Prior to Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, there was much debate over who Willie Randolph should give the ball.
It was Steve Trachsel‘s turn in the rotation, but he was terrible in Game 3 and bad in the NLDS. Possibly, it was the result of the microdiscectomy he had in 2005, but he didn’t have in anymore.
Due to the rainouts in the series, Tom Glavine in one day of rest was a non-starter leaving the Mets unable to throw their best (healthy) pitcher in a winner-take-all-game.
As a result, when you broke it all down, the Mets best option was Darren Oliver Perez. That’s right, it was some combination of Darren Oliver, the former starter who was brilliant in the Mets bullpen in 2016, and Oliver Perez, the pitcher who did just enough to win Game 4. With Perez not being nearly as good as he was as his 2002 breakout season, and him starting on three days of rest, this truly was an all hands on deck type of game.
Looking at the game, it made sense to put the Mets bullpen front and center. The Mets had the best and deepest bullpen in the National League. That bullpen led the National League in wins, ERA, and fWAR. It was dominant, and even with the hiccups in Games 2 and 5 in the series, you certainly trusted it much more than you trusted anyone in the rotation.
As we are aware, things turned out much differently than anticipated. With the help of Endy Chavez making the greatest catch you will ever see, Perez would allow just one earned on four hits in six innings of work. He went far beyond what anyone could have anticipated, and really, he put the Mets in position to win that game.
Ultimately, the Mets would lose the game and as a result the series for two reasons. The first was the Mets offense didn’t deliver. After Endy’s catch, Javier Valentin struck out with the bases loaded, and Endy did not have more magic left for the inning instead flying out. In the ninth, Cliff Floyd struck out, Jim Edmonds robbed Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran struck out looking.
The second reason was the bullpen, specifically Aaron Heilman. He pitched a scoreless eighth, and he started off the ninth well striking out Edmonds. After the Scott Rolen single, he really was through the dangerous part of the lineup. He should have gotten through that inning unscathed to give the Mets a chance to walk off. Realistically speaking, no one could have anticipated what came next.
In 2006, Heilman did not get hit hard. He yielded just a 4.4% FB/HR ratio, and he had a 0.5 HR/9. He had not given up a home run since July 16th, and that was hit by Phil Nevin. Again, no one could see Yadier Molina‘s homer coming.
That didn’t stop it from coming, but just because it came, it did not mean Randolph and the Mets made the wrong decision trusting Heilman.
Sometimes, you make the right decision, and the wrong thing happens. It is what we saw happen last night with the Athletics.
Like the 2006 Mets, the real strength of that team was the bullpen. In a winner take all game, Bob Melvin put his faith in them. Ultimately, it was two of his best relievers, Fernando Rodney and Blake Treinen, who failed most. They took a close game and put it well out of reach.
That doesn’t mean he was wrong to trust those arms for one game. It just means the team’s best players didn’t perform, which is the reason the Athletics lost. Really, it was the use of an opener or the bullpenning. It was Rodney and Treinen, two pitchers who were definitively going to pitch in the game even if the Athletics used a traditional starter, who lost the game.
In the end, there is still a debate at the merits of using an opener or bullpenning, but the Athletics losing this game did not settle this debate. Not in the least.
The Mets Fan
I’m Justin Weiss, an 18-year-old aspiring journalist from Long Island. In addition to writing about the Mets, Islanders and Knicks for Elite Sports NY, I’ve been credentialed to cover the Brooklyn Cyclones.
How You Became a Mets Fan
My father, who is the contrarian in the family, became a Mets fan because his father was a Yankees fan, and I guess that I just stuck with it. My earliest memories are of Endy Chavez’s miraculous catch in the 2006 NLCS and my first game — a 5-3 loss (no shocker there) to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Favorite Mets Player
I’m not really sure why, or when, or how, but I became the de facto president of the Logan Verrett Fan Club (membership: 1), and my love for him has grown ever since.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
Message to Mets Fans
In the eighteen years of my life, I’ve seen not so much Amazin’, and way too much failure. But sticking with this team has been worth it, because the highs are so much sweeter. Hang in there, because when the Metsies finally enjoy some success, so will you.
The Mets Fan
Hi! My name is Becky, and I’ve been a sports fan my whole life and dabble around writing for Blue Seat Blogs.
How You Became a Mets Fan
I’ve been a Mets fan since I was in the womb- literally. My mom was 7 months pregnant with me when the Mets won their last WS (whoops aging myself).
Growing up in my house, I had no choice. Of my Mom, Dad and two older brothers, my Mom is by far the most rabid fan. I spent many summers at Shea. some of my favorite memories are of being in high school, getting cheap tickets from the box office, and sneaking down to Loge to watch the really bad early 2000s teams.
Favorite Mets Player
Favorite Moment in Mets History
Moment in mets history? Everyone will say the Endy Chavez catch, but that wound up being a bad bad night. I would say the Piazza HR in the first game after 9/11 against the braves. To this day, that clip gives me chills.
Message to Mets Fans
My message to Mets fans is that although ownership can be a mess (and has always been), games are always fun to go to. You have a fun family along with other Mets fans and damn it, we’re due for another World Series. I personally can’t wait for Opening Day if, for nothing else, to listen to Gary Keith and Ron. Not to mention Citi really is a gorgeous and fun atmosphere with good food, good beer and great fans. LGM!!
One of the themes of this offseason has been Sandy Alderson going out and bringing back some players to help this current team try to win a World Series. We have seen these efforts work in the past with the Mets bringing back Bobby Bonilla in 1999 and Endy Chavez and Pedro Feliciano in 2006. We have also seen these efforts fail miserably like when the Mets brought back Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz in 2002.
Where this season falls on the spectrum is still to be determined. Those results will largely depend on those players the Mets have brought back to the team. Can you name them? Good luck!
The expectation is that with a game changing play, you would expect things to become a little more one-sided, and one team to begin to pull away. As Endy Chavez and Carlos Beltran can tell you, that is not always the case. Last night, there was a myriad of change-changing plays. Here’s a shot at ranking the Top 10:
1. Gurriel’s 3 Run Homer (4th Inning)
Perhaps none of yesterday’s game would be possible if not for Yuli Gurriel‘s three run homer. At that point, the Astros were down 4-1, and their former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel had nothing. While the Astros had already gotten to Clayton Kershaw, it’s still Kershaw. If Kershaw gets Gurriel there, the inning is over, and the game has a much different feel. Instead, Gurriel hit a homer that came out of nowhere and descended us all into madness.
2. Barnes’ Hustle Double (9th Inning)
If you subscribe to the theory home runs are rally killers, Yasiel Puig‘s two run homer in the top of the 9th gave Chris Devenski and the Astros a chance to exhale, get the last out, and win the game. Instead, Austin Barnes stretched what should have been a long single into a one out double. The pressure was back on, and more importantly, the game tying run was in scoring position for Joc Pederson and eventually Chris Taylor, who would deliver to the two out RBI single to tie the game.
3. Taylor Didn’t Go Home (8th Inning)
After Corey Seager hit a one out double off Will Harris to pull the Dodgers to within two runs, Justin Turner hit a deep fly ball to right center. Instead of challenging the arm of Josh Reddick, and pulling the Dodgers within a run, Taylor stayed at third base. The reason was because Minute Maid Park was so loud, he confused third base coach Chris Woodward‘s direction to “Go!” as him saying “No!” Chalk that one up for home field advantage.
4. Altuve Ties It Again (5th Inning)
Narratives exist because things happen. Game 5 was case in point why people say he chokes in the postseason even with his Game 1 peformance. After recording two quick outs, he walked Springer and Alex Bregman back-to-back, and with him at 94 pitchers, Dave Roberts brought in Kenta Maeda, who had been previously unscored upon this postseason. That changed with the Altuve home run, and it really set the table for the complete inability for the respective bullpens to get the job done.
5. Springer Redemption (7th Inning)
The half inning after Springer made an ill fated dive at a sinking liner in center (more on that in a moment), he would lead-off the bottom of the seventh against an exhausted Brandon Morrow, who had nothing. Springer got back the run he effectively gave up by hitting a monster of a game tying home run. That would spark a three run rally giving the Astros an 11-8 lead.
6. Bellinger Unties It (5th Inning)
After Gurriel hit the aforementioned game tying three run homer, Cody Bellinger hit a three run homer off of the struggling Collin McHugh, who had not pitched since the ALDS. At that time, the Dodgers seemed to have reclaimed momentum, and they gave Kershaw back a sizeable lead he should have been able to protect.
7. Bregman Walk-Off (10th Inning)
It may seem strange to have this so low, but that was the type of game it was. Bregman’s two out walk-off single against Kenley Jansen was the capper in a series of back and forth plays that not only gave fans whiplash but also sleep deprivation.
8. Springer Dove and Missed (7th Inning)
Believe it or not, the sixth inning of this game was scoreless as the bullpens began to settle in a bit after a crazy fifth. A Turner lead-off double of new reliever Brad Peacock created some tumult. Turner would then score easily when Bellinger hit a sinking liner to center. Instead of fielding in on a hop and trying to get Turner at home or decoying him, Springer dove . . . and missed. At the time the Astros fell behind 8-7, and they were lucky Bellinger wasn’t able to score on an inside-the-park home run.
9. The “Double Steal” (1st Inning)
At the outset of this game, you honestly believed a pitching matchup of Kershaw and Keuchel would be a pitcher’s duel. In fact, the Dodgers took Game 1 with both pitchers mostly shutting down the opposition save for three homers in the game. With the Dodgers having a 2-0 first inning lead, they were already in the driver’s seat.
Then, Keuchel made the weakest of pickoff attempts, and in what must’ve been a designed play, Logan Forsythe took off for second. As Gurriel threw it wide of second, Kiké Hernandez broke for the plate. With the errant throw and Forsythe getting in just ahead of the tag, it appeared as if the Dodgers had a commanding 3-0 lead in the game en route to a 3-2 series lead heading back to Chavez Ravine.
10. Correa in Just Ahead of the Tag (4th Inning)
Before the Gurriel game tying homer off Kershaw, Carlos Correa would deliver a one out RBI double to get the Astros on the board. On the play, Correa got in just ahead of the throw of Hernandez, and he would keep his foot on the bag. Had he not stayed on, he’s not on base when Gurriel hits the game tying home run.
Overall, these are just 10 moments from an otherwise Helter Skelter type of game. We all may have a different order, and there may be some plays that should have been included that were not. That’s just indicative of what type of game that was and what type of series this is.
If you’re going to say Willie Mays, that’s acceptable. Let’s just split the difference and say this was the greatest double play in Major League history.
Watching that play and remembering that game time and again, there are some things that stick out in your mind. The stands were rocking. Carlos Delgado was fired up like never before. The Mets seemed unbeatable that day. Everything built to a fever pitch in the bottom of the sixth. Degaldo walked. Rolen made a throwing error not only allowing David Wright to reach, but to set up runners at second and third with no outs. Shawn Green was intentionally walked loading the bases.
Then, Jose Valentin struck out, and everyone’s hero, Endy Chavez, flew out to center to end the rally. From there, we saw the Yadier Molina homer, the Carlos Beltran strikeout, collapses in 2007 and 2008, the Madoff scandal, and really the Mets failing to play competitive baseball in the first six years in Citi Field.
In many ways, Chavez’s catch became a highlight in the truest sense of the word because that was the apex. Everything came crashing down after that.
During that game, the Mets looked unbeatable. Harvey had shut down the Royals pitching eight scoreless allowing just four hits and striking out nine. When he took the mound in the bottom of the ninth, the fans were rocking, and everyone believed the Mets were not only going to win that game, but they were going to complete the comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. How could you not? The Royals had just lost Game 7 at home the previous season, and the Mets had Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard for Games 6 and 7.
Like the aftermath of the Chavez catch, it didn’t work out that way. Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain and allowed an RBI double to Eric Hosmer. After a Mike Moustakas ground out, Hosmer was on third and the infield was drawn in. Then to the surprise of everyone, Hosmer broke for the plate while Wright was throwing to first to get Salvador Perez.
From there, we saw the Mets have to fight tooth and nail just to get to a Wild Card Game last year. Madison Bumgarner outdueled Syndergaard, and Conor Gillaspie homered off Jeurys Familia. This past season, seemingly everyone but Ray Ramirez was injured as the Mets dropped from World Series contender to fourth place in the NL East. The roster now has a number of holes and a number of question marks with the team announcing it’s going to cut payroll.
Depending on what the team does this offseason, and depending on the health of players like Michael Conforto, the Mets could once again be looking at an extended period of irrelevance. When Harvey took the mound for the ninth inning roughly two years ago, no one could have possibly believed that to be true.
Then again, when Chavez made that catch, no one could believe what would be in store for the Mets over the next decade.
During this offseason, the Mets were put in a somewhat peculiar position. Longtime Mets announcer and play-by-play man, Gary Cohen, was a finalist for the Ford C. Frick Award. This would have meant that Cohen would have found himself enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame before he was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.
Now, it should be noted the Ford C. Frick Award is not technically being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. As the Baseball Hall of Fame notes, “The Ford C. Frick Award is presented annually during Hall of Fame Weekend. Each award recipient (not to be confused with an inductee) is presented with a calligraphy of the award and is recognized in the “Scribes & Mikemen” exhibit in the Library of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.” With that caveat, for many receiving the award is commensurate with an announcer being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
While Cohen ultimately did not received the award, you know it is only a matter of time before he receives it. As any Mets fan that listened to him on the radio from 1989 – 2005, or on SNY from 2006 until the present, Cohen is the best in the business. For those unaware, he is a compilation of some of his best calls in a number of the best moments in Mets history:
The Todd Pratt Home Run:
I particularly like this one due to the comparison to Chris Berman
The Robin Ventura Grand Slam Single:
The Endy Chavez Catch:
The Mike Piazza home-run capping off the 10 run inning against the Braves:
The Johan Santana n0-hitter:
The Wilmer Flores walk-off home-run:
And while, it was not the greatest moment in Mets history, his call on the Bartolo Colon home run is as good a call as you are going to hear anywhere:
There are several calls that you can choose from him because Cohen is just that good a broadcaster. It’s a testament to him that he made the transition from being quite possibly the best play-by-play announcer in all of baseball to being great as a television announcer on SNY. They are different mediums, and he seemingly made the seamless switch to describing each and every part of the action to sitting back and let the moment speak for itself. He has also given room for both Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez to shine in their roles as color commentators.
Whether, it is his screaming “IT’S OUTTA HERE!” or “THE BALLGAME IS OVER!” Cohen has a way of not only capturing the emotion of the big moment, he also has a way of making them seem bigger. With that said, there is another big moment in Mets history he should not be there to call. That would be the day he is inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.
At the 2006 trade deadline, many believed the Mets were in need of a big starting pitcher to help the best team in baseball win the World Series. At that time, the big name was Barry Zito, but the Mets were reportedly balking at the asking price which included their top prospect in addition to their best set-up man in Aaron Heilman. Certainly, Heilman became untouchable with Duaner Sanchez‘s injury. However, there is still some debate whether any of the Mets prospects should have been so untouchable so as to prevent them from being moved in a trade many believed the Mets needed to make to win the World Series.
Keeping in mind the Mets didn’t want to move a top prospect, let’s take a look at who was considered the Mets Top 10 prospects back in 2006 and see how their respective careers fared:
The Mets 2003 first round draft pick was seen by many as a future star in the major leagues. He was supposed to be a five tool center fielder. Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way.
Milledge first got his chance in 2006 at first due to a Xavier Nady injury and then because of Nady being traded to sure up their bullpen due to the Sanchez injury. Milledge would show he was not quite ready for the limelight. That shouldn’t be surprising considering he had only played 84 games in AAA, and he was 21 years old. In 56 games, he would only hit .241/.310/.380 with four homers and 22 RBI. He would be unfairly chastised for high fiving the fans after a game tying home run in extra innings.
Unfortunately for him, the home run that led to much hand wringing might’ve been the top moment in his career. Milledge would never figure it out for the Mets, and his star potential would diminish. In 2007, the Mets would move him for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
Overall, Milledge would only play six years in the majors hitting .269/.328/.395 in parts of six major league seasons. He would play his last game for the Chicago White Sox as a 26 year old in April 2011. From there, he would play four years in Japan. In Japan, he wouldn’t re-establish himself as a major leaguer like Cecil Fielder did, nor would he become an acclaimed Japanese League player like Tuffy Rhodes. Rather, he hit a disappointing .272/.348/.447 averaging 10 home runs and 32 RBI.
Milledge suffered injuries limiting him to just 34 games in 2014 and 2015. No one would sign him to play professional baseball anywhere in 2016. In the end his professional baseball career is over at the age of 31.
Petit was the one major prospect the Mets would move to help the 2006 team. The Mets included him in a deal with Grant Psomas and Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado. Delgado would go on to become a slugger at first base the Mets had never truly had in their history. For his part, Petit has put together a nice major leauge career.
Petit would not figure things out until he became a San Francisco Giant in 2012. Under the tutledge of Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy, he would become a very good long man in the bullpen. In his four years with the Giants, he as 10-7 with one save, a 3.66 ERA, and a 1.128 WHIP.
His best work was in the 2014 postseason. That year the Giants rotation was Madison Bumgarner and a group of starters the team could not truly trust to go five innings in a game. Accordingly, Petit was used almost as a piggyback starting pitcher. In that 2014 postseason, Petit would make four appearances going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA (no runs allowed in the NLDS or NLCS) and a 0.868 WHIP.
In the past offseason, Petit was a free agent, and he signed a one year $3 million deal with the Washington Nationals with a $3 million team option for 2016. He struggled this year in his 35 relief appearances and one start going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.323 WHIP.
In his nine year career, Petit is 23-32 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP. Whether or not his option is picked up by the Nationals, we should see Petit pitch in his tenth major league season in 2017.
The Mets traded their 2004 third round pick with Dante Brinkley for Paul Lo Duca. Lo Duca was the emotional leader for the 2006 Mets that almost went to the World Series, and Hernandez never pitched in the major leagues.
Hernandez would bounce around from the Marlins to the Mariners to the Red Sox to the Royals to the White Sox and finally to the Diamondbacks. While Hernandez had shown some early promise with the Mets, he never realized it. He topped out at AAA where he would pitch for four seasons going 30-36 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP.
Hernandez has not given up on his major league dream. Since 2012, Hernandez has been pitching in the Atlantic Leagues. Over the past three seasons, he has pitched Winter Ball. He made 25 starts and two relief appearances for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he was 7-10 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP. At the moment, the 30 year old Hernandez has not been signed to play for a Winter Leagues team.
The Mets 1999 38th round draft pick was part of the aforementioned trade that helped the Mets acquire Delgado. The Mets were largely able to use Jacobs as part of the trade because of the tremendous start to his career.
In 2005, Jacobs hit .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers and 23 RBI in 30 games. While Jacobs continued to be a power hitter after leaving the Mets, he would never again reach those levels. Eventually, his impatience at the plate caught up to him, and he would only only last seven years in the major leagues. His penultimate season was with the Mets in 2010 when he was unseated by Ike Davis as the Mets first baseman.
After being released by the Mets, Jacobs has spent the past six seasons in AAA with a 13 game cup of coffee for the Diamondbacks in 2012. In Jacob’s seven year career, he hit .253/.313/.473 with 100 homers and 312 RBI. As a Met, he hit .290/.360/.645 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Jacobs would have the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.
At this point, it is unknown if the 35 year old Jacobs will continue playing professional baseball in 2017.
The one theme that is developing here is that while these players didn’t have a big impact in the majors or the Mets, Omar Minaya utilized these players to help the ballclub. Humber is a perfect example of that.
The Mets 2004 first round pick (third overall) had an inauspicious start to his professional career needing Tommy John surgery in 2005.
With that Humber would only make one start in his Mets career, and it wasn’t particularly good. With the Mets collapsing in the 2007, and the team having a rash of starting pitcher injuries, the team turned to the highest drafted player in their system. Humber kept the woeful Washington Nationals at bay for the first three innings before allowing Church to hit a two run homer in the fourth and then sowing the seeds for a huge rally in the fifth inning that would see the Mets once 6-0 lead completely evaporate in a frustrating 9-6 loss. This would be the last time Humber took the mound for the Mets. In his Mets career, he would make one start and four relief appearances with no decisions, a 6.00 ERA, and a 1.333 WHIP.
Still, he showed enough to be a major part in the trade that would bring Johan Santana to the Mets. Santana and Humber would both enter immortality. Santana would throw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Humber would become perhaps the unlikeliest of all pitchers to throw a perfect game. It was the 21st perfect game in baseball history. He joined David Cone as the only ex-Mets to throw a perfect game. He joined a much longer list of seven former Mets, highlighted by Nolan Ryan, who threw a no-hitter AFTER leaving the Mets. Humber would also become the pitcher with the highest career ERA to throw a perfect game.
In all, Humber played for five major league teams over his eight major league seasons. In those eight major league seasons, he has gone 16-23 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. He threw his last major league pitch in 2013 in a season he went 0-8 in 13 starts. In 2014, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics’ AAA affiliate. In 2015, he pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leagues going 3-3 with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.855 WHIP in 11 starts and one relief appearance.
Humber had signed on with the San Diego Padres and was invited to Spring Training in 2016. He was released prior to the start of the season, and he did not throw one pitch for any professional team in 2016. He is currently 33 years old, and at this point, he has not announced his retirement.
Gomez has been far and away the best player on the list of the 2006 Mets top prospects. He would be moved with Humber as a centerpiece in the Santana trade.
In Gomez’s early career, it was clear he was a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. He made highlight reel play after highlight reel play for the Twins. However, it was clear from how he was struggling at the plate, the projected five tool player wasn’t quite ready to be the hitter everyone anticipated he would be at the major league level. Eventually, the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers, and in Milwaukee, Gomez would figure it out.
In Gomez’s five plus years with the Brewers, he won a Gold Glove and was a two time All Star. He was also a coveted player at the 2015 trade deadline, and he almost became a New York Met again in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores. As we all remember, Flores cried on the field, and the Mets front office was disappointed in Gomez’s medicals causing them to rescind the trade due to a purported hip issue.
Gomez would then be traded to the Astros, and the Mets would appear to be vindicated for their decision. Gomez played 126 games for the Astros before being released and picked up by the Texas Rangers. In Texas, Gomez began playing like the player the Mets coveted at the 2015 trade deadline. The 33 game burst came at the right time as the 30 year old Gomez will be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.
Overall, Gomez has played for 10 years, and he is a .257/.312/.415 hitter with 116 home runs, 453 RBI, and 239 stolen bases. He is still a good center fielder, and he may still have a couple of good seasons in front of him.
From the moment the Mets signed him as a 16 year old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, F-Mart was seen as a top prospect. Many imagined he would become a five tool player like a Carlos Beltran. Instead, his career went the way of Alex Ochoa.
F-Mart was the first big prize Minaya brought in when he become the General Manager of the Mets. Understandably, he was considered untouchable in trade discussions. As it turns out, the Mets wished they moved him when they had the opportunity.
F-Mart would only play in 47 games over three years with the Mets hitting just .183/.250/.290 with two homers and 12 RBI. Eventually, with him not progressing as the Mets once hoped he would, and a different regime in place, F-Mart would eventually be put on waivers and claimed by the Houston Astros. With the Astros, he would only play in 52 games over two years, and he would just hit .225/.285/.424 with seven homers and 17 RBI.
In 2013, the Astros traded him to the Yankees for minor league depth. After the 2013 season, F-Mart would become a free agent, and he would find no suitors.
In 2014, he only played in the Dominican Winter Leagues, and in 2015, he played in only seven games in the Mexican Leagues. Given how he has bounced around and seeing how many major league teams have either passed on him or have forgotten his existence, it is hard to believe that he is just 28 years old.
Hernandez is undeterred, and he is still playing baseball. Right now, he is playing alongside current Mets shortstop prospect Luis Guillorme for Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds. Spain would go 0-2 in the European Qualifier and will not be a finalist for the World Baseball Classic.
The Mets acquired Hernandez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for backup catcher Vance Wilson in 2005. Hernandez intrigued the Mets because he was an exceptionally skilled defensive shortstop. The question with him was whether he was ever going to hit.
Despite these questions, and with Kaz Matsui starting the year on the disabled list, Hernandez would actually be the Mets Opening Day second baseman. On Opening Day, he would show everyone why he was so highly regarded defensively with an impressive over the shoulder catch. However, Hernandez would also show he would never be able to hit at the big league level. That fact may have forever changed Mets history.
Despite hitting .152/.164/.242 in 25 games with the Mets, he would make the NLCS roster. In Game 7 of the NLCS, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Instead of going to Hernandez to pinch-hit for Heilman to get the bunt down, Willie Randolph went to an injured Cliff Floyd to try to win the game. Floyd would strike out, and Hernandez would enter the game only as a pinch runner for Lo Duca, who had worked out a walk to load the bases. From first base, Hernandez got a good view of how the series would end. Had Hernandez been able to hit just a little bit, it is possible he would have been sent up to bunt, and maybe things would have gone differently.
Overall, Hernandez never did show the ability to hit at the major league level. The Mets gave up waiting. In 2008, with the Mets desperate for relievers to plug in holes to a decimated bullpen, Hernandez was traded to the Nationals for Luis Ayala.
Hernandez would play for four teams in six seasons hitting .241/.300/.314 with four homers and 60 RBI. While he did show he was skilled defensively, he could never hit enough to stick in the majors, and as a result, his major league career was over in 2010 when he was 27 years old.
From 2011 – 2013, Hernandez would play in AAA. For the past three seasons, he has played in the Japanese Leagues. In every season since 2006, the 33 year old has played in the Dominican Winter Leagues for Tigres del Licey. It is unknown at this point if he is going to play for the Tigres this year or if he will return to the Japanese Leagues next year.
Bannister was the Mets 2003 seventh round draft pick out of USC. He would become the first ever Brooklyn Cyclones pitcher to pitch a game for the New York Mets. Bannister had earned that right by beating out Heilman for the fifth spot in the 2006 Mets Opening Day rotation. There were a myriad of reasons including but not limited to Heilman’s importance in the bullpen.
Bannister’s career would get off to quite the start with him going 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.393 WHIP. While he struggled with his command and couldn’t go very deep into games as a result, the Mets were willing to stick with him through those five starts. Unfortunately, Bannister would suffer a hamstring injury at the end of April that would linger for most of the year. By the time he was healthy, John Maine was already a fixture in the rotation. With the Mets acquiring Perez at the trade deadline, there was no longer a spot for him on the major league roster.
With there no longer being any room for him, the Mets moved him in the offseason to the Kansas City Royals for Ambiorix Burgos. It was a trade that was detrimental for both players. Bannister would pitch four years for the Royals going 35-49 with a 5.13 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP. Burgos’ Mets career was marked by ineffectiveness, injury, and domestic violence.
After going 37-50 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP in his five year major league career, Bannister had signed a two year deal to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants. Bannister would never pitch for the Giants. After an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Bannister retired from baseball. Since the 2015 season, the 35 year old Bannister has been a professional scout for the Boston Red Sox.
In 2003, Soler defected to the Dominican Republic from Cuba. The following year he would sign a three year $2.8 million contract with the New York Mets.
Soler would only pitch for the major league club in 2006. He would make eight starts highlighted by a complete game two hit shut out of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, the rest of his starts weren’t as great, and he would finish the year going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP. His contract would expire at the end of the season, and the Mets would not re-sign him.
Soler would pitch in 14 games, mostly out of the bullpen, for the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate in 2007. In the following two seasons, Soler would return to the tri-state area pitching for the Long Island Ducks and Newark Bears of the Independent Leagues. He would not pitch well at either stop, and no one would offer him a contract to play professional baseball in 2010. In 2011, he pitched in two games in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues. Since that time, the 37 year old Soler has not pitched in professional baseball.
At this time, it is unknown as to what Soler has been doing in his post-baseball career.
What is known is that while the top prospects from the 2006 season largely did not pan out, then Mets GM Omar Minaya was able to utilize a number of the players to improve the 2006 and 2007 Mets teams that fell just short. This has left many fans wondering what would have happened if Milledge was moved at his peak value or what would have happened if Hernandez learned how to hit. Things may have gone very differently in both of those seasons.
Still, while you could call each of these prospects, save Gomez, a bust. It is notable that nine of the 10 players played in the major leagues for multiple seasons. Three of the players played in the postseason, and one won a World Series. There have been All Star appearances and a perfect game from this group. While you expected more, each player left their own mark on the Mets and the game of baseball.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.
Impressively, like Willie Mays after “The Catch”, Chavez was aware of the game situation, he made a strong relay to Jose Valentin, who then got it over to a fired up Carlos Delgado to nail Jim Edmonds at first to complete the inning ending double play.
As we know with the American League having won the All Star Game, the Mets wouldn’t have a home game until Game 3 of the World Series. In his first World Series at bat at home, David Wright, the same man who had an RBI single to open the scoring in Game 7 of the NLCS, would do this:
Yes, those events happened in the same October. You cannot convince me otherwise.
Do you remember who got the game winning hit in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series? It is one thing that is not often discussed because Jack Morris pitched a game so great that people cannot shake the idea that he should be a Hall of Famer. In the other dugout was a young right-hander named John Smoltz who matched Morris pitch for pitch. There were pivotal plays in that game you can point to as to why the Twins ultimately won. However, the biggest reason was Morris was able to go the distance and the young Smoltz was only able to go 7.1 innings.
Last night wasn’t the World Series. However, it was a winner-take-all game featuring just a tremendous pitching match-up. The Giants had the grizzled veteran, Madison Bumgarner, who has laid claim to the best active postseason pitcher, if not all time. The Mets were sending out Noah Syndergaard, who throws harder than anyone in baseball and is coming off a Cy Young caliber award season. Simply put, you do not get better than this.
Bumgarner and Syndergaard were even more dominant than you would’ve thought they could be. Combined, the two aces threw 227 pitches. Only six of those pitches would result in base hits. The two would combine for 16 strikeouts with just five walks. No one would reach third base against them let alone score a run. In July, this is a game that is game you would call an instant classic. In the postseason, this is a game for the ages.
In the end, what did the Mets in was the fact Syndergaard was only able to go seven, and the Mets didn’t take advantage of their chances to score off Bumgarner.
The best chance came in the fifth when T.J. Rivera hit a leadoff double. After a Jay Bruce strikeout, T.J. was quickly erased when Rene Rivera hit a grounder to the shortstop Brandon Crawford. Being the Gold Glover and smart baseball player he was, Crawford caught T.J. straying just a little too far off second. T.J. did alleviate some of the gaffe by forcing a run down that allowed Rene to get to second. Ultimately, it didn’t matter as James Loney was intentionally walked, and then Syndergaard struck out to end not just the inning, but also the Mets only real threat of the game.
It was important to cash in there as no one was scoring off these pitchers today. Syndergaard had a no-hitter going for 5.2 innings until Denard Span hit a single up the middle. Span would try to turn this into a rally by stealing second (he was caught by Rivera earlier in the game), but it didn’t matter as Curtis Granderson turned into Endy Chavez for one play:
As we would find out later in the game, Endy Chavez was the right analogy.
Overall, the Giants could do nothing against Syndergaard. He would pitch seven innings allowing just two hits while walking three. He just dominated the Giants lineup. Perhaps the best evidence of this is his 10 strikeouts on the night.
The turning point in the game was Syndergaard getting lifted. It was completely the right move, and there should be no one second guessing it. By that point, he had thrown 108 pitches, and he started to look gassed as he put the Giants to rest.
With Syndergaard out of the game, the Giants bats seemed to awaken. Conor Gillaspie (more on him in a minute) greeted Addison Reed with a leadoff single. After a Bumgarner sacrifice bunt, the Giants had a runner in scoring position with the top of their lineup coming up. Reed would get Span to pop out for the second out setting the stage for a battle with Brandon Belt. Reed really got squeezed in this at-bat with him throwing two or three clear strikes that were just not called. Not only was Reed a bit flummoxed, but Rene seemed as if he was as well. On the very next pitch, Reed got one over that Rene just missed (by the way the home plate umpire missed it too as it should have been called a strike).
This sent runners to second and third. The Mets made the obvious choice there to intentionally walk Buster Posey to get to Hunter Pence. There was an ominous tone to the inning with the umpire missing strike calls, and the Giants seemingly gaining confidence with Syndergaard out of the game. Reed then showed the world why he was the best relief pitcher in the National League this season by striking out Pence to keep the game tied up at 0-0.
After another feckless turn at the plate, the Mets brought in Jeurys Familia.
He was in trouble immediately. Crawford lined an opposite field double. On the play, Yoenis Cespedes didn’t run hard after it. If he was completely healthy, he has the speed to cut that ball off and keep Crawford at first. What we don’t know is how healthy that leg is or whether or not he has that extra gear to cut that ball off. What we do know if that he didn’t even try to do it. With Crawford on second, the Giants had the exact situation the Mets squandered in the fifth inning.
Despite Angel Pagan trying to give himself up, Familia was having issues throwing strikes to him. Many of his pitches landed short of home plate. Still, Familia battled back into the at-bat, and after Pagan was unable to get the bunt down, Familia struck him out. Familia then had similar issues with Joe Panik eventually walking him despite being 2-2 on him. This set the stage for Gillaspie to have his Gene Larkin moment:
For what it’s worth, it was Alejandro Pena that gave up the walk-off hit to Larkin. The Braves had obtained Pena from the Mets and made him the closer in the stretch drive.
This was a crushing blow, not just because it gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, but also because it allowed Bruce Bochy to keep Bumgarner in the game instead of going to a bullpen the Mets were desperate to get into all game long. Bumgarner came out in the ninth and made quick work of Cespedes, Granderson, and T.J.
This would be Bumgarner’s second complete game shutout on the road in the Wild Card Game. He showed the Mets and the entire world why he is the best big game pitcher in all of baseball. Oddly enough, he had been bested by the Mets young ace, Syndergaard. While Syndergaard might’ve bested him, Bumgarner outlasted him. Ultimately, that is why the Giants are going to Chicago and why the Mets season is over.
If you’re not a Mets fan, this has to be one of the best baseball games you have ever seen in your life. If you are a Mets fan, you walk away taking stock in the fact that Syndergaard had the game of his life at a time when the Mets needed him most. This year, Syndergaard didn’t just establish himself as the Mets ace; he established himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Last night, he took that a step further by announcing he’s a big game pitcher that’s every bit as good as Bumgarner. In what has been a tough end to the season, Syndergaard gives you hope for the future.