Gil Hodges

Meet The Mets Fan: Rudy Sheptock

The Mets Fan

My name is Rudy Sheptock, and I am on Twitter as @RudyOrangeAndBlue.  I am a full time Minister and a part-time DJ! My daily midday Radio Show is called Rudy On The Radio and it’s heard Monday-Friday from Noon until 2PM on LIFT FM here in Cape May County, NJ. I have been married 36 years and have four kids and four grandkids. I love social media and enjoy the many friendships I have made via Twitter and Facebook.

How You Became a Mets Fan

I became a die hard Mets Fan in the mid 1960s because of my Dad. He grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers Fan, and when they and the Giants left for California, there was no way my Father was going to root for the Yankees. So when the Mets came along, he began to root for them and passed his love of the Orange and Blue on to me! Because I never do anything halfway – I was in for life!

Favorite Mets Player

My first Mets Autograph was Gil Hodges, but my first hero was Tom Seaver. I patterned everything I did after Tom. I would listen to the Mets on the Radio and would be perfectly in-sync with Seaver even though I could not see the game. I wore either 14 or 41 all thru my playing days. I also taught both my sons the drop and drive style of Seaver’s pitching. I have tons of Seaver memorabilia all over my house! I cried the day they traded him to the Reds! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Favorite Moment in Mets History

While my oldest Son was born in 1986 and that magical season, nothing will ever compare to the Summer of 1969! After so much losing, the Mets were finally winning! And I loved Gil Hodges and the innocence of that era for me cause I was 10 years old! Seaver’s almost perfect game! I was at Banner Day that August when the Mets swept the Padres 3-2 in both games. The double-header that the Mets won against the Pirates where both games were 1-0 with Jerry Koosman and Don Cardwell driving in the runs! Ken Boswell singling in Cleon Jones against the Expos to put us in first place! And the day we won the World Series! I was in Baseball Heaven! I am so glad I was alive and well because that Team was my Team!  Cleon and Tommie Agee! Jerry Grote and Donn Clendenon! I remember riding my bike thru the old neighborhood screaming We Won The World Series! Childhood at it’s best! Even the Mets on the Ed Sullivan Show!

Message to Mets Fans

Real Mets Fans are a unique breed! We are never confident. We always expect the worst and are pleasantly pleased when our Team comes through. We despise the Yankees! We love Bob Murphy. We miss Shea Stadium! The chant of Let’s Go Mets still gives us Goosebumps and we can still hear Jane Jarvis play the organ in our souls! We love Wilmer Flores and can’t understand why the Wilpons are still around! We can call our Mets Bums but will defend them to the death! We bleed blue and orange! Love to hear Put it in the Books and will always stick around for the Happy Recap! I was a Mets Fan at 7 years old and now at almost 60- I still love them!

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Level Of Confidence In Mickey Callaway

Over the past week, the Mets have had a number of bullpen meltdowns, and it just seems like no matter what Mickey Callaway does he is making the wrong decision.  After the 12-2 start, the Mets have dipped down a few times to .500, but they have not fallen below that .500 mark quite yet.  Criticism is starting to come from all directions including from Mike Francesca, who from his shiny new Twitter account, jabbed, “Imagine the problems the Mets would be having if the team wasn’t in the hands of a pitching guru?”

Considering it’s after Memorial Day, which has long been an unofficial litmus test for teams, now is as good a time as any for the Mets Bloggers to proffer what their level of confidence is in Callaway:

Michael Baron (MLB)

It’s hard to conclude anything – positively or negatively – in 2 months. It’s just not fair. We can definitely argue he has made mistakes, hope he has learned lessons, and dealing with the balance between stats, plans and gut feelings. But it’s 50 games – I’m hoping the next 50 games show growth in these areas. But it would help if his players could execute and he had more tools in his bag.

Roger Cormier (Good Fundies)

He’s still in my circle of trust. I don’t understand why he told every reliever to suddenly perform as awfully as possible, but maybe he read about an Argentinian tech company who used a similar unorthodox team building exercise to eventually acquire record fourth quarter sales numbers? You just don’t know with that guy. But seriously folks, it doesn’t matter what order he puts in the veteran, high-priced relievers and Jason Vargas if they are all bad, so I don’t see how you can yell at Mickey for AJ Ramos turning into the world’s most charismatic pumpkin. And because he doesn’t want a phone call from Frederick and/or Jeffrey, Jose Reyes gets a start or two a week.

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

It takes more than two months to undo eight years of foolishness. The Mets FIP last year was 4.49; this year it’s at 3.92 despite brutal starts by key pitchers. Sure, his lineup choices are odd, his in-game decisions even odder, but they resemble some of Terry Collins‘ head-scratchers. What’s the common denominator? A meddlesome COO (Reyes) and a front office that seems to be scripting the daily lineup and BP usage. That’s my take, anyway. I have confidence in Mickey. Let’s see if he can start wresting more of the in-game stuff away from the suits.

Joe Maracic (Loud Egg)

My feeling is the manager can win or cost a team around 5 games per season. I think he’s doing fine but baseball managers have always been later on my list of team priorities, right below training and medical staff.

Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)

Sometimes, it’s incumbent on the players to make plays. Not everything can be traced back to a bad managerial move. Now should be the time to look at Sandy and what kind of depth he has set the team up with to endure something like this.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

I don’t not trust him. How’s that? Unfair to withdraw one’s faith one-third into a manager’s first season, though the impression I get is 1) he’s groping for answers, patterns and/or a change of luck; 2) actually managing is more difficult than doing it in theory. I’m sure we’d all discover the same had we really impressed in our interview for the job.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

There was always some level of doubt, but the moment it became absolutely clear beyond much debate that we needed a new manager was when Terry forgot to pinch-run for Wilmer representing the tying run, and he got thrown out at the plate. On that level, I trust Mickey far more than I ever trusted Terry: he’s got a basic level of competence where you know he’s not just going to lose his mind and do something ridiculous. I think we all internally hoped for more, though – we were hoping he would turn out to be some kind of visionary who would single-handedly turn us into a World Series winner. Mickey isn’t that – I’m not sure if anybody has ever actually been that. Maybe Gil Hodges. Which means Mickey isn’t Gil Hodges – which is fine. He still knows his way around a baseball game, and I’m always relatively confident that he won’t screw things up all by himself.

Mets Daddy

While we have been rightly focusing on the bullpen meltdowns and Callaway’s missteps in causing some of those meltdowns, we are missing some of the real good he is doing.  Amed Rosario is blossoming, and Brandon Nimmo has made himself into a real good Major League leadoff hitter under his watch.  We’ve also seen Callaway coax a second (or third) act out of the careers of Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and Devin Mesoraco.

While we expected Callaway to pull a Rumplestiltskin and weave a gold out of a collection of broken arms, his job is much more than that.  He’s in charge of a full 25 man roster, and there is enough there with his work with the full roster to believe he was the right man, and that he will continue learning and growing on the job.

While there may be some question about the job Callaway is doing and his future as a manager, one thing is for certain – this is a terrific group of writers, and I encourage everyone to take the time out to read their excellent writing on Callaway and all things Mets.

RIP Rusty Staub

There’s a famous Easter Sunday Mets story as detailed by Matthew Silverman of metsilverman.com details on his site.  Even with there being a player strike, Rusty Staub and who he thought was rival Mets manager Gil Hodges would have a warm conversation leading Rusty to exclaim, “Wow!  Easter Sunday brings out the best in everybody.”

What Rusty didn’t know and couldn’t know because of the strike was part of the reason Hodges was so nice to him was the Mets had swung a trade the night before to obtain the larger than life right fielder.

What Rusty didn’t know and couldn’t know at the time was this was the last time he would ever talk with Hodges.  Tragically, without any warning, Hodges would die the next day.  Like many Mets fans and players, Rusty never got to say good-bye.  Rather, he was just left with the warm memories of a Mets great believing it was Easter Sunday that brought the best out in a fierce competitor.

If you excuse the sacrilege of a former altar boy for a moment, maybe it wasn’t Easter Sunday which brought out the best in Hodges, maybe it was Rusty.

While the City of Montreal may claim Rusty, he was definitively a Met.  Considering the larger than life figure he was, I’m sure we will hear the Astros and Tigers fans claim Rusty as their own.  That’s what happens when you have a player who is both great on the field and great off of it.

Personally, I never knew Rusty from his playing days.  I was too young to remember him and his 1985 season where he did nothing but pinch hit.  Really, the only thing I know of Rusty as  Met is the exploits which were touted during the videos on Diamondvision played during rain delays or the tales my father would tell me about how great he was in the 1973 World Series.

No, I remember Rusty as a great Mets ambassador.  The advertisements for his charity events for the New York Police & Fire Widows & Children’s Benefit Fund.  Hearing about the fundraisers for the event was a big part of the season for a Mets fan.  Contributing to it was all the more so.  Considering this being his post-retirement’s life’s work, his tireless efforts after 9/11 should come as no surprise.

I also remember the broadcasts.  Back when Rusty was calling games, he and Ralph Kiner were one of the reasons you tuned in.  Sure, they tended to be Mets homers, but you could excuse it a bit with the old stories and enthusiasm they had for the Mets.  It was really no different than listening to your dad and uncles sitting around a table talking which watching a Mets game.

Personally, my favorite Rusty memory was from a few years back.  While on a plane from Ireland, Rusty suffered a heart attack.  In a situation which would have killed nearly anyone, Rusty survived, and he lived to tell about it.  More than than, he relished it, and if you’ve ever listened to him during a Mets game, you knew he could spin a tale.

Those are the memories that we should all miss.  For those who watched him play, I’m sure you will miss him all the more.

And now, 46 years after he became a Met, he now leaves us.  In a somewhat fitting and tragic fashion, he departs us during the Easter Triduum.  After all he has done for the Mets and City of New York, he now rests peacefully.  Hopefully, when we all think back upon his life, we will all recall how like Easter Sunday, Rusty brought out the best in all of us.

Mets Blogger Round Table: Our Favorite Hometown Mets

With the Mets signing Todd Frazier, the organization has yet again went out and brought home a local boy to play for the hometown team.  It is something we have seen from the organization throughout their history starting with Ed Kranepool, and it is a new focus we have seen with this organization with them drafting Long Islanders Steven Matz, Justin Dunn, and Anthony Kay.

With the Mets illustrious, and in the case of Bobby Bonilla, infamous hometown players coming home to play for the Mets, in a new feature on Mets Daddy, Mets bloggers have come together to answer the question about who is their favorite hometown Mets players:

Michael Baron (MLB.com)

I’ve actually come to really admire T.J. Rivera. He’s a guy who has had to work very hard every minute of every day to be relevant, and his journey to-date has really been inspiring. He has a positive, workman-like attitude from which a lot of people can learn from in any realm of business and society. He is fearless and likable; that combined with his New York roots make him easy to root for.

There is a village in Michigan named Brooklyn. I know this because the Michigan International Speedway is there, even though the 2010 census claimed the population of Brooklyn, Mich. was 1,206. I’m from the Brooklyn in New York though. It feels like 25 percent of all professional athletes are from Brooklyn (the one in New York), yet I had to make a brief stop at Google (Mountain View, Calif.) to remember Johnny Franco. Of course. I met him at Gil Hodges Lanes once when I was a youth. There is a picture of us that I am pretty sure I lost over the years because I am an awful person. I did bring it once with me to show some friends in high school. One person thought Franco was my father. I thought it was weird she would think I would just walk into school, as a teenager, to show people a picture of me and my father, and she thought it was weird I would bring in an old picture of me with some baseball player, and we were both right to think these things. (But I was more right.)

Past: Tim Teufel

Present T.J. Rivera

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

Lee Mazzilli hands down. When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, Maz made his debut in 1976. I was 8 years old. My last name might be Irish, but my mom’s Italian, and so were many of my cousins, so it was pretty cool to have a guy who looked like me (well, sorta) wearing a Mets uniform. I copied his batting stance, wore my sweatbands on my forearms and basically fought every kid who wanted to be Lee Mazzilli when we played wiffle ball.

When he was traded, I was devastated, but when he came back and became a key player for the 1986 Mets, it was a dream come true.

Michael Mayer (MMO & MMN)

Being from Maine, my favorite hometown Met would be Mike Bordick. He played his High School ball and College baseball in Maine before signing with the Oakland A’s in 1986. Few players with Maine ties end up in the big leagues so at the time I was excited that the Mets traded for him in 2000. My dad, brother and I drove down to New York for his first game with the Mets. We got to see him hit a home run in his first at-bat as a Met. Unfortunately, Bordick struggled offensively for the Mets including a bat postseason in the Mets run to the World Series loss to the Yankees. Just a few years after that I met Mike’s dad who was a local umpire and got to know him as player and coach.

Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)

Ed Glynn, because he sold hot dogs at Shea Stadium as a kid.

Based on localness, I’d have to go with Brooklyn’s own Lee Mazzilli, who I don’t think would have thrived anywhere else.  Connecticut HS star Rico Brogna and Al Leiter from NJ round out the tri-state circle for me.

Shoutout to Frank Viola of nearby East Meadow for bringing the LI accent.

And tip of the cap to Ed Kranepool, who showed us the Bronx long before Bobby Bo.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

It’s an interesting question, because we’ve got lots of players right now who could qualify as favorites, who have deeply ingrained ties to the Mets besides where they were born. We’ve got lots of players who are not hometown but are home-grown — deGrom, Conforto, Familia, Flores, Reyes (kind of). Travis d’Arnaud has been with a million different teams and was born in California, but he did idolize Mike Piazza growing up. And of course, David Wright grew up a Mets fan because his hometown team was the Norfolk Tides. But much as we all love those guys, they’re not hometown players. There are four hometown guys on our 40-man roster: Matz, Harvey, Frazier, and T.J. Rivera. Frazier hasn’t played a game as a Met yet, and T.J. Rivera, while he’s had his great moments, isn’t a favorite yet. So, it comes down to Matz and Harvey. Matz gets bonus points right away for being from Long Island. If you come from the spiritual home of Mets fandom, and pitch into the eighth inning in your debut while going 3/3 with four RBIs, it’s hard not to become a fan favorite. But nevertheless, I’m going with Matt Harvey. It’s no secret that the Dark Knight hasn’t been a star lately. But his first three seasons in the bigs are enough to make him my clear choice. When Harvey debuted in the summer of 2012, I was away at camp; we were seniors, so we had a TV in our cabin, but we weren’t watching the game. I followed the ESPN Bottom Line that entire night and shouted results to the one other Mets fan in the group each time they came up: “seven strikeouts in three innings…eight through four…ten through five!” I saw those results come in, and literally right in that moment, I felt myself fill with hope, for the first time in a long time, that one day we would be good again. Then, of course, there was 2013 Harvey, who is still the best pitcher I’ve ever seen. I wore my Harvey shirt every day he took the mound that year, and every game, I was convinced, until proven otherwise, that he would throw a perfect game. He got out hopes up a few times, too, even though he could never quite finish it. I was at the game, the night after we’d all learned that Harvey would need Tommy John surgery. “Why does this always happen to us?” the ticket taker asked me. He was genuinely distressed, even angry. “I just don’t get it.” I didn’t have an answer, and I didn’t know then that Harvey would never again pitch as well as we all hoped to see every time out, so I just said “I don’t know,” then I went to my seat and watched us lose 2-1 to the Phillies, which somehow seemed fitting.

Mets Daddy

Ultimately, the answer for me comes down to Harvey or Leiter as I will remember both of them for their respective Game 5 performances which ultimately fell short.  In the end, you knew each was a competitor ready, willing, and able to give whatever they had when they stepped on the mound.

While I believe Leiter should be in the Mets Hall of Fame, and I will always appreciate his 1999 play-in game complete game two hit shut-out, my favorite local Met is Harvey.  When he stepped on the mound in 2013, he not only gave the Mets a bona fide ace, he gave us Mets fans hope.  He then delivered on that hope by helping pitch that 2015 Mets team to a pennant.  If not for Terry Collins, that would have been a World Series title.

Before signing off, I do want to mention Brogna (first autograph) and Bud Anderson (Little League) even if Anderson doesn’t quite count as he was a minor leaguer for the Mets.

Overall, I want to thank the various writers for coming onto the site to participate in what I hope will become a weekly round table.  Please return the favor by visiting their sites (link is in the parenthesis next to their name).

Trivia Friday – Former Mets Managers To Get Another MLB Job

As the Mets embark on their managerial search, it’s interesting to note that of the Mets 20 managers only eight have been hired for another job.  For some, there were extenuating circumstances.  Casey Stengel broke a hip.  Gil Hodges passed away.  Terry Collins is retiring or being forced into retirement depending upon your point of view.

With that said, for the most part, managing the Mets is typically a final step in a manager’s career.  As noted there were eight exceptions.  Can you name them?  Good luck!

 


Salty Parker Wes Westrum Joe Torre Yogi Berra George Bamberger Davey Johnson Jeff Torborg Bobby Valentine

Reflecting on The Mets Longest Tenured Manager

Once Saturday’s game is over, Terry Collins will become the Mets all-time leader in games managed.  With this, he will be above Gil Hodges, who may have owned the record himself if not for his sudden and tragic passing.  He will surpass Bobby Valentine, who was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons.  Finally, he passes Davey Johnson, who led the Mets to the greatest stretch in team history.

All of the aforementioned managers have had better records then Collins, who owns the Mets mark for most losses as a manger.  It leads to the question, why is it Collins lasted longer in New York than either Valentine or Johnson?  The answer is a complicated one for a man who has led the Mets over a complicated time period.

Collins took the helm for the Mets after the disastrous Jerry Manuel Era.  After bad mouthing his boss, Willie Randolph, he talked his way into the managerial job, and he oversaw his own collapse.  Despite that, the Mets decided to retain him as the new team manager as the Mets opened up a new ballpark.  In his two full seasons as Mets manager, his teams were 149-173.  This was despite having talented rosters with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran.

The Manuel Era was done in by a number of issues.  First, the team was not built well for the then cavernous Citi Field.  Second, high priced veterans like Luis Castillo and Jason Bay were playing up the standards of being an average major league player, let alone their contracts.  Third, the team deal with a number of injuries – some of which were exacerbated by Manuel’s decision making.  Mostly, the mix of manager, ballpark, and roster were doomed from the beginning.  It was time for new blood across the organization.

This was the stage upon which Collins entered as the Mets manager in 2011.  The team was mostly a mix of veterans nearing either the end of their contracts or their careers and some interesting players who could be talented major league players.  In the early part of Collin’s tenure, the Mets were teams that overachieved in the first half of the season, and then with trades, injuries, or players coming back to earth, the Mets would fall apart as the season progressed.

During the early part of Collins tenure as Mets manager, no one realistically believed the Mets were going to be contenders.  As a result, judging him by wins and losses seemed counter-intuitive.  Rather, you want to look at managers like this through the prism of their ability to get the most out of the talent on their roster.  Specifically, you want to see them develop some young players.

Things almost came to a head in 2014.  The Mets first real prized free agent acquisition of the Sandy Alderson Era, Curtis Granderson, was struggling.  The other, Bartolo Colon, was the staff ace, which meant Zack Wheeler was not progressing like the organization would have liked.  There were also struggles from Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and others.  It was not how the Mets envisioned this season would go, and if not for the Wilpons intervening, it would have been a different manager that led the Mets to the 2015 pennant.

It’s unsure to pinpoint the exact reason Collins survived.  The biggest skeptics will pinpoint Collins was due money, and the Wilpons, who were dealing with the Madoff scandal, were loathe to pay two different managers.  It’s possible Collins was saved because the Mets were not exactly under-performing.  There were also some positive signs for the team.

Lucas Duda not only won the first base job, but he hit 30 home runs.  Daniel Murphy was a first time All-Star.  Jenrry Mejia showed he was closer material.  Wheeler had a strong finish to the season.  Jeurys Familia looked like a closer in waiting.  Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove.  Jacob deGrom was a surprise Rookie of the Year.  Matt Harvey had just been the All Star Game starter the previous season, and he was set to return in 2015.  R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young Award that allowed the facilitation of the trade to bring over d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.  Overall, you could see young pieces who could be part of the Mets’ future.  These were players who were cultivated under Collins.  It should also be kept in mind Collins created a certain atmosphere in the clubhouse that partially led to Wright signing a contract extension in 2012.  Overall, the pieces for a future contender were there, and they were all cultivated under Collins.

There’s another factor that is not often discussed with Collins is the fact he’s a good human being.  Time and again with Collins we hear little things he does that mean so much to people.  He has reached out to grieving Mets fans to offer his condolences.  He’s stopped the team during Spring Training to assemble them to spend some time with sick children.  He struck the right chord between honoring Jose Fernandez and trying to keep the Mets team competitive in that three game set.  That’s a harder job to do than we all give him credit.  Having a man like this around your team and leading young men is always a good thing.

And yet, there are plenty of instances where you look at Collins’ tenure and wonder how he’s lasted this long.  His usage of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Johan Santana, Jim Henderson, and others have had a negative impact upon their ability to stay healthy.  Certainly, it can be argued these pitchers’ arms were ruined by Collins.

There has also been his over-reliance on his veteran players.  Despite Collins mantra that you hit you play, it really has only every been applied to young players.  It has twice taken a litany of injuries to get T.J. Rivera in the lineup.  Collins never would put Michael Conforto back in the lineup last year no matter his raking in Triple-A and his wrist being healthy.  Instead, he watched Jay Bruce continue to flail at the plate.  This year, we see him keeping Reyes and Granderson in the lineup despite their both hitting under the Mendoza Line.

More to the point, Collins allows the question to be asked over who exactly is in charge.  There are always reports Alderson dictates to him what should be done instead of Collins being allowed to manage the team as he wishes.  Collins allowed Reyes to pull himself from the last game of the 2011 season to preserve his batting title.  One of the lasting images of the 2015 World Series was Harvey telling him not to pull him from the game.

That World Series is certainly one that will haunt the Mets.  Collins made a number of questionable moves throughout that series which did not put his team in the best possible position to win.  Given how the Mets are struggling now, it does beg the question whether that was this core’s best opportunity to win a World Series.  But it’s more than that.  We have consistently seen Collins ignore reliever’s workloads and splits when making pitching changes.  He will send Wilmer Flores up there to pinch hit against right-handed pitchers even with other players still on the bench.  Overall, it is his in-game managing that leaves a lot to be desired.

Despite all of that, Collins is still here.  He has survived a lot to get to this point.  There was the Madoff scandal.  There was a rebuild that took a year or two longer than initially advertised.  He has consistently tried to hold a team together that has seen a number of injuries, brutal losses, and disheartening losing streaks.  He oversaw the transition from the Mets being a last place team to a team that almost won a World Series.

The Terry Collins’ Era will forever be a complicated one in Mets history.  To a certain extent, it does not matter that he is the manager who has managed the most games in Mets history.  That is mostly the result of circumstance.  Arguably, the circumstances have dictated Collins remain on for as long as he has.  Say what you will about the man, but he has always been accountable, never left you questioning his loyalty to the players or fans, and he has had the pulse of his clubhouse.  If nothing else, Collins is a leader of men, and as a man, you are hard pressed to find a better human being in baseball.

It does not matter if you believe someone else should have this record.  It’s Collins’ now.  He deserves everyone’s congratulations for it, and he deserves the respect of Mets fans for his tenure.

Mike Piazza Now a Part of the Left Field Legends Landing

Today, Mike Piazza joins Tom Seaver as the only Mets player to have his number retired.  He also joins Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel as the only Mets to have their number retired.  He will also join Jackie Robinson, William Shea, and Ralph Kiner in what has become the Mets “Left Field Legends Landing”

* Photo courtesy of Jeremy Posner.

At least that is what I am calling it.

Piazza is there because he was just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Met.  He was the second Met all-time and their first position player.  He is there because he helped take a “nice little team” and led them to back-to-back postseason appearance for the only time in Mets history.  No Met will ever wear his number again due to him being the greatest hitting catcher of all-time who has hit more homers than any catcher in baseball history.  He is there for the post 9/11 homer, for all the other important homers, and what he meant to Mets fans.  Today, Piazza will officially have his number retired.  Personally, I cannot wait to go to Citi Field and cheer him like I did all those games I attended in the late nineties and early 2000s.  It couldn’t have happened to a better man or a better Met.

Congratulations Mike Piazza.

 

The Three Faces of the Franchise

Every major league team that has been around long enough has three faces to their franchise.  The first is The Immortal player.  He is the player you first think of when you mention a franchise.  The next is the Living Legend.  This player is the one that is revered by young and old.  He is the player that throws out the first pitch at first home game of the World Series.  He’s in the Hall of Fame, and his number is retired.  The last is the best or most popular player on the team.  He is the player that has been traditionally dubbed the Face of the Team.  Here are a few examples:

New York Yankees
Immortal Babe Ruth
Living Legend Derek Jeter
Face of the Team Alex Rodriguez
Boston Red Sox
Immortal Ted Williams
Living Legend Pedro Martinez
Face of the Team David Ortiz
St. Louis Cardinals
Immortal Stan Musial
Living Legend Bob Gibson
Face of the Team Adam Wainwright
Los Angeles Dodgers
Immortal Jackie Robinson
Living Legend Sandy Koufax
Face of the Team Clayton Kershaw

Yesterday, with Mike Piazza‘s formal induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame and with Tom Seaver unable to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony he loves to attend, the Mets now how their own triumvirate.

Not only is Mike Piazza a Hall of Famer who is about to have his number retired by the Mets, he has also become the Mets resident Living Legend.  It’s why he was the former player who threw out the first pitch prior to Game Three of the World Series.  Every big moment for the Mets from here on out is going to prominently feature Mike Piazza much in the same way we have seen through the years with players like Ernie Banks, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and once upon a time Tom Seaver.

It’s unfortunate to see Seaver unable to travel to attend the ceremony and host his table of 300 game winners, including friend and former teammate Nolan Ryan, from his day like he loved so dearly.  It’s sad that he can’t travel cross-country to throw out the first pitch for any of the World Series games or to sit in the owner’s suite and cheer on The Franchise’s Franchise.  It’s almost a surety that he will be unable to attend Piazza’s Number Retirement Ceremony this weekend.  In some ways, that makes him like Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel – gone but not forgotten.

No one can ever forget Seaver.  He’s the best player to ever put on a Mets uniform.  He’s The Franchise.  He’s quite possibly the greatest right handed pitcher to ever play the game.  He is the pitcher who has received more Hall of Fame votes than anyone in baseball history.  He is an Immortal.  No one, not even Piazza, can ever knock him off that perch.

He is joined by the Living Legend Mike Piazza and the current Face of the Mets Franchise, be it David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, or Noah Syndergaard to become one of the three all important faces of the Mets franchise.  In that way, the Mets have become an older major league franchise with a history worth celebrating.

Build the Tom Seaver Statue!

The main entrance to Citi Field is the well-designed and well-conceived Jackie Robinson Rotunda.  It is an area that not only pays homage to one of the most important and transformative figures in baseball history, it lets you catch a glimpse of what he was as a man and a ballplayer.  There is even a giant 42 that stands in the back of the rotunda that can be used as a backdrop for fan photos:

   
There are many things right about the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.  However, the rotunda highlights one major flaw about Citi Field – Robinson is the only player that is celebrated there.

Sure, there are the retired numbers in left field.  Also, there is the Mets Hall of Fame (which has also become an extension of the team store).  However, is it really enough?  If you are like many Mets fans and Nancy Seaver, the answer is a resounding no.  As Nancy Seaver told the New York Daily News, “They should have a statue for all those numbers they have retired on their wall — Seaver, Gil Hodges, Mike Piazza.”  She finds the fact that here isn’t one for her husband to be “ridiculous.”  She sums up her feelings by saying, “I’m embarrassed for (the Mets). I really am.”

The fact of the matter is she’s right.  At a minimum, there needs to be a statue for Tom Seaver.  He is the Mets version of Babe Ruth.

Seaver has been the greatest player to ever don a Mets uniform.  Considering the mind boggling stats he put up, it is next to impossible to imagine a scenario where there will come another player who will legitimately challenge Seaver’s place in Mets history.  He helped turn the Mets around from a losing franchise to a team that miraculously won the 1969 World Series.  He was the ace of a staff that almost won a second unlikely World Series in 1973.  He’s the Mets all-time leader in wins, ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, complete games, and shutouts.  It’s one of the many reasons Seaver has been dubbed The Franchise.  The Mets reputation as being a traditionally pitching rich organization began with him.  It’s why he was the first player to have this number retired by the Mets.  It’s why the Mets chose him to throw out the last pitch at Shea Stadium and the first pitch at Citi Field.  It’s why he was elected to the Hall of Fame with the highest voting percentage ever given to a pitcher.  It’s why he needs to have a statue featuring him with that classic leg drive:

  
Any argument against the Seaver statue is ill conceived:

  • It’s too costly – You’re a major league franchise in New York.  You can afford a statue.
  • Seaver can’t travel for the unveiling – Hodges’ number was retired posthumously.  It’s about honoring a player properly, not about attendance.
  • There’s nowhere to put it – First, you found a spot for the old Home Run Apple.  Second, there are empty places in and around the ballpark.  If it’s important to you, you find a spot.
  • It would diminsh the importance of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda – It won’t.
  • Building one for Seaver means the Mets will have to build ones for other Mets Hall of Famers – So what?  There are only two of them so far.  I think the team can manage that.

Other than that, what possible reason is there for not having a statue?  There is no legitimate reason.

The time has long since passed to build a statue in Seaver’s honor.  As many have done before, Nancy Seaver shone a light on the issue.  She’s right that it is embarrassing that the Mets won’t honor the greatest player in their history.  It’s time for the Mets to right that wrong and build the statue.

The 1962 Mets Are Being Challenged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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