First and foremost, we all know the ideal 2019 World Series would involve the Mets beating whichever American League team won the pennant. As it stands, the 2019 World Series winner is not going to be an ideal situation for Mets fans. To that end, here’s a ranking on what Mets fans would probably like to see happen.
The Mets and Astros broke into the Majors together in 1962. Through that time, the only time these two franchises ever really clashed was the 1986 NLCS. In the NLCS, there were (proven) allegations Mike Scott was scuffing the ball. Fortunately, thanks to a miracle rally in Game 6 and Keith Hernandez threatening Jesse Orosco if he threw another fastball, the Mets prevailed in that series.
Really, if you want to be sour grapes about the Astros, you could pinpoint how an Astros World Series would cement their status as a better expansion franchise than the Mets. Still, when you see the other options, that is the least of Mets fans concerns.
The Washington Nationals franchise began in 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos. Before the time the Expos moved to Washington, the only real issue you’d have is the Expos taking out the Mets in 1998 ending their Wild Card dreams. Of course, with the Expos sending the Mets Gary Carter in 1985, you could overlook it.
Really, if you look deeper, there isn’t much to the Mets/Nationals rivalry. The two teams have only been good together in three seasons. In 2015, the Mets embarrassed a Nationals team who choked figuratively, and thanks to Jonathon Papelbon attacking Bryce Harper, they literally choked too.
In 2016, Daniel Murphy tipped the power balance between the two teams, but that still didn’t keep the Mets out of the postseason. After that season, the Nationals would remain a competitive team while the Mets fell by the wayside.
This year, the two teams were good again with some memorable games. The August 10th game was a real highlight for the Mets with Luis Guillorme‘s pinch hit homer followed by J.D. Davis‘ sacrifice fly to give the Mets an exciting victory. Of course, the less said the better about Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, Edwin Diaz, Ryan Zimmerman, and Kurt Suzuki, the better.
New York Yankees
Putting aside Yankee fans crowing about all the rings won back in the days of the reserve clause and the game being integrated, there is enough history between these teams to despite the Yankees. There’s Derek Jeter being named the MVP of the 2000 World Series. As bad as the blown game against the Nationals was, Luis Castillo dropping Alex Rodriguez leading to Mark Teixeira scoring the winning run arguably felt all the worse.
Since Interleague Play started, this has been an intense rivalry with the Mets having a number of low moments. Aside from these, there was Mariano Rivera being walked to force in a run, Johan Santana having a career worst start, and everything Roger Clemens. Really, Clemens throwing a ball and bat at Mike Piazza with the Yankees who once accused Clemens of head hunting rushing to his defense is sufficient enough to hate them.
Of course, we then have Joe Torre, who has been the one who not only delivers the message but also defends Major League Baseball not allowing the Mets to wear the First Responders’ caps on 9/11.
St. Louis Cardinals
The so-called “Best Fans in Baseball” called the New York Mets teams of the 1980s pond scum. That’s how intense this rivalry was, and really, continues to be.
Going back to the 1980s, this was as intense a rivalry as there was in baseball. You can pinpoint to any number of plays and player like Terry Pendleton, John Tudor, and so much more. Even with realignment, this rivalry never truly subdued. The Mets got the better of the Cardinals with Timo Perez, Edgardo Alfonzo, and NLCS MVP Mike Hampton running roughshod over the Cardinals.
In 2006, Adam Wainwright freezing Carlos Beltran is forever crystalized into everyone’s minds. Beyond that was Scott Spiezio‘s game tying RBI triple off Guillermo Mota (why did he shake off Paul Lo Duca) and So Taguchi‘s homer off Billy Wagner. There was much more including Albert Pujols trash talking Tom Glavine (back when that was a bad thing).
Overall, the absolute worst case scenario is a Cardinals-Yankees World Series. Really, Yankees against anyone is the worst case scenario. Of course, that is the worst case for this World Series. The real worst case is seeing what Brodie Van Wagenen has in store as he tries to top trading away Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz.
When analyzing the Mets acquisition of Wilmer Font, it is important to start with who Font is before turning to what exactly the Mets parted with to obtain him. When it comes to Font, the Mets really obtained a duplicative asset who wasn’t of much, if any, value.
Font is a 29 year old reliever with a career 6.39 ERA, 1.493 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9, and a 7.7 K/9. He has a career -0.3 WAR He has never made more than 19 appearances or pitched more than 44.0 innings. Last year, he pitched for three teams. That’s the way it usually goes for players with tantalizing talent who cannot translate their success to the Major League level.
He certainly tantalized the Rays last year with a 1.67 ERA (with peripherals which screamed regression) in nine appearances for them last year. Of course, the real Font returned this year. In 10 appearances for the Rays, he had a 5.79 ERA with a 3.2 BB/9. With him being out of options, it would appear it was only a matter of time before Font was designated for assignment than being a trade asset.
As we know, the Mets would step in and make a trade for Font. Despite having Corey Oswalt and Chris Flexen, two pitchers with comparable stats to Font, the Mets made the trade for Font. Instead of signing Hector Santiago, and touting him as a former All Star, the Mets made a trade for Font. Instead of calling up Casey Coleman, a pitcher with better results at the Major League level in his career, and who was showing he was capable of being that three inning reliever Font truly is, the Mets swung a trade.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. The Mets were well within their rights to prefer Font over the pitchers they already had. Certainly, F0nt’s ability to be plugged in right away helped his case. While that may be the case, the point to remember here is Font is a bad Major League pitcher with no value whatsoever.
The Mets then traded an asset for Font. The asset was an 18 year old pitcher named Neraldo Catalina.
Now, not much is known about Catalina other than his age and the fact he signed for $150,000 out of the Dominican Republic. Yesterday, Mets Minors had a write up on him. Basically, Catalina is a power arm with a strong build who was going to debut stateside this year.
There are any number of potential outcomes with Catalina. He could be like any number of teenage pitchers who sign out of the Dominican Republic who don’t pan out to be anything. It’s certainly possible he could be nothing more than a footnote listed in the transaction portion of Font’s Baseball Reference page. He could also pan out to be like Jeurys Familia, who had signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic back in 2007.
But that’s the thing, Catalina has the potential to be anything. He’s an asset, and it’s why the Mets used their bonus pool money to obtain him. After all, if the team didn’t think he was worth anything, they wouldn’t have given him anything.
It’s the same exact situation with Felix Valerio. Does anyone really know what the Mets had in Valerio? Probably not, but the problem is the Mets are included in that group of people. As reported by Fangraphs, the Mets don’t scout beneath full-season ball. This means players like Valerio, who played in the Dominican Summer League, aren’t scouted by the Mets. Considering short season affiliates have not yet started their seasons, the Mets supposedly revamped front office has not had the opportunity to self scout players like Valerio or Catalina.
To make matters worse, the Mets are trading players of whom they have little to no knowledge for players who are out of options and are on the brink of getting cut. It was Catalina for Font, and it was Valerio for Keon Broxton, who has been terrible. Yes, the Mets also gave up Bobby Wahl and Adam Hill in the Broxton deal, but that’s also the point. They included Valerio in a deal where Wahl and Hill should have been sufficient.
Should fans be up in arms over losing Catalina? Maybe. We honestly don’t know. He could be great,and he could be terrible. With him not pitching one inning in the Mets organization, no one can know anything for certain. But that’s also the point here. The Mets don’t know what they have in these players, and they are trading them anyway.
They’re doing it because they’ve become very short-sighted in their win-now mentality. That’s odd considering that mentality which does not extend to signing Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel or to guaranteeing a rotation spot to Gio Gonzalez over a terrible Jason Vargas. The Mets are also doing it because they’re playing the odds that even if Catalina does eventually succeed it will be so remote in time that no one is going to immediately link Catalina to Font or the Mets.
In the end, Catalina is a symptom of a problem. This trade is an example of the poor depth the Mets built this past offseason. It’s a further indication the team not only is unaware of the value of their assets, they also don’t understand the value of bottom of the roster players on the trade front. Mostly, it’s another sign of how the team is more than willing to do away with organizational depth and talent instead of actually spending the money which was required to build the team into the “Come get us!” team the Mets advertised themselves to be.
There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.
When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:
Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.
Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.
Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.
And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.
This offseason, the Mets have begun hiring some former fan favorites as special advisors to Brodie Van Wagenen. David Wright was the first with the team recently hiring Al Leiter and John Franco. We have also seen the team swap Nelson Figueroa with Todd Zeile for the postgame. In addition to those moves, Mike Piazza made his annual stop at Spring Training.
Seeing how the Mets are focusing more on their history, and recent history at that, you wonder who exactly the team will bring back next. We answer that question in our latest roundtable:
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
I want to see Justin Turner come back and play third base.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
My list of ex-Mets I’d welcome back in some capacity is too numerous to detail. I love the idea that these guys are forever part of the family as applicable.
Tim Ryder (MMO)
I’d like to see Carlos Delgado back representing the Mets in some capacity. His dedication to his craft (remember that notebook he wrote in after every at-bat?) would play well in this young-ish clubhouse, as well as through the organization.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
Does Jarred Kelenic count?
Really though, this is more of an overall thought than a concrete idea, but Billy Wagner is one of the least-recognized greats in baseball history. By pretty much any measure he’s the second best modern-style closer of all time, and he’s already pretty much forgotten. I’m not sure the Mets should be the ones to honor him, but someone needs to.
Previously, I opined how Johan Santana could be a real difference maker in the organization if he were able to teach pitchers his changeup much in the same way he once did with Jacob deGrom. However, from a pure standpoint of wanting to bring a player back into the fold, I would like to see Carlos Beltran return to the Mets.
As it stands, Beltran is going to be in a position where he can choose a Royals, Mets, or a blank cap when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. When you’re the Mets, and you only have two Hall of Famers in Tom Seaver and Piazza, and Seaver is no longer making public appearances, it would see a team should do all they can do to bring one of those Hall of Famers back to Queens.
Once again, I appreciate each of these writers taking their time to contribute to these roundtables, and I hope each person who reads this takes the time to visit the other writers sites to see their excellent work.
Today, we would not have seen Jerry Blevins come to the Mets, at least not in the fashion he did. On the eve of the 2015 season, the Mets would trade Matt den Dekker to the Nationals for Blevins. With that trade, the upstart Mets would have the LOOGY they needed to challenge the Nationals for the division. Looking at the way things are now, that trade would never happen today.
We can be thankful things were different in 2015.
Blevins Mets career would get off to a great start. In April, he made seven appearances pitching five scoreless innings. During that stretch, he got out a who’s who of players Mets fans have loved to hate – Bryce Harper, Ryan Howard, Freddie Freeman, and Chase Utley. With that, Blevins certainly endeared himself to Mets fans.
Unfortunately, Blevins would get hit with a come-backer breaking his arm. While rehabbing, he’d slip on a curb and break his arm again meaning he’d miss out on the Mets surprising 2015 run to the World Series, a run he’d help get started with his performance in April. He would not miss the next run as he would be a key member of the Mets bullpen in 2016.
During the 2016 season, Blevins was much more than the LOOGY we all imagined him to be. No, Blevins was a pitcher who could get both right and left-handed batters out. He became a guy you could entrust the 7th or 8th inning. During that season, the Mets had a very small margin of error, and his pitching in the same bullpen with Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia helped pull the Mets over the finish line and into the top Wild Card spot.
Blevins contributions were immeasurably important for a team who claimed a Wild Card spot by just one game. One or two slip-ups, and the Mets may not have even been in contention for a spot. That goes double in July and August when the Mets were teetering, and Blevins responded with a 1.88 ERA.
While Blevins would continue to pitch well for the Mets in 2017 and 2018, the Mets would not be able to continue what was a two year run. In total, Blevins was a Met for four years, and in that time, he was 14-4 with four saves, a 3.38 ERA, 1.269 WHIP, and a 10.8 K/9.
Breaking it down, his K/9 is the third best all-time among Mets relievers. When you consider Tug McGraw, John Franco, and Billy Wagner, he’s in the top five Mets left-handed relievers all time. Really, when you look at pure left-handed set-up men, the discussion is between him and Pedro Feliciano for the best in Mets history. That’s a truly amazing feat.
But Blevins was more than that. He was as fan friendly a player as you will see. He hosted a Fantasy Movie League for fans to participate. He had a fun Twitter account. He hosted a baseball camp. He had a good sense of humor, was self effacing, and really was just a great guy on top of being very good at what he did:
They sent the ball straight to Cooperstown. https://t.co/ZKALlvQGP4
— Jerry Blevins (@jerryblevins) August 17, 2018
In the end, Blevins will not just be missed because he was one of the best relievers in Mets history. He will be missed because he was a fun guy to root for during his time in Queens. He was that rare player who elevated his game in New York. He now returns to Oakland a new father looking to do for the Athletics what he did for the Mets.
For many reasons, Mets fans wish him the best of luck.
Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Harold Baines – that is the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame class. It is the largest Hall of Fame class this century, and it is the largest Hall of Fame class since 1964 when there were seven players inducted into the Hall of Fame.
It is quite the interesting class made all the more interesting by the surprise choices of the Veterans’ Committe (or whatever they call themselves now) and because of the fact Rivera became the first ever player unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame. It should be noted there were rumors about Lou Gehrig who was inducted in a special election after his ALS diagnosis and retirement.
Another reason why this Hall of Fame class is so interesting is because it has lowered the bar for future Hall of Fame elections.
When looking at starting pitchers, the average Hall of Famer had a 73.4 WAR, 50.1 WAR7, and 61.8 JAWS. Put another way, your average Hall of Fame pitcher had a strong and prolonged peak surrounded by seasons where he was a good starting pitcher.
Of course, those numbers are derived almost by accident. Before modern voting, voters would elect anyone who hit the magic number of 300 wins. Other factors like Cy Young awards, 20 win seasons, ERA, strikeouts, and other standards would apply. That said, as we have moved into this current era of voting, more advanced statistics are used to adjudge candidates.
In fact, it was the justification to push for the election of Bert Blyleven. For his part, Blyleven amassed a 95.0 WAR in his career putting him well above the threshold. His induction also paved the way for someone like Mussina to get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In his career, Mussina only had 20 wins once, and that was in the final year of his career. Mussina never won a Cy Young award and was never in the top three. He was just a five time All-Star. Belying those numbers was greatness. Mussina had an 83.0 WAR and a 130 ERA+. Simply put, he was great, and it was due to modern numbers we have been able to recognize that greatness and see a push for his induction.
The questionable candidate is Halladay, who actually garnered a higher percent of the vote than Mussina. Behind Halladay’s two Cy Young Awards and no-hitter in the 2010 NLDS was a pitcher who fell short of the Hall of Fame standards. His 64.3 WAR and 57.5 JAWS was close but below standards. It should be noted his 50.6 WAR7 did crack the list making him a more than justifiable, albeit borderline candidate.
The Hall of Fame isn’t harmed inducting a player of Halladay’s caliber, especially with his peak years meeting the standard. What is curious is how someone who should’ve been a borderline candidate was inducted on the first ballot with 85.4 percent of the vote while Mussina, a better pitcher over his career, barely cleared the 75 percent threshold in his sixth year on the ballot.
With respect to Rivera, there was no doubt he was a Hall of Famer. He’s the All-Time leader in saves, and he has all the postseason exploits to bolster his case. He also leads all relievers in baseball history in WAR, WAR7, JAWS, and entrance music. He was clearly the greatest at what he did, and there was no debate. Literally, there is no debate as he received 100 percent of the vote.
Where things became dubious was the election of Smith. During his time, Smith was a feared closer who had the most saves in baseball history until he was surpassed by Trevor Hoffman, who was another dubious selection.
When it came to Smith and Hoffman, the cases were basically made on the amount of saves and superlatives like dominating. However, in the grand scheme of things, they didn’t measure up to other great relievers. Respectively, each fell far short of the 38.1 WAR, 26.5 WAR7, and 32.3 JAWS the average Hall of Fame reliever had amassed.
Inducting both Hoffman and Smith has lowered the bar to the point where we cannot be sure where it is going. Is it going to be a 475 career saves standard asking to 300 wins or 3,000 hits? Who knows? But at a certain point, someone is going to have to figure out the line because with recent inductions, Billy Wagner‘s case is all the more justified as are cases for players overlooked in voting like John Franco and Jeff Reardon. Coincidentally, at one time Reardon battled back-and-forth with Smith to claim that all-time saves record.
As troubling as that may be, the election of the designated hitters into the Hall of Fame may be the most troubling.
Looking at the proverbial magic numbers, neither Martinez nor Baines clears the mark despite both of their job duties being JUST hitting. Previous Hall of Famers who spent more time at DH than as a fielder, Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor, did clear each of those marks with Thomas having over 500 homers and Molitor having over 3,000 hits.
For both hitters, there have been cases spelled out, but at their core, they were just hitters, which should thereby negate any argument over whether defense should count against someone like Jeff Kent.
It should be noted Kent had more games played, hits, doubles, triples, homers, RBI, stolen bases, and sacrifice flies than Martinez despite playing one fewer year. He had more doubles and stolen bases with having a better batting average and slugging percentage than Baines while having the same OBP. Yet, somehow voters are not enticed to vote for Kent because he had poor defense, and he was cranky with the media.
Ponder that for a moment, Kent put up all-time great numbers at second base including being the all-time leader in homers as a second baseman, but he’s not going into the Hall of Fame now because he was a poor defender. Meanwhile, Martinez and Baines are being rewarded for just hitting and never having to field.
As bad as that may seem for Kent, who cannot find a way to crack 18.1 percent in his sixth year on the ballot, imagine how Fred McGriff feels. Like Kent, he was dinged for defense and even base running, and yet, he’s not a Hall of Famer despite hitting nearly 500 homers and being one of the most clutch hitters all-time.
While they’re overlooked, Larry Walker and his seven Gold Gloves and an OPS+ just behind Martinez’s is being penalized for playing in Coors Field. Of course, Martinez is not facing the same penalty for playing in the Kingdome. Same thing can be said for Andruw Jones and his 1o Gold Gloves and 434 homers. Really, we have discovered defense does not matter whatsoever even if Walker has a higher WAR than Martinez.
The point is the Hall of Fame standards have been driven down. You no longer have to be among the greatest relievers of all-time. You just have to be good in your era. You don’t have to be a complete ballplayer. You just have to hit. That’s a lowering of standards, and if those standards are now universally applied, there should be a bevy of previously borderline or overlooked candidates who should now be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps more than any season, there is a sense of sadness which washed upon me when the 2018 season ended. Perhaps, it was because my father is another year older, and I have yet to truly experience the Mets winning the World Series with him. Maybe it is because my son follows the game a little bit more and he is starting to become attached to some players, and those players are up in limbo.
There is the sadness with David Wright leaving. He was the most beloved Mets player in history, and he was arguably the best position player this organization has ever produced. He was a Met for his entire career, and he ended his career the right way – on the field. Unfortunately, that career did not end with him winning a World Series.
Past Wright, there are question marks about some other players. Is this the last time Wilmer Flores ever wore a Mets uniform? Are we just waiting for him to shed tears when he is wearing another team’s uniform? Could we have already seen the last of Travis d’Arnaud? How about Juan Lagares? With him in the last year of his deal, he is certainly more tradeable, and there should be savvy teams lining up to acquire his defense. Is he just destined to go somewhere else where the will be able to finally put it all together? Will a new General Manager come in and opt to start a rebuild that would likely begin with trading Jacob deGrom?
Honestly, will Yoenis Cespedes ever be able to play again? He has only had one of the two heel surgeries he needed. Whenever you see a report on him, no one seems to be able to pinpoint a date he can play next year. At some point, you have to question if he will ever really be able to play. That seems like such a big departure from the larger than life figure he has been since joining the Mets.
Really, when you look around the 2015 Mets team we loved so dearly has been slowly trickling away. Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia were traded away this year. Addison Reed, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson were traded away last season. Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Daniel Murphy are distant memories. Bartolo Colon is off making goofy barbecue ads in Texas. Sandy Alderson, the man who orchestrated it all, “took a leave of absence” because he is battling cancer.
What we have left is good, really good. We have seen Brandon Nimmo be the player the Mets hoped he would be when he was drafted. After concerns about his shoulder, Michael Conforto was once again Michael Conforto in the second half. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half of the season, and Jeff McNeil seemingly came out of nowhere.
We watched deGrom reach a level we never thought possible making him a sure Cy Young award winner. Zack Wheeler went from enigma to ace. Steven Matz actually made 30 starts. Finally, Noah Syndergaard seemed to return to form as the season drew to a close. This is reminiscent of the pitching of 2015, pitching which led the Mets to a World Series.
Looking at it, the Mets had the best ERA in the majors in the second half (2.97), and they had the best record in the division in the second half (38-30). When you combine the finish with the start, you can see there is a World Series contender somewhere in the fabric of that clubhouse. In order for that to happen, the Wilpons are going to have to go out there and get the pieces necessary to put this team over the top. If they were to do so, it would be the first time since they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in 2005, and added Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado the subsequent offseason.
Making bold moves like that to this core WILL put this team over the top, especially since Mickey Callaway and his staff grew during the season and showed they can be a coaching staff who can win you a World Series.
There’s a hesitation there. After Madoff, no Mets fan can really be assured this team is going to make the bold moves they need to take this roster over the top. Whatever hope you had was dashed when Jeff Wilpon told us all it was really Sandy Alderson who refused to spend and limited the size of the analytics department.
Thinking back, you realize this is partially why Wright retired without a ring. Sure, the Shea Stadium days were different. The Mets did add the aforementioned players, and they did make the Johan Santana trade. But after that? Well, it was Madoff and always finding themselves one or two players short. After all, the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons partially because the team believed Eric Campbell, and his major league minimum salary, was part of the solution.
In the end, this is a really likeable team. Watching Nimmo, Conforto, Rosario, deGrom, Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and the rest of this Mets team, you can’t help but like and root for these guys. They are what makes being a Mets fan great. We don’t want to see deGrom, who looks to take up Wright’s mantle as the next great Mets player, leave Flushing without a ring. That can’t happen.
In the end, the ending of the 2018 season was a sad one. Hopefully, that sadness will quickly subside as the Mets go forth and seize the opportunity that is here. Hopefully, the 2019 season is going to be the year we finally see the Mets win another World Series. I hope so because I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to celebrate it with all of my loved ones.
The Mets Fan
How You Became a Mets Fan
My entire family consists of Mets fans, so I was always surrounded by the team in some capacity. I remember going to games at Shea and cheering on my first favorite Met, Billy Wagner.
Favorite Mets Player
Brandon Nimmo. I think his attitude and approach toward the game is one that all players should emulate.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
Wilmer Flores’ walkoff home run against the Nationals in 2015. The whole season was something out of a fairytale; I wish I could take that magic and bottle it somehow.
Message to Mets Fans
When the going gets tough, try to put things in perspective. While the Mets have caused me a tremendous amount of sadness over the years, they have introduced me to some of my closest friends and even brought me some wonderful opportunities. I’m very grateful to be a part of this community of fans.
With the Mets 2018 season beginning today, we are all hopeful that this will be the first Mets team since 1986 to win a World Series. If history is any judge, fans will depart Citi Field with that feeling as the New York Mets do have the best winning percentage on Opening Day. Whether the good feelings and warm memories continue from there is anyone’s guess.
As you look to turn on the television or head to the ballpark, we thought we would share some of our Opening Day memories with you in the latest edition of the Mets Blogger Roundtable.
Roger Cormier (Good Fundies & Fangraphs)
Two words: Collin Cowgill (That’s not my actual answer)
I think I’m going to cheat here. The first game that came to mind for favorite Opening Day memory was the Mets’ home opener in 2000. It was their first game played in North America, if that helps? The Mets split a two-game set in Japan the week before and then faced off against the Padres at Shea, and I was there. It was my first time attending a home opener, and I had to bend the rules that day too, seeing as I was, technically speaking, scheduled to continue my high school education that afternoon. A couple of friends and I cut class, took the 2/3, transferred to the 7, sauntered up to the ticket window, bought four tickets, and enjoyed a 2-1 victory. I brazenly put the schedule magnet giveaway on the refrigerator, and as far as I know was never caught. Please do not tell my mother.
My favorite Opening Day memory was Tom Seaver‘s 1983 Opening Day start. It was tremendous.
The details of Seaver’s homecoming were detailed in this Sports Illustrated piece.
This one has me stumped since I have not been to a Mets opening day since the Shea days. One that stands out is the chilly home opener for Tom Glavine. A 15-2 Mets loss I believe. Good times.
I cut school to go to Opening Day in 1980. My mother wrote a note to the teacher saying “sorry my son was absent. He went to Opening Day. P.S. the Mets won 5-2.” The teacher let me off the hook but only because the Mets won. I cut school in 1983 to see Seaver’s return as a Met. I cut school in 1988 to see Darryl Strawberry hit a HR on Opening Day, then left early to get back to theater rehearsal, and I had to platoon style elbow crawl my way under the director so she wouldn’t know I was gone. Luckily they never got to my scene yet so I was out of trouble. Until we left for the day and the director said “How was the game?” As many times as I cut school for Opening Day, it’s a wonder I can put a sentence together.
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend 17 Opening Days/Home Openers (18, counting the first home game after the 1981 strike, which was functionally a second Home Opener), my favorite among them the 2001 Home Opener, when the 2000 NL pennant was raised, we were handed replica championship flags on our way in, Tsuyoshi Shinjo introduced himself to us with a homer, Mike Piazza socked two, the Mets obliterated the Braves and, not incidentally, the weather was perfect.
But with all due respect to the thrill of being on hand to, as Howie Rose says, welcome the National League season to New York, my core Opening Day memory is from 1975, when I convinced a friend to skip Hebrew School and watch the rest of the first game of that season.
The game began while we were still in shall we say regular school (sixth grade). Our teacher put the Mets and Phillies on the classroom TV. One wise guy tried to switch to the Yankees. Out of pique, the teacher switched it off.
Fast forward a bit, and my aforementioned friend and I went to my house to catch a little more of the game before we had to get to Hebrew School. This was Seaver versus Steve Carlton, and it was such an occasion that I said to him, “I’m not going to Hebrew School today.” He was convinced to not go, either.
We watched to the end and were rewarded for our truancy. Seaver pitched a complete game. Dave Kingman homered in his first game as a Met, and Joe Torre (also a new Met) drove in the winning run in the ninth, or what we would today call walkoff fashion. The whole winter was about reconstructing a dismal 1974 squad and hoping Seaver would be healthy. For one day, everything clicked as we dreamed.
With Trevor Hoffman being inducted into the Hall of Fame, he now becomes just the sixth reliever ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Considering Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers were relievers of a far different mold, and Dennis Eckersley had a career as a starting pitcher before becoming a one inning closer, Hoffman becomes a unique Hall of Famer in that he is now the first ever pure closer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
With him being inducted, the question needs to be asked why it was him and not one of the other closers who proceeded him.
The first answer that will probably be injected as a reason is the fact Hoffman accumulated 601 saves. At the time of his retirement in 2010, it was the record for most saves by a relief pitcher. In reality, he had the record beginning in 2006. The question that naturally follows from this is why is this now relevant?
It would seem odd to put 600 saves into a category with 3,000 hits, 500 homers, or 300 wins as those marks evolved over time. The modern one inning reliever is something that arguably has only been around since the 1980s with Tony La Russa‘s use of Eckersley leading the charge. Yes, at the time of his retirement, he had the most all-time, and he was 123 ahead of the highest retired closer.
That closer was Lee Smith. What is interesting about Smith was he battled Jeff Reardon late in Reardon’s career for the most saves of all-time. The year after Reardon retired, Smith passed him and the lapped the field. At the time Smith retired in 1997, he had the all-time record with 478 saves, and he would hold the record for most saves in baseball history for 10 years. Like Reardon, Hoffman would lose the title the year after he retired.
Speaking of Lee Smith, he is an interesting parallel for Hoffman, especially with both pitchers pitching 18 years and making seven All Star teams.
In Smith’s career, he was 71-92 with a 3.03 ERA, 478 saves, 1,251 strikeouts, 1.256 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9. He led the league in saves four times, led the league in games finished three times, and won three Rolaids Relief Awards. From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 132 ERA+, 29.6 WAR, 21.1 WAR7, and a 25.4 JAWS.
In Hoffman’s career, he was 61-75 with a 2.87 ERA, 601 saves, 1,133 strikeouts, 1.058 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9. He led the league twice in saves, never led the league in games finished, and won two Rolaids Relief Awards. From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 141 ERA+, 28.4 WAR, 19.6 WAR7, and a 24.0 JAWS.
In some areas, Smith is better, including WAR, WAR7, JAWS, strikeouts, and relief awards. In others like ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and K/9, Hoffman is better. Generally speaking, Hoffman and Smith are about equally as valuable as one another. We only get to a true separator between the two relievers when we discuss saves.
Hoffman blows Smith out of the water there, but that’s not too dissimilar how Smith blew other contemporaries out of the water during his playing days. He was 1-2 with Reardon much like Hoffman was with Mariano Rivera.
It would seem from a pure value standpoint, if Hoffman is inducted, then so should Smith. However, we really know the end game was the amount of saves.
That’s why we won’t see Billy Wagner follow suit despite his having a much better ERA+ (187), more strikeouts (1,196), a higher K/9 (11.9), WAR7 (19.9), and having made the same JAWS and making the same number of All Star teams.
It’s also why we didn’t see John Franco get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sure, we can mock Franco all you like, but he has had the record for most saves by a left-handed pitcher since 1994, which is a record that has lasted for 23 years and does not appear of being eclipsed any time soon.
It should also be noted Franco led the league in saves three times, games finished two times, made four All Star teams, and won two Rolaids Relief awards. This means Franco led the league in saves and games finished more times than Hoffman, and he won just as many relief awards. His WAR (24.2), WAR7 (15.7), and JAWS (19.9) do trail Hoffman, but then again, we’ve learned this isn’t really about value.
It’s about total saves with the new bench mark apparently being 600 saves. It is good that it’s a high bench mark, but at the end of the day, it seems odd this isn’t about greatness, value, or dominance. Rather, it’s about an arbitrary number decided upon because Hoffman just felt like a Hall of Famer.