Guillermo Mota

Astros And Dodgers Fans, This One Is Going To Hurt For A While

If you ask a New York Giants fan about the postseason, they will reminisce about Super Bowl XLII and XLVI.  You will hear about the Helmet Catch and Eli hitting Manningham down the sideline for 38 yards.  You know what you don’t hear about?  Fassell having the Giants ill prepared for Super Bowl XXXV or Trey Junkin.

The reason is simple when you win, you remember it forever.  However, when you lose, and you lose and lose, that memory festers and worsens year to year.

For years and even until this day, you will occasionally hear Howie Rose bemoan Yogi Berra‘s decision to go with Tom Seaver on short rest over George Stone in Game 6 of the 1973 World Series.  One of the reasons that memory lingers is the Mets where irrelevant from 1974 until 1984.

After 1986, Mets fans were in their glory, and to this day many fans who got to live through 1986 talk about it as fondly today as they probably did when they got to work on October 28, 1986.

Behind them is a group of Mets fans who never really got to live through the 1986 World Series.  As a result, they just know Madoff Scandals and hauting postseason failures:

1988 NLCS

  • Davey Johnson botched that series including leaving in Dwight Gooden too long in Game Four.  Doc would allow a game tying home run in the top of the ninth to Mike Scioscia.
  • It was the last hurrah for Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez who struggled over the final few games of the series, and respectively faced poor and injury plagued 1989 seasons before finding new homes in 1989.

1999 NLCS

  • First and foremost, the one thing that should stick out was how those Braves teams just tortured the Mets, and the Mets could never get past them.
  • Both John Franco and Armando Benitez blew leads in Game 6 preventing the Mets from sending the series to a seventh game and letting the Mets be the team to do what the Red Sox did to the Yankees five years later.
  • Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded to end the series.

2000 World Series

2006 NLCS

2015 World Series

2016 Wild Card Game

  • Connor Gillaspie

The list for the aforementioned series really goes on and on, but those were just some of the highlights.  After tonight’s game, that is what Astros and Dodgers fans will be doing.  They’ll be asking if Dave Roberts was too aggressive with his pitching changes while A.J. Hinch was not aggressive enough.  Why didn’t Chris Taylor try to score, or why could Josh Reddick just put the ball in play.  Really, the list goes on and on.

For one fan base, they will focus on the things that went wrong.  Considering the Dodgers haven’t won in 29 years and the Astros have never won, the pain of this loss is going to hurt all the more.  For the fanbase that gets to win this one, they will have memories to cherish for a lifetime, and they will never again be bothered by the what ifs that could have plagued their team in this epic World Series.

Cubs And Red Sox Have Recently Won World Series Titles, Mets Haven’t

When I was talking with my Dad about the postseason, we were prattling off how most of the teams in the postseason haven’t won in quite some time:

  • Astros – Never
  • Nationals – Never
  • Rockies – Never
  • Indians – 1948
  • Dodgers – 1988
  • Twins – 1991
  • Diamondbacks – 2001
  • Yankees – 2009
  • Red Sox – 2013
  • Cubs – 2016

Just go back over that list again.

For nearly a century, the dream World Series matchup was Red Sox-Cubs. 1912 versus 1908. The Curse of the Bambino versus the Billy Goat Curse.

Then there was all of the Hall of Famers on both sides who never won a World Series. For the Cubs, you had absolute legends like Ernie Banks and Ferguson Jenkins.  The Red Sox had Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.

Throw in Fenway and Wrigley with the Green Monster and the ivy, this was the World Series to end all World Series because these were two teams pathologically incapable of winning World Series.

Until recently.

We know it all changed for the Red Sox with a Dave Roberts stolen base propelling the Red Sox to overcome an 0-3 ALCS deficit.  It would be a Kris Bryant homer to start the game winning rally in Game five of the World Series.  Before each of those moments, these were two franchises who seemed incapable of winning a World Series.  There was also a time the Mets would take full advantage.

In 1969, the Cubs went from Ron Santo clicking his heels to a black cat crossing their path.  We would then see Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman pitch the Mets to their first World Series title.

In 1986, Mookie Wilson hit a little roller up along first that got past Bill BucknerRay Knight scored the winning run en route to a Game 6 win and eventual World Series title.

Even in 2015, the Mets beat up on the Cubs.  Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom dominated them from the mound, and Daniel Murphy homered the Mets to the team’s fifth pennant.

Now, the Mets are behind both the Red Sox and the Cubs.  Now, it looks like the Mets who are the team that can’t win a World Series.

In 1988, Mike Scioscia hit a grand slam against Dwight Gooden.  In 1999, Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded.  In 2000, Timo Perez didn’t run out a Todd Zeile fly ball that landed on top of the wall.  In 2006, So Taguchi homered off of Guillermo Mota, and yes, Carlos Beltran struck out looking against Adam Wainwright.  In 2015,  Jeurys Familia blew three saves with the help of Daniel Murphy overrunning a grounder and a way offline Lucas Duda throw.  Last year, it was Conor Gillaspie who hit a three run homer in the Wild Card Game.

In reality, the Mets aren’t cursed even with all that ensued after the Madoff scandal.  However, with each passing year, you can forgive fans for starting to feel this way.  It’s been 31 years since the Mets last won a World Series.  In those 31 years, the Mets have reached the postseason six times, and they were eliminated in excruciating fashion each time.

Again, the Mets are not cursed.  Still, it is depressing to now live in a world where the Red Sox and the Cubs have won a World Series more recently than the Mets.

Why I’m Rooting for the Nationals Tonight

Apparently, the Mets and Nationals being rivals for a whole two seasons has lead a bunch of Mets fans to root for Chase Utley in the NLCS. Yes, rooting for the Dodgers, or against the Nationals, is rooting for Utley. As a Mets fan, I don’t get it. To me the Nationals are the lessor of two evils. Without even getting into the early years of the Mets history where the Dodgers, notably Sandy Koufax, routinely embarassed the Mets, here’s why:

Mike Scioscia grand slam off Dwight Gooden:

Jay Howell is a dirty cheat:

Orel Hershiser effectively ends the best run in Mets history:

Dodgers sign Darryl Strawberry in free agency making him an ex-Met:

And, oh yeah, Bobby Ojeda.

Guillermo Mota hitting Mike Piazza on multiple occasions and always running away when confronted.

Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg turning a potential sweep into a series:

Also, Utley’s subsequent cowardice ducking in and out of Citi Field and not taking one at-bat at Citi Field.

Speaking of which, everything Utley ever did to the Mets:

Seriously, did you know that other fans refer to the right field corner in Citi Field as the Utley Corner?  It is one of the biggest humiliations the Mets have suffered at the hands of Utley and his Phillies teams including the 2007 and 2008 collapses.  By the way, also part of those teams was current Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz.

So no, there is no circumstance, unless they are playing the Cardinals, that I could ever root for the Dodgers or an Utley led team.  It’s why, despite this new massive rivalry the Mets have apparently had stretching all the way back to last year, I’m rooting for the Nationals.  Personally, I’d rather have a little bit more perspective on Mets history past and present.  Speaking of which, just remember that while Utley was always a thorn in the Mets side, Daniel Murphy was doing this for the Mets last year:

So overall, I’m siding with the team that has been a Mets rival for exactly two years and hasn’t done much harm to the Mets as a franchise over a team that put an end to the best run in Mets history, had players who consistently threw at Piazza, and have one of the dirtiest players in baseball.

Mets Pitchers Go to the Mattresses

The Mets have a $140 million payroll. The strength of the team is its young, cost-controlled pitching. The pre-arbitration pitchers make little money by baseball standards. However, their $500,000+ salary should allow them to live comfortably. 

Families make a lot less than that, and they can put a roof over their families heads and put food on the table. One of the crazy things a family is able to afford, even with relatively modest means, is a mattress for everyone. When they go away to places like Florida, they can stay at places that have decent mattresses. So with that said, why can’t the Mets and their players?

Last year, Steven Matz almost missed the postseason because he injured his back sleeping on a Barcalounger. Yesterday, Jacob deGrom missed his Spring Training start because he tweaked his back sleeping on a mattress that was too soft. He was able to throw a bullpen. He then counseled with Matt Harvey who, like Baby Bear, had a mattress recommendation that is just right

I know, I know. We should calm down. Matz was able to pitch in the postseason, and deGrom was able to pitch a pain free bullpen. However, I get nervous because it’s the dumbest things that interfere with a great or potentially great season. 

The 1987 Mets never got traction with their pitchers missing time. Most notably was Dwight Gooden and his cocaine suspension.  Aside from Gooden, I think every Met pitcher had an injury including the guy who threw batting practice. 

In 1988, the Mets returned to form, but there was a strange injury that hurt their chances at another World Series title. On the day the Mets clinched the NL East, Bob Ojeda, who was amazing in 1986, nearly severed the middle finger on his pitching hand while trimming the bushes in his front yard. The Mets, who dominated the Dodgers in the regular season, lost the NLCS in seven games. 

In 2006, Duaner Sanchez suffered a season ending shoulder injury during a late night cab ride to get a late night bite. This caused a number of moves to try to replace his spot in the bullpen. In the seventh inning of Game Two of the NLCS, Guillermo Mota shook off Paul Lo Duca and threw a change up that Scot Spiezio turned into a game tying triple. In Game Seven, Aaron Heilman allowed Yadier Molina to hit the series winning homerun. It’s possible Sanchez would’ve closed the door in either situation. Instead, he was unavailable. 

The overriding point is that it’s not just the Tommy John surgeries that kill your chances. It’s also the yard work and can rides. It’s the unforeseen problems that arise. Maybe the Mets win in 1988 if Ojeda hires a gardener. Maybe the Mets win in 2006 if Sanchez orders room service. I don’t want to say maybe the Mets win in 2016 if their pitchers had better mattresses. 

If in the equipment manager, I’m ordering a mattresses that Harvey recommended for every player. The 2016 season cannot be derailed by a bad mattress. 

Mets “Closer” Than in 2006

In 2006, every Mets fan thought the Mets going to the World Series was a foregone conclusion. Confidence was at an all time high after Tom Glavine shut out the Cardinals in Game One. 

Then Game Two happened. The Mets terrific bullpen couldn’t protect a two run lead. It all started with a Guillermo Mota changeup to Scott Spiezio. I knew the Mora trade was rotten from the beginning. The Mets somewhat understandably didn’t re-sign Mike Piazza. Then the next year they bring in the guy who repeatedly beaned Piazza. Bad karma.

The game remained tied into the ninth when Billy Wagner allowed a go-ahead homerun to So Taguchi. SO TAGUCHI!  I still can’t believe it to this day. Wagner allowed two more runs. I’m still in shock nine years later that the Mets lost that game 9-6. It was the pivotal moment in the Cardinals upset over the Mets. By the way, do you remember who got the save in that game?  Adam Wainwright. Yup. 

I was thinking about that game a lot last night. The Cubs had a much better lineup. The Mets bullpen is not as good as the 2006 version. However, one part of the Mets bullpen was better. The closer. 

Wagner was a terrific closer during his major league career amassing 422 saves. He was great with the Mets in 2006 with 40 saves. However, he was a terrible closer in the postseason. He had a 10.03 ERA and a 1.971 WHIP. 

The Mets now have Jeurys Familia. In six games, he’s pitched 7.2 innings. He has not allowed an earned run, walked one, and struck out four. He has a 0.391 WHIP. He’s a perfect 4/4 in save opportunities. He’s better than anyone could’ve imagined. He’s the difference between a Taguchi homerun and a 2-0 series lead. 

The Mets are now the closest they’ve been to the World Series in 15 years. The better closer has brought them closer.