Based upon his receiving just 18.1% of the vote last year, it does not seem like Jeff Kent will get anywhere close to the 75% threshold for Hall of Fame induction. Unfortunately, it does not appear as if he is going to get the push he needs to get anywhere close to that 75% in any of the subsequent three years meaning he will one day need to have his case reassessed by the Veteran’s Committee.
Now, there are viable reasons to overlook Kent’s candidacy. After all, his 55.4 WAR puts him below the 69.4 WAR of the average second baseman. The same can be said of his 35.7 WAR7 and 45.6 JAWS. Assessing just those numbers, you could say Kent belongs just in that proverbial Hall of Very Good, but not the Hall of Fame.
However, there is more to his case, and it merits a deeper look.
First and foremost, there are the homers. In his career, Kent hit 377 homers with 351 of them coming as a second baseman. That mark is the best among second baseman in Major League history. In terms of Hall of Fame eligible players, that puts him ahead of Rogers Hornsby, Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, and Joe Gordon, each of whom are Hall of Famers.
There’s more to it. Mike Piazza is the all-time leader in homers at the catcher position. Cal Ripken Jr. is the all-time leader in homers by a shortstop. Mike Schmidt is the all-time leader in homers at third. They are all in the Hall of Fame. Right now, looking across every position, the all-time home run leader at a position was inducted into the Hall of Fame when there was no PED issues.
There’s more to Kent’s offense than just homers. His 562 doubles were also the fifth most at the second base position putting him behind Hall of Famers like Biggio and Charlie Gehringer but ahead of Hornsby, Roberto Alomar, Billy Herman, Frankie Frisch, and Morgan. Breaking it down, Kent is the only Hall of Fame eligible player in the top ten in doubles at the second base position who has not been inducted.
Going deeper, Todd Helton and Kent are the only Hall of Fame eligible players at their position to be in the top five all-time in doubles (not implicated with PEDs) not inducted into the Hall of Fame. That was cemented with Ted Simmons recent election by the Veterans’ Committee.
While considered an out of date stat, Kent’s 1,518 RBI are the third most at the position. All of the Hall of Fame eligible second baseman in the top 10 are in the Hall of Fame except Kent. Again, barring PEDs, the top three Hall of Fame eligible players in RBI have been inducted. All except Kent.
In terms of RBI, there is more to it. Right now, the only non-PED implicated Hall of Fame eligible players who have at least 1,500 RBI not inducted into the Hall of Fame are Fred McGriff and Carlos Delgado. Essentially, if you are a non-1B with 1,500 RBI, you were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Kent is also second all-time in slugging at the position. Again, every clean Hall of Famer in the top two in slugging at their position has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. He’s also fourth in OPS. As you can assume, every clean Hall of Fame eligible player in the top five in OPS at their position have been inducted.
It’s this type of production which arguably makes Kent the second best offensive second baseman all-time to Hornsby. That would also make Kent the best at his position in the post World War II Era. It is one of the reasons why he was the 2000 National League MVP.
A second baseman winning the MVP is a rare feat indeed. In fact, there have been only 10 second baseman in Major League history who have done that. With the exception of Dustin Pedroia, who is not yet Hall of Fame eligible, everyone second baseman who has won the award is in the Hall of Fame. That’s everyone except Kent.
Really, the only reason Kent is not in the Hall of Fame is his abrasive personality and his defense. Honestly, there is not much to defend his defense, which was admittedly subpar. However, we should take into consideration Kent has turned the 11th most double plays among second baseman in Hall of Fame history. That is more than Sandberg and Biggio.
Also, for what it is worth his total zone rating is higher than Alomar’s. That’s not insignificant when Alomar is considered a very good defensive second baseman.
There’s one other factor to consider with Kent’s Hall of Fame case. He was an excellent postseason player. In 49 postseason games, he hit .276/.340/.500 with 11 doubles, nine homers, and 23 RBI. Prorated over a 162 game season, those numbers would equate to 36 doubles, 30 homers, and 76 RBI.
That is high end production in games which matter most. Speaking of which, in his only World Series appearance in 2002, he would hit three homers.
Overall, in his 17 year career, Jeff Kent established himself as the second best offensive second baseman, and really, he was the premier slugger at the position. For those efforts, he put up stats which would have been otherwise Hall of Fame worthy, and he would win an MVP award. While he may not be a proverbial first ballot Hall of Famerr, he is someone who has put together a career worthy of induction.
Over the past few years, we have seen some players who deserved longer looks and deeper analysis fall off the Hall of Fame ballot for their failure to receive five percent of the vote. This puts sometimes deserving and borderline players in a limbo hoping and waiting they receive eventual consideration from the Veteran’s Committee.
Carlos Delgado fell off the ballot after receiving just 3.8% of the vote. That happened despite his having more homers than Jeff Bagwell and Tony Perez. He had a better OBP than Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey. He also had a higher slugging than Eddie Murray. Overall, his 138 OPS+ was higher than Bill Terry and Frank Chance.
Now, you could also argue he wasn’t up to Hall of Fame standards, but that debate never really could develop as he fell off the ballot.
Lofton had a higher WAR than Andre Dawson, who was inducted in 2010. He also has a higher WAR than Andruw Jones, who is appearing on the ballot for a third time this year. On that point, he is teetering himself with his just receiving 7.5% last year.
Edmonds is just a hair behind Dawson in career WAR, but he is also well ahead of Kirby Puckett. Notably, Edmonds trails just Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Torii Hunter in Gold Gloves won by a center fielder. Notably, his eight are the same amount as Dawson. Given how comparable he is to Dawson, you’d think he would get a longer look. He didn’t.
The same could be made about any number of candidates. Hideki Matsui had over 500 professional homers. Johan Santana had a higher WAR and ERA+ than Sandy Koufax. John Franco has more saves than any left-handed closer, and he has a higher ERA+ than Hall of Fame closers Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley. Finally, David Cone presents his own interesting case. All of these players were one and one on the ballot.
We will likely see the same happen to Bobby Abreu this year despite his having a better WAR, WAR7, and JAWS than recently inducted Vladimir Guerrero. He also has more doubles, triples, stolen bases, walks, and a higher OBP. Keep in mind, Guerrero was inducted just last year making the votes on the two players quite disparate despite having the same electorate.
All of these players hope to one day have the same chance Lou Whitaker now has.
Back in 2001, Whitaker only received 2.1% of the vote, which to this day, is plain wrong. Looking at WAR, Whitaker is the seventh best second baseman of all-time, and the third best at the position to debut after World War II.
He accumulated more hits than Tony Lazzeri and Johnny Evers. He scored more runs than Red Schoendienst and Jackie Robinson. He has more doubles than Ryne Sandberg and Nellie Fox. He has more triples than Craig Biggio and Bill Mazeroski. He has more stolen bases than Rogers Hornsby and Billy Herman. Overall, his OPS+ is higher than Roberto Alomar‘s and Bobby Doerr‘s
By any measure, Whitaker should be in the Hall of Fame, and yet because of the five percent rule, he has not yet been inducted. Looking at Whitaker and other cases, it is probably time the rule gets changed.
Conceptually, the five percent rule makes sense. A player does not come to vote until five years after his career is over. Ideally, this means voters have had an opportunity to assess a career in full and make a determination. However, in practice, it does not quite turn out that way.
Really, when there are fringe and overlooked candidates, there is usually someone championing them leading to them getting more attention, and eventually, induction. Bert Blyleven received 17.6% of the vote in his first year of eligibility, and he was inducted on his final year on the ballot. Tim Raines received 24.3% in his first year and was inducted on his last year. Hopefully, we will see something similar happen with Larry Walker.
The point is for every Mariano Rivera and Tom Seaver there are a number of Hall of Famers who have needed years of analysis and debate. By taking players off the ballot after one year, we are all losing the opportunity to have deeper analysis and debate about players who may well belong in the Hall of Fame.
There has to be a better way especially when we see a top 10 second baseman like Whitaker fall off the ballot. Perhaps, that rule could be relaxed for a year and moved to a player’s second year of eligibility. Perhaps, the Hall of Fame could tier the percent of the vote needed to keep a player on the ballot.
For example, to stay on the ballot after one year you only need just one vote. After the first year, you need five percent of the vote with the threshold rising roughly two percent each year so you need 18% of the vote to make it onto the final year on the ballot.
Structuring the vote this way allows for more debate about players while also presenting an opportunity to remove players who have not swayed the vote in a particular direction. Certainly, this type of system would be better than just disregarding players after one year, lamenting it, and then hoping someone corrects the error a decade or so later.
On November 4, 2004, the New York Mets introduced Willie Randolph as the 18th manager in Mets history. In his three plus years on the job, Randolph would have the second best winning percentage in Mets history, and like Davey Johnson, he would be one of only two Mets managers to never have a losing record over a full season.
During Randolph’s tenure, there tends to be a heavy focus on the 2007 collapse and his being fired one game into a trip to the West Coast. Lost in that was Randolph taking the Mets to that level. Sure, adding players like Carlos Delgado were a huge factor. However, Randolph helped develop players like David Wright and Jose Reyes.
People also forget Randolph guided the Mets to a winning record in a season where Doug Mientkiewicz, Miguel Cairo, and Victor Diaz got the most games played at first, second, and right. Randolph did help build a winning culture, and to his credit, he learned to adapt to the team while doing a good job with the bullpen.
No, he was not perfect by any means, but overall, Randolph had done a good job with the Mets. Seeing the jobs Jerry Manuel, Terry Collins, and Mickey Callaway did, you tend to realize Randolph was much better than anyone realized.
Fifteen years later, the Mets are following a pattern a bit in hiring their next manager.
Like Randolph, Carlos Beltran came to the New York Mets directly from the Yankees organization. Like Randolph, Beltran played for both the Mets and the Yankees. Both were multiple time All Stars who won a World Series. Both were looked upon by Mets fans as someone who really wanted to be a Yankee and not a Met.
It was odd for Randolph considering how he grew up a Mets fan. Randolph spoke lovingly about the team even telling everyone his first date with his wife was at Shea Stadium. When Randolph had an opportunity at the end of his career, he came to the Mets.
For Beltran, he actually signed with the Mets. As we know things ended poorly with the Mets, but despite all of that, Beltran came back to the Mets. Like Randolph 15 years ago, Beltran is going to become the Mets manager. He is also going to be entasked with guiding the young careers of players like Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil.
If in the end of his career as the Mets manager, Beltran never has a losing record, helped his young players take the next step forward, and he takes the Mets to the postseason, we would all agree it was a very successful run. However, that is today. As we know, there is a lot which happens in-between now and then.
The Mets went into Cincinnati looking for a sweep, but they didn’t get it. It was close, but they didn’t get there. As a result, their chances of grabbing a Wild Card became all the more difficult:
1. The Pittsburgh Pirates are an absolute embarrassment. It’s one thing to get swept like they did, it’s another thing to not even present even a minor impediment to the Brewers. Between this, Felipe Vazquez, Jung Ho Kang, all of their beanball nonsense, and the litany of other things, they are an absolute embarrassment.
2. The Pirates have all but given the Brewers one of the two Wild Card spots putting the Mets in an even more difficult situation in their attempts to make the postseason.
3. Of course, the Mets are in this position because of their first half and their loss on Saturday.
4. Todd Frazier had a difficult first inning on Saturday making an error and playing a ball which was foul leading to two first inning runs. Of course, it is difficult to completely get on him for that loss as he was the only one who actually hit the ball that day.
5. That is what makes this Mets team and offense so maddening. They can explode for eight runs in a blink on Friday night, and they can barely muster three hits the next day. That’s fine in June, but they can’t afford to be doing this right now.
6. Lost in that loss was just how great Zack Wheeler was. He had yet again another seven inning outing allowing just one earned. To be doing this with everything on the line, we are really learning something about him. If the Mets were smart, they’d be doing all they could do to lock him up because it is very doubtful they can replace him in the rotation next year.
7. Wheeler and Jacob deGrom dominating in the late season is reminiscent of what happened last year when deGrom won the Cy Young. After his pitching seven scoreless innings against the Reds, deGrom has put himself in a position to win his second straight one.
8. The Mets decision to flip Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz in the rotation was an inspired one. This puts Matz in a position to start at home where he is great. Even with Stroman being sick, he gave the Mets a tough effort allowing them to win that game.
9. In that Stroman start, he was bailed out out a bases loaded jam by Brad Brach in the fifth. Suddenly, this Mets bullpen is suddenly looking like it’s more than just Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson. That’s all the more the case with Edwin Diaz somehow having two good outings in pressure spots.
10. Christian Colon getting an RBI single off of a Lugo curveball which might’ve ended the season was just cruel when you consider this was the same Colon who got the hit in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.
11. Michael Conforto appears to be snapping out of his September slump. He got two walks on Friday before hitting an RBI single in the ninth, and he hit a three run homer on Sunday. He appears to be heating up at just the right time because the Mets need everything they can get.
12. With Conforto hitting his 31st homer, he and Pete Alonso have hit a combined 81 homers which surpasses the record for homers by a pair of Mets in a single season when Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado combined to hit 79 homers in 2006.
13. Alonso’s 50 homers is the single season record for a player’s first season. It is surpasses Mark McGwire‘s rookie record for homers by a first baseman. It puts him two homers behind Aaron Judge for the all-time rookie record.
14. With Alonso also having 30 doubles and two triples, his 82 extra base hits surpasses the team single season record held by Beltran (2006) and Howard Johnson (1989). No matter how high you were on him, he has far exceeded everyone’s realistic expectations. It has simply been a joy to watch him do it.
15. It’s also been a joy to watch Brandon Nimmo play the way he has. He’s showing last year was no fluke, and he has shown that the bulging disc in his neck will have no impact on his ability to play.
16. It’s just the Mets luck that when Robinson Cano hits a double to get him out of a funk that he gets hit on the foot. Even with the x-rays being negative, it is questionable how much he can contribute the rest of the year. In that sense, he is just like Cano has been all season long, or how Jed Lowrie has been since he signed with the Mets.
17. The Mets through Andy Martino can try to push any narratives they want. However, let’s be honest, after decimating the farm system and destroying future payroll flexibility, the Mets not making the postseason would make this year a complete disaster.
18. If they sweep them, they MAY have a chance the final weekend of the season, and they will play a Braves team who officially has nothing to play for that weekend.
19. If the Mets go 7-0, they need the Nationals to 4-5 over their last nine. This makes us all Phillies fans hoping to watch Bryce Harper stick it to his old team. We could also hope the Reds and Rockies play the Brewers as hard as they played the Mets and that the Brewers having played the Pirates gave them a false sense of security.
20. No matter what happens, the Mets are in a position to capitalize on one of the teams ahead of them slipping up. If that should happen, they will have deGrom lined up to start a tie-breaker or Wild Card Game. Considering where things were at the break, that’s a better position than we had anticipated.
On Sunday, I had the privilege of being invited back on A Metsian Podcast to discuss the Braves series and all things Mets. During the podcast, I recall mentioning Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, Logan Verrette, Aaron Altherr, Tomas Nido, Jed Lowrie, Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis, Amed Rosario, Wilson Ramos, Joe Panik, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, Jason Vargas, Carlos Delgado, Endy Chavez, and others.
Please take time to listen. Thank you.
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.
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 started 12-2, and it seemed like they could do no wrong. That was until a complete bullpen eighth inning meltdown against the Nationals. Since that point, the Mets have gone 5-9, and they have fallen to second place in the division. With that as the backdrop, we turned to the Mets Blogger Roundtable to ask if Mickey Callaway‘s Mets team is for real:
We’re already seeing the Mets falling back to earth, and there was never any question that they would lose more than 15 games this year. The positive is that they have a core that’s skilled, and a new manager who will hopefully find ways to adapt and keep the room positive throughout the highs and lows of a season.
What *is* reality anyway? We are all one big consciousness agreeing upon a never ending list of rules and quibbling over interpretations of shared perceptions, right? That’s what I learned in third grade from the bus driver who smelled weird. If the reality of the situation is I am being asked if the Mets are as good as they were when they started 11-1, then no, they are not “for real.” They have been the fourth-luckiest team in all of baseball while the Nationals have been the most unlucky. We aren’t going to cry over Bryce Harper‘s misfortune (the Vegas native should be aware of streaks of bad luck at the very least anecdotally). We will cry over the Mets though. Yet we shouldn’t; they just have to play .500 ball from their 13th to 162nd game to hit lucky number 86 wins. They uh, haven’t played over .500 ball since that time but I guessed they would make the wild card game five weeks ago, so I might as well keep my chips on 86.
Right now I want to jump off of my seat in section 509.
Editor’s Note: this response was sent during the game after we learned about deGrom’s elbow.
Yes, but they have holes to fix and this passive approach to every situation is part of the problem.
Are the Mets for real in the sense that they have a genuine chance to end the season where they ended April, in first place? Based on what we’ve seen…sure, why not? I’d hate to think they’re pulling the cap down over our eyes.
Are the Mets for real in the sense that I’m supremely confident they won’t fall out of the race altogether after a while? That’s what the rest of the schedule is for: to find out.
But overall I feel pretty good about this team. The next 130+ games are always the hardest.
Caveat: All of the above is up for grabs in light of the uncertainty surrounding Jacob deGrom.
I think the Mets’ start is most-definitely indicative of the potential of this team moving forward through the season.
The inevitably-oncoming adage of “Jake and Thor, then pray for it to pour” that was true for most of the first month of the season seems to be slowly fading away.
After the inconsistencies of Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler over their first few starts, as well as the banishing of Matt Harvey to the bullpen and the alarming start to Jason Vargas’ second stint with the Mets, things have started to look up lately.
If Wheeler can be effective (read: keep his pitches low), his stuff alone places him among the upper-crust of middle-of-the-rotation starting pitchers in the NL, and the same goes for Matz.
If Vargas has shown anything over his career, he’s proven to be the model of mediocre-but-efficient consistency, and that’s all the team really needs out of him.
I think this offense is truly one of the more-dangerous groups we’ve seen here since the days of Carlos Beltran/David Wright/Carlos Delgado, and I mean that. The recent upticks in production for Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez are promising.
The Mets’ bullpen has, for the most part, been the strength of this team and will continue to be, in my opinion. AJ Ramos looks to have found his groove and Robert Gsellman is absolutely thriving in his new role. Even Seth Lugo, who may not be adapting as easily as Gsellman has, has had some success and only figures to get more comfortable as time goes on. And, to be honest, Harvey could come to be a key cog in the relief corps once he gets a feel for things.
Are the Mets for real? It’s hard to say, but what’s becoming clear is that this season certainly won’t be easy. We got off to a hot start with Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Bruce all slumping, and you have to think we’ll get more from all of them going forward — but we’ll also presumably see regression from Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera, and the pitching has gone downhill fast since the first few turns through the rotation. Now deGrom is hurt too…if our starters besides Thor are a failed Harvey, a failed Matz, an inconsistent Wheeler, and an unimpressive Jason Vargas, there’s only so much room to get wins with that kind of rotation. Sure, things could turn out well — anything can happen. But as I said, the only thing that’s clear is that it certainly won’t be easy.
Initially, I had a long piece detailing how much the lineup and the pitching staff could benefit from Kevin Plawecki‘s return. How even with the inability to hit for power right now, Conforto is playing a good outfield and getting on base. How when you look deeper into the farm, you see Gavin Cecchini and Peter Alonso getting off to terrific starts making you wonder “What if . . . .”
None of that matters if deGrom is injured like he was in 2016 or Syndergaard was in 2017.
This is not to say his having a serious injury ends the Mets season. Rather, it means the season needs a miracle. In 2016, the Mets got that out of Lugo and Gsellman. Maybe the Mets get that this year out of some group that includes Harvey, Matz, Corey Oswalt, or Chris Flexen.
Maybe . . . .
Personally, I’d like to thank everyone for being able to respond to this roundtable. It was all the more impressive when you consider how panic striken we were collectively as a fanbase when deGrom left the game last night. We do know when that news finally breaks, there will be some terrific things written about deGrom and the Mets. Some of the best things will be written by the people in this roundtable, and I hope you will visit their sites.
That is except for Becky. She is currently a free agent and needs a home to write about the Mets. Hopefully, someone will soon jump in and find a home for her terrific work.
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.
On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, new manager Mickey Callaway enters Fred Wilpon’s office.
Mickey: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.
Fred: What do you mean build?
Mickey: Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address. We need a second baseman, some additional depth, and some bullpen –
Fred: Relievers? I just gave you Anthony Swarzak just last week!
Mickey: And I’m thankful for that. But while I was in Cleveland, I learned you need more in your bullpen. You need a couple of guys with interchangeable roles to help you get to where you want to go. We need at least one more guy.
Fred: I don’t get it. After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.
Mickey: Well, I’d love to build a winner for the players and the fans.
Mickey: Well, I guess not. Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.
Not long after Callaway leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich. He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008. He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him. It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.
Fred: No, it can’t be. Is that really you?
M. Donald Grant: It is.
Fred: But, you’re dead. How? How?
M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.
M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone. Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?
Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!
M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no. No! I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again. But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!
Fred: The horror.
M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.
Fred: No . . . NO! . . . You’ve got to save me.
M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits. Listen to them! Do what they say! Or you will be cursed for eternity.
And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room. A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed. After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep. Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd. It jostled Fred from his sleep. Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.
Fred: No, it can’t be. Is it really you Gary?
Standing before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top. Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.
Gary: It’s really me Fred. I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.
Fred: Am I dead?
Gary: No, you’re not. I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.
With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room. As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.
Fred: What a dump!
Gary: You didn’t always think so. In fact, you used to love coming here. Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be. Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.
Fred: Those Gooden starts were something special. No one could beat us then, and we knew it. We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.
Gary: This is how things used to be. It was always this way. You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him. You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo. That team came close. You did it again with Carlos Beltran. You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player. You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done. It didn’t work, but the fans came. More importantly, everyone respected you for it.
Fred: But they don’t understand.
Gary: Let’s see what happened next.
With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory. As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated. The fans were angry with the team. It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer. It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.
Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in? Where are all the fans?
Gary: You didn’t. It’s 2012.
Fred: That was an ugly time. Fans constantly complaining and booing. The team and I were personally cash strapped. I had no idea what our future was or could be. Worse yet, no one seemed to understand. The fans, the players, the press. No one. The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear. I can’t . . .
Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy. Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.
Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night. It gives me the strangest dreams. And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache. I never want to get back to that point . . .
As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.
Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner. Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team lost over 90 games, missed the postseason for the first time in three years, and is now talking about cutting payroll. We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.
Ralph: Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners. As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!
Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.
Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.
Ralph: Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2018 roster will look like.
Fred: We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field. We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.
Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you. In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should. It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise. During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.” From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs. This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908. The Cubs were once defeated –
Fred: Okay, okay. No, we’re no expanding payroll. The fans didn’t come last year, and I don’t have the money. That’s just the way things work now. This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.
Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money, especially since you have the BAM money, bought an Overlook League team, and are part of the new Islanders Belmont Arena. And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them. When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.
Fred: Let’s be honest. With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom. We have free t-shirts, garden gnomes, and bobbleheads. We’re going to turn a profit all while giving the players what they want – money.
Ralph: That’s not true. Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.
A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Callaway about the upcoming season.
Mickey: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.
David: It’s hard skip. I wake up in pain everyday. It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too. I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out. I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck. It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell. It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter. Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it. But it just gets harder and harder.
Mickey: Look, I love you, and I know the team does too. If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask. And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.
David: I can’t hang ’em up. Not yet. I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.
Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.
David: And it’s not just about me. I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career. They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys. They’ve cheered for me. They’ve always been there for me. And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family. I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left. They decided to keep me. They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain. I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.
Fred: I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.
Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off. At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening. He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey. The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues. At first, Hamilton says nothing. He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.
Fred follows Darryl down a hallway. Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges. On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career. A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring. Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty. Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man. He’s there with another person.
Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight. With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.
David: I don’t care. I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again. There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.
Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly. You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few. Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you. The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.
Fred: What, what happened to him?
Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.
Fred: He never won? But we had Matt Harvey and Syndergaard. We had deGrom and Steven Matz. Even Zack Wheeler returned. We had five aces! Of course we won at least one. There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series. Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.
David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did. I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have. Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.
Woman: What happened?
David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015. After that, we always just seemed one or two players short. We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .
As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway. The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field. Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues. In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.
Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field. I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.
Worker 2: Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.
Worker 1: And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.
Worker 2: How can you? They let the whole thing fall apart.
Worker 1: Good riddance!
Fred: What is happening here? What old group? Who authorized these statues?
With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s. Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.
Man: Shhh! It’s about to be on the television.
Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s. With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.
Fred: Darryl! What are they talking about?
Man: This is a dream come true for me. As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today. And yet, here I am.
Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.
Man: Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family. From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans. My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.
As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.
Fred: Darryl, what is happening with my team? Was it . . .
As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home. Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters. Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.
Reporter: How do you feel today?
Jeff: How do you expect me to feel? The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.
Reporter: What message do you have for Mets fans?
Jeff: We just want them to continue supporting the New York Exelsior. I still believe that sooner or later this investment will pay off.
Fred: Jeff, don’t tell me you did it! Don’t tell me you sold my team!
Reporter: How do you think your father would feel about this moment?
Jeff: Well, the Dodgers just won another World Series with a payroll triple ours, so –
Fred: Jeff! Jeff! I’m over here! Jeff!
With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car. Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets. With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time, he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it. The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.
The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich. The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint. When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.
Fred: It’s December 25, 2017! I still own the team! The spirits have given me another chance!
Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Callaway, Alderson, and Wright.
Fred: I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer. We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it. Sandy, the shackles are off. You have everything you need at your disposal. We owe Mickey the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series. And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest. We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series. It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.
Mickey: Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!
David: God bless us everyone!