Mets Merized Online » Ron Darling Fri, 01 Jul 2016 18:03:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Book Review: Game 7, 1986 by Ron Darling Sat, 28 May 2016 14:00:35 +0000 ron darling keith hernandez

Ron Darling takes a detailed stroll down memory lane for a night most Met Fans see as one of the greatest evenings in the history of the organization.  Darling, however, looks back on it differently.  Recall the events with the former Major League pitcher and current SNY analyst as he remembers not only this evening, but some of the events leading up to his fateful start against the Boston Red Sox and chance meeting with baseball immortality.

In true Charles Dickens’  Christmas Carol fashion, be prepared to walk alongside Ron Darling as he revisits the ghosts of games past and reflects upon a multitude of crucial moments that could seem ancillary to even the most perceptive of fans. You are the silent passenger in the recesses of his memory as he paints a vivid picture of the mental roller coaster ride he experienced in that 1986 Fall Classic deciding game.

ron darling game 7Eternally regal, magnanimous and dubbed by himself as solipsistic at some points, Darling delivers the unique workings of an Ivy League level thought process that preceded Game 7 in 1986.  (The G, capitalized as Darling did, to emphasize the significance)  If you are looking for the dirt about the ‘Bad Boys of Baseball’, search for another read.  Ron Darling remains impressively noble to out no one’s actions or thoughts but his own and assess no one’s process but his.

As Darling escorts you along the linear path following the final innings of Game 6, some of which he was not even in the ballpark to experience, the rain-out of the originally scheduled game 7, the moments leading up to the start time and in game analysis, be prepared to take well timed and nostalgic detours to detail some of the unique personalities that surrounded him.

From his childhood reverence of Carl Yastrzemski, his relationship with Davey Johnson, forging of an unspeakable bond with Gary “Kid” Carter, defending Tim Teufel in the infamous ‘Cooters Brawl’ in Houston, Darling explains this 1986 motley crew to the reader.

His days as the road trip DJ, friendship with Kevin Mitchell, and personality quirks of guys like Lenny ‘Nails’ Dykstra are also on display.  He takes the slightest of swipes at Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden as a result of them squandering the baseball gifts bestowed upon them, but somehow manages to do so out of extreme reverence and awe of their superior talent.

What stands out the most in this work, besides his intelligent similes and seemingly veteran prose, is how his intelligence sabotaged his performance.  Darling’s tendency to perseverate on nuance made this night even more challenging for him.  He was pitching an uphill battle and was knocked around by himself before the game even began.  Nearly thirty years later, Darling reflects on his experiences intelligently and presents an interesting juxtaposition upon its conclusion.  That is, for the rest of his life he must cope with a bad day on an epic night.

My Q & A With Ron Darling 

Chris: Mr. Darling, thank you so much for taking the time to provide answers to questions I had after reading your latest work, Game 7, 1986: Failure and Triumph in the Biggest Game of My Life. I really enjoyed how vividly you recalled each aspect and detail.

Chris: Was this book a cathartic experience for you? Did it help quiet the persistent reassessments that you write about so well in this work  and give you some inner peace over that night?

Ron Darling: The experience of writing the book was totally cathartic.  With 30 years as a buffer, it allowed me the chance to honestly look at success and failure and evaluate it without prejudice

Chris: The juxtaposition of the career high and the career low in one evening is interesting, can you look back on it now and enjoy the season as one whole journey and be satisfied with your role?

Ron Darling: My role is secure.  My numbers that season cement me with other talented Mets pitchers and I know that I was a big part of a great thing.  That is a great place to be.

Chris: Hypothetically, if you could give your younger self a mound visit once John Kibler gave Boggs the 1-1 pitch, what would you say to yourself to quell the emotions?

Ron Darling: I would calmly tell me that you have been great your entire life and great this season.  All of that preparation has put you here tonight.  Embrace the reality of pressure and let it carry you through this tough moment.  You were born for this moment.

Chris:After that first inning, was there any desire to tell Davey or Gary what you knew about the ball feeling ‘heavy’ in your  hand and/or your overall uncomfortable status?

Ron Darling: No, this is a solo journey.  It was a Razors Edge moment.  Can you find the power from within?  I could not.

Chris: Lastly, and respectfully, how helpful would the late Mr. Gary Carter have been for you to the process of this work? If we were still blessed with his presence, would you have consulted him for his recall to see if it mirrored yours?

Ron Darling: I would have loved to talk about this night with Gary.   I’m sure with his veteran intelligence, he would have had a better perspective than I have or had.  Miss him more now as a friend, than as a player.

Chris: Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions.  Much appreciated, I wish you continued success and best of luck!

Ron Darling:Thanks for the complimentary and detailed review.  Very kind of you.

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Syndergaard Is Syn-Sational Thu, 21 Apr 2016 15:00:49 +0000 noah syndergaard

What an amazing transformation Met fans are able to witness as Noah Syndergaard is quickly blossoming into the conversation as one of the best starting pitchers in the game.

Syndergaard is rounding into quite a complete pitcher, featuring an arsenal of plus pitches in his four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, curveball, and his new toy, a slider. What’s even more amazing is that Syndergaard ranks first in average velocity on his fastball (98.4 mph), slider (92.3 mph), and changeup (90 mph). Even his curveball ranks first in average velocity at 82.9 mph!

And all those velocities are up from his rookie campaign in 2015, with his slider being a big part of the reason for his early season success so far. In 2015, Syndergaard threw his slider only 2.1% of the time, for an average velocity of 87.9 mph. This season, Syndergaard is relying on his slider almost a quarter of the time, at 23.2% for an average speed of 92.4 mph.

The slider has become a pitch that is synonymous with pitching coach Dan Warthen, whose been helping his pitchers incorporate it into their games.  There were early accounts of Warthen’s slider tutelage in 2012, when Matt Harvey praised Warthen for teaching him how to hold the grip during Spring Training.

“Dan Warthen helped me out with the grip during Spring Training,” Harvey said. “I threw it last year, but I didn’t really know how to throw a slider.”

Fast forward to the present, where Syndergaard is taking Warthen’s slider and turning it into his own secret weapon, throwing it much harder than most that throw it. In his first start of the season on April 5th, Syndergaard went to the slider 23 times, and the Royals could do absolutely nothing with it. They went 1-for-9 with six strikeouts, which ESPN NY’s Adam Rubin reported was as many strikeouts as he had with the slider in the entire 2015 regular season.

Royal’s manager Ned Yost was amazed at the dominance Syndergaard had with his sliders, particularly in Syndergaard’s last batter in the sixth against DH Kendrys Morales with the bases loaded.

“There is no man alive who could have hit those three sliders [Syndergaard] threw to Morales,” Yost said. “I don’t think I have ever seen a 95-mph slider. George Brett was in here [his office] and I asked him if he could have hit that, and he said no way.” (NY Post)

While Syndergaard’s slider is a marvel of a pitch, he will always get high praise for his triple digit readings on the radar gun, and his ability to locate his fastball. On Monday night in Philadelphia, Syndergaard threw 12 pitches that were at least 100 mph, adding to his season total that currently stands at 15 according to MLB Statcast.

Of the 25 total pitches registered at 100 mph or greater this season, Syndergaard has thrown 60% of them, and three other pitchers threw the other ten pitches registered at that speed. Syndergaard owns five of the top ten fastest pitches this season, a stat we’re sure to see rise each start he makes.

Syndergaard’s meteoric rise has led to many comparisons to other All Star and Hall of Fame talent, past and present. He’s even been compared to a “max 10 video game player”, as David Wright recently spoke on after the Mets Monday night victory.

“My friends ask me about him,” the Mets captain said of his flame-throwing teammate, “and I say, ‘Think of it this way: When you used to play video games as a kid, if you build a player and put all the abilities up to max 10.’ He’s that guy you build in the video games.”

Former ’86 Champion and current Mets broadcaster Ron Darling told Mike Puma on Wednesday that he likens him to another former Met of the past.

nolan ryan

“He looks like Nolan Ryan,” Darling said. “He walks like him. He acts like him, throws like him. He just has better control than Nolan had at that age. From my seat I’m having a hard time finding the words describing what he is doing.” (NY Post)

If Syndergaard’s career looks anything like Ryan’s, albeit with better control as Darling points out, we’re all in for something very special. This kind of talent doesn’t come around very often, and add in the poise and mound presence he has after only 27 Major League starts, and it makes it even more unbelievable.

How far we’ve come from just last Spring Training, when Syndergaard had to be spoken to by David Wright and ex-Met reliever Bobby Parnell for eating lunch in the clubhouse during an intrasquad game. They way Syndergaard handled the situation, and took the lumps from the captain was an encouraging sign that he was eager to learn from the misstep, and move on.

“It was just a learning point for me, a team camaraderie thing,” Syndergaard said. “I understand where David was coming from. We’re playing a team sport. I should be out there supporting my teammates.” (Newsday)

I love Thor’s attitude, the way in which is conducts himself on the mound, and his ability to locate all of his pitches for strikes. Looking at Fangraphs, Syndergaard’s plate discipline numbers are all showing vast improvements from last year.

First, Syndergaard’s O-Swing %, which is the percentage of pitches batters swing at outside the strike zone is up over five percentage points this year, currently at 38.4%. His O-Contact %, which has to do with the percent of time a hitter makes contact with a ball thrown outside the strike zone, is at 41.1% compared to last year when he registered a 58.1%.

This could be the effect of having better movement on his off-speed pitches and the inclusion of the slider. And his SwStr%, which is the percentage of strikes swung at and missed is up over seven percentage points this season at 19.3%. And it shows, as Syndergaard is currently tied for the most strikeouts in the Majors alongside Vince Velasquez of the Phillies.

There’s no sugarcoating it, Syndergaard is becoming the ace of this Mets staff. Joe D. asked the MMO staff before the season started on which Mets pitcher was going to have the best season. Before the season started, it was hard to pick out of deGrom, Harvey, and Syndergaard which one would have the best season. Joe D. made a great analogy in choosing a pitcher.

“You just won a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro (V8 455 horsepower model of course) and you have to choose from Hot Rod Red, Nightfall Gray or Metallic Tri-Coat Black. No matter which one you choose, you can’t go wrong.”

After his first three starts on this season, Syndergaard is quickly making this question an easy one to answer.


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Stroll Down Memory Lane: Mets Top Prospects From 1983 Sat, 16 Jan 2016 22:00:45 +0000 darryl strawberry


The Baseball America archives go all the way back to 1983 for their annual Top 10 prospect lists and I thought it would be fun to take a look at what those players became. We will first look at the Mets Top 10 from 1983, seeing where BA missed and the ones they were right about.

Here is the Mets Top 1-5 Prospects from 1983 according to BA:

1.) Darryl Strawberry - The Mets selected him 1st overall in the 1980 draft out of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles California. He made his spectacular Major League debut at the age of 21 in 1983, hitting .257/.336/.512 with 26 homeruns and 74 RBI. He was the National League Rookie of the Year and then went on to make eight straight All-Star teams (7 with Mets) and won two Silver Slugger awards.

He was a crucial piece of the Mets World Series Champion team in 1986 but had his best individual season in 1987 when he hit .284/.398/.583 with 39 homeruns and 104 RBI. He finished sixth that year in MVP voting and would finish in the top 10 voting four times in his career.

Darryl signed with the Dodgers as a free agent in 1990 ending his career with the Mets. He finished as a career .263/.359/.520 hitter in eight season with the Mets. He also had 252 homeruns (most in Mets history), 187 doubles, 30 triples, 733 RBI, 191 stolen bases, and 1025 hits in a Met uniform.

2.) Jeff Bittiger - The Mets selected the right handed pitcher in the 7th round of the 1980 draft out of Montclair State University in New Jersey. He never pitched in the Majors for the Mets as he was traded in 1986 to the Phillies with Ronn Reynolds for minor leaguers Rodger Cole and Ronnie Gideon.

Jeff made his debut in 1986 with the Phillies going 1-1 with a 5.52 ERA in three starts. He pitched in the Majors the next three seasons with his best being for the White Sox in 1988 when he was 2-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 25 games.

Never returned to the Majors after 1989 but did keep pitching professionally until 2002 with the last six seasons coming exclusively in Independent ball for the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks.

3.) Ron Darling - He was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 1981 draft in the 1st round (9th overall) out of Yale University in Connecticut. The Mets traded Lee Mazzilli for Darling and Walt Terrell in April of 1982. Darling made his Major League debut for the Mets in 1983 making five starts.

In 1984, he went 12-9 with a 3.89 ERA over 205.2 inning and was fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. The next season he went 16-6 pitching a career high 248 innings and was voted to his only All-Star team.

Ron had his best season as part of the 1986 championship team, going 15-6 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.198 WHIP, and finished fifth in Cy Young voting for the National League. He was also 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA in four postseason starts including starting games 1,4,7 in the World Series.

He won a career high 17 games in 1988 and his only Gold Glove Award in 1989 with the Mets. He was traded by the Mets on July 15th, 1991 with Mike Thomas to the Montreal Expos for Tim Burke. He made only three starts for the Expos before being traded to the Oakland A’s 16 days later, whom he would end his big league career with.

Overall in his Mets career he was 99-70 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.288 WHIP while also hitting had two homeruns (back-to-back games in 1989)and knocking in 19 runs. He would finish with 136 career wins and 1590 strikeouts in 2360.1 innings.

doc gooden shea stadium

4.) Dwight Gooden -The Mets drafted Gooden as the 5th overall player taken in the 1982 draft out of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida. Doc burst onto the MLB scene in 1984 as a 19-year old kid going 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA. He led all of baseball in strikeouts (276), FIP (1.69), WHIP (1.073), H/9 (6.6), and SO/9 (11.4). He was named the ROY, was an all-star, finished second in Cy Young voting, and 15th in MVP voting.

He followed up his incredible rookie season with what is considered one of the greatest seasons ever for a pitcher and became the youngest (2o years old) ever to win the Cy Young Award. He went 24-4 while leading the Majors with 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts, 229 ERA+, and 2.13 FIP. He also had eight complete game shutouts and eight more complete games.

His 13.2 wins above replacement in 1985 is still the highest in modern baseball history for any player and the 20th highest of all-time. Only two players (Walter JohnsonBabe Ruth) had season with a higher WAR in the 1900′s.

He left the Mets after the 1994 season and missed was suspended for the entire 1995 season after testing positive for drug use as a repeat offender. He returned to the Majors in 1996 with the Yankees but was never the same pitcher ever again.

In his 11 seasons with Mets he was 157 wins (2nd most in Mets history) with a 3.10 ERA, 1.175 WHIP, and had 1875 strikeouts (2nd most in Mets history) in 2169.2 innings. He also hit seven homeruns, batted .197, and knocked in 65 runs for the Mets. He was a four time all-star and won the silver slugger in 1992.

5.) Rick Ownbey - The right handed pitcher was taken by the Mets in the 13th round of the 1980 draft from Santa Ana College in California. Made his MLB debut for Mets in 1982 making eight starts, had a 3.75 ERA despite walking more hitters (43) than he struck out (28).

He will be best known from Mets fans as one of the two guys (along with Neil Allen) that were traded to he St. Louis Cardinals for Keith Hernandez. Finished his big league career walking 91 hitters compared to 83 strikeouts in 146.2 innings.

This has to be one of the best Top 5 prospect years in Mets history producing one of the best hitters and best pitchers in team history. Not to mention, Darling, who is currently fourth on the Mets all-time win list and has the fourth most innings pitched as well.

Ownbey never did much with the Mets but his prospect value was useful because he helped bring Keith to New York. Strawberry, Gooden, Darling, and Hernandez all helped to bring the Mets the World Series trophy in 1986.

Notable names from other teams Top 10 lists include John Elway (#1, Yankees), David Cone (#6, Royals), Sid Fernandez (#3, Dodgers), Tim Teufel (#6, Twins), Kevin McReynolds (#1, Padres), and Ron Romanick (#5, Angels).

For more minor league coverage head over to and here you can read the recap of the 6-10 prospects from 1983.

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Goosebumps. So Many Goosebumps. Wed, 09 Sep 2015 16:31:43 +0000 USATSI_8789528_154511658_lowres

“This Mets team right now, it doesn’t matter who comes off the bench. Everyone contributes.” – Ron Darling.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

It is quite possible that, a year from now, I won’t be able to remember a specific, standout home run hit by Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud, or Curtis Granderson this season. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has just four homers in 2015, yet they’ve been four of the most memorable, and unexpected home runs hit by a Met this year.

In case you did in fact spend September 8, 2015 under a rock, Captain Kirk’s 8th inning solo shot was the final run scored in an 8-7 New York victory over Washington, one that was a 7-1 Nationals lead with one on and two out in the top of the 7th inning before 8 consecutive Mets batters reached base safely.

It really does take (at least) 40 guys to compete for a championship. Through 137 games, the Mets have had 48 different players make an appearance for them, from David Wright, Daniel Murphy, and Jacob deGrom, all the way to Alex Torres, Danny Muno, and even Akeel Morris. Somewhere in that mix (probably closer to the Akeel Morris end of the spectrum) is Kirk Nieuwenhuis, a player that truly personifies the club’s season-long roller coaster ride and exemplifies how far these 2015 New York Mets have come.

Just like the Mets endured months of, to put it lightly, offensive struggles, Nieuwenhuis struggled through adversity of his own; namely, being designated for assignment by the Mets, getting traded for cash, being released by the Angels, and hitting at a rate that only Mario Mendoza himself would be impressed with.

But like the Mets, this isn’t the same Kirk from the first half of the year. Obviously, he is still a marginal bench player at best. But April or May’s Kirk Nieuwenhuis finds a way to ground into a double play with no one on base, not hit a home run in the 8th inning off of Jonathan Papelbon to clinch the Mets’ biggest win of 2015.

And like the Mets, he has become the best form of himself. He competes and doesn’t give up. How many times do you see someone that played as poorly as he has this season come through in a situation like that? About as often as you see a team transform itself from the league’s worst offense to the league’s best. He fought his way back into a position that allowed him the opportunity to make an impact like the one he made tonight, while the Mets have battled and scrapped through both rough patches in the season and through so many individual games.

These Mets are special. I can’t count how many times the words, “way to fight back!” have audibly left my mouth this season. It’s not like I don’t hear the ghost of Mets fans past whispering, warning, “don’t fall for it.” But something about this team just feels different. They may fall short of winning a championship this year, but it won’t be because they let a 7 game lead with 17 games remaining slip through their fingers. If they don’t come away from 2015 with World Series rings, it will be because they were beaten by a superior opponent, and you can bet they went down kicking and screaming (and maybe crying just a bit).

Regardless of what happens over the next one to two months–no matter how many times Murph “murphs,” Jon Niese gives up five runs in an inning to Philadelphia, or Scott Boras tells Matt Harvey to stop pitching–the 2015 New York Mets will go down as one of my favorites. This is the most enjoyment I’ve gotten out of a baseball season in my lifetime (2006 included), and that can be credited largely to the passion, heart, and fight this team displays on a nightly basis.

In the face of this franchise’s history that has left so many fans burned badly before–I’m all in. And whether you like it or not, if you got chills as you watched Nieuwenhuis’ ball land beyond the right field fence of Nationals Park, you are too.

homer the dog

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Top 10 Met Moments From the First Half Fri, 17 Jul 2015 17:11:10 +0000 noah syndergaard

As we prepare for the final 73 games of the New York Mets’ (regular) season, this seems like as good a time as any to take a quick look back at the club’s ten best moments of the first three months of 2015.

Honorable Mention:

Noah Syndergaard’s Debut (May 12)

Though it may have been in a losing effort, Thor’s first time taking the mound for the Mets showcased why he belongs at this level and that he has the tools to be a future ace. Striking out the first batter faced of his career was just the start of a strong first five innings before finally tiring in the sixth. This day was a year-plus in the making for Syndergaard, and for Met fans, and allowed us to see with our own eyes what scouts have raved about for years.

Jeurys Familia Exceeding Expectations

Where, oh where, would the Mets be without this guy? One of the best closers in the MLB this season may never have gotten his chance should Bobby Parnell have been healthy earlier in the campaign, or if Jenrry Mejia hadn’t been suspended for 80 games. Though he has had many–probably too many–clutch five-out saves and been the near perfect fire extinguisher this team has needed more than it knows, there aren’t an excess of Familia performances that particularly stand out. And for a closer, that is more than alright with me. So here’s to Jeurys, being the boring, automatic rock he has been this far for the Mets.

kirk Nieuwenhuis

Number 10

Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ 3-Home Run Game (July 12)

Opening up our top 10 is a man who has had quite the past three months–hitting under .100 over his first Major League stint of 2015, being designated for assignment before being traded to the Angels for, as Randy Moss might say, straight cash, homie. Then, after only 10 games with Los Angeles, he is released and, to the dismay of many New York fans (myself included), is picked up by the Mets and sent directly to AAA. A hot streak in Las Vegas (2-22) leads to his promotion and a big game in San Francisco, and an even bigger game–a historical one too–against Arizona in the Mets’ final pre-All Star break contest. Congratulations, Kirk Nieuwenhuis. You are the only player on the team who may have had a weirder first three months of the season than the team itself. While the chances are that he will return to his .100 self post-break, at the very least his three homers and curtain call on Sunday gave Captain Kirk some momentary validation for his spot on the roster.

Number 9

Noah Syndergaard’s Home Run (May 27)

If only the Mets could play the Phillies 162 times this year… Just as Steven Matz did in his MLB debut (we’ll get to that in a bit), Syndergaard overshadowed a great pitching performance with his bat on this day late in May. I think Yeah Yeah from The Sandlot would be the best candidate to describe most people’s opinion of Noah’s stat line of 7.1 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 6 K that day. Because with one out and the bases empty in the 4th inning, Thor swung his hammer and hit a pitch (one that was low and away, mind you) an estimated 430 feet, further than the average in-game home run distance of seven of the eight 2015 Derby participants. His 7+ scoreless innings on the mound were great, but what Met fan will forget Thor’s bomb to center that day?

Number 8

Noah Syndergaard’s 13 Strikeouts (July 10)

I promise, this entire piece is not an ode to Noah Syndergaard. But what the rookie did to the D-Backs about a week ago needs to be recognized. Easily the best start of his Major League career, he pitched 8 incredible innings, giving up only 4 hits, 2 walks, and a single 1st inning run over 116 pitches (74 strikes), a team-high for 2015. Oh, and he also struck out 13 batters, two more than any other Mets pitcher has up to this point in the season. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who can physically feel Ron Darling’s drool over Syndergaard coming through the TV each time he pitches. Thor’s start against Arizona gave us a glimpse at why 2016 should be the beginning of many years of 200+ strikeouts for him, as it looked like he was toying with hitters at times, choosing to finish off a batter with a curve instead of a fastball just because he felt like it.

Number 7

Bartolo Colon Doing Everything

For the purposes of this post, all Bartolo-related moments will be included here. Let me first mention his pitching, which has gone slightly downhill since his 4-0 start, but is still well above average for a 42-year old, back of the rotation pitcher. And while the term “veteran presence” is trending in the “he’s just a winner” direction of overused sports terms, Colon really does fill that role for this young team, especially when only one other starting pitcher (Jon Niese) has ever pitched a full season in the MLB. Now to the fun stuff. Where do I begin?… There was his first hit of the season (come on, of course his helmet fell off), a broken bat bloop in Atlanta. There’s his 3-game hitting streak, which included the longest RBI double, time wise, in MLB history.* His one-man pick off of A.J. Pierzynski. His quote about a blister on his finger affecting his breaking pitches, but being OK because he doesn’t throw breaking pitches. His childhood donkey named Pancho. Thank you, Bartolo.

*Completely unofficial, but highly probable

matt harvey

Number 6

Matt Harvey’s 2015 Citi Field Debut (April 14)

This one is a little personal for me, since I made the 10-hour bus ride from Columbus, OH to New York to see it in person. While Harvey may not have lived up to the somewhat unreasonable expectations thrust upon him for this year, he is still a borderline elite pitcher, and that night in mid-April was still a special one. For the first time in 20 months, New Yorkers got to see their Dark Knight pitch in his home stadium. A near sellout crowd did its best to power Harvey through a relatively rough start, with lots of “Har-vey, Har-vey” chants throughout, and he and the team were able to pull out the victory. No, it wasn’t the complete game, 2-hitter performance most of us had wanted to see. But it did signal that the Mets had their guy back, and their fans got to witness it in-person.

Number 5

Jacob deGrom”s Near Perfection (May 21)

After a single in the first, Jacob deGrom threw a perfect final 7 innings before leaving with a final stat line of 1 H, 0 BB, 11 K in 8 shutout innings. Arguably the finest (and most #deGrominant) start of his blossoming career, deGrom’s ace abilities were on full display. Starts like these have propelled him to become the staff’s uncontested best pitcher this year, a first-time All-Star, and a possible Cy Young candidate if he continues on his current trajectory. Keep the hair long and the great starts coming, Jacob.

Number 4

Mets Comeback vs. Atlanta (June 14)

Or, if it would help you rememeber, the Dilson-Herrera-wearing-paper-Gatorade-rally-cups-on-his-ears game. With New York in danger of dropping a third consecutive home series the night after losing a 5-3 heartbreaker in 11 innings, the Mets did the same thing I do when I’m struggling on the golf course and need to turn it around–draw a line on the scorecard to designate a fresh start. Though this was undoubtedly more of a metaphorical line for the Mets, it still represents the same belief– what’s done is done; the time to start over and turn it around is now. This line came in the middle of the 4th, at a time when the Mets trailed the Braves 8-3. And from the bottom of the 4th on, New York outscored Atlanta 7-0. Home runs from Darrell Ceciliani, Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and Juan Lagares paved the way for the rally. This was a huge win that brought out the fight in the club and made clear that they would not quit until out number 27. Or longer if the game goes into extras. Which leads me to…

Number 3

Mets Extra Inning Comeback vs. Toronto (June 15)

The following night, New York seemed to be riding the same clutch, come-from-behind hitting from the previous game. After trailing 1-0 from the get-go, the Mets retaliated in the 6th to take a 2-1 lead. It appeared as if that would be the game, and the narrative would be that they rally from a deficit once again, albeit a much smaller one this time. Instead, Jeurys Familia picked up the second of his two blown saves on the year, and the game went to extras. When the Blue Jays scored in the top of the 11th, it felt like a lost cause for the Mets. ‘Well, another loss after quality pitching and no offense. Plus the game was already in the bag, and even Familia couldn’t win this one.’ But then Ruben Tejada walked, and Lucas Duda took advantage of one of the most extreme shifts he’s faced and blooped a ball into left with two outs to tie the game before Wilmer Flores’ walk-off single. In back to back games, the Mets had stolen wins. This Mets squad would battle, not just be tossed aside as many previous versions of the team had.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at New York Mets

Number 2

Steven Matz Debut (June 28)

You know the story. Boy grows up playing baseball, gets drafted to play for his favorite childhood team, fights through injury to get there six years later, and notches four RBI while going 3-3 at the plate in his first game. Pretty incredible path, especially if he gets paid to pitch. Steven Matz’s hitting slightly overshadowed his impressive first outing as a Met, and for good reason. After all, it’s not every day (never before, in fact) that a pitcher records four RBI in his debut. But without his strong showing at the plate–his first at bat specifically–that great pitching performance may not have happened. Anyone watching the game could see how crushing that double over Billy Hamilton’s head helped him to really settle into the game and get through 7.2 IP, giving up just 2 runs.

Number 1

Mets 11-Game Win Streak (Apriil 12-23)

What could possibly be better than a fantastic, long-awaited debut from yet another young pitcher that also happened to drive in four runs? The answer is simple: winning. Thanks to April 2015, the Mets can now check “Have a 10-0 home stand” off of the franchise’s bucket list. That almost-two week stretch at the beginning of the season set the tone for the team early on and gave them the cushion that they needed and have unfortunately since blown. It’s slightly scary to think about where the Mets might be without it. Following the 11th and final win of the streak, New York sat at 13-3. Since then, they have gone 34-39, good for a win percentage below that of what the Braves have posted in 2015 (.466 vs .472). Even though the team’s record has taken a sizable hit since April, that 11 game stretch provided the Mets with an early spark and got them off on the right track. And for any of you on the pro-Terry Collins side of things, a strong start to the season was certainly a must.

Whatever happens between now and October, we can only hope that it’s as nerve-wracking and entertaining as the first half has been. No team endures as many ups and downs as the Mets seem to, but that’s what makes following them so special; you never know what is going to happen. Is Captain Kirk going to get DFA’d today or hit three home runs again? Will any of our young arms hurl a no hitter? Most importantly–might Bartolo break Twitter by going yard? All of these questions, and many more, will be answered in the remaining 73+ games this year. Here’s to “Reaching the Postseason” making the list of top ten moments from the entire 2015 season.


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3 Up & 3 Down: Down Goes Philly, Break Out The Brooms Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:59:08 +0000 mets win sweep phillies

3 Up

1. Mets Are Fired Up!

Mets ace, Matt Harvey, not only elevates the play of his teammates, but he elevates their passion to win as well. Tuesday night’s match-up was a contest to see who had more fire, more of a burning desire to win. As important as it was for the Mets to take a W the day their young stud took the mound, it was equally important for Philly to knock him down a peg.

In all fairness, Philadelphia made Harvey look human more than once in that game. The Amazin’s #1 did struggle with his location, as many experts noted would happen coming off of Tommy John surgery. The difference is Harvey’s mental make-up. No matter what was going on with his physical abilities, there was zero doubt in his mind that his team would find a way to grit it out. The best part was seeing him still get an opportunity to retaliate and close out the inning after loading the bases.

Oh, and all this non-sense about Utley being tough too? It was cute how he stared back at Harvey after he made his way 90 feet down the line to first. Interesting how he had no desire to even look up from the ground when Harvey trotted up with his glove already coming half way off ready to brawl.

To be clear, I’m in no way promoting violence, but this isn’t little league and no one is handing out ribbons for effort- sometimes the game gets ugly and the team that backs down might as well hand over the win. I want to see my team play with some heart and some guts.

2. Duda and d’Arnaud

These two gentlemen combined to go 8-25 in the series (.320) with four doubles, two home runs, eight RBI’s and four runs scored to go along with some excellent defense. The driving factor for both of these players is their ability to work the count, look for good pitches to hit and driving those pitches hard as hell when they do see it. Plate discipline + exit velocity in motion folks.

3. Cuddyer and Granderson Heating Up

This is crucial for the team’s long term success. With the way Duda and d’Arnaud are playing, they can carry this offense until the Captain returns from his hamstring injury, but over a full season, the homegrown hitters will look to the free agent vets to provide added juice at the top and in the middle of the lineup.

Granderson batted .364 in the series with a .500 OBP and two runs scored. The Grandy man has yet to drive in a run (less RBI’s than Bartolo Colon or Jon Niese), but he has absolutely lived up to expectations out of the leadoff spot.

Michael Cuddyer was slow after a hot spring training, but has steadily picked up his pace, now climbing his way up to a .273/.351/.455 slashline on the season. He went 4-9 in the series (.444) with a double and a triple- yes you read that correctly, driving in a run and scoring two himself. Right now, I still believe d’Arnaud is a better candidate for cleanup, but that production will generate quite a bit of value as well.

3 Down

1. Lame Delay

Ron Darling voiced his frustration over the challenge, that wasn’t a challenge, during Harvey’s outing on Tuesday. Honestly, it’s hard not to agree with Darling here because Harvey was just settling back in to his game when he was forced to cool off. The result, a hit and run scored in the very next batter. As great as it is to get a call overturned in your favor, it isn’t worth stifling the performance of a guy like Harvey unless the team is absolutely certain it’ll go in their favor.

2. The Captain Is On The DL

The Mets should be able to weather this storm, but some plan has to be put in place when David Wright returns to action so that these “tweaks” are avoided. If that means that the Captain no longer steals bases, than that’s acceptable. As a commenter pointed out in one of yesterday’s threads (is2015theyear?), it was a 3-2 count and runners were in motion, but maybe even sacrifice getting in scoring position in that situation for the sake of keeping a .300+ average/20+HR/100+RBI/100+ run scored ball player in the lineup? Seems worth it.

3. The Flores Experiment Is Still An Experiment

As someone who writes about the team he loves dearly, I’m always careful to wish the best for each and every player, but also point out the reality in every situation. Many players in the lineup are either already hot, or starting to heat up, so the need for offense out of Flores hasn’t been as crucial as earlier projections may have indicated.

That being said, the Mets will the shortstop position to start generating some form of value soon. Flores is a ball player, I want to be clear that like many others, I’ve seen an ability in him to be an everyday player- just not a shortstop. He’s been exposed on defense for having a lack of range, fundamentals, etc.- all the things we already knew- the caveat being that his offense has been equally as unproductive. Something has to give with this position by the July trade deadline.

The reality is that either Wilmer Flores gets it going quick (as in the next few series) or Ruben Tejada resumes the starting role. We know Tejada’s ceiling, practically zero offense, but there’s a floor to his overall value stabilized by his excellent defense- and he does play good defense. The pitching staff needs his range controlling the left side of the infield, especially since d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares are playing so well with their gloves. In theory, adding Tejada at the moment creates little to no loss on offense, yet maximizes the defense up the middle, a strong attribute for a team dependent on their pitching to get to the post-season.

There’s also Matt Reynolds waiting in AAA and to be honest, it’s difficult to see him being a long term solution at shortstop as well, all these guys are second basemen. However, when looking for value, Reynolds is an excellent ball player who could hold the position down with some valuable on base skills and speed to spark the top of the lineup.

As I’ve said all along, I truly hope Flores can get it going and prove me and the rest of his critics wrong. Trust me, there’s no pleasure in being right on this one because it’s doubtful the Mets will act swiftly in fixing the situation.

Lets! Go! Mets!

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Featured Post: Selig Declares Baseball A “Social Institution” Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:52:11 +0000 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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July 4, 1985: No End in Sight Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:00:42 +0000 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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Darling Regrets Not Reading True New Yorkers Letter Thu, 08 May 2014 21:25:08 +0000 In a harsh rebuke of the front office, New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro points out how the Mets vowed in the spring of 2013 that this was going to be the year they blew the dust off their wallets and jumped back into the game, act like they own a team based in New York City, not Oklahoma City.

“And, you know: act like True New Yorkers.”

The Mets, who are 1-6 since asking their fans to sign a loyalty oath letter, may be the victims of their own bad karma:

The Mets do have just enough starting pitching to keep themselves in a lot of games. They have just enough professionals who seem to relish the underdog challenge that this big-market overdog needlessly inflicts on them. And they were 15-11 at the start of May. Easy to root for, despite their flaws. Easier to feel good about.

Except the Cabinet of Stupid couldn’t leave that alone, so it famously dispatched the Loyalty Oath letter, and followed that up with another, and another, and still can’t believe why anybody thought it was a bad idea. Honestly, there’s no correlation between the Oath and the fact that the team has gone 1-6 since hitting the “send” button. Unless you believe in karma.

Vaccaro asserts that the men who run the Mets – who he repeatedly refers to as the Cabinet of Stupid – have become very good at playing their fans for fools and insisting that everything is back to normal financially.

“That would be considered shameful,” he writes. “But then the men who run the Mets have proven time and again that they have no shame.”

“And so they run out a lineup night after night that looks paltry compared to just about everyone they play. It’s the Marlins who are supposed to be the joke of the NL East, operated by con men; look at that roster and then look at the Mets’. And ask yourself: Who’s fooling whom?”

The Mets payroll which now stands at $86 million dollars is now at it’s lowest level in 15 years since Steve Phillips was the general manager.

ron darling

Regarding the loyalty oath letter, former Mets pitching great and current analyst Ron Darling, admitted during a WFAN interview on Wednesday, that he and other players had no idea what they were digitally signing their names to and expressed regret for not personally doing his due diligence.

“I was asked to put my likeness and name to something, I didn’t read what was going to be put out there,” Darling said.

“I didn’t do my due diligence to read what went out. It’s on me. It’s not on anyone else. I put my name on it. I put my likeness on it. I have to live with it.” 

Darling understood how poorly it reflected on him and the team and said that there is an obvious disconnect between the team and their fan base.

“What is happening now — and I’m not saying it’s rightfully so — but it seems like everything that comes out from the Mets is looked at poorly. …I don’t think there has ever been a time that any organization would do something to anger their fans, which would be silly.”

“I just think that there has to be a reevaluation of the disconnect and how to reconnect to how fans feel and what the team is trying to do. And I think that’s an obvious thing.”

You can listen to the entire Ron Darling interview here.

Presented By Diehards

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Open Letter From Mets: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Wed, 30 Apr 2014 16:33:18 +0000 mets-letter-2

By now, most of you should have received the email from the Mets, encouraging you to prove that you are “real” fans and to sign a pledge of support.

The letter, which was signed and sent by Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, Cleon Jones, Ed Charles, Jerry Koosman, and Doc Gooden, read as follows:

To True New Yorkers -

The victory you earn is sweeter than the victory you’re given.

When we won in ’69 and ’86, we, the players, didn’t do it on our own.

We made history together — players and fans — through a gritty, even stubborn, belief in this club against all the odds.

When we’ve won, we’ve proved through the way we did it that true New Yorkers are Mets fans.

So today we’re issuing a call to all Mets fans: Show your New York Mets pride — stand up and say you’re a true New Yorker.

As players, we can tell you that what happens in the clubhouse and what happens in the stands — players and fans together, believing in each other — makes a tremendous difference with what happens on the field.

Your support matters; we wouldn’t have won without you. So we’re calling on you to give today’s club the same chance we had.

If you agree that the fans have a role to play in making amazing things happen, add your name to this letter:

One fan — maybe you — will present the signatures on this letter and the messages from fans to the team, before the Mets’ first Subway Series game at Citi Field. If you add your name, it could be you.

We’ll see you there. Let’s Go Mets!

The reaction from most of the fans on Twitter bordered on outrage, apathy, bewilderment and an overall feeling of, “I give up.”

The Mets marketing people just can’t seem to get out of their own way and their lame attempts at connecting with fans does more to disparage them than to reign them in.

Perhaps Mike Vaccaro wraps it up better than I can when he tweeted the following:

After hanging with this team through thick and thin over the last five years of dreadful baseball, poor performance, and the myriad of public relations disasters, do they really doubt our loyalty? Really?

The truth is that over the last few years it is us the fans who deserve proof of the team’s commitment to the fans, and NOT the other way around.

We want proof of the ownership’s loyalty to this team. Our team. A team that feels like it’s been hijacked ever since Fred, Jeff and Saul became majority owners.

That’s the real problem right there.

The fans of this franchise should all get medals of honor for how incredible and steadfast their support still is despite all of this organization’s bumbling debacles.

How about you sign our petition that you stop blaming us for everything that is wrong with this franchise?

How about you sign our petition that you stop telling us you won’t invest another dime on this team unless we come to Citi Field and sell the place out forty times a a year?

How about you sign our petition that if the Mets dont win a championship in the next three years, you’ll sell the team and get the hell out of Dodge?

It’s been nearly 30 years since our last championship, and we’re all still here – rooting and waiting – and you have the gall to ask us to pledge our loyalty?

What do you call the last three decades of our lives?


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Gary, Keith and Ron: Mets Broadcast Team Ranks No. 4 Tue, 29 Apr 2014 11:00:06 +0000 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.

Presented By Diehards

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Lewin-Gate: Much Ado About Nothing Mon, 27 Jan 2014 20:21:58 +0000 Who is Josh Lewin and why is his name suffocating my Twitter timeline?

Of course I’m kidding, I know that Josh Lewin is that legendary Mets announcer who has entertained the Flushing faithful for decades with that warm and folksy voice that makes one seriously consider turning off the TV and opt for the radio instead. Oh no, wait, that’s Bob Murphy I was thinking about, never mind…

Lewin, who has worked Mets radio for all of two years, has suddenly become yet a new arguing point for a faction of Mets fans that never seem to be happy and always need something to complain about.

As if we don’t have enough problems trying to solve first base and shortstop, apparently many are miffed, perturbed, and downright disturbed that Josh Lewin may be replaced by a former player in the radio booth as the co-pilot to Howie Rose on WOR AM. So what… What is so outrageous about that?

Are we devolving into one of those fan bases that must always cry about something?

Today’s ruckus stemmed from a piece by Howard Megdal on Capital New York which in all honesty, doesn’t even complain about replacing Lewin with a jock.

My take away was that Howard’s piece was just another opportunity to take a jab at team ownership (I’m down with that), point out the lateness in settling who the radio team will be (he’s right), and of course getting a chance to mention “team finances and debt load,” a phrase that has become synonymous with most of his Mets related work.

A week ago, I asked, “What if Lewin’s replacement turns out to be another Ron Darling?” Would anyone still complain?

I think Lewin is a nice compliment to Howie Rose and I’ll be happy if he stays. But if he’s replaced by a Cliff Floyd or a Darryl Hamilton, I’ll be just as happy.

Having a player perspective on radio to go along with Howie’s great play-by-play and Metsian ways, wouldn’t be such a bad thing, and it might even be better than the status quo. So everybody just chill.

Presented By Diehards

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Al Leiter: The Mets Aren’t A Playoff Team Tue, 17 Dec 2013 15:40:36 +0000 tejada580On MLB Network’s MLB Tonight, Al Leiter and Ron Darling were discussing the free agents still available on the market, and which teams still had some glaring holes to fill. Included in the conversation was, of course, the New York Mets.

The Mets came up in two conversations—first in the discussion regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates, and later with the Mets.

Leiter said the Pirates would be a nice fit for Mets’ first baseman Ike Davis. With Ike’s current salary, he thinks that his power would translate well in PNC Park, and that the Pirates should take a shot. We know from last season that the Pirates and Mets have been able to work out deals in the past, so this door seems to be open.

Darling, on the other hand, thinks Mitch Moreland is a better trade option right now. Aside from having an awesome first name, Darling notes that Moreland hit for a higher average last year and is the cheaper option. Moreland also hit for more HR in 2013 (23).

Here is a chart that breaks down Moreland’s and Davis’ batting averages over the past couple of years. As you can see, both are below average with regard to batting average, although Moreland has been slightly more reliable in this category as Darling stated.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 10.19.17 AM


Darling and Leiter then both discussed the Mets, and what the plans at shortstop are. Both agreed that they do not see the Mets making a move in free agency, and are going with Ruben Tejada this season. Leiter added that the Mets aren’t a playoff team, and they have to stick with their young shortstop. Darling agreed, saying they should not give up on him after one bad season and alluded to the idea that the Mets were more upset with his effort than his actual play.

Is it too soon to give up on Tejada?


It seems logical that the Mets would give him one more chance this season, but the odds are that he will be on a very short leash.

Is it surprising that Leiter still doesn’t think the Mets are playoff contenders even after many analyst and reporters have deemed the Mets “winners” this winter?

Not really.

I think even the most die hard Mets fan has to recognize that the Mets are not playoff contenders just yet. They are taking steps to move in the right direction, but nobody will look at the current roster of the team and start saving money for playoff tickets in October. Anything can happen, it’s just not likely based on the current roster.

You can watch the entire clip from MLB Tonight here.

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The 10 Best Mets Pitching Staffs Since 1980 Tue, 26 Nov 2013 17:07:40 +0000 david cone

You have to score runs in order to win games, but you also need to pitch. Which Mets teams since 1980 have been the best at run prevention? Let’s take a look-see, shall we?

Runs Allowed Per Game

  1. 1988   532 runs   3.32
  2. 1985   568 runs   3.51
  3. 1986   578 runs   3.57
  4. 1989   585 runs   3.61
  5. 1990   613 runs   3.78
  6. 1998   645 runs   3.98
  7. 1991   646 runs   4.01
  8. 2005   648 runs   4.00
  9. 2010   653 runs   4.03
  10. 1992   653 runs   4.03

Hmm… there was certainly a trend here. Over the eight year span from 1985-1992, the Mets had 7 of their best 10 staffs since 1980. The only year they missed the list was 1987. Even the 1991-1992 squads (which were among some of the worst Mets offensive teams of the last 34 years) had solid pitching.

While the Mets had some really good relievers during these years, a team is going to live or die by its starting rotation. What did the Mets rotations look like these years? The top 5 starters (in terms of games started) for these squads were as follows – we’ll progress by year from 1985-1992 (skipping 1987) so we can see the progression:

1985 – Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Ed Lynch, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera

1986 – Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera

1988 – Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, David Cone, Bob Ojeda, Sid Fernandez

1989 – David Cone, Sid Fernandez, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Dwight Gooden

1990 – Frank Viola, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Sid Fernandez, Ron Darling

1991 – David Cone, Frank Viola, Dwight Gooden, Wally Whitehurst, Ron Darling

1992 – Sid Fernandez, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Pete Schourek, Bret Saberhagen

Some pretty good names, huh? There was also a lot of continuity as well. Dwight Gooden was in all 7 of these top 10 rotations. Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez were on 6. David Cone was on 5. Bob Ojeda was on 4. Those were 5 pretty good names. Former Cy Young award winners Frank Viola and Bret Saberhagen (although Bret’s best years were behind him by the time he became a Met) were there, too. No wonder this stretch saw a lot of really good Mets pitching. Unfortunately, we only saw two playoff appearances and one championship during this time.

So what about those other three starting rotations during those top 10 seasons?

1998 – Rick Reed, Bobby Jones, Al Leiter, Masato Yoshii, Hideo Nomo

2005 – Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Kris Benson, Victor Zambrano, Kazuhisa Ishii

2010 – Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, Hisanori Takahashi

On Deck: The 10 Worst Mets Pitching Staffs Since 1980

Presented By Diehards

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Best News Of The Night, Ron Darling Signs New Deal With SNY Fri, 22 Nov 2013 05:15:46 +0000 I watched the season premiere of Mets Hot Stove on SNY which was kind of a bore-fest of full of week old rumors that have been beaten to death already here on MMO or on Mets Twitter. There was one item of note and that was the announcement that Ron Darling had agreed to a multiyear deal to remain part of the SNY broadcast team. It was the best 23 seconds of the night…

With Darling’s star rising fast in the broadcast world, I feared we might end up losing him to FOX, ESPN or the MLB Network. I’m so glad to hear he’s sticking around to compliment Gary and Keith in the booth. I especially loved Ronnie on those rare occasions where he covered for Bobby Ojeda during the pre and post games. I hope we get to see him do more of that.

We had a chance to interview Ron Darling a few times and each time we came away in awe of his incredible knowledge and baseball presence. He’s always the smartest guy in the room, but his friendly demeanor doesn’t make him intimidating to talk to at all. As a matter of fact you get the sense you’re hanging out with an old friend and having a beer and talking baseball.

Congratulations on your new deal Ronnie!

Here are a few quotes from Ron Darling, a couple of which came from our own interviews:

On Making It In The Majors

“The three things that I benchmark, that I judge pitchers by is their ability to throw fastballs on the corner and both sides of the plate, that they can throw a breaking ball over the plate behind in the count, and that they have a bulldog and a competitive mentality.”

On Mets Off-Season

“They have to get a starting pitcher with Matt Harvey out. Maybe you get a veteran guy out there on a one or two-year deal to help with the younger pitchers, teach them how to be pros. And they need offense, whether you make a big splash or do what the Red Sox did and get some capable pros. The toughest decision for the Mets is what players on the roster they want to keep.”

On Zack Wheeler

“A bulldog comes in many shapes and forms. In my day, Dave Stewart was considered a bulldog with the stare, but so was Orel Hershiser without the stare. It comes in a lot of different ways. A lot of guys try to fake it, you can see through it. Zack Wheeler might have a different way of doing it; he might be quieter about it, as opposed to Matt Harvey who may be a bit more overt about it. Matt’s from the East Coast, and East coast kids tend to be a little more overt anyway, and Zack might be a little quieter. It doesn’t mean that they both can’t be pitching assassins in their own way.”

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Ron Darling To Join MLB Network As Hot Stove Analyst Fri, 01 Nov 2013 13:39:09 +0000 alg-ripken-wells-darling-jpg

On Thursday, the MLB Network announced that they’ve hired Ron Darling as an analyst for the 2013-2014 Hot Stove Season.

Darling, fresh off his stint as a postseason analyst for TBS, has become a very hot commodity in the broadcast world. His savvy insights and keen intellect serve him well as an analyst and he always comes off looking like the smartest guy in the booth.

The two-time Emmy Award winning analyst, has been entertaining Met fans since 2006 when he joined color man Keith Hernandez and play-by-play man Gary Cohen to form one of the best broadcast teams in baseball.

I love Ronnie and it’s great to see him get the recognition he so richly deserves.

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The Magic Is Back… Again… Mon, 30 Sep 2013 12:00:57 +0000 Darryl Strawberry (L) with Mets General Manager Frank Cashen.

The Magic is Back! That was the Mets promotional slogan in the spring of 1980 after Nelson Doubleday Jr. and Fred Wilpon had purchased New York’s National League franchise. From a business standpoint, the new Met owners bought in at a perfect time. The Mets were in shambles, last place finishers in three consecutive seasons prior to the purchase.

Acting on the advice of several baseball people from outside the organization, the first decision the new owners made was to hire Frank Cashen as their team’s new GM. When the Mets came calling, Cashen, who had earned wide acclaim overseeing baseball operations for the Baltimore Orioles from the late 60’s through the mid 1970’s, was working for baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn as the administrator of Major League Baseball operations.

Billboards all over NYC proclaimed the ‘Magic Was Back’ off the field, but, as the chart below proves, there was little on-the field magic on the field during Cashen’s first few seasons heading the Mets.


No, for Met fans the early Cashen years brought little baseball magic to Shea. Expecting bold moves to improve the baseball product, Met fans were left scratching their heads when Cashen originally sidestepped the trade route in starting his Met rebuild. In June, June of 1980, Cashen made his first noteworthy move, a risky move at that, projecting help sometime down the road by signing a raw and talented high school prodigy named Darryl Strawberry. During the same off-season, Cashen signed Doug Sisk and Kevin Mitchell as amateur free agents.

The cautious bow-tied GM, spent much of his early effort working to retool the Met minor league player development system. His evaluation of where the Mets where and where he hoped to take them, crawled into the 1981 season where his only substantial moves came from within, the elevation of Hubie Brooks and Mookie Wilson to the big team in Flushing.

george foster

Cashen quietly continued to utilize the draft as a major tool in plotting improvement signing Lenny Dykstra in the 13th round of the 1981 draft. 1981 was the first time Cashen put his big toe in the player trading market bringing in fan-favorite Dave Kingman for a second round with the team as a slugging bat in the line-up.

It was in 1982 when Cashen made two moves that created a collective stir in Metsland. With one bold strike, a move than never panned out quite like Met fans hoped, but an important symbolic maneuver that signaled to the fan base the Mets were serious about their rebuilding efforts, Cashen traded for and signed Cincinnati Red slugger George Foster to play for the Mets.

After buoying the hopes of Met fans, Cashen became the target of ire two weeks later when he shipped Met fan favorite Lee Mazzilli our of town for two pitchers, Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. Darling would later become a mainstay of the Met staff, an All-Star and critical piece in their World Series Championship run. Terrell won 20 games and lost 21
in his last two seasons as a Met and was an innings eater who pitched 215 innings in their turnaround season in 84. More importantly, Cashen traded Terrell for Howard Johnson in the off-season following the 1984 campaign.

With his eye always focused on young talent, Cashen continued to scour the baseball landscape looking for talent through the draft. In June of 1982 he signed future ace pitcher Dwight Gooden as a first round pick and Roger McDowell in the third round.

Sid Fernandez  winds back to pitchCashen continued his reconstruction project in 1983 signing Rick Aguilera in the third round of the draft. Even though the Mets failed to top a .420 winning percentage for the seventh consecutive year, Cashen’s trades for Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals and Sid Fernandez from the Dodgers added the fine china to the table Cashen had meticulously been setting in his early years as GM for the Mets.

Once the Mets turned their win/loss record upside down in 1984, fans flocked back to Shea, and Cashen’s GM decisions shifted. The Met GM was no longer table setting for future success but cherry picking and looking for main course dinner entrees to take the Mets over the top. Enter Gary Carter.

With the 2014 season coming to a close, a new season starts, the annual Sandy Alderson flash mob slam. Yes, the patience of many Met fans is wearing thin and Alderson stands front and center as the target of their ire.

I for one have not lost hope that positive change is underway. I can’t help but recognize the parallels between the early work of Alderson and his front office team and that of Cashen during the beginning of his stay as the Met G.M. The work overhauling the minor leagues, the emphasis on the draft, the retooling of the young pitching staff, the willingness to trade popular current pieces for projected future success are all Alderson moves utilized by Cashen long ago.

As I see it, the jury is still out on Sandy’s Met rebuild, and this off-season is critical. When the groundwork was laid in the early 80’s, Cashen stepped out of his comfort zone and used free agency and trades to procure the main ingredients for a championship dish. Sandy Alderson has failed to do that as of yet. If and how he does will be the difference maker that determines Alderson’s legacy as a GM of the Mets.

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Classless Frank Francisco Needs To Go Fri, 13 Sep 2013 15:21:13 +0000 jayson werth

Gary Cohen: Why would Francisco throw at Jayson Werth?

Ron Darling: Because he’s a fool, that’s why.

The New York Mets brought back Frank Francisco from oblivion this season because their bullpen was depleted, but also in the off chance somebody might be desperate enough to trade for him.

After his despicable display Thursday afternoon at Citi Field, any team wanting him would not only be desperate, but stupid as well.

With the game in the balance in the eighth inning and behind 3-0 in the count, Francisco drilled Jayson Werth in the back after giving up back-to-back doubles to Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman. It was obvious; Francisco was in trouble and wanted his pound of flesh.

Of course, Francisco later said it was unintentional and he was “obviously all over the place,’’ but the Nationals weren’t buying. Players know, and Werth took out Ruben Tejada with an aggressive slide that could have broken the shortstop’s ankle.

Werth, obviously, was sending his own message.

davey johnson

The retiring Davey Johnson, who likely managed his last game in New York, told reporters after the 7-2 victory, “it’s a good thing we don’t play them again.’’

There’s no misunderstanding what that meant.

Teams remember, and Terry Collins should have done something to diffuse the situation – and perhaps any future clash – by immediately pulling Francisco. In doing so, Collins would have been telling the Nationals, “I understand Francisco is an idiot and I’m getting him out of here.’’

It should have been his last pitch with the Mets. Clearly, nobody would want Francisco now, and if Collins is about sending messages to his rookies about playing the game the right way, this would have been the perfect opportunity.

If the Mets were upset with Francisco’s work ethic in his rehab and his undermining of Jenrry Mejia, then this bush league act should not be tolerated, not if the Mets want to be considered a classy organization. It was a thuggish act by Francisco with no place in the game. I don’t care if they owe him money, get him out of here.

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MMO Mailbag: Why Do The Mets Baby Their Starting Pitchers? Tue, 20 Aug 2013 15:36:20 +0000 wheeler harvey

Justin asks…

Why are the Mets always babying their pitchers? It’s not like any of these inning caps and pitch counts have resulted in fewer injuries. Look at Matz and Fulmer and Mejia just this year alone. I just don’t get this obsession. Nobody worried about these things with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan and Jon Matlack and all four had great careers. Ron Darling complains about it all the time and he’s supposed to be our expert analyst, right? So what gives?

Joe D. replies…

Thanks for your question, Justin…

I can’t argue with the long and mostly healthy careers of the Mets pitchers you cited, but this new philosophy of trying to protect a young pitcher is not unique to the Mets and is an MLB-wide focus and it begins in the lowest levels of the minors.

I don’t really have a problem with safeguarding these young arms in the minors and trying to minimize any injuries to their arms. When you’re just 17-22 years old, there should be some checks and balances in place to keep from taxing them at so young an age.

I have a bigger problem with it when your 25 or older as in the case of Jacob deGrom, who isn’t even a hard thrower to begin with. The type of pitcher you are should matter and flame-throwers should be handled differently than pitchers who rely mostly on breaking balls and changeups.

One pitching coach told me that from the day a kid gets drafted or signed from the International arena, there is a progression these younger pitchers go through not only from year to year, but also from game to game. They start off gradually, increasing their pitch counts from 50 and then rise 10-15% per outing. Some pitchers will get maxed out at 75 pitches, others 90-100, but not repetitively – especially in the lower levels.

One of the things the Mets and other organizations stress is being efficient so that you can go deeper into the game. In other words reducing the walks and not expending 7-10 pitches to get a batter out.

We’ve seen that contrast at play between Zack Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia before he was shut down. Wheeler himself in his last start told reporters he needed to stop focusing on striking batters out and running up his pitch counts and just pitch more efficiently.

The formula is simple said one pitching coach in the Washington Nationals’ system, “Throw the ball over the plate, force contact, and don’t walk people.” “If you throw six, seven, eight pitches per batter, you’re not going to be out there very long.”

You may recall the Nationals deciding to shut down their ace Stephen Strasburg last fall and not pitch in the post season. Some blamed their first round exodus on that decision. Was it the right call? Nobody really knows.

Many pitchers have been limited to 100 pitches, and many of them suffer arm injuries just as frequently as those who have no such limitations.

It may take another 10-15 years until we have enough data to prove whether or not these pitch limits have done anything scientifically conclusive to prove that they have extended the average careers of pitchers in the 2000′s than it did in the 80s and 90s.

So I can’t say emphatically that I agree or disagree with a system wide approach to this. I’m leaning toward disagreeing. I think limits should be done on a case by case basis. I see Matt Harvey and I see a workhorse who is built for endurance. I can’t say the same thing about Zack Wheeler. His wiry frame and unorthodox delivery makes him a great candidate for an innings cap.

I’m not a proponent of a one size fits all philosophy for pitchers or hitters… Each player is unique and altering what makes them unique just so it fits neatly into an organizational philosophy sometimes leads to a player regressing rather than improving.

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The Curious Case Of PED’s Thu, 08 Aug 2013 21:29:33 +0000 gary keith ron sny

With the revelations of the Biogenesis investigation by MLB coming to the forefront this week, just about every sportswriter has put in his or her two cents regarding this story and how performance enhancing drugs plays into professional sports in general.  Even broadcasters are getting into the mix now.  The other night during the Mets/Rockies game, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez touched on the issue in a way that really hasn’t been by most sportswriters.  It doesn’t come as a shock to me since SNY’s Emmy winning team of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are arguably one of the finer broadcasting teams in professional sports today.

Gary, playing devil’s advocate, described how both sides see the issue of PED’s.  One side taking the majority stance that there’s no place for PED’s in Major League Baseball. The prevalent idea is that if players are found to have used them, heavy consequences should follow, with the ultimate penalty being banishment.  The other side, which I found interesting in how Gary described it, was how some take a more “Libertarian” approach regarding PED’s, stating that if a player is willing to risk his health then it’s on the player.  There was a brief pause when Keith Hernandez, in a rare moment seemed totally engaged in the conversation, chimed in and said as I paraphrase, “You can’t say it’s a matter of being Libertarian if what you’re doing affects others negatively”.

After listening to Hernandez huff and haw all season long when the team would head into extra innings or deal with an unfortunate rain delay, it was nice to see Keith the curmudgeon not chomping on the bit to tell everyone to get off his lawn.  It was a brief moment but one that made me smile and I’m a Libertarian.  The funny thing about Libertarians is that we usually get attacked from all ends of the political spectrum for being what others claim to think we all are.

I’m not saying Gary Cohen was attacking Libertarians so much as he was simply trying to state a point, albeit a bit awkwardly. Not all Libertarians are cut from the same cloth.  Most teeter on the political spectrum depending on the issue – but in the end we all share the same edicts of individual liberty and freedom but, with respect to the law. Libertarians are not Anarchists.  Therein lays the difference between those who say PED’s should be allowed in professional sports and those who disagree, and no it’s not because of arbitrary drug laws.  It’s about fairness.  It’s about the law.  Sometimes laws are in place that we all don’t agree with but, that’s life in a democracy.

steroids peds

The idea of simply taking a drug that could, with the emphasis on could, make you better at what you do for a living is a tempting idea in spite of being morally suspect not to mention with the potential of being physically damaging.  In professional sports, especially Major League Baseball, it’s a misnomer to think that sticking a needle in one’s ass will turn a Felix Millan into a Ted Williams. With stringent drug testing now in place, including testing for Human Growth Hormone (HGH), Major League Baseball is now one of the better examples of a professional sport trying to keep itself as clean and legitimate as possible.  How can the quest for legitimacy be a bad thing is beyond me?

When it comes to the use of PED’s in professional sports, many Libertarians, some of which I have a great deal of respect for, have said that PED’s, like other illegal drugs, shouldn’t be banned from professional sports no more than cocaine should be illegal for you or I. Nick Gillespie, the editor-in-chief of Reason magazine and, seems to think most sports writers are hyper moralistic on the issue of PED’s as he stated in a recent article regarding Ryan Braun.  I have a feeling that he’s not much of a sports fan especially based on how he views the majority of sports writers. Not well if you read his article.

But with all due respect to Nick Gillespie or even the great Greg Gutfeld, whom I’m told was very disappointed to find out that purple unicorn’s weren’t allowed at Churchill Downs; PED’s affect not just the players that take them.  They also take away jobs from those trying to do it clean.  Take this which was tweeted by former major league pitcher Dan Meyer:

Hey Antonio Bastardo, remember when we competed for a job in 2011. Thx alot. #ahole

So, does this mean Dan Meyer should just shut the hell up, have a Coke and a smile? Should he just tip his cap to Bastardo (yes, that’s really his last name) shake hands and let bygones be bygones?  I’d be just as pissed as Meyer if I were in his shoes. I understand, but not totally agree with the logic that if PED’s and drugs in general weren’t illegal, the stigma which draws people to them in the first place would decline.

Sure in an academic hypothetical arena that may be possible but do I really want my daughter to be able to one day to walk into a 7-11 to buy a Slurpee and have an HGH power bar sitting next to the Twizzlers?  While we’re at it, put the cocaine pixy sticks next to the Sweet Tarts.  Sorry but the old curmudgeon in me says no to such a grand experiment.  I guess I’m not a real Libertarian huh?

The blasé attitude some have regarding allowing PED’s into professional sports stems from the idea that they believe that fans don’t really care how the players do the sometimes incredible feats that they do.  I disagree.  In a perfect world, I don’t even want to have this discussion with my daughter but when and if I do, I want to tell her that her favorite player(s) did it clean.  Let there be a level playing field and then let individual talent take over.  I look at it this way, would you be fine with allowing kids to take their iPads with them while taking their SAT exams?  Fair or unfair; you decide.

People often forget during this whole controversy with these players being caught taking PED’s, that PED’s are illegal unless prescribed by a physician for an actual medical condition, you know like dwarfism.  The last time I checked Eddie Gaedel hasn’t suited up in a few years and if he did I have a feeling Brian Cashman would’ve tendered him a contract by now.

Now get off my lawn!

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Are The Patients Running The Asylum? Where Is The Accountability? Wed, 07 Aug 2013 18:21:17 +0000 USATSI_7361016_154511658_lowres

Now that we’ve had a few days to reflect on the injury to David Wright that could have him missing as long as five weeks according to Terry Collins, I’d love to know what some of you think about the way things went down.

Going all the way back to the series in Washington on July 27, we first learned there was problem and that David Wright was feeling some tightness in his leg. Nothing major was made of it and it was passed off as just a case of dehydration. “Drink more fluids”, was the prescribed remedy from the crack medical team.

A few days after that in Miami, July 31 to be exact, Wright looked uncomfortable and clutched his right hamstring multiple times while on the basepaths in the eighth inning Wednesday night. Trainer Ray Ramirez visited Wright at second base after a stolen base. Collins then visited Wright during a Marlins pitching change after Wright advanced to third base.

Again, no biggie, and in fact Terry Collins went so far as to say the next day before the game, “David is not trying to play through a severe hamstring injury that might end up in a blowout of the muscle.”

“He understands himself better than anybody. “I have to trust his opinion of what he says. And he says he’s ready to go.”


And then it happened… You all saw it… David Wright comes up lame and clutches his hamstring while moaning in agony. “uh oh”, said Gary Cohen. “That doesn’t look good.”

Wright suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring and our brand new $142 million dollar investment will be out for as long as five weeks. Given that we’re already a week into August, he may not be back again this season at all. Why bring him back to play the last ten games of the season if you don’t have to?

What did Wright have to say about this somewhat “tragic turn of events” to quote Ron Darling?

“Being around for as long as I’ve been around, I have a pretty good sense of what my body can and can’t take,” Wright said. “I felt like I could go out there and play through it. In my mind, there’s a difference between playing hurt and playing injured.”

wright lame

Braver words were never spoken, but who said it was his call? Are all injuries, aches and pains the player’s call on the Mets? Did Bobby Parnell decide it would be okay to pitch with a sore neck? Was it Jon Niese who made the decision to pitch in pain for his last three starts?

Why are the players making these medical decisions?

Why are the complaints of soreness and pain always taken so lightly until the other shoe drops and the player is being rushed to the hospital?

Exactly what function does our training and medical staff perform, and where is the damn accountability.

I read a post today on this same topic on MetsBlog who say there’s nobody to blame or point fingers at with these things and that players can make their own judgement calls on playing hurt. Oh really? Is that how it is?

Sounds more like a case of toeing the company line than wanting to know why our team’s most expensive asset has been playing hurt for a week. Only a willfully blind fan couldn’t see that Wright was in pain after that stolen base when he clutched his leg. Wright should have never gone out on that field the next game. In fact, he should have been pulled and replaced with a pinch runner right there and then. The guy was in PAIN.

Plus… Wright already has a history of covering up injuries and not saying anything until it becomes unbearable or requires a visit to the Emergency Room. We already know this about him.

Honestly, I wasn’t even going to say anything about this and intended on letting it go, but that post on MetsBlog compelled me to add some context, logic and a demand for accountability on this matter. You can’t just sweep $142 million dollars under the rug. No way… Not on my watch…

What happened is sad and unfortunate…. But don’t insult my intelligence and try to tell me it was unavoidable. It was VERY avoidable and toeing the company line does not make that fact untrue.

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