Don Clendenon

Good Luck and Thank You Curtis Granderson

The Mets organization is worse off today because it traded away Curtis Granderson. Simply put, you do not lose a human being the caliber of Granderson and are better off for it.

There’s a reason why he won the Roberto Clemente Award last year. He’s dedicated himself to helping others.

His Grand Kids Foundation has helped educate children in New York and Chicago and get them interested in baseball. To that end, he donated $5 million of his money to his alma mater, the University of Illinois, to build a ballpark where both the college and city kids could play baseball.

In addition to this, he’s an International Ambassador of Major League Baseball, a former ambassador for the Let’s Move! campaign, and is a spokesperson for the Partnership for a Healthier America’s Drink Up water initiative.

Long story short, Granderson is a great human being. Perhaps the only thing that could challenge Granderson the man was Granderson the ball player.

During Granderson’s three plus year tenure, Granderson established himself as one of the best free agent signings in Mets history. He was certainly one of the most important.

While Yoenis Cespedes got all the glory, Granderson was the most important player on that 2015 team.

For much of that season, Granderson was the only credible bat in that lineup. Between his offense, defense, and leadership, he helped keep the Mets afloat until the team for healthy and could make trades to make that run to the World Series possible.

When the Mets got there, Granderson was the best player in that series. In that series, he tied Don Clendenon, the 1969 World Series MVP, with the most World Series homers in Mets history. Each one of those homers by Granderson either tied the game or gave the Mets a lead.

On a personal note, Granderson’s home run is one of my favorite memories. It’s not just because I got to see it at Citi Field, it with my father and brother, it’s because of how my son reacted at home:

The 2016 season didn’t go as smoothly for Granderson, but there he was again when the Mets needed him most.

As the Mets were scratching and clawing to get back to the postseason, Granderson hit .302/.414/.615 with four doubles, a triple, eight homers, and 21 RBI over the final month of the season.

Behind Granderson’s play and leadership, the Mets did return to the postseason. In the Wild Card Game, his amazing diving catch robbed Brandon Belt of a go-ahead sixth inning RBI extra-base hit. That catch kept hope alive.

Hope was something Mets fans were allowed to have once Granderson came to the Mets as a free agent in 2014.

The Mets had a plan to build around all this pitching with only Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler being the only ones to make their debut. The question was really who was going to play behind all this pitching.

As it turns out, Granderson was the first one to sign on to be a part of all of this. He was going to be the guy to join forces with the pitching and David Wright to win that World Series. And the Mets were so close too.

They were close because Granderson did whatever was asked of him. One minute he was a clean-up hitter, and the next, he was a lead-off hitter. He would play all three outfield positions. This year, he willingly moved into more of a fourth outfielder, which allowed the Mets to give Michael Conforto more playing time.

To that end, Conforto seemed moved by the trade. He spoke highly of Granderson, and he made specific mention about how Granderson helped all the young guys on the team. What Conforto was describing was a true leader.

That’s the same leader Lucas Duda talked about in his Player’s Tribune article. Specifically, he stated, “Then when Curtis came over, that just made everything even better.”  Duda went on to say, “I owe so much to Curtis and the other guys because they really helped me to grow up.”

The sheer mention of Duda should also elicit memories of the We Follow Lucas Duda Instagram account. The account was hilarious, and it always left fans smiling. That’s another area where the Mets will miss Granderson.

From the very minute he signed with the Mets, he endeared himself to the fans saying, ““A lot of the people that I have met in New York have always said that true New Yorkers are Mets fans, so I’m excited to get a chance to see them all.” (New York Post).

And Granderson really was excited to see Mets fans. If you’ve attended games, you see him doing more than any other player in baseball to interact with the fans. He took time to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. Occasionally, while in the on deck circle, he’d greet a fan or two.

Even before he packed his bags to head to LA to join the current World Series favorites, he took time to send a message to Mets fans:

In every sense of the word, Curtis Granderson is a class act. If anyone deserves the opportunity to win a World Series ring, it’s him. Here’s hoping he gets it.

Thank you for all that you were and for the ride. The entire Mets organization was better for you being here, and you will be sorely missed by the fans. Hopefully with you being a free agent, you find your way back to the Mets.

If not, hitting a grand slam in your final at-bat is quite a way to end your Mets career:

Good luck and thanks for the ride Curtis Granderson.

The 1962 Mets Are Being Challenged

On Saturday, September 27, 2003, my father, brother, and I sat down to watch what was seemingly a meaningless baseball game.  The Minnesota Twins had already locked up the AL Central, and the Detroit Tigers had already locked up the worst record in baseball.  At that time, the only matter at issue was whether the Tigers would finish with a worse record than the 1962 Mets.

As each and every Mets fan knows, the worst team in baseball history was the 1962 Mets.  They were bad from the beginning.  The 1962 Mets lost their first nine games.  That wouldn’t even be the lowpoint of the season.  From May 21st until June 6th, the Mets would lost 17 straight games.  That wasn’t even their only 10 plus game losing streak.  There was an eleven game losing streak in late July, and there was a 13 game losing streak that spanned most of August.  The 1962 Mets didn’t really do anything well except maybe lose.  They inspired manager Casey Stengel to utter the phrase, “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?”  It was a phrase so utterly perfect that Jimmy Breslin used it as the title for his book about the 1962 Mets.

The funny part about that team is that they are somewhat beloved.  There were colorful characters Mets fans know to this day regardless of whether or not they were around to see it.  There were old heroes like former Brooklyn Dodgers like Gil Hodges and Don Zimmer.  There was future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn.  There were colorful characters as well.  There was Marvelous Marv Throneberry who missed not just first but second base when running out a triple.  There was speedy catcher Choo-Choo Coleman who best utilized his speed chasing down balls that went to the backstop.   About the only players who didn’t belong was Frank Thomas with his 34 homers and 17 year old Ed Kranepool who actually had a bright future ahead of him in the majors.

That 1962 season was the first season in Mets history, and it was an important one at that.  This record is quintessentially the Mets.  It is a terrific reference point for each and every time the Mets have success.  Whenever a 1969 or 1986 happens, it’s a reminder of how the Mets really did come from nothing to achieve great heights.  Having this record was important, and it should be important to Mets fans.

It is why my family was rooting for the Tigers that day.  At that point it wasn’t looking good.  The Tigers had to take three of four from the Twins to avoid loss 120.  They lost the prior game, and they were down 7-1 going into the bottom of the seventh.  Somehow, someway, the Tigers pulled it off.  They scored three in the seventh and then four in the eighth to somehow time the game.  Then in the ninth, old friend Jesse Orosco threw a wild pitch allowing Alex Sanchez to score the winning run.  At that point, Orosco was probably throwing things in disgust.  However, to Mets fans, it looked like Orosco was throwing his glove into the heavens like he had done in 1986.  The Tigers snatched a win from the jaws of defeat number 120.  The 1962 Mets would be safe.

Now, this year, the 1962 Mets are being challenged once again.  The Atlanta Braves come to Flushing sporting a 19-46 record.  With their .292 win percentage, the Braves are on pace for a 47-115 season.  If the Mets sweep the Braves like they should, the Braves will be all the closer to loss number 120.  If the Braves are able to move the few major league quality bats from their line-up like Freddie Freeman, who knows how much worse things will get in Atlanta.  Towards the end of the season, there will most likely be a race to see if the Braves could actually surpass the 1962 Mets loss total.

While it has been ingrained in me from the days of Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo to never root for the Braves, I will root for the Braves to win some games to avoid losing 120 or more games.  Preferably, those wins will come at the expense of the Washington Nationals.  Hopefully, at the end of the season, the 1962 Mets place in history will be secure.

Mets Closing the Doors on the Expos Again

You cannot tell the story of the New York Mets franchise without the Montreal Expos. 

The Expos first ever game was against the Mets on April 8, 1969 at Shea Stadium. It was not only the first game in Expos’ history, it was also the first game in what was the Mets path to winning the 1969 World Series. On October 3, 2004, the Expos would play their final game in their history at Shea Stadium. Between those two days on time so much had transpired. 

The first major trade between the two franchises was the Don Clendenon trade. Clendenon would become the power hitting first baseman the ’69 Mets needed to put them over the top. More importantly, Clendenon would go on to become the 1969 World Series MVP. 

After a few disappointing years, the Mets made a trade with the Expos again. The time the Mets obtained Le Grande Orange, Rusty Staub. Staub was a part of the “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets. Staub had an incredible postseason that year. He hit three homers in the NLCS when the Mets upset the Big Red Machine. He hit .423/.464/.615 in the World Series. Bum shoulder and all, he had a great World Series for a Mets team that came so close to upsetting the Athletics in the World Series. 

The Mets would not make the playoffs again until 1986. The missing piece to that team was Gary Carter, who the Mets obtained in a trade with the Expos. Carter was everything the Mets thought they were getting and more. He continued putting up Hall of Fame numbers while nurturing a young Mets pitching staff. However, what Mets fans will remember him most for was getting the two out rally started in Game Six. 

The Mets would not acquire anything of value from the Expos until right after the Expos were no more. The Mets hired Expos GM Omar Minaya. Minaya would assemble the 2006 team that nearly went to the World Series. He also built a strong farm system that would eventually help the Mets return to the World Series. 

It’s funny to think that Minaya’s big move with the Expos was trading for Bartolo Colon. With Macier Izturis announcing his retirement, Colon is now the last player to ever wear a Montreal Expos uniform to be active in the Major Leagues.  Colon, who was a key member of last year’s pennant winning team, returned to the Mets. With Colon turning 43 this year, it’s possible he can end his career with the Mets. It would be fitting that the Mets once again close the door on the Expos franchise. 

When that door is finally closed, both fan bases will have shared memories of players like Staub and Carter. Both players were beloved by both franchises. It was players like this that will forever link both franchises.  Unfortunately, the Expos are gone to the detriment of Expos fans, Mets fans, and all of baseball.