Bobby Bonilla and the Brooklyn Nets were in the news yesterday. Bonilla was in the news because Steve Cohen said he wanted to have a Bobby Bonilla Day at Citi Field (an idea first proposed here). The Nets, well, they were in the news because it’s finally over.
The Nets built a super-team much like the one the 1992 New York Mets were supposed to be. Like that Mets team, it was far more of a flop than anyone ever could have imagined leaving everyone to question what exactly went wrong.
For the Mets, it is now apparent what went wrong. Eddie Murray was past his prime. Bonilia and Bret Saberhagen weren’t ready to take on New York. Vince Coleman was somehow both things.
Dwight Gooden was still battling his demons and shoulder issues. Howard Johnson and Dave Magadan were playing out of position. Jeff Torborg was way in over his head. When you break it down, the plan was well intentioned, but it was just bad.
Now, in 2023, we know exactly why the plan was bad. To be fair, in 1991-1992, it wasn’t as readily apparent. After all, everyone thought that team was a real World Series contender.
As for the Brooklyn Nets, past, present, and future wisdom will continue to tell you to grab superstars in the NBA because that is really the only chance to win a title. Because of that, the NBA player will always have a disproportionate amount of power. The thing is, the Nets took it too far and gave the power to the wrong players.
This is more than just Kyrie Irving. He will get the lion’s share of the blame as well he should. However, it wasn’t just him. James Harden forced his way out of Houston, and then, when he didn’t go to Philadelphia like he wanted, he forced his way there from Brooklyn.
Then, there is Kevin Durant, who might be the best player in the NBA right now. Like that 1992 Mets team, he didn’t belong in New York because it wasn’t the right place for him and his personality. He got into Twitter battles and tried to antagonize the New York Knicks fanbase needlessly.
Kyrie and Durant forced out a very good coach in Kenny Atkinson to replace him with Steve Nash. The goal was to run roughshod over the coach like they were the GM, and it ended with disaster. Eventually, Nash was fired for a competent head coach in Jacque Vaughn.
Through it all, this Nets group won one playoff series. When you have two superstars, that can’t happen. What also can’t happen is blowing up the team when they had a shot to win the NBA title.
After the KD injuries and Kyrie’s sometimes disinterest in basketball (which included the vaccine drama). They had a shot this season, and both players sought to go elsewhere. Again, it started with Kyrie.
This is why the Nets are a bigger flop than the 1992 Mets. That Mets team never had a chance. This Nets team did. More than that, they should have won at least once.
That 1992 Mets team wasn’t really built to win anything. We thought they did, but we know better now. However, the Nets, they could have won if they kept the team together, and really, didn’t cave to each and every one of Kyrie’s whims.
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced the “Contemporary Baseball Era Committee” ballot. In the common vernacular, it’s time for the Veteran’s Committee to vote on what is a highly controversial ballot likely to induce controversial results.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling are some of the most controversial players to ever appear on the ballot. Their respective controversies led to them landing on this ballot.
After that, there are a number of players with interesting cases. That is all except Don Mattingly. For his part, Mattingly has no business being on this ballot.
This is the romanticism of his career. He was a New York Yankee for his entire career. He was the only true great Yankee never to win a World Series. In fact, he’d only play in one postseason.
When you strip it all down, back injury or not, he was not close to the Hall.
Mattingly had a 42.4 WAR/35.8 WAR7/39.1 JAWS. That puts him in the same boat as Adrian González, who retired with similar numbers and had similar back injuries.
Keep in mind, no one is going to give González real Hall of Fame consideration. That’s even with him having a better WAR than Mattingly and having some postseason success.
Put Mattingly aside. The Hall of Fame was founded in 1936. In the ensuing 86 years, 25 first baseman have been inducted. They’ve averaged a 65.5 WAR/42.1 WAR7/53.8 JAWS.
Mattingly comes nowhere close to measuring up. Putting him on this ballot is a farce. It’s outright criminal when a vastly superior player in Keith Hernandez wasn’t placed on that ballot.
The Hall of Fame case for Hernandez has been detailed on this site previously. To sum it up, Hernandez fares very favorable to contemporary first baseman recently inducted like Eddie Murray.
Aside from Bonds, he’s the only player at his position to have the most Gold Gloves at his position and not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. With respect to Bonds, that may well change, but it can’t now with Hernandez.
Hernandez was the 1979 NL MVP. He’s won 11 Gold Gloves. He was the New York Mets first captain. He’s won two World Series. In sum, this should all lead to his Hall of Fame induction.
However, whoever decided to create this ballot omitted Hernandez (and other worthy candidates like Lou Whitaker) for Mattingly. It’s a farce because Hernandez was far superior.
Hernandez had a 60.3 WAR/41.3 WAR7/50.8 JAWS. His WAR was 17.9 higher than Mattingly. His WAR7 was 5.5 higher, and his JAWS was 11.7 higher.
What’s fascinating there is the argument for Mattingly is his prime. However, as viewed by the prism of WAR7 and JAWS, Hernandez had the better prime.
While the claim is Mattingly was the better hitter, again, the numbers don’t bear that out. Mattingly had a 127 OPS+ and 124 wRC+. Hernandez had a 128 OPS+ and a 131 wRC+.
We all know Hernandez was also the superior fielder. That means Hernandez was a better hitter, fielder, and leader.
Put another way, Mattingly doesn’t belong in the same conversation as Hernandez. As noted, he’s in a conversation with Adrian González.
The Hall of Fame flat out got it wrong. Omitting Hernandez in favor of Mattingly was an inexcusable error in judgment. The only hope is the next time Hernandez is eligible, this error is not repeated, and Hernandez is rightfully and finally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
With Mike Piazza hinting more numbers are going to be retired, there were renewed calls for Keith Hernandez‘s 17 to be retired. Previously, the Mets had only retired the numbers of players who wore a Mets cap on their Hall of Fame plaque meaning the Mets first captain did not have his number retired.
One of the biggest issues with that is Hernandez should have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by now.
To put things in perspective, according to Baseball Reference, the average Hall of Fame first baseman has a 66.9 WAR, 42.7 WAR7, and a 54.8 JAWS. For his part, Hernandez is just a hair behind those marks with a 60.3/41.3/50.8. However, that is part of the story.
Currently, there are 24 first basemen in the Hall of Fame. Of those 24, only 10 of those players were above the 66.9 WAR mark. There were 11 above the WAR7 mark, and there were nine above the JAWS mark. The main reason for this is because Lou Gehrig, Cap Anson, and Jimmie Foxx skewed those numbers upwards. Notably, Gehrig’s and Anson’s careers were over before World War II, and Foxx has already played 16 years out of a 20 year career before the war began.
When you look at it, Hernandez has a higher WAR mark than eight of the first baseman inducted in the Hall of Fame, and he is 0.1 WAR behind Harmon Killebrew. Hernandez has a higher WAR7 mark than nine of the first baseman in the Hall of Fame including his being 1.2 ahead of Eddie Murray. His JAWS is better than 10 of the first baseman in the Hall of Fame including his being 0.4 behind Hank Greenberg.
When you look at the numbers of first baseman inducted into the Hall of Fame whose careers occurred post World War II and post Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, Hernandez is right in the mix of that group. In many ways, the two things that hurt Hernandez was he did it a different way than most of those first baseman.
Hernandez was not a slugger at the position in a traditional sense. Rather, he was more of a gap hitter who hit for average. Still, he was a good hitter with a 131 wRC+. That mark is good enough to tie him with Orlando Cepeda and put him ahead of Murray and Jim Bottomley.
Looking at traditional numbers, Hernandez had 426 doubles putting him ahead of players like George Sisler and Willie McCovey. His OBP is higher than Sisler and McCovey as well as Killebrew. The only ding against Hernandez is the power numbers you see with homers, RBI, and SLG where he would trail most Hall of Fame first baseman.
That said, all of those first baseman are a clear step behind Hernandez defensively. In fact, Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman to ever play the game.
This isn’t just the eye test, although when you look at plays like that, it helps. Hernandez is the all-time leader in Total Zone with a 121 mark. That puts him significantly ahead of Roger Connor, who has the second best mark at first base.
Keep in mind, when looking at defensive stats, Total Zone is the best one to look at when analyzing players across generations. On that note, here is the TZ leaders for each position across baseball history:
- C Ivan Rodriguez
- 1B Keith Hernandez
- 2B Bid McPhee
- 3B Brooks Robinson
- SS Ozzie Smith
- LF Barry Bonds*
- CF Willie Mays
- RF Roberto Clemente
With the exception of Bonds, who is not in the Hall of Fame purely due to steroids, the best defensive player at each position is in the Hall of Fame. Well, that’s everyone except Hernandez.
It’s not just the stats. There is also Gold Gloves. Again, we see Hernandez and Bonds as the only players to have the most Gold Gloves at their position not be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame:
- P Greg Maddux
- C Ivan Rodriguez
- 1B Keith Hernandez
- 2B Roberto Alomar
- 3B Brooks Robinson
- SS Ozzie Smith
- LF Barry Bonds
- CF Willie Mays
- RF Roberto Clemente
Really, when we look at baseball history, we have seen a number of players inducted into the Hall of Fame due to their ability to play defense at a virtuoso level. Smith is the classic example. It was the argument for inducting Bill Mazeroski. Yet, for some reason, that argument has not been advanced to push Keith Hernandez into the Hall of Fame.
Remember, Hernandez wasn’t just a glove at first base. As noted above, he contributed offensively. He won the 1979 batting title. He led the league in runs twice. In his career, he also led the league at one point in doubles, walks, intentional walks, and OBP. In his career, he won two Silver Sluggers. Hernandez was also an 11 time Gold Glover, five time All-Star, and the 1979 NL MVP. Hernandez also won two World Series titles in his career.
Another important point was Hernandez was seen as a leader in his playing days, and he was the first captain in Mets history. When you look at Hernandez, he had a Hall of Fame caliber career in every single sense of the word. As you see with his broadcasts on SNY, this was a player who loved baseball and understood it better than just about everyone.
All told, Hernandez is one of the best defensive players in baseball history, and he is one of the best first basemen to ever step foot on the field. He did it different than most others at this position, but all told, he did it better than almost everyone. Next time he is eligible for the Hall of Fame, he should be inducted.
If you ask people about Bobby Bonilla‘s time with the Mets, there is nothing but negativity associated with his tenure. There is the annual consternation over his deferred payments. His last ever act as a member of the team was playing cards in the clubhouse with Rickey Henderson as Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones. He wore earplugs to drown out the booing, and generally speaking, he was cantankerous.
Truth be told, Bonilla was not well suited to playing in New York either when he was a 29 year old or when he was a 36 year old. However, sometimes we over-focus on negatives like this to overlook the positives.
Bonilla signing with the Mets was supposed to usher in a new era of Mets baseball. A team who never truly forayed into free agency made the highly coveted Bonilla the highest paid player in the game. Bonilla, who grew up a Mets fan, was coming home to play for his favorite team. At least on the first day he wore a Mets uniform, it seemed like this marriage was going to go great.
On Opening Day, Bonilla hit two homers against the hated Cardinals helping the Mets win 4-2. It was exactly what fans expected from him and that team. However, things quickly unraveled for that Mets team who would be dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. From there things went bad, and they went bad quickly.
Bonilla slumped mightly in May while the Mets. Even when he picked it back up in June, a Mets team who was well in contention fell completely apart. With Bonilla having an awful May and his being the highest paid player in the game, he faced the brunt of the criticism. Unlike Carlos Beltran who went from maligned in 2005 to superstar in 2006, Bonilla never quite recovered.
Part of the reason is the Mets were plain bad. To that end, it’s not his fault the Mets plan was ill conceived. Howard Johnson was not an outfielder. Other players like Eddie Murray and Willie Randolph were over 35. Bret Saberhagen and John Franco were injured. Anthony Young was in the middle of his MLB record losing streak. The bigger issue is Bonilla handled it poorly, and then he was terrible at the end of the year hitting just .196 over the final two months of the season.
While stats like this weren’t used regularly in 1992, the 1.2 WAR was the worst he had since his rookie year. The 121 wRC+ was his worst since his second year in the league. Bonilla and that 1992 Mets team was a huge disappointment, and Bonilla’s image never quite recovered.
What gets lost in the criticism is Bonilla did rebound. From 1993 – 1995, he averaged a 3.1 WAR, and he was a 138 OPS+ hitter. He hit .296/.371/.537 while averaging 27 homers and 84 RBI over that stretch. He would make two All-Star teams, and Bonilla proved to be a bit of a team player willingly moving to third base for stretches when Johnson was injured.
Bonilla’s true breakout season with the Mets came in 1995. He was mashing the ball hitting .325/.385/.599 (151 OPS+) when he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Really, this is what the Mets envisioned they were going to get with him. It just took a longer period of adjustment for him to get there.
Overall, in the first stint of his Mets career, Bonilla hit .277/.361/.505 with a 130 wRC+ amassing a 9.7 WAR. That was not that bad, and to a certain extent, on the field, you could say he lived up to the contract. No, he did not live up to expectations, but to be fair, he was never surrounded with the talent to help him do that.
When you look at his entire Mets career, he ranks as the fifth best Mets RF by WAR. The four players ahead of him played more games with the Mets. Among players with at least 500 games played, he is the Mets second best hitting right fielder, and he is tied for sixth as the best Mets hitter of all-time.
At least on the field, that is not a player worth as much derision as he receives. No, on the field he was good but not great Mets player. On the field, he did nothing to deserve scorn.
Off the field is a whole other matter. His adversarial nature with the press did nothing to help him. Mets fans are never going to forgive him playing poker while they were crushed by the ending of Game 6. No one is saying you should.
Rather, the suggestion here is Bonilla be remembered for being the good player he actually was. If you want, you can also opt to remember him a little more warmly as his accepting the buyout led to the Mets having the money to obtain Mike Hampton in a trade. That helped the Mets get a pennant, and when Hampton left for Colorado, the Mets used that compensatory pick to draft David Wright.
All told, the Mets were far better off having Bonilla as a part of the Mets organization as you may have realized.
Over the past few years, we have seen some players who deserved longer looks and deeper analysis fall off the Hall of Fame ballot for their failure to receive five percent of the vote. This puts sometimes deserving and borderline players in a limbo hoping and waiting they receive eventual consideration from the Veteran’s Committee.
Carlos Delgado fell off the ballot after receiving just 3.8% of the vote. That happened despite his having more homers than Jeff Bagwell and Tony Perez. He had a better OBP than Harmon Killebrew and Willie McCovey. He also had a higher slugging than Eddie Murray. Overall, his 138 OPS+ was higher than Bill Terry and Frank Chance.
Now, you could also argue he wasn’t up to Hall of Fame standards, but that debate never really could develop as he fell off the ballot.
We saw similar problems in center field with Kenny Lofton receiving 3.2% of the vote in 2013 and Jim Edmonds receiving 2.5% of the vote in 2016.
Lofton had a higher WAR than Andre Dawson, who was inducted in 2010. He also has a higher WAR than Andruw Jones, who is appearing on the ballot for a third time this year. On that point, he is teetering himself with his just receiving 7.5% last year.
Edmonds is just a hair behind Dawson in career WAR, but he is also well ahead of Kirby Puckett. Notably, Edmonds trails just Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Torii Hunter in Gold Gloves won by a center fielder. Notably, his eight are the same amount as Dawson. Given how comparable he is to Dawson, you’d think he would get a longer look. He didn’t.
The same could be made about any number of candidates. Hideki Matsui had over 500 professional homers. Johan Santana had a higher WAR and ERA+ than Sandy Koufax. John Franco has more saves than any left-handed closer, and he has a higher ERA+ than Hall of Fame closers Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley. Finally, David Cone presents his own interesting case. All of these players were one and one on the ballot.
We will likely see the same happen to Bobby Abreu this year despite his having a better WAR, WAR7, and JAWS than recently inducted Vladimir Guerrero. He also has more doubles, triples, stolen bases, walks, and a higher OBP. Keep in mind, Guerrero was inducted just last year making the votes on the two players quite disparate despite having the same electorate.
All of these players hope to one day have the same chance Lou Whitaker now has.
Back in 2001, Whitaker only received 2.1% of the vote, which to this day, is plain wrong. Looking at WAR, Whitaker is the seventh best second baseman of all-time, and the third best at the position to debut after World War II.
He accumulated more hits than Tony Lazzeri and Johnny Evers. He scored more runs than Red Schoendienst and Jackie Robinson. He has more doubles than Ryne Sandberg and Nellie Fox. He has more triples than Craig Biggio and Bill Mazeroski. He has more stolen bases than Rogers Hornsby and Billy Herman. Overall, his OPS+ is higher than Roberto Alomar‘s and Bobby Doerr‘s
By any measure, Whitaker should be in the Hall of Fame, and yet because of the five percent rule, he has not yet been inducted. Looking at Whitaker and other cases, it is probably time the rule gets changed.
Conceptually, the five percent rule makes sense. A player does not come to vote until five years after his career is over. Ideally, this means voters have had an opportunity to assess a career in full and make a determination. However, in practice, it does not quite turn out that way.
Really, when there are fringe and overlooked candidates, there is usually someone championing them leading to them getting more attention, and eventually, induction. Bert Blyleven received 17.6% of the vote in his first year of eligibility, and he was inducted on his final year on the ballot. Tim Raines received 24.3% in his first year and was inducted on his last year. Hopefully, we will see something similar happen with Larry Walker.
The point is for every Mariano Rivera and Tom Seaver there are a number of Hall of Famers who have needed years of analysis and debate. By taking players off the ballot after one year, we are all losing the opportunity to have deeper analysis and debate about players who may well belong in the Hall of Fame.
There has to be a better way especially when we see a top 10 second baseman like Whitaker fall off the ballot. Perhaps, that rule could be relaxed for a year and moved to a player’s second year of eligibility. Perhaps, the Hall of Fame could tier the percent of the vote needed to keep a player on the ballot.
For example, to stay on the ballot after one year you only need just one vote. After the first year, you need five percent of the vote with the threshold rising roughly two percent each year so you need 18% of the vote to make it onto the final year on the ballot.
Structuring the vote this way allows for more debate about players while also presenting an opportunity to remove players who have not swayed the vote in a particular direction. Certainly, this type of system would be better than just disregarding players after one year, lamenting it, and then hoping someone corrects the error a decade or so later.
In their history, the Mets have had a number of truly awful free agent signings. Their foibles on the free agent market have inspired books, and they have led to the Mets having prolonged down periods which have led to the team being under .500 for extended periods and eventually rebuilding. Their mistakes are not limited to just any position. Really, they have made mistakes across the diamond:
C Rod Barajas (1 year, $500,000) – In the Mets history, they have had just four free agents catchers as their Opening Day starter with Barajas being one of them. With respect to Barajas, he was the cheap option in a truly uninspiring free agent group of catcher, and he would not last the season getting released towards the end of August.
1B Eddie Murray (2 years, $7.5 million) – Murray was the first piece the Mets locked down in what was to be known as the Worst Team Money Could Buy. In his previous stops, he was a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the best switch hitters to ever play the game. With the Mets, Murray had two disappointing seasons where he hit .274/.330/.446.
2B Luis Castillo (4 years, $25 million) – In 2007, the Mets needed a second baseman, and the team was able to get Castillo for nearly nothing. While that team collapsed, Castillo was hardly to blame hitting .316/.404/.418 over the final month of the season. To that end, it made sense to bring him back but not for the extreme overpay which was immediately panned by everyone. Castillo would disappoint from that point forward, and eh woudl become a symbol of what was wrong with the team with the seminal moment being his dropping Alex Rodriguez‘s pop up leading to the Mets losing a game to the Yankees.
3B Todd Frazier (2 years, $17 million) – After a year in which Frazier had his first ever trips to the deisabled list and he had a careeer worst .390 SLG and .693 OPS, he was an obvious candidate. Frankly, the choice was much easier when you consider how well Robin Ventura played during his Mets tenure and the Mets predominantly using homegrown players or trades to fill the position.
SS Kazuo Matsui (3 years, $20.1 million) – Despite the presence of Jose Reyes, the Mets opted to sign Matsui to be their shortstop. It looked like a great move when Matsui homered in his first ever at=bat, but it was all downhill from there as Matsui disappointed at the plate and in the field. Matsui dealt with injuries, was moved to second base, had a negative WAR in his last two years with the Mets, and he was eventually traded for Eli Marrero, who lasted just two months with the Mets.
LF George Foster (5 years, $10 million) – The Mets first free agent splash was Foster, and in many ways, Foster set the tone for some for the big moves the Mets would make in the future. Foster would go from being an All Star who hit .295/.373/.519 to someone who hit .252/.307/.422 in a Mets uniform. Overall, Foster had a rocky tenure with the team, and he would be released in 1986 after making comments to the press.
CF Vince Coleman (4 years, $11.95 million) – It wasn’t enough the Mets let Darryl Strawberry go to the Dodgers they replaced them with Coleman, a player who tortured the Mets. If Mets fans didn’t despise him enough when he wore a Cardinals uniform, they certainly did during his Mets tenure which featured not just poor play but also throwing firecrackers at a group of fans.
RF Roger Cedeno (4 years, $18 million) Cedeno wasn’t just an important part of the 1999 team, but he would also serve as a key piece of the trade which brought the Mets Mike Hampton. When he was a free agent, the Mets pounced to bring him back. Just three years later, he was a shadow of the player he was leading to his being traded to Wilson Delgado.
SP Oliver Perez (3 year $36 million) – After being obtaine by the Padresx, Perez was great in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, won 15 games in 2007, and gave the Mets every chance to win in the final game every played in Shea Stadium. Despite all of that, there were red flags everywhere, and Perez predictably failed after getting his big free agent deal. He struggled, and he would refuse a stint in the minors leading to the team freezing him out. His Mets career would end in infamy as he was brought into the 14th inning of the final game of the season after not having pitched in nearly a month. He’d be released after the season with a one year and $12 million left on his deal.
RP Francisco Rodriguez (3 years, $37 million) -Needing a close, the Mets went out and signed the closer who just set the single season saves record to a massive contract. In his first year in the deal, he had the second most blown saves in the NL and a then career worst ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, HR/9, BB/9, and K/9. In the second year of his deal, he was placed on the restricted list after being arrested for assaulting his girlfriend’s father in the family room at Citi Field. The Mets finally traded him in the last year of his deal to accomplish both rebuilding and to prevent an onerous option from being activated.
In Brodie Van Wagenen’s first offseason as Mets manager, it is incumbent upon him to navigate through the minefield of potential free agent busts which are lurking. The success of the 2019 Mets and his success during his tenure as the Mets General Manager depends on it.
When you go through Mets history, there are certain dark moments of Mets history which continue to haunt Mets fans.
The 1977 Midnight Massacre which saw a vengeful and frankly inept front office trade Tom Seaverand Dave Kingman. This would beget Grant’s Tomb.
The 1992 Mets were dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. The Mets first real foray into free agency would see the team add Eddie Murray, Willie Randolph, Dick Schofield, Bill Pecota, Bret Saberhahen, and the prize of the offseason free agent class Bobby Bonilla. Under the guise of 1990 American League Manager of the Year Jeff Torborg, the Mets would go 70-92.
There would not be hope again until Generation K – Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher. With Isringhausen bursting out of the gate in 1995 going 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his first 14 starts, Mets fans anticipation was at a fever pitch.
The funny thing is due to a myriad of injuries to all three pitchers, the trio dubbed Generation K would never appear in the same rotation. Over time, they would be surpassed and traded away for spare parts. To put it in perspective, the best player the Mets would get in exchange for the trio would be Rick White.
Fast forward 20 years and Mets fans have dreamed about this generations crop of pitchers winning their first World Series since 1986. While not as clever as Generation K, they had their own nickname – The Five Aces. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
They were going to scoff at the 1971 Orioles pitching staff and their measly 20 wins apiece.
Those 1990s Braves teams were going to laughed at for producing just three Hall of Fame pitchers.
This wasn’t “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain.” It was Matz and Thor and We Got Three More!
Instead, what we got was Matt and Jake and All Five Pitchers Ache. Essentially, it all came off the Wheeler.
Each and every single one of them would go down with injury. Most of them went down with two or more. As a result, much like Generation K, these five pitchers have never appeared in the same rotation. Worse yet, in some sick cosmic twist of fate, last year would be the first year all five would start a game in the same season, and the end result was the worst ERA in team history.
Finally, this year was supposed to be the year. Everyone was shut down at a some point last year to help them get ready for this year. The team brought in Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and a whole new medical staff. It was all set up for them.
And then, the team signed Jason Vargas.
Yes, given their respective health issues, the Vargas signing made a lot of sense. However, with him getting a two ear deal, it may just kill the dream because so long as Vargas has a rotation spot, we will not see the Five Aces pitch together in the same starting rotation. With Harvey’s impending free agency, this was the last chance, and it is going by the wayside.
Maybe it is for the best because as we saw in 2015, so long as we have three completely healthy, this team can go to the World Series. That more than the Five Aces pitch in the same rotation is the goal. Still, not seeing it happen once leaves you a bit melancholy.
At the end of this run for the Five Aces, we are ultimately going to be left with Vargas and Montero Where Did Our Five Aces Go?
I’m not sure where the axiom ever arose, but somewhere, sometime people made the decision teams could not possibly rebuild in New York. I always found this statement odd because on the one hand, New York fans are credited as smart a fanbase as there is in sports, but by the same token, many believe we are too ignorant to accept a team rebuilding.
This notion has created MANY mistakes by our professional teams. Rather than admit defeat, we have seen the Mets constantly try to hold on tightly as their short lived runs slip away. With respect to the Mets, we have seen it time and again – Eddie Murray, Roberto Alomar, Jason Bay, etc. Bad contracts and trades resulting in even more disappointing seasons. Worse yet, it was all part of a mismanagement of assets which delayed rebuilds and made the cupboards even barer when the time came to finally strip it all down.
As bad as the Mets history is, the Knicks history is worse – so much worse. Just a series of Eddie Currys and Antoio McDyesses and Stephen Marburys. It’s ridiculous, and it’s why after Ewing left, this organization has been a mess.
However, when it comes to postseason droughts and an outright refusal to rebuild, I think back to the Rangers. In the pre-salary cap NHL, the Rangers just outright refused to commit to a rebuild. What ensued was trades for big names and getting the top free agent available – LaFontaine, Lindros, Fleury, Dunham, Holik, Jagr, Kovalev, and the return of Messier.
It makes you question, what if a New York team actually acknowledged they hit the end of the line with their roster, and they were going to make the hard choice and rebuild. Well, with the New York Rangers, we are about to find out:
If you are a Rangers fan, you knew the team didn’t have it this season. However, as an organization, you could talk yourself into this being just about the injuries with Kreider and Shattenkirk going down. Maybe it’s true, and maybe it isn’t.
It doesn’t matter because the overriding point is the Rangers knew they weren’t going to sniff the Cup this year, so why continue down this road? The team smartly accepted the end of this run, and presumably, they look at the trade deadline as an opportunity to jump start their rebuild. With any luck, you can get the assets to make this a retooling. Largely, that will depend on which assets the Rangers opt to trade.
Overall, as a fan, I’d rather my organization be as up front with me as the Rangers just were. This is a unique step for a New York organization, and it is one that should be lauded. Hopefully, this will prove to be a positive step forward for an organization which looks to win its first Cup since 1994.
I know it is something I wish the Mets were more honest about in years past and with this roster. Last year, hard choices were eschewed, and instead of cleaning house, the Mets got a collection of right-handed relievers, none of which are supposed make the Opening Day roster, and continued to play the likes of Jose Reyes over younger kids who could’ve used the development time.
Maybe after seeing how the Rangers chose to conduct their business, other New York sports teams will follow. Maybe then people will say New York is the best place to rebuild.
As we delve more into the numbers and become more knowledgeable about the stats which truly indicate what makes a pitcher good or bad, we have begun to dismiss win-loss record. It has gotten to the point where many want to disregard it all together. Reflecting back on the life of Anthony Young, it is hard to say that wins and losses don’t matter anymore.
Starting on May 6, 1992, Young would begin his MLB record setting 27 game losing streak. He lost games in all ways possible. He was the hard luck loser losing games when he had a good start. He lost games getting his doors knocked off. He came out of the bullpen, and he lost a game on a big hit. He would leave with runners on base and another pitcher would let them score. In the stretch, Young was 0-14 as a starter, and 0-13 as a reliever.
Something odd happened during this time. Initially, Young was booed and booed mercilessly. On an under-performing 90 loss Mets team who once had designs on winning the World Series, Young had become symbolic of all that was wrong with the Mets – talented people who were just not performing. Eventually, those boos came to cheers; cheers that were almost willing Young to a victory.
Young was admirable in the stretch. You didn’t see the quote in the paper ripping the team. There was no Jon Niese moment of blaming his catcher, his defense, or anyone else. He took it like a man, and he kept going out there doing his job.
He also got to lose all of those games because he was a talented pitcher. Too often, that gets lost in everything. Young was talented. It is why when John Franco went down to injury, Jeff Torborg instilled Young as the team’s closer. It was at that time, we learned a save does not in fact interrupt a losing streak. For those that forget, Young was able to record 15 saves during that 1992 season. One thing he wasn’t able to do was vulture a win.
No, that elusive win would not come until July 28, 1993. On that day, his team would finally pick him up. After giving up the lead in the top of the ninth, the Mets would rally against the Florida Marlins. The rally would begin with Jeff McNeil. There is an odd symmetry there as McNeil was another player from those teams who died too young. A few years ago, McNeil would die of leukemia at the age of 52.
After an Eddie Murray RBI double, Young would finally get his win, and the Shea faithful couldn’t have been happier for him:
Without that losing streak? Young is just a footnote in major league history. With that losing streak, Young mattered. He will forever be remembered, and it turns out he was a person worth remembering.
He left behind a family and former teammates that were devastated by his passing away. He leaves behind a fan base who can now actually reminisce about those terrible 1992-1993 Mets.
As we know, Young fought and fought bravely. Recently, there had been reports his inoperable brain tumor had taken a turn for the better. There were reports the tumor was shrinking. At that point, there was hope Young could beat a cancer more daunting than a 27 game losing streak. Unfortunately, Young wasn’t getting better. It was just a short lived victory.
At the age of 51, Anthony Young has passed. With him passing, people have lost a family member and a friend. Fans lost a player they once cheered. Everyone lost a person who handled one of the toughest situations a professional can face with grace and humility. When someone like Young passes, we all lose.
Looking back at the life of Anthony Young, it is hard to tell anyone that losses no longer matter in baseball. In fact, losses matter more now than they ever have.
While my father first introduced me to baseball with those 1980s team with Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter, I have relatively few memories of those teams due to my young age. No, as luck would have it, my real fandom began just after those players departed the Mets. That left me with an era of Bobby Bonilla being the best player on a team that went from World Series champions to refusing to rebuild.
As a result, I have an attachment to a group of moments and Mets players that were part of a largely forgettable era in Mets history. I can spin tales of watching Mackey Sasser diving against the wall in right field. I can tell you about Pete Schourek‘s dazzling one hitter against the Montreal Expos. To me, Rico Brogna was a perennial All Star, and Todd Hundley was going to be one if they Mets would just stop playing Kelly Stinnett and Charlie O’Brien and his hockey mask over him.
Another important figure at that time was Anthony Young.
Here is what is lost in AY’s history. He was a pretty good pitcher. In fact, back in 1991, AY was regarded by Baseball America as the Mets top prospect. When AY made it to the the majors, he showed he was a major league caliber pitcher. He was never expected to be an ace, and there was some question whether he belonged in the rotation or in the bullpen, but overall, he belonged.
Taking a cursory look at his stats, he was largely forgettable. As a Mets pitcher, AY had a 3.82 ERA and a 1.367 WHIP. His ERA+ was 98 suggesting he was only slightly below average. However, we know that wasn’t the full story. It never is. Missing here is the fact that AY lost a record 27 decisions in a row.
The losing streak started with AY struggling. In three early May starts, he allowed five, four, and five earned runs. He escaped his next start without a loss despite allowing four runs over 5.1 innings. Fans started to get frustrated with him and boo. AY would be shuffled between the rotation and the bullpen.
The losing streak became a “thing” in June when he made four starts and one relief appearance taking a loss in all of the games. Now, he was at eight straight losses. When John Franco went down with an elbow injury, AY became the closer. When he saved a game against the Cubs in an extra-inning game, we all learned that recording a save did not interrupt a consecutive loss streak.
While in the bullpen, he blew five saves, and he would accumulate six more losses putting the streak at 14. Things didn’t improve to start the 1993 season. First in the bullpen and then the rotation, he lost game after game after game. There were rumors of players griping. At times, fans were frustrated as AY had become emblematic of the Mets of this era. While the talent was there, the team just wasn’t winning. It was getting hard to watch, and you wondered why the Mets kept throwing the same people out there expecting different results.
Somewhere during this stretch, AY moved from scapegoat to folk hero. Fans began to cheer for him almost willing him to break this streak. To a certain extent, AY deserved those cheers because he was not one to publicly complain about either his run support or the defense. He was not complaining about being shuffled between the rotation and the bullpen. He went out there and did his job.
Finally,on July 28th, an Eddie Murray walk-off double snapped AY’s 27 game losing streak putting his 1993 record at 1-13. Both AY and Shea Stadium was jubilant. The win put an end to an infamous streak that made a relatively pedestrian pitcher newsworthy.
Well, AY is back in the news again, and once again, it is for something beyond his control. AY was recently diagnosed an inoperable brain tumor that doctors, and in reality everybody, hopes is benign. At 51 years of age, AY, a man most known for his losing, cannot afford to take another loss. He’s too young. He’s a husband, father, grandfather, and a coach. At this moment, now more than ever, he needs a save or a win. At this stage, he’ll probably take whatever he can get.
At this point, Mets fans can only offer thoughts and prayers, to cheer him on like we all did when he was losing game after game. Now more than ever, AY needs you. I know I will be cheering for him just like I did him all those years ago.