Billy Chapel was a fictional pitcher in the underrated For Love of the Game. He’s at the end of a great career. He’s pitching on short rest to face the Yankees, who are one game away from making the playoffs. From years gone by, Chapel had a sore shoulder and was at the end of his career. Only the immortal Vin Scully could describe what was happening:
And you know Steve you get the feeling Billy Chapel isn’t pitching against left handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch hitters, he isn’t pitching against the Yankees. He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and when you think about his career, against ending. And tonight I think he might be able to use that old aching arm one more time to push the sun back up in the sky and give us one more day of summer.
Billy Chapel prays to God asking for his shoulder to stop hurting for 10 minutes to let him finish the game. The moment becomes so big that he can no longer “clear the mechanism.” He’s out there by himself, as he always was. There’s a certain beauty to it. As his ex once told him:
You’re perfect. You, the ball, the diamond, you’re this perfectly beautiful thing. You can win or lose the game, all by yourself.
It’s the romantic version we all have of baseball. When we saw Billy Chapel finish off the perfect game, it was magic. I had chills as if it were a real game. After the game, whether realistically speaking or metaphorically speaking, Chapel’s career was done. The Mets had their own version of Billy Chapel. His name is Johan Santana.
In 2008, the Mets were collapsing again. Santana was having none of that. On a knee that would require offseason surgery, Santana pitched a complete game shut out on three days rest. It was a heroic performance. For at least a day, the Mets season was saved. He was 29 years old, and it would be the last time he would pitch in a game of that magnitude.
In the next two seasons, he wouldn’t crack 30 starts. He pitched well, but there were diminishing returns. Was that the result of aging or was it due to injury? After the 2010 season, Santana needed shoulder surgery. He missed the 2011 season.
Santana would come back in 2012 and have his Billy Chapel moment. On a Friday night in June, Santana pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history. On a night he was supposed to be limited between 110-115 pitches, he threw 134. Once again, Santana put injury concerns aside, acted like a warrior, and he delivered for the Mets.
After that night, he has only had 10 more starts. He needed another shoulder surgery. He keeps trying to come back, but something always seems to get in the way. It’s the reason why Collins was in tears the night of Santana’s no-hitter. It’s the reason, Collins is still distraught about the decision to let Santana pitch to this day.
We don’t know if pitching on the injured knee precipitated the shoulder problems. We don’t know if the no-hitter precipitated the second shoulder surgery effectively ending Santana’s career. We do know Santana became the Mets version of Billy Chapel.
Is this what Mets fans want for Matt Harvey? With the recent drama involving Scott Boras’ remarks, I’ve seen a lot of people saying Harvey should just go out there and pitch. I’ve seen people try to inform Harvey he needs to pitch if Sandy Alderson tells him to go out there and pitch.
Much like 2008, I’m desperate for the Mets to win a World Series. We saw what happened when we tried to sacrifice a 29 year old’s career to make that happen. I’m not doing it again with a 26 year old. If Harvey’s healthy, he will pitch. If he needs some rest now, give it to him. If he needs to be shut down, shut him down.
I don’t say that lightly. Keep in mind, I’m the one who has questioned the Mets skipping starts. I did that questioning the logic. There seems to be some smoke that Harvey needs rest, and/or is perilously close to needing to be shut down. No one wants this.
The one thing no one can ask is for Harvey to risk his career for the 2015 season. Not me, not you, not Sandy Alderson, not anyone. That includes Matt Harvey. If that was my son, Sandy Alderson wouldn’t be hearing from Scott Boras, he would be hearing from me. If other parents say they would send their child out there in harm’s way to pitch in October potentially ruining his career and future earnings, they’re lying to themselves.
I’ve seen Billy Chapel on the Mets. The experience gives me a sense of melancholy. I don’t want that for Harvey. I want him healthy and effective. Let’s do what we need to do to get him to October. Let’s do what we need to do to keep him healthy for a long career with the Mets. Maybe there will be multiple Workd Series titles.
“Clear the mechanism.”
When I think of Philly fans, I think of the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” episode where the Phillies won the World Series.
In this episode, the gang plans on starting fights in the stands, running out onto the field, and wanting to be present for the riots. Hyperbole? Not so much. If you go to the SportsPickle, you get some highlights of Philly fans behavior:
- The need to put a jail and judge in the Vet to deal with unruly fans;
- Fans boo and pelt Santa Claus with snowballs;
- Phillies fans throw batteries at J.D. Drew because he didn’t sign with the Phillies;
- Phillies fans throw batteries at their only black player, Dick Allen; and
- Philly fans booed Michael Irvin as he laid motionless on the ground.
By the way, the SportsPickle is a humor site. D.J. Gallo didn’t even need to come up with anything. Instead, he just presented the facts and let the readers laugh at the absurdity of Philly fans behavior.
The aforementioned events reminded me of my 30th birthday. The Mets were playing the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. I had never been there before and Johan Santana was pitching. From prior visits to the Vet, I knew about Philly fans, so I dressed neutrally.
Well on that day, Santana was flirting with a no-hitter. I was getting excited, but I remained polite and quiet. This wasn’t my ballpark, and the Philly fans have their well earned reputation. The moment finally was starting to become too big for me. I broke down and clapped after a nice play. I swear that all I did was clap. This grandfather, with his grandkids there, turned around and unleashed a series of expletives generally calling me “disrespectful” for cheering for the Mets.
He then high-fived other people in the section for putting a Mets fan in his place. Needless to say, this is what I thought of when Larry Anderson called Mets fans “obnoxious.” You would think with their history, Philly fans would sit there and not pass judgment.
Overall, Larry Anderson’s comment was just noise. The specific noise? That would be the noise it makes when the glass house shatters.
Say what you want, but I’m the biggest Mets fan there is. Some may have been fans longer. Some may have gone to more games. Some may spend more money on paraphernalia, but there is no bigger Mets fan than me.
You know what’s great though? I just wrote that, and there are people legitimately angry at my statement. There are about a million other Mets fans who legitimately feel the same way. Despite what a garbage analysis says, Mets fans are incredible.
Just look at the way we treated Wilmer Flores after the Carlos Gomez trade disintegrated. We gave Mike Piazza a curtain call when he was a visiting player. The fans gave Carlos Beltran a standing ovation at the 2013 AllStar Game, and he was wearing a Cardinals uniform. If you don’t think the Mets’ fans register with the players, you’re wrong.
Back in the old message board days, Todd Pratt would interact with Mets fans under the user name “Tank.” If you’re a Mets fan on Twitter, Paul Lo Duca will follow you. Mike Piazza himself acknowledged the fans yesterday during the Mets game:
Excited and hope @Mets finish strong, like the energy. Do it for the Fans! Play smart, bring it home!
— Mike Piazza (@mikepiazza31) August 2, 2015
Last night, the fans were great. You could feel the excitement through the television. It was apparent to everyone. Curt Schilling, who pitched in the NL East when the Mets were very good and very bad, summed it up best when he said, “[s]peaking from experience, this is a not a fan base you want to wake up.”
That’s the thing with those of us who miss Shea. There were memories there. The baseball at Citi Field has not been good. Aside from the Johan Santana no-hitter, there have been no signature moments. But Shea? That’s where we saw our first game. That’s where 1969 and 1986 happened. That’s where Piazza seemingly healed New York for one night:
Look at those fans. The whole country was hurting. At that time, we questioned if it was too soon to come back to New York. We questioned if it would be safe to play a game in New York. They played, and the fans came. They roared as Mike Piazza may have hit the most important homerun ever hit.
Guess what? These Mets fans are back. Like me, we’re bringing our kids with us. I know my son has been getting swept up in the excitement of these games. When I ask him if he wants to watch, he now runs so we can watch it together. He cheers the homeruns. I could not get him to sleep after the three third inning homerun innings last night. He was that excited.
I’m more excited. I’m dreaming of an NL East title. I’m dreaming of a pennant. I’m dreaming of being able to see a World Series game with my Dad and son. That would be a dream come true.
This season and team has momentum. I know Mets fans want to and will ride it into October. David Wright, and to a lesser extent Daniel Murphy, knows how Mets fans can get. I’m excited to show how great we are to a whole new generation of Mets players and fans. If Matt Harvey thought the fans were good during his breakout year, he’s seen nothing yet.
I can’t wait to see the stands as we begin to get some signature moments at Citi Field. We can finally make this place feel like home. It’s going to be a fun ride.
Lets Go Mets!
Since, I’ve started this blog, I’ve written a lot about trade rumors. I’ve written how trading Wheeler for an OF who’ll be with the Mets is s good idea. I’ve written how the Mets should pursue Carlos Gomez over Justin Upton. Finally, I’ve written about how the Mets were done making impact trades.
So, here we are with Carlos Gomez, who is the perfect fit on this team. The Mets obtained him for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flored.
First and foremost, with Juan Lagares’ suspect health and offense this year, he can play CF (he won a Gold Glove two years ago). He’s got a triple slash line of .266/.332/.409 and an OPS+ of 108. This all means he’s been very average at the plate this year.
However, he’s coming off two fantastic seasons that has been him with a .284 average and 24 homers. As you can see, Gomez’s main problem this year has been the power. It’s a gamble, but I’ll take the gamble.
Speaking of gambles, Carlos Gomez was previously traded away from the Mets. At the time, Omar Minaya “gambled” that Lastings Milledge was the better player. As a result, the Mets traded Gomez instead of Milledge for Johan Santana.
It’s funny, the Mets traded away Gomez to try to win the World Series. In 2015, they trade for him to try to win the World Series. I pray for better results. Unlike 2008, there may be some asking if the Mets gave up too much. I’ll admit the trade hurts, but you have to give away value to get value.
Before Zack Wheeler was injured, he seemed to turn the corner in the second half of 2014. Other than that, he was just an average pitcher with real promise. It’s a shame he needed Tommy John surgery. Now, he won’t be available to pitch until around the All Star Break next season. Judging by Matt Harvey’s season, Wheeler won’t be right until 2017, which is the season he’s arbitration eligible. He’s under team control until 2020.
There’s a lot to say about Wilmer Flores. Unfortunately, most of those things are about how he hasn’t been very good with the Mets this year offensively or defensively. However, he’s only 23, and he’s shown promise. He deserved his standing ovation.
I will write more about Wheeler and Flores later. I think they each need and deserve their own separate deeper analysis. Also, it’s fair to say they will be missed.
However, this deal is about Gomez and Sandy Alderson going for it responsibly. Gomez is under contract next season for $9 million. I’m not going to get snarky and say they still haven’t really took on money because that $9 million will be offset by Bartolo Colon’s $11 million coming off the books.
This is a major move involving a very good player. The Mets still need a SS and a LOOGY. They kept pieces to go get them. They’re a better team now with Gomez. It’s a good day to be a Mets fan.