Mets Merized Online » Ron Darling Thu, 24 Jul 2014 01:30:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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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MMO Players Of The Week: I’m with 28, 12 and 58 Mon, 29 Jul 2013 14:43:38 +0000 Another week, another heartbreaker. After taking two of three from the Phillies, all looked bright as the Mets looked to use their (then) strong offense against the Braves and a struggling Nationals team; it was an incredible opportunity to gain some ground and, with the way the Nats and Phillies have been playing, move up one or two spots in the standings. But, as we have all learned by now, the Mets love to tease. Splitting the series with the Braves was a mediocre result, considering the way Monday’s game went. Losing 3/4 to the Nationals, however, was downright frustrating, especially after putting a smackdown on the Nats in the first game of the doubleheader. Anyhow, this post is not for voicing my dismay. I’m here to give you the positives of the week, and that is just what I am going to do. Here are your 3 Mets Players of the Week!

daniel murphy

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Daniel Murphy. Number 28 singled in both Monday and Tuesday’s game, with a single in the 3rd, going 1-3 with a walk and 1-4. On Wednesday, he scored the teams’ only 2 runs, finishing Los Mets night with two doubles, 2 RBI and a walk. He continued to show signs of a hot streak by going 3-5 with 2 singles, a double and an RBI on Thursday night’s win. And then came Friday. The slugger had a career day by going 4-5 (2 homers and 2 singles) with 5 RBI. It was the icing on the cake in an astounding 11-0 shutout victory. The following days he cooled down a bit, going 2-4 with a walk in part II of the doubleheader, 1-4 on Saturday and 0-4 on Sunday. Regardless, it’s critical for Murphy to start heating up again, especially batting in the 2 hole with David Wright behind him. Murph may be a streaky hitter, but when he is hot, he is HOT.

Juan Lagares

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Honestly, how can I NOT choose Juan Lagares again? This kid does it all. As Ron Darling has pointed out multiple times on the broadcast, the jumps he gets on each ball is incredible. Those kind of reads just cannot be taught. It seems like every ball hit into the gap is going to drop until Lagares suddenly rushes in and makes a sinking liner look like a routine play. David Wright did have a few sparkling plays in the hot corner, and Quintanilla and Murphy made their fair share of pretty plays, but Lagares once again stole the show with his superb defense. He is one of the biggest reasons to keep watching the Mets for the rest of the season.

jenrry mejia

PITCHER OF THE WEEK: We’ve got another young stud to look forward to: Jenrry Mejia. After the failed bullpen experiment, we finally got a glimpse at what Mejia can blossom to become. His changeup was wicked, his slider had incredible movement and he could reach 95 on his fastball. He hurled 7.0 scoreless innings, giving up 7 hits, striking out 7 and walking 0. With Zack Wheeler getting accustomed to the bigs, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero on the rise and Matt Harvey already being quick to prove himself as one of the best in the game, the Mets’ plethora of young pitching is an exciting thing to think about for years to come; especially for a franchise who has a reputation for harvesting incredible young pitching. This team is putting a lot of hopes on the future, and from what we can see of it now, it’s not hard to see why.

addicted to mets button

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Days Like These Mon, 01 Jul 2013 04:56:50 +0000 zack wheeler 4When the day arrives, and it’s clear Zack Wheeler has “figured it out,” this will be the day he will appreciate most. New York Mets fans will prefer to reflect on Wheeler’s first MLB start, six shutout innings vs. Atlanta, but Sunday will be one of those starts that will educate the Mets rookie most as he moves forward.

The Mets and Wheeler were roughed up by the Washington Nationals 13-2 Sunday at Citi Field. It was Wheeler’s third MLB start. His final line: 4 2/3 innings pitched, five earned runs, six hits, five strikeouts, two walks, two home runs allowed and one wild pitch. He threw 89 pitches (54 strikes).

Wheeler’s four-run second inning was difficult to watch. Mets fans squirmed in their seats and flinched on social media, screaming for Terry Collins head, calling for Dan Warthen to be fired on-the-spot and begging for relief from the bullpen. The knee-jerk reactions are entertaining but off base. After the game, Collins delivered his typical defensive, hyperactive press conference. It was a blur — as usual.

“Blah, blah, blah, he pitched well his first start … blah, blah, blah, there’s screaming, screaming, screaming that he’s tipping his pitches … Blah, blah, blah, all of a sudden he has to change everything … Blah, blah, blah, it’s not very fair … Blah, blah, blah …”

Then, Washington Nationals (and former Mets) manager Davey Johnson spoke. Good time to start listening closely. “You’ve got to like his arm,” he said. “Good fastball and breaking stuff. But it’s command. It’s always going to be command up here, no matter how hard you throw.”

Johnson guided Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling through their rookie seasons in New York. He’s seen the ups and downs. Johnson witnessed fans throwing a grapefruit at Darling after getting routed 10-0 by the Montreal Expos. He knows the pressure New York places on a 21-year old young man.

How did Johnson handle the situation? He marched Darling right back out to the mound five days later. The Mets 12-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies and Darling’s final line: five innings pitched, six earned runs, nine hits, one strike out, three walks and one home run allowed. Today, those numbers are irrelevant, but the game is significant to Darling. It shaped who he became as a pitcher. In fact, of all the games Darling could have chosen to reflect on during his 13-year career as a major league pitcher, he chose this one for his 2009 book, The Complete Game.

As Wheeler wobbled through the second inning of Sunday’s game, I thought of what Darling wrote:

How a pitcher manages a difficult inning can be one of the biggest determining factors in his makeup. It’s not just about stuff. It’s about what you do with that stuff when the other team seems to have you figured out … it’s how you navigate these initial rough patches that determines the course of your career.

The thought was as relevant to Wheeler’s 2013 start as they were for Darling in 1984 and Matt Harvey in 2012. He suffered through a similar start last season, ironically his third major league start, a 7-3 loss to the San Diego Padres. Harvey’s final line: five innings pitched, five earned runs, eight hits (seven extra base hits), five strikeouts, one walk and two home runs allowed. He struggled with control. After 81 pitches, Harvey was off to the showers. His day was over but the game was not forgotten.

For Harvey, his struggles provided education and understanding. They are necessary, just as they were for Darling. In the midst of the Phillies knocking around Darling for five runs in the second inning, Johnson — not Mel Stottlemyre — visited the mound.

“Just to be clear, you’re not coming out of this game,” Johnson told Darling. “We’ve got bullpen issues, but it’s not just about the bullpen. You need to learn how to pitch your way out of sh*t. I don’t care how many runs you give up. I don’t care how hard these guys hit you. I suggest you start getting some outs so you don’t ruin the back of your baseball card.”

Darling realized it was sink or swim. He wasn’t getting a life preserver. He finished the inning, added three more shutout innings and went on to win 12 games his rookie season, 99 as a New York Met and 136 career wins.

Lesson learned.

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Mets Need To Get Out Of Wheeler’s Way Wed, 26 Jun 2013 13:33:36 +0000 zack wheeler 2If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s some sage advice for a franchise who oftentimes ends up making a good situation bad, and a bad situation worse.

The Mets have always been an organization that loves to get their grubby little hands into everything. Sometimes their meanderings are harmless, but every now and then they do something that really tries my patience as a Met fan. Last night was one of those times. Let me expand.

Going into last night’s game, I was as excited as the next Met fan in anticipation of seeing Zack Wheeler‘s second start. After holding a solid Atlanta Braves to six scoreless innings in his debut, I couldn’t wait to see him overpower one of the worst offenses in the game – the Chicago White Sox. This was going to be epic… Well, as epic a game as one will see in a 90 loss season…

A 97 mph strike with the first pitch… Awesome… Lets do this thing…

Uh oh… What the hell did Gary Cohen just say? “The Mets have told Wheeler they would like to see him utilize more offspeed pitches and changeups. More sliders and curves.” Ron Darling sighed.

“I didn’t throw a lot of strikes. And when I did, they were bad strikes,” said Wheeler, who threw 109 pitches.

Why? Why would you ask your top prospect to throw fewer of his two plus-pitches, both fastballs? Aren’t those the pitches that got Wheeler to the majors in the first place? Aren’t those the pitches that had scouts drooling for years?

Who made this god-awful decision? Who was the genius behind this operation?

During his first start against Atlanta, Wheeler’s fastball was his most effective pitch. Twelve of his fourteen swinging strikes were on the fastball and it led to seven strikeouts. Last night… Wheeler only struck out only one batter and it didn’t happen until the fifth inning. He wasn’t missing nearly as many bats as before. We saw a different pitcher last night. What should have been a dominating performance against one of the worst teams in the game, ended up being one of those “shake-it-off, kid” starts. It wasn’t what any of us wanted to see.

“Everybody goes over some bumps. I’ve been struggling with my command lately. And you really can’t do that up here, so I have a lot of work to do,” Wheeler said afterward.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen blamed it on Wheeler tipping his pitches and showing the batters a different arm angle between his fastball and breaking stuff. “I thought it was pretty obvious that he had different arm angles for different pitches.”

So what? Wheeler’s been tipping his pitches his entire freaking minor league career… Now you’re going to use that as a crutch? This is not something new, coach…

Mariano Rivera is going to the Hall of Fame while tipping his pitches… His plus-plus-pitch, that cutter, he could just as well shine a beacon or shout it out to the hitter, “Hey Miguel, here come’s my cutter”. They still couldn’t hit it.

If your stuff is great, it doesn’t matter if the hitter knows it’s coming or guesses right. You’ll still be successful, the pitcher still has the advantage. Throw your best stuff…

Wheeler’s four-seamer and two-seamer are supposed to be his kill pitches. His “stuff”. Why would you limit him from using those pitches more? He’s got a great curve you can throw in there as well, but I’m not impressed with his slider or changeup. Let him develop those during his bullpens and side sessions.

Another thing… I love how some Met fans are already bailing on Wheeler after just two starts. Are you serious, people? Are you freaking kidding me?

First of all, if you’re willing to bail on one of the game’s top prospects after just two performances, you really need to see a shrink, or better yet, you need a keeper.

The comparisons to Matt Harvey have got to stop. As I said all along, they are two completely different specimens. Harvey was a polished college arm who went from his first minor league pitch to his first major league pitch in less than two years. Wheeler was a high school pitcher who has been trying to tame his wildness since the day he signed with the San Francisco Giants. The only similarities the two of them share is the name on the front of their jerseys. So lets cut the crap.

Anyway, we’ll do this again on Sunday when Wheeler will face the Washington Nationals. The kid will be pitching in front of a home crowd for the first time, and I’m hoping the Mets decide to just let him loose and stop playing games with his mental approach. Let him do what he wants. Let’s see what we have. Keep your grubby little hands off of him.

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Sandy Disappointed With Some Of His Moves And The Team’s Performance Wed, 22 May 2013 12:00:32 +0000 sandy alderson sny boothDuring the third inning of Tuesday night’s Mets broadcast, general manager Sandy Alderson joined Gary Cohen and Ron Darling in the booth.

Alderson is disappointed with the team’s performance this season, particularly with some of the players he acquired for this transition year who did not perform to his expectation.

He no doubt was referring to Collin Cowgill, who he expected to become the team’s leadoff hitter and regular center fielder. Cowgill batted .157/.173/.294 before being demoted to Triple-A after only 19 games.

Andrew Brown failed to make the opening day roster and batted .200 during a brief call-up.

Shaun Marcum, who was signed to a guaranteed $4 million dollar deal, was supposed to replace R.A. Dickey. But the right-hander started the season on the DL, missed nearly a month, and has a 6.59 ERA in five starts since being activated.

Left-hander Aaron Laffey was released after posting a 7.20 ERA in four appearances including two spot starts, and relievers Greg Burke and Scott Atchison have struggled, each with 4.50 ERAs on the season.

Sandy is also concerned with some of the players whom he considered to be part of the future core. When asked to explain who he was talking about, he declined to comment saying only, “I think Met fans know who I’m talking about.”

He left off saying that it’s very tough to watch the team play and not be able to do something to help. However, he will remain patient, but not too patient. Alderson said he would look to some of the younger players in their system to improve the major league roster and named Rafael Montero, Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud as those who could help.

After the game, SNY analyst Bobby Ojeda pointed out that Alderson looked like a man who is very dejected and very disappointed with some of the moves he’s made in putting this team together. He certainly was different than what we’re used to seeing. There were no jokes this time. I think Sandy realizes that it’s time for him to stop talking about the future and deliver on it already. It’s time to produce something tangible. I believe a lot will be riding on how Wheeler and d’Arnaud produce once they are promoted – especially Wheeler.

It will be interesting to see how this drama unfolds… My gut tells me that by the end of this season, Sandy Alderson will either be on very solid footing or a very slippery slope and I’m leaning toward the latter. His fate will be tied to Wheeler’s immediate performance. Stay tuned…

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Featured Post: Baxter Frustrated, Wants Incorporate Mets Approach and Be More Consistent Thu, 09 May 2013 16:52:57 +0000 mike baxter

From his key double in his first at-bat in blue and orange, to his crucial catch in Johan Santana‘s no-hitter, to last night’s tenth inning walk-off knock against the White Sox, Mike Baxter has already found his place in Mets history and into the hearts of the Flushing Faithful. For Baxter however, he is always looking to improve and perform to the best of his ability.

Baxter started off the year having difficulties at the plate, but has apparently found some consistency coming off the bench sporting a .444 OBP when called on to pinch-hit. I spoke with Baxter outside the Irish Circle Tavern luncheon to benefit the Hurricane Sandy rebuilding efforts yesterday, and he says he still has plenty of room for improvement.

“I need to be more consistent with recognizing the pitch that I’m looking for, the pitch I’m waiting for and square it up.” said Baxter.

“In this season compared to last year, I’ve been missing that pitch. With the approach we try to employ with the Mets, that’s a problem. You need to recognize and hit that pitch, that’s what good hitters do. I have been a little frustrated with the way I’ve played and I have got to do better.”

The Mets’ hitting approach under the Alderson regime is commonly understood as trying to wait out the pitcher in order to both draw walks and knock the starter out of the game early. However, Baxter says there is much more to the approach than simply taking a high number of pitches.

“The key to the approach, is not necessarily trying to see a lot of pitches per-se.” said Baxter “It’s wait until you get that one. If it happens to be the first pitch you see and that’s the one you want, then that’s the one you’ve got to swing at.”

“You tend to see more pitches to hit because you’re laying off that 0-1 sinker away that’s a borderline pitch or that 0-0 pitch that’s a borderline strike. It might end up a strike but you’re still in the at-bat rather than putting it in play weakly somewhere and the at-bats over. It helps the chance to get to the good pitch.”

While the Mets continue to apply their selective approach at the plate, one of the more free-swinging bats in the lineup has had trouble with consistent good at-bats, however when it matters most, he always seems to come through this year. Jordany Valdespin has been a spark and a source of excitement on this 13-16 Mets ballclub. Baxter says his teammate is an exciting player to watch.

“He’s a dynamic player, he’s someone that brings a lot to the table as a player and he has a flare for the dramatic in those big spots, proven by his track record.” said Baxter, almost yelling over an airplane howling a few thousand feet above. “His skills as a player are dynamic; he can hit a ball deep to the shortstop and beat it out. He can lay a bunt down and beat it out and he can hit a home run.”…”He’s a good ballpayer and he’s a big part of what we do and why we win.”

Baxter says he hopes to improve all aspects of his game and get “consistent, good at-bats” as he did last night in the bottom of the tenth. He didn’t go deep into the count. He took that ’0-0 pitch that’s a borderline strike’, he fouled off the second and then finally on a 95-mph two-seam fastball, put a solid drive into it to bring home Ike Davis and take the opener against the White Sox. If he continues to do just that, he will fulfill his goal of “getting his pitch and hitting it.”

In the meantime  Baxter will enjoy watching his New York Rangers continue their run towards the Stanley Cup. Something that he says has become the “big thing in the clubhouse right now.”


Special thanks to Ron Darling and Mike Baxter for taking the time to speak with me on Tuesday. It was a pleasure to meet and speak to a couple of classy individuals like them.

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Ron Darling Talks to MMO About Harvey, Wheeler, Major Difference Between Them Thu, 09 May 2013 14:34:50 +0000 harvey wheeler

Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler headline a handful of budding young pitchers who hope to one day bring the New York Mets organization back to relevance again. Harvey,  in his first full season, is doing his best to do just that–as exemplified by his near-perfect, nine shutout frames in Tuesday night’s walk-off victory by the Whitestone kid, Mike Baxter–and Wheeler is knocking on the door to crack the big-league rotation soon enough. As both develop, the pair continuously leads a youth movement in the organization that look to achieve what this franchise has yet to celebrate in 27 years; a world championship.

Not only someone who was a key cog of a dominant Mets rotation and an integral part of that champion 1986 club, but also someone who interacts and analyzes the likes of Harvey and the team on a daily basis, Ron Darling offers intricate insight on these young arms and his thoughts on their first months of the 2013 season thus far.

Sitting on the back patio of the Irish Circle Tavern in Rockaway Park, Queens — who hosted a luncheon for Hurricane Sandy Relief in which he was a guest of honor with Mike Baxter – -Darling describes to me the way in which he goes about evaluating a pitcher.

“The three things that I benchmark, that I judge pitchers by.” said Darling as jets from the nearby JFK International Airport fly loudly overhead, giving the conversation a true Citi Field vibe. “Their ability to throw fastballs on the corner and both sides of the plate, they can throw a breaking ball over the plate behind in the count, and they have a bulldog and a competitive mentality.”

After explaining his methods of evaluation, Darling goes on to explain how Harvey and Wheeler fit into his equation.

“Harvey has all three.” said Darling. “Wheeler has all three now but not at the major league level. You can’t judge minor league pitchers until they pitch on this stage because it’s just such a big jump. You’re pitching now against people that used to be on your video games. Until that happens I think it is tough to judge guys.”

As shown by his bloody-nose inning and simply his pure demeanor on the mound, the competitive prowess of Harvey is rarely questioned. When it comes to Wheeler however, his “bulldog” isn’t always quite as outwardly apparent. The intangible “bulldog” factor of Darling’s evaluation, he says, comes in all types and varieties.

“A bulldog comes in many shapes and forms. said Darling. “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 might have a different way of doing it; he might be quieter about it, as opposed to Matt 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.”

Wheeler’s toughness in-game had begun to come into question, to an extent due, to his rough first month of the season in which he allowed 18 runs in 23.1 innings. Since then, the 22-year old has put together back-to-back dominant efforts and appears to be getting his season on track. Darling, who says he has seen Wheeler pitch live on roughly six occasions or so, believes the slow start was due to his lack of innings in Port St. Lucie after being sidelined with an oblique strain.

“What happened to Zack is that he had a shortened Spring Training, he was playing catch up, and that’s why he had the first bad outings.” said Darling. “Terry Collins said if you want to come up here you’ve got to throw strikes and he has, so sometimes you just need some gentle prodding and I think that was the best thing that happened to him.”

While Collins and the Mets await the proper time to give Wheeler that call to come up, they have been able to revel in the incredible season so far from the Amazin’s other distinguished young arm in Harvey, who has continued to draw up a significant stir across baseball that hasn’t been seen for a rookie arm in Flushing in some time. His career is merely 16 starts long between 2012 and 2013, however Darling explains that the praise for Harvey is well-deserved.

“If he continues the way he’s going, we’re talking about a young man in his first full season having the chance to pitch or start in his home ballpark at the All-Star Game.” tells Darling. “That’s a pretty amazing feat.”

Of the attention in particular,  the now weekly Met holiday known as Harvey Day has become one of the most popular celebrations of the young workhorse.

“You say Harvey Day, I was thinking about Paul Harvey, the great radio icon who used to say ‘good day’ to end his broadcasts.” said Darling, in reference to his chuckle when I mentioned the term Harvey Day in my question. “That’s what Matt Harvey does with his innings when he ends with strikeouts: ‘Good day.’”

Both Harvey and Wheeler will look to have more ‘good days’ than bad as they continue their respective journeys towards making their presence known and leaving those such as Darling “so impressed” in what hopes to be two long, successful major-league Met careers.

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I just wanted to thank the Mets, Citigroup and the Irish Circle Tavern for putting together a wonderful luncheon to benefit the continued effort to rebuild following Hurricane Sandy. I would also like to thank Ron Darling who amid a room of fans, reporters and officials not only took time out to  speak privately with me, but gave exceptional insight on two of the Mets greatest young talents.

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