I was lucky. When I first became interested in baseball the Mets were really good. They finished second or higher in the NL East from 1984 – 1990.
During that time span, I was only concerned about the Mets. Hating the Yankees didn’t even make sense yet. They were not good enough to be hated. Besides, they played in the American League, and they never played the Mets in the regular season. I really didn’t hate any teams until 1988.
I remember the exact moment. It was the day of my aunt’s bridal shower, which was being hosted at my parent’s house. The men were thrown into the basement to watch the NLCS. With the game tied at three, Jay Howell got caught cheating. He was using pine tar. When the Mets went off to score five runs after his ejection, it was the first time I experienced schadenfreude.
The moment got me really interested and focused on the 1988 NLCS; more than an eight year old should. I lived and died with that team for the next four games. I was devastated when the Mets lost. I then hate watched the World Series for the first time in my life. Kirk Gibson‘s homerun was one of the greatest moments in MLB history. However, I was just angry the Dodgers won again.
My hatred of the Dodgers would only grow from there. Darryl Strawberry was my favorite player. As a kid, I had no real grasp of free agency. The Dodgers would teach me all about it. I was in the car with my Dad listening to WFAN after we visited Nana. I then heard that Strawberry signed with the Dodgers.
I didn’t understand. How could my favorite player go to the Dodgers? He was a Met. I was crushed. It got worse. I also loved Gary Carter. Later that offseason, he would also sign with the Dodgers. I remember the first Mets-Dodgers game in 1991. I was sitting in my parent’s basement playing Strat-O-Matic with my Dad when the game started.
As I grew older, I came to hate other teams more. However, I always hated the Dodgers. It’s what made the Mike Piazza years even sweeter. It’s what made the Paul Lo Duca double tag out at home plate even better. It’s why I’m even more excited for this series.
Lets Go Mets!
The one thing that no one associates with the Yankees is the great player that never won a ring. Famously, the Cubs have Ernie Banks. The Mets have Mike Piazza. Though not on the same tier as those two, the Yankees have Don Mattingly.
In 1981, the Yankees lost the World Series to the Dodgers. The next year, Mattingky would get called up and become the first baseman. It started the longest stretch of Yankee baseball not being in the playoffs. In 1994, the Yankees were assured a playoff spot, but then the strike happened.
Finally, in 1995, in Mattingly’s last season, the Yankees would make the playoffs as the Wild Card. The Yankees would squander a 2-0 lead. They would squander a lead in the fifth and deciding game. In the 10th inning, Mattingly would hit a go-ahead RBI double. The Mariners would come back again and beat the Yankees.
The next year, Mattingly retired, and the Yankees replaced him with Tino Martinez. The Yankees would go on to win four World Series in five years. Mattingly would re-join the Yankees in 2004, which is the same year as the Red Sox overcoming an 0-3 deficit to win the 2004 ALCS, and subsequently, the World Series.
The Yankees would hire Joe Girardi over him as Joe Torre’s successor. The Yankees would win the World Series again in 2009. Mattingly was a coach on the Dodgers from 2008 – 2010, when the Dodgers twice lost in the NLCS to the Phillies 4-1.
Mattingly then assumed the helm as the Dodgers manager. So far, despite having the best pitcher in the game, Clayton Kershaw, he hasn’t been able to make it to the World Series. It makes you question if he’s due or if he’s cursed.
I hope it’s the latter.
After a promising year last year, Juan Lagares had a down year. The Mets knew it was a problem, so they pulled the trigger on the Yoenis Cespedes trade. With the Dodgers lefties coming into this series, Terry Collins has elected to go with Michael Cuddyer over Lagares.
However, that is only in the starting lineup. This is going to be a close series. When and if, the Mets get a lead, they’re going to have to protect it. This means defensive replacements and double switches. This will get more innings to the Mets incredible bullpen (which is their biggest advantage), and they will get better fielders out there.
Getting Lagares into the game moves Cespedes to LF, where he is much better suited. It also puts Lagares in center, so he can do Lagares things:
In my heart of hearts, I know the Mets are going to need his defense. This year’s golden moment is going to be better than any play he made last year.
Fifteen years ago today, I went to my first Mets playoff game. Somehow, even with Mike Piazza injured, the Mets lead the NLDS 2-1. They found themselves in a extra innings looking for just one big hit:
I don’t think there was anyone on the planet who thought Todd Pratt was going to hit a walkoff, series-clinching homerun.
The next year, the NLDS heroes would be Benny Agbayani . . .
. . . and Bobby Jones
Who’s it going to be this year? Could it be Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who’s already had a huge pinch hit homerun this year:
How about Wilmer Flores:
Whoever it is, that player is about to forever become a part of Mets lore.
LETS GO METS!
This past week I’ve mainly focused on the big pitchers because that’s where I think the series will be won and lost.
While you can argue the best two pitchers in this series are Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, the Mets have historically performed slightly better than the rest of baseball against these two. I’m not sure that matters all that much because Kershaw and Greinke have pitched very well against the Mets.
On the flip side, Noah Syndergaard is the hottest pitcher in baseball right now. He’s been close to unhittable for a month now. Additionally, Jacob deGrom has had a terrific year, and he pitched well while amped up. Finally, the Mets have a big advantage in the Game 3 matchup between Matt Harvey and Brett Anderson. Overall, as you can see the Dodgers and Mets pitching is a wash:
Love the graphic in this story. Look at how even Mets and Dodgers pitching staff were in 2015 http://t.co/OQUfNM7Si0
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) October 8, 2015
The biggest advantage for the Mets is their bullpen. So far this year, the Mets bullpen has been better. Additionally, it is comprised of relievers who can go multiple innings, if necessary, to put the game away. Therefore, the Mets don’t need to out duel Greinke and Kershaw. Rather, they just need to do their thing out there and let it become a bullpen game.
No, I’m not counting on Kershaw performing as poorly as he had in past postseasons. I’m not expecting the Mets to completely neutralize Adrian Gonzalez. However, I am not discounting the Mets 4-3 record against the Dodgers.
I remember that the Mets won those games before David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud were healthy. I remember these games were before the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, and Kelly Johnson. I remember the Mets bullpen is even better with the additions of Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard. I remember the Mets have never lost a five game series or an NLDS game at home.
During the regular season, the Mets showed they could pitch with the Dodgers. They showed they had enough offense to beat the Dodgers. Then, they got better pitching and significantly better hitting.
I see the Mets earning a split in LA. I see Harvey winning Game 3. I see the Mets outlasting Kershaw who will be pitching on three days rest. I see the Mets bats taking advantage of the Dodgers bullpen.
Mets in four.
Seriously, how many Mets fans remember that Wright knocked in Carlos Beltran to give the Mets a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS? I doubt many because most people focus on his .160/.276/.320 line in the NLCS. They choose not to focus on the RBI or his .333/.385/.500 line in the 2006 NLDS. Instead the narrative became Wright isn’t clutch.
In 2000, I remember similar rumblings being uttered about the then face of the Mets franchise, Mike Piazza. Up until 2000, Piazza was not seen as a playoff performer. That perception did not change with his homerun against John Smoltz in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS. Rather, it changed when he hit a double with third base coach John Stearns proclaiming over and over again, “The monster is out of the cage!”
Piazza would hit extremely well in the 2000 playoffs. He hit .214/.389/.286 in the NLDS. He hit .412/.545/.941 (video game numbers) in the NLCS. He hit .273/.273/.636 in the World Series. Overall, he hit six doubles, four homeruns, and eight RBIs. Not too bad for a career .242/.301/.458 postseason hitter.
I wasn’t surprised by Piazza in 2000. He hit .324/.398/.570 with 32 homers and 111 RBIs. He is a career .3o8/.377/.545 hitter. I expected Piazza to hit in 2000. It was only a matter of time before he busted out in the playoffs. I’m expecting Wright to perform just as well.
Sure, his 2006 playoff numbers were not good. However, he is a career .298/.377/.492 hitter. Since returning from his back injury, Wright has hit .277/.381/.437 with seven doubles, four homeruns, and 13 RBIs. Like Piazza, it’s his team. Like Piazza, it’s his moment. Like Piazza, I’m expecting him to perform.
Wright is capable of doing it. He’s the face of the franchise. He’s the guy who stayed. He’s the Captain of the team. He’s chasing a World Series ring. It’s his time. It’s his moment.
If he performs like we know he can, it’ll be his World Series ring.
Now, I don’t mean Jerry Manuel good with the media. I mean actually good with the media. He’s honest. He disarms with his bluntness and humor. He takes the heat, so his players won’t. He seemingly always has his players’ backs.
He’s also good in the clubhouse. With the Mets languishing in May, June, and July, he kept the team from falling apart. I still don’t know how he did it. The funny thing is before his stint with the Mets, he was divisive in the clubhouse. The Angels players forced him to resign. It’s clear Collins learned from his past experience while still being an old school baseball man.
It’s a good thing because he was needed this week. When Matt Harvey missed a workout, Collins told everyone he’s handling it, and he considered the matter over. He acknowledged the mistake, but he told everyone not to blow it out of proportion. When it came up on subsequent days, Collins made jokes about the situation:
Collins laughing off Harvey stuff a day later: "We're going to make sure Matt gets on the plane today. We'll get him on board." #Mets
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) October 7, 2015
If handled improperly, this could’ve been a bigger issue. He turned it from a serious matter to a joke. He was a tremendous leader this week. No, he’s been a tremendous leader all season. It’s even more impressive when you consider he’s a lame duck manager.
Now we need him to go out there tonight and manage a baseball game. At times, he’s shown he can be an excellent tactician. The Mets are going to need that Collins in what appears to be a close series. In any event, the Mets are here in large part because of Collins.
He’s waited his whole career for this moment. I hope he enjoys it. He’s earned that right.
Barring a surprise a team typically sends their best pitcher out there to begin the playoffs. In the Mets history, they have historically done that with two notable exceptions.
For today’s quiz, with the Mets sending this year’s ace to the mound, I am looking to see if you can name the Mets Game One starters in the first round of the playoffs. Good luck!
The moment we’ve all been waiting for since the Carlos Beltran strikeout is now 24 hours away. Mets fans have been waiting for nine years. This last day is going to be the hardest part of the wait.
I’m already pumped up. I’m going to have a harder than usual time falling asleep tonight. know I’m going to be distracted all day tomorrow. I’m going to be thinking of every mechanization of tomorrow’s game. I’m going to be thinking of my write-ups and how I wish they were better. I’m going to wish I did more.
I’m going to spend the whole day debating whether or not I should keep my son up to watch. I’m going to be happy I’m married to a smart woman who is going to tell me it’s a bad idea. I’ll know if she read my site today when I say here and now I’m going to let him watch some of it.
I’m going to spend the next 24 hours all pumped up, and then once Clayton Kershaw throws the first pitch to Curtis Granderson, I’m going to be on edge for two to four hours. With my son asleep, I’m going to have be screaming into a pillow lest I wake him up. I will be texting friends an family like crazy.
I know the time after Game 1 will seem even longer than the past week. The wait between Games 2 and 3 will seem like an eternity. I’m hoping that I’ll have to deal with the wait between the NLDS and the NLCS.
I’ll deal with whatever wait I need to deal with this year, so long as I don’t have to wait another nine, or 29, years.
You never know what is going to happen before or during a postseason series. How a team responds to it may determine if a team wins or loses a series.
I was reminded of that with another playoff series against the Dodgers. Both times the Mets played the Dodgers, one of their starting pitchers was injured.
In 1988, Bobby Ojeda suffered a potentially career ending injury on the same day the Mets clinched at least a tie atop the NL East. It threw the Mets postseason rotation off kilter. Dwight Gooden started Games 1 and 4 (on three day’s rest). He wouldn’t make another start in the series.
I still don’t know what Davey Johnson was thinking. The Mets had a 2-1 series lead. They already won a game in which Orel Hershiser started. Johnson unnecessarily went to Gooden on three days rest, and then he left him in too long. Even more baffling is the fact that Johnson went to Sid Fernandez in Game 5 with the series tied 2-2.
Honestly, I don’t think Johnson doesn’t make a ponderous decision like this if Ojeda was able to pitch. Ojeda was 2-0 in the 1986 postseason. He stabilized things in Game 3, and he gave the Mets a chance in Game 6. Johnson doesn’t skip his start in 1988, and the Mets probably don’t blow that series.
Eighteen years later, the Mets again found themselves facing the Dodgers in the playoffs. Again, a key starting pitcher went down. Two days before the NLDS, El Duque, the scheduled Game 1 starter, went down with a torn calf muscle. Keep in mind, he was the second choice after Pedro Martinez suffered a rotator cuff injury.
Willie Randolph gave the ball to John Maine. Maine lasted 4.1 innings before hitting trouble. Randolph quickly turned to his incredible bullpen who brought it home. The Mets responded better to the problem in 2006, and they won the series.
It’s possible the Mets have already been presented with their Ojeda-El Duque dilemma with Steven Matz. Matz slept on a sofa, and he injured his back. The Mets now have a critical decision to make, especially with Matz having a successful simulated game. If he responds well, he may be on the roster. If not, it will be Sean Gilmartin.
Whomever the Mets choose, history shows it’s not who you pick that’s important. It’s how you respond to the crisis that’s important. Fortunately, this is one of Terry Collins’ strengths. Hopefully, there won’t be any more surprises.
Lets Go Mets!