During Spring Training, Buck Showalter has made it a point to bring Keith Hernandez down to the field. In fact, as reported by Bob Klapisch of nj.com, Showalter removed the old rule which banned Hernandez from the batting cages. Showalter made it a point to get rid of the dumb rule (which was explained away because Hernandez was a part of SNY).
Specifically, Showalter noted, “I wanted people to notice Keith next to me and it wasn’t by coincidence. To me, Keith Hernandez is Mets royalty. He can go wherever he wants around here. This is his team.”
Showalter is exactly right here. After all, Hernandez was the first captain in team history. That 1986 team constantly talks about how much Hernandez meant to that team in terms of his leadership and defense. To keep that away from the team is pure and utter Wilpon nonsense. Well, the Wilpons are gone and so is much of their stupidity.
This was something Bobby Valentine had done so well during his Mets tenure. We didn’t just see the Mets greats pass through Spring Training for a photo op and media attention. That is something we will see this Spring with Mike Piazza, Al Leiter, David Wright, and others passing through and working with the players for a day or so.
Valentine had taken it a step further than that. Valentine put Mookie Wilson on his coaching staff. We also saw it with him having Al Jackson, an original Met just inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, on his coaching staff. There many be many reasons why Valentine did that, and it could very well be because Davey Johnson once did the same thing with him and Bud Harrelson on the Mets coaching staff.
Being a Met is different than being a part of any other team. It’s being the big market target while sitting in the shadow of the Yankees. It’s having a fan base who clings to Tug McGraw‘s “Ya Gotta Believe!” who also expects Tom Glavine to implode completing the collapse. We know Gary Carter is going to start an improbable rally while fully expecting Lucas Duda to throw it nowhere near Travis d’Arnaud.
The Mets are the most unique team in all of sports, and they have the fanbase to match. Each and every player who has come through here fully understands it. After all, Carlos Beltran went from reviled while playing here to a standing ovation at the All Star Game wearing the enemy St. Louis Cardinals uniform and fans who cheered him as a conquering hero when he was brought back as the manager.
Valentine knew all of this, and he had a coaching staff reflect that. Showalter seems to get that as well, and he wants the former Mets to be a part of this team both in Spring Training and beyond. He understands the team history, and in the end, Showalter just implicitly gets it.
When the Mets have a manager who gets what being a New York Met is all about, magic happens. We saw it in 1986 and 1999. Mookie brought home Ray Knight. Robin Ventura hit a grand slam single. Seeing how Showalter is managing this team, Mets fans should be ready to see what is coming next.
Back in 1995, after the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, the Major League owners opted to lock out the striking players, and they began the process of using replacement players. Their plans were foiled when now Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor put a preliminary injunction in place.
The ruling fortunately put the replacement player plan to bed, but it cast many players with a black mark. One of those players was New York Mets pitcher Rick Reed.
Reed was put in a completely impossible position. At the time, Reed was a borderline player who needed an income to pay for his mother’s medical bills. He was told by the Cincinnati Reds if he did not agree to become a replacement player, he was going to be released and blackballed from the game. In many ways, he had no other option.
It was something which ate him up inside in the moment and years to come. He was no longer a part of the union, and during his brief time in the majors in 1995, he was ostracized in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse. After the season, he was granted free agency leading to his becoming a member of the New York Mets.
By and large, it was the best thing to happen for Reed and the Mets. There may be many reasons why he didn’t face the same backlash as the other replacement players did or what he faced in Cincinnati. Part of the reason was Bobby Valentine had his back after his success in Norfolk. The Mets had a strong clubhouse, and they already had one of their own replacement players in Benny Agbayani.
Mostly, it might have just been he pitched very well for the Mets. He was an extraordinary surprise going quickly from the bullpen to the rotation. It was a career best year where he had a team best 2.89 ERA and 141 ERA+. Reed would only build and grow from there becoming a gutsy veteran presence in the Mets rotation.
He backed that season up by being an All-Star in 1998 (and would be again in 2001), and he would help the Mets win the 1999 Wild Card. He stepped up with a huge 12 strikeout performance pulling the Mets to a tie with his former Reds team for the last Wild Card spot. Reed would then win the first ever NLDS Game in Shea Stadium history.
Reed would go on to become a top 10 pitcher in Mets history. He was eventually accepted by his teammates, and he was beloved by Mets fans. However, despite all of that, he was left forever banned from MLB because he needed to pay his mother’s medical bills, and he didn’t want his MLB career to be over before it eventually began. That’s why you’ll never see him in a video game.
Right now, it does not appear MLB has any intention to repeating the use of replacement players. They seem more than content to cancel games while they wait out the players. That said, who knows how long it will be before MLB gets that idea in their head again and puts the next Rick Reed in another impossible situation. Hopefully, that day will never come.
This baseball offseason is a bit of history. It marks the first time there is a labor shutdown of the sport because of a lockout and not because of a strike. The last time the players had actually gone on strike was during the 1994 season.
You could say much of that strike is still impacting the sport to this very day. The Montreal Expos were the best team in baseball, and they never had an opportunity to win the World Series. Instead, they would be stripped for parts, and eventually, they would be moved to Washington D.C.
The steroid era was also a fallout from that strike. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa went to heroes and saviors of the game to vilified. It’s telling that neither player has garnered the 75% required for Hall of Fame induction while we are about to see David Ortiz become a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Despite that strike and the fallout, the game has grown since that time. While that strike led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, it did not mean the players wouldn’t use the strike as leverage in future negotiations. In fact, the players again used the threat during the 2002 season.
Make no mistake, nothing would have ever been as seen as so tone deaf as to striking after 9/11. No one, and I repeat no one, had any stomach for players striking over what was at least publicly portrayed as players being resistant to PED testing. All of the good will of the Mike Piazza homer, Bobby Valentine‘s work at Shea Stadium, and really what all of Major League Baseball did after the attacks would have been erased entirely.
However, the MLBPA used it as a tool because their main interest is bargaining for the best possible deal for their constituents. Certainly, the threat in 2002 came off as tone deaf, and perhaps, the players were bolstered by the way the game recovered post-1994. Regardless, the MLBPA did what they needed to do.
From there, MLB and the MLBPA had labor peace. There were four consecutive collective bargaining agreements reached before the threat of a strike or lockout was deemed necessary by either side. However, in all of that, there were two important agreements which were reached, which truly hamper the game and the negotiations to this day.
The first is the owners never relented on service time manipulation or the start of free agency. The second, and oft overlooked, is in the famed 2002 agreement. In that agreement, the CBA term end date was moved from October 31 to December. It has remained since, and it has had an impact on the leverage when it comes to strikes or lock outs.
Eventually, there was going to come a point and time where that date was going to prevent the players from considering a strike and for the owners of using the lockout tactic. That happens to be this offseason.
Of course, this is only part of it. There is Tony Clark‘s failures in previous negotiations, and there is also Rob Manfred’s tone deafness. Certainly, Manfred has shown a willful disregard for growing the game, and really, he only sees baseball as a zero sum game to get as much money for the owners as possible. After all, this is the same commissioner who took baseball out of communities and contracted minor league teams because minor leaguers had the gaul to ask for a living wage.
Now, we see Manfred and the owners not wanting to relent on service time manipulation or free agency. They have never done so, and now, they have stuck their feet firmly in the ground while this is actually the biggest issue for the players. The thing is the owners have all of the leverage right now.
WIth the lockout, the owners can skip revenue losers like Spring Training, and the first month of the season which typically has lower attendance. They can really hold out until the weather warms while many players who need money are without a paycheck. At some point, they may also use the tactic of using minor league players to start the season.
Of course, the players could have threatened a strike to co-opt some leverage. The postseason remains a massive profit for the owners, and threatening that could have gotten the players some leverage on their issues. Instead, Clark had them play the full season, the postseason, and right into the owner’s hands. It’s not the first time he’s done that, and it probably won’t be the last.
For the moment, all we can see is no baseball until the players capitulate. Twenty years ago, this never would have happened. The players would go so far as to miss out on the World Series to ensure that wouldn’t happen. Now, well, they don’t see to have the same leadership or will to fight they once had for what is best for them or the game.
When you look at the New York Mets 1999-2000 teams, Bobby Valentine carefully built in coaching staffs. Yes, he brought in the best coaches he could find (and/or were forced upon him), but he did something more. He specifically built a coaching staff dedicated towards winning.
Valentine’s first base coach was Mookie Wilson. Really, who better than Mookie to tell the players what it meant to win in New York. He was there for their transformation from complete and unmitigated disaster to one of the best teams in baseball history. He would even have the hit (alright, reached on error) which would help cement their status.
Valentine might’ve learned the importance of having that former winner on the coaching staff because he had the same experience. Back in the early 1980s, he was the third base coach for Davey Johnson. When he was hired as the Texas Rangers manager, Valentine was replaced at third by Bud Harrleson, who had been on the coaching staff with Valentine.
Fast forward to 2015, and there was Tim Teufel, who like Valentine and Harrelson, was the third base coach. Like the aforementioned, Teufel did bring his own level of expertise. Of course, part of that expertise was how to thrive in New York and how to win.
When the Mets build their 2022 coaching staff, that is something they should be atuned to in building their staff. Obviously, teams should hire the best coaches possible. In fact, the Mets already started that process by retaining Jeremy Hefner. In that process, there should be an allotment for a coach who can help players with the process of navigating New York.
Look, New York is a challenging place to play. It’s the most challenging in all of professional sports. To some degree, it is all the more difficult playing for the New York Mets. There is an added level of scrutiny, and after years of Wilpon malfeasance, there is just a certain portion of the media and fandom who just can’t let of the lol Mets mindset.
The best way to help the players mitigate against that is to bring in a coach who understands winning here. Looking at the Mets, there may not be anyone better suited to that than Edgardo Alfonzo.
Alfonzo, 48, was a Mets minor league coach and manager from 2014 – 2019. During that time period, he worked his way up from bench coach and roving hitting instructor to the New York Penn League Championship winning manager for the Brooklyn Cyclones. That was it for Alfonzo because Brodie Van Wagenen had no use for Mets legends who were winners.
As Alfonzo told Mike Puma of the New York Post, he actually thought he was going to get a promotion for winning. After all, that’s what is supposed to happen when you succeed in your job. Well, now presents the belated opportunity for that to happen.
The challenge for the Mets is determining how he could best help a coaching staff. In all honesty, his familiarity with analytics and willingness to apply and interpret them will be what ultimately dicates what job he could be offered. Whatever the case, there should be a job for Alfonzo.
After all, this is a player who played at a Gold Glove level at two positions in the infield. He was a terrific hitter and one of the most clutch players to ever wear a Mets uniform. He can just bring an immense amount of knowledge to the job, and he has the proven ability to communicate with players from all backgrounds.
Alfonzo can be an asset to the 2022 Mets if they are willing to let him be one. The team will certainly be better if he is a part of the coaching staff helping this team win their first World Series since 1986.
During this series between the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals, it was announced Keith Hernandez will FINALLY be inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame. It didn’t exactly go great:
The Edward Jones advertisement being larger than Hernandez’s name is embarrassing. Then again, at least the Cardinals are attending to their Hall of Fame.
The Cardinals have an official committee, and they have fan votes to determine who belongs in their Hall of Fame. More than that, they actually have a Hall of Fame.
When Citi Field first opened, there was some lip service to the Mets Hall of Fame. As time progressed, and the impact of Madoff continued, we saw the Team Store push into and completely overwhelm the Mets Hall of Fame.
Right now, 13 of the top 24 Mets by WAR have not been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. Put another way, most of the best players in team history have not been recognized.
It’s more than that. Bobby Valentine led the Mets to consecutive postseasons. Johan Santana had many great moments including the first and only no-hitter in Mets history. There’s also Nelson Doubleday who purchased the Mets and brought in the right people leading to the best run in Mets history.
Point is, the Mets Hall of Fame is severely lacking. Case-in-point. David Wright has not yet been inducted. We can argue over retiring his number, but his not being in the Mets Hall of Fame is absurd.
The Mets need to have Wright and others in the team Hall of Fame. For that matter, there needs to be a real Mets Hall of Fame.
This is a franchise with real history and great moments. It’s well past time it’s celebrated and properly honored. The Mets need a real and proper Hall of Fame. Hopefully, it will happen soon.
There are ebbs and flows to the season, and the New York Mets were fighting it. Fortunately, Jose Alvarado and the Philadelphia Phillies were there to help them out:
1. Alvarado is a punk. He throws at batters. He talks a good game, but when he’s confronted, he goes hiding behind teammates.
2. Dominic Smith announced to the world he and the Mets will not be pushed around. Unlike Alvarado, Smith would back it up.
3. Before the Alvarado nonsense, he fell to a paltry .206/.225/.324. After that, he’s 4-for-9 with two doubles.
4. As much as he’s heated up, it’s Michael Conforto carrying the Mets offense. He hit the huge go-ahead homer, and he’s hitting .327/.400/.551 over his last 14 games. It’s like he’s always been this good, and we shouldn’t have overreacted to a slump.
5. Jeff McNeil looked awfully comfortable batting lead-off.
7. Mets need McNeil’s ability leading off if Brandon Nimmo is more hurt than originally expected.
8. Mets are also going to need to see Kevin Pillar step up. His game in the series finale with the big homer was a great start.
9. Jonathan Villar‘s scoring from first was an incredible and shocking play. We haven’t really seen a Mets player make a difference in a game with pure speed since Jose Reyes‘ first stint with the team.
10. Villar running the bases is like what we used to see from Daniel Murphy except with speed.
11. Edwin Diaz continues to both be great and completely unreliable.
12. Considering Diaz has issues going consecutive days, pitching with runners on base, and the like, it might be time to start considering him more for a set-up role.
13. Diaz faltered because he faltered. That’s not Luis Rojas‘ fault. Not everything that goes wrong with this team is Rojas’ fault.
15. You can’t kill Miguel Castro for having one poor outing. He’s been phenomenal all year. Really, the Mets pitching as a whole has been.
16. The Mets seemingly are getting nicked up of late. At the moment, Marcus Stroman‘s hamstring is the biggest issue. Hopefully, the reports he’ll be alright prove true.
17. David Peterson has been pretty good, but he needs to be more than a five and fly pitcher.
18. Taijuan Walker increasingly looks like the steal of the offseason.
19. Francisco Lindor is going to be fine, and while we await his bat, we can just enjoy what is just truly special defense.
20. Mets are just starting to get going, and they’re already in first place. It’s going to be a great May and an even better year.
I had the privilege of appearing on the Simply Amazin’ podcast with the great Tim Ryder. During the podcast, names discussed include but are not limited to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, Rick Porcello, Francisco Lindor, J.D. Davis, Carlos Beltran, Bobby Valentine, David Wright, Bobby Thompson, Ralph Branca, Alex Cora, Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Jonathan Villar, James McCann, J.T. Realmuto, James Paxton, Trevor Rosenthal, Aaron Loup, Mike Piazza, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Jose Martinez, Alex Gonzalez, James Loney, Moises Alou, John Olerud, Davey Johnson, Pete Alonso, Wilson Ramos, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, Corey Oswalt, Luis Rojas, Jeremy Hefner, Jim Eisenreich, Alex Fernandez, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Darryl Strawberry, Albert Almora, and more
Please take a listen.
— Simply Amazin' (@SimplyAmazinPod) February 15, 2021
When Carlos Delgado was five percented off the Hall of Fame ballot, there was shock from fans. Almost yearly, people look to point out the absurdity.
While understood, Delgado did not have a career as good as John Olerud‘s, and yet, we rarely hear about how Olerud should not have been five percented off the ballot.
Olerud played 17 years in the majors hitting .295/.398/.465 with 500 doubles, 13 triples, 255 homers, and 1,230 RBI. He won one batting title, was a two time All-Star, and won three Gold Gloves.
In terms of the advanced numbers, he has a 58.1 WAR, 39.0 WAR7, and a 48.6 JAWS.
Looking at the average Hall of Fame first baseman, he’s fairly well behind the 66.9 WAR and 54.8 JAWS. However, he’s closer to the 42.7 WAR7. Examining his career past these numbers you see a more compelling case.
Notably, by WAR, Olerud is the 20th best first baseman of all-time. When looking at the top 20, the only three eligible players not tainted by steroids not in the Hall of Fame are Todd Helton, Keith Hernandez, and Olerud.
Behind these players are nine Hall of Famers. Those players include Hank Greenberg and Orlando Cepeda. Other players behind him are Fred McGriff, Delgado, and Don Mattingly, three players who have very vocal advocates.
First and foremost, the 500 doubles is significant. Olerud is one of 64 players to accomplish that feat. Of those 64, there are few eligible players not in the Hall of Fame.
When you eliminate steroids tainted players like Rafael Palmeiro and players currently on the ballot like Helton, there are only members of the 500 doubles club not in the Hall of Fame.
Digging deeper into that, putting aside Barry Bonds and Palmeiro, Scott Rolen and Helton are the only players with 500 doubles and three Gold Gloves who aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Notably, Rolen and Helton are still on the ballot.
Beyond that, Olerud deserves a bump for his postseason play. In his postseason career, he was a .278/.365/.435 hitter. When you look at his performance prior to the final two seasons of his career, he had a .816 OPS. He won two World Series and was part of several memorable games.
There are also some very unique and noteworthy aspects of his career. Olerud became the only first baseman and just the second overall to hit a cycle in both leagues.
Like Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, he went straight from the draft to the Majors. In fact, Olerud would be the only second round pick to accomplish the feat.
While Hernandez is seen as the best defensive first baseman ever, Olerud is the all-time leader in defensive WAR at first base. He’s fifth in total zone rating.
Even with his being part of the best defensive infield in history, Olerud is overlooked for being one of the greatest defenders at the position. In fact, he was so good Bobby Valentine was able to utilize him holding on runners without Olerud having to stand directly on the bag.
Nearly everything about Olerud’s career was unique right down to his wearing a batting helmet in the field. Looking at his entire career, Olerud left an indelible mark on the history of baseball.
He was a great defensive first baseman, one of the best ever, and he was a very good hitter who would hit .350+ three times and have eight seasons above a 124 OPS+. In fact, in 16 of his 17 seasons, Olerud was an above league average hitter.
Overall, Olerud was an outstanding player who was one of the more complete first baseman of not just his era but MLB history. While you may still fairly look upon as his career as just short, he certainly deserved a deeper look into what might’ve been a Hall of Fame career.
It’s been a beef with Mets fans for a while. The Mets now have a rich history, and we want to see that honored. One way we want to see it is Old Timer’s Day.
It’s something the Mets used to have in the early years, but they haven’t had it in the time the Wilpons owned the Mets. Now, according to Steve Cohen himself, that’s going to change.
Darell, No brainer to have Old Times Day , done
— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) November 1, 2020
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the prospective lineups could look like. This is a completely unscientific sampling utilizing just my opinion on who is popular, who Mets fans want to see back, and who can still play a bit. There are two for each position as there are two teams playing against one another:
Of course, this is holding a little too true to the positions these players played in their careers. Due to age and the like, they may move around the diamond. That’s more than alright as we just want to see them again.
Of course, some will understandably opt out of have other commitments. To that end, there are plenty of unnamed options like Al Leiter, Todd Pratt, Carlos Delgado, Jeff Kent, Kevin Elster, Robin Ventura, Kevin Elster, Bernard Gilkey, Lance Johnson, and Benny Agbayani.
For that matter, why not bring Bobby Bonilla. The Mets can have fun with it and hold the game on July 1. Before the game, the Mets could have fun with it and give Bonilla a giant check.
If you think about it, that will finally give Bonilla some of the applause he should’ve gotten as a player, and it will finally put to rest the negative narrative around the day.
The game can also feature the racing stripe jerseys and the black jerseys fans seem to love so much. We can also have cameos from Mets greats from the past like Jerry Koosman who may not be able to play.
Overall, that’s exactly what the Cohen Era is presenting. It’s allowing the Mets and their fans to move forward, enjoy the past, and have some fun.
Typically speaking, deciding who is “THE BEST” at something is a futile endeavor. After all, trying to apply objective measures to reach a subjective opinion is a concept somewhat at odds with itself.
In terms of baseball, it’s nearly impossible with the change of eras. Should Babe Ruth be considered the best ever when he played before integration? Should Barry Bonds be disqualified due to PEDs? Should we split the difference and say it’s Willie Mays?
Again, there’s just too many factors at play to determine who is THE BEST. To that end, we should look at this more as who’s in the discussion rather than who is atop the list.
In terms of the Mets, we know Tom Seaver is the best player to ever play for the team. That’s one of the rare instances where it’s clear-cut. It’s far from clear-cut on the manager side.
For 25 years, it was clearly Gil Hodges. He led the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series partially due to innovation. Hodges utilized platoons, and he might’ve been the first manager to utilize a five man rotation.
As we all know Hodges never got the chance to cement himself as the best manager ever as he suddenly died of a heart attack on the eve of the 1972 season. You can’t help but wonder what he could’ve done with the Mets getting Rusty Staub.
In 1984, the Mets hired Davey Johnson, who arguably went on to become the best manager in team history. In addition to winning the 1986 World Series, his teams never finished lower than second in the division.
Johnson was also the only Mets manager to win multiple division titles. In his tenure, his teams averaged 96 wins. It’s part of the reason why he has the most wins and highest winning percentage. Those were the Mets glory years, and he was at the helm.
Arguably, Hodges and Johnson are the Mets two best managers. However, there could be a case for Bobby Valentine.
Valentine is third in terms of wins and winning percentage. He came one year short of Johnson’s team record by having five consecutive winning seasons. However, notably, Valentine’s teams were not as loaded as Johnson’s.
Despite that, Valentine was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons. He’s the only Mets manager to lead his team to a postseason series victory in consecutive seasons. In fact, he’s the only one to do it in any two seasons.
Overall, that’s the top three, and people should feel comfortable ranking them as they see fit. There’s a justifiable reason to put them in any order from 1-3. That said, Hodges and Johnson have the edge having won a Word Series.
After that trio, it’s fair to say Willie Randolph was a clear fourth. In addition to his leading the Mets to the 2006 NLCS, he never had a losing record while amassing the second best winning percentage in team history. His hand in developing David Wright and Jose Reyes to not only reach their potential, but also handling the city should never be discounted.
Honestly, if that isn’t your 1-4, you’re simply doing it wrong.
Terry Collins has a losing record and the most losses in team history. He blew a World Series. He also unapologetically destroyed reliever careers (see Tim Byrdak, Jim Henderson) while admitting he didn’t want to develop young players like Michael Conforto.
Yogi Berra was the manager who led the Mets to their second pennant, but he also finished with a sub .500 career despite having a World Series contending type of roster for part of his tenure.
After that, well, just consider there are only six Mets managers with a winning record. Two of them, Bud Harrelson and Mickey Callaway, were not generally well regarded for their managerial abilities. After that, there’s a lot of bad, including Hall of Famers Casey Stengel and Joe Torre.
Through Mets history, it’s clear who the four best managers are even if the order isn’t nearly as clear. Past them, it’s an uninspiring debate among pretty poor choices.
In the end, your list is personal to you, and no one can quite tell you you’re right or wrong. That is unless you do something monumentally stupid like having Hodges outside the top three or putting Stengel on your list.
Short of that, everyone’s opinions are valid, and it’s a fun debate. And remember, that’s all this is – a fun debate. It’s nothing more than that because you can’t definitely prove one is better than the other.