Darryl Hamilton

2017 Mets Carol

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.

Fred: Seriously?

Mickey: Well, I guess not. Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.

Fred: Bah!

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.

Fred: What?

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.

Fred: Ralph?

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.

Fred: Ralph?

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 CespedesNoah 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!

Put Bobby Valentine in the Mets Hall of Fame

It has been almost 15 years since Bobby Valentine has managed the Mets, and because of how history works, the enduring image we have of Bobby V is the time he came back into the dugout with sunglasses and a fake mustache made with eye back after he had been thrown out of a game.  Bobby V was much more than that.

After a disappointing player career that included two forgettable seasons with the Mets, Valentine became a coach.  In 1983, he was named the third base coach for the George Bamberger led Mets.  Despite Bamberger not lasting the season, and General Manager Frank Cashen cleaning house, the Mets decided to keep Valentine when Davey Johnson was hired.  From 1983 – 1985, Valentine was generally regarded as a very good third base coach, who helped in the development of a young Mets team from cellar dwellers to contenders.  He would be hired as the Texas Rangers manager, and he would miss all of the 1986 season. 

After his stint in Texas, a brief stop in Norfolk, and one in Japan, the Mets brought Bobby V back to the organization for the 1996 season.  Initially, he was named as the manager of the Tides.   However, after Dallas Green had finally run through all of the young arms on the team, Valentine was named the interim manager for the final 31 games of the season.  In the offseason, the interim tag would be removed, and he would start the 1997 season as the Mets manager.

The 1997 Mets were THE surprise team in all of baseball.  Despite a starting rotation that was comprised of Rick Reed, Dave Mlicki, Bobby Jones, Mark Clark, Brian Bohanon, and Armando Reynoso, the Mets would go from a 71 win team to an 88 win team.  Now, there were good seasons for the turnaround.  There was the acquisition of John Olerud.  There was also another strong season from Lance Johnson, and Todd Hundley proved his record setting 41 home run 1996 season was no fluke.  However, there were other factors at play, and they were directly related to the manger.

First, Edgardo Alfonzo was made the everyday third baseman instead of the utility player he was under Green.  Also, while Reed had started the season coming out of the bullpen, Bobby V moved him into the rotation.  Additionally, whereas Green’s calling card was to abuse his starters’ arms, Valentine protected his starters’ arms (his starters averaged six innings per start and less), and he used the bullpen to his advantage.  On a more subjective note, this was a team that played harder and was more sound fundamentally.  It was a team that probably played over their heads for much of the season.

One important note from this season, Mlicki threw a complete game shut-out against the Yankees in the first ever Subway Series game.  While the Mets were overmatched in terms of talent in that three game series, Bobby V had that group ready to play, and they very nearly took the three game set from the Yankees.

With the Mets having overachieved, the front office led by General Manager Steve Phillips gave his manager some reinforcements.  The team would acquire Al Leiter and Dennis Cook from the Marlins.  The Mets would also add Japanese pitcher Masato Yoshii from Japan.  However, this team was struggling due to Hundley’s elbow injury and Bernard Gilkey and Carlos Baerga having yet another disappointing season.  Bobby V and the Mets kept the team above .500 and competitive long enough to allow the front office to make the bold move to add Mike Piazza.

From there, the Mets took off, and they would actually be in the thick of the Wild Card race.  They were in it despite the Hundley LF experiment not working.  They were in it despite getting nothing offensively from left field and their middle infield.  They were in it despite the fact the Mets effectively had a three man bullpen.  The latter (I’m looking at you Mel Rojas) coupled with the Braves dominance of the Mets led to a late season collapse and the team barely missing out on the Wild Card.

The Mets re-loaded in 1999 with Rickey Henderson, Robin Ventura, Roger Cedeno, Armando Benitez, and Orel Hershiser (no, Bobby Bonilla is not getting lumped in here).  Things do not initially go as planned.  After blowing a late lead, the Yankees beat the Mets, and the Mets found themselves a game under .500.  Phillips responded by firing almost all of Bobby V’s coaching staff.

The Mets and Bobby V responded by becoming the hottest team in baseball.  From that point forward, the Mets were 70-37.  At points during the season, they even held onto first place for a few days.  The Mets were helped by Bobby V being judicious with Henderson’s playing time to help keep him fresh.  Like in year’s past, Bobby V moved on from a veteran not performing to give Cedeno a chance to play everyday, and he was rewarded.  Again, like in previous seasons, Bobby V had to handle a less than stellar starting rotation.

In what was a fun and tumultuous season, the Mets won 97 games.  The team nearly avoided disaster again by forcing a one game playoff against the Reds for the Wild Card.  Not only did the Mets take that game, but they upset the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.  The NLDS performance is all the more impressive when you consider Piazza was forced to miss the last two games due to injury.  In the NLCS, they just met a Braves team that had their number for the past three seasons.  Still, even with the Braves jumping all over the Mets and getting a 3-0 series lead, we saw the Mets fight back.

In Game 4, it was an eighth inning two run go-ahead Olerud RBI single off John Rocker.  In Game 5, it was a 15 inning game that was waiting for the other team to blink first.  While, the Mets blinked in the top of the 15th with a Keith Lockhart RBI triple, the Mets responded in the bottom of the 15th with Ventura’s Grand Slam single to send the series back to Atlanta.  The Mets would be ever so close in Game 6.  They fought back from a 5-0 and 7-3 deficit.  Unforutnately, neither John Franco nor Benitez could hold a lead to force a Game 7.  Then Kenny Rogers couldn’t navigate his way around a lead-off double and bases loaded one out situation in the 11th.

In 2000, Bobby V finally got the rotation he needed with the trade acquiring Mike Hampton and the emergence of Glendon Rusch.  However, even with the much improved rotation, it still was not an easy year for the Mets.  It rarely ever was during Bobby V’s tenure.

First, the Mets had to deal with the Henderson and Darryl Hamilton situations.  Henderson became a malcontent that wanted a new contract.  Hamilton lost his starting job due to a toe injury and had become a part time player.  The result was the complete transformation of the outfield with Benny Agbayani and Jay Payton becoming everyday players.  In the infield, the Mets lost Olerud to free agency and had to convert free agent third baseman Todd Zeile into a first baseman.  Additionally, the Mets lost Gold Glove shortstop Rey Ordonez to injury leading the team to have to rely on Melvin Mora as their shortstop for much of the season.  In what was perhaps Bobby V’s finest managing job with the Mets, the team made the postseason for the second straight year.  It was the first time in Mets history they had gone to consecutive playoff games.

In the postseason, the team showed the same toughness and grit as they had in prior years.  In the first game of the NLDS, they overcame an injury to Derek Bell and saw Timo Perez become a folk hero.  The Mets outlasted the Giants in Game 2 despite a Benitez blown save.  In Game 3, Agbayani hit a walk-off homer in the 13th, and Game 4 saw the Jones one-hitter.  With the Mets not having to face the Braves in the NLCS, they steamrolled through the Cardinals en route to their first World Series since 1986.  While the team never gave in, the balls did not bounce in their favor.  That was no more apparent than when Zeile’s fly ball hit the top of the left field wall and bounced back into play.

From there, Phillips lost his magic touch.  The team started to get old in 2001, and by 2002, everything fell apart.  After what was his first season under .500 with the Mets, Bobby V was fired after the 2002 season.  With one exception, it was the end of a forgettable and disappointing two seasons for the Mets.

One thing that cannot be lost with the 2001 season was how the Mets dealt with the aftermath of 9/11.  Every player did their part.  So did their manager.  After 9/11 happened, Bobby V was a visible face of the Mets franchise visiting firehouses and helping relief aid at Shea Stadium.  When it was time to return to playing games, he was able to get his players in a mindset to play baseball games.  That is no small feat when your captain was a local guy who lost a friend on 9/11.  Also, while it was the players who spearheaded wearing the First Responders’ caps, it was their manager who stood by their side and encouraged them to wear them despite requests to take them off from the Commissioner’s Office.

Through the roller coaster ride that was the 1,003 games of the Bobby V Era, the Mets were 536-437.  During that span, Bobby V managed the second most games in Mets history while earning the second most wins in Mets history.  His .534 winning percentage is the third best in Mets history just behind Johnson and Willie Randolph.  In all but his final season as Mets manager, the Mets either met or exceed their expected (Pythagorean) record.

Bobby V stands as just one of two managers to go to consecutive postseasons.  His 13 postseason wins are the most by any manager in Mets history.  He’s the only Mets manager to win a postseason series in consecutive postseasons.  He’s managed in more postseason series than any other Mets manager.

Overall, Bobby V is an important part of Mets history.  Out of all the managers in Mets history, it is fair to say the Bobby V consistently did more with the talent given to him by his front office.  For some, he is the best manager in Mets history.  Most will certainly agree he is at least the third best manager in Mets history.  For all of this, and how he represented the Mets organization during 9/11 and the aftermath, Bobby V should be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

 

A Mets Carol

On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, faithful manager Terry Collins enters Fred Wilpon’s office.

Terry: 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?

Terry:  Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address.  With Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins free agents, we need a couple of relievers in the bullpen, and –

Fred: Relievers?  I just gave you two guys last week!

Terry: I know, but those were minor league deals.

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.

Terry:  Well, we do owe the fans.

Fred:  Seriously?

Terry:  Well, I guess not.  Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.

Fred: Bah!

Not long after Terry 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.

Fred: What?

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?

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.

Fred: Ralph?

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 failed to win the Wild Card Game.  While the team acted quickly and brought back Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets offseason has been marked by inactivity.  Recently, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson stated the Mets were going to have to move a contract like Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson before they could sign additional players this offseason.  We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.

Fred:  Ralph?

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 2017 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 not spending any money until we move a contract.  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.  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.  The fans will let me do whatever I want so long as we’re winning.  With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Cespedes.  We have free t-shirts.  We get to hype up the starts of not just Matt Harvey, but also Noah Syndergaard.  As for the players, the only thing they really care about is their salary.

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 Collins about the upcoming season.

Collins: 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.

Collins:  You know the whole team is behind you.  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.  Not with this team.  We’re so close.  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 Harvey and Syndergaard.  We had Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz.  We had Cespedes.  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:  I’m not sure where you guys have been all these years.  If you came to the park, we might’ve been able to improve the team and prevent this day from happening.

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:  Look guys, it’s been a hard day in what has been a hard few years.  I just want to go home to my family.

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, 2016!  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 Collins, 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 Terry 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.

Terry:  Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!

David:  God bless us everyone!

Bobby Valentine’s Second Greatest Achievement

Recent reports indicate that President Elect Donald Trump is considering Bobby Valentine as the United States Ambassador to Japan.  If Valentine is indeed selected as the Ambassador to Japan, it would be his second biggest accomplishment.  Naturally, his biggest accomplishment was leading the 2000 Mets not only to the postseason, but to the National League Pennant.

As luck would have it, the New York Mets would begin the season in Japan.  Valentine’s Opening Day outfield was Rickey HendersonDarryl HamiltonDerek Bell.  Of that group, only Bell would play in a postseason game for the Mets, and he would be injured in Game One of the NLDS.  Henderson would prove to be a malcontent that wanted a new contract, and ultimately, he would be released in May.  Hamilton would lose his job in April after suffering a toe injury.  This led to the Mets outfield being Benny AgbayaniJay Payton-Bell for most of the season.

The one thing Agbayani could do was hit.  In 2000, he hit .289/.391/.477 with 15 homers and 60 RBI in 119 games.  However, he was a terrible fielder who did this in the field during a game that season:

 

For his part, Payton was one of the heralded players out of Georgia Tech that included Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra.  While Payton was once considered on par with them, if not better.  As a prospect, Payton’s star would diminish a bit, but he would still become a major league player.  In his 2000 rookie season, Payton relatively struggled at the plate hitting .291/.331/.447 with 17 homers and 62 RBI in 149 games.

There was more than that.  Valentine also had to help make Todd Zeile an effective first baseman after he spent most of his career as a third baseman.  Zeile was of course signed to replace John Olerud, who departed in free agency.  While Zeile had a nice season hitting .268/.356/.467 with 22 homers and 79 RBI, his production fell far short of Olerud’s .298/.427/.463, 19 homer run, 96 RBI season.  When you consider the drop off defensively from the Gold Glover Olerud to the quickly adapting Zeile, the team was noticeably worse at first base.

The team was also worse at shortstop.  While Rey Ordonez never hit for much, he was a Gold Glover at shortstop.  The Mets would miss that defense after he broke his left arm trying to get a tag down in May.  This led to the Mets trying to get by with Melvin Mora at shortstop, who struggled at the plate and in the field.  This led to the ill advised trade for Mike Bordick who would hit .260/.321/.365 in his 56 games as a Met.

In reality, this was all part of a Mets team that was considerably weaker than the 1999 version.  Pat Mahomes was nowhere near as good as he was in 1999.  In place of well established veterans like Orel Hershiser and Kenny Rogers in the rotation, the Mets had Glendon Rusch and the return of Bobby Jones.  However, it should be noted the rotation was one area the Mets were better.

Whereas the 1999 Mets were an offensive juggernaut with a strong bullpen, the 2000 Mets were built on starting pitching.  Al Leiter had an improved season making him 1A behind the ace the Mets acquired in the offseason, Mike Hampton.  With Rusch and Jones outperforming their expectations, and quite possibly what their rotation counterparts did in 1999, the rotation was one area the Mets were improved.

The rotation along with two terrific players in Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo, Valentine was able to lead the Mets to the World Series.  Valentine was able to do that despite a diminished offense, vastly diminished defense, an overall less talented roster, and some drama (which usually follows Valentine wherever he goes).  It was a team that outperformed their Pythagorean win-loss record by six games.  It was a team that outperformed expectations.

Making it to the 2000 World Series should be considered Valentine’s biggest accomplishment.  That Mets team really had no business making it to the postseason let alone the World Series.  It is why that should stand as Valentine’s biggest accomplishment even if he were to be named as President Trump’s choice to be the Ambassador to Japan.

Why I’m Rooting for the Nationals Tonight

Apparently, the Mets and Nationals being rivals for a whole two seasons has lead a bunch of Mets fans to root for Chase Utley in the NLCS. Yes, rooting for the Dodgers, or against the Nationals, is rooting for Utley. As a Mets fan, I don’t get it. To me the Nationals are the lessor of two evils. Without even getting into the early years of the Mets history where the Dodgers, notably Sandy Koufax, routinely embarassed the Mets, here’s why:

Mike Scioscia grand slam off Dwight Gooden:

Jay Howell is a dirty cheat:

Orel Hershiser effectively ends the best run in Mets history:

Dodgers sign Darryl Strawberry in free agency making him an ex-Met:

And, oh yeah, Bobby Ojeda.

Guillermo Mota hitting Mike Piazza on multiple occasions and always running away when confronted.

Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg turning a potential sweep into a series:

Also, Utley’s subsequent cowardice ducking in and out of Citi Field and not taking one at-bat at Citi Field.

Speaking of which, everything Utley ever did to the Mets:

Seriously, did you know that other fans refer to the right field corner in Citi Field as the Utley Corner?  It is one of the biggest humiliations the Mets have suffered at the hands of Utley and his Phillies teams including the 2007 and 2008 collapses.  By the way, also part of those teams was current Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz.

So no, there is no circumstance, unless they are playing the Cardinals, that I could ever root for the Dodgers or an Utley led team.  It’s why, despite this new massive rivalry the Mets have apparently had stretching all the way back to last year, I’m rooting for the Nationals.  Personally, I’d rather have a little bit more perspective on Mets history past and present.  Speaking of which, just remember that while Utley was always a thorn in the Mets side, Daniel Murphy was doing this for the Mets last year:

So overall, I’m siding with the team that has been a Mets rival for exactly two years and hasn’t done much harm to the Mets as a franchise over a team that put an end to the best run in Mets history, had players who consistently threw at Piazza, and have one of the dirtiest players in baseball.

It’s Not World Series or Bust

I remember back in 2000, the stories were that Bobby Valentine needed to make the World Series in order to keep his job. The amazing thing is he actually did it. 

Just think about everything that had to happen that year for the Mets to make the World Series. First, the Mets had an overhaul of its outfield during the season.  On Opening Day, the Mets outfield was, from left to right, Rickey HendersonDarryl HamiltonDerek Bell. At the end of the year, it was Benny AgbayaniJay Payton-Derek Bell. Agbayani was only on the Opening Day roster because MLB allowed the team to have expanded rosters for their opening series in Japan. 

On top of that, Todd Zeile was signed to replace John Olerud. Zeile had to become a first baseman after playing third for 10 years. Edgardo Alfonzo had to adapt from moving from the second spot in the lineup to the third spot. The Mets lost Rey Ordonez to injury and first replaced him with Melvin Mora for 96 games before trading him for the light hitting Mike Bordick. More or less, all of these moves worked. Then came the postseason. 
A lot happened in the NLDS. After losing Game One, the Mets faced a quasi must win in Game Two. They were leading before Armando Benitez blew a save. I know. I’m shocked too. The Mets regained the lead, and they won the game when John Franco got a borderline third strike call against Barry Bonds. In Game Three, the Mets won on a Agbayani 13th inning walk off homerun. This was followed by Bobby Jones closing out the series on a one-hitter. 

The Mets were then fortunate that the Braves lost to the Cardinals in the other NLDS series. The Mets tore through the Cardinals with new leadoff hitter Timo Perez. We saw all that luck run out in the World Series. We watched Zeile’s potential homerun land on top of the fence and bounce back. On the same play, Perez was thrown out at home. In the same game, Benitez blew the save. Unfortunately, there were no more heroics. 

We saw this repeated in 2015. The epically bad Mets offense had to have its pitching hold things together until help came. Part of that required the Nationals to underperform while the Mets were fighting tooth and nail just to stay in the race. 

In the NLDS, the Mets were on the verge of elimination. They weren’t eliminated because somehow, some way Jacob deGrom pitched six innings with absolutely nothing. The Mets then needed Daniel Murphy to have a game for the ages. He stole a base while no one was looking, and he hit a big homerun. It was part of an amazing run through the postseason for Murphy. Like in 2000, it came to a crashing halt in the World Series. 

No matter how good your team is, it takes a lot of luck to win the World Series. Look at the 86 Mets. 

In the NLCS, they barely outlasted the Astros. In Game Three, they needed a Lenny Dykstra two run homerun in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5. In Game Five, Gary Carter hit a walk off single in the 12th to send the Mets back to Houston up 3-2. It was important because they didn’t want to face Mike Scott and his newfound abilities. With that pressure, they rallied from three down in the ninth, blew a 14th inning lead, and nearly blew a three run lead in the 16th inning. 

Following this, the Mets quickly fell down 0-2 in the World Series before heading to Boston. After taking 2/3 in Boston, the Mets had to rally in the eighth just to tie Game Six. There are books that can be written not only about the 10th inning, but also Mookie Wilson‘s at bat. 

First, they had to have a none on two out rally with each batter getting two strikes against them.  For Calvin Schiraldi to even be in the position to meltdown, he had to be traded by the Mets to the Red Sox heading into the 1986 season. In return, the Mets got Bobby Ojeda, who won Game Three and started Game Six. John McNamara removed Schiraldi way too late and brought in Bob Stanley. His “wild pitch” in Mookie’s at bat allowed the tying run to score. You know the rest:

By the way, keep in mind Bill Buckner wasn’t pulled for a defensive replacement. Also, the Mets had to rally late from 3-0 deficit just to tie Game Seven. 

We need to keep all of this is mind when setting expectations for the 2016 season. Terry Collins is right when he says World Series title or bust is unfair. We know way too much can happen between now and the World Series. Right now, the only goal should be winning the NL East. If the Mets do that, they have met their reasonable expectations. After that, the Mets are going to need a little luck to win the World Series. 

Fortunately, the Mets are carrying a four leaf clover in the form of Matt HarveyJacob deGromNoah Syndergaard, and Jeurys Familia

Oh Billy Billy Billy

Admittedly, I have been apoplectic over the Tyler Clippard trade. The reason is because the last time the Mets made a trade like this it ended very badly. Faith and Fear in Flushing invoked the infamous John Smoltz and Jeff Bagwell trades. For me, it reminded me of Billy Taylor

In 1999, the Mets were in competition for the playoffs for really the second time in my life (and second year in a row). I was too young to truly remember this (although my first baseball memory is the Buckner game) or this. After the previous season’s collapse, I was desperate to see the Nets make the playoffs. I was appreciative when Steve Phillips was aggressive at the trade deadline. Notably, he added Kenny Rogers (I still don’t want to talk about it), Shawn Dunston, and Darryl Hamilton (RIP). He also traded for Billy  Taylor. 

To acquire Billy Taylor, the Mets sent Billy Beane’s A’s Greg McMichael and Jason Isringhausen. At the time, I loved the move. Over a three year stretch, he had 73 saves on mediocre Athletics teams. In 1999, on an A’s team on the rise, he had 26 saves (his peripherals were awful but I didn’t follow such things back then). I was giddy at the prospect of the Mets having a 7-8-9 of Billy Taylor-John Franco-Armando Benitez (this is before we knew he was terrible in October). I didn’t care about the cost. All I wanted was a playoff berth, let alone a World Series. 

Boy, was I wrong. In 18 appearances, Taylor had an 8.10 ERA. He was terrible. He didn’t pitch in the postseason. He was gone at the end of the year. He was out of baseball after the 2001 season. 

The real cost of Taylor’s 18 innings?  Jason Isringhausen’s career. He was once part of the fabled Generation K. In 1999, he was only given five starts. Mostly, he was a seldom used reliever who bounced between Norfolk and New York. He was coming off an elbow injury. At the time of the trade, he had a 6.41 ERA. His star had fallen. While he wasn’t good, Bobby V didn’t want to put him in the bullpen because that was “akin to using an Indy car as a taxi.”

I love Bobby V, but he was proven wrong. In 1999, he would save eight games for the A’s with a 2.13 ERA. That might’ve been helpful as Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run. Since the trade, Izzy accumulated 299 saves (one for the Mets in 1999 and seven for them in 2011).  That was a lot to give up for 18 appearances. 

Now, I don’t think Tyler Clippard will be as bad as Billy Taylor. He’s a much better pitcher. In actuality, through all of my hand wringing, I have noted Clippard is a quality addition that will help a back of a bullpen that needs it. I think the 7-8-9 of Bobby Parnell-Tyler Clippard-Jeurys Familia could be very good, or at least better than the 1999 version. If the Mets win the World Series, I’ll be thrilled and I won’t care how good Casey Meisner becomes. 

However, I shudder at another Mets trade with Billy Beane for a reliever.  While I hope one day I’m regaling my son of the 2015 championship season, I’m afraid that I will be explaining how Casey Meisner could have been a Met.