One surprising thing popped up on my son’s school calendar. It was to wear red, white, and blue for what is being referred to there as Freedom Day. Having lived through the events of 9/11 and dealing with my own fears and loss due to the terrorist attacks, it just struck me as odd that 18 years later, children would wear red, white, and blue to celebrate America. Odd, but good.
What also strikes me as odd is how Major League Baseball continues to not permit the New York Mets to wear the First Responders caps during the games played on 9/11. Ultimately, when we talk about how we get from devastating terrorists attacks to children honoring America, the First Responders caps were an important part of the story.
It meant a lot to New Yorkers to see the New York Mets wear those caps. We all shed a tear as John Franco wore an FDNY cap in honor of his fallen friend as he earned the win in the first game back after the attacks. There was not a dry eye anywhere when Mike Piazza hit that home run off Steve Karsay to win the first game played in New York after 9/11.
Wearing the caps was the brainchild of Todd Zeile. He defied Major League Baseball and encouraged his team to do the same. They all did it playing at Shea Stadium, a place that was a staging ground for the recovery and relief efforts. He had the full support of his manager Bobby Valentine, and yes, his ownership, who have unsuccessfully petitioned Major League Baseball to wear the caps during a game.
What remains odd is how fearful Major League Baseball is that another Mets player will defy them like Zeile once did. In fact, as R.A. Dickey once pointed out, Major League Baseball has threatened severe fines against players who choose to defy them, and they have taken the steps to collect the caps from the dugout and clubhouse after batting practice. This isn’t normal behavior.
In that sense, it’s odd. Across the country, schools are honoring America. Adults are taking time to remember, and some of us still mourn. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is making sure teams don’t infringe on a licensing deal because somehow allowing the Mets to wear First Responder caps is a bad thing for Major League Baseball and New Era.
Really, in 18 years, it’s just plain shocking no one sat across the table and figured this out. There could have been some sort of happy medium wherein either New Era makes the caps, or that they create a new cap to both honor the fallen while keeping in the spirit of the licensing agreement.
Instead, Major League Baseball will go out of their way to announce the Mets will wear the caps during batting practice, which as we have learned, you are not required to wear officially licensed gear. In their minds, they probably think they are offering a best of both worlds solution. They’re wrong.
The shame of it is as we become further removed from 9/11, the more we move about our everyday lives. In the 18 years since, we have graduated from school, gotten married, and started families. For those of us who remember, we also have to remember work and running a household. Moreover, we have to get our children ready for days like “Freedom Day.”
So in different places in America, we’re mourning and honoring while Major League Baseball is forgetting and enforcing.
The Mets Fan
My name is Tim Ryder. I’m a writer for MMO, a contributor at Call to the Pen, and have been published at Hardball Times/Fangraphs, as well as Good Fundies. I formerly wrote for Friars on Base, a San Diego Padres site.
Personally, I’m 34. I was born October 12 at Booth Memorial in Flushing, which probably sealed my fate. I’m married to a wonderful woman named Heather and I have two lovely daughters, Kayla, 13, and Lily, 8.
How You Became a Mets Fan
I became a Mets fan at birth for the most part. Being born in 1983, I don’t remember ’86 and only vaguely recall ’88. My first real Mets memory is that 1989 team with the championship core still intact. I do remember hysterically sobbing on my kitchen floor after finding out Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were released in November of that year. A precursor for my relationship with this team, I guess.
Favorite Mets Player
Excellent question. My favorite Met of all-time is probably David Wright. Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana are right up there, as are Mike Piazza, John Franco, geez, I could literally go on forever. Next question.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
Johan’s no-hitter. I sat with my dad at the kitchen table and watched that game from first pitch to last. My dad passed away in 2015, so it’s definitely emerged as “the one” for me. And no, I don’t care that Carlos Beltran‘s foul ball was actually fair. Plus, even with replay, it still would have been foul (can’t review a ball that bounces in front of the base ump).
Message to Mets Fans
Keep voicing your displeasure with the way this organization is run. Send tweets. Send letters (126 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY).
Keep putting pressure on the Wilpons to run this team properly. They’ve become tone-deaf to our passion, as well as our desperation. We’ve been loyal through the best and, mostly, the worst of times and we deserve the same respect in return.
The Mets Fan
Colin Cosell, PA Announcer at Citi Field
How You Became a Mets Fan
As a child, I was always open to all New York sports teams (except hockey – I’m all Rangers). However, the first professional playoff I ever paid attention to was the MLB in ‘86. I was six years old, and the New York Mets were en route to a World Series title. It changed the city, and it changed me as a fan.
Favorite Mets Player
Favorite Moment in Mets History
The ‘86 Series, obviously, but the NLCS clincher against the Cubs a few years ago was so magical. NYC turned into a sea of blue and orange, as if we were the only team in New York.
Message to Mets Fans
First of all, I’d like to personally thank Mets fans for giving me a chance as one of their new PA Announcers. I truly love this job and hope they’re warming up to me.
In the grand scheme of things, all I can say is what we all say: be patient, keep the faith, and let’s at least make the most of summer – win or lose. LET’S. GO. METS!!!
Arguably, this was the most entertaining All Star Game in quite a while. It was not only a close game which went into extra innings, but we got to know more about some of the best players in the game. Certainly, miking Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Francisco Lindor made them much more likeable and did a great job of promoting the young superstar talent in the majors.
Still, given how the All Star Game has dropped drastically in terms of importance and how the ratings have been stagnant, there are ways to improve the game. Here are some suggestions from the Mets Bloggers:
Get rid of it 🙂
They should find a way to show Brandon Nimmo on screen for 100 percent of the telecast. Nimmo watching himself watching the game, Nimmo petting a dog, Nimmo studying film. Any of those really, on the lower right hand corner of the screen.
The losers of that year’s All Star Game each pay a portion of the money Bobby Bonilla is owed that year.
Get rid of interleague play.
That’s if you want to save the All Star Game as is. If not, then scrap the whole thing and just have a season break every four years and make it the World Baseball Classic Semifinals and Finals. If you want to do something the other three years, make it a similar international theme. MLB vs. Cuba.
Give each league a 41-man roster. I was gonna say 40, but 41 will be a subliminal advertisement for the greatness of Seaver. All snubs will be solved up to the 42nd-most deserving NL and AL player. What’s a couple of more minutes of introductions? Those are the best parts of the whole affair.
Also, get rid of Joe Buck and don’t let Matt Vasgersian near the All-Star Game. Team a really good National League announcer with a really good American League announcer. I’d even accept a blending of the defending league champion crews, understanding we might get stuck with somebody from YES one future midsummer night.
If we are going to have every team represented in the All Star Game under the pretext that it generates fan enthusiasm for the event, let the fans pick their All Star.
As a Mets fan in 1995, I would have been much more interested in seeing Rico Brogna, Todd Hundley, or John Franco than seeing Bobby Bonilla, which was just further punishment for Mets fans. Seriously, let the fans pick who they want to see – pitchers included.
In addition to wanting to see fans pick their own All Star, I also want everyone visiting the site to read the All Star quality material produced by the people who participate in these roundtables.
With the Mets 2018 season beginning today, we are all hopeful that this will be the first Mets team since 1986 to win a World Series. If history is any judge, fans will depart Citi Field with that feeling as the New York Mets do have the best winning percentage on Opening Day. Whether the good feelings and warm memories continue from there is anyone’s guess.
As you look to turn on the television or head to the ballpark, we thought we would share some of our Opening Day memories with you in the latest edition of the Mets Blogger Roundtable.
Roger Cormier (Good Fundies & Fangraphs)
Two words: Collin Cowgill (That’s not my actual answer)
I think I’m going to cheat here. The first game that came to mind for favorite Opening Day memory was the Mets’ home opener in 2000. It was their first game played in North America, if that helps? The Mets split a two-game set in Japan the week before and then faced off against the Padres at Shea, and I was there. It was my first time attending a home opener, and I had to bend the rules that day too, seeing as I was, technically speaking, scheduled to continue my high school education that afternoon. A couple of friends and I cut class, took the 2/3, transferred to the 7, sauntered up to the ticket window, bought four tickets, and enjoyed a 2-1 victory. I brazenly put the schedule magnet giveaway on the refrigerator, and as far as I know was never caught. Please do not tell my mother.
My favorite Opening Day memory was Tom Seaver‘s 1983 Opening Day start. It was tremendous.
The details of Seaver’s homecoming were detailed in this Sports Illustrated piece.
This one has me stumped since I have not been to a Mets opening day since the Shea days. One that stands out is the chilly home opener for Tom Glavine. A 15-2 Mets loss I believe. Good times.
I cut school to go to Opening Day in 1980. My mother wrote a note to the teacher saying “sorry my son was absent. He went to Opening Day. P.S. the Mets won 5-2.” The teacher let me off the hook but only because the Mets won. I cut school in 1983 to see Seaver’s return as a Met. I cut school in 1988 to see Darryl Strawberry hit a HR on Opening Day, then left early to get back to theater rehearsal, and I had to platoon style elbow crawl my way under the director so she wouldn’t know I was gone. Luckily they never got to my scene yet so I was out of trouble. Until we left for the day and the director said “How was the game?” As many times as I cut school for Opening Day, it’s a wonder I can put a sentence together.
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend 17 Opening Days/Home Openers (18, counting the first home game after the 1981 strike, which was functionally a second Home Opener), my favorite among them the 2001 Home Opener, when the 2000 NL pennant was raised, we were handed replica championship flags on our way in, Tsuyoshi Shinjo introduced himself to us with a homer, Mike Piazza socked two, the Mets obliterated the Braves and, not incidentally, the weather was perfect.
But with all due respect to the thrill of being on hand to, as Howie Rose says, welcome the National League season to New York, my core Opening Day memory is from 1975, when I convinced a friend to skip Hebrew School and watch the rest of the first game of that season.
The game began while we were still in shall we say regular school (sixth grade). Our teacher put the Mets and Phillies on the classroom TV. One wise guy tried to switch to the Yankees. Out of pique, the teacher switched it off.
Fast forward a bit, and my aforementioned friend and I went to my house to catch a little more of the game before we had to get to Hebrew School. This was Seaver versus Steve Carlton, and it was such an occasion that I said to him, “I’m not going to Hebrew School today.” He was convinced to not go, either.
We watched to the end and were rewarded for our truancy. Seaver pitched a complete game. Dave Kingman homered in his first game as a Met, and Joe Torre (also a new Met) drove in the winning run in the ninth, or what we would today call walkoff fashion. The whole winter was about reconstructing a dismal 1974 squad and hoping Seaver would be healthy. For one day, everything clicked as we dreamed.
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:
Recently in the news, it was reported former Mets great Al Leiter will be a part of a 20 person class that will be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Of all the people inducted, Leiter will be the only baseball player.
It is interesting Leiter is being inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, but he is not being inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. Last year, I made the case for his induction into the Mets Hall of Fame. Rather than regurgitate the full case here, I’ll quickly note he’s in the Top 10 in wins, strikeouts, and ERA+ in what has been a pitching rich Mets history.
As it stands, from that era of Mets baseball, only Mike Piazza and John Franco have been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. As we know, Piazza is a Hall of Famer who has had his number retired by the team. Franco, the Mets leader in saves, had his best years before Leiter even joined the team.
Behind Piazza and Franco, there are some Mets from those late 90s, early 2000s teams that certainly merit induction.
In three years with the Mets, Robin Ventura won a Gold Glove, hit .260/.360/.468, and he had an all-time great postseason moment with the Grand Slam Single.
You could argue John Olerud had a similar, albeit not as great impact, on the Mets as Keith Hernandez. He came over in what became a ridiculously lopsided trade, and once he become a Met, the team had taken off.
With Olerud in the fold, the Mets went from a 71 to an 88 win team. If not for Mel Rojas, that 1998 team probably makes the postseason. In 1999, Olerud was a key part of a Mets team that won the Wild Card and went to the NLCS.
And speaking of that 1998 team, there is Todd Hundley. Still to this day, Hundley remains the Mets single season home run leader.
Certainly, you can make arguments against some of these players, but ultimately, the fact the great contributions of Mets players who helped bring the team to consecutive postseasons has been far overlooked by this franchise. It needs to be remedied, and it can start with Leiter adding Mets Hall of Famer to his New Jersey Hall of Famer resume.
With Trevor Hoffman being inducted into the Hall of Fame, he now becomes just the sixth reliever ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Considering Hoyt Wilhelm, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers were relievers of a far different mold, and Dennis Eckersley had a career as a starting pitcher before becoming a one inning closer, Hoffman becomes a unique Hall of Famer in that he is now the first ever pure closer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
With him being inducted, the question needs to be asked why it was him and not one of the other closers who proceeded him.
The first answer that will probably be injected as a reason is the fact Hoffman accumulated 601 saves. At the time of his retirement in 2010, it was the record for most saves by a relief pitcher. In reality, he had the record beginning in 2006. The question that naturally follows from this is why is this now relevant?
It would seem odd to put 600 saves into a category with 3,000 hits, 500 homers, or 300 wins as those marks evolved over time. The modern one inning reliever is something that arguably has only been around since the 1980s with Tony La Russa‘s use of Eckersley leading the charge. Yes, at the time of his retirement, he had the most all-time, and he was 123 ahead of the highest retired closer.
That closer was Lee Smith. What is interesting about Smith was he battled Jeff Reardon late in Reardon’s career for the most saves of all-time. The year after Reardon retired, Smith passed him and the lapped the field. At the time Smith retired in 1997, he had the all-time record with 478 saves, and he would hold the record for most saves in baseball history for 10 years. Like Reardon, Hoffman would lose the title the year after he retired.
Speaking of Lee Smith, he is an interesting parallel for Hoffman, especially with both pitchers pitching 18 years and making seven All Star teams.
In Smith’s career, he was 71-92 with a 3.03 ERA, 478 saves, 1,251 strikeouts, 1.256 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9. He led the league in saves four times, led the league in games finished three times, and won three Rolaids Relief Awards. From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 132 ERA+, 29.6 WAR, 21.1 WAR7, and a 25.4 JAWS.
In Hoffman’s career, he was 61-75 with a 2.87 ERA, 601 saves, 1,133 strikeouts, 1.058 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9. He led the league twice in saves, never led the league in games finished, and won two Rolaids Relief Awards. From an advanced metrics standpoint, he had a 141 ERA+, 28.4 WAR, 19.6 WAR7, and a 24.0 JAWS.
In some areas, Smith is better, including WAR, WAR7, JAWS, strikeouts, and relief awards. In others like ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and K/9, Hoffman is better. Generally speaking, Hoffman and Smith are about equally as valuable as one another. We only get to a true separator between the two relievers when we discuss saves.
Hoffman blows Smith out of the water there, but that’s not too dissimilar how Smith blew other contemporaries out of the water during his playing days. He was 1-2 with Reardon much like Hoffman was with Mariano Rivera.
It would seem from a pure value standpoint, if Hoffman is inducted, then so should Smith. However, we really know the end game was the amount of saves.
That’s why we won’t see Billy Wagner follow suit despite his having a much better ERA+ (187), more strikeouts (1,196), a higher K/9 (11.9), WAR7 (19.9), and having made the same JAWS and making the same number of All Star teams.
It’s also why we didn’t see John Franco get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sure, we can mock Franco all you like, but he has had the record for most saves by a left-handed pitcher since 1994, which is a record that has lasted for 23 years and does not appear of being eclipsed any time soon.
It should also be noted Franco led the league in saves three times, games finished two times, made four All Star teams, and won two Rolaids Relief awards. This means Franco led the league in saves and games finished more times than Hoffman, and he won just as many relief awards. His WAR (24.2), WAR7 (15.7), and JAWS (19.9) do trail Hoffman, but then again, we’ve learned this isn’t really about value.
It’s about total saves with the new bench mark apparently being 600 saves. It is good that it’s a high bench mark, but at the end of the day, it seems odd this isn’t about greatness, value, or dominance. Rather, it’s about an arbitrary number decided upon because Hoffman just felt like a Hall of Famer.
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:
- 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.
- 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
- Timo Perez should have run out that fly ball off the bat of Todd Zeile
- Roger Clemens should have been ejected for throwing a bat at Mike Piazza
- Piazza’s ball goes out if it was just a few degrees warmer
- Guillermo Mota shook off Paul Lo Duca
- Billy Wagner cannot give up a home run to So Taguchi
- Yadier Molina
- Cliff Floyd just missed his pitch, the Jose Reyes liner didn’t fall, and Carlos Beltran struck out looking on an Adam Wainwright curveball
- The subsequent two seasons followed with epic collapses with Tom Glavine not being devastated and an inept Jerry Manuel going to Scott Schoeneweis who gave up the homer that closed Shea for good.
2015 World Series
- Terry Collins making terrible decision after terrible decision.
- Yoenis Cespedes a no-show from the very first defensive play of the World Series.
- Jeurys Familia blowing three saves even if they weren’t all his fault.
- Daniel Murphy overrunning a ball.
- Lucas Duda‘s throw home.
- Matt Harvey for too long in Game 5.
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.
With the attacks of the 9/11, all Major League Baseball games were cancelled. They would be cancelled until September 17th. Back then, we all knew and agreed no one should be playing then. It was too soon. If the country wasn’t ready, we knew New York wasn’t ready.
There was work to be done with a city left to mourn. Players went about and did all they could do. They visited different fire stations. Shea Stadium was used as a staging ground for supplies for the rescue efforts that were occurring around the clock. Even when baseball wasn’t being played, baseball was present and part of the healing process.
It was again part of the healing process when baseball games resumed. There were questions whether it was time to return on September 17th. For most, it was time to get back to something that seemed normal. It was time for the healing to begin. Healing did not mean we forget. That was the refrain, “Never Forget.”
Perhaps, there was no more beautiful reminder of that when the Mets took the field in Pittsburgh wearing First Responder caps. It was a beautiful and poignant moment when Brooklyn native, John Franco, who just like the rest of us lost loved one on 9/11, earned a win the Mets first game back while wearing a FDNY cap. With that the healing began.
The healing would continue with the Mets being the first New York team to play a game back in New York. There was a strange aura around that game, one that could never be repeated at a baseball game. There was a mixture of nervousness, pain, hope, and, yes, some curiosity. It all came out as euphoric release as Mike Piazza hit a home run that still resonates to this day:
That moment was important for not just Mets fans, but all of New York. It was safe to go to a baseball game. It was alright to take joy in something as seemingly unimportant as baseball.
Between the relief efforts and that home run, the Mets played a small but important part in the grieving and healing process after 9/11.
Gone might be the 9/11 inscriptions on the sleeves of the jersey. The First Responder caps are certainly gone. Shea Stadium is an ever distant memory. Still, the images of 9/11 and everything that happened in the aftermath life forever.
Sixteen years ago, we knew the Mets shouldn’t be playing on 9/11. However, it feels different now. It seems like the Mets should be playing. At least from a baseball perspective, the Mets were important. Using Shea Stadium as a staging ground was necessary. The players helping at Shea and visiting fire houses mattered. The First Responder caps meant something to people and still do today. That Piazza home run still resonates.
The pain of 9/11 still resonates for many. There are many more important concerns in the world. To that end, it’s not the worst thing in the world the Mets have the day off. It’s far from a travesty. Still, for all of baseball and all of New York, the Mets should be on the field today wearing those First Responder caps.