bud Harrelson era. However, filled a huge void when Ruben Tejada went down.

Josh Satin:  .290 strikeout average/.285 batting average. SKINNY: Is supposed to be a contact hitter, but if he struck out less he might warrant more playing time.

Ruben Tejada: .115 strikeout average/.202 batting average. SKINNY: All right, injuries were a part of his problem, but there was a definite drop-off. He’s had a miserable season, compounded by breaking his leg Wednesday night. Unless convinced there is an attitude change found in Las Vegas, the Mets will need to upgrade at shortstop.

Jordany Valdespin: .210 strikeout average/.188 batting average. SKINNY: Call this a parting shot at Valdespin. There were productive moments from him, but not enough to warrant a full time job.

Eric Young: .175 strikeout average/.248 batting average. SKINNY: Has 31 stolen bases, but would be pushing 40, if not more, with a .270 average and a spike in his 34 walks. With his speed, Young should be bunting more and slapping the ball on the ground. He has resolved the leadoff situation, but needs to improve greatly.

David Wright: .188 strikeout percentage/.309 batting average. SKINNY: Has 77 strikeouts and would have cleared 100 had he not gone on the disabled list. His strikeout average has been high by his standards, but with a .391 on-base percentage and .904 OPS he more than compensates. He hopes to be activated for Friday’s game in Philadelphia.

Overall, the Mets have more strikeouts than hits, and less than 500 walks to go with their 1,299 strikeouts. They have scored 588 runs compared to giving up 589. Philosophy? What philosophy? The bare numbers reflect the season, but there’s more to consider.

Sure, Davis like to hit homers. What player doesn’t? But, his 101 strikeouts, and everybody else’s, represent empty at-bats. Occasionally, a strikeout can be a positive, as in a 10-pitch at-bat that raises the pitch count, but outside of that, it produces nothing.

Better plate discipline would result in more walks and hits – which is a chance to score runs – and more sacrifice flies, which drives in runs. It also advances runners into scoring position, and in the case of a fielder’s choice, it adds another base runner.

What does a strikeout add?

I am old school and don’t follow all the new numbers, such as WAR, but baseball is a very simple game and has been for over a century.

The object is to hit the ball and do something, and all too often the Mets don’t. There are only 27 outs in a game and they are to be regarded as currency. When you look at the Mets’ strikeouts in the analysis of games played, their whiffs equal 48 games of doing nothing at the plate.

An oversimplification? Not really when you consider a 68-84 record. In this era of numbers, their strikeout numbers scream the loudest.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

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Memorable Mets Moments: Rusty and the Rundown Thu, 28 Mar 2013 13:00:50 +0000 In the course of the many years I have been a Mets devotee, I have witnessed countless contests between the Amazin’s and their various opponents where the end result was either a victory or loss for the Flushing crew, but nothing much beyond that unless something truly remarkable occurred to mark the game in my memory. Those games, where something truly out of the ordinary happened, have popped up from time to time and by virtue of their very scarcity have helped reinforce a belief that there are indeed “baseball gods,” that only occasionally deign to let us acknowledge their handiwork. Perhaps I wax a tad philosophical, but when recounting those Met moments that seemingly transcend the box score, it seems only natural.

What I seek to provide here is my recollection of certain small chapters in Mets’ history that stand out from the pack, not necessarily for their place in a championship campaign or a particularly important game, but for their unique qualities which occasionally move them into the realm of the strange or even at times, the poetic.


Rusty-StaubThe first of these instances involves one of my favorite Mets of bygone days, Rusty Staub. During his first go-round with the Mets, Rusty provided more in the way of consistent offense and heady play than fans had come to expect from a Mets team that relied primarily on the arms of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack , Tug McGraw and whatever offense could be scrounged from the day’s lineup. In 1973, two years into their second decade of existence, the Mets had still not had a player produce a 100 RBI season. The team would make its second trip to the World Series that year, but would wind up second to last in the NL in runs scored with a paltry 608. As a result, defense was a key component to go along with that vaunted pitching staff. In June of that year, the Mets were playing a series at Shea against the Dodgers. The Saturday game of that set (on June 9th) was Old Timers’ Day and a good crowd was on hand. The offensive heroes for the day were Staub, with two doubles and 3 RBI, and Willie Mays who homered for the other run in what would be a 4-2 complete game win for Jon Matlack.

It wasn’t Rusty’s offense that made this game memorable for me, but his defense- specifically, his role in a play that took place in the top of the seventh inning.  By virtue of a pinch-hit double by future Met Tom Paciorek and a bunt single by Davey Lopes, the Dodgers had runners at the corners with no one out and Bill Buckner (of all people) coming to the plate. The Mets were clinging to a 3-2 lead at this point that looked to be in jeopardy. Buckner was an up-and-coming young batsman of 24 at this time, but was coming off a season where he had hit .319 and shown a penchant for making contact. With Lopes dancing off first, Matlack made a successful pickoff throw and a rundown ensued.

Rundowns always make me nervous if it’s my team trying to execute one. We’ve all heard how, if properly done, only one or two throws should be needed to nail the runner. Invariably, as the number of throws involved in the play increases, so does the percentage that one will ultimately wind up in the stands, the dugout, or the outfield while the runner advances.  On this particular play the infielders involved, Bud Harrelson, Felix Millan, and John Milner, were no slouches with the glove  but Lopes was fleet and managed to elude a tag. A number of throws were made, back and forth, with Paciorek looking for a chance to score from third. Ultimately, with the middle infielders out of position, Lopes dashed for second, seemingly uncovered until…Rusty Staub, having run in from his position in Right Field, took the throw at second, slapped a tag on Lopes diving for the base, then fired a strike to the plate to catch Paciorek trying to sneak in with the tying run. Double play! Buckner flied out to center and the inning ended with no damage done.

As a mere 16 year-old at the time, my depth of baseball knowledge was not substantial, but I had been bitten by the bug at a young age and had read more about the game’s history than many of my peers. Nowhere had I come across an account of a similar play, which, while not the weirdest thing to happen on a baseball field, was without a doubt the most heads-up piece of fielding I had ever witnessed.

Rusty went on to play heroically in the LCS (3 HR’s and a great catch where he badly injured his shoulder), and World Series that year (hitting .423 with a 5 RBI game while playing hurt). In 1975, he became the first Met to reach the century mark in RBI while setting a club record with 105. Management rewarded this by trading him to Detroit for a washed-up Mickey Lolich and fans were left to pin their hopes on Mike Vail. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out too well.

Regardless, Rusty’s place in the annals of Metdom is assured, but is just that much more deserved, in my opinion, because of that nifty double play.

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Special Feature: Saluting The 1973 Mets; The Start Of A Series Tue, 26 Mar 2013 13:59:35 +0000 mays


The Mets have made four World Series appearances, with each of those seasons and Octobers giving us cherished memories.

But, only one – the nearly forgotten 1973 team, with the still memorable rallying cry of “Ya Gotta Believe,’’ – identifies with the tumultuous ride this franchise has been on since its birth as the replacement child for the kids New York really loved – the Dodgers and Giants.

Think of it, the Mets’ colors are Giant orange and Dodger blue. The early rivals, before realignment with divisions, were against the teams that fled, namely because the wounds were still fresh.

Ah, c’mon, we don’t have to think that much. Let’s not go forty years to analyze. Go back only four when the owner of this team was criticized for honoring his beloved Dodgers at the opening of Citi Field – complete with the Jackie Robinson rotunda – more than his own team.

The Summer of 69 was special in that it was the first. It was the summer of Vietnam, the year after the race riots than burned numerous cities in America, including nearby Newark, and, the close of the decade seeing a man walk on the moon.

Countless times that summer, the improbability of the Mets’ drive to the World Series was compared to the moon landing. They were the Miracle Mets, but often overlooked in that season was dominant pitching, and dominant pitching usually wins.

That team doesn’t totally identity with the franchise because of how close it was to its birth. Seven years after first pitch in the Polo Grounds and the Mets are champions? That stuff only happens in the movies, and while it was a special, sometimes the ride is still hard to believe. Then again, there are some who still can’t believe man walked on the moon.

The 1986 champions did not identify with the franchise’s personality in that it was brash, bold and overwhelming, hardly descriptors fitting the Mets. During the season it bullied the National League. Only in the playoffs and its two Game Sixes, did it show the comeback, gritty nature associated with the franchise.

The 2000 team lost to the Yankees in the “Subway Series,’’ which was a marketing salute to a past that existed before the Mets were even a gleam William Shea’s eye. Wasn’t the whole build up of that World Series just a love-fest for what baseball was in the Fifties, the Golden Age of the sport in New York?

Remember, that was age that didn’t include the Mets and the Yankees won.

The World Series run that most identifies with this franchise’s nature was the gritty season of 1973. The Mets, as usual, were underdogs to Pittsburgh and St. Louis in the division, to Cincinnati in the NLCS, and Oakland in the World Series.

When the Mets won they’ve had good pitching. Tom Seaver was still here and joined by Jon Matlack, but they didn’t have a 20-game winner that season. They also didn’t have a .300 hitter and were at the bottom in runs scored. Save the 1986 monster and a few subsequent seasons with the Darryl Strawberry-Keith Hernandez-Gary Carter core, the Mets have rarely been a masher franchise. That’s just not them.

They were in last place as late as August 26. Then came the free-for-all pennant race in September, with the Mets getting a disputed call that enabled them outlast the Pirates, Cardinals and Cubs. The Mets won the win the division with a muddied 82-79 record, the worst in baseball history for a division winner.

For the number of teams involved, it was one of the more compelling pennant races in history, but lost in the mediocrity of the combatants. The still new divisional alignment required another step, which was the expected slaughter at the hands of the Big Red Machine, which was on its own historic run.

The Mets brawled their way through the NLCS with the enduring image being Bud Harrelson going afterPete Rose on a play at second. The Mets rallied to beat the Reds and hung tough against Oakland with their arms, those on the mound and Rusty Staub’s dangling at his side.

It was a season that showed the improbable, yet resilient nature that has been the Mets. The record typifies the franchise, which has lost more than it has won in fifty years. At 3885-4237, there has been more frustration than glory. The irony is it was managed by a man, Yogi Berra, whose career was all about winning.

From start to finish, the 1973 season most typifies the ride of this franchise than any of the other pennant winners. The 1973 team tells the story, with its collection of non-descript players joined by its best player and an iconic star on his last legs. The 1973 team overachieved, which has been a Mets’ signature, but left us unsatisfied and wanting more, feelings all Mets’ fans know so well.

The story of the Mets is captured in two images.

There’s the unabashed joy of Jesse Orosco in 1986 after striking out Marty Barrett to end the World Series as champions. There’s also the pain and anguish of Willie Mays – somebody else’s star – on his knees, pleading for a call in the 1973 Series.

Now, which picture best shows us fifty years of Mets’ baseball?

This season I will salute the 1973 team on New York Mets Report, with a series that each week highlights a game, event or player profile. Hope you enjoy.

Thoughts from Joe D.

John, I’m very excited to be working with you again on another new Mets feature. I loved the 1973 season. As I look at the image we have on the top of this post, I can’t help but notice how symbolic it is of our plight during the last 51 years of Mets baseball. So close, but yet so far… Next week, we’ll retell the tale of how the slogan “Ya Gotta Believe” first came about. All you newbies out there pay attention.ya gotta believe button

This season me and Joe DeCaro of Metsmerized Online will be collaborating on this new feature saluting the 1973 Mets.  Both on MMO and here on New York Mets Report, each week we will highlight a game, event or player profile commemorating that unforgettable season. Hope you enjoy.

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Mets Locker Room Real Estate Values: Past and Present Mon, 11 Feb 2013 18:38:14 +0000 MetsYou can learn a lot about a baseball team from its locker room. The clubhouse is where relationships form, character is revealed and leaders speak out (or not). For the major league rookie, clubhouse real estate is valuable — sometimes priceless. Imagine being the rookie who spent eight months out of the year next to Sandy Koufax? Roberto Clemente? Lou Gehrig? Tom Seaver? These were model athletes, wise and humble men, who used their talent to teach.

Danny Frisella and Tug McGraw were in heated competition for fame and fortune from the outset of the 1972 season. The late Gil Hodges remembers both pitchers begging for their manager to pick them when he signaled to the bullpen. If Frisella was selected, and won the game, McGraw would give Frisella the “cold shoulder.” If McGraw got the nod (and won) Frisella would mimic the gesture.

There is no evidence whether or not the Mets clubhouse manager made an intentional effort to put Frisella and McGraw side-by-side in the locker room, but their adjoining lockers created more fun and competition. The two Mets pitchers would sometimes switch the locker nameplates to appear that the other won the game.

While Frisella and McGraw jockeyed for their manager’s affection, that same season a rookie named Jon Matlack was granted locker space between Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. Matlack was named 1972 Rookie of the Year, winning 15 of his 32 starts. He compiled 244 innings pitched, eight complete games and a skinny 2.32 ERA. Coincidence? Possibly. Seaver will tell you, for certain, it meant nothing then and means nothing now.

“Where you lockered really wasn’t that important,” Seaver told the New York Times in 2008. “It didn’t make any difference. Just your own little space; it could have been anywhere.”

For Seaver, locker space was irrelevant. It was a place – and space – where he took out his frustrations after a poor start. “When I make a mistake and beat myself with a bad pitch, then I get kicking mad and go after stools and water buckets,” Seaver told People Magazine.

Other times, Seaver used his locker as a prop. After getting off to a slow start in 1974, a Mets beat writer asked him if he had lost his fastball. Seaver paused, then started rummaging in his locker muttering, “Where are you, fastball? Are you in there somewhere?”

Seaver didn’t need sabermetrics to figure out the 1975 New York Mets were in for a long year. The Mets, a team renowned for their pitching stock, found themselves lacking. That spring, Seaver sat on a stool in front of his locker and looked up at the adjoining lockers. SEAVER. KOOSMAN, MATLACK.

Who are the rest of these guys? Seaver thought. “That’s Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Where are 4 and 5?” He rolled his eyes in frustration.

He knew, if something doesn’t change (and it didn’t), the Mets would not compete. The Mets were within four games of the lead in the National League East on September 1, 1975; then the bottom fell out on the season. They finished in third place 10 ½ games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Seaver’s real estate at Shea Stadium was the site where many of the organizations proudest moments were celebrated. He sprayed champagne over the heads of his teammates in 1969 from that “little space.” Seaver helped the Mets win another National League title from that hole in the wall. He encouraged and mentored Matlack, Jackson Todd, Bob Myrick, George Stone and many others within earshot.

In one respect Seaver is right; a locker isn’t important. There’s nothing glamorous about an athlete’s locker. It’s literally a hole in the wall. For the common man, a locker is a lot like an office cubicle, a place to store your personal effects while you go take care of business. But, location is valuable, sometimes educational.

“I learned an awful lot from having my locker room stuck between Koosman and Seaver,” said Matlack. “”It was a very, very good location to be in.”

Seaver’s locker was physically unique, well, maybe for its modesty. Former Mets beat writer Marty Noble described the space this way: “there was no locker to the immediate left, just a three-foot-wide panel. A trash can was placed there.” Seaver’s “little space” was nondescript. Seaver, himself, was so Seaver was so impervious to his surroundings that, to this day, he is unsure whether he had the now famous locker space his rookie year of 1967.

Over time, Seaver’s locker took on a life of its own. After he we traded in June 1977, Bud Harrelson asked if he could move in. Not happening, said Mets equipment manager Herb Norman. The locker would be assigned to Seaver’s successor, Pat Zachry.

Seaver returned home, and to his “little space” in 1983, then, Ron Darling assumed the space from 1984-1991, followed by David Cone (July 1991-August 1992), John Franco (1992-2003), Steve Trachsel (2004-2006) and Aaron Heilman (2007).

“That locker did have history; more than any other in that place,” said Franco. “Nobody made the kind of history here that Tom Seaver made. It doesn’t matter how long anyone had it, it was always Seaver’s.”

“It doesn’t matter [who preceded Seaver],” added Darling. “It’s his.”

In some ballparks, because of some professional athletes, lockers can become hallowed ground. When Lou Gehrig died, his locker was sealed and sent to Cooperstown. Before Shea Stadium was demolished after the 2008 season, Seaver’s locker was preserved and put on the block for a cool $41,000.

That’s some valuable real estate.

In 1984, the New York Mets were on the rise. Jesse Orosco and Doug Sisk anchored the Mets bullpen on the field, roommates off the field and lived out of adjoining lockers during the team’s championship run in the 80s.

“We’re just a couple of ordinary guys who get along, and have no professional jealousy,” said Sisk. “We’re both fairly serious, but we have different personalities. But we’re not rivals. You can’t be rivals. It won’t work.”

When it does work, the team benefits – at least that’s what Mets manager Terry Collins hopes will happen by placing Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey side-by-side in Port St. Lucie. Collins told the media he intentionally put Harvey, 23, and Wheeler, 22, at adjoining lockers to give Wheeler the opportunity to ask questions and “soak up” the experience like Harvey did last season.

“Having lockers next to each other, we’re both baseball players who have the same mindset,” said Harvey. “Getting along, I don’t think, is going to be very tough.”

Wheeler has prime real estate in Port St. Lucie. Like Harvey in 2012, he will receive a valuable education a lot by watching and listening. Harvey described the experience as “eye-opening.” Last spring he watched Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee prepare for a major league baseball season.

“That’s something that I’ve never seen,” Harvey told “Watching the preparation that those guys had in order to throw 200 innings … Sometimes it’s stepping back and realizing, ‘Hey, this is a long process. Throwing until the end of September is a long time from now.’”

Let’s be honest here, Harvey is still learning too. Collins hopes the location will be the seed to a long-term successful relationship between his two future stars.

Spring Training, which officially starts today, is always an intriguing place for reporters to take stock in how and where players are positioned. The nameplates begin to disappear as February turns to March and the minor league players are dispatched for reassignment. The last days of March mark the time for final cuts. The veteran invited to spring training is playing his heart out and biting their nails in one corner of the clubhouse while the fresh-faced 20-something is bouncing off the walls hoping this will be his year.

As Opening Day creeps closer, locker room real estate values will increase.

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Tom Seaver Wins His First On This Day In Mets’ History Fri, 20 Apr 2012 04:29:29 +0000 Where did the time go?

Forty-five years ago today in Mets’ history (1967), Tom Seaver won the first game of his Hall of Fame career in going 7.1 innings in a 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium.

Seaver struck out five and was supported by two RBI from Bud Harrelson and one each from Ken Boyer, Tommy Davis, Ron Swoboda and Ed Kranepool.

Seaver went on to win over 300 games (his 300th was with the Chicago White Sox against the Yankees) and be inducted into the Hall of Fame, getting 98.84 percent of the vote, the highest percentage in history.

He’s the only Met in the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets’ cap and is the only player in franchise history to have his uniform number retired. Managers Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel had their numbers retired.

In the 50th anniversary of the Mets coming to being, the team will give away bobble head dolls of some of their greatest players, among them Seaver (this Sunday), Rusty Staub, Keith Hernandez, Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza.

I would have hoped they’d include Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry.



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October 27, 1986: The Dream Has Come True Tue, 27 Oct 2009 10:00:00 +0000 Two days ago, I wrote about the twenty-third anniversary of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  Miraculous as that game was, all it did was force a seventh and deciding game.  Do you remember seeing the replay of Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk waving for the ball to stay fair in the 1975 World Series?  That home run gave the Red Sox a thrilling 12-inning victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 6.

That’s right.  It happened in Game 6.  Just like the Mets’ dramatic Game 6 victory in the 1986 World Series, the home run by Fisk did not give the Red Sox the World Series trophy.  All it did was force a seventh game, a game won by the Reds to give Cincinnati the championship.

Had the Mets followed up their Game 6 heroics with a loss the following night, the miracle comeback would have been for naught.  The Mets had to win Game 7 to validate their season.  The stage was set at Shea Stadium for the final game of the 1986 baseball season.  It was up to the Mets to make the dream come true for their fans.

Game 7 was originally scheduled for Sunday, October 26.  However, a steady rain forced the postponement of the game until the following night.  Red Sox starter Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd was supposed to start the seventh game against Ron Darling.  However, with an extra day of rest, the Red Sox chose to bypass Boyd (who had given up six runs to the Mets in his Game 3 loss) and gave the ball to Bruce Hurst.

Hurst had already defeated the Mets in Game 1 and notched a complete game victory against them in Game 5.  Although he was pitching Game 7 on three days rest, the Mets were still wary about Hurst.  His performances against the Mets in the World Series were reminiscent of Mike Scott’s outings in the NLCS.  If the Mets were going to beat Hurst, Ron Darling was going to have to match him pitch for pitch.  Unfortunately, that was not the case in the early innings.

Bruce Hurst was his usual strong self in the early innings, keeping the Mets off the scoreboard.  Ron Darling?  Not so much.  After a scoreless first inning, he gave up three runs in the second inning, including back-to-back home runs by Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman.  By the time the fourth inning rolled around, Darling had already given up six hits and walked a batter.  He then hit Dave Henderson with a pitch to lead off the fourth inning.  After facing two more batters, Darling was relieved by fellow starter turned reliever Sid Fernandez.  The score was still 3-0 in favor of the Red Sox and the game was slipping away from the Mets.  It was up to El Sid to stop the fire from spreading.

In perhaps the guttiest (no pun intended) performance by Fernandez in his Mets career, he shut down the Red Sox.  After walking his first batter (Wade Boggs), Sid retired the next seven batters he faced, with four of them coming via the strikeout.  Fernandez did everything he could to keep his team in the game, but his efforts would go in vain unless the Mets could finally solve the puzzle that was Bruce Hurst.

With time running out on the Mets and their dream season, Davey Johnson was forced to make a difficult move in the bottom of the sixth inning.  After Rafael Santana grounded out to start the inning, the Mets were down to Sid Fernandez’s spot in the batting order.  Would Johnson take Sid out for a pinch hitter, hoping that the Mets would start a rally or would he leave him in the game, possibly giving up on another inning in which to mount a comeback against Bruce Hurst?  Johnson chose to pinch hit for Fernandez and it ended up being one of the best managerial decisions he ever made.

Lee Mazzilli stepped up to the plate in lieu of Fernandez.  He greeted Hurst with a single to left.  Game 6 hero Mookie Wilson followed Mazzilli with a hit of his own, followed by a walk to Tim Teufel.  The base on balls loaded the bases for Keith Hernandez and brought the crowd of 55,032 to its feet.  The cheering rose to a crescendo when Hernandez delivered a two-run single to center, scoring Mazzilli and Wilson and sending Teufel to third.  Since Teufel represented the tying run, Davey Johnson sent in the speedier Wally Backman to pinch run for him as Gary Carter stepped up to the plate.  Carter came through as he drove in Backman with a ball that would have been a base hit to right had a confused Hernandez not been forced out at second base when rightfielder Dwight Evans rolled over the ball.  Hernandez had to freeze between first and second until he knew that the ball had not been caught.  Despite the out being recorded, the Mets had tied the game at 3.  They had finally gotten to Bruce Hurst and hope was alive at Shea.  That hope became greater when Ray Knight came to bat in the seventh inning against a familiar face.

Calvin Schiraldi had been brought in by the Red Sox to start the seventh inning.  Schiraldi was the losing pitcher in Game 6, having allowed Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight to deliver hits off him in the tenth inning.  This time, he was facing Knight with no one on base, trying to erase the bitter memories from his previous outing.  Knight would not provide him with the eraser.  On a 2-1 pitch from Schiraldi, Knight got under a pitch and launched it to deep left-center, barely clearing the outfield wall.  A jubilant Knight celebrated as he rounded the bases.  The Mets finally had their first lead of the game and they were going to make sure that they weren’t going to give it back.  The hit parade continued in the seventh inning, as an RBI single by Rafael Santana and a sacrifice fly by Keith Hernandez gave the Mets a 6-3 lead.  The Mets were in front, but the Red Sox weren’t going to go away quietly.

Roger McDowell had come into the game in the seventh inning once Sid Fernandez had been pinch hit for.  He continued where Sid had left off by retiring the Red Sox in order in the seventh.  However, things went a little differently for McDowell in the eighth inning.  Bill Buckner led off the inning with a single.  Jim Rice followed Buckner with a single of his own.  After Dwight Evans doubled into the gap in right field, scoring both Buckner and Rice, the lead had been cut to a single run.  The Red Sox were down 6-5 with the tying run on second base and nobody out.  It was time for Davey Johnson to make one last move, with the World Series on the line.

Jesse Orosco came in from the bullpen, hoping to shut down the Red Sox to preserve the lead for the Mets.  His first batter, Rich Gedman, had homered earlier off starting pitcher Ron Darling.  This time, he hit the ball hard again, but in the direction of second baseman Wally Backman.  Backman caught the line drive in the air, holding Evans at second base.  The next batter was Dave Henderson.  He had given the Red Sox the lead with a home run in the tenth inning of Game 6.  Now he had a chance to duplicate the feat, as a home run would have given Boston the lead.  This time, the only thing he made contact with was the air.  Orosco struck him out on four pitches and then induced Don Baylor to ground out to short to end the threat.  The Mets were now three outs away from a championship, but they weren’t finished scoring yet.

The Red Sox called upon Al Nipper to face Darryl Strawberry to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning.  Nipper was trying to keep the Mets’ lead at one so that the Red Sox could make one last attempt in the ninth inning to tie the game or take the lead.  It didn’t take long for that one run lead to grow.  Strawberry greeted Nipper with a towering home run to right field that almost took as long to come down as it did for Strawberry to round the bases.  After Darryl finally finished his home run “trot” (To call it a trot would be putting it mildly.  It was more like a stroll and it led to a bench-clearing brawl the following season in spring training when Nipper and the Red Sox faced Darryl Strawberry and the Mets again.), the Mets had a 7-5 lead.  After a hit, a walk and an RBI single by Jesse Orosco on a 47-hopper up the middle (how appropriate since 47 was Jesse’s number), the Mets had regained their three-run lead.  After being held scoreless by Bruce Hurst for the first five innings of the game, the Mets had exploded for eight runs in the last three innings to take an 8-5 lead into the ninth inning.  Orosco was still on the mound, hoping to throw the season’s final pitch.

With the champagne ready to be uncorked in the Mets clubhouse, Orosco went to work on the Red Sox batters.  Ed Romero popped up to first base in foul territory for the first out.  That was followed by Wade Boggs grounding out to second base for the second out.  The Mets were one out away from a championship.  Nothing was going to stop them from winning this game.  Well, nothing except for the pink smoke bomb that was thrown onto the field.

That did not matter to Jesse Orosco or the Mets.  After the smoke cleared, Marty Barrett stepped up to the plate.  Barrett had already collected a World Series record-tying 13 hits, trying to set the record and keep the season alive for the Red Sox.  However, that was not to be.  We now turn the microphone over to the late Bob Murphy for the final pitch.

“He struck him out!  Struck him out!  The Mets have won the World Series!  And they’re jamming and crowding all over Jesse Orosco!  He’s somewhere at the bottom of that pile!  He struck out Marty Barrett!  The dream has come true!  The Mets have won the World Series, coming from behind to win the seventh ballgame!”

The Mets had completed their dream season with a World Series championship.  After 108 regular season victories and a hard-fought six-game NLCS against the Houston Astros, the Mets were able to bring the trophy home.  At times, it seemed as if the season was going to come to a screeching halt, but through determination, perseverance and perhaps an extra pebble or two around the first base area during Game 6, the Mets came through for themselves, for their fans and for the city of New York.

In 1986, the Mets owned New York.  They were a blue (and orange) collar team for a blue-collar city.  Twenty-three years ago today, the Mets became the World Champions of baseball.  Victory never tasted so sweet.

One final postscript on the whereabouts of Jesse Orosco’s glove: I’m sure many of you who watched Game 7 remember Jesse Orosco flinging his glove up in the air after striking out Marty Barrett to end the World Series.  Have any of you wondered what happened to that glove?  Now it can be told!

If you have the 1986 World Series DVDs, watch the final out of Game 7.  After Orosco throws the glove up in the air and falls to his knees, he gets up just as Gary Carter and the rest of his teammates mob him at the pitcher’s mound.  If you slow it down a little, watch closely as Bud Harrelson (wearing #23) runs around the crowd of players to the left of them.  He has nothing in his hands as he goes around the pile of ecstatic players.  Right before he goes off-camera, you can see him start to bend over.  When he comes back a split second later to celebrate with the team on the mound, he has a glove in his left hand.  That’s Jesse Orosco’s glove!

I hope you enjoyed these recaps of the final two games of the 1986 World Series.  The memories I have of those classic games remain vivid in my mind as if they had happened yesterday.  I wish I could have blogged about them at the time they happened, but Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet.

Stay positive, Mets fans.  Our dreams of another World Series will come true again.  Whether it be next season or a number of seasons from now, always remember to keep the faith alive and keep rooting for the orange and blue.  Let’s Go Mets!

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Remembering The Magic Of 1969 Thu, 09 Jul 2009 14:59:33 +0000 This week, Sports Illustrated magazine has come out with their annual “Where Are They Now” issue. There are two articles in the issue that are so good, I feel the need to comment on them.

Article number 1 deals with the most special of all the Met teams, the 1969 World Champions. In the article there is a picture of Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan wearing Mets jackets (Ryan even has a Met on). Maybe I’m just a sentimental old fool, but there’s something about seeing the Franchise wearing Mets blue and orange that gives my the goose bumps. The article gives brief accounts on what players like Art Shamsky, Ed Kranepool, Bud Harrelson, Ray Charles, and coach Joe Pignataro are up to now.

What the 1969 Mets did was nothing short of a miracle. This was a team that in 1962 set a record for the most loses in a season. From 1962-1968 the Mets averaged 105 loses per season. They won 100 games in 1969. They had a great blend of young and old players, and some really great pitching arms. Most importantly they had a true leader as their manager in Gil Hodges.

When you hear Seaver, the most important player in franchise history say how Gil Hodges was like a father figure to him, the man who had the most impact on his career, you realize how much of a true leader Hodges was. Bud Harrelson is the only Met from 1969 that still wears a uniform. He is part owner and first base coach for the Independent League Long Island Ducks. In the changing room at Citibank Park, home of the Ducks, Harrelson has a picture of Gil Hodges hanging up in the changing room. Gil managed the Mets to a championship 40 years ago, and his picture hangs in the changing room of the Ducks. I bet he sure had a huge influence on Bud Harrelson’s career too.

When the Mets went down to Baltimore earlier this season, I wrote here about how the Orioles were a team to be reckoned with back in the late 1960′s and 1970′s. I wrongfully skimmed over the contributions of their field manager Earl Weaver.

The second good article in S.I. this week gives a really interesting look at Earl Weaver. I remember how good those 1970′s Orioles teams were, and a lot of that success was due to their manager. Weaver believed that his team was given 27 outs, and each out was precious. He didn’t believe in wasting outs, ie. bunting, and hit run. Weaver believed in pitching, defense and the three run home run.

When Weaver first became manager of the O’s he asked the public relations director to provide him the stats of how the Orioles players did against the opposition and vice versa. Before each game Earl was given a hand written list of the match-ups (remember this was well before the computer era). Weaver would use this match-up information to set his starting line-up. He truly was so far ahead of the rest of the pack.

Weaver wanted to win more than anything else. So much so that he never shook hands with a winning pitcher after the game. He didn’t want anything to do with emotion or friendship, he just wanted to win games.

This is really just a brief summary of two worthy articles to be read, in this week’s S.I. The articles were so good in fact, that I almost forgot S.I. had the Mets listed under the “NOT HOT” section this week.

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