Mets Merized Online » Hall-of-Fame Mon, 20 Feb 2017 05:56:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Talkin’ Mets: Mike Piazza and the Hall of Fame, Special Guest Sal Licata Weighs In Mon, 25 Jul 2016 01:55:11 +0000 mike piazza hof

Tonight I share my memories of Mike Piazza and talk about how game-changing his arrival was for a generation of Mets fans. Hear highlights from Piazza’s career and clips of his emotional speech from earlier today.

I also talk about the critical upcoming homestand, how Jose Reyes has been invaluable to the Mets lineup and whether James Loney should be benched when Lucas Duda returns.

Sal Licata of WOR and SNY joins me  to share his memories of Piazza and talk about the current state of the Mets.

Sal believes Terry Collins needs to play Michael Conforto more and, despite their struggles, expects the Mets to make the playoffs.




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Piazza Readies For Hall Of Fame Induction Thu, 10 Mar 2016 12:00:44 +0000 mike piazza usatsi

New York Mets legend, Mike Piazza will be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame on July 24th of this year. Ahead of that date, Piazza recently went to tour the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and spoke about his feelings on being elected with John Kelkis of Fox Sports.

”It’s a little overwhelming,” Piazza said. ”You kind of feel like the race is over. It all starts to hit home. It’s your career and many people have touched it. It’s pretty crazy to think about.”

For Mike, it was on the fourth try that he would finally get in and deservedly so. It was a moment many Mets fans had been waiting for, as to many of them Piazza is the best hitting catcher of all time.

”It’s incredibly powerful. This whole year for me has been so euphoric. It’s such an honor,” said Piazza. ”When you come here and you see the history here, the players that you played against and with, it all sort of trickles back. It’s a powerful experience. The game has given me everything that I have.”

Piazza, when inducted on that hot summer day in July, will proudly enter the hall wearing a New York Mets ball cap. When he arrived in New York it was the start of something big, an exciting turnaround for a franchise that needed it desperately.

mike piazza

”Getting to New York in 1998 was one of the greatest blessings of my life, a challenge in my life and my career that I needed at that time,” Piazza said. ”When I first got there, it wasn’t the easiest introduction because I think there was a lot of trepidation – they didn’t know if I was going to stay and I was a free agent. But once I decided to become a Met and embrace the city, things changed for me for the better.”

Number 31 becomes the 17th catcher elected to the HOF. He brings with him some epic numbers: 396 home runs as a catcher, 427 overall. A lifetime .308/.377/.545 slash line, and 1,335 RBI. Mike, always had a knack for the bat since he was a kid.

”I just believed in myself. I knew I had a unique ability to hit,” said Piazza. ”When I finally found a home behind the plate, it allowed me to not only be in a premium position, but also utilize my hitting. That was obviously very important in my career.”

The Mets will retire Mike Piazza’s uniform No. 31 in a ceremony that will take place in Citi Field on Saturday, July 30.

Congratulations Mike, you earned it, and thank you for everything you have done for not just New York baseball, but the entire sport.


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The Legend Behind The Award Sat, 27 Dec 2014 17:16:19 +0000 St. Louis Cardinals vs Pittsburgh Pirates

Throughout Baseball’s glorious history there have been hundreds of players idolized in their hometown. Occasionally, but seldom, does a player come along whose greatness extends beyond the city where they play.

And then there’s Roberto Clemente, the first ballplayer to be revered on two continents.

On the final day of the 1972 season, Clemente doubled off Mets rookie Jon Matlack. It was the 3,000th hit of his illustrious career, a watershed mark only reached by ten others. People across North America and Latin America cheered. Three months later, Roberto Clemente died. People across North America and Latin America cried.

He was the first Latin player to win an MVP. He was the first Latin player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He was the first Latin player to win a World Series as a starter. He was the first Latin player to win a World Series MVP.

He retired with a .317 career BA, 240 HR, and 3,000 hits. He was an MVP, a four-time batting champ, 15-time All-Star, and winner of 12 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1961-1972. No outfielder, not even Willie Mays, has more.

Roberto Clemente was born August 18, 1934 in Barrio San Anton, Puerto Rico, the youngest of seven. To help his struggling family, Roberto worked alongside his father loading and unloading trucks in sugar fields. But he always had his eye on the game he loved.

Upon turning 18, he was signed by Pedrin Zorilla for the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League. He played some games at SS but mostly rode the pine. The following year, playing full time and batting leadoff for the Santurce Crabbers, Clemente batted .288. He was offered a contract by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Clemente followed in the footsteps of another trailblazer, Jackie Robinson, and played for the Triple-A Montreal Royals. Due to language difficulties, prejudice and ethnic clashes, Clemente struggled mightily and hit a disappointing .257. He was picked up by Pittsburgh in the rookie draft in November of 1954. Five weeks later, his older brother, Luis, died tragically on New Year’s Eve.

Roberto made his Pirates debut on April 17, 1955 and encountered much of the same prejudices he faced in Montreal. He was a Latino who spoke little English. He was of mixed-African descent. Just eight years removed from Jackie Robinson, Americans were still adjusting to breaking the color barrier. The Pirates were only the 5th team in the NL with a “minority” player. The young Clemente expressed frustration about racial tension, both coming from teammates and the Pittsburgh media. To lessen the impact of having a “foreigner” on their team, Pirates announcers called him Bobby Clemente.

Stress got to him throughout his career, manifesting itself in chronic insomnia. He once stated, “If I slept better I could hit .400.”

In his rookie season, Clemente managed a meager .255 betting average, but his defensive prowess caught everyone’s attention. Part of the reason for the lower than anticipated BA was that during that summer, Clemente was nearly killed when his car was plowed into by a drunk driver. He injured his back. It would plague him the rest of his career.


Pittsburgh sought out former Hall of Famer George Sisler to work with their young phenom. It paid off. The following year, 1956, Clemente batted .311. In a game against the Cubs, he became the only player in history to hit a walk-off grand slam inside-the-park home run.

1958 saw the Clemente-led Pirates finish over .500 and produce a winning season for the first time in a decade.

Each winter, Clemente returned home to play winter ball, reconnect with friends and to work with multiple charities. Except in ’58. That winter, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves and spent six months training at Parris Island.

In 1960, Clemente’s Bucs won the pennant for the first time in 33 years. They upset the heavily favored Yankees in a classic 7-game series. That season, Clemente batted .314 and was elected to the All-Star Game for the first time. There would be 14 more.

In 1964, Clemente led the NL in batting (.339) and hits (211) along with 40 doubles and scoring 95 runs. After the season he returned home with fellow countryman Orlando Cepeda where he was greeted by 18,000 adoring fans at the airport. The following month, as he and his bride Vera Zabala exchanged wedding vows, thousands cheered them outside the church.

The 1960’s saw some of the games’ most dominant pitchers ever, especially in the NL. The decade was controlled by legends such as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn. But don’t tell that to Pittsburgh’s star right fielder. From 1960-1971 Clemente averaged .331 at the plate.

Clemente had it all. He played with the flair of Willie Mays, the swagger of Mickey Mantle and exuded the quiet confidence of Hank Aaron. His batting stance, the way he’d uncoil on a pitch like a cobra, was a sight to behold. The manner he rounded the bases with long loping strides, elbows and knees everywhere, was unforgettable. The way he’d wait in the on-deck circle on one knee and crane his neck hard to the right and left was mimicked by young kids on ball fields and backyards across America. He possessed one of the strongest and most accurate arms the game had ever seen. Vin Scully said of him, “He could catch a ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pennsylvania.”

On July 24, 1970, the Pirates played their final game at Forbes Field, their home since 1909, and moved into Three Rivers Stadium. Management also decided to honor their greatest star since Honus Wagner with “Roberto Clemente Night.” It was an emotional evening for number 21. “I spent half my life here,” he said. He received a scroll of over 300,000 signatures from his native Puerto Rico. Clemente used the opportunity to put forth a plea for businesses to donate to local charities. They did.

In 1971, the Pirates won 97 games and captured the NL East crown. They defeated the Giants in four games in the LCS and faced the defending World Champion Orioles, winners of 100 games and fresh off a 3-game sweep of the up-and-coming young Oakland A’s. Before game one of the Fall Classic, the confident Clemente stated to a reporter, “Nobody does anything better than me in Baseball.” After losing the first two, Pittsburgh won 4 of the next 5 and captured the Championship. Clemente batted .414 in the series, made numerous stellar defensive plays, and hit a decisive home run in Game 7 that gave Pittsburgh the 2-1 win.

Age, however, was beginning to take its toll. In 1970, he amassed just 412 AB. In 1972, at age 37, he missed 54 games with nagging injuries, but in what would be his final season, Clemente still batted .312.

The man who once said, “I’m convinced God wanted me to be a ballplayer” would never again play baseball.


On December 23, 1972, less than 3 months after recording his 3000th hit, a massive earthquake rocked Managua, Nicaragua. Aid was not reaching the victims as supplies were being stolen by the corrupt Somoza government. People were dying. People were hungry. People were scared. And the man who tirelessly worked with charities his entire life refused to sit back and watch.

Roberto Clemente believed his presence and reputation would put an end to the pilfering of Nicaragua’s leaders. He chartered a flight from Puerto Rico to personally deliver aid. On December 31, 1972, the Pirates’ legend helped load a plane, just as he had helped his father load trucks decades earlier. He was assisted by an Expos pitcher named Tom Walker who happened to be playing winter ball. Walker wanted to assist Clemente with delivering aid but Clemente wouldn’t let him. Walker was single. Clemente told him to go out and have fun. It was New Years Eve after all.

The Douglas DC-7 had a history of mechanical problems and the flight crew was inexperienced. The plane was overloaded by more than two tons and shortly after lifting off, it fell to the ocean just off the coast of Isla Verde.

As fans in the US and across Latin America mourned the untimely tragic death of the greatest Hispanic player to ever play the game, Clemente’s teammates gathered for his funeral. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said in his eulogy, “He gave the term ‘complete’ a new meaning. He made the word ‘superstar’ seem inadequate.” The following season, Major League Baseball began bestowing the Roberto Clemente Award to the major leaguer with outstanding skill who is also heavily involved in charitable work and active in the local community.

Noticeably absent from the funeral was Clemente’s longtime teammate and best friend on the Pirates, catcher Manny Sanguillen. Rather than attending the service, Sanguillen flew down to Puerto Rico and spent days searching underwater for his friend’s body. It was never found.

Roberto Clemente left behind a wife, three small children, millions of fans and an indelible mark on the game God wanted him to play.

He played 16 years at Forbes Field and two at Three Rivers. Now, outside PNC Park stands a statue of Clemente where old and new generations of fans can see and appreciate Roberto the man, Roberto the player, and Roberto the legend.

FOOTNOTE: The unattached Expos pitcher, Tom Walker, who Clemente talked out of joining him that fateful night, would eventually marry and have a family. His son, Neil is a second baseman. For the Pirates.


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Video: Gil Hodges Once Again Up For Hall of Fame Election Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:04:19 +0000 I’m sure it’s been something that has been debated quite often on this site as to whether Gil Hodges should be enshrined along with his legendary Brooklyn Dodgers’ teammates in Cooperstown.

Well, Gil will be up for election again this December at the Winter Meetings.

To increase awareness of Gil’s cause, here is a television segment I put together. Please share it out, so that Gil rightfully takes his place this winter alongside baseball immortals.

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Mike Piazza and Faith in Hall of Fame Voting Sat, 04 Jan 2014 14:00:11 +0000 Another year, another batch of worthy players kept from the Hall of Fame.

As of January 3, according to Baseball Think Factory, only four players, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Craig Biggio, have appeared on 75 percent of publicly-released Hall of Fame ballots in one of the strongest classes in history. Approximately one-fifth of all ballots have been released.

Could Piazza be snubbed from the Hall again?

Of all the projected Hall of Fame snubs, the one that hits closest to home among Mets fans is certainly Mike Piazza. For fans of both the Dodgers and Mets, he seems like a clearly-deserving candidate. However, some voters, almost 30 percent so far, have left Piazza off their ballots. A few voters have kept Piazza off their ballots based on merit, arguing that in a year where the ballot is full of all-time greats, Piazza wasn’t great enough. However, although there are some voters for whom being far and away the best hitter at a position just isn’t enough, most voters who have left Piazza out have done so because of steroid suspicion.

Of all the players on this year’s ballot, only one, Rafael Palmeiro, has ever officially failed a drug test (Sammy Sosa reportedly failed an anonymous drug test in 2003, but it was never officially confirmed by Major League Baseball) . Only one other player, Mark McGwire, has admitted to it. There are suspicions about others, but no one else has been proven guilty. Players like Piazza and Craig Biggio, each deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame, have been punished simply because they played in the same era as suspected cheatersThis is voting at its ugliest.

I have always thought that players who have cheated do not belong in the Hall of Fame. A few years ago, had I been given a vote, suspected players like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds would not have been on my ballot. However, Piazza’s situation over the past two years has changed my thinking. The attempts to keep  cheaters out of the Hall, at the expense of clean players, has gotten way out of hand.

To punish steroid users, and mostly suspected ones at that, is hypocritical of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. It will be the first time players will be kept out of Cooperstown en masse based on the “integrity clause.” To keep steroid users out of the Hall would be to not acknowledge the racists, bigots, criminals, drunks, and drug abusers already enshrined. The writers will vote for players who have a well-documented history of those offenses, but if there is any suspicion of a player using steroids, they won’t get votes? That’s not right. Maybe those voters would have some ground to stand on if we knew for sure who cheated, but with players like Piazza and Biggio getting snubbed, they have lost me.

Ty Cobb once  climbed into the stands to beat up a handicapped fan. It’s even rumored that he once beat a man to death with the handle of a pistol. Some Hall of Famers cheated on their wives. Others were viciously racist. Numerous players even admitted to using “greenies,” since banned by Major League Baseball, in their playing days. Gaylord Perry, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton and Whitey Ford, all Hall of Famers were notorious for throwing illegal spitballs.

As much as I’d like integrity and character to be a part of the voting process, it hasn’t been done for the 75 years the Hall of Fame has existed. If the Hall was started all over again, then I would understand the fight to keep cheaters out. But now, after decades of voting in cheaters and generally bad people, suddenly deciding to embark on a massive witch hunt that keeps players out because of back acne and hat sizes is completely unfair. The Hall of Fame doesn’t have to be perfect, just as its members aren’t.

Follow me on Twitter @UpAlongFirst.

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David Wright And The Hall Of Fame Wed, 26 Jun 2013 20:12:52 +0000 wright hof

We compare Wright against Sandberg, Dawson, and Jones to determine whether David Wright is on track for the Hall of Fame.

A few days ago, the guys on MLB Now were talking about David Wright‘s chances at the Hall of Fame. He had just recorded his 1,500 hit of his career, and those sorts of milestones tend to bring up this kind of debate.

So is David Wright a future Hall of Famer? Obviously we don’t have the answer to that question yet, but we can certainly use Wright’s career numbers up to this point to see if he is at least on track to Cooperstown.

To do this, I will use three players whose numbers are very similar to Wright’s. The first two are Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson, who each got in with just over 75% of the vote. The third is a certain future Hall of Famer: Chipper Jones. Let’s see how they compare.

Offensive Production

Offense has definitely been David Wright’s bread and butter. A consistent .300/.390/.500 hitter, Wright has been one of the top offensive players in the game, and one of best (and at times, the best) third baseman in baseball.

He stacks up very well with Sandberg, Dawson, and Jones through age 30:

Dawson: 1313 G, .279/.324/.476, 205 HR, 760 RBI, 235 SB

Sandberg: 1389 G, .287/.342/.452, 179 HR, 649 RBI, 275 SB

Jones: 1252 G, .309/.404/.544, 253 HR, 837 RBI, 114 SB

Wright: 1334 G, .301/.382/.507, 216 HR, 859 RBI, 178 SB

As you can see, Wright stacks up just as well with Dawson, Sandberg, and Jones in a few catagories, and has significantly better slash lines than Dawson and Sandberg. Jones is considered a much better player than Wright, but Wright’s numbers still stack up well against him.


One can’t evaluate offensive performance without evaluating how a player performs in the high leverage situations. The issue here is the fact that Wright, Sandberg, and Dawson each have very little postseason experience, while Jones has almost 100 games in October under his belt. Here is how they compare on this front:

Dawson: 15 G, .186/.238/.237, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 2 SB

Sandberg: 10 G, .385/.457/.641, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB

Jones: 93 G, .287/.409/.456, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 8 SB

Wright: 10 G, .216/.310/.378, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB

With only these small sample sizes, you can’t really judge (with the exception of Jones), how “clutch” a player is. Dawson, Sandberg, and Wright frankly haven’t been on good enough teams to even be put in those high leverage postseason situations, while Jones has the luxury of making the playoffs on 12 different occasions. Now we have to dig into regular season stats to find an answer. To do this, I look at batting lines in “high leverage” situations, moments in the game that have a big influence on the outcome of the game.

Dawson: 2428 PA, .278/.331/.456

Sandberg: 1792 PA, .290/.352/.462

Jones: 2085 PA, .304/.406/.513

Wright: 1227 PA, .316/.389/.518

Now looking at batting lines in clutch situations is great, but it’s also important to put them in context with a player’s normal production. For that, you look at tOPS+, which is OPS+ specifically for that player’s production. So instead of 100 being league average, it’s a player’s normal production, with each digit higher or lower representing one percent better or worse than normal. Out of the four players we’re looking at, Sandberg and Wright are tied for the highest tOPS+ with 104, meaning they are four percent better than usual in high leverage situations. Dawson has a 97 tOPS+ and Jones has a tOPS+ of 98 in those situations. It’s safe to say Wright comes up big in tense situations pretty often, or at least more often than some of his comparables.

Run Environment

Just as with clutchness, you need to consider run environment when evaluating a player’s production to really put it into context. For this, the easiest metric to use is park factors. Wrigley Field, the home of Sandberg his entire career, has historically been one of the easiest park’s to hit and score in. With its smaller dimensions, it’s one of the best parks for home run hitters. Dawson played the first half in a very neutral stadium in Montreal. Turner Field, where Chipper Jones played his home games, slightly favors hitters as well. Meanwhile, Shea Stadium has historically been a very pitcher-friendly ballpark, with park factors for home runs and hits in the bottom third of the league most years. Citi Field has been even friendlier to pitchers.

Simply using OPS+ takes the park factors out, meaning the advantages and disadvantages of certain ballparks are removed. Here are their OPS+ marks through age 30:

Dawson: 122 OPS+

Sandberg: 115 OPS+

Jones: 143 OPS+

Wright: 136 OPS+


Defense is always the toughest aspect to evaluate. The stats aren’t as advanced as they are for hitting and pitching, and judging defense with the naked eye often produces shaky results. Nonetheless, it’s clear that this is David Wright’s weakest point. He has had a very up-and-down career at third, and both the stats and the eye can tell you that. Jones is very similar to Wright on defense, and is wildly inconsistent. Dawson and Sandberg have the edge here, as they were both dazzling defenders with fantastic range. Here is how they stack up in both the traditional metrics (fielding percentage) and modern metrics (Range Factor/9 innings):

Fielding Percentage:

Dawson (OF): .983

Sandberg (2B): .989

Jones (3B): .954

Wright (3B): .954

Range Factor per 9 innings

Dawson: 2.39

Sandberg: 5.31

Jones: 2.42

Wright: 2.65

 Positional/Era Comparison

Every era is different, and every position is different as well. At the corner infield and outfield positions, there tend to be more productive offensive players. During different time periods, the league may be low on power-hitting third baseman, for example, so putting a player’s production in context with their era and their position in that era is important. For this, we’ll have to go through each player one-by-one.

Andre Dawson


Ryne Sandberg


Chipper Jones


David Wright


While Dawson and Sandberg were among the best at their position, both Wright and Jones were among the best in all of baseball.


It is hard for people to compare players like Wright to Hall of Famers because their careers aren’t over yet. At first glance, you may think that Wright is nowhere near any of these players, and you’d be right. That’s completely unfair to Wright, however, because he is only 30 years old. We have the luxury of being ably to look back at the second half of Dawson’s, Sandberg’s, and Jones’s careers and see all the great things they did past 30, while we can’t see that with Wright. When you get past that, however, you begin to see that Wright is unquestionably on the path to Cooperstown.

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Remembering The Great No. 8 Sun, 03 Mar 2013 05:35:48 +0000 PetanickI was walking around the mall yesterday with my wife, trying to get her to go into labor with our second child (first son). They say walking is good for kick-starting the labor process at this point, and as we were walking around, I decided to duck into the sports memorabilia store. I was pacing through the store, looking at the autographs of all the great players hanging on the wall, and I came across a beautiful autographed picture of Gary Carter.

The funny thing is, I was talking to Joe D earlier that day about how I was going to groom my son to be the next great Mets catcher, and then found myself standing in front of that beautifully framed picture of Carter. I had been in that store many times in the past, and never have seen a picture of Carter.

People sometimes wonder what the big deal of owning an autographed picture of a great athlete is. Well, if you find the right piece of memorabilia, it should stir up some memories…

Only the good die young.

We hear that saying all the time, but for a man that carried the nickname “the Kid,” it couldn’t be truer. As I sit here and reflect on one of my childhood heroes, it’s hard to envision the 1986 Mets team that we hold so dear in our hearts, ever reaching the heights they did that season without Carter. He brought stability and leadership to a young and immature team that was in desperate need of guidance. The Mets may have only one World Series under their belts today if it wasn’t for the Mets bringing Carter in for the 1985 season. I think everyone that knows the story of the ’86 Mets would agree that (sorry for the cheesy line but) without No. 8, they would have never been great.

Carter was the only good guy portrayed in the book The Bad Guys Won, which chronicled the crazy journey of 1986 Mets. He has an entire chapter dedicated to himself. The chapter starts off by calling him a “geek.” Literally.

The reason people called him a geek was because if you lumped all the other Mets players in a tank, and the water that filled the tank was represented by all the drug use, womanizing, and alcohol they consumed, Carter was like a bead of oil sitting on top of the water.

He never cursed, never wore cool clothes, never drank alcohol, never smoked, never used illegal drugs or cheated on his wife. For these behaviors, he was alienated in the clubhouse, and labeled a “geek.” The truth is Carter wasn’t a “geek.” He wasn’t a “kid.” He was what we would consider a man in it’s truest form. He was a role model. He was who every parent hoped their child would grow up to be. Oh, and the man could play ball.

The picture that stirred the echoes

The picture in the mall that stirred the emotions.

I remember when I was in little league, I convinced my coach to move me from my main position of shortstop, where I was an all-star, to catcher. I wanted to strap on those shin guards for one reason: Gary Carter. I still had the No. 1 on my back because Ozzie Smith’s back flips and smooth shortstop play had me hooked, but I was behind the plate grinding it out every game because of Carter. And I mean I was grinding it out. I’m not sure how many of you have played catcher in little league, but it isn’t as easy as it seems on the T.V. screen.

The professional pitchers hardly ever throw the ball in the dirt. Little League pitchers, on the other hand, throw it in the dirt quite often. I was bruised up from blocking all the balls, but I stuck with it, and it wasn’t long before I was named an all-star at catcher too. I remember the umpires would thank me at the end of every game because I would block all the wild pitches, saving them from taking their usual beating behind the plate. Evidently that was a rarity at that age.

They really should have thanked Gary Carter. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been back there blocking the balls that would normally giving them bruises. Carter was my favorite Mets player, but I eventually couldn’t take the abuse anymore that comes with blocking all those wild pitches. I ended up moving to the outfield to try and follow in the footsteps of my next childhood hero who also carried the nickname “the kid” – Ken Griffey Jr. I played the outfield all the way through college, and it earned me some tryouts for some major league teams, but I always regretted giving up on catching too soon.

I was a young boy during 1986, so I don’t remember much from that season. However, there are two moments that always stick out in my mind: the ball squibbling through Buckner’s legs in game six, and Gary Carter jumping into Jesse Orosco’s arms with that completely elated look on his face at the end of the ’86 World Series.

I also vaguely remember being at a game one summer night with my parents. At some point during the game, the umpire made a bad call. The three young men sitting in front of us decided to show the umpire how displeased they were with the call. First they got the umpire’s attention. Then they turned around very calmly, so that their backs were facing the field. After that, they dropped their pants in perfect unison, and proceeded to “moon” the umpire. Evidently, the 80s were a different time, because they didn’t get in trouble, but I can’t go to a Mets game without thinking about that moment.

Gary Carter will always be remembered as a great player (11 time All-Star and Hall of Famer), but he should also be remembered as a great man.  He showed us young Mets fans growing up how to play the game the way it was supposed to be played, and how to be a man, and not a “kid” like his nickname portrays him.

When looking back at that 1986 Mets team, it’s hard to believe that Carter was the youngest man to perish. With the way some of those Mets players abused their bodies with that indestructible feeling so many young men have, it’s amazing they haven’t experienced more health issues. It doesn’t seem fair that a person such as Carter was taken from us so young, especially when he lived his life in a manner that is said to provide us with longevity. I guess it must be true…the good really do die young.


We’ll always remember you No. 8…

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Will Mike Piazza’s Admissions Still Wind Up Hurting Hall Of Fame Chances? Mon, 11 Feb 2013 16:34:01 +0000 I am so excited to receive my copy of Mike Piazza’s autobiography, Long Shot, which I pre-ordered several weeks ago.

But of course, I can’t control myself in reading all the news stories about what is actually in the book before I read it for myself.

Long Shot Mike PiazzaSo that leads me to a very intriguing discussion.

Piazza admitted in his book to using androstenedione and Ephedra before the substances were banned, according to the New York Post. The 12-time All-Star catcher also said in his book that he took Vioxx (an anti-inflammatory), “greenies” (stimulants) and Dymetadrine (asthma medicine), the Post reports.

The New York Times reports that Piazza wrote in the book that he inquired about HGH, not knowing it was a banned substance, but his trainer advised against using it.

So let’s assume that Piazza is clean of HGH. He claims he never used “steroids,” and to this point, we all know he has never had a positive test on record.

But the real question now is how will Piazza’s admission to using these other drugs – mainly the currently-banned substances of andro and Ephedra – affect his chances at the Hall of Fame.

There will likely continue to be a rift amongst the voters. Some will say that since these substances were legal at the time, Piazza was not cheating. However, some will say that he was still enhancing his performance by using the substances, thus tainting his incredible numbers.

If I had to guess, the voters that voted for him this year will vote for him again next year. But then again, some may now change their vote since Piazza admitted to using “substances” during his career.

Of the writers that did not vote for him this year based on the suspicion of drug use, some may change their votes since Piazza admits to have never used “illegal substances.” But of course, the majority will have their initial inklings about Piazza confirmed and therefore will continue to exclude him from Cooperstown.

Talk about a voting conundrum!

I’m not exactly sure if Piazza’s book will help or hurt him. It almost begs the question of why he would even choose to admit anything in the first place. The timing of the book’s release is also strange, since he could have “cleared his name” before the voting occurred.

But then again, would his admission to using drugs clear his name or would it spark even more speculation like it already has?

I want to believe Piazza. I feel like he might have kept quiet if he used banned substances and would have hoped that no test results ever leaked.

He instead chose to be honest, and from what he admitted in the book, he never cheated according to what was and what was not illegal at the time.

I’m eager to see what else he has to say in his book. I just hope that all the juicy excerpts haven’t been revealed already.

The release of this book just keeps Piazza’s name in the news cycle, which will spark much more debate on whether he’s worthy of baseball immortality.

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Reign Delay? Mon, 14 Jan 2013 19:59:00 +0000 As I was driving home the other night, I was listening to Casey Stern and Jim Bowden on the MLB Network Radio channel on XM. They were discussing with Jill Painter, the L.A. Daily News sports columnist, the Baseball Hall of Fame vote which took place Wednesday. This is the same Jill Painter, member of the Baseball Writers Association of America who thought it made perfect sense to cast one of her Hall of Fame votes for the former Blue Jay, Dodger, Diamondback and Met, Shawn Green. As she was engaging in verbal kabuki, explaining her vote, I could almost feel the indignation boiling over from the two hosts. Big kudos goes out to both Bowden and Stern for having the combined patience of a saint. That interview alone should earn them a few Marconi votes in my view.

It’s a good thing I don’t do radio; I wouldn’t have been nearly as diplomatic as they were. As if there wasn’t enough preordained controversy with this year’s crop of candidates, we get this nonsense and I’m not even going to enrage you with her supposed rationale. I have too much respect for you to even try. It’s almost as bad as the one vote that someone gave Aaron Sele. Again, not going to enrage you with the facts, you can look up Sele’s pathetic career statistics here if you wish. Then you have my permission to curse uncontrollably – - and yes you can practice reading that line in your best Bane voice. Or Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery as I believe they’re one in the same.

Call me naïve but I was always under the impression that those having been afforded the privilege of a Hall of Fame vote would show just a modicum of respect towards it. I’m not the only one who thinks this way as does the great Metstradamus. But this is unfortunately the year that common sense, fairness and respect for the game clearly went over the edge of the train tracks faster than a New York City subway commuter. Ouch.

Now I’ve been very sympathetic to the plight the writers have when it comes to wading through the waters that PED’s have polluted in Major League Baseball. But like Metstradamus, when voters use their privilege to make some grand statement (i.e. voting no one in), peppered with some who find it – I don’t know – comical, to vote for the likes of Sele and Green, it simply demonstrates to me that stupidity isn’t determined by who you write for or what and if you get paid for writing it.

When the likes of Marty Noble, someone I’ve always had tremendous respect for, thinks that because Mike Piazza had an abundance of—wait for it—back hair, during his time as a Dodger and decides to connect the follicles and assume that it meant Piazza used. It shows me just how far we’ve fallen as a people more than anything. We’ll believe the very worst of each other just to protect our own vanity because God forbid a player is later found to have juiced.

We can’t have writers dealing with pangs of remorse now can we? To top it off, Noble then ironically said that as a Met, Piazza had a hairless back, which is ALSO a symptom of steroid use. So if Piazza essentially played with Robin William’s back he’s using yet if he’s smoother than an Abercrombie model he’s also using? Absolutely pathetic, especially that never, not once, has Piazza been accused or named in any report or tested positive for any performance enhancing drugs.

I always believed that MLB needs to be far more proactive of a guide for the BBWAA when it comes to Hall of Fame voting and steroids. I wrote a piece for Metsmerized in early 2011 calling for Bud Selig to commission a panel exploring the effects that PED’s have on actual playing performance. Of course Selig and MLB want absolutely nothing further to do with this issue—at least not what happened in the past. One bright spot happened a few days ago when the MLB Players Association and MLB agreed to year round drug testing for Human Growth Hormone and Testosterone.

The BBWAA and their writers refused to vote for some players and based it on innuendo and unproven allegations; and that is shameful itself. In part I can understand their fear of enshrining someone who later is proven to have used PED’s as players elected cannot be removed from the Hall of Fame. My question is why is that? Hypothetically if a Hall of Famer does something illegal, whether during or after their playing career, why are they not immediately open to removal? That, in my opinion, would allow the writers to choose players based on their careers and not on speculation.

George Orwell was quoted as saying:

“Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent.”

Now the real question remains, who was Orwell talking about; the players or the writers?

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From Left Field: Give Travis d’Arnaud A Chance In The Bigs Right Away Thu, 10 Jan 2013 15:11:28 +0000 travis d'arnaud mets

To turn attention away from Mike Piazza and the Hall of Fame vote for just a minute, let’s discuss the future Mike Piazza, or so we hope.

The Mets acquired Travis d’Arnaud, their catcher of the future, in the trade that sent R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays.

But why can’t the future be right now?

d’Arnaud said he’s ready to play and recovered from a knee injury that ended his minor league season early last year.

All indications point to d’Arnaud starting the 2013 campaign in the minors. That’s fine, but there’s no need to extend his stay just so he can get “seasoning.”

The Mets likely want to have him start in the minors in order to delay his eventual free agency as well as adjust to his new surroundings. If he spends the first 20 days of this season in the minors, his free-agent clock will start in 2014, rather than this year.

But once that day passes, I’d really like to see the 24-year-old catching prospect in the Majors.

The best way to gain experience in the big leagues is to actually play in the big leagues. I’m all about making sure a prospect is ready, but from everything I’ve read on d’Arnaud, he’s ready.

Especially if the team won’t be too competitive this season, I’d rather see d’Arnaud struggle to find his way so that he’s ready for 2014, when the team has more financial flexibility to improve the roster.

But who knows? Maybe the kid bursts onto the scene and takes positive strides this season. We won’t ever know unless he’s given the chance.

The Mets are also weary of starting d’Arnaud in the bigs right away because the organization wants the catcher to develop chemistry with top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.

Well, just like I believe d’Arnaud should be in the bigs as soon as possible, that’s how I feel about Wheeler. Give the young guys a shot, and they can develop chemistry together at Citi Field, rather than Las Vegas.

So the plan should be to let them both spend the necessary 20 days in the minors for free agency purposes, and then once they’re available, bring them up in May.

If the organization doesn’t have the money to bring in star players, at least it can give the fans a feel for what they have to look forward to in the coming seasons.

No offense to John Buck, but he’s not exactly a guy who fills up a stadium. But d’Arnaud playing regularly on the other hand may get the fanbase excited.

The sooner d’Arnaud and Wheeler crack the roster, the sooner the Mets will reveal their long-term identity.

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Is Mike Piazza A First-Ballot Hall Of Famer? Fri, 13 Jan 2012 13:22:52 +0000 With the dust settled from this year’s Hall of Fame voting, the attention turns to a loaded 2013 ballot.

Prominent names such as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Craig Biggio will be on the ballot for the first time, but so will one close to all of our hearts here at MMO: Mike Piazza.

Naturally, Mets fans have an enduring love for Piazza. He revolutionized this franchise in the late 1990s-early 2000s, and his legacy will forever live on in Mets lore.

Mike Piazza

Mike Piazza

However, how do the writers who hold a Hall of Fame vote view Piazza in terms of a first-ballot selection?

I recently saw an article on in which writers who hold a vote shared their initial thoughts on whom they would vote for next year. Surprisingly, Piazza’s name only appeared on a handful of ballots.

We as Mets fans have seen Piazza up close. His clutch hits, record-setting home runs and inspirational moments will always be in our memories. But there seems to be a consensus out there that Piazza is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

He is sure to earn a spot in Cooperstown at some point, but he is deserving of the honor of being a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

I bring this up because a player with similar statistics and accomplishments to Piazza—Jeff Bagwell—has not been voted in on his first two attempts. Both were major offensive forces during parts of the past two decades.

However, there’s a major difference between Bagwell and Piazza: Piazza was a catcher. Catchers take a beating on a daily basis. Piazza missed his share of time throughout his career with stints on the disabled list and even scheduled off days. Just imagine the stats he could have accumulated had he been a first baseman like Bagwell.

What’s more though about Piazza was that he carried the Mets on his back for two deep playoff runs. Of course, the Mets had a good supporting cast featuring Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura, Al Leiter, etc. But it was Piazza’s team through and through.

So to answer the title question: Yes, Mike Piazza—arguably the greatest offensive catcher in the history of baseball—is a first-ballot Hall of Famer in my opinion. But frankly, my opinion doesn’t count. It will come down to whether the writers think he’s worthy.

Because he’s a catcher, Piazza holds an advantage over Bagwell. But don’t be too upset next year if Piazza is forced to wait for the Cooperstown call.

Tom Seaver needs some Mets company in the Hall of Fame, so hopefully Piazza gets the call next year.

Then again, there’s even a chance Piazza will be wearing a Dodgers cap on his plaque, which is the subject of a completely different post.

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This Day In MLB History… Tue, 10 Jan 2012 16:43:00 +0000

January 10th, 1928: The Giants trade Rogers Hornsby to the Boston Braves for Shanty Hogan and Jimmy Welsh. It’s the Rajah’s third team in three years.

Why exactly is this trade monumental? Mostly because I find it hard to believe that any team would want to trade one of the best second basemen in the history of the game, especially when he is still in the prime of his career. In 1927 for the Giants, Hornsby hit .361, slugged 25 home runs, and had 125 RBI.

Apparently, that wasn’t a good enough stat line and New York traded Hornsby within the National League to the Boston Braves. He then proceeded to hit at a .387 clip, hit 21 homers, and 94 RBI. In his 23 year MLB career, Rogers Hornsby played for five different teams. I find it odd that he switched teams that many times during his professional career. In today’s game, we see players switch teams every year due to free agency, but it didn’t always used to be like that.

Before the 1970s, the reserve clause allowed an organization to hold onto a player for as long as they wish. Due to this, it was common for a player to spend his entire career with only one or two teams. That’s why I think it’s so weird that a career .358 hitter with 301 home runs, 1,584 RBI, and almost 3,000 hits would move around to so many teams during a time when players didn’t move around after they were established.

This fact alone makes me wonder what type of player Hornsby was in the clubhouse. I haven’t read anything bad about his character, but with him moving around to so many teams, there must have been some sort of personality conflict, either with Hornsby and his fellow players, his coaching staff, or the front office; especially with Boston and New York since he only spent one year with each organization.

On the other hand, the star second baseman could have have been too expensive for either the Giants or Braves to hold onto because he was at the peak of his game. There are obviously a number of things that caused Rogers Hornsby to play for five teams during a time in which it was unprecedented. He has always been a personal favorite of mine, and one of a few Major Leaguers that I wish I had the chance to watch in person.

Want to read more of On The Way Home? Visit my blog at!

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1969 Mets Discuss Gil Hodges’ Hall Of Fame Chances Thu, 24 Nov 2011 14:00:52 +0000 As we all know, Gil Hodges will be on the Veterans’ Committee Hall of Fame ballot for 2012. So expect to hear plenty of discussion over the next few months about whether or not he should be enshrined.

I personally was not around when Gil played or managed, but I consider myself lucky to have heard the great stories of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1969 Miracle Mets. I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Joan Hodges recently, who said she hopes this is the year for Gil—even though she believes he should have been inducted a long time ago.

In addition, to speaking with Mrs. Hodges, I caught up with a few members of the 1969 Mets and asked their thoughts on if they think Gil will be elected this time around. The players only had great things to say about their former manager.

“I hope it’s the year,” said ’69 Mets shortstop Buddy Harrelson. “He was a very special man, not just as a ballplayer in Brooklyn but a very special man in the community.”

While his on-field achievements speak for themselves, Gil left just as significant an impact as a manager.

“I think Gil certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,” said original Met Ed Kranepool. “We would have won more pennants under Gil Hodges.”

Hodges died from a heart attack in spring training 1972—right at the peak of his managerial career when the Mets were a feared team in the National League. Still, the players agree that Hodges got them to play much better than they should have.

Hopefully, the word continues to spread about what Hodges meant to the game of baseball.

“I know a lot of people have been working hard to help in that regard,” said ’69 Mets platoon right fielder Art Shamsky. “I think he’s certainly deserving of it, not only as a player and manager, but he was such a great person and ambassador for the game.”

Shamsky noted that Hodges was the main reason the Mets went from being the laughing stock of professional baseball to World Champions just eight years after coming into existence.

Being on the Veterans’ Committee ballot may work in Hodges’ favor for next year’s voting.

“These are people that might have recognized Gil or played against him, know what he’s done, and can vote the way it’s supposed to be voted,” said Kranepool. “There are guys in the Hall of Fame that don’t have his credentials.”

Harrelson likened Hodges to his own father in that both were rugged on the outside but were great men on the inside who deeply cared for their families.

“I loved him as a person and as a manager,” said Harrelson, who also looks forward to someday heading to Cooperstown for Gil’s induction ceremony.

Whether that’s this year or in the near future, I’ll likely be joining Buddy in paying homage to a great baseball player, a great manager and an even better man.

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Introducing: The MLB Hall Of Fame Class Of 1946 Fri, 04 Nov 2011 18:34:49 +0000

As the class in 1945, the Hall of Fame class of 1946 is another loaded one, with a total of ten players getting enshrined. Obviously, Cooperstown made for the lost time during WWII. There are a couple of familiar names in this year’s class, but more unfamiliar ones. Let’s get into it.

Jesse Burkett: Left Fielder, Cleveland Spiders

.342 average, 1,708 runs scored, 2,872 hits, 75 home runs, 952 RBI, 392 stolen bases

During his 16-year career that was mostly spent with the Cleveland Spiders, Burkett was known for what he could do with a bat in his hands. He hit over .300 on eleven different occasions, surpassing the .400 mark twice. He led the league in hits three times, batting average three times, and runs scored twice. Burkett collected 200 or more hits in six seasons, while being the second player in MLB history to hit .400, the first being 1945 Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty. An interesting fact is that Burkett actually came up as a pitcher originally and notched 30 wins in a season while in the Minors.

Frank Chance: First Baseman, Chicago Cubs:

.298 average, 796 runs, 1,273 hits, 20 home runs, 596 RBI, 405 stolen bases

Although playing 17 seasons in the Major Leagues and 15 of those years coming with the Chicago Cubs, Chance is more known for his managerial resume than as a player. He first started to manage in 1905, when he took over a talented Cubs team; Chance proceeded to lead Chicago to four NL Pennants between 1906 and 1910, while winning back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, which unfortunately is the last time the Cubs were able to celebrate something of that magnitude. He also won a league championship in the Pacific Coast League in 1916 with the Los Angeles Angels, and finished his managerial career with a 946-648 record.

Jack Chesbro: Pitcher, New York Yankees:

198-132 record, 2.68 ERA, 2,898 innings pitched, 1,265 strikeouts

Even though Jack Chesbro only pitched for 11 seasons in the Major Leagues, he made the most of them, as you can see in his stat line. He is most well-known for the year that he had in 1904, when he started 51 games, throwing 48 complete games, and compiled a 41-12 record, while posting a 1.82 ERA. All of these games pitched led to 454.2 innings pitched. He led the league in shutouts, wins, and games started twice, and winning percentage three times. He was a known spit baller, which was OK since it was legal until 1920; during the five year span between 1901-1906, he collected 154 out of his 198 wins. Probably the best of all, he threw the first game ever for the Yankees, who where known as the Highlanders when they were established in 1903.

Johnny Evers: Second Baseman, Chicago Cubs:

.270 average, 919 runs scored, 1,659 hits, 12 home runs, 538 RBI, 324 stolen bases

These numbers don’t seem Hall of Fame worthy, but he was inducted by the Veteran’s Committee and was known for being an intelligent and scrappy infielder that was in the middle of the famous Tinker-to-Evans-to-Chance double play combination. He was also tied to winning, celebrating six league pennants and three World Series titles. Evers is unique because he is known as one of the smallest players to play the game, usually weighing in at less than 130 lbs. The pride of Troy, New York also was awarded the MVP award in 1914 when he posted a .279 batting average, .390 on base percentage, one home run, 40 RBI, and 81 runs scored.

Tommy McCarthy: Right Fielder, Boston Beaneaters:

.294 average, 1,050 runs scored, 1,485 hits, 44 home runs, 732 RBI, 506 stolen bases

In his 13-year career in the 19th century, McCarthy was known for his speed and approach at the plate. He scored more than 100 runs in a season seven times (which all happened consecutively), topped 40 stolen bases six times, while stealing more than 100 in 1888 to help win a pennant for the St. Louis Browns. What is remarkable is that he earned 20% of his career stolen bases in just one year!

Joe McGinnity: Pitcher, New York Giants:

246-141 record, 2.66 ERA, 3,459 innings pitched, 1,068 strikeouts.

While only playing 10 seasons in the Major Leagues, it pretty safe to say that Joe McGinnity was a dominant pitcher, averaging 24 wins per season. The legendary pitching topped the 20-win plateau eight times, 30 wins twice, and led the league in ERA once, wins five times, innings pitched four times, and complete games twice. McGinnity was known for his toughness, which was summed up in the fact that he would pitch both games of a double header. In 1903, he did so three times, winning each of the six games. Once he was done in the Majors at the age of 37, he continued pitching until he as 54 in the Minor Leagues.

Eddie Plank: Pitcher, Philadelphia Athletics:

326-194 record, 2.35 ERA, 4,502 innings pitched, 2,246 strikeouts

Eddie Plank is considered one of the best left-handed pitchers to ever toe the rubber, compiling the third-highest win total and recording the most shutouts and complete games by any southpaws. Even though he didn’t play baseball until he got to high school, he ended up playing in the Majors for 17 years and helped the Athletics dominate in the newly formed American League by winning six pennants and two world titles. Plank eclipsed the 20-win plateau on eight different occasions and did so with finesse and a big, sweeping curveball. He was honored as the 68th greatest MLB player by The Sporting News in 1999.

Joe Tinker: Shortstop, Chicago Cubs:

.263 average, 773 runs scored, 1,695 hits, 31 home runs, 783 RBI, 337 stolen bases

The final piece of the famous double play trio that also included fellow 1946 inductees Frank Chance and Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker developed the reputation as a clutch performer that was aggressive and fast on the field. He led all National League shortstops in fielding while helping the Cubs become the most successful team in the early 1900s. Tinker average 28 stolen bases per year for his career and stole home twice in one game in 1910, which has been done less than a dozen times in MLB history.

Rube Waddell: Pitcher, Philadelphia Athletics:

193-143 record, 2.16 ERA, 2,962 innings pitched, 2,316 strikeouts

Another legendary lefty, Rube Waddell was a colorful player during his 13-year career; he possessed pinpoint control of his above average fastball and curveball. His manager, Connie Mack, saw the talent that Waddell had and helped mold him into the successful pitcher that he became; he topped the 20-win plateau on four different occasions (while doing so consecutively) and won the pitcher’s Triple Crown in 1905 by leading the league with 27 wins, a 1.48 ERA, and 287 strikeouts. A pitcher that was known for his ability to strike out opposing hitters, Waddell led the AL in strikeouts six years in a row.

Ed Walsh: Pitcher, Chicago White Sox:

195-126 record, 2.54 ERA, 2,962 innings pitched, 1,736 strikeouts

MLB’s all-time ERA leader enjoyed a wonderful career over his 14 seasons, with all but one being with the Chicago White Sox. His most impressive year came in 1908, when he posted a 40-15 record, 1.42 ERA, 42 complete games, and 464 innings pitched. He led the league in innings pitched four times, shutouts three times, complete games twice, and games played in five times. Walsh also has the second-best WHIP in MLB history, and enjoyed six seasons with a sub-2.00 ERA and four 20-win seasons. An interesting thing to note is that he put together the lowest ERA for a pitcher with a losing record when he posted a 1.27 ERA in 1910 while having a record of 18-20.

With two back-to-back classes loaded with players that had an ever lasting impact on the game of baseball, next week we look at the class of 1947, with only four inductees.

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Ya Gotta Believe # 45 Needs To Be Retired First Mon, 25 Jul 2011 03:38:02 +0000 Earlier this season we all heard the gut-wrenching news that our beloved Gary Carter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. As the tears dried and the reality began to settle in, a discussion ensued. The Mets need to retire #8 for Gary. Others countered that if #8 is retired, then #17 for Keith must be retired as well. The debate raged on about who had more of an impact on the Mets: Keith or Gary?

Safe to say without either one of them there is no Championship in 1986.

However, I feel that there is a Met who needs to have his number retired before both of these players. Someone who, like Keith and Gary, can be referred to by a single name: Tug.

I am not at all diminishing what Gary and Keith meant to this club and this organization. The acquisition of Keith turned us from losers into contenders. And then Gary put us over the top. Hell, if I could, I’d retire the number of almost the entire 86 roster.

Noted sports columnist Tom Verducci was once asked how does he decide who to vote in to the Hall of Fame. Verducci replied he considers if the game was better off after the individual in question retired. He looks not just at stats but what the player meant to Baseball.

Using this logic #45 should be retired. Tug was the heart and soul of this franchise. He taught us to “believe,” that miracles do happen in Flushing. And to never ever give up on the Mets. He displayed leadership both on and off the field. He was charismatic, funny, clever, clutch. And so damn good.

Keith wore a Mets jersey for 6 ½ seasons. Gary for just 5. Tug wore his for 9 years. Over that time he tossed 792 IP, more then any other RPer in team history. He has appeared in the 3rd most games of any pitcher on our staff (361.) Over that time he compiled a solid 3.17 ERA . During a 5 year span he surpassed 100 IP 4 times–and was only on the DL once–for 3 weeks back in 74.

In 1965, he made a start, going up against Sandy Koufax. Koufax was 18-0 against the Mets but Tug out pitched Koufax and became the 1st Mets pitcher to earn a win against the Dodger legend.

Whereas Seaver was the heart of this team, Tug was our soul.

In 73, as the Mets floundered at the bottom of the NLE in late August, Tug’s war cry of ’Ya Gotta Believe’ began to take form. Ironically, McGraw should have been the LAST person to talk about believing. He was having the worst year of his career. His ERA was over 5.00. But Tug held fast to his belief. Soon, his teammates started to believe. Then, fans started to believe. And shortly thereafter, the rest of the NL started to believe.

In the last month of the 73 season, Tug went 3-0 with an 0.57 ERA. The Mets as a whole went 20-8 and walked away with a pennant.

Tug tossed a total of 8 IP in the 69 and 73 LCS. He never allowed a run.

He threw in 5 games during the 73 World Series where he went 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA. He also represented the Mets in the 72 All-Star Game where he fanned 4 of the 6 batters he faced and came away with a win.

It’s about more then the stats. Over 900 players have worn a Mets jersey and we’ve only deemed one worthy of having his # retired. 41 was retired not only due to Seaver’s accomplishments but what he meant to this club. He embodied the Mets for over a decade–Just like Tug.

Case in point: In the day when the Mets were dominated by one of the most feared starting staffs in baseball, we had one constant legitimate hitter during this time. But yet I don’t ever recall any discussion about retiring # 21. For 12 years, twice as long as Keith was a Met, Cleon Jones was our first offensive hero. His 340 BA in 1969 stood as the highest single season batting average for almost 30 years-And still remains 2nd highest in team history. It’s been over 35 years since Cleon played for the Mets. But in spite of that, he remains in the Top 10 of all hitting categories including RS, RBI’s, 2B and hits.

He was a fan favorite. But he didn’t leave the team with the legacy Tug did.

Tug displayed character, heart, He believed when no one else did.

For those of us lucky enough to see Tug pitch in his prime, it was a sight to behold. Seeing him warming up beyond the green RF wall in the 8th inning meant the Mets were just 3 outs away from victory. There was electricity in the air as he rode in from the bullpen, walked to the mound. We cheered as he aggressively pounded his glove on his right leg after recording an out.

The Mets used to pride themselves on honoring our past, our history. We need to get back to that again and secure the fact that no other player wears #45.

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Mike Piazza Interview: “Coming To NY Was Meant To Be” Tue, 28 Jun 2011 14:53:34 +0000

(C) Diana Colapietro

At a recent golf outing benefiting the Brooklyn/Queens CYO athletic program, I was lucky enough to meet and interview the legendary Mike Piazza. Not only was he a great baseball player, but he is an even nicer person.

As Mets fans, we will always remember Piazza for his on-field achievements such as leading the team to the 2000 World Series, hitting a memorable home run after 9/11 and passing Carlton Fisk for most home runs by a catcher.

However, what some fans may not realize is that Piazza is a deeply religious individual who relied on his Catholic faith during his playing career and now as a retiree from baseball.

“It just brings me a lot of peace,” said Piazza. “It allows me to deal with the issues of my new challenges in life for being a husband and a father and having a family.”

There was a time when Piazza lived and died by his success on the field. But once he started realizing the bigger picture, he was able to let go of that mentality and nurture other more important things in his life.

Piazza always prayed during games. Though he didn’t necessarily ask God to help him hit a home run every at-bat, he instead prayed for God to allow him to do his best.

“I just prayed to God to clear my mind and allow me to execute and do the best that I can,” said Piazza. “If I got a hit or didn’t get a hit, it really was irrelevant to me. Success and failure is not necessarily measured in wins and losses or numbers.”

Throughout his career, Piazza claims he was more concerned with the little things. He enjoyed connecting with fans on a personal level and encouraging people to push past certain limitations.

His story does have an inspirational value since he was basically drafted as a favor to his father but wound up turning in a Hall of Fame worthy career.

Additionally, Piazza is flattered that fans, especially young ballplayers, were able to find joy based on his success.

“Inspiring kids to be Major Leaguers gives me a lot of pride,” said Piazza.

When Piazza was younger, he claims he was selfish ballplayer but in a way that made him a good player. However, he realized that he was given a gift and wanted others to share in that gift.

“Once we get to certain point in our lives, we need to internalize our success and really gives thanks for why we are successful,” said Piazza. “A lot of those things are a spiritual gift.”

This idea of a gift, Piazza claims, ties back to his devout faith.

“Faith is a gift,” said Piazza. “We need to get back to roots and understand the path to true peace. Ultimately, if you look inside your own heart, you’ll find peace.”

While it’s one thing to merely state one’s faith, Piazza actually put his faith to practice, and there was no greater example than September 21, 2001—the first game in New York after the 9/11 terrorists attacks.

During a time when it must have been extremely difficult to maintain his composure, Piazza affirms that he relied on prayer to help keep him focused.

He claims, “I remember specifically on the first base line when I first heard the bagpipes and I started to cry, I was saying to myself, ‘Please God, let me execute and do my job. Please help me hold it together.’”

As we all know, Piazza held it together quite well and launched the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning—later known as the “Healing Power of a Swing.”

“I truly believe that was divine intervention; that was God, or at least the Holy Spirit, working through me to calm me down, let me execute and do my job,” said Piazza.

In the end, Piazza credits both his faith and his playing ability as the reason he’ll wind up in the Hall of Fame. While he said he would always honor his Dodger past, he claims the New York Mets hold a special place in his heart.

“Coming to New York was tumultuous the way it happened, but it was meant to be,” said Piazza.

After speaking to him and realizing what a generous and spiritual person he is, there’s one other thing that’s meant to be: Piazza entering the Hall of Fame in 2013 wearing a Mets cap.

Follow me on Twitter @JMMancari.

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MLB Needs To Finally Solve The PED Issue Mon, 10 Jan 2011 14:00:47 +0000 As all of us grow older, the players we grew up enjoying, emulating and idolizing, have since retired leaving us nostalgic for days gone by. I remember the first time I read the back of a baseball card and found a player born the year I entered high school. Age had finally caught up to me. Sure I wasn’t ready for shuffle board at The Villages or for dinner at 3, nonetheless it hit me.

The Baseball Writers Association of America comprised of over 700 active members of the media working for newspapers, magazines and web sites, last week elected Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar to the Hall of Fame. Along with Blyleven and Alomar, former General Manager Pat Gillick, elected by the Veterans Committee, will be representing the class of 2011 for the Hall of Fame.

Over the next few years Major League Baseball will come to a crossroads where players from the “steroid era” will become eligible for the Hall. With Mark McGwire barely skimming 20% of votes, down from 22% last year, players who ended their careers clouded with accusations, insinuations and downright admissions of steroid use are making life for Hall voters less than simple.

Jayson Stark in a recent article illustrated his concern over being what he refers to as the “morality police” , when voting for the Hall.

I can understand where Stark is coming from. With the exception of actual courtroom Judges, most of us find the act of judging others to be a difficult proposition that we would do anything to avoid, yet here we are mouthing off and judging in places like this every day; ironic I know.  Maybe that’s a good thing that most of us are wary of casting judgement on others.  The last thing I would want is for someone to have some deep, burning, life long desire to become a judge.  To me it’s a position best appointed to and not sought after.

The core of the issue is two-fold, do players who have accumulated Hall of Fame type statistics over the span of their careers have to prove themselves innocent of PED use in the minds of the BBWAA voters?  Second, to what extent do PED’s have on physically enhancing the skills of a Major League Baseball player?

In the United States we are considered innocent until proven guilty, Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, and the burden of proof is on the accuser. While it is not strictly stated in our Constitution, it is however embodied in the 5th Amendment.

Now there have been those who have admitted to PED use such as McGwire and there have been others who have not but have been targets of Federal investigations involving PED distribution and lying under oath such as Bonds and Clemens.

The best way for MLB to come up with a fair and workable approach to this issue, especially when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, would be to assemble the brightest minds in Medicine – commissioned by Bud Selig – to determine to what extent PED’s have on the already existing skills of a Major League Baseball player.

While we all have speculated that steroids makes an average player good, a good player great and so on, we really haven’t had a definitive, medically supported and dissected view of this, at least not one sanctioned by MLB. The point being, not all players who have taken steroids have become Hall of Famers and not all Hall of Famers have taken steroids.

The BBWAA writers clearly would rather not be placed in a postion to judge players on issues indirectly connected to baseball.  Taking drugs – whether they are PED’s or not being one of the issues.  If a study can give them a somewhat difinitive answer on what effects steroids and other PED’s can have on a professional baseball player’s skill level, perhaps then the writers can vote not so much with a clear conscience but at least with the facts on their side.  It’s an idea that should be explored.  Unfortunately it seems like MLB has had it’s share of PED discussion and deems the current standards of player testing to be the answer to just about every question posed to them.

Here lies the great problem with that. Over the next few years we’re going to see many players become eligible for the Hall of Fame who have the PED stigma attached to them, rightly or wrongly. And like Stark mentioned in his article unless the public and the people who run the Hall of Fame are willing to accept empty podiums (i.e. empty wallets as well) then the course of action is to do nothing.

While many of us are tired of the steroid, PED talk, the fact remains that this issue isn’t going away and to remain ignorant to it or wish it away won’t change the storm that’s clearly on the horizon.

]]> 0 Hall Of Fame Pitcher Bob Feller Dead at 92 Thu, 16 Dec 2010 04:20:54 +0000 Hall of Famer, former Cleveland Indian, Bob Feller passed away this evening from an acute form of Leukemia at the age of 92.

“Rapid Robert” won 266 games in 18 seasons all with the Indians, was once “clocked” at 104 mph. At the time, it was difficult to gauge how fast pitchers threw since Radar guns had yet to be invented.

I remember seeing video of Feller in his prime throwing a fastball with a man on a motorcycle zipping along side his pitch at over a hundred miles per hour. Feller’s fastball made it to the catchers mitt faster than the bike made it past the catcher.

He was a living legend and now belongs to the ages.

For a great re-cap of his career check out Tim Kurkjian’s article on ESPN the Magazine‘s web site.

Bob “Rapid-Robert” Feller


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D-Backs Pummel Mets 14-1, In Worst Home Loss Of Season Sun, 01 Aug 2010 21:14:32 +0000

Mets still having trouble winning back-to-back games as they get killed by the Arizona Diamondbacks again, losing 14-1. The Mets were finally able to beat the D-Backs yesterday but the story was different today as the pitching, offense, and defense were all missing today. Once again the Mets make a pitcher they have never seen before, look like an ace. They have been doing this all season. The Mets just can’t seem to beat the Diamondbacks as they fall to only one game over .500 on the season.

Game Summary

In a day where former Mets players and managers were shrined into the Mets Hall-of-Fame, the current Mets players couldn’t keep the joyous moments alive. Jonathon Niese had his first poor start in what seemed like ages. He has been a solid number three pitcher for the Mets this season and was unfortunately beat up by those pesky D-Backs. he cruised through the first three innings but it all fell apart in the fourth inning. Jon Niese only pitched 4.1 innings. Gave up 7 runs – 6 earned – on 7 hits, two homeruns, three walks and a  wild pitch. He was able to strikeout two though. He receives his fifth lose of the season.

The bullpen wasn’t much help either. Elmer Dessens and Oliver Perez combined for 4.2 relief innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits, two walks and three strikeouts. Dessens also gave up two homeruns.

The pitching was terrible, but did the offense at least put up a fight? No. No they did not. They combined for only five hits and one lonely run.

The five hits came from Angel Pagan, Jesus Feliciano, Ike Davis, Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora who all had one hit each. The one run came from Ike Davis, who had a sac fly RBI in the fourth inning.

Guys who are supposed to be leading this team, Wright and Reyes, and guys who are supposed to be the future of this team, Thole, all had 0-3 games.

Not only was the pitching bad and the offense terrible, the defense wasn’t helpful either. Wright and Pagan both had an error on the day and Castillo messed up a play when he dropped the ball from a throw that could have gotten an out. Nothing was working for this team today.

Turning Point

Adam LaRoche had two three-run homeruns on the night in both the fourth and fifth inning.

Game Ball

Nobody was having a good day, so the game ball goes to Dwight Gooden, Frank Cashen, Davey Johnson and Darryl Strawberry who all enter the Mets Hall-of-Fame today.

Up Next

Johan Santana looks to rebound off of his poor start in his last outing as he begins game one of the three games series against the Braves on the road. Tim Hudson will pitch for the Braves as he looks for his 12th win of the season. Game time is 7:10 PM.

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Andre Dawson Selected To The Hall Of Fame Wed, 06 Jan 2010 22:37:45 +0000 Andre Dawson finally received the call he’s been waiting nine years for.  However, he won’t be celebrating by going to Disneyworld.  Instead, he’ll be going to Cooperstown as the newest member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In one of the closest votes in Hall of Fame history, Dawson was named on 77.9% of the 539 ballots cast by the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.  His 420 votes were fifteen more than the 405 needed to gain election into the Hall.  Dawson was the only player voted in by the BBWAA, as Bert Blyleven and former Met Roberto Alomar fell just short of baseball immortality.

Blyleven’s name was on 74.2% of the ballots (400 votes; five short of election) and Alomar was named on 73.7% of the ballots (397 votes; eight short of election).  No player receiving at least 70% of the vote has ever failed to eventually be elected into the Hall of Fame.

Dawson played 17 of his 21 seasons in the major leagues for the Montreal Expos and the Chicago Cubs, winning the 1977 NL Rookie of The Year Award for the Expos and the 1987 NL MVP Award for the Cubs.  He was a five-tool player who combined power, speed and a cannon for an arm.  Opposing pitchers feared him as did opposing baserunners, at least those who were smart enough not to try to take an extra base on him.  For his defensive excellence, Dawson earned eight Gold Glove Awards.  Offensively, very few hitters could compare to Dawson’s power-speed combination.  Only three players in baseball history have hit 400 HR while racking up 300 SB.  Those players are Barry Bonds (762 HR, 514 SB), Willie Mays (660 HR, 338 SB) and Andre Dawson (438 HR, 314 SB).

Perhaps the most well-known story about the Hawk, as Dawson was called, was how he gave Cubs GM (and former Mets manager) Dallas Green a blank contract so that he could play for the Cubs on natural grass after the artificial turf in Montreal had played havoc with his knees.  In 1987, while playing for only $500,000, Dawson had the best season of his career, leading the league with 49 HR and 137 RBI for the Cubs.  He won the MVP Award despite the fact that the Cubs finished in last place.

Numerous former Mets were also on the Hall of Fame ballot, led by the near-miss of Roberto Alomar.  Robbie was quite possibly the best second baseman of his generation.  He won ten Gold Gloves for his defensive excellence and was a 12-time All-Star.  Alomar retired at the relatively young age of 36, preventing him from reaching the coveted 3,000 hit plateau.  (He finished with 2,724.)  Other offensive highlights include a career .300 batting average, 1,508 runs scored, 210 HR and 474 SB.  He also helped his teams make the postseason seven times, winning two World Series rings with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993.

Unfortunately for the Mets and their fans, Alomar’s last good season was as a member of the Cleveland Indians in 2001, the year BEFORE he became a Met.  In his 1½ seasons in New York, Robbie only hit .265 with 13 HR and 22 SB, far below the offensive output expected of him.  His Gold Glove streak also ended once he came to the Mets, as did his streak of appearing in a dozen consecutive All-Star Games.

Four other former Mets were on the ballot, including Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile.  The others were the mostly-forgotten Kevin Appier and David Segui.  None of the four players received the minimum 5% of the votes required to remain on the Hall of Fame ballot for future consideration.  Ventura and Zeile, both members of the 2000 National League Champion Mets received seven votes and no votes, respectively.  Appier and Segui somehow each managed to get one voter to feel sorry for them.

Next year, two former Mets will make their first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, as John Franco and John Olerud will be eligible for enshrinement.  Other first-timers with the best chances for election include Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Walker and Juan Gonzalez.  It will be interesting to see how Palmeiro does with the voters, considering that he tested positive after adamantly saying before Congress that he had never taken steroids…period.  However, he is one of the few players in baseball history with 3,000 hits and 500 HR.

So how do the readers feel about this year’s Hall of Fame vote?  Were you surprised that Alomar didn’t get elected on his first try?  Did you think Edgar Martinez (.312 career average, two batting titles, over 500 doubles, over 300 HR) was slighted because he was primarily used as a DH?  What about Barry Larkin?  Should he have gotten more attention from the voters?  Would you like to give the writer who voted for David Segui a drug test?  Who do you think will be elected in 2011?  The floor is all yours.  Talk amongst yourselves!

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My Hall Of Fame Ballot – Sorry Big Mac! Fri, 27 Nov 2009 17:26:45 +0000 On Friday, the new Hall of Fame Ballot was released for the 2010 class. The most notable newcomers include:

2B Roberto Alomar - An all-around threat in a 17-season career that included World Series championship years with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and ’93. Alomar won 10 Gold Glove Awards for fielding and was a career .300 hitter with 2,724 hits, combining power (210 home runs) and speed (474 stolen bases). Alomar, part of a major-league family (father Sandy and brother Sandy Jr.), was the MVP of the American League Championship Series in 1992 and the All-Star Game in 1998.

SS Barry Larkin – The National League MVP in 1995, spent his 19-season career with the Cincinnati Reds and won a World Series ring in 1990. A .295 hitter with 2,340 hits, including 198 home runs, Larkin won three Gold Gloves and was named to 12 All-Star teams.

1B Fred McGriff – Led the AL in home runs in 1989 for Toronto and the NL in 1992 for San Diego and finished with a career total of 493, tied with Lou Gehrig for 26th place all-time. McGriff, a .284 career hitter with 2,490 hits and 1,550 RBI, was the All-Star Game MVP in 1994 and batted .303 with 37 RBI in 50 post-season games winning a ring with the Atlanta Braves in 1995.

DH Edgar Martinez – For whom the AL Designated Hitter Award is now named, won batting titles in 1992 and 1995 with the Seattle Mariners, his only club over 18 seasons. Martinez compiled a career .312 average with 2,247 hits, 309 home runs among them. He drove in 1,261 runs and scored 1,219.

Other freshmen include pitchers Pat Hentgen, Kevin Appier, Mike Jackson and Shane Reynolds, and hitters Andres Galarraga, Todd Zeile, David Segui, Robin Ventura, Ellis Burks and Ray Lankford.

Players who carried over from last year’s ballot include pitchers Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris and Lee Smith, plus hitters Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Alan Trammell and Harold Baines.

Candidates may remain under consideration for up to 15 years provided they are named on at least five percent of the ballots cast.

According to the rules, those eligible to cast a ballot can vote for as many as ten players on one ballot. A player who who receives a vote on 75% of all ballots cast gains election to Cooperstown.

I read an interesting column by Newsday’s Ken Davidoff, who has decided to soften his stance and vote for Mark McGwire. I always felt that eventually McGwire would get in anyway, and I wonder if it could happen in 2010?

If I were one of those lucky enough to vote, my ballot would look like this.

1. Andre Dawson
2. Roberto Alomar
3. Barry Larkin
4. Edgar Martinez
5. Tim Raines

Just Missed – Bert Blyleven, Mark McGwire, Alan Trammell and Fred McGriff

Your thoughts?

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