Mets Merized Online » Ya Gotta Believe http://metsmerizedonline.com Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:52:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 The Frustration of Loving the Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/the-wonderful-frustration-of-loving-the-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/the-wonderful-frustration-of-loving-the-mets.html/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 19:30:06 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=154568 Metallica+Performs+Mandalay+Bay+Las+Vegas+O6AZUBWLaZ9l

Someone once joked “Marriage is about finding that one special person to annoy you the rest of your life.” The same could be said of Baseball fans. In our case, we’ve found the Mets.

On Thursday, April 3rd, the Mets lost to Washington, 8-2 and dropped to 0-3. We’d given up 22 runs in 3 days. It was the first time in history we lost the first 3 games of the season at home. And worst of all, we had another 159 yet to go. That night I did what most Mets fans wanted to do: Drink heavily. I went to the kitchen and much to my chagrin, there was no bottle of Jack Daniels. I did the next best thing and began working on a blog for MMO. Angry, frustrated and yes, pissed off, I banged on the keyboard of my computer like I was Metallica’s Lars Ulrich. I went off on Fred and Jeff Coupon, M. Donald Alderson, the human windmill Ike Davis, Bartolo’s belly and the ‘Yankee in right field.’ I suggested that even Chico Escuela would be an improvement.

Don’t go looking in the archives for the blog cause it ain’t there. After winning 2 of the next 3 from Cincinnati, I deleted the blog before it was posted.

Why was I so annoyed? Because I love this team. I care about this team deeply. Kinda like a marriage. How long have you been with your current husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend? Now, how long you’ve cared about the Mets? More than 2 of every 3 marriages fail. Spouses come and go. The Mets are forever. The Mets are the one team that will annoy us for the rest of our life.

1655864_662824207116611_99812273_nA little over a week later, the Mets were leaving Anaheim after getting crushed 14-2. Colon gave up 9 ER in 5 IP. We’d lost 2 of 3 that weekend, lucky to win the one game we did after blowing a lead in the 9th. We were 5-7. Frustrated, exasperated and yes, pissed off yet again, I took out my frustration on my poor, defenseless keyboard. Could I endure another 150 games of this torture? Sandy Alderson says this team will win 90 games??? Is he delusional, suffering dementia or just that out of touch? I posted the blog right around the time the Mets touched down in Phoenix for 3 games against the D-Backs.

Don’t go looking in the archives cause this one because it ain’t there either. (To let you all in on a little secret, with the exception of breaking news or game recaps, most posts pend for 24-48 hours. And thank goodness for that.) After sweeping the D-Backs, outscoring them 21-5, suddenly, somehow, someway, the Mets were amazingly over .500.

And suddenly, somehow, someway, we were playing some pretty good baseball. My own statements began to change. I went from:

SARCASM: Wow, the Mets actually won a game today

GUARDED OPTIMISM: Hey, the Mets won today.

BELIEVING: The Mets won again. Ohhh, boy…

CONFIDENCE:  Let’s kick some ass tonight, guys!

daniel murphy

Suddenly, somehow, someway, we were playing solid defense (second fewest errors in the league), anemic but timely hitting and pitchers were becoming stingy. Pitching and defense…just like 1969.

We went through 3 closers in 3 weeks. Ike Davis hit a Grand Slam…for Pittsburgh. Matt Harvey appeared flipping the bird: Plenty of fodder to complain about and air my frustrations. But this time, I held back. We were playing well and winning has a tendency to decrease the relevance of such trivial things.

When MLB Network shows their Premier Plays, I still get impressed with good defense. Watching an outfielder stick their glove over the wall and robbing someone of a HR never gets old. Nice! Watching a third baseman snag a line drive destined for the corner, plant his feet and fire across the diamond to nail the batter by half a step always elicits a Wow. And though I shouldn’t admit this, after all these years I still like seeing Derek Jeter do that thing where he leaps, turns in mid-air and fires to first base. Awesome. But when it’s one of our guys, when it’s Daniel Murphy turning a seemingly un-turnable 6-4-3 double play or when Travis d’Arnaud nails the potential tying run at the plate, I don’t say Wow, Nice! or Awesome. I just smile proudly. Those are MY GUYS, MY TEAM, MY METS.

"Positive thinking breeds positive results."  ~  Tug McGraw

In late 1973, Tug McGraw coined ‘Ya Gotta Believe.’ No one will ever know if Tug really believed it. The fact remains, however, that the Mets went from 5th place on August 31 to within one hit of winning the World Series six weeks later.

And since that unlikely pennant, we fans have repeated Tug’s mantra over and over and over and over. Almost blindly, robotically regurgitating a tired worn-out cliché that originated back during the Nixon administration. Even when the Mets had no legitimate chance, no matter how bleak and how awful our team was, we spewed Ya Gotta Believe. Maybe if we said it often enough there’d be another miracle.

seaver santana

From Seaver to Santana, from Darryl and Dykstra to Dessens and Duda, from Knight to Wright, from Pacella to Pedro to Parnell, from Mazz to Kaz, from Doctor K to Generation K to K-Rod, from Bobby V to Dillon Gee, from John Franco to Matt Franco to Julio Franco, we’ve repeated Tug’s war cry until we ourselves get tired of hearing it.

But is there legitimacy this time? Since starting out 0-3, the Mets have played .652 ball, going 15-8. Granted we’re only 1/6 through the season. But just weeks ago we asked ourselves, ‘Can I take six more months of this torture?’ Perhaps the coming months wont be as hopeless as we anticipated. Who amongst us isn’t—even in a small, tiny, microscopic way—starting to ‘believe?’

Will our pitching hold-up? Can we expect 41-year old Colon to keep it up all year? Will NL batters learn to hit Wheeler? Can our young untested pitchers compete in the heat of a pennant race if we get to the summer and are still playing solid? Maybe, maybe not. But did anyone think we had a chance in 1969?

Presented By Diehards

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Remembering Shea: An Amazin’ Icon Passes http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/remembering-shea-an-amazin-icon-passes.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/remembering-shea-an-amazin-icon-passes.html/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:48:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=71539

For the next three days, we’re going back and picking out some of our favorite posts that celebrate the great memories of Shea Stadium. We begin with this post, originally written by me on February 10, 2008.

From the very first day that Shea Stadium opened its gates and embraced their new team, the New York Mets, Karl Ehrhardt became a fixture at almost every game from 1964 through 1981.

We all knew Karl by his more famous nickname, the “Sign Man”.

He had become famous for holding up the most perfect signs throughout key moments of each game. Sometimes the signs displayed his frustration, but mostly they shared our exuberance and excitement. Whatever the situation was, you can bet that the Sign Man always had the perfect words.

It is so sad that he will not be able to say a final goodbye to Shea Stadium as it too gets ready for an appointment with destiny.

Karl was 83 years old and died at his home in the Glen Oaks section of Queens. He had been recovering from vascular surgery. The German born immigrant came to the United States when he was only six years old and during World War II, he served our country and was a translator for U.S. forces overseas.

He helped popularize many of the motto’s and phrases now associated with the Mets including Amazin’ Mets, Ya Gotta Believe, Miracle Mets, Tom Terrific, etc. You name them, he had them, in fact, he had over 1,200 different signs in his arsenal.

Some of you may even remember that special night when the Mets won the 1969 World Series and left him speechless. The sign he raised high above his head during the celebration on the field read, “There Are No Words.”

“I just called them the way I saw them,” Ehrhardt told The New York Times in 2006.

“Before I went to the ballpark, I would try to crystal-ball what might happen that particular day,” he said. “I would read all the newspapers to learn who was hot and who was in a slump, stuff like that, and create my signs accordingly.”

I hope the Wilpon’s choose to honor the Sign Man with a fitting tribute and a lasting memorial to him at the new Citi Field. He helped define the New York Mets back in the early days while they were searching for their own identity. Millions of adoring fans will always remember him for his unbridled enthusiasm and never-ending dedication to the team. Karl Ehrhardt was an icon. He was one of the first Met fans to bleed orange and blue.

I would love to see a life sized poster of him adorning one of the corridors at the field level at Shea Stadium this, our final season. As we say our goodbyes to Shea Stadium this season, seeing a poster of the Sign Man holding up a sign that says “Always Amazin”, would be so fitting.

Farewell Sign Man, we will never forget you.

* * * * * * * * * *

Karl Ehrhardt – The Sign Man

November 26, 1924 – February 5, 2008

I cant believe it’s been six years already since Karl’s passing. What a great fan he was and I’ll always remember trying to spot his signs whenever me and my dad went to Shea.

Here are some of Sign Man’s most memorable signs:

  • AMAZIN’! – Based on the team’s nickname which was first coined by Casey Stengel, the franchise’s original manager.
  • MET POWER! – Displayed after Tommie Agee hit his leadoff home run in Game 3 of the 1969 World Series
  • BACK TO YOUR NEST, BIRD! – Appeared during the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. This sign is seen in the highlight film during Game 5.
  • CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? – After many a Mets comeback win.
  • CURSES! FOILED AGAIN – We saw that one plenty!
  • AAUGHH! – Inspired by the Peanuts cartoon strip; it was used for whenever the Mets lost a game.
  • LOOK MA, NO HANDS – Was shown when a slow grounder defied the grip of Mets’ shortstop Frank Taveras at a summer Mets game in 1979.
  • JOSE, CAN YOU SEE? – Presented when Cleveland Indians’ outfielder José Cardenal struck out at a 1968-1969 Mets game.
  • IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE! – For weak hitters who rarely reached base. A head shot of Frankenstein’s monster was to the left of the letters on the sign.
  • SIT DOWN, YA BUM! – Whenever a Dodger struck out, or argued, or just for fun.
  • LEAVE IT TO SEAVER – Inspired by famous sitcom show, Leave It to Beaver; the sign was used for whenever Tom Seaver was on the mound.
  • BELIEVE IN MIRACLES? – Flashed during the decisive Game 5 of the 1969 World Series.
  • BYE, BYE, BIRDIES! – Flashed during the same game.
  • THERE ARE NO WORDS – The sign that Ehrhardt held up when the Mets’ left fielder Cleon Jones caught the final out to clinch the team’s first World Series Championship. This was his most famous creation, seen in the Series highlight film.
  • THEY SAID IT COULDN’T BE DONE – Held high from a convertible, as Ehrhardt rode with the Mets’ victory parade in the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan.
  • NAILED BY THE (picture of a hammer) – Held up after a home run was hit by slugging first baseman John Milner, whose nickname was “The Hammer”.
  • KONG! – For Dave Kingman’s first regular season home run at home as a Met, helping to tag Kingman with the nickname King Kong.
  • THE KING OF SWING – Another tribute to Kingman, drawing on the nickname given jazz legend Benny Goodman.
  • THE SIGNMAN LIVES! – Used on his return to Shea Stadium at a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in August, 2002 to help celebrate the Mets’ 40th anniversary.

Presented By Diehards

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Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini, and a Yankee Lesson http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/brandon-nimmo-gavin-cecchini-and-a-yankee-lesson.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/brandon-nimmo-gavin-cecchini-and-a-yankee-lesson.html/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 07:57:26 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131167 derek-jeterA good friend of mine recently sent her only child, a son, off to college. I remember those times as heart wrenching moments when each of my three children left the nest. To occupy my mind, I would usually wrap myself around some kind of project. That may have been my friend’s strategy, too.

Knowing I host a weekly radio show, she appeared with a stack of sports books that she and her son had read over the years. Hoeing out the house is sometimes a mind occupying project. Last weekend, I plowed through “Ya Gotta Believe,” the book penned by Tug McGraw as he was dying of cancer. It was a fascinating read and the primary focus of Friday’s radio show.

This weekend saw me busy at work reading “The Life You Imagine, Life Lessons For Achieving Your Dreams.” That’s a tome from the pen of Derek Jeter written in 2000 during the earlier years of his career, a topic the Dawg and I hope to cover on a future show.

As a Met fan and a contributor to Metsmerized and MetsMinors. Net, I have read several threads over the last two years where people almost bayonet the Met front office for their first round draft selections of Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini. When both logged rather modest statistics during their first full season of baseball with identical .248 batting averages the howls were harsh and loud.

Imagine what the reaction may have been had either Met prospect brought home Derek Jeter’s stats during his first professional year. Moving directly from high school in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as a 17-year old kid, Jeter was overwhelmed by his start in professional baseball. Jeter laughs at his naivety when he remembers his request to the Yankees to delay his professional baseball start for a week so he could spend July 4th at home with his parents and girlfriend, a request the Yankees politely nixed.

Jeter was miserable that first summer. USA’s top high school baseball player in the country and the Yankees number one draft pick had batted .557 in his senior year at Kalamazoo High with 7 HR’s and had struck out only 1 time the entire season. Jeter’s professional baseball debut came during a doubleheader where he went 0-7 and struck out 5 times. It took Jeter 15- at bats before he would register his first professional hit. The future Yankee great hit .202 that first year in Class-A for Tampa in the Rookie League.

Jeter was overmatched and depressed. He talks about doubting his lifetime dream of becoming a Yankee for the first time, of crying himself to sleep at night, and running up telephone bills back home to his Mom, Dad and girlfriend, of between $300 and $400 dollars a month. That was tough to do in those days.

Luckily, Jeter had a strong support network. His Dad reminded him over and over again that Chipper Jones had only hit .229 during his first year in the minor leagues. The Yankees didn’t dwell on his statistics, identifying characteristics of his batting approach that they liked and emphasizing those instead.

Jeter’s batting stabilized some during his second minor league season when he batted .295 with 5 HR’s and 71 RBI’s, not quite the mark of Kevin Plawecki, but a huge upgrade indeed. But, during his second campaign, Jeter’s defense was a mess. The future Yankee Hall of Famer made 56 errors for Class-A Greensboro.

Could you imagine the ruckus if Cecchini (who has committed 13 errors in his first two seasons) had comparable shortstop fielding stats. My ears would still be ringing.

Once again, Derek’s Dad was supportive reminding his son that Mickey Mantle totaled over 50 errors as a shortstop during his second minor league year. And, the Yankees rushed Gene Michael, the “Stick.” to Greensboro to counsel and work with Jeter and signed him up for the summer Instructional League to focus only on defense. Jeter was a designated shortstop who only played defense in games after 3 hours of morning skill drill work, 24/7. The young shortstop received one-to-one tutelage from Brian Butterfield the only student for Butterfield that summer.

Nimmo and Cecchini

Let’s make this perfectly clear. In no way am I suggesting or even hinting that I think Brandon Nimmo or Gavin Cecchini is going to become a Derek Jeter. I’m only pointing out that like it was for Jeter, two years in the minor leagues is not sufficient to determine the value of a baseball prospect. Like Jeter, as a professional baseball team’s number 1 draft pick, both Nimmo and Cecchini have played the game at the highest plateaus at the amateur level. That’s still no guarantee of major league baseball success. Only with time and patience will the answer of whether or not the two Met prospects contribute as major leaguers will become more clear.

It often leaves me shaking my head when I read threads that almost sound like some Met fans are hoping Nimmo and Cecchini fail. Whether you’re happy with a front office draft selection or not, it makes sense that every Met fan should hope these entry level prospects do well. God knows we could use the help.

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Ya Gotta Believe: Mets Starting Pitching Is Not Far From NL’s Elite http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/ya-gotta-believe-mets-starting-pitching-is-not-far-from-nls-elite.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/ya-gotta-believe-mets-starting-pitching-is-not-far-from-nls-elite.html/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 15:38:53 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=130887 harvey gee wheeler

Joel Sherman lauds the Boston Red Sox offense in a piece he did for the New York Post on Monday, suggesting when all is said and done it’s the Sox’ offense that might separate them from the rest of the post season playoff contenders. According to Sherman that’s because strong pitching is a given and an almost automatic trait of every post season baseball team.

Here’s how Sherman started his column:

“The correlation between superb pitching and success remains inarguable.”

He backs up that claim by adding that when it comes to earned run average, the top five teams in the major leagues this year are the National League playoff teams. And, the correlation between strong pitching and baseball success is not limited to the senior circuit. Five of the seven best American League teams also made the post season and the top eight all had winning records.

Those numbers reinforce the Met’s effort to stockpile young quality pitching throughout their minor leagues. With the ace of the starting rotation, Matt Harvey, on the shelf next season, it’s also why the Mets must be extra cautious, extra selective in deciding to move young pitchers as trade pieces to fill position needs on other parts of the field.

When it comes to ERA, in 2013 the Mets finished in the exact middle of the National League, ranking 8th among the fifteen teams. The National League ERA average was 3.73 with the Mets team mark at 3.78.

For the most part, the Mets starting rotation fared well against the league average this summer  - a hopeful sign for our future. Of course, Harvey was off the charts with an ERA of just 2.27. But, Zack Wheeler (3.42), Dillon Gee (3.62) and Jon Niese (3.71) all finished beneath the league average mark. Those numbers are likely magnified a tad with Wheeler pitching in his rookie season; Gee getting off to a horrid start; and Niese working through early season injury issues.

Actually, in his small sample of five starts Jenrry Mejia had a sparkling 2.30 ERA, almost matching Harvey. Carlos Torres, filling the fifth rotation spot down the stretch, also finished up with a respectable 3.44 mark. This too bodes well for the Met pitching profile moving forward.

Even more encouraging were the starting pitching ERA totals, post all-star. The performance of the starting rotation during the second half was a big factor in the Mets managing to pretty much play .500 baseball throughout that stretch.

mets erabraves era

Those impressive ERA numbers helped the five primary Met starters compile a 17 win 15 loss post all-star record. The chart to the right shows the ERA of the first place Atlanta Braves over the same period of time. In terms of earned run average, the Mets starting rotation matched up well with the Division Champs even though the Braves starters went 24-15 over that stretch. That speaks to the point Sherman was making.

Once you have the elite pitching as measured by ERA, then your hitting numbers start to make a difference allowing one elite team to move beyond the others. One point of reference has to be the condition of the Met bullpen. Even though the pen pitched well during stretches, the overall quality of relief work was substandard. That’s especially the case when you consider that Bobby Parnell led the team in ERA at 2.16 and LaTroy Hawkins turned in a remarkable 2.93 ERA, 2.37 after the all-star game. The Mets long relievers and their bridges to get from the seventh inning to the eighth and the eighth inning to the ninth need attention.

The Mets first order of business in getting to the post season and Sherman’s opening premise point the path. I’m optimistic, that’s were the Met rebuild has been focused. The Mets should be cautious about changing course by trading their best natural resource, their young starting pitchers.

That means the Mets should be thinking strongly about using free agency as a strategy of upgrading the roster. International free agents are particularly appealing, probably riskier, but with a bigger upside should things work out – and they won’t cost a draft pick.

Moving our pitching staff to that elite group of the top five is doable. Once we get there we compete. Then is the time to strategically go after the bats to make some Met magic.

ya gotta believe button

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Morning Grind: There’s Still A Lot Of Baseball Left http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/07/morning-grind-theres-still-a-lot-of-baseball-left.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/07/morning-grind-theres-still-a-lot-of-baseball-left.html/#comments Wed, 18 Jul 2012 12:15:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=88990 Throughout this five game losing streak, there has been a tsunami of negativity following what was a very exciting and positive first half for the New York Mets. Yes they are in a rut in what is an awful time to do so, but that doesn’t mean in any way, shape or form that the Amazin’s are out of this race in 2012.

Last night was a pitiful, backbreaking loss. After Niese’s excellent start, Valdespin and Thole’s clutch knocks and the team in general working their tails off, the bullpen blows the game yet again. The Mets are now two games over .500, right on the brink. The last time they were only a pari of games over the .500 mark was May 19th in Toronto nearly two months ago.

However, even if the Mets get swept in this series against the Nationals, there are still 70 games left to play in 2012 after that. 44% of the season is still yet to be played, a stretch of 3% of a season worth of losses this past week hurts, but it is still just five games out of a very long 162-game season. These five games have not killed this year’s chances for the Mets. Don’t get me wrong, if they continue on this course, this will not be the case two weeks from now, they have got to pick it up.

Despite the loss, the Amazin’s showed signs that they indeed are returning to form. Jon Niese’s start was a MUCH needed performance out of the starting pitching, especially now that the Mets have a 41-year old washout going on Saturday against the Dodgers. The offense came to life once they got away from the lefty starter Ross Detwiler. Really the only part of the puzzle that wasn’t there was the bullpen, and that puzzle piece has been nowhere to be found all year. Perhaps Alderson should bring in some guys NOW to help NOW instead of kicking the tires on guys like K-Rod, who he knows he isn’t going to acquire.

This team has gone through ebbs and flows all year, and every time they get into a three or four game skid, they comeback and go on a win streak, so who’s to say it won’t happen again?

Nobody thought anything of the 2012 New York Mets when spring began. Reyes, Beltran and K-Rod were gone. Johan Santana was looking unreliable with his fragile shoulder. Wright was coming off an awful, injury riddled season. Many saw this team as easily last place, possibly with over 100 losses. Yet with resurgent years by Wright and Santana, an unprecidented season out of R.A. Dickey and a batch of AAAA players and homegrown farmhands behind them, this team has given us one hell of a ride so far. Why is it that since they hit a rough spot now that the sun is suddenly setting on this CInderella story?

The answer is simply that it is not. The Mets are a different team in 2012. You’ve heard the reasons why 1,000 times, but it’s true. They have surpassed any of our wildest aspirations for them, defying what conventional wisdom says about a team like these 2012 Mets. They have fought this hard to get to where they are now by overcoming tough stretches before.

Just because they hit a rough patch like they have in recent years when the bottom dropped out in 2011 and 2010, does that mean they are destined for the same thing this season? Maybe there’s more to this ballclub than many of you think, and hopefully the next few weeks will prove that to any whose faith has been shaken because of a string of five losses.

…Ya Gotta Believe my friends, Ya Gotta Believe.

 

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MMO Flashback: Ya Gotta Believe–Words To Live By http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/12/mmo-flashback-ya-gotta-believe-words-to-live-by.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/12/mmo-flashback-ya-gotta-believe-words-to-live-by.html/#comments Sun, 25 Dec 2011 14:00:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/wordpress/?p=2306 This edition of MMO Flashback goes back to December of 2008 when Rob Silverman who you all know as Tie Dyed, penned a heartwarming tribute to one of the all time great Mets, Tug McGraw. Enjoy!

Throughout our storied history, we’ve had more than our share of characters and colorful figures. The fist-pumping curtain calls of Gary Carter have been replaced by the dancing of Jose Reyes. But if Tom Seaver was the heart of the Mets and Mike Piazza the soul, then Tug McGraw was the spirit of our team.

It is impossible to think back to that memorable 73 season without hearing the rally cry of Tug’s ‘Ya Gotta Believe’ and seeing the image of him triumphantly walking from the mound, pounding his glove on his leg. What became a catchphrase has transcended time and spanned three and a half decades. Even now, in late 2008, as we fought to dethrone the Phillies, fans still harkened back to the words of Tug. Ya Gotta Believe.

Tug was not a Hall of Fame pitcher. His stats are not earth shattering. Over a 19 year career, his record was 96-92 with a 3.14 ERA. In the nine years he pitched for the Mets, he only led the team in saves twice. But yet, he remains a beloved figure in Mets folklore, a larger-than-life icon.

Born Frank Edwin McGraw on August 30, 1944 in Martinez, CA, he had no intention of a baseball career. After graduating from St. Vincent’s HS in Vallejo, McGraw enrolled in barbershop college. He lacked the skills necessary to become a successful barber. He was so bad, in fact, that he earned the nickname ‘Tug’ from ‘tugging’ on customer’s hair.

Tug was signed by the Mets on June 12, 1964. He made no huge splash in New York. As a matter of fact, he drowned. He spent 2 years as a starter where he compiled a miserable record of 2-12. One of his two victories, however, came against legend Sandy Koufax. It was the first time the Mets had ever defeated him. In 67, McGraw still struggled and after piling up a 7.79 ERA, he was sent down. He would spend all of 68 in the minors. He returned to NY in 69, armed with a Screwball, and accrued 12 saves but did not pitch in the World Series.

Statistically, his best seasons in NY were 71 and 72. He won 19 games in relief, whiffed 201 batters in 217 IP, achieved a 1.70 ERA and recorded 35 saves. He also was the winning pitcher in the 72 All-Star Game.

It was 73, however, when Tug would create the mantra that Mets fans still live by. The Mets were going nowhere quickly. Injuries to Rusty Staub and Jerry Grote only dampened spirits. Mets GM M. Donald Grant came into the clubhouse one summer day and gave a pep talk to the players. He voiced his belief that the Mets were a better team than they were showing and that they needed to ‘believe’ in themselves. Always outspoken and energetic, Tug began shouting, screaming, ‘Ya Gotta Believe!’ At first, Grant was offended. He thought Tug was mocking him.

It was hard to ‘believe.’ On August 30th, the Mets were 61-71, in last place in the NLE and Tug, the Mets closer, was harboring an inflated ERA of 5.05 (Aaron Heilman territory) But the players started to believe, the fans started to believe and soon, the NL started to believe. The Mets went 21-9 down the stretch, defeated the Big Red Machine in a 5 game war, but fell short to the A’s in a 7 game classic.

The following season, 29 year old Tugger started having some minor injuries and after the season, the Mets unloaded him. Tug was traded to the Phillies along with Don Hahn and Dave Schneck in exchange for Del Unser, John Stearns and Mac Scarce. When it was learned that Tug had a cyst on his shoulder, the Phillies accused NY of trading ‘damaged goods.’ However, the cyst was removed and Tug would pitch another 10 years.

Few athletes ever receive the admiration that was bestowed upon Tug. But what made Tug unique is that as much as we loved him, he became equally loved in Philly. In 1980 he helped lead the Phillies to their 1st championship. His 1.46 ERA that season was the lowest of his career. He appeared in all 5 NLCS games and went on to strike out Willie Wilson for the final out of the World Series, one of 10 K’s he recorded in 7 2/3 innings. He would spend the last 3 years of his career as a set-up man in Philadelphia. Tug retired in 1984 with 180 career saves, 8th in history at that time. He was the last active Major Leaguer to have played for Casey Stengel.

In 2003, Tug was working as an instructor for the Phillies during spring training when he was hospitalized with a brain tumor. Surgery revealed that the tumor was malignant and inoperable. Doctors gave him three months to live. Tug lived for nine. He died on January 5, 2004 in Brentwood, TN. Before Game 3 of the 2008 World Series, one of his sons, country music star Tim McGraw, scattered some of Tug’s ashes on the mound at Citizens Bank Park.

Tug was popular on and off the field. As much as fans loved him and teammates cherished him, opponents respected him. He was a good pitcher, a true ‘gamer’ whose famous quotes and unique style captured the hearts of fans. Occasionally, when loosening up before a game, McGraw, a lefty, would warm up throwing right handed, leaving fans to wonder who was wearing Tug’s number 45. He once stated, “90% of my salary I’ll spend on good times, women and Irish Whiskey. The other 10% I’ll probably waste.” When asked if he prefers artificial turf to grass, he replied, “I don’t know. I never smoked artificial turf.” He also claimed, “10 million years from now, when the sun burns out and the earth is just a frozen snowball hurtling through space, nobody’s going to care whether or not I got this guy out.” And he also said, “Ya Gotta Believe.”

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This One’s Dedicated To All Those Amazin’ Memories http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/12/this-ones-dedicated-to-all-those-amazin-memories.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/12/this-ones-dedicated-to-all-those-amazin-memories.html/#comments Sat, 17 Dec 2011 21:54:16 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=68070 I’m so sick of reading about the Mets these days. I’m seeing one terrible truth unveiled after another. And though I was warned about everything that was coming down before the Mets break camp next next March, it doesn’t make it any easier to see this once proud franchise disintegrate into oblivion.

This song seems appropriate for now to me… hit play and keep reading…

It reminds me of the good old days when things were so simple and uncomplicated.

It reminds me of the great Tom Seaver and what a treat it was to go to the ballpark and watch him pitch.

It reminds me of Gil Hodges and his enduring legacy and the indelible imprint he left on my heart.

It reminds me of Tug and Kooz and Rusty in 1973 and how I learned that it ain’t really over till it’s over, and of course, Ya Gotta Believe.

It reminds me of how much I loved rooting for Lee Mazzilli and Steve Henderson even though they weren’t superstars and nobody cared what their OPS was.

It reminds me of two high schoolers who ignited the fanbase and led us to another improbable World Series.

And of course it reminds me of the exciting Mike Piazza years and Robin Ventura and Fonzie too…

I’ll always remember Big Shea and the way it would resonate and shake to the roar of the crowds…

So many great memories – too many to mention them all in this short space. Now it’s just black clouds and bad times… Lies and deceptions… Smoke and mirrors…. Shame and embarrassment…

We are trapped in a bad dream and until all the people in charge from the top on down are finally gone, there’s no escaping it.

All I want for Christmas is for Wilpon to sell this team and leave on the next jet to Los Angeles. We need an owner to restore order and breathe respectability back into this franchise.

As much as some of you like to think we’re on the right track – we’re not. We’re just pawns in an elaborate con.

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Tug McGraw or Fox Mulder? Which Kind Of Fan Are You? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2010/12/tug-mcgraw-or-fox-mulder-which-kind-of-fan-are-you.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2010/12/tug-mcgraw-or-fox-mulder-which-kind-of-fan-are-you.html/#comments Mon, 20 Dec 2010 08:56:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=40582 Frank Edwin ‘Tug’ McGraw was a relief pitcher for the New York Mets for 9 seasons. Over that time he compiled 85 saves with a 3.17 ERA. But he is best remembered for a phrase. In 1973, as the Mets were treading water in the NLE basement at the end of August, McGraw coined the slogan ‘Ya Gotta Believe.’

Fox ‘Spooky’ Mulder was a fictitious character played by David Duchovny on ‘The X-Files.’ Mulder firmly believed that the US Govt. was behind a huge conspiracy to deny or conceal the existence of UFO’s and aliens. His sister, Samantha, was abducted at a young age and Mulder dedicated his life to uncovering the truth. His office was located in the basement of the Hoover Building and in the corner of the office hung a poster with a UFO on it. The words underneath the UFO: I Want To Believe.

Four decades have now passed since Tug’s famous phrase. We fans have hung our hopes and dreams to those three simple words. When times look bad, when things are bleak, when it seems like the Mets are destined for another year without a post-season, we state proudly, ‘Ya Gotta Believe.’

And why shouldn’t we? Has there ever been a team that has produced the miracles that our Mets have? Sure, we don’t win a lot but man oh man, when we do it’s glorious. After the numerous miracles that have occurred throughout our history, how can we not put faith in Tug’s words?

Shea was The Place Where Miracles Happen. And why not? Black cats. Shoe polish. Miraculous catches. Leaving the Hall of Fame filled Orioles shell-shocked, sending them back to Baltimore wondering ‘what the hell just happened?’

Hits that seemed destined to be HR’s, bouncing on TOP of the wall in a crucial game against the first place Pirates in late September 1973. In the way little Buddy Harrelson stood up to the bigger Pete Rose, the Mets stood up to the Big Red Machine, upsetting them in 5. Then, coming within a base hit of knocking off the defending World Champion A’s in game 7. How can one not ‘believe’?

Is there anyone out there who doubted the fact that Endy’s catch would propel the Mets to find a way to solve Jeff Suppan? Or in the bottom of the 9th, trailing 3-1, we all just knew in our hearts that Beltran would come through. We believed.

Non Mets fans may laugh at us, at our blind faith. They don’t understand why we live and die with Tug’s expression. But our undying faith to ’believe’ can be summed up in 2 words: Game Six.

Ballplayers have their own beliefs. A pitcher who is tossing a no-hitter sits alone in the dugout between innings. Or makes it a point to hop over the baseline when returning to the dugout. Willie Mays would always step on 2nd on his way to center field. Jackie Robinson always walked to the plate by stepping between the pitcher and catcher rather then walking behind the catcher.

Fans also have rituals. Beliefs. Who among us doesn’t put on our lucky hat or lucky Mets shirt when we need a big win, no matter how dirty the shirt may be.

But now when we claim ‘Ya Gotta Believe’ do we really believe it anymore? Or do we just say it…well…because we have always said it? In 2006 after Yadier Molina brought our season to a premature close I watched the World Series. Cardinals and Tigers. Truthfully, I didn’t give a damn who won, but I watched anyway because…well, it’s something I do every October.

Personally, I am closing in on 40 years of rooting for the Mets. 40 years. Through the good and the bad, I claim ‘Ya Gotta Believe’. But the last few seasons the words seem shallow and without meaning. A catch phrase. The last 4 seasons have been the toughest of all.

Many of us still regurgitate Tug’s words. It’s become a Pavlovian response. But do we really believe it in our hearts?

As Tug McGraw said, ‘Ya Gotta Believe.’ As Fox Mulder said, ‘I want to believe.’ What kind of fan are you? Are you one who really does believe in the Mets anymore or simply one who wants to believe? Do you claim ‘Ya Gotta Believe’ cause it’s something you feel in your heart or cause it’s something you’ve always done?

The Truth is out there. I sure wish a pennant was, too.

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Shades Of 69 And 86? No. Shades Of 73? Yes http://metsmerizedonline.com/2010/06/shades-of-69-and-86-no-shades-of-73-yes.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2010/06/shades-of-69-and-86-no-shades-of-73-yes.html/#comments Thu, 17 Jun 2010 07:08:22 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=29216 On the surface it appeared to be a typical summer day for the Mets. As usual, we were going nowhere, floundering in the second division, struggling to reach .500. When all was said and done, however, it turned out to be a crucial turning point in the history of our club.

Mets GM M. Donald Grant made a rare appearance in the Mets clubhouse and gave the team a pep talk. The gist of his speech was that they are not playing up to their potential and that they need to ‘believe’ in themselves. Always animated, Tug McGraw began bounding around the clubhouse, screaming ‘Ya Gotta Believe!’

First place is now within our reach and as we fans do, we are cautiously hopeful. We’re trying not to expect too much at this point. And we shouldn’t. But whenever we see our Mets in a pennant race, we cant help but wonder if this will be another 69 or 86.

When I look at this 2010 club, I DON’T see 69. The 69 club seemed to be a team of fate, of destiny. Crazy things happened all season: Black cats. Shoe polish. 19 Mets being fanned in a single game–but winning the game anyway. Ron Swoboda, nicknamed ‘Rocky’ for his fielding ineptitude, making one of the greatest catches in World Series history. 69 was called a ‘Miracle’ for a reason.

When I look at this 2010 club, I DON’T see 86 either. The way we played that year, it seemed almost predetermined that we’d win. A coronation. We all knew the 86 club would win. It was just a matter of how. Anything short of a championship that year would have been deemed a failure.

When I look at this 2010 club, I DO, however, see 1973. Unlike 69 and 86, the 73 club was not that good. Most of 73 was an awful season. On this date, June 17, 1973, the Mets were 28-29, 7 games back. Defensive stud Jerry Grote missed 2 months with a fractured arm. Rusty Staub played injured all year, nursing a shoulder injury but still managed to end the season as team leader in RBI’s (76). John Milner was our big HR threat. He hit 27 but only batted 239. Only one Met (Felix Millan) hit over 280. Wayne Garrett led the team in steals with a whopping 6. Two of our three big gun starters, Koosman and Matlack, would end the season with more losses then wins.

On August 15th, with just 44 games remaining, the Mets were in last place,53-65, 7 ½ games out. Oh–and that guy making all the ruckus in the clubhouse, Tug McGraw? His ERA stood at 5.27, unacceptable for a closer.

In spite of this, the Mets went 20-8 in September to win the division before upsetting the defending NL Champion Reds in a 5 game war. We opposed the defending World Champion A’s and fell short in a hard fought 7 game series, even though we managed to get the tying run to the plate in the 9th inning of game 7.

That 73 club was not nearly as good as their 69 or 86 counterparts. But they may have had more heart. They did more–and went further–with less.

The 2010 Mets, like the 73 team, still are not sure how good they are. They are learning–as are we fans. Three months ago, did we really think we’d be where we are now? No pitching. Reyes coming back from missing most of 09. David coming back from a concussion. Beltran out…indefinitely and being replaced by Angel Pagan??? A manager and General Manager on borrowed time. Our home stadium feeling like anything but ‘home.’ We all wondered if Mike Pelfrey would even win 10 games all season.

When Tug began screaming ‘Ya Gotta Believe’ it was originally meant for his teammates, NOT for the fans. But since then we have used that slogan. Even in our darkest hours, we have hung our hopes and dreams on those 3 words. However, it now seems that perhaps it’s just not us fans who are really starting to believe. But more importantly, just like in 1973, the players are.

You have to lose–and lose a lot–before you can appreciate winning. This is why our 2 championships mean more to us then the 27 that other team has won. In 69, we suffered for 7 years before winning it all. In 84 and 85, we lost gut wrenching pennant races to the Cubs and Cardinals before prevailing in 86. History is once again repeating itself. Yadier Molina’s HR in 06, followed by monumental collapses in 07 and 08 only to be followed by a plague of injuries last season have caused us years of heartbreak, suffering and tears. Enough with the losing. I think we’ve suffered enough recently. It’s time.

From the bottom of my heart, I echo Tug’s words: Ya Gotta Believe.

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Mets Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You http://metsmerizedonline.com/2009/08/mets-nation-turns-its-lonely-eyes-to-you.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2009/08/mets-nation-turns-its-lonely-eyes-to-you.html/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2009 18:26:03 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=11085 I’ll be honest. I thought we could do it with Beltran and Wright. I thought we could do it with Wright. I thought we could do it with Francoeur and Wright. I really thought for the longest time that the Mets would make some miracle run and be champions a la 1969. But, with Wright being drilled in the head, what little chance we had at a playoff run now has been diminished.

The Mets continue to amaze me, not by their winning-ness, but by their lack there of and how quickly they went from “Ya Gotta Believe” to “Ya Gotta Be Kidding Me” (and that’s the family-friendly version, folks). I knew it was bad when SportsCenter made a Not Top 10 based on our team alone but I didn’t think it could get worse. Apparantly, the Baseball Gods think differently.

I’m not surprised when the Mets fathom up some new way to lose. Casey Stengel would be rolling in his grave if he could see these Mets! Not covering first base, dropping routine pop ups, the Mets have done it all. Maybe they would throw in a win or two to change things up a bit, but nothing major. The Nationals may be in last place, but even they went on a 8-game winning streak. The Mets longest run ended at 4.

It’s the middle of August and I officially have no more expections for the Mets. I was hoping we could flirt with .500 but even that seems like too much. I just want everybody to come back healthy and ready to play next year. For now, Mets Nation turns its lonely eyes on the well-being of our third baseman. We can’t mess this one up guys.

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Ya Gotta Believe or Ya Gotta Bereave? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2009/06/ya-gotta-believe-or-ya-gotta-bereave.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2009/06/ya-gotta-believe-or-ya-gotta-bereave.html/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2009 15:39:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=6699 If you would have told me that the Mets would be in second place at the beginning of June, I probably would have believed you. If you had told me we’d be in second place without Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado and with Wilson Valdez and Fernando Martinez, I probably would have laughed in your face. If you would have said that 40-year-old Gary Sheffield would be batting clean-up, I wouldn’t have believed that either. And if you said that Bobby Parnell would be your go-to 8th inning guy….yeah, you get the picture.

The Mets are hurting right now, with John Maine being the latest to bite the dust. The bright side of Maine’s placement on the disabled list is that we didn’t wait 12 days, a la Jose Reyes. Instead of him potentially having 1 or 2 bad starts, the Mets can now give someone like Fernando Nieve or Nelson Figueroa a chance.

Even with eight players on the disabled list (at the latest count), the Mets are finding ways to get it done (most of the time). It’s easy to get frustrated with the B-Mets because we’re down two starters, a power bat, etc., etc. When I found myself longing for the days of health but a legitmately bad team, I knew we were in dire straights.

We’re only four games out of the division race and it’s the beginning of June. We could be like the Nationals, who may already be pondering next year’s first overall draft pick. We’re still in the race and the great thing about baseball is that we could go on a 10-game run and be in first place.

We face the Yankees tonight at (New) Yankee Stadium. Livan Hernandez, who I truly think is underappreciated, is on the hill tonight. The Mets are 14-6 in series openers, including an 8-1 record on Fridays. David Wright and Carlos Beltran are absolutely on fire. I would love to have at least Delgado back to give us another power bat, but I’d rather not rush him. I wish Jerry would play Daniel Murphy; if Murph’s just going to keep the bench warm, then I’d rather see him in the minors, where he’s gonna be able to play every day and become a better player.

The Mets are going to be healthy again one day (hopefully soon). But for right now, I think the B-Mets are doing an okay job, even with this last series loss. So change that ya gotta bereave to a ya gotta believe!

LGM-YGB

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The Imperfect Champions http://metsmerizedonline.com/2007/09/the-imperfect-champions.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2007/09/the-imperfect-champions.html/#comments Thu, 20 Sep 2007 20:50:46 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/wordpress/?p=1573 I think most baseball fans (including me); have a chip on their shoulder concerning their favorite teams (unless they are Skankee fans that believe their team could win a title with one hand tied behind their backs). Every time a bad play is made fans like us automatically assume that the game and even the season may be lost.

So maybe we have a little Eeyore in us, always expecting that rainy day even if sunshine is present or expected in the near future.

I have been a little mopey this past week as I watched the Mets lead dwindle down to a measly 1 ½ games. Today though, I resolved not to worry and to cast off that expectation of certain defeat. In doing so, I looked for a stat that would give me a little bit of a pick me up. I found it in the last 7 World Series Champions…

3 of the last 7 champions have been Wild Card winners. To me that shows that since the millennium, the playoffs have shown which teams have what it takes and which teams were pretenders. Three of those teams that did have what it took were considered second best, much like many people consider our beloved Mets.

Please don’t take this the wrong way, in no way am I conceding ANYTHING to “Big Mouth” Rollins and the Phillies. I just want to stay positive and point out that it isn’t always the one that laughs first, doesn’t always get to laugh last.

Now that our latest losing streak is over, we can all take that collective sigh of relief and get ready. The real test of the Amazins’ mettle is about to begin…

“Ya Gotta Believe!”

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Stay True To The Orange And Blue http://metsmerizedonline.com/2007/06/stay-true-to-the-orange-and-bl.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2007/06/stay-true-to-the-orange-and-bl.html/#comments Mon, 18 Jun 2007 18:29:34 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/wordpress/?p=1473 OK. So the Mets didn’t sweep the Yanks.  They didn’t even take the series.  But they didn’t get swept either.  In fact, the season series is tied at three and the next time these two teams could face each other would be the World Series.

Let me sum up this past weekend for those of you who couldn’t bare to watch for yourselves…our offense was mediocre. Our pitching was lacking.  And our defense was, if nothing else, questionable.  Even with an additional hitter in the line-up because of the DH, the Mets still couldn’t pull it off.

Was it the curse of the Yankees?  Nope.  The Mets are only three and twelve in the month of June.  They were slumping well before setting foot into the House that Ruth built.  But despite this current losing streak, the Mets are STILL on top in the NL East.  They are nine games under .500 so far for June and still have only lost three games in the standings to the second place Braves.  What other team could get away with that?

Only a team with true talent and heart could go on this long, consistently playing poorly and losing, and still be adored by their fans and their city.  Overshadowed by their cross-town rivals, who just happen to be playing well right now, have the Mets  reverted back to being the  underdogs?  Once again, nope.  Player for player, the Mets are just as capable, with the talent, know-how, and hunger to do it.  And they will.

Remember, the only reason why it hurts so much is because we care.  When they hurt, we hurt. Our hearts are with this team till the end, whether that is September or October.  Mets fans stay true to the orange and blue.  And our team won’t let us down  They can’t lose forever.  Just look at the Yankees – they were 14 games out and playing some of the worst baseball I have ever seen.  Even with guys like Jeter, A-Rod, Damon and Posada, they still couldn’t find a way to win.  Now they have won 11 of their last 12, losing only to the Mets Friday night.  What makes anyone think the Mets can’t turn it around too?

Kind of makes “Ya Gotta Believe” seem more realistic, huh?

This MMO Fan Shot was written by Denise Winter aka: MetsWrighter.

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