Edgardo Alfonzo

Trivia Friday: Most Homers By A Mets Third Baseman

With the Mets signing Todd Frazier, the team has added a third baseman who has averaged 30 homers since the 2013 season.  In their history, the Mets have seen third baseman who could hit for that type of power.  However, there have not been that many who have been able to do so.

Are you able to name the third baseman in Mets history who have hit the most homers?  Good luck!

(NOTE: to qualify, it is players who have played at third more than any other position.  As a result, Edgardo Alfonzo and Bobby Bonilla do not qualify)


David Wright Howard Johnson Robin Ventura Wayne Garrett Charley Smith

Frazier Ready To Make a Ventura Like Impact

Heading into the 1999 season, the Mets desperately needed another infielder.  After debating names like B.J. Surhoff, the Mets went with 30 year old Robin Ventura, who was arguably coming off his worst season at the plate since his first full season in the majors.

While Ventura’s bat may have been a bit of a question mark, his glove wasn’t.  At the time he was signed, Ventura was widely regarded as one of the best defensive third baseman in the game – if not THE best.  With him alongside Rey Ordonez, the Mets knew from a defensive perspective they were going to have the best left side of the infield in all of baseball.

As it turns out, it was much more than that.  With John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo, the Mets assembled what many regard as the best defensive infield.  Both Ventura and Ordonez would win Gold Gloves giving that infield the metal it needed to prove the point.

More than that, Ventura was rejuvenated as a Met.  In 1999, he had his best every year hitting an astounding .301/.379/.529 with 32 homers and 120 RBI.  He would amass the third most WAR among NL position players, and he would finish sixth in the MVP voting.  As we know, he still had some magic left, as with this help of Todd Pratt, he would launch the Grand Slam Single in Game 5 of the NLCS.

After his Mets career, Ventura would eventually find himself as a manger of the Chicago White Sox, and he would manage Todd Frazier, the player who is now looking to pick up his mantle from the 1999 season.

Frazier has built himself a reputation as a good defensive third baseman.  In 2017, among players with over a thousand innings at third base, he had the third highest DRS trailing just Nolan Arenado and Evan Longoria.  With Frazier now joining Amed Rosario on the left side of the infield, the Mets promise to have the best defensive left side of the infield they have had in decades.  Along with the San Francisco Giants, they are on the short list of teams that can argue they have the best defensive left side of the infield in baseball.

At the plate, Frazier is a good hitter.  Over the past four seasons, he’s averaged a .243/.322/.464 batting line with 33 homers and 86 RBI.  That equates to a 113 OPS+ and wRC+.  Many will knock him for his declining batting average, but it should be noted last year, he had a career best .344 OBP and 14.4% walk rate.  In sum, his batting average is going down, but he’s getting on base more frequently.

Like Ventura, there’s optimism for a much improved season at the plate.  We have already seen him become a more patient hitter at the plate.  We have also seen him post an absurdly low .236 and .226 BABIP in succeeding years.  Part of that is Ventura is a dead pull hitter making it easier to shift against him.  Seeing how low those marks are and how hard he hits the ball, there’s some bad luck involved.

All of this makes him a prime candidate for a turnaround similar to what we saw with Jay Bruce last year.  The Mets will give him the information and will have him work with Pat Roessler.  This should allow Frazier to have a much improved year at the plate.

If that is the case, Frazier is going to have a great year with the Mets.  And while he’s admittedly not as good a player as Ventura was, he can have a similar impact.  Frazier can be the guy in the clubhouse blasting “Mo Jo Rising,” helps create a great left side infield defense, and deepen the Mets lineup.

And if all that happens, this could be a postseason team, which should give us excitement over what heroics we are about to see next.

Can’t Bear To See Smoker And Bradford Go

Each and every offseason, I have seen the Mets part with players who are easy to root for.  In my life, I have seen the Mets part ways with Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Daniel Murphy, and many more.  Having seen my some of my all-time favorite players depart has never made it easy to see the team depart with some of the players I have come to respect and root for during their time in a Mets uniform – no matter how long it lasted.

Recently, the Mets parted with two relievers, each of whom played less than two full seasons in a Mets uniform.  Presumably, the moves were necessary as the Mets needed to make room on the 40 man roster for the newly re-signed Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes.  Still, seeing those two relievers, you question if the Mets made the right decision.

The first reliever the Mets designated for assignment was Chasen Bradford.

In retrospect, it is interesting the Mets were even in a position to DFA Bradford.  For a number of years, he had been Rule 5 eligible with the rest of MLB not giving him much of a look.  The Mets didnt’ either, and if not for the series of injuries that beset the Mets this past season, it’s possible Bradford would have departed the team as a minor league free agent without getting so much as a chance.

Well, Bradford got his chance, and he proved he’s a MLB caliber pitcher.  In 28 appearances, he was 2-0 with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.277 WHIP.  After a somewhat tough July, he went on a 12 appearance stretch where he allowed just one run in 16.2 innings.

In fact, from August until the end of the season, he had a 2.93 ERA in 27.2 innings over 23 appearances.  During that stretch, he had amassed 20 scoreless appearances, and he had nine appearances over an inning in length.  In sum, Bradford showed he could go out there and get Major League batters out no matter the situation.

There other reliever designated for assignment was Josh Smoker.

Smoker’s story is one of perseverance.  After being the Nationals 2007 first round draft pick, he would suffer a torn rotator cuff and labrum.  This would cause the Nationals to release him thereby putting his professional baseball career in jeopardy.

A healthy Smoker proved himself in the Frontier League leading to his getting signed by the Mets.  Two years later, Smoker found himself part of a bullpen that helped pitch the Mets to the postseason.  Given his talent and perseverance, it was not surprise Smoker would be a part of the 2017 Opening Day bullpen.

What was a surprise was how Terry Collins used him.  Really, his manager showed a willful disregard for a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues.  It was almost as if Collins learned nothing from his handling of Johan Santana and Jim Henderson.  Eventually, Smoker had another shoulder injury.  Thankfully, it was not as serious as it would not require seasons ending surgery.

Once again, Smoker would have to re-prove himself, and re-prove himself he did.  In the second half, Smoker was 0- 0 with a 2.63 ERA and a 10.5 K/9 in 22 appearances.  Perhaps of more importance, Smoker found himself a capable pitcher against left-handed batters making him an even greater weapon in the bullpen.

However, like Bradford, Smoker will be a weapon in someone else’s bullpen.

After being designated for assignment, Bradford signed a minor league deal with the Mariners.  To risk not losing him on waivers, Smoker was traded to the Pirates for minor league left-handed reliever Daniel Zamora.  With that, the Mets have ridded themselves of two relievers who not only provided themselves capable of getting out Major League batters, but also two relievers who showed perseverance in getting themselves to this point.  That’s no small thing to lose.

As we learned during Player’s Weekend, Bradford’s nickname is Black Bear, and Smoker’s nickname is Brown Bear.  While it may seem a bit much, considering their nicknames, it’s fair to say it’s difficult to bear knowing neither pitcher will be a part of the Mets next season.

Fortunately for both of them, they are now with new organizations who likely value them all the more.  They deserve that, and all Mets fans should wish them the best of luck.

Leiter, New Jersey Hall of Famer, Among Forgotten Group of Mets Not in Mets Hall of Fame

Recently in the news, it was reported former Mets great Al Leiter will be a part of a 20 person class that will be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.  Of all the people inducted, Leiter will be the only baseball player.

It is interesting Leiter is being inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, but he is not being inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  Last year, I made the case for his induction into the Mets Hall of Fame. Rather than regurgitate the full case here, I’ll quickly note he’s in the Top 10 in wins, strikeouts, and ERA+ in what has been a pitching rich Mets history.

As it stands, from that era of Mets baseball, only Mike Piazza and John Franco have been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  As we know, Piazza is a Hall of Famer who has had his number retired by the team.  Franco, the Mets leader in saves, had his best years before Leiter even joined the team.

Behind Piazza and Franco, there are some Mets from those late 90s, early 2000s teams that certainly merit induction.

Edgardo Alfonzo is the best middle infielder in Mets history, and he was a key player on a Mets team that went to consecutive postseasons for the first time in team history.

In three years with the Mets, Robin Ventura won a Gold Glove, hit .260/.360/.468, and he had an all-time great postseason moment with the Grand Slam Single.

You could argue John Olerud had a similar, albeit not as great impact, on the Mets as Keith Hernandez.  He came over in what became a ridiculously lopsided trade, and once he become a Met, the team had taken off.

With Olerud in the fold, the Mets went from a 71 to an 88 win team.  If not for Mel Rojas, that 1998 team probably makes the postseason.  In 1999, Olerud was a key part of a Mets team that won the Wild Card and went to the NLCS.

And speaking of that 1998 team, there is Todd Hundley.  Still to this day, Hundley remains the Mets single season home run leader.

Certainly, you can make arguments against some of these players, but ultimately, the fact the great contributions of Mets players who helped bring the team to consecutive postseasons has been far overlooked by this franchise.  It needs to be remedied, and it can start with Leiter adding Mets Hall of Famer to his New Jersey Hall of Famer resume.

 

2017 Mets Carol

On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, new manager Mickey Callaway enters Fred Wilpon’s office.

Mickey: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.

Fred: What do you mean build?

Mickey: Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address.  We need a second baseman, some additional depth, and some bullpen –

Fred: Relievers? I just gave you Anthony Swarzak just last week!

Mickey: And I’m thankful for that.  But while I was in Cleveland, I learned you need more in your bullpen.  You need a couple of guys with interchangeable roles to help you get to where you want to go.  We need at least one more guy.

Fred: I don’t get it. After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.

Mickey: Well, I’d love to build a winner for the players and the fans.

Fred: Seriously?

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

Fred: Bah!

Not long after Callaway leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich. He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008. He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him. It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.

Fred: No, it can’t be. Is that really you?

M. Donald Grant: It is.

Fred: But, you’re dead. How? How?

M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.

Fred: What?

M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone. Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?

Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!

M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no. No! I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again. But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!

Fred: The horror.

M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.

Fred: No . . . NO! . . . You’ve got to save me.

M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits. Listen to them! Do what they say! Or you will be cursed for eternity.

And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room. A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed. After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep. Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd. It jostled Fred from his sleep. Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.

Fred: No, it can’t be. Is it really you Gary?

Standing before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top. Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.

Gary: It’s really me Fred. I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.

Fred: Am I dead?

Gary: No, you’re not. I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.

With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room. As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.

Fred: What a dump!

Gary: You didn’t always think so. In fact, you used to love coming here. Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be. Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.

Fred: Those Gooden starts were something special. No one could beat us then, and we knew it. We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.

Gary: This is how things used to be. It was always this way. You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him. You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo. That team came close. You did it again with Carlos Beltran. You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player. You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done. It didn’t work, but the fans came. More importantly, everyone respected you for it.

Fred: But they don’t understand.

Gary: Let’s see what happened next.

With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory. As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated. The fans were angry with the team. It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer. It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.

Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in? Where are all the fans?

Gary: You didn’t. It’s 2012.

Fred: That was an ugly time. Fans constantly complaining and booing. The team and I were personally cash strapped. I had no idea what our future was or could be. Worse yet, no one seemed to understand. The fans, the players, the press. No one. The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear. I can’t . . .

Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy. Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.

Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night. It gives me the strangest dreams. And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache. I never want to get back to that point . . .

As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner. Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team lost over 90 games, missed the postseason for the first time in three years, and is now talking about cutting payroll.  We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners. As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!

Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.

Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.

Ralph: Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2018 roster will look like.

Fred: We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field. We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.

Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you. In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should. It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise. During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.” From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs. This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908. The Cubs were once defeated –

Fred: Okay, okay. No, we’re no expanding payroll.  The fans didn’t come last year, and I don’t have the money. That’s just the way things work now. This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.

Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money, especially since you have the BAM money, bought an Overlook League team, and are part of the new Islanders Belmont Arena. And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them. When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.

Fred: Let’s be honest. With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Yoenis CespedesNoah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom.  We have free t-shirts, garden gnomes, and bobbleheads.  We’re going to turn a profit all while giving the players what they want – money.

Ralph: That’s not true. Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.

A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Callaway about the upcoming season.

Mickey: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.

David: It’s hard skip. I wake up in pain everyday. It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too. I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out. I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck. It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell. It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter. Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it. But it just gets harder and harder.

Mickey: Look, I love you, and I know the team does too. If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask. And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.

David: I can’t hang ’em up. Not yet. I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.

Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.

David: And it’s not just about me. I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career. They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys. They’ve cheered for me. They’ve always been there for me. And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family. I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left. They decided to keep me. They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain. I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.

Fred: I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.

Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off. At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening. He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey. The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues. At first, Hamilton says nothing. He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.

Fred follows Darryl down a hallway. Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges. On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career. A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring. Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty. Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man. He’s there with another person.

Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight. With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.

David: I don’t care. I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again. There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.

Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly. You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few. Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you. The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.

Fred: What, what happened to him?

Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.

Fred: He never won? But we had Matt Harvey and Syndergaard. We had deGrom and Steven Matz.  Even Zack Wheeler returned.  We had five aces! Of course we won at least one. There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series. Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.

David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did. I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have. Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.

Woman: What happened?

David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015. After that, we always just seemed one or two players short. We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .

As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway. The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field. Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues. In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.

Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field. I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.

Worker 2: Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.

Worker 1: And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.

Worker 2: How can you? They let the whole thing fall apart.

Worker 1: Good riddance!

Fred: What is happening here? What old group? Who authorized these statues?

With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s. Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.

Man: Shhh! It’s about to be on the television.

Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s. With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.

Fred: Darryl! What are they talking about?

Man: This is a dream come true for me. As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today. And yet, here I am.

Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.

Man: Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family. From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans. My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.

As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.

Fred: Darryl, what is happening with my team? Was it . . .

As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home. Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters. Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.

Reporter: How do you feel today?

Jeff: How do you expect me to feel? The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.

Reporter: What message do you have for Mets fans?

Jeff: We just want them to continue supporting the New York Exelsior.  I still believe that sooner or later this investment will pay off.

Fred: Jeff, don’t tell me you did it! Don’t tell me you sold my team!

Reporter: How do you think your father would feel about this moment?

Jeff:  Well, the Dodgers just won another World Series with a payroll triple ours, so –

Fred: Jeff! Jeff! I’m over here! Jeff!

With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car. Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets. With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time, he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it. The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.

The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich. The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint. When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.

Fred: It’s December 25, 2017! I still own the team! The spirits have given me another chance!

Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Callaway, Alderson, and Wright.

Fred: I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer. We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it. Sandy, the shackles are off. You have everything you need at your disposal. We owe Mickey the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series. And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest. We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series. It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.

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

David: God bless us everyone!

Good Luck Lucas Duda

With the Mets trading Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays, we bring an end to the Mets career of one of the better Mets in their history, and we also see the beginning of the end of an era of Mets baseball.

Duda was a player with a promising bat the Mets that first Omar then Sandy tried to get into the lineup.  With players blocking his path to his natural first base position, Duda would be moved to the outfield.  Duda would be standing there ins what was then a fairly cavernous right field when Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history.  Lost in that game was Duda homering in the sixth to put the game away.

Despite Duda being in the outfield during one of the biggest moments in Mets history, it became increasingly clear he wasn’t an outfielder.  He belonged at first base.  The fact he even forced a competition for the spot with Ike Davis was impressive.  Duda did all he could to wrestle that spot from Davis, and he finally showed the Mets what he could do hitting 30 home runs in 2014.  He had more in store in 2015.

When people have typically written about the 2015 season, they usually credit with Yoenis Cespedes for winning the National League East.  This overlooks how Duda almost single-handedly pulled the Mets into first place in 2015:

In that pivotal series that saw the Mets go from second to first place, Duda was 8-9 with a double, three homers, and five RBI.  With Mets fans debate over whether Duda was clutch or not, this series should answer the question in the affirmative.

As we know that season would eventually end in heartbreak.  Duda played his part throwing away the ball in Game 5 allowing Eric Hosmer to score the tying run.  It was hard to watch, and unfortunately, it masked all the good he had done that season including his grand slam in the division clincher and his homer effectively sealing the pennant:

These are many of the many great things Duda has done in a Mets uniform.  He was the second Mets player in history to hit three home runs in a game at home.  Shockingly, he was second to Kirk Nieuwenhuis.  Speaking of homering at Citi Field, Duda leaves the Mets as the all-time leader in home runs at Citi Field.

Hitting homers was one of the things Duda did well.  This year, he passed notable Mets like Edgardo Alfonzo, Kevin McReynolds, and Todd Hundley to finish his Mets career with the seventh most in Mets history.  Depending on whether you view Dave Kingman as an outfielder or first baseman, Duda’s 125 Mets homers are either the most or second most for a Mets first baseman.

There were many great moments with Duda, but none of the aforementioned moments were my favorite.  My favorite Duda moment was a seemingly meaningless Spring Training Game in 2015.

One night, I was sitting up watching the game with my then one year old half watching a Spring Training game when Duda ripped a double leading to an enthusiastic Gary Cohen call to the effect of “LUCAS DUDA rips an RBI double . . . .”  My son immediately latched on and began screaming Duda, and he wanted to see Duda play more and hit more.  As that season wore on, he became more and more interested in baseball, and he would learn the Mets players.  First one he’d learn:

That was a magical year as both a father and a Mets fan.  I’d get to see the Mets go to the World Series for the third time in my life, but it would be the first time I’d get to experience it with my son.  I still remember him trying to stay up to watch the games with me.  I remember him getting me a Duda jersey for Father’s Day and getting the Duda growth chart at one of the Mets games.  Even with Duda gone, we will still use it.  I also remember him going crazy during that World Series cheering for the Mets:

Duda leaving does not only mean we are saying good bye to a good player who began his career with the Mets.  We are also saying good-bye to a part of a Mets era.  It was an era that saw the Mets go from a frustrating team a team that came so close to winning a World Series.

On a personal note, I see Duda leaving as part of the ever changing realization that my son is no longer a baby – he’s now a little boy.  He doesn’t just snuggle up with me at bedtime trying to watch Mets games, he now goes outside and plays baseball with me.

It was time to move on, especially with Dominic Smith waiting in the wings.  Still, as Curtis Granderson would point out, you just want to hold onto all of these moments just a little longer:


Like Granderson, I still want to hold on to not just Duda, but all of these memories.  In reality, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things.  With that said, I enjoyed each and every minute Duda was a Met (except for that throw), and I appreciate all he has done in a Mets uniform.  He was a class act, who was always there to answer questions in even the hardest of times.  On a personal note, he helped make another great fan.  He deserves another opportunity to win a World Series, and I hope he does get that ring.

Good luck Lucas Duda.

Thank You Brooklyn Cyclones

This past week my Dad turned 70 years old.  It is because of him that my brother and I have been lifelong Mets fans.  For that, I’m not sure to thank him or to curse him.  All joking aside, some of my fondest memories with my Dad have involved baseball.

There were the Mets games through the years.  We were there for Robin Venturas Grand Slam single.  We saw Todd Pratt‘s homer ending the 1999 NLDS.  We were there a year later as Bobby Jones propelled the Mets to the 2000 NLCS.  There was the last game at Shea Stadium, and the first game at Citi Field.

We saw Matt Harvey come so close to pitching a no-hitter against the White Sox.  We loved see Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero have their first ever start at Citi Field in the 2013 Future’s Game.  Our favorite moment at a Mets game hands down was Game 3 of the 2015 World Series.

But it was more than the Mets games.  There were the catches he used to have with my brother and I in the backyard.  There was him throwing pitches to help try me to become a catcher.  There were the times, he would throw batting practice to my brother and I.

When it came time to give him a gift, my family wanted to give him more than a present.  We wanted to give him a memory that would at least rival the fond memories we had of him.  With us not having 499 friends to invite to a Mets game, or the money to purchase those tickets, that left us with the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Brooklyn in and of itself was fitting.  It was the place he would commute over an hour each way in order for him to support our family, to put my brother and I through school.

After speaking with the Cyclones, Joe Senis specifically, we were able to arrange for my father to throw out the first pitch before Saturday’s Cyclones game. Not just that, but at my Dad’s request, they allowed his grandson to take the mound with him (and throw out a pitch of his own):

 

Personally, I think they both did a great job:

Also, great job by Kurt Horne catching both of those pitches and for taking a brief moment to shake my Dad’s and my son’s hands.  It was also great Edgardo Alfonzo, one of my Dad’s favorite Mets, gave us his autograph.

That’s not all the Cyclones did for us.  They also sent the mascot up to where we were sitting for some family photos . . .

 

and they put on a great postgame fireworks show:


It was a classy move from a classy group of people.  They gave my Dad and his family a memory we will forever cherish, and we are forever grateful to the team.

 

Trivia Friday – Members of the Mets Hall of Fame

Over the past week, I have reviewed the Hall of Fame cases for players like Edgardo Alfonzo, Al Leiter, and former manger Bobby Valentine.  If the Mets were to add these individuals into the Mets Hall of Fame, that would bring the total number of Mets Hall of Famers to 30.  Can you name the other 26?  Good luck!


Tommie Agee Gary Carter, John Franco Dwight Gooden Jerry Grote Keith Hernandez Gil Hodges Davey Johnson Cleon Jones Ralph Kiner Jerry Koosman Ed Kranepool Tug McGraw Mike Piazza Tom Seaver Rusty Staub Casey Stengel Darryl Strawberry Mookie Wilson

Put Bobby Valentine in the Mets Hall of Fame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Al Leiter Should Be a Mets Hall of Famer

In 2000, the New York Mets made the postseason in consecutive years for the first time in their history.  It was a two year run that produced some of the most memorable moments in Mets history.

In the Mets first ever NLDS game, Edgardo Alfonzo hit two home runs, including a grand slam.  The Mets would win that NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 10th inning walk-off home run from Todd Pratt in a moment dubbed Pratt’s All Folks.  The NLCS featured Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single, and Mike Piazza‘s opposite field home run against John Smoltz which capped the Mets rallying from an early 5-0 and 7-3 deficits in what was a heart wrenching game.

In the 2000 NLDS, John Franco froze Barry Bonds to get a 10th inning strikeout to rescue the Mets from an Armando Benitez blown save.  In Game 3, Benny Agbayani would hit a walk-off 13th inning home run giving the Mets a 2-1 lead in the series setting the stage for Bobby Jones‘ brilliant one-hitter to cap the series.  In the NLCS, Timo Perez became a folk hero as the Mets swept the hated Cardinals to return to the World Series for the first time since 1986.

None of this . . . not one single moment would have been possible without Al Leiter.

Starting on September 21st, the Mets lost seven games in a row and eight of nine.  The losing streak saw the Mets four game lead in the Wild Card turn into a two game deficit.  It appeared that for the second season in a row, the Mets were going to blow a fairly sizeable lead in the Wild Card race and miss the postseason all together.  Fortunately, the Mets would win out and force a one game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds for the Wild Card and the right to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1999 NLDS.

After Rickey Henderson and Alfonzo hit back-to-back home runs to open the game, Leiter would do the rest.  Leiter was simply brilliant in a complete game two-hit seven strikeout shutout.  This start came off the heels of Leiter’s last start of the season where he out-dueled Greg Maddux to snap the the Mets eight game losing streak and put the team back in position to make a run at the Wild Card.

Typically, that was the type of pitcher Leiter was in a Mets uniform.  He rose to the occasion in some when the Mets needed him.  He was the guy who helped pitch the Mets into the 1999 postseason.  He was the guy who helped turn around the 2000 NLDS by shutting down the San Francisco Giants over eight plus innings.  He was the pitcher who gave everything he had in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series.  Much like the Mets in that two year time frame, he was terrific, but time and again, he came up just short.  In seven postseason starts for the Mets, he was 0-2 with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.080 WHIP.  Taking out the 1999 NLCS Game 6 start against the Braves he made on three days rest and couldn’t record an out, his Mets postseason ERA and WHIP respectively drops to 2.58 and 1.015.

Leiter’s greatness as a Met extend far beyond the superlatives of his moments in big games and how well he pitched in the postseason.  He was also very good in the regular season.

Leiter first came to the Mets in a February 1998 trade that featured the Mets sending prized prospect A.J. Burnett to a Florida Marlins team that was dismantling their World Series winning club.  The trade was a sign the Mets were interested in moving on from a team that was rebuilding to a team that was ready to start competing.  Adding a pitcher like Leiter, while a risk, certainly paid dividends.

In 1998, Leiter would arguably post the best year of his career going 17-6 with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.150 WHIP.  That season Leiter was unquestionably the ace for a Mets team that surprised everyone by competing for a Wild Card spot deep into the season.  For much of Leiter’s seven year career he served as either the Mets ace, 1A, or number two starter.

In his entire Mets career, Leiter was 95-67 with a 3.42 ERA, 1,360.0 innings pitched, 1,106 strikeouts, and a 1.300 WHIP.  In that seven year span, Leiter posted a very good 124 ERA+ and a 28.0 WAR.  He would make an All Star team and he would have one Top 10 Cy Young Award finish.  With strong numbers like these, it should be no surprise Leiter’s name is scattered across the Mets record books:

  • Wins (95) – sixth
  • Games Started (213) – sixth
  • Innings Pitched (1,360.0) – seventh
  • Strikeouts (1,106) – seventh
  • WAR (28.0) – 11th

In terms of all-time Mets pitchers, Leiter’s WAR ranks him as the sixth best pitcher in Mets history behind Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Sid Fernandez, and Jon Matlack.  In terms of left-handed starters, Leiter ranks third in wins, seventh in ERA, third in starts, fourth in innings pitched, and third in strikeouts.

In terms of advanced statistics, Leiter’s 1998 season was the seventh best by a Mets pitcher by ERA+.  In fact, his Mets career ERA+ ranks him as the eighth best pitcher in Mets history.  Among pitchers that have thrown more than a thousand innings, his ERA+ is second all-time to just Seaver.  Adjusted pitching runs ranks him as the third best pitcher in Mets history just behind Seaver and Gooden, and adjusted pitching wins ranks him fourth.  In terms of WPA, he ranks fourth all time, third among starters, and second among left-handed pitchers.

Simply put, Leiter had a terrific career in a Mets uniform.  His 1998 season was one of the best by a Mets starter.  By most measures, he’s a top 10 or top 5 pitcher in Mets history.  He has came up big in big moments time and time again.  He was also part of a group of Mets players that welcomed Piazza after the trade with the Marlins and made him feel welcome enough for Piazza to re-sign with the Mets.

More than any of the aforementioned stats, there is another factor.  There is no way you can adequately tell the history of the Mets franchise without discussing Leiter.  Leiter was an important member of two Mets teams that made the postseason.  He is a major part of one of the best eras in Mets baseball, and he’s a part of one of the most beloved teams in Mets history.  Moreover, he is a part of a core group of Mets that have been long overlooked for the Mets Hall of Fame.  Despite 1997 – 2001 being one of the better stretches in Mets history,  Piazza and Franco remain the only Mets from those teams to be represented in the Mets Hall of Fame.  They were not the only contributors to this run.

This era of Mets baseball has been long overlooked by this team.  It is time some of those important Mets get inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  Leiter is one of the Mets that deserve induction.