Mets Merized Online » Keith Hernandez http://metsmerizedonline.com Wed, 15 Feb 2017 22:02:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.18 Yoenis Cespedes And The Center Field Questions http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/yoenis-cespedes-and-the-center-field-questions.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/yoenis-cespedes-and-the-center-field-questions.html/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2016 21:30:34 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208427 yoenis cespedes muff

You love him. You hate him. He can carry a team. He can make a costly error to lose the game. He can leave you with your jaw hanging low. He can make you use profanity that you never knew you had inside of you.

When the Mets signed outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in the offseason, it was deemed as something as a coup. After the Game 5 loss to Kansas City in the World Series, fans seemed split over bringing back the 30 year-old slugger. While fans were calling for Mets ownership to open the purse strings and sign Cespedes, others felt that after the poor showing in the World Series, costly error and pickoff at first withstanding, that it was okay if the Mets looked elsewhere to fill the void.

But what a void to fill. How many pure power hitters enter the free agent market in their prime in our modern age of baseball? With front offices signing their young talent to team friendly contracts early on in their young careers, fewer and fewer stars hit the open market, creating an emphasis on drafting and international signings.

When the Mets announced they signed Cespedes to a three year, $75 million contract with an opt-out after 2016, fans were amazed that the team was able to pull off such a rare signing, one in which the team got the star for their dollars and years. And Cespedes still is able to say that he obtained the highest AAV of the offseason, keeping both sides mutually content.

As the team and fans witnessed in August and September, Cespedes has the ability to carry the squad on his back, both with his mighty right-handed bat and cannon of an arm. I remember being at Citi Field during those months last season, and not leaving my seat when the broad five-foot-ten inch Cespedes glided effortlessly to the plate, bringing the tens of thousands of fans to their collective feet. How far would he hit this one? How many will he hit tonight? All questions that surmised while watching him on a nightly basis.

But there is a downside to Cespedes’ game, the untimely lapses that will occur whether it is on the base paths or patrolling center field. As fans are aware, Cespedes is much more adept to playing left field, winning a Gold Glove in the process last season. Though when the Mets signed Cespedes, it was with the intention of having him man center on a near permanent basis, albeit the late inning defensive substitutions or occasional righty-lefty matchups, which would push Cespedes back to left. The trouble is, it’s late in his career to be teaching an ‘old dog new tricks’ so to speak, so there’s only so much we can expect from Cespedes in center field.

The miscue in Thursday’s spring exhibition against the Houston Astros is a perfect example of what I’m speaking of. In the top of the second, first baseman A.J. Reed crushed a 2-2 pitch off Matt Harvey which went over Cespedes’ head and planted underneath the center field wall. Cespedes raised his hands up as to indicate the ball was dead, which would place Reed at second base. However, the umpires made no call, and Reed jogged easily around the bases as Cespedes stood there and stared into the infield.

Second base umpire C.B. Bucknor came out to check on the matter, and declared the ball was in play the entire time, and that Cespedes had a clear path to be able to easily pick the ball up and throw it back into the infield.

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Even Keith Hernandez, on the SNY broadcast of the game, seemed puzzled by Cespedes’ play, or lack thereof.

“What’s he doing? What’s he thinking, there’s nothing that can go underneath. No you can’t do that, the balls plainly visible.”

While different ballparks do have various ground rules, Spring Training is a different story. Terry Collins explained that he’s never broached the subject of ground rules, so it was a misunderstanding. Collins went on to further explain what was going through Cespedes’ head at the time.

“He thought it got stuck,” Collins said. “What had happened was the umpire went out and swiped the ball and said, ‘Okay, it wasn’t stuck underneath.’ It’s one of those things we could probably talk about a ground rule, which we don’t here in spring training too much. He thought the ball went under and stuck and just threw his hands up.”

Even so, Cespedes is a veteran player, one whose played in a multitude of ballparks and knows the intricacies and what’s deemed playable and not. And while some will argue that it’s only spring training games, it doesn’t quell any lingering worries and fears that we might see more Cespedes miscues heading into the regular season. If anything, Cespedes should be playing as perfect a center field as he can, knowing that these enduring thoughts still percolate through the media heading into the season, and wanting to have a fresh start. Christopher Russo ripped Cespedes’ defense recently on MLB Network and it was a hot topic on talk radio this past week.

Need I remind you of the September 8th game against the Nationals, when Michael Taylor took a Matt Harvey fastball back up the middle, which should’ve only tied the score. Yet, when Cespedes charged in from center to scoop the ball into his glove, the ball took a last second hop and went right over his glove. While it was a tough hop, many center fielders might have tried to center themselves more in front of the ball to field it. Being able to read how hard the ball is hit, and the different angles or hops that it might take in the path are part of the job description when penciled into the No. 8 designation on the field. That ended up being an inside-the-park home run, giving the Nationals the lead. Luckily the Mets rallied late to win the game 8-7.

But they weren’t so lucky in Game 1 of the World Series. Alcides Escobar smack the first pitch into left-center, with Cespedes trying to backhand the ball like he’s Willie Mays. Poor decision making yet again on his part.

I think Cespedes tries to get a bit too fancy for his own good out in center. While he does have range, and the aforementioned cannon of an arm, he needs to work on the fundamentals of center field, and be able to grasp all the aspects that come with manning that territory. One would hope that Cespedes has sought advice from Juan Lagares in spring, to pick his brain and see how he goes about different game situations. What better tutelage than from a well-regarded top 10 defensive center fielder?

We know Cespedes can crush the baseball as good as anyone in the game, the question is, will he be able limit the damage (the opposing team and his own) while patrolling center? Buckle in, this might be a bumpy ride.

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Wilmer Flores Makes First Base Debut http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/wilmer-flores-makes-first-base-debut.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/wilmer-flores-makes-first-base-debut.html/#comments Sun, 27 Mar 2016 13:00:04 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208402 wilmer flores

During Friday’s 5-5 tie against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wilmer Flores made his spring debut at first base. Before the game, Mets legend Keith Hernandez sat with Flores to give him some last minute tips before he took the field for the first time at a position he is not too familiar with.

The two discussed some of the basics and with a lot of emphasis on footwork when playing the position. All in all Flores had a nice day in the field, making all of the plays expected without error.

“He played well,” Hernandez said. “He’s just got to do what he did today, make all the plays.” (MLB.com)

Flores, who is expected to be the main backup to Lucas Duda at first base, is taking on a very significant super-utility role this season for the Mets. He admitted that manning first base on Friday was a bit strange to him once the game started.

“I felt weird, but it’s still the infield,” Flores said. “It’s just a different angle. I got used to it as the game went on. Not hard, not easy. It was just different.”

Hernandez, who also had a one-on-one meeting with Flores about the position earlier in the week is confident that Flores will get to where he needs to be at the position in due time.

“He’s just got to learn the footwork around the bag — that’s the most important thing,” Hernandez said. “A ground ball is a ground ball, as an infielder. It’s just getting comfortable around the bag.”

Flores will be looked upon to play every infield position this coming year, also serving as the main backup to David Wright as he manages through spinal stenosis. Though it seemed as he was displaced by the Mets’ deals for Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, Flores may actually see more time this year than he ever had in any previous season.

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Keith Hernandez and SNY Agree To New Contract http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/01/keith-hernandez-and-sny-agree-to-new-contract.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/01/keith-hernandez-and-sny-agree-to-new-contract.html/#comments Wed, 13 Jan 2016 00:30:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=203371 keith-hernandez-jpg

According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, Keith Hernandez and SNY have agreed on a new contract.

Mike Puma of the New York Post adds that the deal may be longer than his previous three-year contract.

Hernandez will resume his role as an analyst with Gary Cohen and Ron Darling during Mets telecasts.

Awesome news… It wouldn’t have been the same without Keith.

Original Report

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reminds us that SNY color man and analyst Keith Hernandez still remains unsigned, but that contract negotiations to remain in the Mets broadcast booth are expected to begin shortly.

SNY has had some major turnover recently and parted company with analyst Bobby Ojeda and roving reporter Kevin Burkhardt last season, both of whom were replaced by Nelson Figueroa and Steve Gelbs respectively.

Hernandez, 62, has been a commentator on Mets telecasts on SNY for 10 seasons. He has been joined by play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen and fellow analyst Ron Darling to form one of the most beloved broadcast teams in sports.

Here is an excellent and entertaining interview of Keith Hernandez by sportscaster Dan Patrick.

Here is part two:

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Keith Hernandez Compares Terry Collins To Whitey Herzog http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/keith-hernandez-compares-terry-collins-to-whitey-herzog.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/keith-hernandez-compares-terry-collins-to-whitey-herzog.html/#comments Fri, 18 Sep 2015 13:00:31 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=193716 terry collins

Mets color broadcaster Keith Hernandez made some interesting comments about Terry Collins in an article from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

“Terry has done a great job of managing everybody, just like Whitey used to,” Hernandez said. “Mixing and matching, making everybody feel a part of the club.”

Of course, the famous Whitey Herzog helped build and managed the 1982 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals that Keith Hernandez was a part of. Hernandez went on to note that the 1982 team was a bunch of “nut cases” and that Whitey knew how do handle them all. He spoke similarly of Collins.

“He’s a lifer, old school. I would of loved to have played for him,” Hernandez continued. “He’s one of the best managers I’ve ever seen. He’s not going to beat himself. He’s not going to fall asleep.”

While Collins has taken a lot of grief during his time in Queens, many are starting to give him the credit he deserves for managing a team built on the backs of a handful of farmhands, a few older vets and of course, “La Potencia”. Collins knows that every decision he makes, especially in a pennant race and beyond, is under intense skepticism.

“Every decision you make, there’s 50 percent of people who would do it differently,” he told Bob Klapisch of The Record before Monday’s 4-3 victory over the Marlins. “That’s just the nature of the game and I’m fine with it.”

The new constructs of the Mets roster presents a good challenge for Collins, who has to split time evenly between many impactful players. Whether it’s giving Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe at-bats or giving David Wright the correct amount of rest to keep him healthy, each day presents its obstacles. He also deserves credit for keeping the tone of the team steady and consistent while the New York media frenzy does it’s work.

Collins deserves a great deal of credit in leading his team to this point in the season, with a magic number of 10 and a division clincher in the near-future.

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Keith Hernandez Has Not Watched Field Of Dreams http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/keith-hernandez-has-not-watched-field-of-dreams.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/keith-hernandez-has-not-watched-field-of-dreams.html/#comments Thu, 17 Sep 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=193198 field-of-dreams-kevin-costner-madigan-hoffman

During the Mets-Braves game last Thursday night, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez were talking about the pre-game power outage. Keith mentioned the lights beyond left field losing power, and said:

“It reminded me of The Natural, which is one of my absolute favorite baseball films. I thought it captured the mythology of baseball.”

Gary then asked if that was his favorite, to which Keith responded, ”It is my number one. Bull Durham was outstanding, too. Believe it or not I did not see Eight Men Out. I did not see that, I’ve got to see that.”

Okay, he hasn’t seen “Eight Men Out.” That’s not enough reason to call him out. Gary responded saying it was at the top of his list, definitely a worthy movie to have at #1 on your baseball movie list… But what Keith said next tore the seams from my heart:

“I did not see Kevin Costner’s, ‘if you build it they’ll come,’ what was that? Field Of Dreams? I did not see that.”

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Keith Hernandez had a fantastic career. 5 All-Star nods, 11-Straight Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers, and an MVP are just a few accolades in a historical career. And that’s all fine and dandy, but does NOT excuse him.

One could argue, and I am, that “Field Of Dreams” is absolutely mandatory to watch, with or without your dad. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes me cry, it makes all of us cry. A lot. Admit it, you lose it when Costner says “Dad, do you wanna have a catch?” It’s okay, we’re all friends here.

There have been many amazing baseball movies. “Bull Durham”, “Major League”, “A League Of Their Own”, and “The Sandlot” are just a few of the best. “Field of Dreams”, however, tugs at the heart strings of baseball fans everywhere in a way that none of those others can. I think the movie, and the essence of baseball, can best be summed up in this monologue towards the end of the movie spoken by Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones):

Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack.

And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters.

The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

It is a magical movie, bringing the Black Sox back to life, giving Moonlight Graham another chance to play, and giving a farmer a chance to have a catch with his late father. It is a fantasy, but in some ways preaches more truth about baseball than any other movie.

When you’re watching baseball, you never know what is going to happen. Of course, I’m not saying ghosts of the Black Sox are going to appear in a cornfield anytime soon, but that’s fantasy. Magic and fantasy are two different things.

Some of you reading this article may have witnessed the 1969 Mets, or perhaps Mookie Wilson‘s at bat in the 1986 World Series. How about Endy Chavez leaping high above the wall to rob Scott Rolen as if there were angels in the outfield? Wilmer Flores thought he was traded, cried on the field, and then hit a walk off home run the very next night. Mets fans young and old are well versed in baseball magic, a magic that “Field of Dreams” captures so well.

Now is an exciting time for the Mets, one that has had some moments that leave me shaking my head in pure disbelief that something so amazing had just happened. “Field of Dreams”, too, is full of moments that leave your heart beating as it was when Johan Santana threw that change-up to David Freese in 2012.

Keith, as well as other readers who haven’t seen the movie, I strongly urge you to watch it. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have. And don’t worry Keith, if you shed a tear, I won’t tell.

The guys in the booth continued talking about baseball movies as Keith’s admitting to not seeing “Field of Dreams” went without notice. Gary later continued, “Eight Men Out is a big favorite of mine, but to go the other direction, I love Major League. I just thought it was fantastic. I’d have to think about what’s third on the list… A League of Their Own I really enjoyed, Bull Durham, it’s hard to pick.”

Here is my definitive favorites list, how does yours compare?

  1. Field of Dreams
  2. Bull Durham
  3. The Natural
  4. The Sandlot
  5. A League Of Their Own
  6. Major League
  7. Angels In The Outfield
  8. Eight Men Out
  9. Moneyball
  10. For Love Of The Game
  11. 42
  12. The Rookie
  13. Bad News Bears
  14. Fever Pitch
  15. Rookie Of The Year

Let’s Go Kevin Costner! Let’s Go Mets!

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The Amazin’ 2015 Mets! Sometimes You Really Do Just Gotta Believe! http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/the-amazin-2015-mets-sometimes-you-really-do-just-gotta-believe.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/the-amazin-2015-mets-sometimes-you-really-do-just-gotta-believe.html/#comments Sun, 13 Sep 2015 12:47:47 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=193450 mets fans citi

Sometimes you really do  just gotta believe…

Wow, what a year… What a season… Everything continues to keep coming up Mets and I couldn’t be more thrilled than I am right now about this team I love so much.

Today feels extra special because I feel I’m finally now joined by all Mets fans in believing that this team is dangerous, that this team is a lock for the postseason, that the Washington Nationals are dead, and that we could possibly ride our pitching and offense all the way to a World Series championship.

No more writing articles telling fans and a particular blogger to stop worrying about Chokes, Collapses and Ghosts of September Past. And time to finally start believing in this incredibly talented, exciting and formidable team. Yes, it’s time to believe!!!

Here we are with the unstoppable Mets solidly in first place in the NL East, a full 20 games over .500 and on a pace to win 95 games. Were you smiling as you read that?!

Here we are with just 20 games left to play and the magic number to clinch at just 12, putting us in a perfect position to clinch sometime next week, pop some champagne, rest our regulars, and position our pitchers the way we want to for the playoffs. As Howie Rose would say, Oh Baby!!!

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There are so many amazing things to be proud of regarding the 2015 Mets. As I’ve said for months now, they are perhaps the most resilient Mets team I have ever seen since I really began following this team in 1969.

We are blessed with so many fun, different and unique personalities that I believe will go down in Mets history being just as beloved as Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda, Gary Carter, Mookie Wilson and Keith Hernandez are today, and those are just the hitters!

Today, September 13, 2015, is my birthday and my New York Mets are the talk of baseball and the most feared team in the game.

I couldn’t have asked for a more special birthday present. Well maybe one more thing… how about we bring home that beautiful golden trophy – you know – the one with all those glistening little flags? :-)

After this afternoon’s game the Mets will fly back home to Citi Field to play the Marlins, Yankees and Braves in front of a stadium packed with wildly exuberant and excited fans giving their team a hero’s welcome!

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What a glorious week it’s going to be as we countdown each game at an electrified Citi Field until we hopefully clinch in front of our hometown crowd. It’s going to be filled with many incredibly thrilling experiences and long lasting memories!

The check with meaningful games in September, our Mets are playing stupendously magnificent games in September. Every game seems to be a thrill ride for all our senses. Their remarkable resiliency and ability to come back no matter how many runs they are down has been so exciting and invigorating to watch.

We are so blessed right now. We have a team that strikes fear into our opposition like the 1986 squad used to do. How are starting pitching is the envy of all of baseball, and since we added Yoenis Cespedes we’ve become an unstoppable force.

And great seasons always require a lot of luck, and how amazing was it to hear Keith Hernandez repeat what I’ve been saying over and over and over again this season. I totally freaked out when I heard him say yesterday, “It feels like all the stars and planets are aligning for the New York Mets this season.”

Keith! I had no idea you read MMO!

Seriously though, this is it, strap yourselves in… Confidence among the fans is finally at an all-time high and exactly where it should be! We are excited, we are thrilled, and we are all loving and cheering on our team no matter what! Most important of all, we are all believing!!!

Now that’s what I call… Baseball Like It Oughta Be!

Let’s Go Mets!!!

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Terry Collins: “Matt Harvey Will Not Pitch Home Opener” http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/terry-collins-matt-harvey-will-not-pitch-home-opener.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/03/terry-collins-matt-harvey-will-not-pitch-home-opener.html/#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 19:58:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=176482 matt-harvey3

Matt Harvey was electric this afternoon at a sold-out Tradition Field where he stymied the New York Yankees with 5 2/3 innings of two-hit shutout baseball.

And then Terry Collins announced that Harvey WILL NOT start the home opener… What?!?!

I mean I get it. They used Harvey to sell out that first game so why not let him sell out another day? Right, Jeff?

Looks like Harvey will pitch the second game at Citi Field instead, while deGrom starts the opener from what reporters are saying…

Matt Harvey Ready To Carry Team If He Has To

If you think that the loss of Zack Wheeler drastically changes the fortunes of the Mets in 2015, you better stand clear of Mets ace Matt Harvey.

Some fans took issue with me when I called Harvey the true face of the Mets franchise in January, maybe this will change your mind.

Refusing to let yesterday’s somber news bring him or his teammates down, the outspoken Harvey laid down a gauntlet and even further than that, he said he’s prepared to carry the team and the rotation if that’s what he has to do.

mmo feature original footer“We absolutely have the same goals as a team and as a staff that we did before Zack got hurt,” Harvey told The Post on Tuesday. “Nothing has changed.”

Harvey channeled his inner Keith Hernandez, Mark Messier, and Joe Namath, urging his team to step up and rise to the challenge.

“It’s tough for us to have such high expectations for the year and have something like this happen. But you can’t let it affect you. If you do, then you’re already down, you’re already lost.”

“As a staff, we have to pick up where we left off and take charge.”

When asked if he was attempting to institute a culture change with the team, Harvey says he’s only doing what he knows.

“I just go about things the way that I do and the way that I know how. That’s what I’ve always done. I kind of took over and took charge at North Carolina when I was a junior and had the whole staff on my shoulders there. So now it comes pretty natural. It’s something I enjoy. I’m ready to do the same thing here.”

Harvey has become one of the most vocal leaders on the team and he has fueled what’s become a team exuding confidence that hasn’t been seen in nearly a decade and he doesn’t shy away from his new position of authority and leadership.

“I do everything I can to win and lead by example on the field. That’s important to me. I never asked for it, but it’s come and it’s a great honor. It’s something I take great pride in. We can’t let this be something that ends our season.”

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Featured Post: Do The Mets “Have The Horses” To Win? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/featured-post-do-the-mets-have-the-horses-to-win.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/featured-post-do-the-mets-have-the-horses-to-win.html/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:46:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=173699 It was the 7th game of the World Series, a heavyweight championship bout, and the Kentucky Derby all rolled into one. There was a definite buzz in the air during the summer of 1960 leading up to the presidential election. In one corner was Republican Richard Nixon. Fresh off 8 years as Vice President, Americans were already familiar with him. In the other corner was a young, vibrant John Kennedy, a man who at forty three would be the second youngest president in history.  Pundits predicted it would be a nail biter.

CL24354As Election Day neared, a photo of Nixon was circulated. Grinning slyly and appearing smarmy, the caption read “Would YOU buy a used car from this man?”

After more than 68,000,000 ballots were cast on November 8, 1960, Kennedy prevailed by a mere 112,827 votes, 49.7% to 49.6%. Did one simple picture posing one simple question make the difference? Americans didn’t trust Nixon to lead the nation. They didn’t want to buy a used car from him.

Fast-forward fifty five years.

The Mets were floundering. From 2001-2004, they played .455 ball and finished a collective 92 games back. Ownership, now flush with a shipload of cash from the USS Madoff and the promise of a new ballpark in 2009, urged their new GM to go on a spending spree and bring in some pizazz. And boy, did he ever. Over the next few years, they handed out millions like candy. Contracts offered to Carlos Beltran, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner, Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Shawn Green, Luis Castillo and Tom Glavine totaled more than half a billion dollars. The return on the investment? One post-season that ended shockingly in an upset to the Cardinals. That sure didn’t work out too well.

Enter Sandy Alderson whose job it was to right the ship. The new course was for the Mets to win the old-fashioned way. We’d rebuild the farm system. We’d go with youth. We’d win with a roster flush with homegrown players just like we always have. We’d shy away from splashy trades and long-term contracts. Weary fans applauded the new direction. Yes, yes, a homegrown championship, just like before.

Nothing could be further from the truth. No team in history, not even our beloved Mets, has ever won with only homegrown talent.

donn clendenon

1969 was actually shaping up to be a decent year. For the first time in our history, the Amazins actually had an outside shot to finish over .500. At the trading deadline we were 30-26 and nine games behind the powerhouse Chicago Cubs. And that’s when management acted. Four players were sent to the Montreal Expos in exchange for Donn Clendenon. Buddy Harrelson would later state this was the turning point of the season. It indicated to the guys in uniform that the guys in suits were willing to take the next step, that they believed. With this acquisition the Mets now possessed a legitimate power hitter in the middle of the lineup. Clendenon would go deep 12 times in 14 weeks. The Mets would go 70-36 after the trade.

When we think back to ‘69, we like to think we did it with just the kids. Homegrown talent like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Cleon Jones and Gary Gentry definitely did their part. But it was the players acquired that cinched the deal. Clendenon would become the first player in history to hit three home runs in a five-game World Series. His performance would earn him the World Series MVP. Tommie Agee, who arrived the previous year, led the team in home runs and RBIs and single-handedly – or perhaps single glovedly – won Game 3. Yes, the kids were an integral part. But would the Mets have won their first championship without key big additions like Agee and Clendenon?

Four years later, we were back in the Fall Classic. Many kids remained from that first championship club and now had the experience of post-season baseball. But it was players who’d been traded for that made the difference in 1973.

Felix Millan came from Atlanta that spring. In addition to solid defense, he led the team in hits (185) and batting average (290). Rusty Staub, obtained the previous season, was the team’s leader in RBIs, setting a new team record with 105. He also led the Mets in on-base percentage (.361) and doubles (36), while finishing second in base hits, batting average and slugging percentage.

On the pitching side we had the most intimidating trio of starters in the NL. But in 1973, homegrown Seaver, Koosman and Matlack were just a combined 6 games over .500. It was George Stone, acquired in the same trade that brought Millan over, that made the difference. Stone was 12-3, nine games over .500 for a team that was only three games over at 82-79. Without George Stone, the Mets don’t win. Without Stone, Millan and Staub, the Mets get no pennant.

keith hernandez gary carter

1986. Ah, yes. The kids. Darryl Strawberry, Mookie Wilson, Wally Backman, Kevin Mitchell, Lenny Dykstra all played in Tidewater. But Mets do not win by kids alone. It was Keith Hernandez, acquired three years prior, who led that championship club in hits, runs, doubles and OBP. Like Clendenon and Staub, it was a former Expo who cemented the deal. Gary Carter, aka KID, went deep 24 times and tied Rusty’s record with 105 RBIs.

Oh, and the young pitching we had. Doc Gooden, Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez. But it was Bobby Ojeda, 18-5, 2.57 who the Mets traded for the previous winter that led the team in wins and ERA. His +13 was higher than Doc, Darling or El Sid.

The MVP of the 86 Series? Ray Knight, who like Clendenon, had been acquired through a trade.

In 2000, Mets fans adored homegrown stars like Edgardo Alfonzo, Timo Perez and Benny Agbayani. But let’s face it; it was primarily Mike Piazza along with Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile who guided us to the NL pennant. They combined for an astounding 84 HR’s and 276 RBIs. Without those three acquisitions, the Mets accomplish nothing in 2000.

In 2006, the Mets returned to the post-season for what we believed would be the first of many. We were on the cusp of recapturing the city from the Yankees thanks to a pair of exciting youngsters named David Wright and Jose Reyes. The Mets collected 97 victories and finished 12 games ahead of the second place Phillies. But it was a pair of Carlos’ who spearheaded the offensive assault all summer long. Carlos Beltran was an offensive juggernaut and led the team in runs score, home runs, slugging, OBP, and he tied Wright for first in RBIs. Carlos Delgado added not only a stellar glove at first, but slammed 38 homers while knocking in 114 RBIs. Without Beltran and Delgado, two key acquisitions, there’s no post-season in 2006.

In just over two months the 2015 Mets, a team largely comprised of homegrown talent and kids, will take the field against Max Scherzer and the Nationals. The goal is to return to the post-season for the first time in almost a decade and hopefully capture our first pennant since 2000 and maybe, just maybe, win a championship for the first time since Ronald Reagan was president. How confident are you?

Can outfielder Curtis Granderson lead the team the way outfielder Rusty Staub did in 1973? Can one-time Red Sox Bartolo Colon replicate the performance of another one time Red Sox named Ojeda? Can catcher Travis d’Arnaud, imported from Canada, lead team the way another catcher from Canada once did?

fred wilpon

Will this team unseat the defending NL East Champions? Have they done enough to jump from a 79 win team to a 90 win team? Everyone from the players on down to the coaches, manager and front office say yes. But that’s expected, nobody goes into Spring Training and tells reporters they’re going to stink.

The Mets are selling. More importantly Mets owner Fred Wilpon is selling. And he’s hoping you’re buying. Last week he said the Mets now have “the horses to win,” but when pressed for details Wilpon refused to comment and would only defer to his GM.

The Mets have put together an exciting bunch, and as far as pitching goes they have what it would take to make a legitimate run. But pitching alone doesn’t win games, do the Mets have the offense and defense to compliment their rotation and bullpen?

During previous championship runs, Mets brass always acted when they knew they had the young core to challenge for a title. They went out and added all star caliber players who were in their prime to support the team and maximize their chances to win it all.

There’s no denying that the Mets are at this point right now. We all can see it in our up and coming stars like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Lucas Duda, Juan Lagares, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia. We can see it in a farm system loaded with blue-chip prospects that’s ranked among the best in baseball. We have David Wright and Curtis Granderson, and let’s face it, neither one is getting any younger. So if not now then when?

Do the Mets really have the horses as presently constructed to advance to the playoffs as Fred Wilpon says? Or was there more he could have done?

Wilpon says he has never once denied Sandy Alderson any player he wanted to acquire. Are you buying that?  I’m not sure I can. I’m not sure I’d buy a used car from this man, would you?

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One Play, Two First Basemen, and the Elusive Third Out http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/one-play-two-first-basemen-and-the-elusive-third-out.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/one-play-two-first-basemen-and-the-elusive-third-out.html/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 01:39:46 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168826 keith hernandez

Even in hindsight the story is hard to fathom. The New York Mets came to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning, at home, trailing the Boston Red Sox 5-3 in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. They were three outs away from losing the Series. Hold on, this isn’t the story you’re thinking it is.

Wally Backman led off the inning slicing a line drive into the glove of Dave Henderson. One out. Keith Hernandez then hit a hard line drive to center field for the second out. The Mets were, as Lenny Dykstra would later tell Peter Golenbock in Amazin’, “One out away from wasting the whole f—ing season.”

As Hernandez circled back to the dugout, the Mets first baseman — always intense, always encouraging his teammates to keep their heads in the game — never stopped. He went down the steps, into the dugout, down a second set of steps into the tunnel underneath Shea Stadium and straight to the team’s locker room. Game over, he thought. Depressed, disgusted, disappointed, Hernandez later confessed he just couldn’t bare to see Boston’s celebration unfold on his field, in front of his fans.

“I went into Davey’s [Johnson's] office and took a beer out of his fridge,” he told the Washington Post reporter (and Mets fan) John Feinstein.

Hernandez said he was dehydrated and downed a Budweiser in seconds. He proceeded to crack open a second beer, paying little attention to the television nearby. Hernandez sat down in his manager’s office, lit a cigarette and drank another beer.

His counterpart, Bill Buckner, was standing off the line at first base, anticipating what the spray of the champagne would feel like; seeing a beaming smile on Mrs. Yawkey’s face, and imagining the bedlam that would ensue in Boston’s clubhouse. The entire Sox dugout was like a mass of small children ready to rush the tree and begin tearing open presents on Christmas morning.

Buckner was 36 years old; his body was 75. The decade leading up to this moment were successful, yet painful, for Buckner. His body took a beating. Through the years Buckner tried acupuncture, herbs (DMSO) and holy water — yes, holy water (1978, Chicago, look it up). In 1986, he was given nine cortisone shots as he literally limped through the season. Then Boston Globe reporter and Baseball Hall of Famer Peter Gammons wrote, “it wasn’t unusual to see him before games with ice taped to his ankle, Achilles tendon, lower back, elbow and shoulder … he often looked as if he were running in galoshes.”

Now, Buckner stood alone, limping around first base, pushing dirt in his signature black high-top spikes that supported his fragile ankle, hoping for one more out.

The two first baseman — Hernandez and Buckner — couldn’t have been further apart in mind, body or spirit.

Underground, Hernandez watched the monitor as teammates Gary Carter and Kevin Mitchell delivered back-to-back singles.

“I opened a third one,” said Hernandez.

Ray Knight is reduced to a single strike separating Boston and their first World Series title since 1918, before lifting a single to center field, scoring Carter and advancing Mitchell to third base. Hernandez never moved an inch, his eyes locked on the television while he anxiously pulled on his cigarette, beer in hand.

Meanwhile, Buckner and the Red Sox stiffened. The crowd roared, stomping their feet, literally rocking Shea Stadium and leaving Hernandez wondering whether the ballpark would hold up under the circumstances. The Red Sox manager called on relief pitcher Bob Stanley to finish the job.

As Stanley warmed up in the cold late October night in New York, Buckner could only stand by, watching each smoky breath he took vaporize into the breeze. Back in the Mets clubhouse, Hernandez nervously chain-smoked from his manager’s chair.

Like Calvin Schiraldi did earlier, Stanley reduces Mookie Wilson to a single strike. Twice Boston pitcher’s were one strike away from finishing the Mets. Stanley fired a 2-2 wild pitch, scoring the tying run. Shea Stadium went ballistic.

“I’m still not thinking that clearly, so I finish the third one,” Hernandez told Feinstein. “That’s when it hit me: the score’s tied and I just drank three beers. I’m buzzed. I was sitting there frozen, trying to figure out how I’d go out and play first base when Mookie hit the ball.”

After Wilson’s ground ball skipped through Buckner’s legs, for a moment he stood with an expression of disbelief near first base, then slowly limped back to the Boston clubhouse.

“How lucky did I just get?” Hernandez asked Feinstein. “Thank God Buckner booted that ball.”

Buckner — not so lucky.

Time has not healed, as it so often does. History skips, like an old 45 record, replaying the moment over and over. And Hernandez and Buckner? The space between them is now eternal.

* * * * * * * * * * *

John Feinstein’s new book, One on One: Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game was published by Little, Brown and Company and is available from all your favorite booksellers.

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How Alderson Stacks Up With Previous GM’s http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/how-alderson-stacks-up-with-previous-gms.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/how-alderson-stacks-up-with-previous-gms.html/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:00:40 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168148 gary-carter-new-york-mets-1 - Copy

Within the next two weeks we’ll witness the same scene that gets played out every October. Amidst the spray of champagne and exuberant shouts, the commissioner will be standing on a stage presenting a trophy to the owner, manager and General Manager of the World Champions. Now, if the commissioner would instead be presenting a trophy to the executives that promised the brightest future, we’d see Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins and Fred Wilpon on that stage. But since it doesn’t work that way, we’ll have to wait.

Baseball always has been and always will be a business. It’s what have you done for me lately, not what will you do for me later.

Kirk Gibson guided his team to the playoffs in 2011, the same year he became Manager of the Year. Three years later, he was out of a job. Dusty Baker was dismissed by the Reds after he did get his team into the post-season, but management felt he should have taken them deeper.

In 1934, after hitting only 22 home runs and slugging only .537, what one journalist called “merely mortal” stats, Babe Ruth was traded to the Boston Braves. At age 39, Ty Cobb played in just 79 games. Although he hit .339, the Georgia Peach was not wanted by Detroit and signed with Philadelphia. At age 40, Cobb played in 133 games and batted .357. In 1965, the Cincinnati Reds believed that Frank Robinson was a “very old 30” and traded him to Baltimore. In 1966, that washed up player batted .316 with 49 HR and 122 RBI, leading the O’s to their first Championship. The GM who scooped up that old fogey was named Frank Cashen.

Since Baseball is a what have you done for me lately gig, now that our GM has 4 years under his belt, let’s look at what he’s done, not what he promises to do. And how he compares to previous Mets general managers.

We frequently hear the comparisons made between Cashen and Alderson. Cashen inherited a dysfunctional franchise without any bright stars on the horizon, one of the worst farm systems in the game, a weary and apathetic fan base. Upon joining the Mets, Cashen stated it would take 4 or 5 years to rebuild the team, but he promised a brighter future.

Many argue Alderson was dealt a similar hand. Personally, I’ve never felt that way. The 1979 Mets were far worse than the 2010 Mets. Cashen took over a team that finished 35 games back and won just 63 games. Alderson took over a team that finished 18 GB and had 79 wins.

But let’s look deeper at the Cashen/Alderson comparison.

By the time Cashen was hired, pitchers and catchers were arriving for spring training in 1980. The team was already set so there was no flexibility or time to do anything. The one substantial thing he did do that first year came months later, selecting a kid in the draft named Darryl Strawberry. In 1981, the seemingly unavoidable strike lingered in the air all year, handcuffing all general managers, including Cashen.

Dave Kingman (27)

Cashen did realize, however, that he needed to increase interest in the team. If he could get more fans to come out to Flushing it would give him more financial maneuverability. 1981 saw the arrival of fan favorite Dave Kingman followed the next year by Reds slugger George Foster.

History shows that their acquisitions had no bearing overall in the wins column. It did, however, have fans coming back to Shea and tuning in to WOR. Even if the Mets were losing by 4, 5 or 6 runs—something that happened a lot—by acquiring two of the biggest HR hitters in the league, the Mets always had the potential to get back into the game. It also sent a message to the fans. Ratings increased as did attendance.

In 1983, Cashen undid the darkest day in Mets history by reacquiring Tom Seaver. And although The Franchise was beyond his prime, seeing #41 on the mound at Shea gave us a reason to take in a game in Flushing. That same year, Cashen also traded for former MVP and proven winner Keith Hernandez. One month later, that Strawberry kid? Less than three years since he was selected out of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, he would make his major league debut.

Frank Cashen

In 1984, led by Strawberry, Hernandez, another high school kid drafted two years earlier named Dwight Gooden, a young righty acquired from Texas named Ron Darling, and a newly promoted minor league manager named Davey Johnson, Cashen’s prediction came true. The 1984 club tallied 90 wins, the highest since 1969. Cashen’s Mets were in a pennant race for the first time in nearly a decade.

After 4 years, Cashen’s work paid off, his prediction came to fruition and his promise to the fans was fulfilled.

After 4 years, Alderson continues speaking about the future and making promises.

I decided to research deeper and see how our current GM stacks up against his predecessors. The results were rather disheartening.

Since 1970, the Mets have had seven primary general managers: Bob Scheffing, Joe McDonald, Frank Cashen, Joe McIlvane, Steve Phillips, Omar Minaya and Alderson. I’ve omitted Jim Duquette and Al Harazin since their tenures were less than two years. (You know, small sample sizes.)

bob scheffing (8)

Scheffing’s last year as GM, 1974, the Mets won 71 games. He was replaced by Joe McDonald who surpassed that amount his first year with 82 wins.

McDonald’s last year as GM, 1979, the Mets won 63 games. He was replaced by Frank Cashen who surpassed that amount in his first year with 67 wins.

Cashen’s last year as GM, 1991, the Mets won 77 games. After one year of Al Harazin, Joe McIlvane took over. Although the ’94 season was cut short, McIlvane was on pace to win 79 games, surpassing Cashen’s total in his second season.

McIlvane’s last year as GM, 1997, the Mets won 88 games. He was replaced by Steve Phillips who surpassed that amount in his second season with 97 wins.

Phillip’s last year as GM, 2003, the Mets won 66 games. He was replaced by Omar Minaya who surpassed that amount in his first season with 71 wins.

Minaya’s last year as GM, 2010, the Mets won 79 games. He was replaced by Sandy Alderson. Alderson still has NOT surpassed that mark.

In other words, Sandy Alderson stands alone as our only GM who has never won more games in a season than the GM he replaced. McDonald, Cashen and Minaya claimed more victories in their very first year at the helm, while Phillips and McIlvane did it in their second. In four years, Alderson still has not topped the final year of his predecessor.

sandy alderson winter meetings

With 2014 now in the books, Alderson has joined Joe McIlvane as the only GM with four consecutive losing seasons. If the Mets finish below .500 next year, Sandy will tie George Weiss (1962-1966) as the only GM with five straight sub-500 finishes. Although unlike Weiss, nobody will ever refer to Sandy’s Mets teams as Lovable Losers.

It isn’t just about how Sandy stacks up with his Mets predecessors, he needs to start winning for the sake of his own legacy. He hasn’t had a winning season since 1992, and 2014 was his ninth consecutive losing season as a general manager. He’s only had five winning seasons in 19 as a GM, and all of those were with Oakland when they were swimming in mega money

Perhaps 2015 will be the season when everything clicks for Sandy and his master plan will begin to take hold. Perhaps the Mets will overtake the Washington Nationals and the rest of the division to become a dominant force in the NL for the rest of the decade.

However, while Sandy Alderson continues to make promises, albeit with an occasional good joke or sound byte thrown in, results have yet to materialize on the field. And in that regard and through his first four years, what’s he done for us lately? Not much. Hopefully, that changes in 2015. Lets Go Mets.

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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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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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Featured Post: Selig Declares Baseball A “Social Institution” http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/featured-post-selig-declares-baseball-a-social-institution.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/featured-post-selig-declares-baseball-a-social-institution.html/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:52:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=165938 2011 World Series Game 7 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals

Bud Selig sat with SNY’s Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Gary Cohen during the early innings of Tuesday night’s 9-1 bashing of the Miami Marlins.  They discussed issues facing not only the Mets, but baseball as a whole and the back and forth was interesting to say the least.  The crew had their take on a few topics, including length of games with the now added challenge option,  but did their best to put Selig on the edge of his seat on more challenging obstacles facing the game.

Gary brought up the most important question because it indirectly touched upon the lawsuit brought forth by former Executive VP of Ticket Sales Leigh Castergine.  As an employee of the Mets organization through SNY, Cohen is not in a position to raise the allegation of discrimination coming from COO Jeff Wilpon directly on air, but this is no ordinary group of announcers.  These men are pioneers at their positions and have a unique grasp on the pulse of the fan base.  This is of course, a fan base located in one of the most socially advanced metropolitan cities in the world.  A fan base that works and lives along side individuals of all genders, races and religious creeds, among many other identities.

Gary elaborated on the recent transgressions that have spun the NFL in a dreadful slew of disturbing allegations, cover-ups and mishandlings and posed the following question.  “What is the responsibility of the commissioner, of what you would call the public trust…to legislate that kind of thing”.  Selig’s response?  ”Baseball is a social institution” to which he believes the “players” have done a great job representing.  There was, of course, no mention of the other individuals responsible for the daily operations of major league baseball like owners, front office executives, coaches, etc.

Now, I don’t expect Selig to come on SNY and indict the Chief Operating Officer of one of the very MLB teams he oversees, especially when the legal proceedings are still in progress.  However, declaring baseball an institution that prioritizes high moral standards above anything else was poorly timed, particularly given the stadium he was in.

In an interview with ESPN’s Adam Rubin that took place only hours before the commissioner brought his farewell tour to Queens, Selig took a selectively indifferent stance towards allegations that a high ranking Mets executive, Jeff Wilpon, publicly humiliated and ultimately fired a former female employee because she was having a child out of wedlock.  In his position, this is a weak stance on moral high ground.

Honestly, both Selig and the Wilpons are vastly out of touch with many of the social obligations a major sports league has to the society it brings entertainment to.  Major League Baseball can be bigger than the court of law, they can be bigger than the government and certainly bigger than the Wilpons because they are a private organization.

As his tenure comes to an end, Mr. Selig could be on the forefront of defining the moral standard within the very social institution that has been under his control for decades. Instead, he appears to be relegating such an astonishing disregard for women’s rights as “employment ligitation” adding that “there’s nothing more to talk about”.

If Ms. Castergine’s allegations are true, I sincerely hope the individuals present during Jeff’s disparaging remarks come forth and have the courage to uplift Major League Baseball to the social institution Bud Selig claims it has always been.

P.S. – Did Bud completely forget the substance abuse allegations of his current and former “players” that has demolished the reputation of baseball for years now?  It took an act of Congress just to get the wheels moving on performance enhancing drugs.  This isn’t even old news, the Biogenesis scandal was last year for goodness sake.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Hollywood Hulk http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/3-up-3-down-hollywood-hulk.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/3-up-3-down-hollywood-hulk.html/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 16:43:26 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=164217 duda unleashed

The Mets continued their West Coast road trip and stopped by Los Angeles for a 3 game set against the N.L. West leading Dodgers. NY dropped 2 of 3, but unlike previous series, there were great individual takeaways for players looking to lock up their positions for 2015 and beyond. Conversely, the veterans were showed up by their younger counterparts. Below is a recap of 3 stocks that went up and 3 that went down over the weekend.

3 Up

1. The Hulk, The Dude, The Big Lebowski. Lucas Duda has a lot of nicknames, but he’s collecting even more home runs this season. The 1st baseman hit .417 in the series with a whopping 1.166 slugging percentage. He reached his career high in single season home run totals with 26 (and counting), as well as having a career best 5 RBI game on Sunday. Duda was also a key part in the Mets triple play from Sunday, gunning down the over aggressive Yasiel Puig at home plate after finishing off a double play ball from second basemen Daniel Murphy. Among all 1st basemen in MLB, Lucas is 3rd in WAR with a score of 3.8. Among all MLB players, he is 2nd in slugging percentage against right handed pitching this season, pounding righties at a .580 clip. Lucas is doing an excellent job and has emerged as one of the premier sluggers in all of baseball.

2. Juan Lagares bounced back from a recent slump to turn in an excellent series. While not as slug happy as Duda, he hit at a .455 clip, including a home run, which helped him generate an OPS of .871. The offensive numbers are very respectable for arguably the top center fielder in the game. Lagares is 1st in MLB in DWAR among all qualified outfielders, by a long shot, with a score of 3.5. The next closest OF is Atlanta’s right fielder Jason Heyward with a DWAR mark of 3.1. At his position alone, Juan is second among all center fielders in the game for overall WAR (4.9- also leads the Mets), tied with Pirates all-star Andrew McCutchen and trailing only Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout (6.0). That’s some great company for a guy who doesn’t even have 400 at bats in the majors this season. Lagares brings enough value with his glove that if he hits .275 for his career, he would be more than productive to lock up long term. There’s more power to come once his plate discipline improves, as he gains more patience and slightly better pitch recognition, he could be expected to put out 10-15 home runs with great gap-to-gap doubles power at Citi Field. Quick thought, if David Wright is injured and out, put Juan in the 2 hole. On the year, Juan has a triple slash line of .333/.385/.968 as the #2 hitter.

3. Travis d’Arnaud had a solid series, hitting .308 with a solo home run, contributing his one and only RBI for the series. His overall performance is important because it reinforces the potential that’s been realized since returning from his demotion to AAA Las Vegas in June. In 47 games since his return on June 24th, Travis has the following numbers: Batting Average (.263), SLG (.486), OPS (.794), 2B (10), HR (9). Over the course of a 162 game season, this projects d’Arnaud at 34 doubles, 31 home runs and 79 RBI’s. Compared to last season’s total among all catchers in MLB, that puts him 5th in doubles, 1st in home runs and 2nd in RBI’s- tied with Yadier Molina. Travis is tied for 1st in MLB for HR’s among catchers in the month of August with 5.

3 Down

1. David Wright finally broke down and left Sunday’s game with what the team described as muscle spasms in the right side of his neck. Terry Collins insisted that The Captain was not injured prior to yesterday’s start, but he needs to be shut down for the remainder of the year if he goes to the disabled list for any reason. The team is keeping him day-to-day at the moment, but his sore left shoulder along with other nagging injuries are undoubtedly contributing to his poor performance dating back to June and it’s not getting better in the short term, nor helping in the long term. MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo noted that Wright has gone his last 62 plate appearances without an extra base hit, batting 0.95 in his last 6 games. I hope the Mets realize that although he’s not as outspoken as the Matt Harvey types, Wright is also a warrior and will not always do what’s best for his body by playing through injuries. That’s admirable when the playoffs are on the line, but get healthy, we need the old David for 2015.

2. As if Wright’s injury wasn’t enough of a blow to the offense, Daniel Murphy is also listed as day-to-day after leaving the ninth inning with a cramp in his right calf. Within a span of two hours, the Mets lost 2 of their 3 veteran position players and Murphy’s status is even less predictable as this is his first time experiencing an injury of this nature. When asked about his return, he said, “I really can’t tell you how it’s going to feel until we get to Tuesday”.

3. This rubbed me the wrong way, so I’m taking liberties with the 3rd down and calling out Terry Collins for comparing Lucas Duda to Ike Davis after the former churned out a 2 home run performance in a 11-3 victory over the Dodgers. In the post-game interview, Collins stated that he had seen another Mets basemen have the type of second half that Lucas is having in former incumbent Ike Davis. Why make that comparison? Davis is a forgotten topic for most fans, mainly due to Lucas Duda’s incredible performance as the starting first base since June 1st (Terry- that’s more than 1 half) . His production from that date over the course of a full season would put Duda at 42 home runs and 115 RBI. Also, his glove has improved vastly (minus a boneheaded foul ball botch near the 1st base line this series, like Keith Hernandez always says Dude…TWO HANDS!). I thought Bobby Ojeda responded perfectly in his SNY post game recap saying, “The manager would do well to stop using that comparison and just let Lucas Duda shine on his own”. Agreed.

Lets.Go.Mets.

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The Other Side To Travis d’Arnaud’s Game http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/the-other-side-to-travis-darnauds-game.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/the-other-side-to-travis-darnauds-game.html/#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 15:16:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=161326 Travis d'Arnaud

Travis d’Arnaud has been one of the keys to the Mets’ suddenly revamped offense in the last three weeks and for his hard work, the young catcher seems to have found a home in the fifth spot of the batting order.

“He’s swinging the bat very, very well. He’s been driving in runs. He’s been hitting some homers,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Therefore, he protects.”

It’s amazing to see the transformation with d’Arnaud going from a sheepish and passive hitter who lacked confidence, into one of the team’s top run producers at the plate since his return from Las Vegas. It’s been fun to watch him.

However it hasn’t been all wine and roses for the rookie catcher who has experienced some hard to ignore defensive lapses.

On Saturday, he was charged with two passed balls in the Mets’ 6-0 loss to the Padres, giving him eight passed balls this season, the most among all qualified MLB catchers,.

“D’Arnaud said the first one he was a little careless, he took his eye off it,” catching instructor Bob Geren said. “The other one, it extremely cut more than usual. It was kind of a weird pitch from Edgin.”

D’Arnaud does get high marks for framing pitches, but Keith Hernandez brought up an interesting point. During last night’s broadcast he said that d’Arnaud is so invested in framing pitches that he has lapses in his other principle duties as a catcher.

Hernandez attributed Saturday night’s passed balls to him trying too hard to frame the pitch which often puts you in a vulnerable position when you have to  block pitches. He wondered if this focus on framing is serving him or the team well when the return is one and sometimes two extra strike calls per game.

Additionally, in other defensive metrics, d’Arnaud has a 3.83 Catcher’s ERA which ranks 51 among MLB catchers, and his Defensive WAR is -.10 for the season.

As for holding baserunners, d’Arnaud has allowed 29 stolen bases this season and has a .237 caught stealing percentage which ranks 41st in the majors.

Taking a page from Keith Hernandez, I wonder if the framing pitches also keeps d’Arnaud from being in the best position to guard against stolen bases in a play that requires split-second execution?

I don’t know the answer, but it certainly makes for a great debate on a Sunday afternoon.

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July 4, 1985: No End in Sight http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/july-4-1985-no-end-in-sight.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/july-4-1985-no-end-in-sight.html/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:00:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=123757 Thousands of baseball books have been published. Millions of baseball stories have been told, every one of them starts with the same basic understanding: two teams, nine innings, balls, strikes, runs, hits and errors. Along the way there are various twists and turns ending in perfect games, no hitters, walk off home runs and everything in between.

No two games are the same, but many are alike. They all come back to the final out. Strike three. Game over. But what happens when a game goes on and on and on … with no apparent end in sight? Then, when the moment seemingly arrives, hope is dashed by improbability. There was a major league game like this. It was played on July 4 (and July 5), 1985. This is the story, as told by those who played, reported, broadcast, watched and witnessed it.

Extra innings changes everything. The game of baseball is redefined. To score is to win. To err is to lose. Strategy is discarded. Position players become relief pitchers and relief pitchers are pinch runners, and occasionally hit home runs.

On Independence Day 1985 at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves played 19 innings, the equivalent of two baseball games (plus one inning) including two rain delays totaling two hours, five minutes, 29 runs, 14 pitchers and 43 players, 155 official at bats, 115 outs, 615 pitches, 46 hits, 23 walks, 22 strikeouts, five errors, 37 stranded base runners, six lead changes, a cycle, two players were ejected and 25 years later the most memorable moment was recorded by the losing pitcher Rick Camp.

Camp was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1974. He grew up on a farm in Georgia, went to school and played ball in Georgia, drove a pickup truck and the team agreed to give him a tractor as part of his deal. Now he was going to pitch for his hometown team. Camp was close to living his dream.

Rick Camp

“To hit a home run in the big leagues — that was my dream,” said Camp. Prior to signing with the Braves he hit a lot of home runs, all of them as a designated hitter at West Georgia University where he attended college.

By July 1985, the odds of Camp seeing his dream come true seemed gone. He had 10 hits and a career batting average of .060. “He couldn’t hit his way out of the cage when he’d take BP,” said former teammate Paul Zuvella.

Camp had been moved to Atlanta’s bullpen. The chances of him even getting an opportunity to bat would take, I don’t know, maybe a couple rain delays, a lot of pitching changes and extra innings. Good luck with that.

The Mets arrived in Atlanta on July 4th weekend, grumpy. The team was slumping, winning three of their previous 11 games when rookie Len Dykstra dug in to lead off the game after an 84-minute relay delay. Most of the sellout crowd was still in the ballpark.

Sporting a golf ball size wad of tobacco in his left cheek, Dykstra choked his pine tar covered bat about six inches from the handle. He weighed 155 pounds according to the Mets 1985 media guide. He was 30 at-bats into his major league career.

Back in New York, Mookie Wilson, the Mets regular center fielder in 1985 was watching from a bed in Roosevelt Hospital, one day removed from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder to repair torn cartilage.

Dykstra dropped a bunt past Rick Mahler. Glenn Hubbard charged from second and bare-handed the ball to Bob Horner at first. Dykstra, in typical hard-nosed style, stumbled over the base, nearly colliding with umpire Jerry Crawford before being called out.

After Wally Backman legged out an infield dribbler, Keith Hernandez stepped to the plate. Mahler fired to first. Backman slid back safely. Mahler persisted, trying again … and again … and again …

Pete Van Wieren doesn’t own a Ouija board. He has no psychic powers. He has never been to a tarot card reading, but he does have an amazing sensory perception on matters related to the diamond. “At the rate this game is going the big 5th of July fireworks show will be presented right after the contest,” he said as the pickoff attempts continued like a broken record.

Mahler finally caught Backman leaning too far. As Crawford signaled Backman out, the Met second baseman slowly climbed to his knees and stared out at Crawford from underneath his helmet. The long give-and-take seemed to last longer than the 84-minute rain delay.

After Hernandez lifted the next pitch into left-center field for a double, Gary Carter grounded a single into centerfield. The ball took two hops and stopped dead in the rain-soaked outfield grass. Braves centerfielder Dale Murphy raced through puddle, scooped up the ball and fired it back to the infield. After a Darryl Strawberry single, advancing Carter to second base, and a George Foster walk to load the bases, Mahler struck out Ray Knight to end the inning.

doc-goodenA tall, thin, 20-year old Dwight Gooden was on the mound for the Mets. He was pitching on three days rest for the first time during the 1985 season. He would go on to win 24 games with a 1.53 ERA in 276 innings pitched. In 35 starts, Gooden pitched 16 complete games. His season performance cinched the Cy Young Award, claiming 120 votes, almost twice as many as John Tudor of the St. Louis Cardinals, who finished second (21-8).

Claudell Washington led off the Braves first inning with a triple. The 44,947 in attendance were on their feet. One pitch later, Rafael Ramirez grounded out to shortstop, scoring Washington. It took the Braves four pitches to tie the game.

Gooden followed by walking Murphy on four straight pitches, prompting Carter to zip halfway out between home plate and the mound to settle Gooden down.

Gooden walked Horner on four pitches; eight straight balls.

Terry Harper dug in and Gooden shoved a fastball on the inside corner at the knees for strike one. He sent Harper back to the bench on three pitches. It was as if Gooden pushed some internal on/off button.

“Just three years ago he was pitching to high school kids,” said the late Skip Caray. “My goodness, just think what that must have been like?”

Rick Cerone had missed three weeks due to a sore shoulder. He was activated two days earlier, but hadn’t played in a game since his return. His first at-bat came after a long rain delay against Gooden. Could the cards be any more stacked against the 31-year old Cerone?

“He probably said, ‘Thanks a lot!’ when he saw Gooden out there,” said Caray sarcastically. “He hasn’t played in a month.”

Cerone slashed the first pitch from Gooden to Mets first baseman Hernandez. The ball caromed off his midsection and he bare-handed a sidearm throw to Gooden covering first to end the inning.

“Back in the ‘70s, Atlanta had one of the worst infields in baseball – but there were a lot of bad infields in the old days,” said Hernandez. “I never liked fielding in Atlanta because it was so hot and everything baked. I always had to do a lot of gardening there, but by the ‘80’s, it was a very good infield.”

The rain returned in the third inning and Terry Tata stopped the game. Two nights earlier in San Francisco, Tata was informed by Major League Baseball he would the acting crew chief for the series in Atlanta, replacing Harry Wendlestedt, who was ill (Wendlestedt did not return to umpire until July 18).

“I took a redeye off the west coast and arrived in Hartford, Connecticut, spent some time with my wife and then took a flight from Bradley Field and arrived in Atlanta at 5pm,” remembers Tata. By the time he arrived at Fulton County Stadium it was already raining.

The Atlanta Braves employed two full-time groundskeepers and an estimated 25 part-time employees to help on game days. Sam Newpher, now the groundskeeper for Daytona International Speedway, was the head groundskeeper at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in 1985.

Newpher stayed in close contact with the National Weather Service at the Atlanta airport. The weather service could pinpoint the time and location of the incoming storm and its relation to the stadium.

In the press box the media were already playing weatherman. “Everyone working at the ballpark lives in different parts of the city, so it’s not at all uncommon for someone to call home and see if it’s raining in that part of town,” said Van Wieren. “Then you start hearing, ‘well it’s not raining in Dunwoody!’ Then Skip will say, ‘Well, let’s go up there and play.”

Newpher watched as the second rain storm soaked the tarp.

“All of the drainage was surface drainage which drains off to the outside edge (of the field) into two surface drains,” he said. “It was a turtle shell type mound with the center of it being about 25 feet behind second base. Keep something in mind, if a tarp is on the field and you dump the tarp, you’re taking a couple thousand gallons and just going plop in one spot,” he said.

Van Wieren watched the rain fall from the Braves press box. He glanced at his scorecard, then the stadium clock and back to the field. He took a deep breath and exhaled, well aware of how late this game was going to end.

“The team wasn’t very good and sellout crowds were very rare,” said Van Wieren. “We had a sellout crowd that night and the team would do everything in their power to get that game in so they could get the gate.”

When play resumed 41 minutes later, Mets manager Davey Johnson announced he was taking Gooden out to avoid risk of injury. It marked the first time in 27 starts dating back to Aug. 11, 1984 that he had failed to go six innings. Gooden, unhappy, retreated to the Mets clubhouse and began drinking.

The Braves took their only lead of the game, 8-7, scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. But the Mets tied it in the ninth. By the time the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves began extra innings the calendar read July 5. Still, fans moved to the edge of their seats. Not in anticipation of a win, but the post-game fireworks.

When the Mets came to bat in the 12th inning, Hernandez was a single away from the cycle. He had doubled in the first off Mahler, tripled in the fourth off Jeff Dedmon, homered in the eighth inning Steve Shields.

Hernandez would be facing Terry Forster. He needed his brother, who was home in San Francisco. Hernandez dashed back to the Mets clubhouse, called the operator and asked for an outside line.

“He was my good luck charm,” said Hernandez. “He always came down on West Coast trips. When we left San Francisco he’d come with me to San Diego and L.A. – and I always killed San Diego and L.A.”

Ironically, eleven years earlier on September 11, 1974, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Hernandez pinch hit against the Mets in a 25-inning game at Shea Stadium. “That was my first year,” remembered Hernandez. “I pinched hit in the ninth off Harry Parker and Dave Schneck robbed me of a home run.”

keith hernandezThe Cardinals eventually won, 4-3, after seven hours, four minutes and 25 innings. The Mets went to the plate 103 times and the Cards with 99 plate appearances and a major-league record 45 runners left on base. The game ended at 3:13 a.m., the longest game played to a decision without a suspension.

Hernandez singled off Forster to complete the cycle. Superstition rules.

Van Wieren stared at his scorebook. Nothing good could come in the 13th inning, maybe that’s why most scorebooks have 12 innings he thought. “Once you run out of innings in your scorebook it’s improvise time,” he said.

The Mets took a 10-8 lead in the 13th inning. Finally the end was in sight – finally. To his left, Van Weiren’s wife Elaine and two sons (Jon and Steve) sat, waiting for the fireworks.

All Tom Gorman needed now was three outs. After a leadoff single by Rafael Ramirez, the Mets left hander struck out Dale Murphy and Gerald Perry. One more out. Gorman zipped two strikes past Terry Harper. One strike left. Let the fireworks begin. Harper obliged, lining a two-run homer off the left field foul poll to tie the game again.

“I just looked over and they had their head down like, ‘we’re never gonna get out of here,’” remembers Van Wieren.

“You wondered where it’s going to end,” said Caray, remembering Harper’s home run in an interview years earlier. “When (Rick) Camp hit his (in the 18th inning), you figure, we’re going to go on forever. Once is amazing. Twice is incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life and I never think I will.”

The Braves broadcasters weren’t the only ones wondering.

Paul Zuvella was called up just a couple weeks before the July 4th game. His high school buddy Chris Hopson flew in from Milpitas in the Silicon Valley, south of San Jose, California to visit Zuvella and catch a game.

“That was the first game he had come to,” said Zuvella. “Poor guy, he was one of the very few remaining at the end.”

Zuvella was inserted in the sixth inning and faced five different pitchers in seven plate appearances – sidearm pitcher Terry Leach, Jesse Orosco, Doug Sisk , Gorman and Ron Darling – going 0-for-7.

“That, I do remember,” he said. “I remember hitting the ball hard. I hit some line drives right at people. I’m thinking, ‘How unfair is this?’”

“Pitchers tend to have an advantage in that type of game,” said Zuvella. “That’s why they keep throwing the zeros up. It gets a little tougher offensively as the game goes on. You start to think, is this game ever gonna end?”

Both teams put up zeros in the 14th, 15th and 16th innings. In the 17th inning, with nerves frayed, Tata called strike three on Strawberry. As he walked away, Strawberry “had some choice words” and Tata ejected him. “I still see the pitch today when they show it on ESPN Classic. It didn’t look like a bad pitch.”

As Strawberry walked back to the dugout, Mets manager Davey Johnson jogged toward Tata. The argument heated quickly.

“When Davey Johnson gets in my face and I turned my hat around backwards so I could get right in his kisser,” remembers Tata. “As I am looking over his shoulder there’s a digital clock along the first base line and it reads two – five – seven. It’s 2:57 in the morning and I say to Johnson, ‘It’s three o’clock in the morning, everything looks like a strike.’”

Tata ejected four managers, coaches or players in 1985, two of them within 60 seconds.

“The one thing you don’t put in your mind is the hope that it will end,” revealed Tata. “It will end naturally. You can’t root for a guy to hit a home run or driving in the winning run. You’ve got to block that out of your mind and concentrate on the game. Once you start hoping for that it’s going to detract from your overall sense of the game and your job.”

The Mets regained the lead, 11-10, in the 18th inning on a sacrifice fly by Dykstra.

Again, all Gorman needed was three outs. Again, he retired Perry. This time he shut down Harper. One out remained – pitcher Rick Camp. Mets pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre was taking nothing for granted and paid Gorman a visit. Stottlemyre warned Gorman about Harper now he was warning him, don’t make the same mistake. Don’t take Camp for granted.

Gorman registered two quick strikes on Camp. One strike left. Let the fireworks begin – please let the fireworks begin. Gorman fired a forkball on 0-2 and, like Harper five innings earlier, Camp obliged, hitting one over the left field wall to tie the game.

“As soon as it left the bat you knew it was gone,” said Tata. “That just cut your legs off at the knees.”

“That certifies this game as the wackiest, wildest, most improbable game in history!” yelled John Sterling, then a Braves broadcaster on WTBS.

“You’re really certain it’s going to end with Rick Camp at the plate,” said Van Weiren. “When Skip talked about it he said he never saw me get animated in the booth. But when that ball was hit I literally jumped out of his seat and put my hands on top of my head and said, ‘you gotta be kidding me!?’”

Jay Horwitz joined the New York Mets as public relations director in 1980. He was in his fifth year with the team. “I was in the press box,” said Horwitz, who watched most of the extra innings with then Mets scouting director Joe McIlvaine. “I had my binoculars, and I remember looking at the expression on Danny Heep’s face, it was the most incredulous look I’d ever seen. I remember thinking, ‘this game is never, ever going to end.’”

One year later, in 1986, the Mets were involved in a 16-inning marathon game against the Houston Astros, a game that decided the National League Championship Series.

When Billy Hatcher homered off the foul poll in the 14th inning at the Houston Astrodome to tie the game, Horwitz started having flashbacks of Atlanta. “It was the same kind of feeling,” said Horwitz. “You think you have the game won, you’re going to the World Series, they tie the game. We had enough fortitude to come back and win that game. But outside of the rain delays it was almost a duplicate game.”

Jonathan Leach grew up in metropolitan Atlanta and had been a Braves fan since 1973, captured by the Hank Aaron chase. He was home from college for the summer. He fell asleep as the game weaved through extra innings until “the early morning hours, when my brother burst into my room and woke me up to tell me they were still playing,” said Leach. “I saw Rick Camp’s home run which may be the most improbable event in the history of baseball.”

Hundreds of miles north in New Rochelle, New York, Jonathan Falk arrived home from a party at 10 p.m. and turned on the television. “I turned on TBS to find out how they’d done, figuring if I was lucky I might catch an inning,” wrote Falk, a lifelong Braves fan. “They were still playing. I was glued to the set. The Rick Camp homer was probably the single most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in 43 years of baseball watching.”

“That was the most unbelievable part. No one expected that,” said Ken Oberkfell, a Brave in 1985 and the Mets Triple-A manager today. “I mean, I have a better chance of flying an airplane than he (Camp) did of hitting a home run, and there it went. I remember I was in the clubhouse figuring the game was over, but when I saw the home run I came running back to the dugout.”

When asked now if he remembers the pitch Camp said, “I would say it was a fastball. I mean, heck, I had a zero point something batting average. There wasn’t anyone else to hit. I was just trying to make contact.”

As he rounded third, Camp was smiling as he met Tata halfway between home and third base. “You SOB, I was only kidding,’” said Tata.

“Even after I got out of baseball, every time I’d see him he’d just point to left field and laugh,” said Camp.

The Mets scored five runs off Camp in the top of the 19th inning.

“When you’re involved in a season like that and you get into one of those games you really don’t have the same concern over who wins,” remembers Van Weiren. “If you’re in a pennant race you do. If you’re 30 games out, you don’t really care. Sure you’d like to win the game, but if they don’t it’s not going to impact the pennant race. So when you get to a point in a game like that you’re just ready for it to end.”

Not the fans. As the Braves mounted another rally in the bottom of the 19th, scoring two runs, the fans began to chant, “We want Camp!”

“If we have to rely on me to hit a home run to win a game, we’re in bad shape,” said Camp. “I’ll always remember the homer, but it was a hard thing for me to do that and then go out and suck up a loss.”

“Go ahead hit another one out, we’ll pay ‘til noon,” said Tata.

This time Camp was facing Ron Darling, the Mets seventh pitcher of the game. Darling hadn’t made a relief appearance since his freshman year at Yale. The Mets were so certain Camp would not hit another home run, they began untying their shoes in the dugouts, equipment was being packed away.

“I remember the last pitch,” said Camp. “It was a high fastball I swung and missed. Struck out. You get a fastball from here up (motioning from his chest to eye level) it looks like a watermelon. I was trying to kill it.”

Strike Three. Game Over.

“This was the greatest game ever played – Ever,” said Howard Johnson.

“That was the greatest thing I’d ever seen,” added Bruce Benedict, Braves’ catcher, ” The tough thing about it was that there were a lot of lifetime memories in this game and we lost it. It’s hard to put those things in perspective. It was embarrassing.”

“That was the most bizarre game I ever played in – bizarre and fascinating, depressing and great, thrilling and boring,” said Darling. “It was all of those things mixed in. It would have been a story but Rick Camp made it a big story. I’m just glad I got my name in the box score.”

“I thought we were going to win it after that,” said Dale Murphy. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget that home run. I’ll never forget this game. I can’t explain this game. I’ll be feeling this for the next week.”

Gary Carter “Thrilling,” “fascinating” and “great” didn’t describe the experience for Carter, who was playing his first season in New York. He caught the entire game, handling seven New York pitchers and catching 305 balls.

“The game took a toll on me,” said Carter. “It was worse than catching both games of an afternoon doubleheader because of the rain (delays). My body was aching and throbbing.”

“Do you know what it’s like to be playing baseball at 3:30 in the morning?” asked Dykstra after the game. “Strange man. Real strange.”

“I saw things that I’ve never seen in my major league career,” added Hernandez.

Like Camp hitting a home run … or Knight who left 11 runners on base in his first nine at bats, including three times with the bases loaded.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other continuous game in major league history had ended so late. Prior to July 4-5, 1985, the previous latest game was completed at 3:23 a.m. in Philadelphia when the Phillies beat the Montreal Expos 6-1 on Aug. 10, 1977.

Rick Aguilera never saw it, any of it. Aguilera was sent home in the 13th after Johnson’s go-ahead home run. ”When I got to the room, I turned on the TV and saw the game still going,” he said. “I thought it was a delayed broadcast. I couldn’t believe it when they said it was tied.”

Aguilera went to bed. His roommate Sid Fernandez arrived a few hours later and Aguilera asked if the Mets won. ”He said we did,” remembers Aguilera, “but he also said I wouldn’t believe it.”

“When the game ended we were all so exhausted we were just thinking, we gotta get out of here and get ready for tomorrow … I take that back, we gotta get ready for today.”

Gorman was credited with a win. It was then that Gorman found himself in a save situation with the Mets ahead 10-8 in the 13th inning. He lost that lead. And then another.

“To give up a homer to the pitcher in the 18th inning is totally embarrassing,” Gorman told the media a couple hours later. “I learned I can’t take anything for granted. I felt like I saw it all tonight. I should have saved the game; I should have won the game; I should have lost the game. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.”

”There’s not one thing you can say you feel at that moment,” added Gorman. “It’s not like pitchers don’t hit home runs; they do. I’m not trying to take anything away from Camp, but you know if you hit the ball good here, it’s going to go out. I’d never pitched at three in the morning, but guess they’d never hit then either.”

Newpher and the grounds crew headed back to the field after arriving at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium at 8am. “One of the very few people left in the stands was my wife,” he said.

“What are you still doing here?” he asked.

“I came to see the fireworks,” she said.

Fireworks? It’s four in the morning. But the Braves were in no position to negotiate. There were 8,000-10,000 people still in the stands, delirious and jacked up on coffee, waking up their children for the fireworks. Then, there was WTBS, who sold sponsorships for the July 4th fireworks show.

“There was a great concern about whether the fireworks show would or would not go on,” remembers Van Weiren. “Ted (Turner) had gotten the station (WTBS) to sell a separate post-game that would include the fireworks. Once the game ended there was going to be a commercial break, we’d come back on the air and televise the fireworks.”

Braves television broadcaster Ernie Johnson was beside himself about the whole concept. Fireworks on TV? Come on, who’s going to watch that.

“We kidded about that,” said Van Weiren. “Ernie (Johnson) said ‘what are we supposed to say when the fireworks go off? Do we just sit there and go ‘Ooooh! Ahhh!?’ It was going to be a strange deal.”

Van Weiren said as the game went deeper into the night, there were a lot of questions about “whether they were going to do the fireworks,” he said. “We got the word that the fireworks were gonna go because this was a sold program on TBS and they were going to get the sponsored money.”

So, at 4:01 a.m. on July 5 the July 4th fireworks display began. For nearly 10 minutes the skies over Atlanta thundered. Bright colors lit up the night followed by the sounds of massive explosions. The roar hit a crescendo with a finale so intense, Atlanta resident Vivian Williams jumped from her bed.

Like many others living in the Atlanta suburbs, Williams believed the city had come under attack. The phones lit up at the police station. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution later reported “residents of Capitol Homes and other areas near the stadium called the police to complain that their neighbors, the Braves, were disturbing the peace.”

Williams told the police “setting off fireworks at 4 a.m. is inappropriate and ill-advised.”

Meanwhile, calls were pouring in to the Braves public relations office. Some came from fans who left before the end of the game and were angry that the fireworks display was not postponed until another date, he said. Other calls were from neighbors of the stadium who called the Braves to complain about the noise.

“We went back to the hotel and the USA Today was already under the door,” remembers Horwitz. “That’s always a bad sign, when the USA Today beats you there.”

Chip Caray, then home on college break, remembers his father stumbling in as the sun rose. He figured it was a late night with the guys.

“It’s the latest I’ve ever stayed out in my life and not done something I was ashamed of,” Skip said.

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Gary, Keith and Ron: Mets Broadcast Team Ranks No. 4 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/gary-keith-and-ron-mets-broadcast-team-ranks-no-4.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/gary-keith-and-ron-mets-broadcast-team-ranks-no-4.html/#comments Tue, 29 Apr 2014 11:00:06 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=154486 Awful Announcing ranked all 30 major league baseball broadcasting teams and the San Francisco Giants took the top spot.  

1) San Francisco Giants – 3.46
-Duane Kuiper (play by play)
-Jon Miller (play by play)
-Dave Flemming (play by play)
-Mike Krukow (analyst)

Most popular grade: A (74% of voters)

Vin Scully and the Los Angeles Dodgers came in second, while the Baltimore Orioles, featuring Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer, finished third.

The Mets broadcast team had a solid showing, coming in at No. 4. Here is what they wrote:

gary keith ron sny

4) New York Mets – 2.99
-Gary Cohen (play by play)
-Keith Hernandez (analyst)
-Ron Darling (analyst)
-Kevin Burkhardt (play by play – select)

Most popular grade: A (57% of voters)

Analysis: The Mets had the second-most first place votes in the rankings, but also had more last place votes than any team in the top ten. Burkhardt will be heading towards greener pastures following this season, but the Cohen/Hernandez/Darling trio still was extremely well-liked without him in the fold.

By the way, Kevin Burkhardt announced that he will not return to SNY after this season. The very popular field reporter agreed to a three-year contract with FOX Sports that begins in 2015.

Kevin will serve in various roles for FOX who intend to have him cover baseball, NFL football and college basketball.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Burkhardt said last Thursday at Citi Field. “Talking about it, I can’t even believe it. It’s totally nuts. I couldn’t have scripted it any better if I tried. It has been quite a couple of years.”

He will be missed.

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Are the Mets Playing to Win or Playing Not to Lose http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/are-the-mets-playing-to-win-or-playing-not-to-lose.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/are-the-mets-playing-to-win-or-playing-not-to-lose.html/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:10:18 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=153246 gary carter

After Gary Carter got a hit with two outs in the bottom of the 10th in Game Six, he turned to 1B coach Bill Robinson and said, “There’s no way I was making the last ******* out.” Moments later, pinch hitter Kevin Mitchell, void of his cup, got a base hit. He turned to 1B coach Bill Robinson and also said, “There’s no way I was making the last ******* out.”

When you look at the Mets today, do you see that same determination?

There’s a difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. When I watch the Mets, I see the latter. I see a team that’s not loose, that’s timid, almost waiting for something to go wrong and have a loss snatched from the jaws of victory.

I look at the Mets and, even this early into the season, it appears they are going through the motions. Willie Stargell once said, “Baseball is fun. That’s why the umpire says ‘Play Ball,’ not ‘Work Ball.” But to me it doesn’t seem like the Mets are having fun. They play hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

Last Friday night, the Mets arrived in Anaheim after a cross-country flight from Atlanta. But you’d think they were the first team to ever do this. They seemed lethargic, a far off distant look in their eyes. If this was the dog days of August I’d understand. But to see—in my view—a team this weary and this sluggish on their first road trip of the season made me wonder.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets - Game One

In the top of the 3rd, Travis d’Arnaud hit a solo HR to tie the game at 2-2. It was only the second homer of his career. Upon returning to the dugout, d’Arnaud smiled briefly, got a couple of proper pats on the butt from teammates and promptly sat on the bench putting on his catching gear. Very formal, very businesslike.

Three innings later, the opposite happened. J.B. Shuck, just called up to replace injured Josh Hamilton, hit a HR in the bottom of the 6th to knot the game at 4. It was the only the third of his career. Several of his teammates stepped onto the field, giving him high-fives after he rounded the bases, hugging him as he walked through the dugout. By the Angels’ reaction, you’d think it was a post-season game in October, not a Friday night in early April.

The stark difference was…amazing. The Angels were ecstatic, exuberant, nine-year-olds in Little League. The Mets were blasé, nonchalant, and almost indifferent.

In the 1970’s our hitting was definitely anemic. But out excellent pitching and stellar defense always kept us in the game. We had a legitimate chance to win. At the end of the 20th century, we had good enough pitching and enough big hitters that a win, no matter the score, seemed within our grasp. From 2005-2008, with a lineup consisting of David Wright and Jose Reyes—both coming into their prime–the power of Carlos Delgado and the 5 tools of Carlos Beltran, no deficit seemed insurmountable.

And then, there was ’86. If the Mets jumped out in front, it felt as if ‘that’s the way it’s supposed to be.’ Business as usual. And if we fell behind, our confidence never wavered. It wasn’t a matter of IF we’d win but HOW. And we did win. 2 of every 3 all year. But now it’s just the opposite. It feels like when the Mets take a lead, we don’t count on the win. Instead we ‘hope the bullpen can hold it.’ And if we fall behind, well, that’s when it feels like business as usual.

Why is this? Where does this culture stem from? When and how did mediocrity become acceptable and losses expected? Does it start in the executive office with ownership and the GM? Is it the fault of the manager and coaching staff? Perhaps, the players themselves?

When you look back at the good times there is one underlying consistency. We created a culture of winning.

On Opening Day 1969, Tom Seaver was a 24 year-old kid, Jerry Koosman was 26, Gary Gentry didn’t even look old enough to shave and Wayne Garret looked like he arrived at Shea via his tricycle. They were inexperienced kids but yet they won. How? The reason is they were surrounded by people who were winners. Manager Gil Hodges and coach Yogi Berra had played in 114 World Series games combined!

In June, management acquired Donn Clendenon, the player who Buddy Harrelson stated, “…gave us credibility.” Clendenon spent the bulk of his career in Pittsburgh alongside the likes of Stargell and Roberto Clemente, players who knew how to win.

When the Mets returned to the Series four years later, much of the team were holdovers from ’69. They were already champions.

By 1986, we had young stars like Gooden, Strawberry, and Dykstra. But we also had Gary Carter who, at this late stage in his career, would’ve done anything to get a ring. Keith Hernandez already had a ring as well as an MVP on his mantel. And at the helm was Davey Johnson, a player who spent the bulk of his career playing under Earl Weaver, one of the games’ winningest managers. Davey had two rings. He knew about winning.

The 99/00 club didn’t have “winners” but we had a roster loaded with guys who had that fire in the belly: Piazza, Ventura, Franco, Leiter, Payton. Even over-achiever Benny Agbayani.

Around 2006, we had the perfect blend of young talent and veterans who knew the game. Delgado was running out of time to become a champion, Beltran was determined to quiet the critics, Pedro Martinez was a big game pitcher, El Duque was a post-season stud, Paul Lo Duca played with the passion of Jerry Grote. And our skipper, Willie Randolph, had won 5 pennants and 4 World Series.

paul_lo_duca

Which one doesn’t fit in with this group: Hodges, Berra, Johnson, Valentine, Randolph, Collins.

The 2014 Mets are centered around David Wright. Like Seaver before, he is the face of this team. He already holds many team records and by the time he hangs up his cleats, he will be at the top of every offensive category in our history. We all love him, no doubt about that. It’s as if we get through the other 8 guys just to get back to Wright, who seems like he’s the only one who can give us a chance. And although we all love him, he can’t be called a winner yet.

That’s not a knock on David. Cooperstown is filled with legends who never won a ring. No one should diminish the accomplishments of Ernie Banks, Juan Marichal, Tony Gwynn, Nap Lajoie, Ted Williams and countless others. And while David puts up great numbers year after year, he can’t be lumped together with winners like a Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, Keith Hernandez, Tom Seaver, Derek Jeter and Dustin Pedroia.

The 2014 Mets do have Curtis Granderson, a player with extensive post-season experience. But can he be labeled a ‘winner?’ In 36 post-season games he’s compiled a paltry .229 BA. His one World Series appearance, 2006 with Detroit, his team lost in five. Granderson went 2-for-21, an .095 BA.

When I look at the Mets today, I see a lot of things. I see management that operates a big market club with a small market mentality. I see a GM whose hands are financially tied, searching the bottom of the barrel, hoping for one more good year from players well beyond their prime. I see a manager and a coaching staff who has never won. I see a third baseman who’s the only real player we have on our team, a role model for kids, but not a champion. I see the future of our team, Matt Harvey, a 25 year-old who has already undergone Tommy John surgery. I also see potential. Young pitchers with a lot of upside who are still unproven.

I see a lot of different things. Regrettably, though, I don’t see any winners.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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