There are Hall of Famers and then there are others who put up solid numbers for an entire career. One particular player compiled a 289 career BA and 2715 hits over 22 years. These numbers are not worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown but he was a solid, consistent player. He was an All-Star and once won the NL Batting crown with a 324 average. As a first baseman, he made only 128 errors in 13,901 chances. However, all of this will always be overshadowed by a ball that rolled through his legs in Game 6 of the 86 Series.
The first World Series ever played was in 1903 and in all those years, only twice has a Fall Classic ended on a walk-off HR. In 1993, Joe Carter hit a 3 Run HR in the bottom of the 9th to give the Blue Jays an 8-6 win and their 2nd straight Championship. The pitcher who gave up the gopher ball to Carter was Mitch Williams. Nicknamed ‘Wild Thing,’ Williams had been one of the top closers in the NL. In the 5 years before serving up the infamous HR, he had recorded 154 saves with a 3.23 ERA. For the 3 years after serving up the HR, Williams’ ERA shot up to 8.40 and he would only record 6 more saves. His career was finished.
In late August 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers held a 13 game lead over their much hated cross-town rivals, the New York Giants. Brooklyn faltered. The Giants came on strong. The teams ended in a tie and it was decided that a 3 game playoff would be held to determine who would win the NL pennant. After the first 2 games were split, Brooklyn was leading 4-1 going to the bottom of the 9th. The Giants won the pennant when Bobby Thomson homered to LF off of Ralph Branca. In the 5 seasons prior to giving up Thomson’s HR, what sportswriters have referred to as the most famous HR ever hit in NY, Branca had a 3.70 ERA. For the 3 seasons after allowing the pennant winning HR, Branca’s ERA rose to 7.86. Thomson’s pennant winning blast is best known as ‘The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.’
There have been critical turning points in our country’s history. America was a different nation before the assassination of JFK then it was after that fateful day in Dallas. Viet Nam/Watergate are benchmarks as well. Post 9-11 America is far different than Pre 9-11 America. The history of our own Mets also has turning points.
The laughable 60’s of ‘Casey’s Amazin’s’ gave way to a title in 69 and nearly a decade of competitiveness. The departure of Tom Seaver in 1977 sent the franchise into a new era of dark days until the arrival of Keith Hernandez and a rookie named Strawberry in 1983. The Mets of the 80’s were born. And so it goes…
As I watch the Mets nowadays, I wonder if we are perhaps in a new ‘dark era’ and don’t realize it yet. The Mets of 1979 were led by Pat Zachary and John Pacella, a huge step down from Seaver and Kooz. In the 90’s guys like Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla and Paul Wilson were a far cry from the likes of Knight, Dykstra and Gooden. The team was…’different’…after these turning points.
Was Yadier Molina’s HR in Game 7 another turning point from which we have yet to recover? 2006 was our season. No doubt about it. We were World Champions. We just don’t have the trophy to prove it. We had spent a couple of years building to that crescendo. Endy’s catch should have been the cherry on top of the World Championship cake much in the way the catches of Agee and Swoboda were almost 4 decades earlier. However, it didn’t happen.
Since Molina’s HR in the 9th, this team has not been the same. They have not recovered. Once again, this team ‘feels’ different. Since that infamous blast by Molina, ‘The Shot Heard ‘Round Flushing,’ the Mets have had not one but TWO monumental September collapses. We became the first team in baseball history to lose a playoff spot on the last day of the regular season for two straight years at home. And now, albeit only a few weeks into yet another season, we still seem haunted by the ghosts of Septembers past. After the collapse of 07, Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez predicted that many players would be gone. To paraphrase what #17 stated, he pointed out that the best way to remove the scars of this was to ‘clean house.’ But most have remained.
In the same way that Mookie Wilson was a turning point for Bill Buckner and the way that Joe Carter was a turning point for Mitch Williams and that Bobby Thomson was a turning point for Ralph Branca, could Molina’s HR have been a turning point for our entire team? Can one Home Run send an entire organization and its fans into an unending black hole of negativity, pessimism and self-doubt?
The confidence, the heart and the swagger that this team displayed in 06 seems like a lifetime ago. It seems a distant memory. The fire displayed by Wright and Reyes and Delgado just three seasons ago now seems as far removed as the fist pumping curtain calls of Gary Carter and images of Tug McGraw pounding his glove on his leg..