Mets Merized Online » Gary Carter http://metsmerizedonline.com Sat, 03 Dec 2016 17:28:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.16 Remembering Gary Carter… http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/remembering-gary-carter.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/remembering-gary-carter.html/#comments Wed, 17 Feb 2016 03:46:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=206328 gary carter

Remembering Gary Carter on the four year anniversary of his death. He was a great baseball player, a tremendous family man, and the best friend anyone could ever have. Most of all, he will always be remembered as The Kid to all who knew him because of his passion and enthusiasm for life and for baseball. We miss you, Gary…

Keith Hernandez flied out to center for the second out of the inning. A tomb-like silence fell over Shea. Fans stared in disbelief. The 108 regular season wins plus six more in the post-season meant nothing. Vin Scully announced Marty Barrett was chosen player of the game.

And then…Number 8 stepped to the plate.

In a career that spanned nearly 2,300 games and 8,000 at-bats over 19 seasons, there are many memorable moments. However, the defining moment of his hall-of-fame career, what typified Gary Carter, was something that happened OFF the field.

“The Mets are still alive,” said Scully as Carter lined a 2-1 offering into left.

In Spring Training 1974, Expos teammates Ken Singleton and Mike Jorgensen chided the exuberant rookie. 19 year old Gary Carter was trying to win every sprint, hit every pitch over the wall. His childlike enthusiasm for the game prompted them to call him ‘The Kid.’

As a late September call-up, “The Kid” made his major league debut. He caught the back end of a double header against the defending NL Champion Mets. He went 0-for-4.

Baseball is and always will be a game of stats. But sometimes even that, no matter how impressive they may be, do not accurately measure the impact of a player. Sure, Gary was an 11 time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, two-time MVP of the All-Star Game and winner of 3 Gold Gloves. He hit 324 career home runs and batted in 1225. But that did not define him.

“And the Mets refuse to go quietly,” said Vin Scully, after Kevin Mitchell singled and Carter moved to second.

The road to the Championship began in 1983. In May, the Mets brought up highly touted rookie Darryl Strawberry. Just weeks later, Frank Cashen sent Neil Allen to STL in exchange for former MVP and proven winner Keith Hernandez. 1984 saw the debut of rookie phenom Doc Gooden. But still, something was missing. The crème de la crème came in December 84 when Gary Carter joined the Mets. “He was the final piece of the puzzle,” explained Keith.

gary-carter-new-york-mets-1 - Copy

On April 9, 1985, one day after his 31st birthday, Gary made his debut with the Mets. He hit a solo HR in the 10th off of Neil Allen to give the Mets a 6-5 Opening Day victory. With that blast, Gary won the hearts of Mets fans everywhere. But that moment did not define him.

Gary had an infectious smile. He was the media darling, always willing and ready to give an interview or answer a question. Some referred to him in a derogatory way, calling him ‘Camera Carter,’ accusing him of being the ultimate self-promoter. Gary was not that. He was, however, the consummate professional.

During his tenure with the Mets there were plenty of fist raising curtain calls. Even when he struck out, he’d walk back to the dugout, looking down, shaking his head twice, disappointed with himself but most likely already planning how to adjust in his next at-bat. But the curtain calls and raised fists did not define him.

Let’s be honest. That 1986 team were not exactly boy scouts. They were a bunch of brawling, boozing, hell raisers. Gary, however, was a boy scout. Hell, he even did a commercial for Ivory Soap! But yet, in spite of the fact that Gary may not have fit in with the recklessness of Keith, Darling, Ojeda, Knight, and Darryl, he was still loved by the fans and respected by his teammates. (anyone remember Gregg Jefferies?). However, this was not Gary’s defining trait.

A quarter of a century has now passed since that fateful Game 6 but yet we all remember it like it was yesterday. It was our beloved number 8 who started not only the greatest rally in Mets history, but quite possibly the most amazin’ comeback ever in a World Series.

gary carter

In the top of the 7th, Boston took a 3-2 lead and was threatening for more. Rich Gedman singled through the left side and Jim Rice rounded third base. Mookie Wilson fired a rocket to the plate and Carter executed a perfect tag on Rice to keep the Mets within one. Had Carter not made the tag things would be very different. In the 8th, it was Gary’s Sac Fly that tied the game at 3-3. But these were not his defining moments either.

This, however, did define Gary. When Ray Knight singled, Carter raced home, bringing the Mets to within a run . He stepped on the plate, defiantly pointed at on deck batter Mookie Wilson. As Gary entered the dugout, he high fived several players, took a breather. And what did he do then? He looked around for his catching gear!

The Mets were trailing 5-4, two outs bottom of the 10th. But yet, in spite of being behind, Gary was preparing to come out for the 11th inning. The entire 86 season, the entire never-say-die attitude of that ’86 club, was captured right then and there. What must Boston have thought when they saw that? That one simple act, something Gary did while not even on the field, not only summed up the Mets attitude that year, but more importantly the eagerness of The Kid. He still wanted to play more baseball.

Mookie Wilson said, “Gary was one of the happiest guys in the world.” “I relied on Gary for everything when I was on the mound,” stated Doc Gooden. “He was a warrior on the field.” Battery mate Ron Darling said, “Gary was everything you wanted in a sports hero; great talent, great competitor, great family man and a great friend.”

However, it was Gary’s manager, Davey Johnson, who perhaps summed it up best. “I loved him very much.” We all did, Davey. And always will. Gary may have only worn the blue and orange for only five seasons, but his memories will last a lifetime.

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A Bag of Balls, A Lot of Questions http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/a-bag-of-balls-a-lot-of-questions.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/a-bag-of-balls-a-lot-of-questions.html/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 13:00:22 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167743 mike scott astros mets 1986

Former New York Mets catcher Ed Hearn says he has a bag of baseballs in his cellar. They are all from 1986; all from the National League Championship Series; all evidence that Michael Warren Scott cheated.

The rumors started long before the NLCS. In May 1985, during one of Scott’s starts at Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs first baseman Leon Durham found a piece of sandpaper near the mound, “brand new, cut in a circle, big enough to hide in his glove,” Durham told the Chicago Tribune.

In September 1986, two weeks before Scott no-hit the San Francisco Giants to clinch the National League West, the Cincinnati Reds were in Houston. Starter Tom Browning took the mound to warm up. When he picked up the ball, Browning claimed the ball had “… a big ol’ scuff mark … as clear as a quarter on a piece of paper. That wasn’t an accidental scuff from contact.”

“It’s the consensus around the league that Mike Scott cheats,” Mets catcher Gary Carter said after Scott threw his no-hitter.

Scott denied the accusation. His catcher Alan Ashby denied the accusation. Ashby credited the aces split-finger fastball. “If everybody in the league learns to throw that pitch like that, you’ll have a batting champion hitting about .210,” Ashby said.

On July 19, in his only regular season start against New York, Scott’s split-finger neutralized the Mets at the Astrodome, pitching 8 1/3 innings, allowing five hits in a 5-4 Houston win.

keith hernandez

In Game One of the NLCS, Scott did more than hold off the Mets, he humbled them. The Cy Young Award winner struck out a record-tying 14, including Keith Hernandez (three times), Darryl Strawberry (three times) and Carter (twice), and allowed only five hits as the Astros won the opening game of the National League playoffs 1-0 before 44,131 at the Astrodome.

In the first inning, Carter swung at strike two and asked plate umpire Doug Harvey to check the ball. Harvey examined the ball, and tossed it back to Scott. Carter struck out on the next pitch.

“Carter said, ‘Harvey, Harvey, no way. Look at that ball,’” Harvey said after Game One. “So I looked at it. I purposely turned toward Carter. I turned it over one way, then the other. That ball was clean. The man just exploded two tremendous pitches.”

“I saw the ball do some things that are different than you normally see the ball do,” Carter told reporters. “He was just unbelievable. I’d never felt so dominated by a pitcher. All I can say is if he is cheating and getting away with it, I tip my hat to him.”

“The guy is unhittable,” mumbled Strawberry as he reached the Mets bench after striking out in the second inning.

The allegations amused Scott. “If that’s what they want to think, fine,” he said.

Scott’s career was on life support in 1984. He finished the season 5-11. If Mike Scott wanted to continue pitching in the big leagues he needed eight days in San Diego with Roger Craig. That’s how long it took one of the original 1962 Mets pitchers to teach Scott a split-finger.

The next season Craig was managing the Giants and watching his former pupil frustrate his team. Craig was barking at the homeplate umpire all game. Ironically, the man behind the plate was Harvey.

“I finally went toward the dugout and said, ‘Roger, the ball is clean. Do you want it?’” asked Harvey.

“No, I’m just trying to get to his mind,” replied Craig.

Harvey said he “checked 65 or 70 balls thrown by Mike Scott and I haven’t found anything … in my heart, the man is clean.”

The Mets were spooked by Scott’s dominance in Game One. “That may have been the first time all year I’d seen our team not believe in itself,” third baseman Ray Knight said in The Bad Guys Won. Mike Scott was quickly becoming baseball’s version of The Mentalist.

Scott again dominated the Mets – mentally and physically — in Game Four at Shea Stadium, pitching the Astros to a 3-1 win to even the series at two games each. If the Mets didn’t feel cheated after Game One, they did now – and told everyone who would listen.

“Every single ball was scuffed,” said Wally Backman. “You know there are people in the game who cheat. I never knew until late in the game, but when you have 15-20 balls that have been scuffed you know it’s not done by fouling them off. I assume it is something in his glove hand.”

When reporters told Scott what Backman said, the Astros ace replied sarcastically, “Then I’m convinced he corks his bat. This has been going on for two years now.”

The Mets scratched out three hits (four base runners) in Game Four. In two starts, Scott set a playoff record for most consecutive scoreless innings (16) and strikeouts in a league playoff series (19). In 18 innings, Scott surrendered one run and struck out 19 Mets batters.

mike-scott

Scouts reportedly watched Scott with binoculars and could not offer any conclusive evidence of scuffing the baseball, leading one reporter to write: “Until they find Mike Scott in possession of a nail file, corkscrew or table saw, the New York Mets will lack the hard evidence to back up their opinion as to why he is so unhittable.”

The next day it rained in New York, postponing Game Five and providing the Mets with another opportunity to make their case against Scott. The team asked National League president Chub Feeney to examine 15 baseballs. Feeney promised to examine the baseballs himself before Scott pitched a possible Game Seven.

“We have some balls that were defaced,” said Johnson. “A lot of people believe it was done by Scott. I think Mike Scott could make a cue ball dance. But if he is defacing the ball, I’d like to see him stopped. What we have is circumstantial evidence. But I’d take a lie detector test on it.”

The controversy was getting ugly. Through the media, the Mets and Astros started a war of words. Backman and Howard Johnson, who saved baseballs hit into the Mets dugout, turned them over to the league. The move angered Astros manager Hal Lanier.

“If Backman and Johnson are such big fans of Mike’s, they can bring those baseballs over and Mike will autograph them for them,” said Lanier. “They say they have all these balls that are scuffed up. Who knows what happens to baseballs when they get in locker room. Mike (Scott) has never been found guilty of anything.”

Mental edge: New York.

Mike Scott peered out the Astros dugout as the Mets and Astros weaved and bobbed through 16 innings of Game Six. Everyone in the Mets dugout knew if they lost that night, the only way to get to the World Series was to beat the seemingly unbeatable Scott.

The Mets escaped a third showdown against Scott, winning 7-6.

“He watched from the dugout, he haunted us,” said Carter. “He stuck in the back of our minds. No, sir, we didn’t want to face him the following day for all the marbles … The man had a power over us even when he was spending the game on the bench.”

“I feel like I’ve been pardoned,” said Mets manager Davey Johnson after clinching in Game Six. “I really don’t want to see Scott again until next April.”

Post Script:

In 2009, Gary Carter was managing the Long Island Ducks and writing a blog for Newsday. More than two decades had passed since Carter whiffed helplessly against Scott.

Carter wrote, I have often been asked if I thought we could have beaten the Astros in Game 7 back in ’86 … Knowing Scott was looming for a Game 7 was big, and having to face him might have written a completely different story. He was dominant in the other two games we faced him, but knowing our team’s character, we would of found a way to win.

Time restores confidence, even if it takes two decades.

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The Importance Of Securing An Elite Catcher http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/the-importance-of-securing-an-elite-catcher.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/the-importance-of-securing-an-elite-catcher.html/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 14:00:12 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=167027 johnny bench

Scarcity: the state of being scarce or in short supply. Scarcity is when you don’t have enough of something you really need, like clean socks and pomegranates – there never seem to be enough pomegranates around when you need them. Pomegranates are a damned delicious fruit … especially if you don’t mind seeds stuck in your teeth.

Anyway, if you are like me and you have just won your MMO Fantasy Baseball League (obligatory fist-pump), you are all about scarcity. There are lots of ways to get production from the outfield — productive outfielders are like the apples of the baseball world. If you shake a stick at a baseball tree a .900 OPS outfielder falls out. Guys like J.D. Martinez and Steve Pearce put out top-tier production for extended stretches at a bargain rate in 2014 and there always seem to be a bunch of hot hitting outfielders that come up late in the season. No, if you want to separate yourself from the competition you’ve got to get production from positions not typically known for offense, you need to find that rare scrumptious Saskatoon blueberry!

Catcher, shortstop, second base and center Field.

When Sandy Alderson and his brainy triumvirate undertook a Mets rebuilding phase in 2010, one of the critical areas they looked at was catcher. They held to the notion that elite catchers in baseball are like great drummers in the rock world – you can’t have a super-group without a great drummer — and you can’t have a playoff team without an outstanding backstop. When you look across the league at the distribution of elite catchers over the past 20 seasons, they seem to appear with inordinate frequency on playoff teams. From Joe Mauer, to Buster Posey, to Yadier Molina, to Victor Martinez, and (more recently) Salvador Perez, an argument can be made that perhaps more than any other position, securing an elite catcher may have the biggest impact on a team’s fortunes.

Now if you want to set the bar high, look no further than Johnny Bench. The Reds’ hall of Fame catcher was like the John Bonham of catchers, no one even came close.  Johnny Bench, who was also the backbone of one of the greatest baseball dynasties in the modern era. And it wasn’t just his offense, he was a tremendous presence defensively. You got the feeling that it would be hard NOT to win with a guy like this on your team.

gary carter out at home

Gary Carter was another example of a player who seemed to direct his teams to the win column by sheer force of will … but an odd thing happens when you look at their production, particularly in terms of WAR. Gary Carter, and Johnny Bench for that matter, don’t rank as high as you’d think. Per Dave Fleming of Bill James Online, Bench’s 5.6/162 WAR ranks most closely with guys like Dick Allen, Larry Walker, and Scott Rolen … All good players but not the earth-shakers in whose elite company you’d expect to see someone like Bench.

And what about Gary Carter? A guy who dominated his position and whose unbelievably positive influence propelled the Mets over the top and right into the history books. He averaged 5.9 WAR from 1977 to 1987, which is certainly good, but it isn’t “elite” good when you look across positions. Carter did have three elite type seasons from 1982 to 1984 where he averaged 7.4 WAR, but when you look at his numbers it does appear that he was already in decline by the time he got to the Mets. What we know of The Kid bears this out – he was famously banged up in 86 but he iced and ace-bandaged himself onto the field and willed his team to victory night after night. His influence on the field remains impossible to quantify; he simply did not allow the Mets to lose. The fact that his decline also coincided with several close-but-not-quite seasons after 1986 should not go unnoticed. The Mets were not quite the same without Gary Carter at the top of his game.

WAR is clearly flawed when it comes to elite catchers. It fails to accurately measure the effect of Gary Carter’s incessant positive coaxing directed at his pitchers, his fearsome competitiveness, his unbelievable energy and interminable tenacity. The fact that It took six years for the BBWAA to vote Gary Carter into the Hall of Fame may unfortunately speak to this numbers bias. Personally I don’t know of anyone who watched Gary Carter play in the early 80′s who wouldn’t consider him a first ballot Hall of Famer. Mike Piazza, another elite Met catcher, has yet to be elected in spite of his career 5.4/162 WAR and gaudy power numbers (or, sadly, perhaps because of them).

The problem with WAR, as Fleming pointed out, becomes apparent not when comparing catchers to catchers, but when comparing catchers to other position players. It’s just not a fair comparison, it’s like saying grapefruits are better than pears because they keep longer and don’t bruise … Catchers have, by far, the most bruising job on the field not to mention the shortest average career span (around five and a half years), A catcher’s production should be looked at through the lens of that hardship if you will — it is precious in a sense because it comes from such a uniquely challenging and unlikely source.

The take away? Elite catchers can improve your team’s chances in a big way, but their performance continues to be maddeningly difficult to assess, with particular caution against comparing production from the catcher’s position to that of other positions. Larry Walker and Scott Rolen were good players, but I would never in a million years put them in the same company as Johnny Bench.

New York Mets v Minnesota Twins

More recently many teams (the Mets and Yankees most prominently) have taken to using extensive statistics on pitch framing. Our very own Travis d’Arnaud, who has been called, among other things, a butcher behind the plate because of his poor throwing and numerous passed balls, nevertheless put together a 1.6 WAR season mostly on the merits of his hitting. Is that accurate? I don’t think so. WAR paints a very narrow picture for catchers, and the absence of pitch framing from these value appraisals is certainly one reason.

Stat Corner ranks TDA as 14th in MLB at the art of pitch framing. The Mets apparently have been meticulously working on improving pitch framing organizationally, (you can read more hereand they appear to have manufactured a good one in d’Arnaud.

Travis has a knack for snatching borderline pitches (especially low balls) back into the strike zone in one fluid twist of the wrist, getting more called strikes on these offerings than just about anyone I can think of in recent memory. Also, among qualified catchers in the second half, d’Arnaud ranks fourth in ISO, tied for fourth in home runs, fifth in wRC+ and sixth in wOBA. Added to his offense and the possibility that his throwing issues were injury related, Travis d’Arnaud may be an elite catcher in the making, if (and that’s a big “if” for any catcher) he can stay on the field.

Between Kevin Plawecki and d’Arnaud the odds are pretty good that we’re going to have decent production from our catchers over the next few seasons. This should, at least in theory, significantly bolster our playoff hopes given the relative scarcity of this type of production. It shouldn’t be lost on us that Gary Carter’s final few elite seasons coincided with a run that bagged us our last world championship.

Met management has done well to fortify our catching ranks with a couple of extremely talented athletes and I very much doubt they will trade either of them … it’s all about supply and demand. Plawecki and d’Arnaud should continue playing for the Mets until two questions can be answered: 1. Can d’Arnaud be counted on to stay on the field? And 2. Will Plawecki’s eye popping numbers translate to the majors? Until then, trading one of two potentially elite difference makers is just too much of a risk.

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25 Years Ago: The Co-Captains’ Final Game At Shea Becomes The Undercard http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/25-years-ago-the-co-captains-final-game-at-shea-becomes-the-undercard.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/25-years-ago-the-co-captains-final-game-at-shea-becomes-the-undercard.html/#comments Sat, 27 Sep 2014 17:44:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=166765 This was the scene at Shea after the final game played there in 1986.  Three years later, the scene was just a tad different.

This was the scene at Shea after the final game played there in 1986. Three years later, the scene was just a tad different.

On Thursday, the captain of the New York Yankees played his final game in front of his home fans.  He ended the game in memorable fashion, by delivering a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Twenty-five years ago today, the New York Mets were bidding adieu to their co-captains, who were playing their final game at Shea Stadium as members of the team.  The ending to that game was also memorable, but it had nothing to do with the soon-to-be-departed team leaders.

Keith Hernandez (named Mets captain in 1987) and Gary Carter (named Mets co-captain in 1988) were the heart and soul of the 1986 World Champions.  Acquired by general manager Frank Cashen in 1983, Hernandez was the first piece that helped turn the team around from pretenders to contenders.  A year and a half later, Carter became the most important piece added by Cashen.

Together, Hernandez and Carter helped a team that had qualified for the postseason just twice in its first 24 seasons win two division titles in three years.  But by the end of the 1980s, both players were no longer productive and it had become clear that Cashen was not going to bring them back to the team in 1990.  Cashen had already traded away several fan-favorites in 1989, including Wally Backman, Mookie Wilson, Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell, hoping that the future of the team would be molded by younger players like Gregg Jefferies.

Cashen’s breakup of the championship team led to disarray in the clubhouse and the club’s first season with fewer than 90 victories since 1983.  Although the ’89 team had stayed in the hunt for the division crown for most of the season, by September 27, the Mets had been eliminated in the playoff race.  With nothing left to play for going into the final home game of the season, the Shea Stadium finale became all about Hernandez and Carter’s last hurrah at the ballpark they helped electrify for many years.

Neither player was in the starting lineup, as Dave Magadan and Mackey Sasser were starting at first base and catcher, respectively.  But both co-captains did make it into the game in the later innings, as Hernandez appeared as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and Carter replaced Sasser behind the plate in the ninth.  Although just 18,666 fans attended the game, the roars for Hernandez and Carter were loud enough to drown out the airplanes flying into LaGuardia Airport.  But those vocal fans remained on their feet for a different reason once the game ended, and it had nothing to do with an extended ovation for their departing co-captains.

After Gregg Jefferies grounded out to end the game, a 5-3 loss to the Phillies, the Mets’ second baseman made a beeline toward his former teammate, Roger McDowell, who had earned the save in Philadelphia’s victory.  What happened next was not exactly the tribute Mets fans were expecting for Hernandez and Carter.

 

Four years before Nolan Ryan made atomic noogies the cool thing to do when he pounded away on Robin Ventura’s skull, McDowell sent the bratty Jefferies to his room with a few well-placed knuckles to the left side of his noggin.  The incident stemmed from a game earlier in the series, as recalled by manager Davey Johnson.

“It went back to Monday night,” said Johnson.  “Roger screamed something at Gregg after he broke Gregg’s bat.  Obviously there’s bad blood between them.”

Breaking one’s bat does not usually set off a bench-clearing brawl a few nights later, leaving some to doubt Johnson’s reason for the melee.  However, Phillies manager Nick Leyva had what was perhaps the real reason for the unique sendoff to Carter and Hernandez.

“There were 30 guys on our side rooting for Roger and 20 guys on their side rooting for Roger.”

Gregg Jefferies was never liked in the Mets clubhouse and his subpar performance on the field did not endear the supposed wunderkind to Mets fans.  But he did make headlines on a night that should have been remembered for the final appearances of two of his beloved teammates.

A few days ago, the Yankee captain ended his final game in his home park by walking off a hero in victory.  Twenty-five years ago today, the Mets’ co-captains ended their last game at Shea by separating teammates and opponents at the bottom of a pile of testosterone (McDowell) and puberty (Jefferies).

For the 1980s Mets, I suppose it was the only way the decade could end.

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MMO Flashback: Changing The Dynamic, One Catcher At A Time http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/mmo-flashback-changing-the-dynamic-one-catcher-at-a-time-2.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/mmo-flashback-changing-the-dynamic-one-catcher-at-a-time-2.html/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:26:26 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=164902 mike piazza

Former Mets catcher and future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza turns 46 years old today. We’ve written dozens of great articles about Mike over the years, and after searching our archives I found one I think you will all like. So please enjoy this article by Taryn “The Coop” Cooper, originally published in March of 2012.

Grote-Carter-Piazza

1969. 1973. 1986. 2000.

Tom Seaver. Rusty Staub. Tug McGraw. John Franco. Keith Hernandez. Darryl Strawberry. Tommie Agee.

Steve “Hendu Cando” Henderson. Ron “The Dive” Swoboda. Endy “The Catch” Chavez. Robin “Grand Slam Single” Ventura.

While the Mets storied 50 years have included characters and some pivotal moments, their pitching staffs have boasted several homegrown greats like Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan and Doc Gooden, and adding more through trades. Yet, there are forgotten men that have been the backbone to making those pitchers successful.

Nope, not their pitching coaches.

Their battery mates. Their catchers.

Conversely in Mets history, while there’s been quite a bit of homegrown pitching talent throughout the years, the catcher has been somewhat overlooked. Perhaps they took Casey Stengel’s “You’re gonna need a catcher, or you’re gonna have a lot of passed balls” too much to heart by not developing strong catchers in their own history.

By trading for top-shelf catchers at the time, the Mets had championship runs where the catchers who made the difference were Jerry Grote, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza. Without a strong catcher or the man in the 2 position on those teams, the outcome might have been completely different.

Finally, what did they all have in common, besides the position they played?

They either won a championship or went as far as the World Series with the Mets.

Gerald Wayne Grote was traded to the New York Mets on October 19, 1965, in exchange for Tom Parsons by the Houston Astros. The Mets didn’t get “good” or even “great” until a few years later. Who knows how the pitching in those years would have developed had the catcher been as green as they were?

In 1967, some rookie by the name of George Thomas Seaver quickly became the ace of the staff. The addition of Jerome Martin Koosman a year later added the one-two punch that would become the linchpins of that staff. Grote certainly wasn’t known for his bat; .256/.321/.329 in his 12 years with the Mets, and in the “championship years” (arbitrarily ruling between the years of 1969 – 1973) .253/.314/.326.

His defensive stats, though, provide a clearer view of how he helped the team. During those years, he ranked above league average in caught stealing percentage, and ranked in the top five of all catchers in each year except one in range factor.

The Mets famously came together strong in those years, but the value of a good defensive catcher is underrated, as is Jerry Grote’s value to those teams.

Gary Edmund Carter was already a legend for the Montreal Expos when he was traded to the Mets on December 10, 1984. While fan favorite Hubie Brooks was included in the deal to Montreal, no one could argue that this deal meant business. Frank Cashen was serious about adding a big bat to the lineup, and there was no doubt that Carter could fit that bill.

Prior to joining the Mets, Carter had already established himself as a long ball hitting catcher who had the rare ability to not only call a good game, but couple strong defense in addition to being a threat with the bat.

The Mets historians show that the trade for Keith Hernandez changed the dynamic of the 1980s Mets. Yet, the addition of Gary Carter thrust them over the top, towards two NL East titles and one World Series championship. In his first two seasons, .269/.352/.465 was his line along with 56 HRs and 205 RBIs. Those were a lots of runs batted in!

He ranked in the top five in the first four seasons with the Mets in range factor as well, but his caught stealing percentages went down in his years with the Mets. We could then argue that Carter’s bat helped propel the Mets to their championship year in 1986, as he hit .276/.267/.552 with 2 HRs and 9 RBIs in the World Series.

Michael Joseph Piazza flitted between the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he had a very strong career, to the Florida Marlins shortly prior to being scooped up by the Mets via trade on May 22, 1998. While he got off to an infamously slow start in New York, his bat won over the naysayers. The Mets were in the Wild Card race almost to the very end, thanks in part to Piazza’s .348/.417/.607 with 23 HRs and 76 RBIs. It’s hard to argue that Piazza’s bat didn’t change the culture, and led the Mets to offer him a 7-year contract.

Piazza was certainly not known for his defensive prowess, but he more than made up for those deficiencies with his bat. He hit 78 HRs and 237 RBIs with a line of .313/.379/.594 in years where the Mets made the postseason.
While replacement Todd Pratt provided the dramatics for Game 4 in the 1999 NLDS, an injured Piazza’s whopping .167 BA probably didn’t help the team matters in the rest of the series. I wonder how far the team could have gone had he been healthy in 1999.

Tough to argue that the team wouldn’t have gone as far as they did without Piazza’s bat in 2000, as his bat was on fire in the NLCS, (.412 BA, with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs) but he did come back down to earth during the World Series (.273 BA also with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs). While Piazza provided the last breath long fly ball out in the 2000 World Series, the team’s overall line was pretty atrocious during that series: .229/.284/.343. In fact, Piazza was the one of the few glimmers.

Mike Piazza is as close to a first ballot Hall of Famer as there is (depending on how the baseball writers view him, though), but his time with the Mets was very special as there were points his bat proved to be the difference maker in the team being just a Wild Card “okay” team to a full-blown playoff “why not us?” team.

In the Mets championship years and World Series runs, the catchers provided some sort of “it factor” for success. Whether it was helping groom a young pitching staff, provide much needed offensive support in the lineup and back up on the field, or simply carrying the offense on their backs, Jerry Grote, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza could very well have been the change agents on those teams.

Neon Catcher 293x300

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Mets Shorts: Kiner’s Korner, Casey at the Bat, Speed Swag http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/mets-shorts-kiners-korner-casey-at-the-bat-speed-swag.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/mets-shorts-kiners-korner-casey-at-the-bat-speed-swag.html/#comments Wed, 12 Feb 2014 05:58:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=147851 kiner 300

Adam Rubin spoke to a Mets official who definitely left the impression the team will do something special to honor Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, who contributed to Mets telecasts all the way until his death at age 91 last week.

The source didn’t reveal any details as to if the Mets would wear a uniform patch as they did to remember Gary Carter. But the sentiment among fans is to name a nook by the foul pole at Citi Field “Kiner’s Korner,” writes Rubin. At MMO we’ve been calling for that while Ralph was still with us.

casey stern

Casey Stern is the leading candidate to host WOR’s pregame and postgame show, according to multiple sources. Stern would replace Ed Coleman who is remaining with WFAN.

Stern, who hosts “Inside Pitch” on MLB Network Radio and has a baseball show on Sirius, will join Howie Rose and Josh Lewin as the Mets broadcast team for WOR.

Let’s call the pregame show Casey at the Bat.

eric young

Eric Young Jr. arrived for his first day at the Mets’ complex this spring wearing a new workout shirt, writes Kristie Ackert of the Daily News. In appropriate blue and orange, it had “Speed Swag” emblazoned across his chest.

Young spoke to reporters and in a short statement made clear that he doesn’t care where he plays as long as he’s in the lineup everyday and batting leadoff.

“That’s what I have been my whole life,” Young said of being the leadoff hitter. “This level, the major league level, all I can do is just play baseball and let them do their job and fit me in there.”

“Left field, right field, center field, second base, it doesn’t matter to me,” he said, “just as long as I am in the lineup.”

Young didn’t mention if he was in the best shape of his life so we’ll assume that’s a given.

Have a great day, Met fans!

Presented By Diehards

 

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What Would The 1986 Mets Be Making In Today’s Dollars? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/what-would-the-1986-mets-be-making-in-todays-dollars.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/what-would-the-1986-mets-be-making-in-todays-dollars.html/#comments Sun, 19 Jan 2014 15:00:58 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=140186 1986 ojeda fernandez gooden darling

Baseball-Reference.com has a pretty cool feature where you can translate a player’s salary for any particular year into current year dollars.

I was curious, so I wanted to see how much the 1986 Mets would be paid in 2013 dollars. This just goes to show how much money has flowed into the game since then… not only at the top end of the spectrum, but at the current MLB minimum as well. Nearly half the roster was making the equivalent of less than the current MLB minimum.

Dillon Gee would be paid more than every player, but George Foster, Gary Carter, and Keith Hernandez. And Lucas Duda is practically asking for Darryl Strawberry money…

George Foster – $5.96M

Gary Carter – $4.6M

Keith Hernandez – $3.51M

Dwight Gooden – $2.81M

Darryl Strawberry – $2.01M

Jesse Orosco – $1.76M

Mookie Wilson – $1.49M

Ray Knight – $1.37M

Lee Mazzilli – $1.3M

Bob Ojeda – $1.17M

Ron Darling – $937K

Danny Heep – $745K

Wally Backman – $692K

Doug Sisk – $586K

Rafael Santana – $500K

Howard Johnson – $484K

Tim Teufel – $426K

Sid Fernandez – $426K

Roger McDowell – $394K

Rick Aguilera – $277K

Lenny Dykstra – $197K

Randy Niemann – $177K

Kevin Mitchell – $128K

Ed Hearn – $128K

Kevin Elster – $128K

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Mets Historic Second Round Picks http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/mets-historic-second-round-picks.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/mets-historic-second-round-picks.html/#comments Sun, 05 Jan 2014 18:05:55 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=136960 While 66% of First Round picks in the June draft chosen by the Mets reached the majors, only 44% of Second Round picks made it to the show (22 of 50 – 2 picks did not sign and made it to the majors after signing elsewhere). Of the 13 picks the Mets have made since 2000 – only one, Kevin Mulvey, has seen time in the Majors.

Kevin Mulvey – Kevin was the 62nd overall pick in the 2006 draft and was one of the players the Mets sent to the Twins as part of the Johan Santana trade prior to the 2008 season. Kevin has appeared in only 10 MLB games in 2009-10 with the Twins and Diamondbacks and has a career record of 0-3 with a 7.90 ERA in 27 1/3 innings.

The most recent Second Round pick with any moderate amount of success at the MLB level was Tyler Walker, who was chosen 58th overall in the 1997 draft. Tyler made 5 appearances in 2002, including a September 7th start against the Phillies for his first MLB win. He played in parts of 8 seasons in the bigs (2002, 2004-2010) with the Mets (2002), Giants, Devil Rays, Phillies, and Nationals. He appeared in 286 games with a career record of 23-18 and an ERA of 4.23 and 34 saves in 299 2/3 innings.

So what other Second Round picks had some level of Major League success?

Matt LeCroy – Matt was a supplemental pick in 1994 for the loss of free agent Charlie O’Brien. He did not sign with the Mets and went on to be signed in the first round of the Minnesota Twins in 1997, appearing in 476 games with the Twins and Nationals over 8 seasons (2000-2007).

Bill Pulsipher – Bill was one of the famed “Generation K” that never lived up to his promise. He was drafted in 1991 and made it to the Show in 1995 with the Mets before injuring his elbow and missed 1996 and 1997. Over 6 major league seasons (1995, 1998-2001, 2005) with the Mets (1995, 1998, 2000), Brewers, Red Sox, White Sox, and Cardinals, he appeared in 106 games (46 starts) with a career record of 13-19 and an ERA of 5.15 in 327 MLB innings.

Aaron Ledesma – Aaron was picked in the 1990 draft and played 5 seasons in the Majors (1995, 1997-2000) with the Mets (1995), Orioles, Devil Rays, and Rockies. He appeared in 284 games, batting .296 with 2 HR and 76 RBI.

todd hundley mets

Todd Hundley – We have to go all the way back to the 1987 draft before we have a Second Round draft pick that has had an impact. He was a compensation pick from the Orioles for the loss of Ray Knight. Todd had a 14 year MLB career (1990-2003) with the Mets (1990-98), Cubs, and Dodgers. He played in 1,225 games and hit .234 with 202 HR, 599 RBI, and 883 career hits. Todd was a two time All-Star with the Mets (1996, 1997) and is tied with Carlos Beltran for the Mets single season Home Run record (41 – 1996). He is among the Mets franchise leaders in the following categories: games played (18th – 829), runs (18th – 340), hits (25th – 612), doubles (19th – 118), home runs (7th – 124), and RBI (13th – 397).

Pete Schourek – Pete was also taken in the 1987 draft and went onto an 11 year MLB career (1991-2001) with the Mets (1991-93), Reds, Astros, Red Sox, and Pirates. He appeared in 288 games (176 starts) and had a record of 66-77 with an ERA of 4.59 and 2 saves in 1,149 innings.

Scott Servais – Scott was chosen by the Mets in the 1985 draft, but did not sign. He was later chosen in the 3rd round of the 1988 draft by the Houston Astros and went onto an 11 year MLB career (1991-2001) and appeared in 820 games with the Astros, Cubs, Giants and Rockies.

Dave Magadan – Dave was taken in the 1983 draft and went onto a 16 year MLB career (1986-2001) with the Mets, Marlins, Mariners, Astros, Cubs, A’s, and Padres. He played in 1,582 games and hit .288 with 42 HR, 495 RBI and 1,197 hits. Dave has the 5th highest career batting average in Mets franchise history (.292) and the 2nd highest OBP (.391).

Floyd Youmans – Floyd was taken in the 1982 draft and was one of the players sent to the Montreal Expos as part of the December 10, 1984 trade that brought Gary Carter to the Mets. He had a 5 year MLB career (1985-89) with the Expos where he went 30-34 with a 3.79 ERA in 94 games (90 starts) and 539 hits.

Jay Tibbs – Jay was selected in the 1980 draft and was part of the 1984 trade that brought Bruce Berenyi to the Mets. In 7 MLB seasons (1984-90) with the Reds, Expos, Orioles, and Pirates. He appeared in 158 games (133 starts) and had a record of 39-54 with a 4.20 ERA in 862 2/3 innings.

Mookie Wilson was chosen in the 1977 draft. The Mets Hall of Famer played 12 MLB seasons (1980-91) with the Mets (1980-89) and Blue Jays, appearing in 1,403 games, batting .274 with 1,397 hits, 227 doubles, 71 triples, 67 HR, 438 RBI, and 327 stolen bases. Mookie is among the Mets all time leaders in games (7th – 1,116), runs (6th – 592), hits (6th – 1,112), doubles (10th – 170), triples (2nd – 62), RBI (19th – 342), stolen bases (2nd – 281), and batting average (21st – ..276).

Mike Scott – Mike was selected in the 1976 draft and played 13 seasons in the majors (1979-91) with the Mets (1979-82) and Astros. He was the 1986 NL Cy Young Award winner when he went 18-10 with a 2.22 ERA while leading the league in shutouts (5), innings pitched (275 1/3) strikeouts (306) and WHIP (0.92). He was a three time All-Star with the Astros (1986, 1987, 1989) and pitched 200+ innings 6 straight years (1985-90). He appeared in 347 games (319 starts) with a career record of 124-108 and an ERA of 3.54 and 3 saves in 2,068 2/3 innings with 1,469 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.20.

Presented By Diehards

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The Long And The Short On Carlos Beltran http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/the-long-and-the-short-on-carlos-beltran.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/the-long-and-the-short-on-carlos-beltran.html/#comments Wed, 01 Jan 2014 22:33:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=136202 endy_chavez_catch

The Baseball Gods smiled down on Flushing all season. It seemed more than just a coincidence that as the Mets paid homage to the ‘86 Championship, 20 years later we were destined to again make the dream come true. The ’06 Mets played with confidence and swagger. David Wright was a clean-cut leader, an athlete your kids could look up to, a la Gary Carter. Speedy and much-loved Jose Reyes batted lead-off as did speedy and much loved Mookie Wilson. Paul Lo Duca had  a fiery intensity that conjured up images of Ray Knight. Yes, 2006, just like 1986, was a mere formality.

Shockingly, as the 86 club had found itself struggling against an inferior Houston team, the ’06 Mets were also fighting for survival against the pesky St. Louis Cardinals. When Endy Chavez robbed Scott Rolen of a HR to keep the score tied at 1-1, it was clear this one iconic image would live forever in Mets folklore: Tommie Agee in 69, Jesse Orosco on his knees in 86, Endy against the wall in 06. It would be the one play that would shift momentum back in our favor and carry us to Detroit in the World Series. Endy’s catch, however, was nothing more than premature celebration.

One hour later, Shea was deathly quiet. Fans stared in shock as the unimaginable happened. Carlos Beltran –post-season legend, our highest paid player, the guy you’d want at-bat with the game on the line — was paralyzed by a knee-buckling curveball. The bat never left his shoulder. As I watched the Cardinals rejoice I stared in disbelief. Seeing is believing—but not in this case. At that moment, I wanted to leap through my TV and choke the daylights out of Beltran.

20061020beltran

We were confident there’d be other chances, other post-seasons, other opportunities. But seven years later and the Mets have failed to come as close as they had that October night.

With the exception of perhaps only Gregg Jefferies no other player brings out more passionate opinions.

Beltran is back in NY. But he’ll be wearing pinstripes this time. During his press conference, when asked about the Mets, Beltran voiced his own strong opinion:  ”I can deal with 0-for-4s and three strikeouts and talking to you guys. I can deal with that,” Beltran said. “When somebody is trying to hurt you in a personal way, trying to put things out there that are not me, we have trouble.”

“You cannot believe the organization that signed you for seven years is trying to put you down. In that aspect, I felt hurt. I’m a player but they don’t only hurt me, they hurt my family, they hurt people around me. It wasn’t right, put it that way.”

Cue the Beltran bashing.

Here on MMO as well social media, Mets “fans” have resorted to insulting him, blaming him and using language that’s not family friendly. Yes, Carlos Beltran was our highest paid star. And yes, he was brought here to bring us a championship. However, he is not the first, nor will he be the last, to earn big bucks and not win it all. Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Ken Griffey Jr, Ralph Kiner, Rod Carew, Willie McCovey, Tony Gwynn, Harmon Killebrew, Nap Lajoie, Craig Biggio and Don Sutton all earned huge amounts of money while hoping to lead their team to a Series victory. Yet, none of them did. However, these men are idolized as heroes. But not Beltran. Even though, in the next 10 years, he will join all of them in Cooperstown.

Ralph-Kiner

During his stint here, Beltran put up impressive numbers, compiling some of the best stats in Mets history. From 05-08, he hit 117 HR’s while plating 418 RBI’s and maintaining a respectable .275 BA. Only Keith Hernandez has won more Gold Gloves as a Met. His 41 round-trippers tied him with Todd Hundley for most in a season. His 127 runs scored is a team record. He declared one spring “The Mets are the team to beat.” And although his prediction did not pan out, wouldn’t it be nice to again hear that kind of confidence? From 05-08, Beltran’s most productive seasons, the Mets averaged 89 wins. In 2009, when he missed half the season due to injuries, the Mets won just 70. Coincidence?

True, it was Beltran’s stationary AB in Game 7 that closed the curtain on 2006. However, without his 41 HRs, 116 RBI’s, 38 doubles and 18 steals in 21 attempts, we don’t even get to Game 7, much less the post-season.

In the 2006 LCS, Beltran hit .296 with 3 HR’s and 4 RBI’s. By comparison, David Wright batted .160 with a .276 OBP and 2 RBI’s.

However, it’s Beltran that’s caught the ire of fans, He’s the whipping boy, the poster child of failure simply because he didn’t connect on a pitch that Stan Musial couldn’t have hit, a pitch thrown by a guy who would go on to be one of the top pitchers in the NL. But because he had the misfortune of being #3 in our batting order, he sucks!

By that logic, he’s in good company. Here are some others players who “suck.”

Has anyone ever sucked more than Mike Piazza? He made the final out not in the LCS, but in the WORLD SERIES!!! And to the Yankees??? He really sucks, doesn’t he? Let’s not forget the guy with the mustache. Yes, that guy. Keith Hernandez hit a paltry 231 in the ’86 series and after making the second out in the bottom of the 10th in Game 6, he promptly walked into the clubhouse, removed his jersey and was gulping a beer as teammate Gary Carter walked to the plate. I guess Keith couldn’t wait to do some crossword puzzles, right? And would any discussion about Mets who suck be complete without including Doc Gooden? Gooden lost 2 of the 3 games to Boston, posting an ERA of 8.00 and allowing 17 hits in 9IP. That’s an ace? He REALLY must suck.

Baseball history is filled with players who suck. Beltran is just the latest one.

In 1952, the Dodgers lost to, who else, the Yankees, in 7 games. Gil Hodges went an unheard of 0-21. One measly hit, one little Texas leaguer anytime during the course of a week and Dem Bums defeat the hated Yankees. Boy, that Hodges guy sucks.

But sucking goes back further. In the 9th inning of game 7 of the 1926 World Series, with his team losing 3-2, Babe Ruth was thrown out trying to steal 2b. It’s the only time a Fall Classic ended that way. And Ruth’s caught stealing took the bat out of the hands of Lou Gehrig! Wow, no wonder he’s known as The Sultan of Suck.

babe-20ruth_jpg

Piazza, Hodges, Hernandez, Ruth, Beltran. I’d say that’s pretty good company.

Carlos Beltran now joins many former Mets who spent their later career in the Bronx. Gooden, Strawberry and David Cone all played for the Yankees after establishing themselves in Flushing. Gooden, Strawberry and Cone all went on to get a ring while playing in the Bronx.

It’s obvious Carlos felt disrespected by the Mets front office. Join the group, Carlos. We’re fans and get disrespected by that same front office.

He was vilified for skipping a visit to Walter Reed Medical Center due to a scheduling conflict, even though he’d already agreed to appear at a charity event in his native Puerto Rico. Despite the fact Reyes and Wright also were no-shows, it was Beltran who caught the brunt of ownership’s wrath.

Can anyone blame Carlos for feeling unappreciated by management? In 2011, Mets owner Fred Wilpon called his own team “shi**y.” About Jose Reyes, Wilpon said, “(Reyes) ain’t worth Carl Crawford money because he’s always injured.” He called David Wright, “a nice guy and very good but not a superstar.”

And in regards to signing Beltran for 7 years/$119 Wilpon called himself “a schmuck” for doing it.

A schmuck. Finally! For the first time in years, I find myself agreeing with Fred Wilpon on something.

fred_wilpon

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Prospect Spotlight: Kevin Plawecki Has Everyone’s Attention Now http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/prospect-spotlight-kevin-plawecki-has-everyones-attention-now.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/prospect-spotlight-kevin-plawecki-has-everyones-attention-now.html/#comments Mon, 30 Dec 2013 14:34:27 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=137624 plawecki

Last week, FanGraphs had a small blurb about Mets catching prospect Kevin Plawecki in a post about underrated minor leaguers.

“Mets’ 2012 supplemental first rounder Kevin Plawecki has shown that his tremendous hand-eye coordination carried from Purdue to the pro ranks. He only hit eight balls over the fence this year, but eventually some of his doubles—he ranked second among all minor league catchers this year with 38—will turn into home runs.”

I’m loving this… Finally, the 23-year old Kevin Plawecki has got everyone’s attention, but it sure took them a long time to come around on him.

Back in March of last year, before his coming-out season, one of our Minor League analysts, Mitch Petanick was already zeroing in on the former Boilermaker, writing:

His swing is actually very compact, and he gets his hands through the hitting zone very quickly when he keeps them close to his body. He has a very level swing, which will lead to a ton of line drives, but it does not generate a ton of backspin on the ball when contact is made, which is why he won’t be a big home run threat. However, he does have solid gap-to-gap power.

Last month, Mitch also highlighted Plawecki after he was selected as the Mets’ No. 5 ranked prospect by Baseball America.

There is no doubt that Plawecki is a top ten prospect, aside from that, it doesn’t really matter where these guys rank. If you’re in the top 10 it means you should be on your way to Citi Field, if you are top five, it means you should have a starting job someday.

In B.A.’s best tools section, they had Plawecki ranked as their best hitter for average. And while Brandon Nimmo was awarded with best strike-zone discipline, Plawecki definitely exercises the best strike-zone judgment.

Kevin Plawecki struck out a mere 77 times in his professional career while Nimmo struck out 131 times alone in in 2013. While Nimmo had 71 walks (ridiculous), Plawecki had about 30 more hits than Nimmo. Plate discipline is about patience, but it also comes with a higher propensity of striking out, as Nimmo displayed. Plawecki also only struck out 29 times in three seasons at Purdue. That’s serious strike-zone judgment.

Plawecki surprising some people as the No. 5 prospect is more a result of the fact that he received little love for his efforts last year from Baseball America. It was like people would swipe his accomplishments under the rug because he was considered “old” for A-Ball. I don’t think he was named to the B.A. Prospect Hot Sheet at all in 2013, and their excuse during the Q&A session always referred to his age.

The Mets, on the other hand, realize what an outstanding ball player they have on their hand, as Plawecki was named Co-Player of the Year in the Mets organization.

The Mets have had an awful record when it came to drafting and developing a solid major league catcher. There have been too few of them in 52 years, and our best ones; Mike Piazza, Gary Carter and Jerry Grote, came via trades. Now we seem to have an abundance of very skilled backstops speckled throughout the system.

I was pleased to see FanGraphs reference Plawecki’s doubles and how they could eventually translate into more home runs.

Staying with the subject of home runs, it reminded me of our interview with the young catcher after he hit a game tying ninth inning homer and then scored the winning run in the eleventh inning. When we asked him about that home run, here is what he said:

“I was just looking for something to drive. Obviously we needed to get a rally going cause we were running out of time. At the plate, I was fortunate enough to run into one good enough to leave the park for me, but by no means was I trying to hit a home run.”

I thought it was very telling how he wanted us to know that he was only trying to get good wood on the ball and looking for something in the strikezone, and that he was not swinging for the fences. Plawecki is mature beyond his years.

I have no doubt that the Mets will stop bringing him along so slowly and that we’ll see him at Triple-A Las Vegas this season, sooner rather than later.

Travis d’Arnaud will get his chance to shine in 2014, and I choose to ignore his poor offensive showing after he was called up and became the Mets everyday catcher. You have to figure that rust and trying to get his timing back played big roles in his sluggish performance. That won’t be the case anymore come Spring Training.

But if Plawecki continues to pulverize the ball at a higher level like I know he will, the Mets will suddenly have two very solid catching options and be in a position to use one to upgrade at another position. So I’m not worried about a potential quarterback controversy for our starting catcher down the road. You can never have too many options. It’s a nice feeling to know we have Plawecki coming fast and hard.

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Thanks to Sandy Alderson I Now Have Respect For the Yankee Way http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/thanks-to-sandy-alderson-i-now-have-respect-for-the-yankee-way.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/12/thanks-to-sandy-alderson-i-now-have-respect-for-the-yankee-way.html/#comments Sat, 21 Dec 2013 14:53:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=136003 Rusty-Staub

When my dad taught me about something called Baseball in 1973 and introduced me to a team called the Mets, it was life-altering for this 7-year old. I’d learn to write cursive, get out of second grade, and eventually, when I grew a little taller, I’d replace Rusty Staub in RF. My whole life was planned out.

As I fell in love with the Mets, I developed an unbridled hatred for the Yankees. When visiting one of my grandmothers in the Bronx, we had to drive right past their stadium. In the back seat of my parents’ Plymouth, I shielded my eyes. I wouldn’t even give them the courtesy of acknowledging their existence.

The Yankees were colorless, uninteresting. They were even more icky than girls! Roy White, Chris Chambliss, Elliot Maddox, Graig Nettles. BORING! (And who the hell spells their name G-R-A-I-G anyway?) The Mets had friendly names: Tug, Rusty, Buddy, Kooz, Felix the Cat.

gal-70smets-19-jpg - Copy

By the 80’s the Yankees were irrelevant. New York was a Mets town and like I’d done as a little kid, I didn’t even bother acknowledging their existence. They were unimportant.

By the mid ‘90s, I was older and realized ‘hate’ is a strong word. It wasn’t really their players I ‘hated.’ It was their fans sense of entitlement, the way they acted as if they deserved to play into late October and the way George Steinbrenner attempted to buy a pennant year after year. While I was no fan of Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill or Scott Brosius, how can you not love Derek Jeter? Who amongst us won’t miss Mariano Rivera?

I’ll continue to root against the Yankees, something that’s entrenched in me since childhood. However, I no longer hate their players. Nor do I detest the management style in which their front office operates.

After seeing the Wilpon’s and Sandy Alderson in action, they’ve done the impossible: They’ve made me gain respect–yes, respect–for the Yankees.

Is it wrong to try and buy a pennant? Yes…I guess…maybe. On the other hand, why not? Baseball is a sport and the purpose is to win, to reward your fans with a championship. If it takes outspending other teams, then so be it.

Late October every year, the same scene plays out. Commissioner Bud Selig presents the World Series trophy to the manager, GM and owner of the World Championship club. I don’t ever recall a celebration where the commissioner presents a trophy of any sort to a team with financial endurance, the team that accomplished the most with the least. The reason is simple: That doesn’t matter.

Question: Which 2 years did our Mets win the World Series?. Now, a follow-up: What was our payroll those 2 seasons? Yea, I have no idea either.

When I think back to 1986, I recall Mookie hitting a slow roller along the bag. I remember Jesse Orosco down on his knees smiling broadly. I can still see Ray Knight knocking Eric Davis on his ass, Gary Carter making a curtain call after going deep and the majestic beautiful swing of Darryl Strawberry. I don’t have any memory of what our payroll was.

metspulloutplayers-5-web

In the end what matters is winning. Winning at, no pun intended, any cost.

Granted, both NY clubs have spent billions of dollars over the past two decades. And granted, the Yankees have spent far more than us. But ask yourself which fans have had a more enjoyable run since the mid ‘90s? Which team’s fans are optimistic about a championship and which team’s fans are biding their time? While one fanbase spends October cheering their team in the post-season, the other fanbase is counting down until April.

In the last 19 years, the Mets have won zero Championships while the Yankees have captured five. The Mets have made the post-season 3 times in 19 years. The Yankees have made the post-season 17 times in 19 years. It’s evident one organization wants to win and one wants to…well, I’m not really sure.

Baseball is a game, But it’s also a business. This is accepted in The Bronx but not in Flushing. There’s an old business adage that says, “If you want to make money, you must spend money.” The Steinbrenner’s realize this. The Wilpon’s don’t. It’s a very simple concept. The Yankees spend money to improve their product. Fans support the product by going to games and buying merchandise. This, in turn, puts more money in the owner’s pockets so they can turn around and further improve their product. The Yankees acknowledge that to keep their customers coming back for more, they must offer a good product. In Flushing, the Wilpon’s continue to ask us to support a sub-par product. It’s apparently okay for them not to spend their money—as long as we spend ours.

A couple weeks ago, the Yankees allowed their most productive hitter, Robinson Cano, to walk. Literally, within hours, realizing the need to keep their product relevant, the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury. Talk about a ballsy move. And if that wasn’t enough, added Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, too.

beltrana122013

Many Mets fans blame our woes and financial struggles on Bernie Madoff and the frugal Wilpon’s. While the Steinbrenner/Cashman team is determined to run a profitable and successful business, provide their customers with a solid product, the Wilpon/Alderson team runs their business about as efficiently as Countrywide Mortgage.

When Alderson took over the GM role, he asked for patience. He had a plan. He had no money, but he did have a plan. He would rebuild this team from the ground up. We’d need to develop the rookies, restock the farm system. Sandy’s plan would make the Mets relevant again.

The Mets have no money. The Mets have no money. The Mets have no money. But suddenly, the Wilpons found $138 million for David Wright. Hmm…that’s convenient.

Alderson has insisted that he is looking long term, looking at the big picture and wanting to keep the Mets significant for many years, not just one or two. That’s thought-provoking considering this winter’s transactions.

I applaud the moves our GM made. The 2014 Mets appear to be slightly better (on paper anyway) than the 2013 Mets. But the transactions of this winter completely contradict what Alderson’s been selling us.

For an organization that is focused on the future, that is determined to be relevant for the long haul, the Mets handed over $60 million for a 33-year old outfielder and $20 million for a 270 pound 41-year old pitcher. For a team that is crying poverty and focusing on “the future,” how does management justify handing over $80 million for 6 years to 2 players whose average age is 37? That doesn’t sound like a long-term goal.bartolo-copy

The future? Two years from now, Colon will be gone and Granderson will be patrolling Citi Field’s cavernous outfield on 35 year-old legs—probably looking to return to the AL so he can DH.

The ineptness and incompetence of this front office is mind-boggling. They tell us one thing, then do something else. Their actions contradict their words. They cry poverty and talk about the future, then hand over $80 million for 2 players past their prime. They allow Jose Reyes, citing they have no money, only to then find the money when it comes to keeping David Wright 10 months later. This front office is inconsistent. This is a business that has no direction, no goal. And no plan. Is this any way to run a baseball team? To run a business? Is this the way you attract customers?

The acquisition of Beltran, McCann and Ellsbury may not turn the Yankees into champions. But it might. Meanwhile, Mets fans would be ecstatic to get back to 500.

After seeing the Wilpon/Alderson team operate for years now, I’ve gained respect for the Yankees approach—their approach to winning, to staying competitive, to keeping their customers happy by providing a good product.

I’m no longer a little kid hiding my eyes in the backseat of my dad’s Plymouth. I no longer hate Yankee players or loathe Yankee management. If anything, I long for my team to take that same approach to winning. I’ve realized, too, that girls are no longer icky…but the Mets front office sure is.

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This Day In Mets Infamy With Rusty: Five More Promotional Days I Want To See http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/this-day-in-mets-infamy-with-rusty-five-more-promotional-days-i-want-to-see.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/11/this-day-in-mets-infamy-with-rusty-five-more-promotional-days-i-want-to-see.html/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 14:48:41 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=132933 Auguste clown

Earlier in the day yesterday  among all the speculation and the harsh reality that ensued after a few cryptic quotes from Mets C.O.O, Jeff Wilpon, the Mets revealed that no they were not about to announce a trade nor did they announce the signing of a power bat. But what they did unveil were the promotional dates for next season which included post game concerts by ’80′s pop rock stalwarts Huey Lewis and the News along with the platinum selling R&B act from the ’90′s, Boyz II Men in addition to mainstay promos such as the ever popular Fireworks Night and a new twist on T-Shirt Tuesdays now called Free-Shirt Fridays.

These promotions are all well and good , but there should be five additional promotional dates for us fans to sink our teeth into – especially if there aren’t any sweeping changes made to the teams roster this off season.

Here are some promotional dates that I would love to see – although I clearly understand that the powers that be will likely never give the green light on any of them…

Lee Mazzilli Black Velvet Portrait Day: Hey, if this franchise is destined to be mired in a mid-to-late ’70′s like funk, why not embrace it by offering up the quintessential seventies art décor. (black light not included)

Mike Cubbage Appreciation Day: Why not embrace the much maligned third base coach and interim manager from the early to mid ’90′s team?

Schizophrenia Awareness Night: Free tickets for all your multiple personalities with the purchase of one regularly priced ticket for yourself.

Obscure Met Day: A day to honor the men who donned the orange and blue Mets caps – even if we vaguely remember them . Some notable players to be hailed include Chico Walker, Doc Medich and Kelvin Torve.

And lastly ……..

Mo Vaughn Lookalike Day: It doesn’t matter if you look like the rotund first baseman, everyone still gets a free Mo Vaughn diet book “A Fridge To Far” with admission anyway.

And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!!

Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today include:

Mr “Fear Strikes Out” himself, outfielder, Jimmy Piersall  is 85 (1929). Jimmy will always be remembered for running the bases backwards after hitting his 100th career homerun as a Met which prompted his quick release at the behest of then manager Casey Stengel.

Spot starter and middle reliever from ’64-’66, Darrell Sutherland  is 72 (1941).

Middle reliever from the ’05 season, Tim Hamulack is 37 (1976).

Outfielder/first baseman from the ’06 season, Xavier Nady  is 35 (1978).

Other Met notables include:

Sadly, on this date in 2004, reserve catcher from ’63-’65, Jesse Gonder passed away.

The New York Mets released catcher, Gary Carter on November 14, 1989. This truly marked the end of the glory days that were the winning Mets teams of the ’80′s.

The Atlanta Braves signed utility infielder, Jorge Velandia of the New York Mets as a free agent on November 14, 2003.

The only thing scarier than Mo Vaughn at an “All You Can Eat Buffet” is Jeff Wilpon speaking to the Media!!!

Jeff Wilpon

“We have 4-5 balls in the air right now, something’s cooking.”

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Do You Believe In Miracles? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/do-you-believe-in-miracles.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/do-you-believe-in-miracles.html/#comments Fri, 25 Oct 2013 12:09:06 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131742 Here’s another great article originally written and posted back on October 25, 2009 by the always entertaining Ed Leyro. Ed has a great storytelling style and this particular MMO Flashback will appeal to most any Mets fan on the 27th anniversary of one of the greatest moments in franchise history. 

Every generation has its defining moment.  People who grew up in the 1960s know exactly where they were when President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated.  In the 1980s, every American knows where they were when the Space Shuttle exploded.  It’s no different for Mets fans.

People who grew up rooting for the Mets remember every detail of the 1969 Miracle Mets’ run to the World Series.  Fans of my generation well up with happy tears when you mention two words to them:  Game 6.  How can anyone forget the night of October 25, 1986?

The Mets were facing elimination entering Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  They fought back to tie the Series at Fenway Park after dropping the first two games of the Series at Shea Stadium.  Then Bruce Hurst shut them down in Game 5 to send the series back to New York with the Mets down three games to two.

It was up to Bob Ojeda to save the Mets’ season.  He was opposed by Roger Clemens, who was later given the 1986 AL Cy Young Award.  Ojeda was also called upon for Game 6 of that year’s NLCS against the Astros, a game in which the Mets defeated Houston in 16 innings to claim the National League pennant.  In that game, Ojeda struggled early, giving up three runs in the first inning before settling down.  Game 6 of the 1986 World Series was no different for Ojeda.  He gave up single runs to the Red Sox in each of the first two innings, but then settled down.

When Ojeda was replaced by Roger McDowell to start the seventh inning, the Mets had come back against Roger Clemens to tie the score at 2.  Although the drama that unfolded in the tenth inning is what Game 6 is most known for, a number of interesting events occurred in the seventh inning that are often forgotten.

With one out and Marty Barrett on first base for the Red Sox, Jim Rice hit a ground ball near the third base line that barely stayed fair.  Ray Knight fielded it and threw wildly to first base, with the ball popping in and out of the glove of a leaping Keith Hernandez.  That brought up Dwight Evans with runners on the corners.  Evans hit a ground ball for the second out of the inning, but Barrett scored the go-ahead run and Rice was able to advance to second base.  That was when Mookie Wilson became a hero for the first time that night.

Roger McDowell was able to get ahead of Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman by throwing strikes on the first two pitches, but Gedman then grounded the 0-2 pitch from McDowell between short and third for a base hit that appeared to give the Red Sox an insurance run.  However, Mookie Wilson charged the ball and fired a strike to Gary Carter at home plate to cut down a sliding Jim Rice for the third out of the inning.

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The defensive efforts of Wilson and Carter helped keep the Red Sox lead at one, a lead that would be erased when the Mets came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Roger Clemens had been pinch hit for in the top of the eighth inning, so the Red Sox brought in former Met Calvin Schiraldi to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning.  Schiraldi had been brilliant in relief for the Red Sox during the regular season, compiling a 4-2 record and a sparking 1.41 ERA.  However, all that changed once Lee Mazzilli led off the inning with a base hit.  Lenny Dykstra followed with a sacrifice bunt, but he reached first base safely when Schiraldi threw wildly to second base in a failed attempt to nail Lee Mazzilli.  Now the Mets had two men on with nobody out for Wally Backman, who laid down a bunt of his own.  His successful sacrifice moved Mazzilli and Dykstra into scoring position for Keith Hernandez, who was intentionally walked to load the bases.  That brought up Gary Carter.  On a 3-0 pitch, Carter had the green light and lined a sacrifice fly to left field.  The fly ball allowed Lee Mazzilli to score the tying run.  When neither team scored in the ninth inning, the stage was set for the most dramatic inning in Mets history.

The inning started with a bang, but not the one wanted by Mets fans.  Dave Henderson led off the inning with a laser beam down the left field line that just stayed fair as it cleared the wall.  The home run off Rick Aguilera silenced the Shea Stadium crowd of 55,078 and gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.  They weren’t done yet.  Aguilera came back to strike out the next two batters but then proceeded to give up a double to Wade Boggs and a run-scoring single to Marty Barrett.  The latter hit gave the Sox an insurance run as the lead was now 5-3.  The next batter was hit by a pitch.  Who was the victim of Aguilera’s wayward offering?  None other than Bill Buckner (more on him later).  Now there were two men on base for Jim Rice.  Rice could have redeemed himself for being thrown out at home in the seventh inning with a hit in the tenth.  However, Rice failed to add to the Red Sox lead when he flied out to Lee Mazzilli in right.  His failure to come through in two crucial spots set up the events in the bottom of the tenth inning for the Mets.

gary carter 1986 ws hit

Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez were due to lead off in the bottom of the tenth inning.  However, two fly balls later and the Mets were down to their final out with no one on base.  The dream was one out away from becoming a nightmare.  108 regular season wins and a thrilling NLCS against the Astros would mean nothing if the Mets couldn’t start a rally against Calvin Schiraldi and the Red Sox.  The Shea Stadium scoreboard was flashing “Congratulations Red Sox: 1986 World Champions” and NBC had already awarded its player of the game to Marty Barrett.  Then Gary Carter stepped up to the plate and something special began to happen.

On a 2-1 pitch from Schiraldi, Carter singled to left.  Then Kevin Mitchell, pinch-hitting for Rick Aguilera lined a hit to center on an 0-1 curveball.  The tying runs were now on base for Ray Knight.  If you recall, Knight had made an error in the seventh inning that led to a run for the Red Sox.  Perhaps this game would never have gone into extra innings had Knight not committed his error.  Knight didn’t care.  All he cared about was getting a hit to continue the inning.  Unfortunately for him, Schiraldi threw his first two pitches for strikes.  The Mets were down to their final strike, but Ray Knight had something to say about that.

On a pitch that was headed for the inside corner of the strike zone, Knight fisted it over Marty Barrett’s head into short center for another base hit.  Carter scored from second base and Mitchell went from first to third on the hit.  The tying run was 90 feet away and the winning run was at first base.  Red Sox manager John McNamara had made up his mind.  He was going to Bob Stanley to try to win the World Series.  Stanley would face one batter, Mookie Wilson, with everything on the line.

Stanley would throw six pitches to Mookie Wilson to get the count to 2-2.  Hoping for strike three with his seventh pitch, Stanley let go of the pitch and at the same time, let go of the lead.  The pitch was way inside, causing Mookie to throw himself up in the air to avoid getting hit.  Fortunately, the ball didn’t hit Mookie or Rich Gedman’s glove (or home plate umpire Dale Ford for that matter).  The ball went all the way to the backstop and Kevin Mitchell was able to scamper home with the tying run.  The wild pitch also allowed Ray Knight to move into scoring position with the potential winning run.  All Mookie needed to do now was get a base hit to drive him in, or perhaps he could so something else to bring him home.

During the regular season, John McNamara had always removed first baseman Bill Buckner for defensive replacement Dave Stapleton during the late innings.  However, this time Buckner was left in the game despite the fact that he was hobbling around on two gimpy legs and had just been hit by a pitch in the previous inning.  What was McNamara’s reasoning for the decision?  He wanted Buckner to be on the field to celebrate their championship with his teammates.  Instead, Buckner was on the field during a different kind of celebration.

Buckner was at first base as the count went to 3-2 on Mookie Wilson.  A mountain of pressure had been lifted off his shoulders once he went airborne to elude Stanley’s pitch.  A relaxed Mookie came back to the plate to finish what he came up there to do.  After fouling off two more pitches, including a line drive that curved foul down the left field line, Wilson hit a little roller up along first, bringing Mets fans to their feet as Bill Buckner hobbled to the line in an attempt to field it.  I’ll let NBC broadcaster Vin Scully describe what happened.

“Little roller up along first.  Behind the bag!  It gets through Buckner!  Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”

A miracle had happened on the diamond.  Perhaps Mookie’s grounder hit a pebble.  Perhaps Buckner took his eyes off the ball as he watched Mookie sprint down the first base line.  Perhaps God was a Mets fan.  Regardless of what caused it to happen, Mookie’s grounder found its way under Buckner’s glove and the Mets lived to see another day.

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As a dejected Bill Buckner walked off the field, Shea Stadium was rocking as it never had before.  Mookie Wilson was still running towards second base because he had no idea that Ray Knight had scored the winning run.  Ron Darling, who was scheduled to start the seventh and deciding game of the World Series the following night (even though it was rained out and played two nights later), admitted that he could see dust falling from the roof of the Mets dugout because of the vibrations caused by the fans jumping up and down over it.  Keith Hernandez had left the dugout to go into Davey Johnson’s office after making the second out of the inning, but never moved from the chair he was sitting in, even after the historic rally had begun because as he admitted afterwards, the chair he was sitting in had hits in it.

As the unbelievable events were flashing on the TV screen for those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to have tickets to the game, Vin Scully came back on the air after a long pause to tell the viewers everything they needed to know about what they had just seen unfold at Shea Stadium on that Saturday night.  The Hall-of-Fame broadcaster said:

“If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.  But more than that, you have seen an absolutely bizarre finish to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  The Mets are not only alive, they are well and they will play the Red Sox in Game 7 tomorrow.”

Game 6 didn’t give the Mets the World Championship as many baseball fans mistakenly believe.  There was still one game left to play.  Although it was scheduled for the following night, rain put a hold on Game 7 until the night of Monday, October 27.  Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd, who had been scheduled to start the seventh game for the Red Sox, was scratched from his start to allow Met killer Bruce Hurst to pitch.  But I’ll leave that blog for another night.

ray knight

For now, think of the memories you have of that unbelievable Game 6.  Imagine how different things would have been if Jim Rice had not been thrown out at home plate in the seventh inning, or if Bob Stanley had relieved Calvin Schiraldi before Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell or Ray Knight produced base hits in the tenth inning.  Mets fans who celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Miracle Mets this season might still be talking about that team as their only championship team.

A miracle happened at Shea Stadium 23 years ago today, on October 25, 1986.  It is the single greatest Mets memory I have.  I’m sure for many of you reading this, it’s your favorite Mets memory as well.  Do Mets fans believe in miracles?  If you watched Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the answer is a definite yes.

The rest, as they say, is a matter of history…

1986 mets win

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How Many Members of the Mets Front Office Does It Take to Change A Light Bulb? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/how-many-members-of-the-mets-front-office-does-it-take-to-change-a-light-bulb-2.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/how-many-members-of-the-mets-front-office-does-it-take-to-change-a-light-bulb-2.html/#comments Fri, 25 Oct 2013 03:10:24 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131645 A few weeks ago I did something all Mets fans do nowadays: I sat down to watch other teams play in the post-season. I had my Mets cap on, a can of Coke, some pretzels. And within 5 minutes I heard news that surprised me. The Indians were returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 (as if that was a long time). The Indians? Really??? Cleveland, ‘The Mistake by the Lake,’ was playing October baseball for the second time in seven seasons?

I’m a Mets fan and therefore I don’t follow the AL as closely as I probably should. The last time I think I watched an Indians game, Roberto Alomar was playing second base for them.

No team has ever cake-walked through 162 games or gone an entire season without injuries. What separates good teams from bad teams is the ability to overcome adversity. Good clubs turn it up a notch when a player goes down. Bad teams drop their heads, slouch their shoulders and say ‘Wait ‘till next year.’ Good teams don’t give up the moment darkness appears on the horizon. Bad teams do. Fans of good teams sit on the edge of their seat, sweating every pitch of the post-season. Fans of bad teams relax with a Coke and some pretzels.

Simply put, good teams find a way to get the job done. Bad teams make excuses.

Of the teams in the 2013 post-season not one had an easy road to October. However, they found a way to get there.

Dusty - Baker

CINCINNATI REDS

In 2010, Dusty Baker guided Cincy to the division title. In 2012, he did it again. In 2013, the Reds made it again. This time they lost the wild card game to Pittsburgh. Baker had led his team to the post-season 3 out of 4 years, averaging 89 wins over that span. Yet, in spite of this, management wanted more. Baker was fired immediately after his club was eliminated. Were they right or wrong for letting him go? Maybe, maybe not. The point, however, is that management demanded a pennant and/or a championship. Post-season appearances were not good enough.

Meanwhile, in Flushing, after three consecutive losing seasons, Mets management had no qualms about bringing back Terry Collins for two more years.

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BOSTON RED SOX

The 2012 Boston Red Sox were not a Baseball team, they were a reality show. They took dissension, rebellion and discontent to a whole new level. They finished in last place, going 69-93, 26 games behind the Yankees. In 2013, despite hiring a new manager, the outlook was bleak. One month into the new season, they lost their closer, Joel Hanrahan, to Tommy John surgery. No need to fear, Andrew Bailey is here. Bailey held it for just a month before he too was placed on the DL and the job of slamming the door fell into the lap of some unknown guy named Koji Uehara. They lost their closer and then they lost their back-up closer, but they didn’t give up. Instead, they found a way to win. After going from worst to first in a single season, Boston is now just three wins away from their third championship in 10 years. (Remember those good ol’ days when we made jokes about Bill Buckner? Looks like Boston got the last laugh.)

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ATLANTA BRAVES

In the 90’s Atlanta had perhaps the most formidable trio of starters in baseball history. But nothing lasts forever. Tom Glavine went to New York, Greg Maddux returned to Chicago and John Smoltz found his way to Boston. Yet, the Braves just kept on winning. Bobby Cox, the fourth winningest manager of all time, retired. Future first ballot Hall of Famer Chipper Jones also retired. And what did the Braves do? They kept on winning.

Yasiel-Puig

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

As impossible as it sounds, the Dodgers front office made ours look normal. Theirs was a dysfunctional mess. Lawsuits, divorce, chaos. MLB stepped in when the team filed bankruptcy and forced Frank McCourt to sell his club prior to 2012. As Clayton Kershaw rose to prominence, they added Adrian Gonzalez. And Zack Greinke. And Hanley Ramirez. They dabbled in the International market and found Yasiel Puig. They dethroned the defending World Champion Giants. They turned the entire franchise around in two seasons. (Hello, Sandy Alderson? Two seasons.)

David-Price

TAMPA BAY RAYS

The Rays are not exactly known for packing in the fans. They are, for all intents and purposes, the Montreal Expos of the American League. In 2013, they were without B.J. Upton, losing him to free agency. They traded star pitcher James Shields to KC but then lost their own ace, David Price for 6 weeks, In spite of being without their ace for one fourth of the season along with an apathetic fan base and very little support from the local community, the Rays managed 92 wins in baseball’s toughest division. It was their 4th post-season appearance in 6 years, the same number the Mets have had in 25 years.

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers

DETROIT TIGERS

Some of the all-time greats were Tigers. Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg Charlie Gehringer, Al Kaline and Mickey Cochrane are just some who passed through Motown on their way to Cooperstown. However, at the outset of the 21st century, the club was a laughing stock. In 2003, they put a serious assault on the infamous record held by the 62 Mets for most losses in a season. They lost 119 games. As recent as 2008, they lost 88 times. But they didn’t wallow. In a city that is dying, Detroit gave their fans reason to live. Things turned around quickly. Verlander, Scherzer, Fielder and Cabrera have transformed the Tigers into the premier powerhouse in the American League.

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CLEVELAND INDIANS

Cleveland had no shot to make the post-season in 2013. They had the misfortune of playing in the same division as the Tigers and the White Sox. In 2012, Cleveland struggled to avoid the century mark in losses, finishing with a record of 68-94. Then management took an interesting approach. Are you ready? Are you sitting down? They hired a manager with a track record of success. What a novel concept! In his first season Terry Francona turned the team around. Cleveland improved by 24 wins. Just one season after losing 94 games, they were in the post-season. (Sandy? Hello?)

oakland a's crisp

OAKLAND A’s  

Let’s be honest. The Mets may play in New York but we operate as if we are a small market club—just like Oakland. We play second fiddle to the Yankees — just like Oakland is to the Giants. However, in spite of Oakland’s small market approach and even smaller payroll, they always somehow manage to make it to the post-season — or at least stay competitive. No, these are not the Bash Brothers. Nor are they the A’s of the 70’s with Reggie, Catfish and Fingers. The triad of Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson was tops in the AL. However, they eventually went their separate ways. But yet, Oakland did not falter and did not waver. They found a way to remain competitive with a bunch of nobodies. The A’s have played post-season baseball 7 times in 14 years, their fewest wins over this time was 75–once. By comparison, the ‘big market’ Mets have won fewer than 75 games 6 times over that same period.

Carlos = Beltran

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Before the Phillies and before the Braves, the Mets’ arch enemy was always the Cardinals. When I watch St. Louis, I don’t see Pete Kozma, Matt Holliday or Jon Jay. I see Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, Danny Cox and Jack Clark. I still see The White Rat, Whitey Herzog, in the dugout. So, it pains me to admit the Cardinals are a class organization. They’re the NL version of the Yankees — minus the big salaries, obnoxious fans and sense of entitlement. After 2011, fans were shocked when they let the best hitter in the game at the time, Albert Pujols, walk away. As if that wasn’t enough, Tony LaRussa, the third most successful manager in baseball history–behind only Connie Mack and John McGraw–retired that same winter. He was replaced by Mike Matheny, a man with no managerial experience in the majors. And yet, the Cardinals didn’t skip a beat. They could have felt sorry for themselves, made excuses and waited for the tide to turn. Instead, they just kept on doing the same thing: Finding a way to win and playing deep into October.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

By 2010, it was becoming clear the Mets would not take back NY from the Yankees. The heartbreaking conclusion to 2006 was followed up by a collapse in 2007, another collapse in 2008 and an incredible rash of injuries in 2009. The 2010 Mets finished 18 games back and things were not looking good for the short term future. But hey, at least we weren’t the Pirates, right?

That winter the Mets made a play to land Clint Hurdle as skipper. Hurdle chose to accept the managerial position for the Pirates. In 2010, the Pirates won just 57 games while losing 105. In Hurdle’s first year at the helm, the Bucs were playing 500 at the All-Star Break and although they faltered in the second half, going 72-90 overall, Pirates fans had reason to cheer. In Hurdle’s 2nd year, the Pirates won 79 games and were in a legitimate pennant race until mid-September. In 2013, Hurdle’s third year, his Pirates were in the playoffs. Meanwhile, in three years under Terry Collins, the Mets have won 77, 74 and 74, never finishing closer than 22 games out of first. Pittsburgh can turn things around and go from 105 losses to the post-season in 3 years. But the Mets cant? Hmm, how did the Pirates manage to do such a thing without “A Plan?”

sad mets bench

NEW YORK METS

There was a time when our Mets, like these aforementioned organizations, also found ways to overcome adversity. Players turned it up a notch when needed.

Jerry Grote was never an offensive threat. However, he had the arm of Johnny Bench and the leadership skills of Yadier Molina. In 1973, Grote missed 2 months of the season with a fractured right arm. Yet, the Mets won the pennant. In the LCS against Cincinnati, Rusty Staub separated his shoulder while crashing into the wall to rob Dan Driessen of a hit. There was no way in hell you would keep Rusty of the lineup. Separated shoulder or not, Rusty hit 423 in the World Series. In 1985, Darryl Strawberry was on the DL from May 12 to June 28. Yet, his teammates picked up the slack. Without having Straw protecting Gary Carter in the clean-up spot, the Mets managed to win 98 games, fourth most in team history.

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In 1986, the Mets didn’t make excuses. Yet, they could have. After all, our ace, Doc Gooden, won one third fewer games in 86 than he did in 85 and his ERA almost doubled. In 1988, Keith Hernandez battled hammy problems all season and played in just 95 games. Gary Carter hit 242 and only knocked in 46 RBI’s all season. Yet, in spite of these sub-standard seasons from 2 of our biggest hitters, the Mets won the division by 15 games, reaching 100 wins.

Good teams find a way to win. Bad teams make excuses. Unfortunately, our fan base has been beaten down and become weary. We continue to buy into Alderson’s mythical plan of rebuilding and having patience. Detroit and Pittsburgh can turn things around quickly, Boston can go from worst to first, Cleveland can increase their win total by 35% in one season, Oakland can remain competitive with a bunch of unknowns. But the Mets supposedly need more time, more time, more time. Just keep buying those tickets, purchasing that merchandise and handing money over to the Wilpons. And believe in the plan.

Sadly, our Mets have gotten to a point where we rise or fall not as a team, but with one or two players. One minor misstep seals our fate for yet another year. If David Wright winces when swinging for the fences, we hold our breath. When Jose Reyes would get up slowly after stealing second we feared a hamstring injury. When Johan Santana peered into the dugout while clutching his shoulder, we thought “Here we go again.” The 2013 season has not even officially ended and with Matt Harvey on the shelf next year, we’ve already started looking forward to 2015. Instead of saying ‘Wait till next year,’ we’ve been reduced to saying ‘Wait till the year after next year.’

Do I have answers? Nope. I’m not sure what we can do at this point. But then again, I don’t need answers. I’m not a manager, general manager or owner. My “job” is to root for the Mets and hope they win. And yes, it’s very easy to sit at my computer and point fingers. However, not only don’t I know what can be done. To be honest, I really don’t care. Just win! Find a way and win! I’m tired of everyone pointing fingers and placing blame.

There is one thing the Mets lead the league in year after year: Excuses.

It’s Terry Collins fault. It’s Jerry Manuel’s fault. It’s Willie Randolph’s fault. It’s Alderson’s fault for not spending enough. It’s Omar’s fault for spending too much. It’s Santana’s fault for getting hurt. It’s Jason Bay’s fault for not producing. It’s Valdespin’s fault for not being a team player. It’s Fred’s fault. It’s Jeff’s fault. It’s Dan Warthen’s fault. It’s Howard Johnson’s fault. It’s our trainer’s fault. It was Reyes’ fault for one bad month, Glavine’s fault for one bad start, Beltran’s fault for one bad at-bat, Aaron Heilman’s fault for one bad pitch.

And the height of insanity? It’s our stadium’s fault! Huh??? The outfield is too big, the walls are too deep, the dimensions are not good. My goodness, we’ve gotten to the point of lunacy where we are blaming a building! I’ve been a fan of baseball for 40 years now and I never recall anyone blaming a physical structure for their team’s lack of success.

My thoughts? I blame the Big Man. No, not Clarence Clemons. I blame the other big man. God. Hey, if He would have put Flushing at an elevation of 6000 feet like Denver, man, would we have good hitting.

In western Pennsylvania, fans of the Pirates are currently licking their wounds. Sure, they made the post-season for the first time in 20+ years but they were wanting more, wanting to play deeper into October. It was a heartbreaking end to their season. I just wonder how many Pirates fans are today saying, “It could be worse. At least we’re not the Mets.”

To answer the question I asked in the title: The answer is None. Mets management would rather make excuses, sit in the dark and just have faith in the plan that a light will come on. Eventually.

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Travis d’Arnaud Could Be A Valuable Trade Chip For Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/travis-darnaud-could-be-a-valuable-trade-chip-for-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/travis-darnaud-could-be-a-valuable-trade-chip-for-mets.html/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 12:26:37 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=130575 It’s a fact of life not awfully appealing to Met fans. In baseball, as with most things in life, in order to actualize the goals and successes you aspire, you’re going to have to give something up. That’s often a trademark of a professional athlete, musical performer, business executive, or anyone who acquires the skills that place them in the top tier of their profession. In muddling through the 10,000 hours of practice and repetition these folks exert reaching those lofty level, most forfeit many of the less taxing pursuits available to those unwilling to make such a commitment.

As the Met brass huddles in Port St. Lucie brainstorming ideas how they might improve next years baseball product, it’s very likely they are throwing around the possibility of trying to get something by giving something up. A relatively pedestrian free agent class increases the likelihood the Mets might be considering the trade route to fill some of their glaring weaknesses. If that’s the case, who might the Mets be considering as  potential trade bait they could give up?

travis d'arnaud singleI can almost hear the screeching, but it’s quite possible the Mets could be considering using their promising catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud to entice trade interest. Three reasons leave me thinking it may make sense for the Mets to place d’Arnaud’s name on the table. For starters, Travis d’Arnaud has a proven track record in attracting baseball suitors. Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies, d’Arnaud was sent north to Toronto as a major trading chip in a deal that brought former Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay to the City of Brotherly Love.

After two sizzling seasons of minor league baseball, first in the Double-A Eastern League in 2011, and then in the Pacific Coast League in 2012, d’Arnaud’s profile was elevated to ‘elite prospect, the best future catcher in baseball.‘ The Eastern League MVP in 2011, d’Arnaud was batting .333 with 16 HR’s and 42 RBI’s when an injury cut short his season in 2012. That was not enough to discourage trade interest and once again the young catcher proved his baseball value in a second trade for a Cy Young award winner, this time R.A. Dickey of the Mets.

That proven ability to attract accomplished major leaguers, baseball talent rated at the top of the game, is the first reason the Mets could consider moving d’Arnaud again. The second factor that makes the young Met catcher vulnerable is the minimal offensive output of many major league catchers.

Anyone who plays fantasy baseball understands the limited offensive value of major league catchers. It’s not uncommon for fantasy owners to forgo selecting their catchers to the middle rounds or later on draft night. That’s because the offensive numbers of catchers generally lag behind those of other position players on the field. This summer only seven major league catchers with 250 or more at-bats batted .280 or higher. Thirteen big league catchers hit 15 or more home runs and eighteen had 50 or more RBI’s. A prime example is Pittsburgh’s Russell Martin, a highly respected catcher, who this year batted .226 with 15 dingers and 55 RBI’s.

D’Arnaud’s late season cup of coffee is no real indicator of how he’ll hit as a major leaguer. His trouble at the plate in limited appearances has done little to impact his standing as the best catching prospect in the game.

As it is with most young catchers beginning their major league career, work as a backstop comes first. A catching prospect thrust into an every day role late in the season has his hands full earning the respect of his new pitching staff with his receiving skills. d’Arnaud drew rave reviews with his quickness and agility behind the dish and his ability to frame pitches. That framing helped Met pitchers realize a decided jump in called strikes when d’Arnaud took over as the every day backstop. Offensive concerns were clearly secondary. And, d’Arnaud seemed to be just getting going as the season wound down hitting over .300 in his last ten games.

Even so, the Mets brass might reason that with offensive output a hit or miss prospect on many major league team, and d’Arnaud a magnet attracting quality trade interest, perhaps the young catcher could be used to procure added offensive value somewhere else on the field.

Factor number three, a Met minor league system loaded with intriguing catching potential just might make it easier for the Mets to consider this scenario. Let’s take a look at some of those young Met catchers.

Met fans got a snapshot glimpse of Juan Centeno in late September. Small in stature (5’9”) Centeno is developing a reputation as a solid defensive backstop. I watched him for one season in Binghamton and was very impressed with his defensive play. That summer in Double-A, Centeno has a .991 fielding percentage and threw out 41 percent of runners attempting to steal. The 2007, 32nd round pick in the draft is quick and assertive behind the dish. A contact hitter, Centeno has a good eye, and almost no power, but hit .285 in Double-A and .305 this summer in Las Vegas.

Centeno split the catching duties in Vegas with Francisco Pena. Pena, the son of catching great Tony Pena, has the genetic makeup of a catcher. The 6’3”, 230 pound backstop was signed by the Mets as an International Free Agent at 17 in 2007. Pena has power potential but has been an enigma of sorts in the batter’s box. The young catcher hit .257 with 10 HR’s and 40 RBI’s in 236 at bats this year in Las Vegas. Calm and relaxed behind the plate, Pena is credited with making quality progress improving his catching skills over the last two seasons.

Blake Forsythe a promising catching prospect with a baseball pedigree (brother Logan plays for San Diego), was labeled one of the top collegiate backstops during his first two seasons at Tennessee. During Forsythe’s sophomore season he was a workhorse catching in 53 of the Vols 55 games and playing as a DH in the two games he didn’t
catch. Forsythe was the Vols offensive catalyst that year hitting .347 with 15 dingers and 46 RBI’s. An Forsythe led Tennessee with 40 base-on-balls helping give the young catcher a .486 OBP, something that had to catch the eye of Met scouts.

With the baseball world expecting even bigger results the following season, Forsythe’s batting numbers dipped. The 6’2”, 220-pound backstop has always shown power potential and the home runs continued, but, Forsythe struggled with a high swing and miss rate, a puzzle he has yet to solve in his first years as a professional.

This summer after Pena was shipped out to Vegas, Forsythe became the every day backstop in Binghamton. The hitting pattern continued when the B-Met catcher batted only .192, striking out 101 times with only 32 base-on-balls. Forsythe proved he can hit the long ball slamming 10 home runs, at least three walk off round trippers.

Although Forsythe struggled in the batter’s box, he worked brilliantly behind it. At the conclusion of the season, Minor League Baseball and Rawlings selected the Binghamton catcher as the 2013 Gold Glove Award winner of all ten domestic full season minor leagues. Forsythe committed only 1 error in 80 games, totaling 701 chances good for second in the Eastern League. Forsythe’s .999 fielding average led the Eastern League. By the way, the B-Mets .978 team fielding percentage was also tops in the EL. Binghamton committed only 109 errors, the fewest of any Eastern League franchise and the 2nd lowest total in B-Met history.

Underrated and unsung, Xorge Castillo keeps getting it done as he moves upward through the Met system. The Arizona State alum was Forsythe’s back-up during the second half of the season in Binghamton. An honorable mention Academic All-Pac 10 designee, Castillo uses those smarts calling a baseball game. I loved watching him work a game behind the dish this summer. Built like a Molina, the kid has great footwork, frames pitches exceptionally well and sports an above average throwing arm. Forsythe and Castillo made a formidable receiving tandem, second to none in the Eastern League. That could be the influence of B-Met skipper Pedro Lopez who was a minor league catcher throughout his baseball playing career.

And, Castillo continues to impress with the bat. In limited plate appearances Castillo hit .353 and .330 as a junior and senior for Arizona State. Xorge batted .296 this summer for Binghamton, the highest batting average on the B-Mets after Cesar Puello was suspended in baseball’s steroid mess.

Kevin Plawecki goes yard.

Last, but certainly not least, is Kevin Plawecki, a three-year starter at Purdue University. I’ve never watched Plawecki play in person, yet from everything I read, the kid gives me a Gary Carter feel. “Highly competitive,” “a hustler,” “great energy,” “a throw-back,” “tough guy,” “well-rounded,” “not much he can’t do,” are some phrases used to describe Plawecki. Time and time again, I read reports that Plawecki lacked the raw athleticism of some of the best catching prospects in the game, and time after time I read that everywhere he goes his teams win, he hits and defends.

At Purdue Pawecki was outstanding, never batting below .341and drawing 4 walks for every one time he struck out. With Plawecki as their backstop the Boilermakers won their first ever Big Ten Title and were seeded #1 in the 2012 NCAA Tournament for the first time. Plawecki was the Big Ten Player of the Year, the Big Ten Tournament Outstanding Player, the Purdue Male Athlete of the Year, a National Johnny Bench Award Finalist, National Semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy and on and on.

A contact hitter with a smooth, flat swing that laces line drives, Plawecki struck out only 29 times in 629 at bats over his collegiate career. He’s a reliable hitter who during his senior year at Purdue batted .365 with a .454 OBP and a .567 slugging percentage

Plawecki is projected to rise extremely fast throughout the Mets minor league system and to date that has been the case. He’s tough and he’s durable and he hit .305 in 449 at-bats in a split A-Ball this season between Savannah and Port St. Lucie. Plawecki’s combined OBP was .390 with a .448 SLG.

Smart and observant, Plawecki called his own games throughout college. He shows solid footwork behind the dish and blocks the plate well. One supposed caution flag is a average or even below average throwing arm. Yet at every level he plays, Plawecki throws out between 35 to 40 percent of all the runners who attempt to steal. Go Figure. Can you tell I’m just a wee bit excited at the prospects of watching this kid play in Binghamton next year?

For all the reasons stated, I think it’s reasonable to assume that if the Mets can swing a deal for a corner outfielder or a reliable power hitting first baseman, it’s possible Travis d’Arnaud could be dangled as a trade chip in a multiple player deal. I’m not saying that’s something I prefer. I really like Travis d’Arnaud and believe he’s going to be a solid major league catcher. But, that old adage hasn’t changed; in baseball and in life, if you want to get something badly enough, you’re going to have to give something up.

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Another Season Fades Into The Books http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/another-season-fades-into-the-books.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/another-season-fades-into-the-books.html/#comments Sun, 29 Sep 2013 04:34:52 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=130327 mike-piazzaThere will be a twinge of sadness in the air for the New York Mets this afternoon at Citi Field, as the final day of the season means dreams and hopes long forgotten.

It means the expectations of spring have died, that there is no more time, that precious little – if anything – can be salvaged, and soon the plush green of the outfield will be covered by bitter snow.

Once again, the goal of this game – to compete in October – will go unfulfilled for the Mets as they succumbed to injuries, thin talent and long stretches of mediocrity to limp through a fifth straight losing season.

Yes, there will be sadness today at Citi Field, but also moments of reflection and perhaps optimism.

Today also includes the honoring of Mike Piazza, who will be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Hall of Famers Tom Seaver and Gary Carter. Someday, Piazza could graduate from the Mets’ Hall of Fame by the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to the Hall in Cooperstown. It would be fitting for the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history, and one of the central figures when the franchise last saw October.

The Mets will celebrate Piazza’s career with the Mets, the team he said he would like to honor by having the interlocking “NY’’ on the cap in his Hall of Fame plaque, that is if enough voters can see their way through the PED accusations and accompanying stigma.

There will be speakers lauding Piazza’s brilliant career today against the backdrop of photos of him in action. When it is over, there will be another long deserved standing ovation before attention is turned to the Mets, who will try to avoid sliding into the offseason with a four-game losing streak.

Despite another disappointing season, which saw the promise of Matt Harvey shut down with an elbow injury that could prevent him from pitching before 2015, the Mets are expected to announce the extension of manager Terry Collins’ contract.

Extensions are given with the promise of better days to come, and for the Mets, with the contract of Johan Santana off the books, that should mean money spent on talented players.

Those players might not have the career of a Piazza, but there’s always hope, which is the essence of baseball, even after another long season.

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

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Mike Piazza’s Most Memorable Mets Moments http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/mike-piazzas-most-memorable-mets-moments.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/mike-piazzas-most-memorable-mets-moments.html/#comments Fri, 27 Sep 2013 13:21:04 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=130237 piazza hof mmo

Below are several memorable moments during Mike Piazza’s Mets tenure.

May 22, 1998 – Acquired by the Mets from the Florida Marlins in exchange for minor leaguers Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall and Geoff Goetz.

May 23, 1998 – Makes his Mets debut at Shea Stadium, going 1-4 with an RBI double in a 3-0 win over Milwaukee.

June 1, 1998 – Belts his first home run in a Mets uniform at Pittsburgh off Jason Schmidt.

September 14, 1998 – Hit what is believed to be the longest home run in Astrodome history, an estimated 480-foot blast off Houston’s Jose Lima.

April 28, 1999 – Hits his first walk-off home run as a member of the Mets taking San Diego’s Trevor Hoffman deep, a two-run shot, in a 4-3 win.

October 2, 1999 – Blasted his 40th home run of the season off Pittsburgh’s Mike Williams.

October 19, 1999 – Crushed a two-run home run in the seventh inning off John Smoltz in Game Six of the NLCS at Atlanta to tie the game, 7-7.

June 14-July 2, 2000 – Had an RBI in 15 consecutive games to set a franchise record…It was the second-longest streak in major league history …Ray Grimes of the 1922 Chicago Cubs had an RBI in 17 straight games.

June 30, 2000 – Hit a laser line drive home run to left, a three-run shot, capping a 10-run inning in an 11-8 comeback win over Atlanta.

September 21, 2001 – Hit an eighth-inning home run off Atlanta’s Steve Karsay in the first New York City sporting event since the 9-11 attacks as an emotional Shea Stadium erupted…The Mets would go on to beat the Braves 3-2.

May 17, 2002 – Reached the 1,000 career RBI plateau when he launched a grand slam off San Diego’s Jason Boyd in a 13-4 win…He became the ninth player in ML history whose primary position was catcher to collect 1,000 RBI.

May 5, 2004 – Hit a 3-1 pitch off San Francisco’s Jerome Williams in the first inning for his 352nd home run as a catcher to become the all-time leader, passing Carlton Fisk.

June 18, 2004 – The four living Hall of Fame catchers: Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter and Johnny Bench are on hand at Shea Stadium on “Mike Piazza Night.”

September 29, 2005 – Hits a solo home run at Shea Stadium, his final blast as a Met, and his 220th in a Mets uniform, in an 11-0 win over Colorado.

Mike Piazza hit 220 of his 427 career home runs with the Mets, ranking third in franchise history.

He ranks first in team history with a .542 slugging percentage and is third in RBI (655).

Piazza was a seven-time All-Star with Mets and set a team-record with 124 RBI and hit 40 home runs in 1999 and then finished with 38 home runs and drove in 113 runs in 2000.

Piazza’s 396 home runs as a catcher are the most in baseball history.

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Everybody Loves Sandy… Especially the Rest of the National League http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/everybody-loves-sandy-especially-the-rest-of-the-national-league.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/everybody-loves-sandy-especially-the-rest-of-the-national-league.html/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 12:00:48 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=129898 tom glavine

It was the most important game of the year. If the Mets wanted to make the post-season they needed to win. There was no tomorrow. I prepared myself: A Coke, a handful of pretzels, a fresh pack of cigarettes, my Mets cap, my lucky Mets shirt. And before I even got comfortable, it was over.

A lead-off walk, a single, another single, a double, yet another single, another walk, still another base hit, a hit batsmen just for the hell of it and one more double. Tom Glavine lasted just 1/3 of an inning, the shortest outing of his career. The Marlins sent 12 men to the plate, scored 7 times and sealed the Mets fate on the final day of the season.

Man that was fun! No, the game surely wasn’t. It was heartbreaking to watch my team unravel before my eyes. The entire year shot to hell in 20 agonizing minutes. But yet it was enjoyable. 2007 was like a good movie that had a bad ending—just like 2006. The fact that in game No. 162 the Mets had the post-season within reach was exciting.

When we hear “Mets” and “1980’s” in the same sentence, we can’t help but smile. We immediately conjure up images of Doc and Darryl, Keith and Gary, Darling and Knight. Although things never materialized the way we envisioned, it was a fun and exciting time to be a Mets fan. From 1984 through 1990, our Amazins’ averaged 95 wins, never finishing below 2nd. However, in those seven years, we managed just one Championship and one division title. Not exactly a dynasty.

We older fans have fond memories of the Seaver/Koosman/Matlack days. From 1969 through 1976, our club averaged a respectable 84 wins. Yet during this eight year span, we won just two pennants and one World Series. Good, but not great.

So, why do we regard the eighties and early seventies so highly when we didn’t really dominate? The reason is because at least we were relevant. Each year the Mets had a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. Each year we played meaningful games through September.

sad mets bench

This is a big change from the current sad state of our club. Since Alderson has become GM, not only have the Mets not won, but we haven’t even been competitive. We have yet to play an important game after the All-Star Break. Whereas most teams play 162 games, the Mets’ season is, for all intents and purposes, wrapped up after 90. The last 2 ½ months are spent going through the motions of finishing out the schedule.

Mets fans are an interesting bunch. We’re not Yankee fans who deem anything less than a Championship as failure. We’re not Braves fans or Cardinals fans who battle and then always find a way to play into October. Regrettably, we’re turning into Cubs fans where sub-500 finishes and tolerating less than mediocrity is now the acceptable norm.

Alderson is missing one simple fact and it shows how out of touch he is with the fan base. We’re not looking for a dynasty. We’re not looking for a string of championships. We’d be happy with simply being relevant, respectable. Sure, a World Series would be nice, but we’d be content even contending, with fighting for the pennant. Ask yourself, would you rather go through the heartache of a late season collapse or hardly look at the standings after August 1?

Sadly, baseball IS a business. However, it also smacks of politics. Alderson supporters blame “the other guy.” Look at what Alderson inherited they claim. He can only do so much. It’s not his fault. Are we talking about George W. Bush or Omar Minaya? To a man who is unemployed, a single mom who now has to work two part-time jobs to support herself and her children or a family struggling to make ends meet on reduced income, they don’t care whose fault it is; they just want things better. The same can be said for Mets fans. I don’t care whose fault it is. I just want to win. Or at least be relevant.

Those in the Alderson camp are quick to argue that once big contracts come off the books, he’ll have more money to spend. However, many of these are the same fans who condemned Minaya for his big contracts. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

frank cashen davey johnson

Some compare what Alderson inherited to what Frank Cashen saw when he came in in 1980. However, Cashen had a harder road ahead of him. Back in the eighties and seventies, making the post-season was harder than it is now. Only 2 out of 12 teams got in — 1 out of 6. You had to earn it. Now, 5 of 15 teams make the playoffs. 1 of every 3, not 1 of every 6. Yet, in spite of the easier path, the Mets have yet to even come close under the Alderson regime.

If the same format that is in place today existed back in the 1980’s, the Cashen-led Mets would have made the post-season every year from 1984 through 1990. Seven straight years of seeing our Mets in October.

Can anyone picture this happening as long as Alderson is in charge?

Another example of how losing has become accepted is Terry Collins. Whatever you think of Collins, the simple fact remains he has not won. Just yesterday, Alderson stated of his manager, “He’s done an excellent job.” (Bartender, I’ll have what he’s drinking.)

Through September 22, Collins has a .463 winning percentage since becoming skipper, only slightly better than Dallas Green and the one and only Jeff Torborg, lower than even the gangsta, Jerry Manuel. Yet, Alderson will most likely be rewarding Collins’ losing ways by bringing him back for more. (Note: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.) And as Collins and his losing ways will return, Wally Backman–a proven winner both as manager and player—will not even be given a passing thought.

Many of us continue to buy what Alderson is selling….

the-myth-of-the-plan

Yes, The Plan… But yet, the losses pile up as we accept failure.

Five years ago today, Johan Santana won his 15th game, allowing two runs while striking out 10 in a 6-2 win over the Cubs. The Mets pulled to within a game and half of the first place Phillies with five games left. Now, under Alderson, fans are ecstatic that we moved into a tie with the Phillies for third place. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

The Matt Harvey situation further proves how Alderson has lulled fans into a culture of accepting failure. Harvey is still a question mark for 2014 and yet many are already saying that without our ace next year, we’ll have to bide our time until 2015. HUH??? WHAT??? The 2013 season isn’t even finished yet and already we’re throwing in the towel on 2014???

But that’s what happens when you have a GM who keeps talking about the future, the future, the future…

In 1988, Gary Carter hit just 11 home runs, Keith Hernandez missed two months of the season with injuries, and Bobby Ojeda had a losing record. In spite of this, the Mets still captured the division with 100 victories. Yet, nowadays we lose one pitcher and immediately lose hope.

By comparison, look at the Bronx. The Yankees played the bulk of this year without Derek Jeter and A-Rod, two of their most potent bats and future Hall of Famers (well, at least Jeter.) They also have a 43-year old closer. Yet, in spite of this, the Yankees find themselves in contention for the wildcard. Meanwhile, in Flushing the AlderMets are doing what they do best: Reduced to playing spoiler—again.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say Harvey is healthy in 2014. Let’s assume he shows no lingering effects and is 100%. Let’s say he picks up where he left off. He dominates the NL again in 2014…and 2015….and 2016. What if he REALLY is another Tom Seaver? Wouldn’t that be great?

However, if he is, then you’re looking at Harvey wanting a salary commensurate with Verlander or Kershaw. Perhaps, even more since he has a taste for the finer things in life. Can anyone picture the frugal Alderson and thrifty Wilpons handing over $23 million a year for 5-6 years? R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young award and he was allowed to walk over $8 million. Jose Reyes, one of the most beloved Mets in the last 20 years, became the first Met to win a batting title and he was discarded like an old rosin bag. Why will things be any different with Harvey?

In a few days, ten different teams will find themselves in the post-season while the Mets clear out their lockers and head home for another winter. Meanwhile, fans from Los Angeles to Boston, and from Oakland to Atlanta, will be cheering for their clubs to bring home a championship. And what will we be doing? We’ll be looking forward to 2014…unless Harvey isn’t healthy which means we’ll be looking forward to 2015…unless Wheeler gets hurt and then we’ll be hopeful about 2016…unless David Wright gets hurt. And so on and so on.

While most baseball fans cling to the age-old hope of “Wait Till Next Year.” Thanks to Alderson, we can cling to the hope of waiting for…the future. It will get here…eventually.

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Beltran’s Cooperstown Headgear http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/07/beltrans-cooperstown-headgear.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/07/beltrans-cooperstown-headgear.html/#comments Sun, 21 Jul 2013 13:21:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=125376 MLB: SEP 22 Mets v MarlinsI find it impossible to read an article or a forum about Carlos Beltran without there being some mention of “the curveball” or Adam Wainwright. That of course refers to Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS where, with the bases loaded and the winning run on first base with two outs in the ninth, Beltran stared a curveball from Adam Wainwright all the way into the glove of Yadier Molina, thus ending the series. I also find it appalling that many choose this one playoff at-bat to define Beltran’s career. Do they forget that Beltran owns the highest career OPS in Major League Baseball postseason history? Or that he is a career 11/11 in stolen base attempts during games in October? Enough about the postseason. Beltran’s career batting average at .283 is higher than that of Hall of Famers Willie Stargell and Larry Doby. His career OPS surpasses that of George Brett and Al Kaline. If his eight All Star nominations (equivalent to the number reached by Andre Dawson, Darryl Strawberry, and Chipper Jones) and his eight 100 RBI seasons aren’t Hall of Fame worthy, well, he’s sixth in WAR among active players, and he’s only 36! He still has maybe three more decent years before he decides to hang up the spikes. And according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that’s exactly how many more years Beltran actually wants to play. So let’s say Beltran gets into the Hall of Fame. What team’s cap should he wear? Which team deserves it? Let’s find out.

Beltran has played for five teams. The Royals, the Astros, the Mets, the Giants, and he currently wears the uniform of the Cardinals. We can eliminate two of those right away. Beltran played in Houston for all of three months, so bye bye ‘Stros. Beltran was traded to the Giants at the deadline in 2011 for Zack Wheeler and ended up playing in San Francisco for 44 games so no love in the Bay Area when the Hall of Fame comes knocking.

beltran royalsThat leaves us with Kansas City, New York, and St. Louis. Beltran played for the Royals and Mets for six and a half seasons each, and he’s currently in his second year with the Cardinals. So say Beltran plays his three more years with the Cardinals, and makes two more All Star teams. 10 selections sure isn’t bad. With that being said, the Cardinals do have to go, only because five years loses to six and a half in the end. Why do years matter? Well, look at history. Gary Carter went in to the Hall of Fame as an Expo because he played more years (12) than he did in New York (5) despite having some of his greatest seasons in the Big Apple.

So we’re down to two. The Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets. Let’s take a look at what Beltran did in a Royals uniform. Despite only receiving one All Star spot in his tenure, the 1999 American League Rookie of the Year hit .287 with 123 HR while he was there. He lost his starting center field job in 2000 to Johnny Damon but got his job, and his Rookie of the Year form, back in 2001 when he hit .306 and recorded 101 RBI. Beltran went on to hit over .300 once more in his time in Kansas City. All in all, a solid career in the state of Missouri.

And now for an analysis of his Mets career. In his six and a half years in New York, Beltran hit .280 with 559 RBI and 149 HR. Not to mention his two years with ten or more assists. He was named to the NL All Star squad six times and racked up three Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers for his mantle. His time with the Mets was shortened by injury, hitting only 17 HR from 2009-2010, but despite this still managed to play at least 60 games in every year. Beltran recorded 100 stolen bases and managed to get caught only 16 times. He finished with an above average OPS at .869 and his SLG was an even .500. A brilliant career in New York that is unfortunately overshadowed by one pitch.

So now the decision. Beltran stole 164 bases and hit .287 with the Royals, but hit 149 HR and drove in 559 runs with the Mets. He can’t be in the Hall with two hats, so he must wear…that of the New York Mets.

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Retire No. 31 While You’re At It… http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/07/retire-no-31-while-youre-at-it.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/07/retire-no-31-while-youre-at-it.html/#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 13:45:58 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=124820 mike piazza

Yesterday, the New York Mets announced that Mike Piazza, the greatest home run-hitting catcher of all-time, will be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame on Fan Appreciation Day Sunday, September 29 at Citi Field. Piazza will become the 27th member of the Mets Hall of Fame during the Mets Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony prior to the 1:10 p.m. game vs. the Milwaukee Brewers.

It’s about time… But why stop there?

Blue_My_Take_On_31

Here’s something photoshopped about two years ago before the Mets moved in the walls at Citi Field. How cool would that look in our ballpark?

Has Piazza done enough as a Met to be worthy of such distinction? Absolutely… Consider this…

Piazza hit 220 of his 427 career home runs with the Mets, ranking second in franchise history. He ranks first in team history with a .542 slugging percentage and is third in RBI (655). Piazza was a seven-time All-Star with Mets.

Piazza set a team-record with 124 RBI and hit 40 home runs in 1999 and then finished with 38 home runs and drove in 113 runs in 2000 as the Mets qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in team history and reached the 2000 World Series.

That’s not all… Piazza hit his 352nd home run as a catcher on May 5, 2004 to break Carlton Fisk’s major league mark.

Now… Consider that and then throw in the Post 9/11 Game… His dramatic eighth-inning home run in the first sporting event in New York City after the 9-11 attacks beat the Atlanta Braves and helped the city begin the healing process.

Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon had this to say about Piazza yesterday:

“Mike Piazza reinvigorated our franchise when we acquired him in May, 1998. Mike is one of the greatest players in our history and we are thrilled to induct him into the Mets Hall of Fame.”

Lets go all they way on September 29 and do this thing right…

piazza gfx

RETIRE NO. 31…

(Photo credit: Newsday)

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Timeline To Contention: What Exactly Is The Strategy? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/05/timeline-to-contention-what-exactly-is-the-strategy.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/05/timeline-to-contention-what-exactly-is-the-strategy.html/#comments Wed, 15 May 2013 16:50:10 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=118942 david wright

Six weeks into a season that stretches over six months may be a tad early to make pronouncements on expected outcomes for this year’s Mets squad, but the indicators of relative strengths and weaknesses have at least given a reasonable hint of what can be looked for going forward. A sub-.500 record with a propensity for generosity by the bullpen and parsimony on the part of the offense hasn’t inspired a great deal of optimism in fans at this point. Not that there were many of us ready to try to make a convincing case for a division crown going into this season, but as always we remain hopeful and ready to be pleasantly surprised.  The unexpected run toward respectability that occurred during the first part of the 2012 campaign might yet re-surface this year as a second half surge, something that would actually be a more hopeful sign of things to come. As we await the inevitable arrival of Zack Wheeler, Travis D’Arnaud, et al later this summer, it seems worthwhile to evaluate yet again how the overall roster might best be shaped.

The twin issues of a porous bullpen and an impotent lineup seem to be continual matters of concern. Of course, were the rotation more consistent at providing quality outings, the bullpen wouldn’t be as overtaxed as it seems to be and perhaps more able to provide adequate support. On the other hand, a bounty of run production would compensate greatly for less than shutdown outings from the relief corps, but lacking even middle-of-the-pack scoring ability since an uncharacteristic eruption to begin the season, we are left to look for the domination of a Harvey start and cross our fingers in-between.

So, unwilling to write the season off entirely at this point, what strategy best serves management’s multiple goals of major league player development, minor league nurturing, and fielding a product respectable enough to generate sufficient revenue from an increasingly impatient fan base?  Do they continue along the current path, waiting for the team as presently comprised to round into shape and begin playing close to what more bullish expectations had envisioned? If so, where does one finally draw the line if that level of performance isn’t forthcoming before a certain time period has elapsed (let’s say, hmmmm…, the All-Star Break)? Or, if more drastic action is deemed appropriate, who is most directly affected by that action?

So many questions, but not that many readily apparent answers. As the roster is made up largely of relative youngsters with potential  and varying track records of success (Ike, Murphy, Tejada, Duda, Niese, Parnell, Gee, Harvey, Valdespin, Turner, Lagares, Carson, Familia), with an added sprinkling of seasoned veterans (Wright, Buck, Hawkins, Atchison, Byrd, Marcum, Lyon), and role players (Baxter, Brown, Rice, Recker, Hefner), the Mets are in a position that seemingly requires that we all bite the bullet and wait out the unavoidable growing pains of a franchise in the middle stages of a rebuild. Sandy Alderson’s statements in regard to the possible fate of Terry Collins indicate that his expectations are more closely focused on development of young talent than on the team’s won/lost record this year, although one would expect an improvement in the latter as an outgrowth of the former.  From an historic viewpoint then, could we conceive of the 2013 season as being analogous to 1983 as a harbinger of good things to come? One of the keys to the transition of that team from bottom dweller to contender and eventual champion was not only the establishment of later rotation stalwarts Ron Darling and Walt Terrell, but the mid-season acquisition of Keith Hernandez as a consistent veteran presence in the lineup and in the clubhouse. These moves were instrumental in the remarkable year-over-year gain of 22 wins for the 1984 squad, though adding in a couple of pitchers by the names of Gooden and Fernandez didn’t hurt, either.

If there is to be a similar advancement over the next season or so for the Citi-dwellers of 2013, we will need to see results with the ostensible rotation strategy in the form of the debut and successful development of at least two starters from the vaunted arsenal of Met hurlers-to-be. Zack Wheeler’s debut now seems fairly imminent, but it would be a stretch to expect the likes of a Montero or Syndergaard much in advance of late 2014. In the meantime, I would expect more in the form of placeholders like Collin McHugh until the more dominant arms are ready. Ultimately, to make the move from mediocrity to the upper echelon of the league will require contributions from the starting staff in the form of multiple 200+ inning seasons from the majority of the rotation. Such was the case in ’84 when Messrs. Gooden, Darling, and Terrell all achieved the feat. As to the questions of if and when the Mets could expect to receive production of that magnitude from the current crop of arms making their way to Flushing, your guess is as good as mine.

It is worth noting that the 1984 squad received significant production from its outfield corps, getting 60 HR’s and 75 SB’s from the starting trio of Foster, Wilson and Strawberry, and topped that off with solid contributions from Hernandez and Hubie Brooks at the infield corners. The deficiencies of the current Mets outfield have been covered ad nauseum at this point so I won’t rehash them, but suffice it to say that an acquisition or two would appear to be absolutely vital going forward for the balance of the strategy to be effective.  The timing of this aspect of roster construction can be highly variable and opportunistic. The key move for the 1983 team was clearly the Hernandez trade, something that came about largely as a result of a personality clash between Keith and Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog. The acquisition of Ray Knight, a major component in the 1986 championship drive, came about as a near-deadline pickup in late August for the 1984 team as they prepared for that season’s stretch run. The off-season blockbuster that brought Gary Carter into the fold ahead of the 1985 campaign was a more “traditional” type of swap, undertaken by GM Frank Cashen as a means putting the final major piece of the puzzle into place.

The lesson here is that opportunities must be taken when they present themselves, lest similar ones fail to present themselves in a timely manner. Many questions have surrounded the Mets’ apparent refusal to include Zack Wheeler in a deal that would have netted stud outfielder Justin Upton, the type of offensive force that the lineup so desperately needs. If Wheeler becomes another Ace alongside Matt Harvey for years to come, the decision to keep him will seem wise or at least reasonable, depending on how the rest of Upton’s career turns out. If he is spun off in a deal that brings Giancarlo Stanton into the fold, most would consider that a fair alternative, to say the least.

In any event, if the strategy of the current Mets’ regime is to bear fruit in the commonly accepted timeline to contention (2015 by the reckoning of most), we should expect to see some important additions to the roster in the relatively near future. Building a winner takes time, but it also needs the right kind of material. Right now, much of that material would seem to be lacking.

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