Eddie Murray

Mets Worst Free Agent Signings

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.

Five Aces Are No More and Never Were

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 BonillaUnder 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?

Rangers Trying To Prove You Can Rebuild In New York

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.

RIP Anthony Young

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.

Godspeed Anthony Young

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.

Curt Schilling Is the Reason Why Curt Schilling Won’t Get Elected to the Hall of Fame

If you reset yourself back to 2007, your impression of Curt Schilling was that he was a big game pitcher.  Your first real memory of him was him striking out the first five batters he faced in the 1993 NLCS en route to the Phillies going to the World Series and Schilling winning the MVP.  In 2001, Schilling combined with Randy Johnson to beat the Yankees in seven games to win the World Series.  He and Johnson would shared the World Series MVP.  In 2004, Schilling would be best remembered for the bloody sock that permitted him to win an important Game 6 that would help the Red Sox become the first team to overcome an 0-3 deficit in a postseason series.

He was not only a big game pitcher, he was also a great pitcher.  Over his 20 year career, he was 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and a 1.137 WHIP.  In the postseason, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP.  He has three World Series rings to go with the aforementioned MVP awards.  This is an exceedingly strong Hall of Fame case.

Schilling has an even stronger case when you go deeper into the numbers.  The average Hall of Famer starting pitcher has a 73.9 career, WAR, 50.3 WAR7, and a 62.1 JAWS score.  For his career, Schilling has a 79.9 career WAR, 49.0 WAR7, and a 64.5 JAWS score.  Based upon those numbers it appeared as if Schilling may eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The voting history certainly looked that way.  In 2013, Schilling’s first year on the ballot, he garnered 38.8% of the vote.  Schilling has seen an uptick each subsequent year with him getting 52.3% of the vote last year.  Certainly, with the remaining years on the ballot, it would seem as if he was eventually going to be elected.  That may no longer be the case.

Since his retirement, Schilling has been a lightning rod.  His 38 Studios went bankrupt, and Schilling faced a lawsuit from the State of Rhode Island.  He became an outspoken, if not controversial, voice during in his retirement.  His tweets have led to multiple suspensions and eventual firing from ESPN.  With Schilling no longer being employed by ESPN, he has not had any need to choose his words more carefully (if he ever felt the need).  His latest transgression was promoting the idea of lynching journalists.  Schilling did later state it was sarcasm, but the damage was already done.

Prominent journalists like Jon Heyman and Mike Vaccaro noted that they may not vote for Schilling for the Hall of Fame again this year.  They are hardly alone.  While Schilling should likely clear the 5% threshold and remain on the ballot, it is clear the momentum towards him being elected to the Hall of Fame has come to a screeching halt.  If that is indeed the case, it won’t be the first time Schilling believes his personal beliefs and politics have hurt his Hall of Fame chance.

Assume for a minute that Schilling is right, should his personal politics and “sarcasm” prevent his election into the Hall of Fame?  Those who say yes will undoubtedly invoke the character clause, and there is good reason for that.  The character clause has been used to prevent gamblers like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose from induction into the Hall of Fame.  It is currently being used to prevent steroids players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame.  Seeing how it was applied, it could then be extended for people of poor moral fiber like Schilling is believed to be.

Except it hasn’t quite worked that way.  Cap Anson was the genesis of the ridiculously named “Gentleman’s Agreement” that kept black players out of baseball until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.  Rogers Hornsby was alleged to be a member of the KKK.  Roberto Alomar and Kirby Puckett had been involved in domestic violence disputes.  Mickey Mantle was a drunk who played games hungover.  Paul Molitor used cocaine.  Each of these players took part in these activities while playing, and each one of them was inducted into the Hall of Fame.  This doesn’t even take half of the things Babe Ruth was thought to have done during his career.  The character clause wasn’t invoked as the character clause has been taken to mean cheating the game.

So no, the character clause should not prevent Schilling’s induction.  Even with that said, it is going to be a factor because writers are human.  More importantly, with players like Bonds and Clemens not getting elected into the Hall of Fame, there is a backlog of candidates forcing writers to leave worthy player(s) off of their ballot.  If you find yourself in that situation, why not Schilling?  You know he’s not going to garner enough support this year, so why let that stop another worthy candidate, like Tim Raines, from getting elected?  It is a fair and reasonable position.

Ultimately, I hope it doesn’t come to that.  In my opinion, Schilling was a Hall of Famer, and I think the Hall of Fame electorate was progressing in that direction.  While people are critical of the writers, they did elect players like Eddie Murray and Jim Rice who were famously cantankerous with the media (but not to the level of Schilling’s tweet).  With that in mind, if Schilling is not elected to the Hall of Fame this year or the next or ever, he will have no one to blame but himself.

By his own words, Schilling believed his actions and beliefs hurt his chances of getting elected in the past.  When he sent that last Tweet, he should have known it would again have a profound impact.  There will be many who point fingers at different writers for not voting for Schilling, but that blame will be misplaced.  It was Schilling who knew the potential consequences of his actions, and he did it anyway.  Ultimately, Schilling is his own worst enemy when it comes to his not being elected in the Hall of Fame.

Dodgers & Mets All Stars

Whether people in Los Angeles know it, these two franchises will forever be linked. As many of you younger Mets fans (I can still call myself that, right?), many of our fathers grew up as a Brooklyn Dodger fan. They became Mets fans because the Dodgers left town. 

The Mets came into existence as a result of the Dodgers moving from Brooklyn. The Mets owners won’t quite let the Dodgers go. The teams have also shared stars. 

From Gil Hodges to Mike Piazza, former Dodger stars have found their way to the Mets. These Dodger stars have been important parts of Mets postseason runs:

You know what’s insane about that play?  You know other than it happened. Former Dodger Shawn Green relayed the ball to former Dodger Jose Valentin, who threw the ball to former Dodger Paul Lo Duca. The first runner tagged out was former Met Jeff Kent. It seems that J.D. Drew wasn’t supposed to be part of this play at all. 

In any event, rather than go on about how much I hate the Dodgers (don’t worry, that’s coming tomorrow) I thought it would be fun to name the best players who have played for the Mets and Dodgers. 

Some ground rules.  I want someone who played well with the Mets and Dodgers. Using a Giants example, I’m not picking Willie Mays for CF even though he could be the greatest CF in MLB history. I want someone like Piazza, who was great (or at least good) with both teams. So, here’s my list:

P – Bobby Ojeda

C – Mike Piazza

1B – Eddie Murray

2B – Jeff Kent

3B – Todd Zeile

SS – Jose Vizcaino

LF – Danny Heep

CF – Brett Butler

RF – Darryl Strawberry

Honestly, I thought this team would be better. The main problem was the derth of left fielders. Another problem was someone like Zeile. He played 3B for the Dodgers, but he mostly played 1B for the Mets. As you can tell, I leaned towards the player who was better as a Mets. If there are any suggestions, I’ll be happy to update this list. 

As we know, the Dodgers and Mets have a complicated history. The next chapter begins tomorrow night. Lets Go Mets!