Armando Benitez

Why Isn’t Edgardo Alfonzo In the Mets Hall of Fame?

Back in 2012, the New York Mets announced their 50th Anniversary Team.  Reviewing the list none of the players named should come as a surprise.  It should come as even less of a surprise that of all the players named to the team, all the retired players have been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  Well, all but one player has.

The greatest second baseman in Mets history, Edgardo Alfonzo, still has not been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  He has not been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame despite his being retired since 2006 and despite his presence in the Mets organization for the past few seasons.  Put another way, this is not a player who has poor ties with the organization and that would be hard to bring back to honor him.  Looking at it from that perspective, it is shocking to say the least that Alfonzo is not in the Mets Hall of Fame.

Judging by WAR alone, Alfonzo is the best middle infielder in Mets history posting a career 29.5 WAR as a Met.  That 29.5 WAR ranks him as the seventh best Met in history.  That puts him ahead of players like Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, and Bud Harrelson, all of whom have already been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  With that said, WAR only tells part of the story of the impact Alfonzo has had on Mets history.

In eight seasons as a New York Met, Alfonzo hit .292/.367/.445 with 120 homers and 538 RBI.  In those eight years, Alfonzo was one of the best Mets to ever put on a uniform.  It’s why he was named as the best second baseman in Mets history.  Naturally, Alfonzo ranks high in the Top 10 in many offensive categories:

  • Games (1,086) – 10th
  • PA (4,449) – 8th
  • AB (3,897) – 9th
  • Runs (614) – 5th
  • Hits (1,136) – 5th
  • Doubles (212) – 6th
  • Homers (120) – 9th
  • XBH (346) – 8th
  • RBI (538) – 7th
  • Average (.292) – tied 5th
  • OBP (.367) – 7th

The advanced numbers paint a number better picture of Alfonzo.  His WAR is fourth best for a Mets position player, second for a Mets infielder, and the best for a Mets middle infielder.  His 2000 6.4 WAR ranks as the fifth best season by a Mets position player.  His defensive WAR is the sixth best in Mets history, third best by a Mets infielder, and best by a Mets second baseman.  He ranks fifth in runs created, eighth in adjusted batting runs, and eighth in WPA.

Alfonzo led the Mets in runs, hits, and doubles in the 1990s.  In that same decade, he also had the finished second in games played, at bats, total bases, and RBI.  In the decade he was also fourth in triples, seventh in homers, eighth in stolen bases, third in walks, and third in batting average.  Arguably, he was the Mets best player of the decade.

In addition to these numbers, Alfonzo was named to an All Star team (should have been more than the one), won a Silver Slugger, and had three top 15 MVP finishes.  He finished second in Gold Glove voting in 1999 and 2001 as a second baseman.  In 1997, he finished second in Gold Glove voting as a third baseman.  Still, Alfonzo was much more than all of this.

When thinking of Alfonzo it is near impossible to choose just one moment that highlights his career.  You can start with him being part of the greatest defensive infield ever assembled.  In the 1999 Wild Card play-in game, he followed Rickey Henderson‘s leadoff home run with a home run of his own to give Al Leiter all the cushion he needed for the Mets to claim the Wild Card and head to the NLDS.  In Game One of the NLDS, he would homer off Randy Johnson in the first inning to give the Mets a 1-0 lead, and then he would hit a grand slam off of Bobby Chouinard in the ninth to break the 4-4 tie.  In the clinching Game 4, he got the Mets on the board with a fourth inning homer off of Brian Anderson.

Alfonzo would come up similarly big in the 2000 NLDS.  In Game 2, with the Mets already down 1-o in the series, and with Armando Benitez having blown the save, Alfonzo ripped a double down the left field line scoring Lenny Harris.  Lost in the shuffle of that inning was the fact that he had hit a home run in the ninth giving the Mets some much needed insurance runs.  In any event, the RBI double allowed the Mets to tie the series and return to the NLCS for a second consecutive year.  In the 2000 NLCS, Alfonzo was one of a few Mets that probably should have been named the NLCS MVP.  In the five game series, Alfonzo hit an incredible .444/.565/.611 with five runs, a double, a triple, and four RBI.

Unsurprisingly, Alfonzo is the Mets all-time leader in postseason hits, games played, and g0-ahead hits.  In fact, four of those hits were in the 7th inning or later.  That is the second best mark in postseason history – not Mets postseason history – all of baseball history.

Speaking of hits, Alfonzo became the first ever Met to go 6/6 in a game.  In what ranks as the most impressive hitting display in Mets history, Alfonzo hit three home runs and a double while recording five RBI.  There have been no Mets and only one National League player that has posted a higher game score since 1999.

Somehow, some way none of this has garnered Alfonzo enough support to be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  It’s wrong because Alfonzo is not just the best second baseman in Mets history, he is the best middle infielder in Mets history.  He was a pivotal member of two teams that went to the postseason, and he had huge hits on those postseasons.  He has set a number of Mets records.  Overall, there is absolutely no way you can deny that Alfonzo is one of the best players in Mets history.  Accordingly, he deserves enshrinement into the Mets Hall of Fame.

Mets Perform Better With Republican Presidents

There are many factors to consider when voting for a candidate today.  At this point, they have all be regurgitated and discussed at length, and hopefully, you have made your decision based upon sound criteria.  However, if you are looking for a reason to change your mind or reason to have your mind made up for you, or you really want to base this important decision on how the Mets have fared with a Republican or a Democrat in office, you are in luck.  Here is how the Mets have performed under each President in their 54 year history:

President Seasons Record Win %
John F. Kennedy 1962 – 1963 91 – 231 0.283
Lyndon B. Johnson 1964 – 1968 303 – 506 0.375
Richard M Nixon 1969 – 1974* 478 – 433 0.525
Gerald R. Ford 1974* – 1976 263 – 277 0.487
Jimmy Carter 1977 – 1980 260 – 388 0.401
Ronald Reagan 1981 – 1988 662 – 573 0.536
George H.W. Bush 1989 – 1992 386 – 423 0.477
William Jefferson Clinton 1993 – 2000 562 – 506 0.526
George W. Bush 2001 – 2008 651 – 643 0.503
Barack Obama 2009 – 2016 630-666 0.486

* Nixon resigned from office August 9, 1974

Here are the cumulative results:

Party Record Win%
Democrat 1,846 – 2,297 0.446
Republican 2,440 – 2,349 0.510

Here are some interesting Mets postseason facts when there was a Democrat or Republican in the White House.

Democrat Postseason Facts

  • The two times the Mets have been to back-to-back postseasons was when there was a Democrat in the White House (1999 & 2000 – Clinton; 2015 & 2016 – Obama)
  • The Mets have only had an NLCS MVP when there was a Democrat in the White House (Mike Hampton – 2000; Daniel Murphy – 2015)
  • The Mets have only won the division once (2015) with a Democrat in office.  The other three postseason appearances were as the Wild Card.
  • The Mets have appeared in four total postseasons and two World Series.  The Mets are 21-17 in postseason games with the following records per round:
    Wild Card Game 0 – 1
    NLDS 9 – 4
    NLCS 10 – 4
    World Series 2 – 8

Republican Postseason Facts

  • The Mets have won their only two World Series with a Republican in office (1969 – Nixon; 1986 – Reagan)
  • In all five of their appearances in the postseason with a Republican in office, the Mets were the National Leauge East champions.
  • In three of the five appearances, the Mets won 100+ games with the high water mark coming in 1986 with 108 wins
  • In four of the five seasons the Mets appeared in the postseason with a Republican in office, the Mets had the best record in the National League (1973 is the exception).  In two of those seasons (1986 & 2006), the Mets had the best record in baseball.
  • In total, the Mets have appeared in five postseason and three World Series.  The Mets are 30-20 in those postseason games with the following records per round:
    NLDS 3 – 0
    NLCS 16 – 12
    World Series 11 – 8

If you wish to mainly focus on player performance over how the team has fared during each administration, Mets players have received more awards during Republican leadership:

Cy Young Award

Rookie of the Year

Rolaids Relief Man

Sports Illustrated Man of the Year

  • Republican 1 (Seaver 1969)
  • Democrat 0

Gold Gloves

Silver Sluggers

Roberto Clemente Award

From the Front Office side, Republicans have a 2-1 edge in executive of the year with Johnny Murphy winning in 1969, Frank Cashen winning in 1986, and Sandy Alderson winning in 2015.  Baseball America named the Mets the top organization in baseball once in a Republican (1984) and once in a Democratic (1995) term.

As a general rule of thumb, the Mets and their players have performed better with a Republican in office.  As you enter the voting booths today, take that as you will.  Hopefully, you have more sound criteria for choosing your candidate.

Indians Fans Deserve a World Series More than Cubs Fans

Time and again, we have heard about the Billy Goat curse and the Chicago Cubs not having won a World Series since 1908.  As a result, many are supposed to empathize with them for their time falling short time and again.  Moreover, many sympathize with a fan base that has never seen their team win a World Series in their lifetime.  While all of this is true, it is not appreciably different than being a Cleveland Indians fan.

The Indians last won the World Series in 1948 against the Boston Braves.  Yes, the Boston, not Atlanta Braves.  That’s how long ago the Indians last World Series title was.  If you are to assume that a 10 year old had the full capacity to appreciate the World Series victory and remember the run to the World Series, that means Indians fans who could relish those Lou Boudreau teams were born in 1938.  That would make those fans 78 years old today.  Rounding up just a tad, unless you are an octogenarian, Indians fans have never seen their team win a World Series.  What they have seen is some excruciating losses.

Back in 1995, the Indians sent out what could be considered the greatest offensive team ever assembled.  That Indians team was shut down by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Steve Avery over the six game set.  A team that had scored 840 runs in 144 games (strike shortened season), an average of 5.8 runs per game, could only muster 19 runs (3.2 runs per game) in the series.  A team that was shutout just three times in the regular season would be shut out in Game Six of the World Series in an excruciating 1-0 loss.

The 1997 Indians weren’t the favorites to win the World Series.  Instead, they had to fight and claw their way back to the World Series.  They needed the rookie Jaret Wright to become a Yankee killer and Sandy Alomar, Jr.Moi to hit a pivotal home run in what was going to be the Game 4 clincher of the ALDS for the defending champion Yankees.  Instead, the Indians persevered and would win their second pennant in three years after beating the Orioles in six in the ALCS.  It should be noted Armando Benitez took the loss in that game being a harbinger of things to come for Mets fans.

That 1997 World Series was thrilling with the Marlins and Indians alternating wins setting the stage for an epic Game 7.  The Indians had to like their chances with their newfound postseason hero Wright going up against Al Leiter.  The Indians had tattooed Leiter for seven runs in 4.2 innings in Game 4.  Leiter would never win a postseason start in his career.  While it was more of a challenge than the Indians expected, they hand their closer, Jose Mesa, on the mound with a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning.  Mesa would blow the game allowing Craig Counsell to hit a sacrifice fly to score Moises Alou (again how was he not the MVP of that series) to tie the game.  The Indians couldn’t touch the Marlins bullpen in extra innings.  Finally, in the 11th, Charles Nagy gave up the game winning hit to Edgar Renteria scoring Counsell of all people as the winning run.  That is as excruciating a loss as it gets for a fan.

There have been other tales of recent woe for this Indians fan base.  In 1998, the Yankees exacted revenge against Wright and the Indians by scoring five runs in the first inning off Wright en route to a Yankees 4-2 ALCS series win.  In 1999, the Indians blew a 2-0 series lead and a 5-2 lead in Game 5 to lose the ALDS to the Red Sox.  That game was memorable for Pedro Martinez‘s epic performance out of the bullpen.  The lean years were not too far away from here.

Then there was an Indians resurgence.  In 2007, the Indians had a 3-1 game lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS with Game 5 at home.  CC Sabathia just couldn’t close the deal, and the Indians bullpen would implode leading the Red Sox to their comeback.  Like the rest of baseball, the Indians would watch helplessly as the Red Sox would win their second World Series in four years.  To make matters worse, the small market Indians would have to break up the team.  Two years later, Indians fans would watch as Sabathia took the hill for the Yankees in Game One of the World Series against Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.

In response, many Cubs fans will scream the Bartman Game!  One of their own prevented them from winning the pennant and going to the World Series back in 2003.  Of course, that narrative is a bit nonsense because there is a real debate as to whether or not Alou could catch that ball.  Furthermore, that didn’t cause Dusty Baker to leave Mark Prior out there too long.  It didn’t cause Alex Gonzalez to allow a double play ball to go through his legs.  It didn’t cause the Cubs to blow a 3-0 lead.  It certainly didn’t cause the Cubs and Kerry Wood to blow a 5-3 lead in Game 7.  Furthermore, it did not cause Cubs fans to try to ruin Bartman’s life.

Absolutely, blowing a 3-1 series lead when your team hasn’t won a World Series in nearly a century is devastating.  It was no more devastating than the Indians blowing the 2007 ALCS.  It is definitively not more devastating than the 1997 World Series.

Sure, it hurts to lose and not be competitive.  However, as a Mets fan I know the 2015 World Series loss was infinitely more hurtful than anything I saw from 1991 – 1996 or 2001 – 2004 or even 2009 – 2014.  No, it is hte misses that stick with you the longest.  Personally, I’m more haunted by Ron Darling pitching the worst game of his life against an unbeatable Orel Hershiser, Kenny Rogers walking Andruw Jones, Luis Sojo‘s two RBI single off Leiter, Carlos Beltran looking at an Adam Wainwright curveball, Eric Hosmer‘s mad dash to home plate, and any of the other events that led to those deciding plays which ended the Mets postseasons.

The Cubs may not have won since 1908, but the Indians fan base is the more tortured fan base.  They deserve this World Series title more than anyone.

IBWAA Hoyt Wilhelm Award – Addison Reed

The IBWAA Hoyt Wilhelm Award is for the best relief pitcher in the National League.  While the National League has had a number of good relievers this past season, there have been three clear standouts over the course of the season that deserves this award:

1st – Addison Reed

Given how Terry Collins has ridden his two best bullpen guys all season, this was a toss up between the two of them.  Looking at the numbers, Reed just had a better season.

Time and again, Collins has leaned on Reed in the high leverage eighth inning of games to preserve the Mets lead.  For a vast majority of the time, Reed has done that in impressive fashion.  In 80 appearances, Reed is 4-2 with a 1.97 ERA, a 0.940 WHIP, a 10.5 K/9, 209 ERA+, and a 1.98 FIP.  Those 78 appearances are the third most in the majors (and National League).  His 1.97 ERA is fifth among National League relievers with at least 60 innings pitched.  His 2.9 WAR is the highest among relievers.  His WHIP ranks fifth among relievers.  By the way, Reed has made more appearances than the pitchers that are ahead of him in those categories.

This all speaks to how exceptional Reed has been in his role as the Mets eighth inning guy.  In fact, Reed’s 40 holds this season is the most in the majors.  In fact, it is 10 more than Kyle Barraclough who is in second place.  Reed is a huge reason why the Mets are close to unbeatable when they have the lead after seven innings.  In terms of a bullpen role, no one has done their job better than Reed, which is why he should be the Hoyt Wilhelm Award Winner.

2nd – Jeurys Familia

For the second straight season, Familia has been the most used, most durable, and best closer in the National League.

In 2016, Familia made more appearances, more innings pitched, and more saves than any other closer in all of baseball.  His 51 saves this season surpassed Francisco Cordero and Jose Valverde for the most saves in a single season by a Dominican born pitcher.  He has obliterated the Mets single season save record he once shared with Armando Benitez.  Keep in mind, a large part of his breaking the save records was because Familia kept the ball in the ballpark.  Over the course of the entire 2016 season, Familia has only allowed one home run.

Familia was also at his best when the Mets needed him to be at his best.  With the team needing each and every win possible in August and September, Familia was as dominant as he has ever been.  In that two month stretch, Familia made 27 appearances recording 14 saves with a 1.62 ERA, a 1.000 WHIP, and a 10.6 K/9 while limiting batters to a .186 batting average.

Overall, for the season, Familia was 3-4 with 51 saves, a 2.55 ERA, 1.210 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 161 ERA+, and a 2.39 FIP.  When you put up these numbers while your manager keeps throwing you into games without giving you much time off to rest, you have been the best closer in your league.  .

3rd – Seung-hwan Oh

Choosing the third reliever for this vote was a difficult task.  Both Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen, who both had outstanding years again as closers for postseason teams.  However, the nod here went to The Final Boss for a number of reasons.

First, Oh made the second more appearances than Melancon and Jansen. His 2.8 WAR was also the second highest WAR posted by any relief pitcher in the National League.  He also helped saved a Cardinals bullpen and season by first being a dominant set-up man, and then being a dominant closer once Trevor Rosenthal went down with injury.  As a closer, Oh was 4-3 with 19 saves, a 2.27 ERA, 0.958 WHIP, and an 11.3 K/9.  For the season Oh made 76 appearances going 6-3 with 19 saves, a 1.92 ERA, 0.916 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, 214 ERA+, and a 2.13 FIP.

With that, Oh was about as dominant a relief pitcher as there was in the National League.  With him mastering multiple roles, and his stepping up to fill a huge void for a Cardinals team in the thick of the Wild Card race, he deserves the last spot on the ballot.

Jeurys Familia Is Becoming the Mets Best Closer Ever

For an organization known for its pitching, it should come as no surprise that the Mets have had their fair share of good closers.  What may come as a surprise is that Jeurys Familia might just become better than them all.

The Mets first notable closer was Tug McGraw.  His contributions extend well past his coining the phrase “Ya Gotta Believe!”  Up until the 80’s, in a time when managers began to pitch to the save rule, McGraw was the Mets all-time leader with 86 saves.  He is also the only Mets to be a closer to for a team that won a World Series and a Pennant.  In 1969, he shared closing duties with Ron Taylor.  In 1973, he was not only the man, but in many ways, the vocal leader of the team.  The only record McGraw has remaining in the record books is most innings pitched by a Mets reliever  with 792.2 innings over his nine year Mets career.

The next Mets closer to appear in multiple postseasons was Jesse Orosco.  When discussing Orosco, there are always three things you need to mention: (1) he was part of the return the Mets received when they traded Jerry Koosman to the Twins; (2) Keith Hernandez warned him not to throw a fastball to Kevin Bass (he didn’t); and (3) his glove has still not landed.  After his eight year career was over, Orosco was both the Mets all-time leader in saves (107) and the Mets single season saves leader (31 in 1984).  To this day, he remains the only Mets closer to save a World series clinching game.

Orosco would eventually be surpassed by John Franco on both the saves list and the Mets all-time saves list.  Somewhat ironically, Franco’s entrance song was Johnny B. Goode as his ninth inning appearances were always a high wire act.  Still, throughout all of it, Franco has more saves by any left-handed closer in history with 424, and when he retired he was third on the all-time list trailing only Lee Smith and Trevor Hoffman.  Franco recorded 276 of those saves with the Mets.  His 276 saves are the Mets record by a fairly wide margin.

In fact, Franco leads Armando Benitez by 116 saves on the Mets all-time list.  Coincidentally, Benitez is the man who replaced Franco as the Mets closer in 1999.  With the Mets having made consecutive postseason appearances in 1999 and 2000, Benitez remains the only Mets closer to pitch in consecutive postseasons.  While Mets fans loved to hate him, Benitez did show flashes of complete and utter dominance.  As of right now, his 43 saves in 2001 still remains the Mets single season record.

However, that record is in jeopardy.  Last year, Jeurys Familia, in his first season as the Mets closer, tied Benitez’s single season record.  This year, he has tied it again en route to him most likely breaking the tie with Benitez.  With Familia having saved 43 games for consecutive seasons, he has already set the mark for most saves by a Mets closer in consecutive seasons.  Even with Familia only having been the Mets closer for one plus seasons, he now ranks fifth all-time with 92 saves as a Met.  With 16 more saves, he will jump both Orosco and Billy Wagner to put him third all-time.

If the Mets current charge continues, he could join Benitez as the only Mets closer to appear in back-to-back postseasons.  If the Mets get into the postseason, anything is possible including seeing Familia join Orosco as the only Mets pitcher to earn a save to close out the World Series.

That’s just the thing with Familia.  He’s already a great closer, and he’s already writing his name all over the Mets record books.  As long as he is the Mets closer, anything is possible.  It’s also possible that we could be watching the best closer in Mets history.

Reyes & Cabrera Spark the Offense Again

Much like last night, the Marlins would not have a lead against the Mets for very long. 

In the top of the first, Christian Yelich hit a two run homer off Seth Lugo giving the Marlins an early 2-0 lead. After that, Lugo would shut the Marlins down including robbing Ichiro Suzuki of a base hit to get out of the first. Lugo grabbed the ball dribbling down the line and threw a dart over Ichiro’s head. 

His final line was six innings, five hits, two runs, two earned, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera would set out to make sure Lugo got the win. With Cabrera playing after missing a game with a knee issue, the two once again served as sparks at the top of the lineup. They started immediately. 
After Reyes leadoff the bottom of the first with an infield single, Cabrera brought him home on a game tying two run homer. 

On the night, Reyes would go 4-5 with two runs and a double. Cabrera was 2-3 with a run, two RBI, a walk, and a homer. With them going like this, you can believe the Mets have what it takes to get back to the postseason.

The first inning rally would continue on a Jay Bruce double. Yes, that actually happened. He would then score on a Wilmer Flores RBI single. It was part of a big night for Flores who was 2-4 with a double and an RBI. 

Just like that, a Marlins lead became a 3-2 deficit. The Mets wouldn’t look back. 

After the first, the Mets kept threatening against Tom Koehler, but they couldn’t quite plate another run. Shocking, I know. The Mets not getting hits with runners in scoring position. 

Things changed in the sixth with Curtis Granderson hitting a pinch hit leadoff home run. It sparked a rally with the Mets loading the bases. Alejandro De Aza singled scoring Reyes making it 5-2, but that’s all the Mets would get that inning. 

On the De Aza single, Cabrera took a wide turn around third, but he did not appear as if he was really trying to score. Rather, it looked as if he was positioning himself in case there was a bobble or something. In any event, he tried to get back to third but he couldn’t because Bruce was standing there. 

Granderson would stay in the game and go to right. He would come back up in the seventh, and he would hit another home run. This was a two run shot scoring Rene Rivera making it a 7-2 game. 

With the Mets now having a big lead, Terry Collins decided to let Hansel Robles stay out there for a second inning because Collins is the only one who hasn’t figured out that Robles is overworked.Fortunately, Robles was able to pitch two scoreless helping to preserve the Mets win. 

The Mets had to turn to Jeurys Familia for the save as Jim Henderson just couldn’t lock down the 7-2 win. Henderson allowed a starting a J.T. Realmuto solo home run, a Jeff Francouer triple, and a Dee Gordon RBI single. Just like that it was a 7-4 game. Familia came in and put an end to the nonsense striking out Marcell Ozuna to record his 43rd save of the year tying the club record he shares with Armando Benitez

With the Mets second straight win against the Marlins, they are now a game ahead of them in the standings.  Things are starting to get interesting. 
Game Notes: Neil Walker missed the game with his lingering back injury. It’s now serious enough that Collins no longer believes Walker can play everyday. James Loney stayed consistent by going 0-3. Before the game, it was announced Steven Matz will not be ready to pitch when his disabled list stint is over because he is still having shoulder issues. 

Pennant Race: The Pirates are losing to the Cubs 3-0 in the seventh. The Cardinals are tied with the Brewers 1-1 in the eighth. The Nationals beat the Phillies 3-2. 

From Todd Hundley to Mike Piazza

The things we are willing to tell ourselves as fans can sometimes be quite outlandish.  Back in 1997, if you polled Mets fans, they would probably tell you they would rather have Todd Hundley than Mike Piazza.  Why not?

The two were the same age.  Both were All Stars in 1996 and 1997.  In those two years, Hundley had hit 71 homers to Piazza’s 76.  Hundley had 198 RBI to Piazza’s 229.  Hundley’s 53 doubles surpassed Piazza’s 48.  In fact, Hundley’s 127 extra base hits were actually two more than Piazza’s 125.  On top of that, Hundley was a switch hitter and a much better defensive catcher.  He was the homegrown Met that was afan favorite with his very own Todd Squad cheering section at Shea Stadium.  Hundley’s career was taking off, and he was seen by Mets fans as a newer version of Gay Carter.  When he returned from his elbow surgery in 1998, he was expected to once again be the slugging defensive minded catcher who was going to lead the Mets to the postseaon for this first time in a decade.  If you took a poll of Mets fans, they may begrudging admit Piazza was the better player, but overall, they would also state their belief that they would rather have Hundley as he was their guy.  It was all a moot point anyway because there was no way the Dodgers would ever get rid of Piazza.

Until they did.  There wasn’t a baseball fan alive in 1998 that was utterly shocked when Piazza was traded to the Florida Marlins along with future Met Todd Zeile for a package that included future Met Gary Sheffield and former/future Met Bobby Bonilla.  Once Piazza was a Marlin, the world over knew the team that sold everything except the copper wiring after winning the 1997 World Series was going to trade the impending free agent Piazza.  All of a sudden, the very same Mets fans who loved Hundley, desperately wanted Piazza.  Myself included.

It was certainly possible.  In that offseason, the Mets had acquired Al Leiter and Dennis Cook.  There was a reporte there.  Even with those trades, the Mets still had a good farm system headlined by Mookie Wilson‘s stepson, Preston Wilson, who could justifiable headline a Piazza trade.  Without Hundley, the team was languishing around .500, and they needed a shot in the arm if they were ever going to earn a postseason berth.  You could tell yourself that when Hundley got back he could either play left field in place of the struggling Bernard Gilkey or in right in place of another fan favorite, Butch Huskey.  At least, that is what you told yourself.

Amazing, it actually happened.  On May 22, 1998, the 24-20 Mets actually pulled off a trade to acquire Piazza.  Perhaps just as a amazing, when the Mets activated Hundley from the disabled list on July 22nd, they put him in left field.  Very rarely in life does things happen exactly as you imagined it would.  This did.

Except it didn’t.  While Piazza was originally greeted with a hero’s welcome, he would then become roundly booed by the very same fan base who was desperate to acquire him.  Hundley would be a disaster in left field.  As uncomfortable as he was in the field, he was equally uncomfortable at the plate hitting .162/.248/.252 with only one home run.  He eventually forced Bobby Valentine‘s hand, and he became the backup catcher to Piazza.  In retrospect, how could it have ever worked?  Piazza was a star in Los Angeles, which is nowhere near the hot bed New York was.  Hundley was a catcher out of the womb as he was taught the position by his father Randy Hundley.

But then on a September 16th game in the old Astrodome, it all worked according to plan.  In the top of the ninth, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Piazza, who had been 0-3 on the night, stepped in the box against Billy Wagner with two on and two out.  He would launch a go-ahead three run homer.  After Cook blew the save in the ninth, Hundley would be summoned to pinch hit in the top of the 11th.  He would hit a game winning home run.  It would be the first and only time Piazza and Hundley would homer in the same game.  In fact, it was Hundley’s last homer as a Met.  At that point, the Mets seemed to have control of the Wild Card, but they would eventually fall apart, thanks in LARGE part to Mel Rojas, and they would just miss out on the postseason.

Going into that offseason, the Mets had to make a choice.  Do you stick with your guy Hundley behind the plate, or do you bring back Piazza.  To everyone’s delight, the Mets made Piazza the highest paid player in the game giving him a seven year $91 million dollar contract.  When the Mets re-signed him, the Mets seemed assured of returning to the postseason.

And they did with the help of both Piazza and Hundley.  With Piazza back in the fold, the Mets had to move Hundley.  That spurned two shrewd moves by Steve Phillips that helped build a supporting cast around their superstar.  Hundley was traded for Roger Cedeno and Charles Johnson, the same Johnson who was traded by the Marlins to acquire Piazza.  Cedeno would spend 1999 being tutored by Rickey Henderson, and he would set the then Mets single season record for stolen bases while manning right field.  Phillips would then flip Johnson for Armando Benitez, who would become a dominant closer out of the bullpen.

Piazza was dominant that year.  He hit .301/.361/.575 with 40 homers, a Mets right-handed batter single season record, and 124 RBI, which is the Mets single season record.  He led the Mets throught the play-in game and into the NLCS.  His seventh inning opposite field home run off John Smoltz in Game Six of the NLCS tied the game at 7-7.  In a game they once trailed 5-0 and 7-3 and a series they had trailed three games to none, it seemed like the Mets were on the verge of pulling off the impossible.  With a Kenny Rogers walk, they didn’t.  The Mets came so close to making the World Series, but they fell short.  Even with as much as Piazza gave them, they would need more in order to make it to their first World Series since 1986 and to play in consecutive postseasons in team history.

Amazingly, Piazza had another gear.  He would hit .324/.398/.614 with 38 homers and 113 RBI.  It remains the highest slugging percentage in team history.  The 78 homers and 237 RBI over two years stands as the team records over a two year stretch.  He would tie the Mets single season record with three grand slams.  In 2000, the Mets would go to the World Series, and they would fall agonizingly close as his shot to center field fell just short of tying the game.

It was a start to an amazing Mets career and part of a Hall of Fame career.  Before Piazza left the Mets after the 2005 season, he would hold many records.  He would have the most home runs by any right-handed Mets batter and second most all time to Darryl Strawberry.  He would also be second to Strawberry in team RBI.  He would be passed by David Wright in those catergories.  However, Wright wouldn’t pass Piazza in some other catergories.  Piazza has the third highest team batting average, and he has the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.  He would also hit the most home runs all time by a catcher surpassing Johnny Bench.  It was one of many memorable home runs in Piazza’s time with the Mets, which included the June 30, 2000 home run capping a 10 run eighth inning rally that saw the Mets overcome an 8-1 deficit against the Braves, and the most important home run he would ever hit:

Now, Piazza is going to be a Hall of Famer.  He is going to be a Hall of Famer in a Mets uniform.  It never seemed possible.

Years ago, Mets fans would’ve picked Hundley over Piazza.  Almost twenty years later, Piazza chose us when he chose to enter the Hall of Fame as a New York Met joining Tom Seaver as the only Mets in the Hall of Fame.  It was an incredible ride that has seen Piazza become perhaps the most beloved Met to ever wear the uniform.  He deserves that love and much more.  He deserves every congratulation and accolade the Mets, Mets fans, and all of baseball can throw his way.

Thank you Mike Piazza.

 

Mets Do Not Need Bullpen Help

As the trade deadline approaches, every team usually states that they need bullpen help, and those that are true contenders usually add an extra arm or two to the bullpen.  For example, back in 1999, one of the biggest strengths for a Mets team fighting for the NL East and the Wild Card was their bullpen.  Armando Benitez had taken over the closer role much earlier than anticipated.  Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook were having excellent seasons.  Pat Mahomes was a revelation as the long man in the bullpen.  Ex-closer John Franco was expected to return form injury to help with the playoff push.  Greg McMichael was having an off year, but he had previously been a valuable bullpen arm in a pennant race from his days with the Atlanta Braves.  On top of that, the Mets had some young promising arms to go to down the stretch with Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel (even if Bobby Valentine thought they were better suited and belonged in the rotation).  Overall, the point being is the Mets did not need bullpen help.

Even with that being the case, a Mets team that was very active during the trade deadline made sure to acquire another arm for the bullpen by sending McMichael and Isringhausen for Billy Taylor.  It turns out Billy Taylor was washed up, and he would not even be on the postseason roster thereby forcing the Mets to make do with the already good bullpen pieces they had.  The Mets find themselves in a similar position than the 1999 Mets did.

The Mets bullpen is led to Jeurys Familia who is the best closer in the game. When needed, Familia can pitch two innings to get the big save that the Mets need.  The primary eighth inning set-up man has been Addison Reed, who is only sporting a 2.26 ERA and a 0.912 WHIP.  This duo has only lost one lead that has been given to them this year in 32 attempts.  Behind them is Hansel Robles who has done everything the Mets have needed in the bullpen.  He can come out and bail the Mets out of a bases loaded no out jam or pitch 3.2 terrific innings to save a Mets bullpen from a first inning injury to a starting pitcher.  Jerry Blevins has been an extremely effective LOOGY allowing lefties to hit .210/.269/.310.  By the way, he has been even better against righties limiting them to a .107/.188/.214 batting line.

Behind these pitchers are some very solid options.  There is Jim Henderson, who was great before Terry Collins abused his arm.  Henderson is currently in AAA on a rehab assignment.  Seth Lugo has been absolutely terrific out of the bullpen in his two appearances.  However, it is only two appearances, and there still remains a (remote) chance that he may wind up in the starting rotation with the Matt Harvey injury.  There is Erik Goeddel, who even despite one poor performance this season, still has a career 2.75 ERA and a 1.054 WHIP.  There is still Sean Gilmartin, who was an essential part of the Mets bullpen last year.  He is a starter in AAA, but if the Mets are that desperate for major league relief help that they will swing a trade, they should pull up a known quantity to help the team where he is needed.

If the Mets will consider calling up players from the minors, there are some good options in AAA.  Josh Edgin has a 2.45 ERA in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.  Paul Sewald has taken over as the closer, and he has recorded nine saves.  There is always the alluring Josh Smoker, who is having a down year but still sports a mid-nineties fastball.

Finally, in addition to all of these players, there is still Antonio Bastardo, who is going nowhere.  It is doubtful a rebuilding team will want to add him into the mix with his high salary and poor production.  The Mets are stuck with him, and they are going to be stuck with him for the full season, regardless of whether they make another move to add a reliever or not.  In essence, Bastardo is the reason why people mistakenly believe the Mets need bullpen help.  With that in mind, the best thing the Mets can do is to find a way to get Bastardo back on track.  That will help the Mets bullpen more than them adding another reliever.

Overall, the Mets bullpen is in fine shape with four outstanding relievers and plenty of good options behind them.  The Mets do not need a reliever.  They need to fix Bastardo since he’s going to be here whether or not the Mets make a trade.  With that in mind, the Mets should leave the bullpen as is and turn their attention to the teams other needs at the trade deadline.

You Can Trust Jeurys Familia Is Getting the Save

Normally, I’m much more in tune with a Mets game than I was last night. Generally speaking, no matter where I am, I’m getting play-by-play someway, somehow. I didn’t last night because I was at the Brooklyn Cyclones game with my family, and courtesy of Nicco Blank, we had great seats:

  
Being that close, especially with an active toddler, we had to be on high alert foul balls  in the stands:

  
Courtesy of Blake Tiberi

In any event, by the time we got to the car, I knew little about the game. I knew Bartolo Colon started the game. I knew Neil Walker hit a two run homer. I knew the Mets were up 4-3. I was just fuzzy on the rest of the who, what, where, when, or why about the other five runs that scored. 

There was another thing I knew. Jeurys Familia was going to close it out. 

So far this year, Familia is a perfect 28 for 28 in save chances. He has a career 2.49 ERA, 1.182 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9. He has a career 149 ERA+. He’s consistent. He’s durable. He’s the best closer in the National League, and he’s amongst the best in baseball. As a fan, he’s a closer that gives you confidence. That’s a rare feeling for Mets fans. 

Sure, John Franco usually got the job done as evidenced by his 424 career saves. That’s the most for a lefty closer. That’s also 424 times he gave some poor Mets fan a heart attack for his Houdini acts. 

He was supplanted by Armando Benitez. Benitez was as dominant as they come unless he was facing Pat BurrellPaul O’Neill, the Braves, or any team in the Month of September or October. 

Billy Wagner was tremendous until he faced the immortal So TaguchiJesse Orosco and Roger McDowell were a bit before my time. 

About the only closer I can come up with during my time I had any confidence in was Randy Myers. Back in 1988 and 1989, he was great as the Mets closer. You had confidence when he took the mound. It was the opposite feeling when the Mets brought in Franco to start the 1990 season as the closer. It began a 14 year high wire act that was followed with the Benitez’s and the Braden Looper‘s of the world. 

It’s been 18 years since the Mets had a closer they can trust not to give everyone a minor stroke when they take the mound. Familia is different than his predecessors. When Familia enters the game in a save situation, he’s getting the save.  He typically does it without giving you a heart attack. When he enters the game, you know he’s converting the save. 

It’s about the one thing I knew for certain about the Mets game yesterday. 

The Mets Shortstops Came Up Big

When the lineup was announced, the main reaction everyone had was “HOW CAN YOU START MATT REYNOLDS IN LEFTFIELD!”  Matt Reynolds never played in the outfield in his professional career, and the Mets were sitting Michael Conforto against Danny Duffy, the pitcher off whom he hit a home run against in the World Series.  In the bottom of the sixth, Reynolds made Terry Collins look like a genius with his first career home run:

  
His homerun broke the 3-3 tie, and it put Noah Syndergaard in position for a win after what was an uneven outing.

The Mets other three runs were courtesy of the Mets other shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera, who actually played shortstop today.  In the fourth, he scored off a James Loney two out RBI single with a nifty slide:

 
In the top of the fifth that 1-0 lead would quickly evaporte when Syndergaard allowed Chelsor Cuthbert to hit a solo home run.  The Royals continued the rally, and they would eventually went ahead 2-1 on a Whit Merrifield RBI single scoring Jarrod Dyson.  This meant Cabrera would have to go back to work by hitting a go-ahead two run home run (scoring Curtis Granderson).

Syndergaard had a rough sixth inning.  He got Rene Rivera crossed-up not once but twice.  One of them went for a wild pitch moving Salvador Perez to third.  He would score on a Paulo Orlando RBI single tying the game at three.  The Mets would go ahead for good on the aforementioned Reynolds’ home run.

In the eighth, Cabrera would leave his impression on the game AGAIN with a great stab and behind the back throw to get the force out at second. 

  
It would help Addison Reed pitch a scoreless eighth. Jeurys Familia pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve the 4-3 win. With that save, Familia is now tied with Armando Benitez for most consecutive saves to start a season (24). 

After the stretch the Mets went through, including getting swept by the dreadful Braves, you would feel terrific after sweeping a two game set against the team that beat you in the World Series.  However, there remains some trepidation as Yoenis Cespedes had to leave the game with an apparent wrist injury after his walk in the fifth.  He was replaced by Alejandro De Aza, who may be set to get more playing time in center if Cespedes needs to miss any period of time.  Given the way De Aza has played this year, it is an not all too enticing proposition. 

With that said, there’s nothing left to do but enjoy this win while waiting with baited breath for the Cespedes news. By the way, we still don’t know about Zack Wheeler and his elbow. Good times. 

Game Notes: Jerry Blevins continues to put up zeroes: