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.
Back in 2012, Stephen Strasburg didn’t pitch. Instead, on the advice of his agents and doctors, he sat out the postseason after throwing 159.1 innings in his first season back from Tommy John.
The decision was widely panned. His manager, Davey Johnson, was particularly angry. It didn’t matter as Strasburg, his agent, and the Nationals front office valued his future more than the 2012 World Series, or for that matter, the 2012 NLDS.
Since that time, Strasburg hasn’t had perfect health. Far from it at times. However, he’s still pitching and pitching well.
Since that 2012 season, he’s had two All-Star appearances, and, assuming this year’s vote, he will have three top 10 Cy Young finishes.
He also signed a seven year $175 million contract extension entering the 2016 season. He has an opt out which he is sure to exercise to cash-in even further.
Now, after Game 2, he has a World Series victory as his Nationals team is just two wins away from winning the World Series.
What’s interesting is how Strasburg finally got this opportunity in his third postseason and the fourth the Nationals have been in during his career. It’s all the more interesting he’s at this point after he wouldn’t pitch in 2012.
It’s certainly an interesting parallel to Matt Harvey, i.e. the man who did pitch.
In 2015, Harvey returned from his own Tommy John, and there was controversy.
The controversy was Boras was putting the Mets on notice Harvey was going to exceed the preset 180 inning limit set for Harvey for the 2015 season. The Mets pretended to be blindsided, but they knew all along.
Instead of doing what Strasburg did, Harvey pitched. He’d pitch more than anyone had coming back from Tommy John. His last start was a truly great effort against the Kansas City Royals.
In an interesting twist, in Game 5, it was Harvey, and not the Mets, who insisted on pitching.
When he walked off the mound, we suspected it could be the last time we saw Harvey in 2015. What we didn’t know was that would really be the last time we would ever see Harvey, or at least the real Harvey.
In 2016, Harvey struggled mightily, and he just didn’t look right. Eventually, he’d be diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome leading to his undergoing season ending surgery.
He’d come back before he was really ready in 2017, and in 2018, after a poor start, he’d be designated for assignment before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Devin Mesoraco.
Harvey rebounded enough to get an $11 million deal from the Los Angeles Angels, but after a 7.09 ERA, he was designated for assignment. Harvey couldn’t latch on with anyone until he signed a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics nearly a full month after the Angels released him.
At a time when Strasburg was winning Game 2 prior to what is going to be a lucrative foray into free agency, Harvey is a minor leaguer just hoping to catch on with someone next year. It’s an interesting dichotomy for these two pitchers.
Strasburg, the one who listened to Boras, is still pitching. He’s going to have a top five Cy Young finish, and based on the first two games of the World Series, he’s going to have a ring.
Harvey, the man who eschewed Boras’ advice to win a World Series, didn’t get his ring. Based on what we’ve seen since that 2015 World Series, it’s fair to question if he’ll ever get another opportunity.
No, we can’t say for sure Harvey’s pitching in 2015 caused his subsequent health problems. Certainly, you can find information which suggests the TOS was eventually going to be an issue no matter what Harvey did.
In the end, it just seems like a cruel twist of fate the pitcher who did all he could do to win a World Series, won’t win one, but the guy who shut himself down in 2012 is halfway there.
In a shock to everyone, the New York Mets announced they were going to retire Jerry Koosman‘s number 36. Previously, as was the case with Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza, the Mets standard for retiring a player’s name was their induction into the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets cap. Now that the standards have officially been lowered, there are a number of other Mets who deserve consideration for the same honor as Seaver, Piazza, and Koosman.
#5 David Wright
Wright is the Mets all-time leader in WAR among position players, and he has set team records in at-bats, plate appearances, run scored, hits, total bases, doubles, walks, RBI, and a number of other categories. He was a consummate professional, a real face of the franchise, and a player who stuck around even when the team was rebuilding.
If not for injuries, Wright would have been a Hall of Famer. He is one of the most, if not the most, beloved Mets to put on the uniform, and he is only one of four captains in team history.
#8 Gary Carter
Under the previous standard, Carter’s number would have been retired had the Hall of Fame not forced him to go in as a Montreal Expos player instead of as a Mets player as he had wanted. Of course, lost in the Hall of Fame’s decision was one of the reasons Carter was even inducted into the Hall of Fame was his time with the Mets.
Carter proved to be the missing piece which would push the Mets over the top in 1986. Speaking of 1986, he was the guy who got the two out single against Calvin Schiraldi to get that rally started. His contributions in that series were much more than that as he led all players in homers and RBI.
Carter was also noted by several of the Mets pitchers as being what helped put that pitching staff over the top. Dwight Gooden said of him, “I relied on Gary for everything when I was on the mound.” Ron Darling said, “With all the sabermetric numbers that we use today, when Gary came over, he brought his own National League computer with him — it was his brain.” (ESPN).
With Carter, the Mets had their greatest run in franchise history, and he was a leader on that team. He was the second captain in team history, and he is one of the most important players who ever put on the Mets uniform.
#15 Carlos Beltran
The people largely against this are fixated on that strikeout, but what those people overlook is the Mets are nowhere near that position if Beltran doesn’t have what could be the greatest season a Mets position player has ever had. That includes his hitting .296/.387/.667 in that sereis. That year and during his Mets career Beltran played like the Hall of Famer he will officially be once he is eligible.
Beltran is the greatest center fielder in team history, and he was a true five tool player winning three Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers while being a member of the Mets. That was part of him being named an All-Star in five of his seven years in Queens.
When you break it all down, Beltran is a Hall of Famer who had his best years with the Mets, and everything being equal, he would wear a Mets cap on his plaque.
#17 Keith Hernandez
While Carter was largely viewed as the player who put the Mets over the top, Hernandez was seen as the player who taught a young talented Mets team how to win. Of course, lost in that narrative was how Hernandez was a driving force in helping those Mets teams win.
In his seven years with the Mets, he had seven Gold Gloves, which is the most in team history. He was more than his glove having a the third best OBP, fifth best OPS+, and 10th most RBI in team history.
He was a fiery leader who famously warned Jesse Orosco to not throw another fastball to Kevin Bass. Of course, his leadership was much more than that, which is one of the reasons why he was the first ever player to be named captain.
Of course, we cannot discuss Hernandez without acknowledging his work in the booth. His color commentary has made him an even more beloved Met. If his playing career wasn’t sufficient, certainly his being a vital part of “GKR” puts him over the top.
#45 John Franco
Franco is the greatest closer in Mets history. He has the most appearances and saves in Mets history. In fact, his 424 career saves ranks as the most saves ever by a left-handed reliever. While he played for a number of bad Mets teams, he would come up big many times when the Mets needed him most.
He has a 1.88 postseason ERA for the Mets. Included in that was his striking out Barry Bonds, and his getting the win in Game 3 of the 2000 World Series. As big as those moments were, it is possible his biggest moment was his getting the win the first game back after 9/11 wearing an FDNY cap honoring his friends who died that day.
It should also be noted Franco was a rare closer who was also a team leader. He famously not only surrendered his 31 for Piazza, he would also make sure to make him feel welcome in New York. That was certainly a factor in Piazza staying. It was also a reason Franco was named the third captain in team history.
With respect to Franco, it should be noted his predominantly wearing 31 could mean the team could retire that number in his honor as well. The team also has the option of retiring 45 in both his and Tug McGraw‘s honor. The same tactic can be used for number 5 with Davey Johnson also arguably deserving the honor for arguably being the best manager in team history.
Beyond this group of five players, there are certainly more players who could be argued with everyone having their favorite players and other players having had a significant impact on the team and its history. Of course, it should be noted this list includes players who are no longer playing. If we were to expand it, we would have to also include Jacob deGrom on this list.
The one thing we know is the next player who will have his number retired is Koosman. It is an honor befitting one of the greatest Mets in team history, and it should lead to more emotional days at Citi Field honoring Mets greats.
As Mets fans, we debate as to what the greatest moment was in Mets history, and we typically get it wrong. It wasn’t Cleon Jones catching Davey Johnson‘s fly ball. It wasn’t Gary Carter leading the impossible rally in Game 6, or Jesse Orosco striking out Marty Barrett for the final out. There are plenty of other moments fans can pinpoint. They’re all wrong.
The greatest moment in Mets history happened on April 3, 1966. That was the date the Mets were awarded the rights to Tom Seaver by Commissioner William Eckert.
Up until that time and not too long thereafter, the Mets were a laughingstock. In their first four and five of their first seasons, they lost over 100 games. Considering those more than humbling beginnings and how he completely changed the team, you understand how the Mets truly became a “Franchise” when Seaver joined the team.
The 19 strike out game. The 1971 season. The 1973 season. Game Five of the 1973 NLCS. Seaver’s return to the Mets in 1983 and making his final Opening Day start with the Mets, which was the 14th of his Major League record 16 Opening Day starts.
His 41 was the first number retired in honor of a Mets player. In 1992, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame with 98.8 percent of the vote. It was then a record for highest ever percentage and one which still stands for starting pitchers.
He and Mike Piazza closed Shea Stadium and would open Citi Field.
Through it all, Seaver is the only player in Major League history with a Rookie of the Year and multiple Cy Youngs. His 12 All Stars are the most among right-handed starters in Mets history. His 110.1 WAR is the highest WAR among (non-PED) pitchers in the post WWII Era and the sixth highest all-time.
Since 1920, he’s the only pitcher who had a quality start in over 70 percent of his starts.
All told, Seaver was 311-205 with a 2.86 ERA and 3,640 strikeouts.
He owns nearly every Mets pitching record – wins (198), ERA (2.57), innings (3045.2), starts (395), complete games (171), shutouts (44), and strikeouts (2541). His 76.1 WAR with the Mets is easily the best in Mets history.
In fact, it took Seaver just seven seasons to post a higher WAR than what took David Wright, who is second on the Mets career WAR rankings, to post in 13 years. The 41.2 WAR Seaver posted over the first six years of his career is just .4 behind the 41.6 WAR Dwight Gooden posted in his 11 year Mets career.
No matter how you analyze it, Seaver is easily the best player in Mets history.
During his time with the Mets, he gave Mets fans so many memorable moments. That makes his dementia diagnosis all the more heartbreaking. We can remember all the reasons why he was great, and we can remember all the great games and moments at a time when Seaver is being robbed of those moments.
He’s being robbed of those moments at the same time as his former teammate Bud Harrelson, a man who fought through tears the first time he faced Seaver as an opponent, is battling Alzheimer’s. As anyone who has seen loved ones suffer from this disease, you know how heartbreaking this is.
That’s what this is – heartbreaking. Seaver loses the memories we all cherish. He can’t be there to celebrate the anniversary of a World Series he made possible. Worse than that, his memories of his family and loved ones will eventually fade.
No one deserves this. Not Seaver. Not a Hall of Famer. Not the man who made the Mets, the Mets. Not a husband, father, and grandfather. No one.
But he is because life isn’t fair. This means he misses out not just on what’s to come (1969 reunion or a statue whenever it comes), but worse yet, all that’s already happened. His family gets to watch on while they lose a man who was much more than a Hall of Fame pitcher to them.
Heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking.
While it is not an official policy, the Mets organization will only retire the numbers of players who enter the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets cap. That is why the only Mets players who have their numbers retired are Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza. If the Baseball Hall of Fame honored Gary Carter‘s choice, he would have gone into the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap, and as a result, his number would have been retired as well.
That would have pleased many Mets fans who want to see his number be retired. More than Carter, Mets fans seem to want to see Keith Hernandez‘s and David Wright‘s numbers retired. With respect to those two, chances are neither enter the Hall of Fame, and just like Carter, chances are Hernandez is inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing a Cardinals cap.
Much of the Carter and Hernandez push is related to both players being key veterans on the 1986 World Series team. Oddly enough, the same case has not been made for Davey Johnson.
Back in 1984, Frank Cashen tabbed Johnson to be the Mets manager. He was entasked with leading a Mets team to not just win a World Series, but really to just win games. The Mets had not been over .500 since 1976, which was Seaver’s last full season with the Mets. Seaver was back in 1983 only for the Mets to lose him again.
The winning happened immediately. Behind Rookie of the Year Dwight Gooden, and a young core which included Darryl Strawberry, Wally Backman, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez, the 1984 Mets finished second place in the National League East with a 90-72 record. This began a string of eight straight seasons where the Mets would finish second or better in the division. Johnson would oversee six of those seasons.
The 1985 Mets won 98 games, which was then the second most wins the Mets had ever accumulated. They were that close to winning the division. Entering 1986, Johnson would declare the Mets were the team to beat, and his team would back him up. Their 108 wins is the third most ever by a National League team.
When you include the postseason, the 1986 have won more games than any other National League team over the past century.
Yes, this does speak to how great the 1986 Mets were, but it also speaks to Johnson’s managerial abilities. He was ahead of his time using data and statistics to inform his decisions. Yes, those 1980s Mets teams were talented, but it was Johnson who got everything out of those talented teams by optimizing his team’s lineups.
This is why Johnson would become the first ever National League manager to have 90+ wins in each of his first five seasons.
He’s also the only Mets manager with two 100 win seasons. He joins Gil Hodges as only one of two Mets managers to win a World Series, and he was the first Mets manager to go to two different postseasons.
Johnson is the Mets all-time leader in wins and winning percentage. He is second only to Terry Collins in games managed. He is second to Bobby Valentine in postseason wins, which is partially a function of Major League Baseball adding an additional postseason round when they added the Wild Card in 1994.
Despite all of these records and his impact on the franchise, Hodges and Casey Stengel remain the only two managers who have had their numbers retired by the Mets. Given how the standards to retire manager numbers (to the extent there is any) is far lower than for players, it is odd how nearly 30 years after Johnson managed his last game, he has not had his number retired.
His number not being retired may become more of an issue going forward as once again he is a candidate on the Today’s Game ballot for the Hall of Fame. With his having a better winning percentage than Hall of Famers like Bobby Cox (a manager who also has just one World Series to his credit), and his being only one of two managers in MLB history to lead four separate franchises to to the postseason, there is a real case to be made for Johnson’s induction.
If inducted, he is likely going to enter the Hall of Fame as a member of the Mets. If so, any and all excuses to not retire his number have gone by the wayside. Of course, that is unless you are not of the belief Johnson has not done enough to merit having his number retired anyway.
Given how his number has not been retired, it is certainly still up for debate whether it should or should not be retired by the Mets organization. Going forward, when debates happen,,when taking into account standards already set forth coupled with the impact on the organization, Davey Johnson should probably be first in line when it comes to having his number retired.
On Sunday, I published a tongue-in-cheek recommendation as to what promotions the Mets should have during the 2018 season. The original concept of the post was the Mets promotional schedule feels like it is lacking this year, and the team should be looking for better ways to honor their players.
With that in mind, I asked the Mets Blogger Roundtable what promotions they would like to see the Mets institute during the 2018 season:
The Mets should re-introduce Old Timers Day. Promotions are nice, but they generally consist of things which either break, get lost, forgotten, or all three. Old Timers Day can be traditional and memorable as fans connect emotionally with the players. Sure, there’s no sponsored bobble head doll, hat, or a fidget spinner that goes with it – sometimes the greatest souvenir can be reconnecting with the past, which is why what such a day would be so great for everyone involved.
There was a character on “Rick and Morty” called “Mr. Meeseeks.” He lived only to fix one problem of yours before ceasing to exist. He wanted to cease to be, is the thing – his catch phrase is “Existence is pain!” Naturally, some unknown hero on the internet created a “Mr. Metseeks.” My interpretation of Mr. Metseeks is Mr. Metseeks cannot die until the Mets win the World Series. We all started kind, then have only grown more bitter, and increasing irritated over the years, when the Mets did not fulfill their destiny. We are all Mr. Metseeks. Let’s have an action figure of ourselves some Saturday in 2018. Why? Because a “Jay Brews” shirt sends the wrong message to the youths.
Ernest Dove (MMO & MMN)
As a South Florida resident and fan of the High-A St. Lucie Mets, I can’t help but suggest the MLB Mets model the St. Lucie Mets with $1 beer $1 hot dog night. With ticket prices continuing to skyrocket, I think it would be a great idea for Mets to win over their fans with a night of cheap food and drinks. I’m not suggesting bottles of beer. I’m talking $1 plastic cups here. It might pack the place. And along with the obvious on the alcohol, this would also allow for parents to ensure all their kids are fed. Do it!
Old Timer’s Day; as a kid I always loved Mets Old Timer’s Day, and frankly, I miss it dearly.
In 2009, the New York Times quoted then-Mets executive Dave Howard: “It was particularly unpopular as a promotion. We didn’t see an increase in ticket sales or interest from sponsors or even from people who already had tickets. It died of its own unpopularity in the early ’90s. We felt we were better served by bringing our alumni back over several days instead of one day.”
Now, I liked Dave Howard, nice guy, but that statement was crap. a) outside of a rare 1986 tribute when the hell do the Mets ever “bring their alumni back?”
Maybe be creative? Maybe call it “Amazin Day,” and combine the old Photo Day with an autograph day, have the former Mets like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Art Shamsky, Mookie Wilson, Rusty Staub, Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Piazza, Felix Millan, etc. gather at Citi Field and have a Mets fan’s dream of a day? Yeah, it would cost money, but it’d be sold out and there are a thousand marketing ideas that would make it a must-have ticket (and memorabilia money maker) every year!
The idea that Mets fans wouldn’t embrace a day to celebrate their team’s history is ridiculous.
I wish it was only a cost-effectiveness issue. But it’s not. Frankly, the Mets can’t even send out a promo video without doing something dumb like trying to avoid the existence of a 20-game winner who just won the organizations first Cy Young Award in almost 30 years. It is the fear of ridicule, of blowback, and of honest feedback from a fanbase that’s tired of the losing and the stupidity. In 1989, Davey Johnson was omitted from the list of some two dozen people invited to Old-Timers’ Day.
Why? If the Old-Timers’ Day crowd cheered Johnson, would the Mets’ front office and Harrelson be embarrassed? If the crowd booed him, would he be embarrassed? Like many, many, many others have said many, many, many times, the Wilpons and by extension, their PR and Marketing departments lack a cohesive link to their smartest and most loyal fans. Maybe it’s time to listen to a few of them.
If you ask a New York Giants fan about the postseason, they will reminisce about Super Bowl XLII and XLVI. You will hear about the Helmet Catch and Eli hitting Manningham down the sideline for 38 yards. You know what you don’t hear about? Fassell having the Giants ill prepared for Super Bowl XXXV or Trey Junkin.
The reason is simple when you win, you remember it forever. However, when you lose, and you lose and lose, that memory festers and worsens year to year.
For years and even until this day, you will occasionally hear Howie Rose bemoan Yogi Berra‘s decision to go with Tom Seaver on short rest over George Stone in Game 6 of the 1973 World Series. One of the reasons that memory lingers is the Mets where irrelevant from 1974 until 1984.
After 1986, Mets fans were in their glory, and to this day many fans who got to live through 1986 talk about it as fondly today as they probably did when they got to work on October 28, 1986.
Behind them is a group of Mets fans who never really got to live through the 1986 World Series. As a result, they just know Madoff Scandals and hauting postseason failures:
- Davey Johnson botched that series including leaving in Dwight Gooden too long in Game Four. Doc would allow a game tying home run in the top of the ninth to Mike Scioscia.
- It was the last hurrah for Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez who struggled over the final few games of the series, and respectively faced poor and injury plagued 1989 seasons before finding new homes in 1989.
- First and foremost, the one thing that should stick out was how those Braves teams just tortured the Mets, and the Mets could never get past them.
- Both John Franco and Armando Benitez blew leads in Game 6 preventing the Mets from sending the series to a seventh game and letting the Mets be the team to do what the Red Sox did to the Yankees five years later.
- Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded to end the series.
2000 World Series
- Timo Perez should have run out that fly ball off the bat of Todd Zeile
- Roger Clemens should have been ejected for throwing a bat at Mike Piazza
- Piazza’s ball goes out if it was just a few degrees warmer
- Guillermo Mota shook off Paul Lo Duca
- Billy Wagner cannot give up a home run to So Taguchi
- Yadier Molina
- Cliff Floyd just missed his pitch, the Jose Reyes liner didn’t fall, and Carlos Beltran struck out looking on an Adam Wainwright curveball
- The subsequent two seasons followed with epic collapses with Tom Glavine not being devastated and an inept Jerry Manuel going to Scott Schoeneweis who gave up the homer that closed Shea for good.
2015 World Series
- Terry Collins making terrible decision after terrible decision.
- Yoenis Cespedes a no-show from the very first defensive play of the World Series.
- Jeurys Familia blowing three saves even if they weren’t all his fault.
- Daniel Murphy overrunning a ball.
- Lucas Duda‘s throw home.
- Matt Harvey for too long in Game 5.
2016 Wild Card Game
- Connor Gillaspie
The list for the aforementioned series really goes on and on, but those were just some of the highlights. After tonight’s game, that is what Astros and Dodgers fans will be doing. They’ll be asking if Dave Roberts was too aggressive with his pitching changes while A.J. Hinch was not aggressive enough. Why didn’t Chris Taylor try to score, or why could Josh Reddick just put the ball in play. Really, the list goes on and on.
For one fan base, they will focus on the things that went wrong. Considering the Dodgers haven’t won in 29 years and the Astros have never won, the pain of this loss is going to hurt all the more. For the fanbase that gets to win this one, they will have memories to cherish for a lifetime, and they will never again be bothered by the what ifs that could have plagued their team in this epic World Series.
Anytime you enter into a search for a new manager, you are really dealing with the realm of the unknown. For first time managers, you really have no idea if that person is truly ready for the big leagues, he is better suited to the minors, or is a better coach. For every Davey Johnson you hire, there are also the Joe Torres of the world, who were talented managers, but not ready to manage at the time you gave him the job.
Really, in these instances, you have to look at the relevant information available and the recommendations of other baseball people. Mostly, you’re going with your gut.
The Mets gut told them to go out there and hire Mickey Callaway.
The Mets only needed one interview to choose Callaway over former manager and Mets coach Manny Acta. It was sufficient enough for them to bypass current hitting coach Kevin Long.
Callaway had impressed so much during his interview and during his time with the Cleveland Indians, the Mets were not willing to wait. They had Fred Wilpon sit down and sell him on the franchise similar to how the team once did with Billy Wagner and Curtis Granderson.
Give the Mets credit here. They identified their man, and they did all they could do to bring him into the organization. Deservedly so, many complimented the Mets on making a smart hire, including the fans who were skeptical of the direction the Mets would go.
Their man also happened to be a pitching guru, who will now be tasked with the responsibility of fixing Matt Harvey as well as finding a way to keep Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Jeurys Familia healthy for a full season.
If Mets fans want a reason to be excited for this season, there is no bigger reason than Callaway choosing to manage this pitching staff. By doing so, he’s announced he’s a believer, and he’s put his and the Mets future on this lines.
The team hiring Callaway so early and so aggressively had a domino effect. It looks like the first domino to fall will be hitting coach Kevin Long.
Long has had a positive impact on the players on this Mets roster. He helped turn Yoenis Cespedes from a slugger to a star. By OPS+ and wRC+, Asdrubal Cabrera had two of his best five offensive seasons. Michael Conforto would prove he could hit left-handed pitching at the Major League level.
With Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith being two cornerstones of the franchise, Long was exactly the man you wanted to help them reach their offensive ceilings. Now, that won’t happen because Long is likely gone.
Another person you would want to help lead young players like Rosario and Smith is Joe Girardi. In his one year with the Marlins, and this past season working with young players like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the Yankees made a surprising run this season that ended with a Game 7 loss in the ALCS.
What is interesting is the Mets were rumored to want Girardi. As reported by the New York Post, the Mets were looking to possibly “pounce” on Girardi if the Yankees did not bring him back.
That was written during the ALDS when it appeared Girardi’s job was in jeopardy. After the Yankees recovered and upset the Indians and took the Astros to seven games, there weren’t too many people who stuck believed Girardi would be looking for another job.
And yet, he is. This should at least raise some questions whether the Mets should have done their due diligence. Maybe another round of interviews were in order. Conducting that extra round could have left the Mets open to the chance of not making an hire before Girardi became available.
Maybe if there was a second round of interviews, Long feels more appreciated instead of taking his binders to another job. That other job could be as the manager or hitting coach of the Washington Nationals where he would reunite with Daniel Murphy. Maybe with Long at the helm, the Nationals finally get past the NLDS.
If that were to happen, and if Callaway falters, it would be too much for Mets fans to bear. Yet again, the Mets let one of their own go to the Nationals leading them to further success because they were enamored with someone from another organization. Like with Murphy and Justin Turner, Sandy Alderson will have opened himself up to justifiable second guessing.
The team jumped the gun costing themselves a chance to hire a terrific manager in Girardi, and it might have cost them the opportunity to retain a coach they thought highly enough of they almost made him their manager. The Mets were left with a manager who has never managed professionally, and they have to rebuild a coaching staff.
Instead of making the safe choice like they did when they hired Terry Collins, the Mets instead chose to go for the high risk – high reward hire. It worked with Davey, and it failed with Torre.
This is exactly why the Mets need to be right about their decision to hire Callaway.
Once Saturday’s game is over, Terry Collins will become the Mets all-time leader in games managed. With this, he will be above Gil Hodges, who may have owned the record himself if not for his sudden and tragic passing. He will surpass Bobby Valentine, who was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons. Finally, he passes Davey Johnson, who led the Mets to the greatest stretch in team history.
All of the aforementioned managers have had better records then Collins, who owns the Mets mark for most losses as a manger. It leads to the question, why is it Collins lasted longer in New York than either Valentine or Johnson? The answer is a complicated one for a man who has led the Mets over a complicated time period.
Collins took the helm for the Mets after the disastrous Jerry Manuel Era. After bad mouthing his boss, Willie Randolph, he talked his way into the managerial job, and he oversaw his own collapse. Despite that, the Mets decided to retain him as the new team manager as the Mets opened up a new ballpark. In his two full seasons as Mets manager, his teams were 149-173. This was despite having talented rosters with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran.
The Manuel Era was done in by a number of issues. First, the team was not built well for the then cavernous Citi Field. Second, high priced veterans like Luis Castillo and Jason Bay were playing up the standards of being an average major league player, let alone their contracts. Third, the team deal with a number of injuries – some of which were exacerbated by Manuel’s decision making. Mostly, the mix of manager, ballpark, and roster were doomed from the beginning. It was time for new blood across the organization.
This was the stage upon which Collins entered as the Mets manager in 2011. The team was mostly a mix of veterans nearing either the end of their contracts or their careers and some interesting players who could be talented major league players. In the early part of Collin’s tenure, the Mets were teams that overachieved in the first half of the season, and then with trades, injuries, or players coming back to earth, the Mets would fall apart as the season progressed.
During the early part of Collins tenure as Mets manager, no one realistically believed the Mets were going to be contenders. As a result, judging him by wins and losses seemed counter-intuitive. Rather, you want to look at managers like this through the prism of their ability to get the most out of the talent on their roster. Specifically, you want to see them develop some young players.
Things almost came to a head in 2014. The Mets first real prized free agent acquisition of the Sandy Alderson Era, Curtis Granderson, was struggling. The other, Bartolo Colon, was the staff ace, which meant Zack Wheeler was not progressing like the organization would have liked. There were also struggles from Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and others. It was not how the Mets envisioned this season would go, and if not for the Wilpons intervening, it would have been a different manager that led the Mets to the 2015 pennant.
It’s unsure to pinpoint the exact reason Collins survived. The biggest skeptics will pinpoint Collins was due money, and the Wilpons, who were dealing with the Madoff scandal, were loathe to pay two different managers. It’s possible Collins was saved because the Mets were not exactly under-performing. There were also some positive signs for the team.
Lucas Duda not only won the first base job, but he hit 30 home runs. Daniel Murphy was a first time All-Star. Jenrry Mejia showed he was closer material. Wheeler had a strong finish to the season. Jeurys Familia looked like a closer in waiting. Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove. Jacob deGrom was a surprise Rookie of the Year. Matt Harvey had just been the All Star Game starter the previous season, and he was set to return in 2015. R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young Award that allowed the facilitation of the trade to bring over d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. Overall, you could see young pieces who could be part of the Mets’ future. These were players who were cultivated under Collins. It should also be kept in mind Collins created a certain atmosphere in the clubhouse that partially led to Wright signing a contract extension in 2012. Overall, the pieces for a future contender were there, and they were all cultivated under Collins.
There’s another factor that is not often discussed with Collins is the fact he’s a good human being. Time and again with Collins we hear little things he does that mean so much to people. He has reached out to grieving Mets fans to offer his condolences. He’s stopped the team during Spring Training to assemble them to spend some time with sick children. He struck the right chord between honoring Jose Fernandez and trying to keep the Mets team competitive in that three game set. That’s a harder job to do than we all give him credit. Having a man like this around your team and leading young men is always a good thing.
And yet, there are plenty of instances where you look at Collins’ tenure and wonder how he’s lasted this long. His usage of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Johan Santana, Jim Henderson, and others have had a negative impact upon their ability to stay healthy. Certainly, it can be argued these pitchers’ arms were ruined by Collins.
There has also been his over-reliance on his veteran players. Despite Collins mantra that you hit you play, it really has only every been applied to young players. It has twice taken a litany of injuries to get T.J. Rivera in the lineup. Collins never would put Michael Conforto back in the lineup last year no matter his raking in Triple-A and his wrist being healthy. Instead, he watched Jay Bruce continue to flail at the plate. This year, we see him keeping Reyes and Granderson in the lineup despite their both hitting under the Mendoza Line.
More to the point, Collins allows the question to be asked over who exactly is in charge. There are always reports Alderson dictates to him what should be done instead of Collins being allowed to manage the team as he wishes. Collins allowed Reyes to pull himself from the last game of the 2011 season to preserve his batting title. One of the lasting images of the 2015 World Series was Harvey telling him not to pull him from the game.
That World Series is certainly one that will haunt the Mets. Collins made a number of questionable moves throughout that series which did not put his team in the best possible position to win. Given how the Mets are struggling now, it does beg the question whether that was this core’s best opportunity to win a World Series. But it’s more than that. We have consistently seen Collins ignore reliever’s workloads and splits when making pitching changes. He will send Wilmer Flores up there to pinch hit against right-handed pitchers even with other players still on the bench. Overall, it is his in-game managing that leaves a lot to be desired.
Despite all of that, Collins is still here. He has survived a lot to get to this point. There was the Madoff scandal. There was a rebuild that took a year or two longer than initially advertised. He has consistently tried to hold a team together that has seen a number of injuries, brutal losses, and disheartening losing streaks. He oversaw the transition from the Mets being a last place team to a team that almost won a World Series.
The Terry Collins’ Era will forever be a complicated one in Mets history. To a certain extent, it does not matter that he is the manager who has managed the most games in Mets history. That is mostly the result of circumstance. Arguably, the circumstances have dictated Collins remain on for as long as he has. Say what you will about the man, but he has always been accountable, never left you questioning his loyalty to the players or fans, and he has had the pulse of his clubhouse. If nothing else, Collins is a leader of men, and as a man, you are hard pressed to find a better human being in baseball.
It does not matter if you believe someone else should have this record. It’s Collins’ now. He deserves everyone’s congratulations for it, and he deserves the respect of Mets fans for his tenure.
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.