Back in 2011, Jose Reyes would lay down a bunt single to preserve his batting title. The first in Mets history. After reaching safely, Reyes would be lifted from the game much to the consternation of Mets fans. Much of the consternation eminated from the fact it looked like this was going to be the last time fans were going to get to see Reyes in a Mets jersey, and those fans wanted to see Reyes play just one last time and say good-bye.
Sunday, Reyes was in the lineup once again leadoff in what many believed to be his final game as a Met. Reyes would take one at-bat, ground out, and he would walk off the field for a final time. While the circumstances may seem to mirror what transpired seven years prior, the two situations could not have been more different.
During Reyes’ first stint with the Mets, he was the most electrifying player in the Majors. He could turn anything into extra bases, and extra base hits were nanoseconds away from becoming triples. When he was on the basepaths, he was a constant stolen base threat, and his dancing at third base helped entice a few balks leading to a run. Reyes was so dynamic we came up with the term “Reyes Run” for him getting on, getting over, and getting in.
Reyes was more than a dynamic offensive force. He was a shortstop with a bullet arm and a fan favorite. His apparent joy on the field was infectious to the fan base, and it did seem to get the team going. (Sometimes, like 2007, it would also motivate the opponents). Mets fans would shower him with the “Jose!” chant (a chant which began Saturday, March 29, 2003). We loved him, and he seemingly loved us too.
In 2011, you could argue it was he and not David Wright whom the Mets should keep. After all, Reyes was the younger player, and Citi Field was built more to Reyes’ than Wright’s strengths. Whatever the case, the Mets opted not to re-sign him, devastating a fan base, and having the organization a nd fans looking for a new fan favorite. Arguably, no one could fill that void like the way Reyes once did.
That was the Reyes who left New York after the 2011 season. That Reyes was barely recognizable after leaving.
After one year in Miami, he was traded to the Blue Jays as part of that organization’s efforts to return to the postseason. In 2015, in Reyes’ third year as a Blue Jay, it seemed the organization’s plans were coming to fruition. They were competing for a postseason spot with hopes for the division. It was time for a bold move, their GM Alex Anthopoulos made that bold move. In a six player trade, Reyes was traded to the Blue Jays for LaTroy Hawkins and Troy Tulowitzki.
In a year, Reyes and the Mets were supposed to return to the postseason, Reyes instead found himself playing for the Colorado Rockies. He didn’t want to be there, and the team didn’t want him. This also meant instead of playing in the postseason, Reyes would be making vacation plans to go to Hawaii.
On October 31, 2015, Michael Conforto hit two homers. Instead of going to Jeurys Familia for the six out save, Terry Collins brought in Tyler Clippard, who walked two of the three batters he faced. When Familia finally did come in, Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. The Mets 3-2 lead would quickly become a 5-3 deficit.
While this was happening, Jose Reyes would throw his wife into a glass door in Hawaii. His wife would need to be taken to a nearby hospital to treat her injuries, and Reyes would be arrested. Reyes faced not just prison time but also deportation. Instead, because his wife did not cooperate with prosecutors, the changes would be dropped.
While Reyes was able to avoid legal troubles, he could not escape MLB punishment. With a new Domestic Violence policy, Reyes would be suspended 51 games, which stands as the longest Domestic Violence suspension to date. With the Rockies already wanting to transition to Trevor Story, they were more than happy to release Reyes.
Fortunately for Reyes, the Mets needed a third baseman. Wright was injured again, and he was going to miss the rest of the season. Eric Campbell, Matt Reynolds, Wilmer Flores, and Kelly Johnson just weren’t to cut it. Partially due to desperation and partially due to nostalgia, the Mets threw Reyes the rope none of the other 28 teams were likely willing to give him.
A fan base was divided. While the “Jose!” chants returned, they did not have the same enthusiasm. Some of the people most willing to lead the cheer would sit on their hands or boo. Reyes beat his wife, and the Mets signing him was sending the wrong message.
Still, Reyes stayed, and he played reasonably well. He would have some highlights including the September 22nd game where both he and Asdrubal Cabrera homered which helped turn a 6-4 loss into a dramatic 9-8 11 inning victory which helped propel the Mets into the top Wild Card. Much like in his last postseason game with the Mets, Reyes went hitless as his team was eliminated at home.
In the subsequent two years, he was about the worst players in baseball. Despite all of Collins’ efforts to get him going, Reyes floundered, and there would be reports he was not happy playing third base. At the end of the 2017 season, he helped reinvent himself as a mentor to Amed Rosario. Between that and his hitting in September, the Mets brought him back.
He was dreadful this year hitting .189/.260/.320. He’d post a -0.8 WAR. Worse yet, he would complain about his playing time. He believed as a utility player he should have received more playing time, and really, without that playing time, the Mets were not giving him a chance to succeed. While there were some who were able to compartmentalize the off the field issues, when he was bad on the field, more and more Mets fans were disenchanted with him.
However, despite the ever growing calls to release him and make way for more talented prospects like Jeff McNeil, the Mets stubbornly held onto him. They treated him like one of the Mets greats, which he was in the first part of his career. Against all odds, Reyes would last the full season with the Mets. It allowed him to play alongside Wright in the Captain’s final game.
It also meant Reyes would get to leadoff in what is likely his final career game. Between innings, the Mets showed a video tribute. Reyes would emerge from the dugout to tip his cap to a standing ovation.
The crowd was much smaller than the sold out crowd who was there to see Wright’s final game. The standing ovation Reyes received did not remotely compare to the one Wright received. If you went back a decade, that would seem implausible as both were beloved players with Reyes being the one who probably generated more enthusiasm from the fans.
Personally, I loved Reyes. The first player jersey I ever purchased was Mike Piazza, the second Wright, and the third Reyes. Overall, I had more Reyes shirseys than any other player including a last season at Shea and first season at Citi one. That Reyes was the most exciting player who ever played for the Mets. When he went to Colorado, I still believed he had an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.
After he left, I was left livid with the organization. In no way should Wright and Reyes have ever been split up. Like great Mets duos of the past, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, it seemed like their destiny was to win a World Series together. Between that, Flores’ struggles at short and Ruben Tejada not being a particularly good baseball player, I desperately wanted the Mets to make a trade with the Rockies to bring back Reyes for that 2015 run.
To this day, part of me wonders what would have happened if Reyes did return to the Mets in 2015. Do they win that World Series, or do they still fall short? Would Reyes and his contract stood in the way of Yoenis Cespedes returning? Mostly, I wonder about that night.
While statistics prove differently, to this day, I hope it was an isolated incident, which could have been avoided by Reyes being in New York instead of Hawaii. In the converse, maybe this was a pattern of behavior which grew increasingly violent, and perhaps, things could have been hidden for longer if he was never in Hawaii. There is no way of knowing anything. What we do know is that instead of being in New York, Reyes was in Hawaii where he forever changed his legacy by committing a vile act.
Because of all of this, I was initially irritated Reyes was sharing Wright’s spotlight, but I made peace with it because it was what Wright wanted.
At the sake of sounding hypocritical, I must admit seeing Reyes doubling and moving to third on a sacrifice bunt was exciting. Wright coming up to the plate in an RBI situation was exciting. Wright being able to drive Reyes home just one last time made the moment all the more special.
In all honesty, I was surprised nostalgia got the better of me in the moment.
Perhaps it is because I truly miss the Reyes of 2003 – 2011. I just miss how fun it was to watch him play.
That fun completely disappeared when he returned. He was no longer a young up and coming superstar. He was a violent wife beater. Some people may be able to compartmentalize it, but I wasn’t. Certainly not for a player I once held in the highest of regards.
Now that is career is over, I honestly do wish Reyes well. I want him and his family to be able to move on from the domestic violence to have a happy and safe home life. If that happens, then no matter how much I was against it, Reyes returning to the Mets was worth it. I will be happy if Reyes returning to a place he was loved and cared for led him to not only seek help but to end what might have been a pattern of abuse. Hopefully, he is a better husband and father for the experience.
In the end, congratulations to Reyes on a great career. You are the greatest shortstop in Mets history. The memories of you and Wright playing together were some of the best I’ve had as a fan. Rooting for you was never the same, and it will never be the same again. Still, each and every Mets fan, including myself, wish you and your family well.
God bless the Reyes family.
In addition to Jacob deGrom making a case for him to win the Cy Young, he has also been making an impact on the Mets record books. At the moment, he is the Mets all time leader in K/9 and ERA+. He has also moved to second place all-time in ERA, third place in FIP, and he’s cracked the top 10 in strikeouts. In essence, deGrom has moved into Jerry Koosman territory, and really, he is knocking at the door of being considered along with Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as being in the upper echelon of Mets pitchers.
With respect to Gooden, we all know his best year was 1985. That year was not just the best year any Mets pitcher has ever had, it is among the best seasons any pitcher has ever had. That year, Gooden was the unanimous Cy Young going 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA, 0.965 WHIP, 229 ERA+, 2.13 FIP, 268 strikeouts, 8.7 K/9, and a 12.2 WAR. After a record setting rookie season, you could see him at least threatening to challenge Seaver for the best ever in Mets history. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
Perhaps, that was the mark of just how great Seaver was. Looking at his Mets career, it is hard to pick just one season which defined his greatness. After all, he does have three Cy Youngs, which remains the most in Mets history. Looking over his Cy Young seasons, his 1971 and 1973 seasons really stand out.
In 1971, Seaver was 20-10 with a 1.76 ERA, 0.946 WHIP, 194 ERA+, 1.93 FIP, 289 strikeouts, 9.1 K/9, and a 10.2 WAR. In 1973, Seaver was 19-10 with a 2.08 ERA, 0.976 WHIP, 175 ERA+, 2.57 FIP, 251 strikeouts, 7.8 K/9, and a 10.6 WAR.
As an aside, it is astounding to see Seaver have two seasons that great. Really, he was unparalleled in his greatness. To put it in perspective, when R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young in 2012, he had a 139 ERA+ and a 5.7 WAR. Seaver had eight seasons with at least a 139 ERA+ and eight seasons with at least a 5.7 WAR.
Looking back to Dickey’s 2012 season, he had a season good enough to beat out Clayton Kershaw to make him the third Met to win the Cy Young award. While it was good enough to beat Kershaw, the best pitcher of this generation, it is nowhere as good as the season deGrom is having right now.
So far through 30 starts, deGrom is 8-9 with a 1.78 ERA, 0.950 WHIP, 207 ERA+, 2.05 FIP, 251 strikeouts, 11.0 K/9, and an 8.6 WAR.
Now, that is a season on par with what we have seen with Seaver and Gooden. That FIP is better than what Gooden had in his all-time great 1985 season. His ERA plus is better than what Seaver had in his aforementioned Cy Young seasons. In fact, deGrom’s current ERA+ is even better than any season Seaver has posted in any season.
In essence, once you are mentally able to move past the win-loss record, deGrom is having one of the best seasons a Mets pitcher has ever had. Depending on your gauge, it can be fairly ranked anywhere in the top five of Mets single season pitching performances.
Remember, the list goes beyond just Seaver and Gooden. There were also great seasons from Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, Koosman, and Matt Harvey. However you look at it, deGrom belongs near or atop the list of single season performances. More than that, deGrom is becoming one of the best pitchers in Mets history . . . if he wasn’t one already.
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!
The Mets Fan
For those that don’t know you, please tell Mets fans who you are. I’m just Harry, or Bill, or Koos, your choice. I’m an Engineer and a Mets fan, and a semi retired Softball coach. I used to scribble a few words and do a photoshop or two for Oh Murph as a ghost writer for BS Upton (he took all the credit) until they were taken over by a Chinese Internet start up company.
How You Became a Mets Fan
By accident. My Dad wasn’t much into sports, but my brother was. He is a Big Yankees fan. I watched too many games starring Horace Clark. One day when I was probably in second grade I told my Mother I wanted a baseball hat and Jacket. She bought me a Mets hat and jacket. Everyone I knew laughed at me, those cruel Yankee fans. I didn’t even know the Mets existed. This was probably 1965. A few years later when the Yankees were terrible, my brother left the TV unguarded and I found the Mets channel WOR. I liked them much better and started watching. That was 1968.
Favorite Mets Player
I have to go with Tom Seaver. He was and still is the best ever.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
The last game of the 1969 World Series. Jerry Koosman had a great game. I was vindicated as a Mets fan. I forgave my Mother for buying me Mets gear. The world was a wonderful place. Second place is the gets by Bill Buckner ‘86 series game.
Message to Mets Fans
Know the stats, but trust your eyes. Keep your head in and eye on the ball. If this team wins in your lifetime you will have no better feeling for your suffering will be rewarded.
On Sunday, I published a tongue-in-cheek recommendation as to what promotions the Mets should have during the 2018 season. The original concept of the post was the Mets promotional schedule feels like it is lacking this year, and the team should be looking for better ways to honor their players.
With that in mind, I asked the Mets Blogger Roundtable what promotions they would like to see the Mets institute during the 2018 season:
The Mets should re-introduce Old Timers Day. Promotions are nice, but they generally consist of things which either break, get lost, forgotten, or all three. Old Timers Day can be traditional and memorable as fans connect emotionally with the players. Sure, there’s no sponsored bobble head doll, hat, or a fidget spinner that goes with it – sometimes the greatest souvenir can be reconnecting with the past, which is why what such a day would be so great for everyone involved.
There was a character on “Rick and Morty” called “Mr. Meeseeks.” He lived only to fix one problem of yours before ceasing to exist. He wanted to cease to be, is the thing – his catch phrase is “Existence is pain!” Naturally, some unknown hero on the internet created a “Mr. Metseeks.” My interpretation of Mr. Metseeks is Mr. Metseeks cannot die until the Mets win the World Series. We all started kind, then have only grown more bitter, and increasing irritated over the years, when the Mets did not fulfill their destiny. We are all Mr. Metseeks. Let’s have an action figure of ourselves some Saturday in 2018. Why? Because a “Jay Brews” shirt sends the wrong message to the youths.
Ernest Dove (MMO & MMN)
As a South Florida resident and fan of the High-A St. Lucie Mets, I can’t help but suggest the MLB Mets model the St. Lucie Mets with $1 beer $1 hot dog night. With ticket prices continuing to skyrocket, I think it would be a great idea for Mets to win over their fans with a night of cheap food and drinks. I’m not suggesting bottles of beer. I’m talking $1 plastic cups here. It might pack the place. And along with the obvious on the alcohol, this would also allow for parents to ensure all their kids are fed. Do it!
Old Timer’s Day; as a kid I always loved Mets Old Timer’s Day, and frankly, I miss it dearly.
In 2009, the New York Times quoted then-Mets executive Dave Howard: “It was particularly unpopular as a promotion. We didn’t see an increase in ticket sales or interest from sponsors or even from people who already had tickets. It died of its own unpopularity in the early ’90s. We felt we were better served by bringing our alumni back over several days instead of one day.”
Now, I liked Dave Howard, nice guy, but that statement was crap. a) outside of a rare 1986 tribute when the hell do the Mets ever “bring their alumni back?”
Maybe be creative? Maybe call it “Amazin Day,” and combine the old Photo Day with an autograph day, have the former Mets like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Art Shamsky, Mookie Wilson, Rusty Staub, Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Piazza, Felix Millan, etc. gather at Citi Field and have a Mets fan’s dream of a day? Yeah, it would cost money, but it’d be sold out and there are a thousand marketing ideas that would make it a must-have ticket (and memorabilia money maker) every year!
The idea that Mets fans wouldn’t embrace a day to celebrate their team’s history is ridiculous.
I wish it was only a cost-effectiveness issue. But it’s not. Frankly, the Mets can’t even send out a promo video without doing something dumb like trying to avoid the existence of a 20-game winner who just won the organizations first Cy Young Award in almost 30 years. It is the fear of ridicule, of blowback, and of honest feedback from a fanbase that’s tired of the losing and the stupidity. In 1989, Davey Johnson was omitted from the list of some two dozen people invited to Old-Timers’ Day.
Why? If the Old-Timers’ Day crowd cheered Johnson, would the Mets’ front office and Harrelson be embarrassed? If the crowd booed him, would he be embarrassed? Like many, many, many others have said many, many, many times, the Wilpons and by extension, their PR and Marketing departments lack a cohesive link to their smartest and most loyal fans. Maybe it’s time to listen to a few of them.
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.
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.
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.
Last year, new dad Jacob deGrom got the Father’s Day start against the Braves, and he took the loss. However, you could say it was a great day for deGrom because his son was in attendance at the game. This is the same son who had breathing issues after he was born earlier that year. To that end, it was a pretty great Father’s Day for deGrom.
This year was even better.
With his son in attendance, deGrom had one of his best games as a major leaguer. In fact, it if wasn’t for a Wilmer Flores error leading to a first inning unearned run, deGrom might have pulled off the Jerry Koosman.
For eight innings, deGrom dominated a Nationals lineup that has the highest slugging percentage in the National League and has scored the second most runs in the league. In fact, if it wasn’t for Travis d’Arnaud‘s inability to throw out Trea Turner (4-4 in stolen base attempts), no National would have reached third base after the first inning. Overall, deGrom pitched eight innings making it the first time in his career he has pitched eight innings in consecutive starts. His final line was eight innings, three hits, one unearned run, two walks, and six strikeouts.
As if that wasn’t good enough, deGrom helped his own cause hitting his first ever major league home run:
Jacob deGrom crushes his first career home run, a solo shot to left-center field to tie the game at 1 in the bottom of the 3rd inning!!! pic.twitter.com/mmQN93x4vH
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) June 18, 2017
For an extra added touch, deGrom used David Wright‘s bat to hit that home run, so in some small way, Wright has had a contribution this season.
After the home run, the Mets offense came alive against Joe Ross. In the fourth, d’Arnaud delivered with an RBI single scoring Lucas Duda sending T.J. Rivera to third base. Michael Conforto hit a two out infield single allowing Rivera to score putting the Mets up 3-1.
It was part of a big day for Conforto who finally seemed to get his bat going again. On the afternoon, he was 2-3 with a walk and two RBI. The second RBI came in the sixth inning when he singled home d’Arnaud. What was impressive about both of Conforto’s RBI was they were both with two outs.
After Curtis Granderson‘s RBI single scoring Jay Bruce in the seventh, the Mets were up 5-1, and there was no real chance they were going to lose this one. Still, it might have been too little too late for this Mets team that is now six games under .500 and 10.5 games in the division.
Game Notes: Mets moved Flores to second and Rivera to third to try to help Flores defensively and to help him get going again at the plate. Mets begin a 10 game road trip, and they get to face Clayton Kershaw in the first game of the road trip.
In 2000, the New York Mets made the postseason in consecutive years for the first time in their history. It was a two year run that produced some of the most memorable moments in Mets history.
In the Mets first ever NLDS game, Edgardo Alfonzo hit two home runs, including a grand slam. The Mets would win that NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 10th inning walk-off home run from Todd Pratt in a moment dubbed Pratt’s All Folks. The NLCS featured Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single, and Mike Piazza‘s opposite field home run against John Smoltz which capped the Mets rallying from an early 5-0 and 7-3 deficits in what was a heart wrenching game.
In the 2000 NLDS, John Franco froze Barry Bonds to get a 10th inning strikeout to rescue the Mets from an Armando Benitez blown save. In Game 3, Benny Agbayani would hit a walk-off 13th inning home run giving the Mets a 2-1 lead in the series setting the stage for Bobby Jones‘ brilliant one-hitter to cap the series. In the NLCS, Timo Perez became a folk hero as the Mets swept the hated Cardinals to return to the World Series for the first time since 1986.
None of this . . . not one single moment would have been possible without Al Leiter.
Starting on September 21st, the Mets lost seven games in a row and eight of nine. The losing streak saw the Mets four game lead in the Wild Card turn into a two game deficit. It appeared that for the second season in a row, the Mets were going to blow a fairly sizeable lead in the Wild Card race and miss the postseason all together. Fortunately, the Mets would win out and force a one game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds for the Wild Card and the right to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1999 NLDS.
After Rickey Henderson and Alfonzo hit back-to-back home runs to open the game, Leiter would do the rest. Leiter was simply brilliant in a complete game two-hit seven strikeout shutout. This start came off the heels of Leiter’s last start of the season where he out-dueled Greg Maddux to snap the the Mets eight game losing streak and put the team back in position to make a run at the Wild Card.
Typically, that was the type of pitcher Leiter was in a Mets uniform. He rose to the occasion in some when the Mets needed him. He was the guy who helped pitch the Mets into the 1999 postseason. He was the guy who helped turn around the 2000 NLDS by shutting down the San Francisco Giants over eight plus innings. He was the pitcher who gave everything he had in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series. Much like the Mets in that two year time frame, he was terrific, but time and again, he came up just short. In seven postseason starts for the Mets, he was 0-2 with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.080 WHIP. Taking out the 1999 NLCS Game 6 start against the Braves he made on three days rest and couldn’t record an out, his Mets postseason ERA and WHIP respectively drops to 2.58 and 1.015.
Leiter’s greatness as a Met extend far beyond the superlatives of his moments in big games and how well he pitched in the postseason. He was also very good in the regular season.
Leiter first came to the Mets in a February 1998 trade that featured the Mets sending prized prospect A.J. Burnett to a Florida Marlins team that was dismantling their World Series winning club. The trade was a sign the Mets were interested in moving on from a team that was rebuilding to a team that was ready to start competing. Adding a pitcher like Leiter, while a risk, certainly paid dividends.
In 1998, Leiter would arguably post the best year of his career going 17-6 with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.150 WHIP. That season Leiter was unquestionably the ace for a Mets team that surprised everyone by competing for a Wild Card spot deep into the season. For much of Leiter’s seven year career he served as either the Mets ace, 1A, or number two starter.
In his entire Mets career, Leiter was 95-67 with a 3.42 ERA, 1,360.0 innings pitched, 1,106 strikeouts, and a 1.300 WHIP. In that seven year span, Leiter posted a very good 124 ERA+ and a 28.0 WAR. He would make an All Star team and he would have one Top 10 Cy Young Award finish. With strong numbers like these, it should be no surprise Leiter’s name is scattered across the Mets record books:
- Wins (95) – sixth
- Games Started (213) – sixth
- Innings Pitched (1,360.0) – seventh
- Strikeouts (1,106) – seventh
- WAR (28.0) – 11th
In terms of all-time Mets pitchers, Leiter’s WAR ranks him as the sixth best pitcher in Mets history behind Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Sid Fernandez, and Jon Matlack. In terms of left-handed starters, Leiter ranks third in wins, seventh in ERA, third in starts, fourth in innings pitched, and third in strikeouts.
In terms of advanced statistics, Leiter’s 1998 season was the seventh best by a Mets pitcher by ERA+. In fact, his Mets career ERA+ ranks him as the eighth best pitcher in Mets history. Among pitchers that have thrown more than a thousand innings, his ERA+ is second all-time to just Seaver. Adjusted pitching runs ranks him as the third best pitcher in Mets history just behind Seaver and Gooden, and adjusted pitching wins ranks him fourth. In terms of WPA, he ranks fourth all time, third among starters, and second among left-handed pitchers.
Simply put, Leiter had a terrific career in a Mets uniform. His 1998 season was one of the best by a Mets starter. By most measures, he’s a top 10 or top 5 pitcher in Mets history. He has came up big in big moments time and time again. He was also part of a group of Mets players that welcomed Piazza after the trade with the Marlins and made him feel welcome enough for Piazza to re-sign with the Mets.
More than any of the aforementioned stats, there is another factor. There is no way you can adequately tell the history of the Mets franchise without discussing Leiter. Leiter was an important member of two Mets teams that made the postseason. He is a major part of one of the best eras in Mets baseball, and he’s a part of one of the most beloved teams in Mets history. Moreover, he is a part of a core group of Mets that have been long overlooked for the Mets Hall of Fame. Despite 1997 – 2001 being one of the better stretches in Mets history, Piazza and Franco remain the only Mets from those teams to be represented in the Mets Hall of Fame. They were not the only contributors to this run.
This era of Mets baseball has been long overlooked by this team. It is time some of those important Mets get inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. Leiter is one of the Mets that deserve induction.
With the Cubs facing the daunting task of heading back home down 0-2 in the World Series, Jake Arrieta stepped up and pitched the most important game of his life. Arrieta pitched 5.1 no-hit innings to help the Cubs even the series at 1-1 and to capture home field advantage. Arrieta was the pitcher to carry a no-hitter that deep into the World Series since Jerry Koosman pitched six no-hit innings against the Baltimore Orioles in Game 2 of the 1969 World Series.
Koosman’s performance was much more dominating and important than Arrieta’s. Whereas the Cubs are favored in this year’s World Series, the 1969 were about as big of underdogs as you get. The Orioles lineup featured two Hall of Famers in Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson. They had a rotation featuring Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, and future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. This was about as tough a team you could face. This was a team so tough, they beat Tom Seaver 4-1 in Game 1 of the World Series. Going into the World Series, you presumption was the Mets needed Seaver to win each and every single one of his starts to even have a chance, and not even that happened.
With the Game 1 victory, the Orioles appeared as if they were going to steamroll through the Mets much in the same fashion they had done to the Los Angeles Dodgers three years before and would do the following year to the Cincinnati Reds. Koosman’s 8.2 innings two hit masterpiece changed all of that. It completely changed the tone of the World Series and the momentum. Without this performance, the Mets may not have had the same energy and belief in themselves. It’s quite possible we don’t see either of Tommie Agee‘s catches or Ron Swoboda‘s for that matter.
While Koosman was not named the MVP of the series, that honor would go to Donn Clendenon, his performance was the most important factor in the Mets changing the script and winning the World Series in five games. In that World Series, Koosman not only established himself as a great Met, he also established himself as the first big game pitcher in the franchise’s history. Without him the Mets never win the 1969 World Series.
Coincidentally, without Koosman, the Mets also don’t win the 1986 World Series.
On December 8, 1978, the Mets traded Koosman to his hometown Minnesota Twins in exchange for Greg Field and a left-handed pitcher named Jesse Orosco. Today is the 30th Anniversary of the Mets winning their second World Series. The Mets would not have been able to win that World Series without Orosco’s three wins, and his gutsy win in Game 6, of the NLCS. They would not have won without his standing on the mound to close out Game 7.
Neither the 1969 or the 1986 World Series would have been possible without Koosman. With it being the 30th Anniversary of the 1986 World Series victory and with Arrieta’s peformance, we were again reminded of that.
For an organization known for its pitching, it should come as no surprise that the Mets have had their fair share of good closers. What may come as a surprise is that Jeurys Familia might just become better than them all.
The Mets first notable closer was Tug McGraw. His contributions extend well past his coining the phrase “Ya Gotta Believe!” Up until the 80’s, in a time when managers began to pitch to the save rule, McGraw was the Mets all-time leader with 86 saves. He is also the only Mets to be a closer to for a team that won a World Series and a Pennant. In 1969, he shared closing duties with Ron Taylor. In 1973, he was not only the man, but in many ways, the vocal leader of the team. The only record McGraw has remaining in the record books is most innings pitched by a Mets reliever with 792.2 innings over his nine year Mets career.
The next Mets closer to appear in multiple postseasons was Jesse Orosco. When discussing Orosco, there are always three things you need to mention: (1) he was part of the return the Mets received when they traded Jerry Koosman to the Twins; (2) Keith Hernandez warned him not to throw a fastball to Kevin Bass (he didn’t); and (3) his glove has still not landed. After his eight year career was over, Orosco was both the Mets all-time leader in saves (107) and the Mets single season saves leader (31 in 1984). To this day, he remains the only Mets closer to save a World series clinching game.
Orosco would eventually be surpassed by John Franco on both the saves list and the Mets all-time saves list. Somewhat ironically, Franco’s entrance song was Johnny B. Goode as his ninth inning appearances were always a high wire act. Still, throughout all of it, Franco has more saves by any left-handed closer in history with 424, and when he retired he was third on the all-time list trailing only Lee Smith and Trevor Hoffman. Franco recorded 276 of those saves with the Mets. His 276 saves are the Mets record by a fairly wide margin.
In fact, Franco leads Armando Benitez by 116 saves on the Mets all-time list. Coincidentally, Benitez is the man who replaced Franco as the Mets closer in 1999. With the Mets having made consecutive postseason appearances in 1999 and 2000, Benitez remains the only Mets closer to pitch in consecutive postseasons. While Mets fans loved to hate him, Benitez did show flashes of complete and utter dominance. As of right now, his 43 saves in 2001 still remains the Mets single season record.
However, that record is in jeopardy. Last year, Jeurys Familia, in his first season as the Mets closer, tied Benitez’s single season record. This year, he has tied it again en route to him most likely breaking the tie with Benitez. With Familia having saved 43 games for consecutive seasons, he has already set the mark for most saves by a Mets closer in consecutive seasons. Even with Familia only having been the Mets closer for one plus seasons, he now ranks fifth all-time with 92 saves as a Met. With 16 more saves, he will jump both Orosco and Billy Wagner to put him third all-time.
If the Mets current charge continues, he could join Benitez as the only Mets closer to appear in back-to-back postseasons. If the Mets get into the postseason, anything is possible including seeing Familia join Orosco as the only Mets pitcher to earn a save to close out the World Series.
That’s just the thing with Familia. He’s already a great closer, and he’s already writing his name all over the Mets record books. As long as he is the Mets closer, anything is possible. It’s also possible that we could be watching the best closer in Mets history.