There is a real case to be made here for Bobby Bonilla as the best Mets player to wear the number 25. Through all of the negatives associated with him and his career, by wRC+, he is the Mets 10th best hitter. He was a two time All-Star in his first four year stint with the Mets. He did what the team needed him to do whether that was playing right field or third base.
No, Bonilla was never popular, and things go continually worse. There is far too much negative associated with him now whether it was him playing cards with Rickey Henderson during Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS or his deferred payments which are made to be an annual fiasco.
However, none of those reasons are why he wasn’t selected as the best Mets player to wear the number 25. No, the reason why he wasn’t selected was because Pedro Feliciano is the greatest LOOGY in Mets history.
Feliciano first came to the Mets in 2002 when they were looking for a taker for Shawn Estes. When Estes didn’t hit Roger Clemens and with the Mets having a terrible year, it was time to move on from him. Not quite knowing what they had in him, the Mets first waived Feliciano to make room on the 40 man roster only to sign him as a free agent after the Tigers first claimed then released him.
That began what was a very interesting subplot to Feliciano’s career. This was the first time in his career Feliciano left the Mets organization. He would do it again in 2005, 2011, and 2014. Despite that, in Feliciano’s nine year Major League career, he would only wear a Mets uniform.
In his first stint, he was a middling reliever who had to go to Japan to hone his craft. As noted by Michael Mayer of MMO, Feliciano altered his throwing program, and the smaller strike zone helping him hone is command. This improvement helped him secure a minor league deal to help him return to the Mets. Back with the Mets, he worked with Rick Peterson to drop his arm angle. From that point forward, he became a great LOOGY.
Arguably, that 2006 Mets bullpen was the best bullpen in team history. Notably, in a bullpen with Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Aaron Heilman, Chad Bradford, and Darren Oliver, it was Feliciano who led that bullpen in ERA+. He’d accomplish that feat with the Mets again in 2009.
In that 2006 season, left-handed batters would only hit .231/.272/.316 off of him. He’d strike out 44 left-handed batters while only walking five. That equates to him striking out a whopping 34.6% of left-handed batters that season. He would then get some big outs that postseason.
In Game 1 of the NLDS, he relieved John Maine in the fifth, and he struck out Kenny Lofton with runners on first and second with no outs. In Game 3, he retired Nomar Garciaparra with the bases loaded, and when the Mets took the lead in the top of the sixth, he would be the winner of the game clinching victory.
Overall, that postseason, Feliciano made six appearances, and he pitched to a 1.93 ERA. Ultimately, in that disappointing postseason which fell just one hit short of the World Series, Feliciano did his job. That was a theme for Feliciano, he came in and did his job.
Beginning in 2008, Feliciano would lead the league in appearances. He would lead the league in appearances in each of the ensuing two seasons. His constantly appearing in games led Gary Cohen to dub him Perpetual Pedro. He would be used so frequently, Feliciano would achieve the very rare feat of appearing in over 90 games in the 2010 season.
When making that 90th appearance, Feliciano became the first left-handed reliever in Major League history to appear in 90 games. When he broke the single-season mark for a left-handed reliever held by Steve Kline and Paul Quantrill.
In appearing in 92 games in 2010, he made more appearances over a two year span than any left-handed reliever in history. In fact, in Major League history, only Mike Marshall and Kent Tekulve have made more appearances in back-to-back seasons, and they did that in the 1970s.
Since the turn of the century, Feliciano is the only reliever to appear in 85+ games not only in two seasons in a row but three season in a row. In fact, from 2006 – 2010, Feliciano would appear in 19 more games than any other reliever, and he would appear in 50 more games than any other left-handed reliever.
Through it all, Feliciano would appear in 484 games as a member of the Mets. Only John Franco would appear in more games as a Mets reliever. Among Mets relievers, his .212 batting average against and .263 wOBA against left-handed batters is the best, and both are by significant margins.
Taking everything into account, Feliciano is the best LOOGY in Mets history, and it is by a very wide margin. When you are ultimately the best at what you do than anyone else in the 58 year history of your franchise, you should be considered the best to ever wear your number.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
For all the talk about every game counts, Jason Vargas entered the season as the unchallenged fifth starter. Somehow, he’s failed to clear the subterranean bar set for him this season with tonight being his worst performance.
Vargas lasted just one-third of an inning allowing four earned on two hits and three walks. Now, you may want to say two of those runs were scored after he left the game, but that would be wrong considering he needed 36 pitches to get just one out.
This put the game in Corey Oswalt‘s hands to salvage.
While Oswalt did get out of the inning, the Braves got to him as well scoring four runs off him in the second. To be fair to Oswalt, just like all of last year, the Mets once again put him in a position to fail.
Oswalt was called up earlier in the week to be prepared to make a relief appearance on just three days rest. Then, after the team didn’t pitch him, they had him trying to stay sharp on what was now extended rest. Finally, they asked a starter to hurry up and loosen up to enter a game with runners in scoring position. This is not how you handle or develop pitchers.
Partially because of the Mets being stubborn and plain stupid in trusting Vargas as the fifth starter and partially due to their mishandling of Oswalt, they’d lost what was a winnable game.
Travis d’Arnaud got the rally started with his first hit since coming off the IL. He and Keon Broxton would score on a Juan Lagares RBI double. Oswalt would help himself and tie the score with a sacrifice fly.
After the aforementioned bad top of the third for Oswalt, the Mets were chasing the Braves all night. The key difference between the Mets and Braves was while the Mets messed around with Oswalt, the Braves had Touki Touissaint. Touissaint was very good for the Braves stabilizing the game and saving their bullpen.
This meant even though Chad Sabodka was shaky in the final two innings, the Braves still had plenty of cushion in what would become an 11-7 Braves.
As if this were not enough, Ron Darling announced he needs to take a leave of absence to have surgery to remove a mass in his chest. More than anything that happened on the field, this was the absolute worst development of the day. Thoughts and prayers go to Darling for a speedy recovery.
At the 2006 trade deadline, many believed the Mets were in need of a big starting pitcher to help the best team in baseball win the World Series. At that time, the big name was Barry Zito, but the Mets were reportedly balking at the asking price which included their top prospect in addition to their best set-up man in Aaron Heilman. Certainly, Heilman became untouchable with Duaner Sanchez‘s injury. However, there is still some debate whether any of the Mets prospects should have been so untouchable so as to prevent them from being moved in a trade many believed the Mets needed to make to win the World Series.
Keeping in mind the Mets didn’t want to move a top prospect, let’s take a look at who was considered the Mets Top 10 prospects back in 2006 and see how their respective careers fared:
The Mets 2003 first round draft pick was seen by many as a future star in the major leagues. He was supposed to be a five tool center fielder. Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way.
Milledge first got his chance in 2006 at first due to a Xavier Nady injury and then because of Nady being traded to sure up their bullpen due to the Sanchez injury. Milledge would show he was not quite ready for the limelight. That shouldn’t be surprising considering he had only played 84 games in AAA, and he was 21 years old. In 56 games, he would only hit .241/.310/.380 with four homers and 22 RBI. He would be unfairly chastised for high fiving the fans after a game tying home run in extra innings.
Unfortunately for him, the home run that led to much hand wringing might’ve been the top moment in his career. Milledge would never figure it out for the Mets, and his star potential would diminish. In 2007, the Mets would move him for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
Overall, Milledge would only play six years in the majors hitting .269/.328/.395 in parts of six major league seasons. He would play his last game for the Chicago White Sox as a 26 year old in April 2011. From there, he would play four years in Japan. In Japan, he wouldn’t re-establish himself as a major leaguer like Cecil Fielder did, nor would he become an acclaimed Japanese League player like Tuffy Rhodes. Rather, he hit a disappointing .272/.348/.447 averaging 10 home runs and 32 RBI.
Milledge suffered injuries limiting him to just 34 games in 2014 and 2015. No one would sign him to play professional baseball anywhere in 2016. In the end his professional baseball career is over at the age of 31.
Petit was the one major prospect the Mets would move to help the 2006 team. The Mets included him in a deal with Grant Psomas and Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado. Delgado would go on to become a slugger at first base the Mets had never truly had in their history. For his part, Petit has put together a nice major leauge career.
Petit would not figure things out until he became a San Francisco Giant in 2012. Under the tutledge of Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy, he would become a very good long man in the bullpen. In his four years with the Giants, he as 10-7 with one save, a 3.66 ERA, and a 1.128 WHIP.
His best work was in the 2014 postseason. That year the Giants rotation was Madison Bumgarner and a group of starters the team could not truly trust to go five innings in a game. Accordingly, Petit was used almost as a piggyback starting pitcher. In that 2014 postseason, Petit would make four appearances going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA (no runs allowed in the NLDS or NLCS) and a 0.868 WHIP.
In the past offseason, Petit was a free agent, and he signed a one year $3 million deal with the Washington Nationals with a $3 million team option for 2016. He struggled this year in his 35 relief appearances and one start going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.323 WHIP.
In his nine year career, Petit is 23-32 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP. Whether or not his option is picked up by the Nationals, we should see Petit pitch in his tenth major league season in 2017.
The Mets traded their 2004 third round pick with Dante Brinkley for Paul Lo Duca. Lo Duca was the emotional leader for the 2006 Mets that almost went to the World Series, and Hernandez never pitched in the major leagues.
Hernandez would bounce around from the Marlins to the Mariners to the Red Sox to the Royals to the White Sox and finally to the Diamondbacks. While Hernandez had shown some early promise with the Mets, he never realized it. He topped out at AAA where he would pitch for four seasons going 30-36 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP.
Hernandez has not given up on his major league dream. Since 2012, Hernandez has been pitching in the Atlantic Leagues. Over the past three seasons, he has pitched Winter Ball. He made 25 starts and two relief appearances for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he was 7-10 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP. At the moment, the 30 year old Hernandez has not been signed to play for a Winter Leagues team.
The Mets 1999 38th round draft pick was part of the aforementioned trade that helped the Mets acquire Delgado. The Mets were largely able to use Jacobs as part of the trade because of the tremendous start to his career.
In 2005, Jacobs hit .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers and 23 RBI in 30 games. While Jacobs continued to be a power hitter after leaving the Mets, he would never again reach those levels. Eventually, his impatience at the plate caught up to him, and he would only only last seven years in the major leagues. His penultimate season was with the Mets in 2010 when he was unseated by Ike Davis as the Mets first baseman.
After being released by the Mets, Jacobs has spent the past six seasons in AAA with a 13 game cup of coffee for the Diamondbacks in 2012. In Jacob’s seven year career, he hit .253/.313/.473 with 100 homers and 312 RBI. As a Met, he hit .290/.360/.645 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Jacobs would have the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.
At this point, it is unknown if the 35 year old Jacobs will continue playing professional baseball in 2017.
The one theme that is developing here is that while these players didn’t have a big impact in the majors or the Mets, Omar Minaya utilized these players to help the ballclub. Humber is a perfect example of that.
The Mets 2004 first round pick (third overall) had an inauspicious start to his professional career needing Tommy John surgery in 2005.
With that Humber would only make one start in his Mets career, and it wasn’t particularly good. With the Mets collapsing in the 2007, and the team having a rash of starting pitcher injuries, the team turned to the highest drafted player in their system. Humber kept the woeful Washington Nationals at bay for the first three innings before allowing Church to hit a two run homer in the fourth and then sowing the seeds for a huge rally in the fifth inning that would see the Mets once 6-0 lead completely evaporate in a frustrating 9-6 loss. This would be the last time Humber took the mound for the Mets. In his Mets career, he would make one start and four relief appearances with no decisions, a 6.00 ERA, and a 1.333 WHIP.
Still, he showed enough to be a major part in the trade that would bring Johan Santana to the Mets. Santana and Humber would both enter immortality. Santana would throw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Humber would become perhaps the unlikeliest of all pitchers to throw a perfect game. It was the 21st perfect game in baseball history. He joined David Cone as the only ex-Mets to throw a perfect game. He joined a much longer list of seven former Mets, highlighted by Nolan Ryan, who threw a no-hitter AFTER leaving the Mets. Humber would also become the pitcher with the highest career ERA to throw a perfect game.
In all, Humber played for five major league teams over his eight major league seasons. In those eight major league seasons, he has gone 16-23 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. He threw his last major league pitch in 2013 in a season he went 0-8 in 13 starts. In 2014, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics’ AAA affiliate. In 2015, he pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leagues going 3-3 with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.855 WHIP in 11 starts and one relief appearance.
Humber had signed on with the San Diego Padres and was invited to Spring Training in 2016. He was released prior to the start of the season, and he did not throw one pitch for any professional team in 2016. He is currently 33 years old, and at this point, he has not announced his retirement.
Gomez has been far and away the best player on the list of the 2006 Mets top prospects. He would be moved with Humber as a centerpiece in the Santana trade.
In Gomez’s early career, it was clear he was a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. He made highlight reel play after highlight reel play for the Twins. However, it was clear from how he was struggling at the plate, the projected five tool player wasn’t quite ready to be the hitter everyone anticipated he would be at the major league level. Eventually, the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers, and in Milwaukee, Gomez would figure it out.
In Gomez’s five plus years with the Brewers, he won a Gold Glove and was a two time All Star. He was also a coveted player at the 2015 trade deadline, and he almost became a New York Met again in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores. As we all remember, Flores cried on the field, and the Mets front office was disappointed in Gomez’s medicals causing them to rescind the trade due to a purported hip issue.
Gomez would then be traded to the Astros, and the Mets would appear to be vindicated for their decision. Gomez played 126 games for the Astros before being released and picked up by the Texas Rangers. In Texas, Gomez began playing like the player the Mets coveted at the 2015 trade deadline. The 33 game burst came at the right time as the 30 year old Gomez will be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.
Overall, Gomez has played for 10 years, and he is a .257/.312/.415 hitter with 116 home runs, 453 RBI, and 239 stolen bases. He is still a good center fielder, and he may still have a couple of good seasons in front of him.
From the moment the Mets signed him as a 16 year old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, F-Mart was seen as a top prospect. Many imagined he would become a five tool player like a Carlos Beltran. Instead, his career went the way of Alex Ochoa.
F-Mart was the first big prize Minaya brought in when he become the General Manager of the Mets. Understandably, he was considered untouchable in trade discussions. As it turns out, the Mets wished they moved him when they had the opportunity.
F-Mart would only play in 47 games over three years with the Mets hitting just .183/.250/.290 with two homers and 12 RBI. Eventually, with him not progressing as the Mets once hoped he would, and a different regime in place, F-Mart would eventually be put on waivers and claimed by the Houston Astros. With the Astros, he would only play in 52 games over two years, and he would just hit .225/.285/.424 with seven homers and 17 RBI.
In 2013, the Astros traded him to the Yankees for minor league depth. After the 2013 season, F-Mart would become a free agent, and he would find no suitors.
In 2014, he only played in the Dominican Winter Leagues, and in 2015, he played in only seven games in the Mexican Leagues. Given how he has bounced around and seeing how many major league teams have either passed on him or have forgotten his existence, it is hard to believe that he is just 28 years old.
Hernandez is undeterred, and he is still playing baseball. Right now, he is playing alongside current Mets shortstop prospect Luis Guillorme for Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds. Spain would go 0-2 in the European Qualifier and will not be a finalist for the World Baseball Classic.
The Mets acquired Hernandez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for backup catcher Vance Wilson in 2005. Hernandez intrigued the Mets because he was an exceptionally skilled defensive shortstop. The question with him was whether he was ever going to hit.
Despite these questions, and with Kaz Matsui starting the year on the disabled list, Hernandez would actually be the Mets Opening Day second baseman. On Opening Day, he would show everyone why he was so highly regarded defensively with an impressive over the shoulder catch. However, Hernandez would also show he would never be able to hit at the big league level. That fact may have forever changed Mets history.
Despite hitting .152/.164/.242 in 25 games with the Mets, he would make the NLCS roster. In Game 7 of the NLCS, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Instead of going to Hernandez to pinch-hit for Heilman to get the bunt down, Willie Randolph went to an injured Cliff Floyd to try to win the game. Floyd would strike out, and Hernandez would enter the game only as a pinch runner for Lo Duca, who had worked out a walk to load the bases. From first base, Hernandez got a good view of how the series would end. Had Hernandez been able to hit just a little bit, it is possible he would have been sent up to bunt, and maybe things would have gone differently.
Overall, Hernandez never did show the ability to hit at the major league level. The Mets gave up waiting. In 2008, with the Mets desperate for relievers to plug in holes to a decimated bullpen, Hernandez was traded to the Nationals for Luis Ayala.
Hernandez would play for four teams in six seasons hitting .241/.300/.314 with four homers and 60 RBI. While he did show he was skilled defensively, he could never hit enough to stick in the majors, and as a result, his major league career was over in 2010 when he was 27 years old.
From 2011 – 2013, Hernandez would play in AAA. For the past three seasons, he has played in the Japanese Leagues. In every season since 2006, the 33 year old has played in the Dominican Winter Leagues for Tigres del Licey. It is unknown at this point if he is going to play for the Tigres this year or if he will return to the Japanese Leagues next year.
Bannister was the Mets 2003 seventh round draft pick out of USC. He would become the first ever Brooklyn Cyclones pitcher to pitch a game for the New York Mets. Bannister had earned that right by beating out Heilman for the fifth spot in the 2006 Mets Opening Day rotation. There were a myriad of reasons including but not limited to Heilman’s importance in the bullpen.
Bannister’s career would get off to quite the start with him going 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.393 WHIP. While he struggled with his command and couldn’t go very deep into games as a result, the Mets were willing to stick with him through those five starts. Unfortunately, Bannister would suffer a hamstring injury at the end of April that would linger for most of the year. By the time he was healthy, John Maine was already a fixture in the rotation. With the Mets acquiring Perez at the trade deadline, there was no longer a spot for him on the major league roster.
With there no longer being any room for him, the Mets moved him in the offseason to the Kansas City Royals for Ambiorix Burgos. It was a trade that was detrimental for both players. Bannister would pitch four years for the Royals going 35-49 with a 5.13 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP. Burgos’ Mets career was marked by ineffectiveness, injury, and domestic violence.
After going 37-50 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP in his five year major league career, Bannister had signed a two year deal to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants. Bannister would never pitch for the Giants. After an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Bannister retired from baseball. Since the 2015 season, the 35 year old Bannister has been a professional scout for the Boston Red Sox.
In 2003, Soler defected to the Dominican Republic from Cuba. The following year he would sign a three year $2.8 million contract with the New York Mets.
Soler would only pitch for the major league club in 2006. He would make eight starts highlighted by a complete game two hit shut out of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, the rest of his starts weren’t as great, and he would finish the year going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP. His contract would expire at the end of the season, and the Mets would not re-sign him.
Soler would pitch in 14 games, mostly out of the bullpen, for the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate in 2007. In the following two seasons, Soler would return to the tri-state area pitching for the Long Island Ducks and Newark Bears of the Independent Leagues. He would not pitch well at either stop, and no one would offer him a contract to play professional baseball in 2010. In 2011, he pitched in two games in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues. Since that time, the 37 year old Soler has not pitched in professional baseball.
At this time, it is unknown as to what Soler has been doing in his post-baseball career.
What is known is that while the top prospects from the 2006 season largely did not pan out, then Mets GM Omar Minaya was able to utilize a number of the players to improve the 2006 and 2007 Mets teams that fell just short. This has left many fans wondering what would have happened if Milledge was moved at his peak value or what would have happened if Hernandez learned how to hit. Things may have gone very differently in both of those seasons.
Still, while you could call each of these prospects, save Gomez, a bust. It is notable that nine of the 10 players played in the major leagues for multiple seasons. Three of the players played in the postseason, and one won a World Series. There have been All Star appearances and a perfect game from this group. While you expected more, each player left their own mark on the Mets and the game of baseball.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.
This postseason Terry Francona relied heavily on this three best relievers throughout the postseason. One reason why he did it was Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen were all terrific relievers. Another reason why is the Indians starting rotation was decimated by injuries. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were out of the rotation due to injury before the postseason, and Trevor Bauer lacerated his hand while fixing a drone. Francona was forced to do what he did in the postseason. It was not unlike Willie Randolph in 2006.
Like Francona, the Mets were running away with the division when disaster struck. Their ace, Pedro Martinez, was ruled out for the postseason due to an injured leg, and then all hope of his return for the postseason was abandoned when it was discovered he had a torn rotator cuff. While Steve Trachsel was purportedly healthy a year removed from a cervical discectomy, he wasn’t the same pitcher anymore finishing the year with a 4.97 ERA. On the eve of the NLDS, Orlando Hernandez (“El Duque”) suffered a torn calf muscle thereby putting John Maine in position to start Game 1.
The surprise starter Maine gave the Mets 4.1 strong innings. Still, with runners on first and second with one out, Randolph wasn’t taking any chances in a 2-1 game. He first went to Pedro Feliciano to get Kenny Lofton, and then he went to Chad Bradford to get Nomar Garciaparra. The bullpen pitched the final 4.2 innings to secure the victory. This would essentially be how Randolph would manage the rest of the 2006 postseason in non-Tom Glavine starts. Overall, here’s a look at when the Mets bullpen entered each game that postseason:
|NLDS Game 1||John Maine||4.1||Chad Bradford|
|NLDS Game 2||Tom Glavine||6.0||Pedro Feliciano|
|NLDS Game 3||Steve Trachsel||3.1||Darren Oliver|
|NLCS Game 1||Tom Glavine||7.0||Guillermo Mota|
|NLCS Game 2||John Maine||4.0||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 3||Steve Trachsel||1.0||Darren Oliver|
|NLCS Game 4||Oliver Perez||5.2||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 5||Tom Glavine||4.0||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 6||John Maine||5.1||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 7||Oliver Perez||6.0||Chad Bradford|
Overall, the Mets starters pitched 47.2 innings that entire postseason meaning they averaged 4.2 innings per start. This year, the Indians starters pitched the very same 4.2 innings per star those 2006 Mets did. Despite Francona and Randolph having the very same approaches to the postseason games, Francona was hailed as a visionary and a genius, whereas many blame Randolph for the Mets failures in the postseason. The difference?
It started in Game 2 of the NLCS. Mota infamously shook off Paul Lo Duca, and Scott Spiezio hit a game tying triple. When Billy Wagner subsequently allowed a So Taguchi lead-off home run, it was a completely different NLCS. Then in Game 7, Aaron Heilman left a change-up up in the zone, and Yadier Molina hit a go-ahead two run home run. If not for those two mistakes, the Mets are in the World Series, and quite possibly, it is Randolph, not Francona that is seen as the visionary.
But the Mets lost because their pitchers did not execute in the two biggest moments of that series. As such, Francona is the genius because to the victor goes the spoils.
Growing up, my family did not always go to Opening Day. It was sometimes difficult for my Dad to get off of work, and even if he could, we had my mother insisting that my brother and I could not miss a day of school just to go to a Mets game. What eventually happened is that my father, brother, and I usually found ourselves going to the last game of the season, which usually falls on a Sunday.
When you go to Opening Day, there is always hope. Even when your team stinks, you can find some reason for hope. I remember thinking back in 1993 that the 1992 Mets season was just a fluke. Bobby Bonilla was certainly going to be better. Howard Johnson was back in the infield where he belonged. This could be the year Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent break out. The team still had Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen with John Franco in the bullpen. It turns out the 1993 team was even worse than the 1992 team.
The last game of the season always has an interesting feel to it. When we went to the final game of the season, it was more of a farewell to an awful season. Being ever the optimist, we still had hope for a bright future with Pete Schourek throwing eight brillant innings to cap off a Mets six game winning streak. It seemed like 1994 was going to be a big year in baseball. It was, but that’s a whole other story.
There was the devastating 2007 finale. Heading into that game, most Mets fans believed that despite the epic collapse, the Mets were going to take care of the Marlins. They just snapped a five game losing streak behind a brilliant John Maine performance and the offense coming alive to score 13 runs. Even better, the Phillies seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit with them getting shut down by Matt Chico and a terrible Marlins team. The sense was if the Mets won this game, the Phillies would feel the pressure and lose their game. Even if the Phillies won their game, the Mets would beat the Phillies and return to the postseason like everyone expected.
After Tom Glavine laid an egg, which included out and out throwing a ball into left field trying to get Cody Ross, who was going to third on the original throw to home. At 5-0, the Mets were still in the game. David Wright was having a torrid September. Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were big game players. I don’t think Moises Alou made an out that entire month. With that in mind, I turned to my father, and I said to him, “If the Mets allow one more run, the game is over . . . .” As the words left my mouth, Jorge Soler allowed a two run double to Dan Uggla. Sure, they would play eight and a half more innings, but the collapse was over right then and there.
That 2007 finale hung over the 2008 finale. Mets fans were probably a bit more optimistic than they had a right to be. The day before Johan Santana took the ball with three days rest, and he pitched a complete game three hitter. The Mets had Oliver Perez going in the finale. Back then, this was considered a good thing. The offense was clicking again. However, that bullpen was just so awful. The Mets were relying on Luis Ayala to close out games, and believe it or not, his 5.05 ERA and 1.389 WHIP was considered a steadying presence to an injury ravaged bullpen. Beltran would hit a huge home run to tie the game, but the joy wouldn’t last. Jerry Manuel, just an awful manager, turned to Scott Schoeneweis to gave up the winning home run to Wes Helms (Mets killer no matter what uniform he wore), and then aforementioned Ayala gave up another one that inning to Uggla to seal the deal at 4-2.
Fittingly, the last out was made by Ryan Church. He was the same Mets player the Mets flew back and forth to the West Coast despite him having a concussion. Remember the days when the Mets didn’t handle injuries well? Nevermind. In any event, I was one of the few that stayed to watch Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza close out Shea Stadium. Many disagree, but I thought it helped.
Last year, was just a celebration. The Mets had already clinched the NL East, and they were off to their first postseason since 2006. The only thing left was the Mets winning one more game to get to 90 wins. The 90 wins was window dressing, but the shift from 89 to 90 is just so satisfying. It means more than 86 to 87 wins or 88 to 89 wins. That 90 win mark is an important threshold for the psyche of teams and fans.
This year was something different altogether. In terms of pure baseball, the Mets entered the day tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card with the Cardinals just a half a game behind (tied in the loss column). The night before the Mets had seen Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero combine to put the team in a 10-0 hole that the Las Vegas 51s just couldn’t quite pull them out from under. Still, that rally had created some buzz as did Robert Gsellman starting the game. However, there was the shock of the Jose Fernandez news that muted some of the pregame buzz.
After the moment of silence, there was a game to be played, and it was just pure Mets dominance.
Gsellman would pitch seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. More amazing than that was the fact that he actually got a bunt single. For a player that can only bunt due to an injury to his non-pitching shoulder, the Phillies sure acted surprised by the play. Overall, it was a great day by Gsellman who was helped out by the Mets offense and a little defense along the way:
It was that type of day for the Mets. After Saturday’s pinch hit home run there was a Jay Bruce sighting again on Sunday. On the day, he was 2-4 with two runs and a double. It was easily the best game he had as a Met. His second inning double would start the rally that ended with James Loney hitting an RBI groundout. Then, as Cousin Brucey would say, “the hits just keep on comin’!” No, that was not just an allusion to the Phillies pitchers who hit three batters in the game. It refers to the Mets offense.
Curtis Granderson hit a fourth inning solo shot to make it 2-0. It was his 30th of the year making it the first time the Mets have had a pair of 30 home run outfielders since, really who even knows? In the fifth, T.J. Rivera plated a run with an RBI single. Later in the fifth, Jose Reyes would the first of his two RBI bases loaded walks. Overall, the big blow would come in the seventh off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 26, 2016
The grand slam put the capper on not just the game, but a pretty remarkable season at home where the Mets were 44-37 on the season. The Mets also hit 193 homers at home, which was the most ever hit at Citi Field, and more than any the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium in any one season:
The final home game of the season is over, here are the all 193 home runs hit in Citi Field this season. pic.twitter.com/KHfkv3lXFP
— CitiFieldHR (@CitiFieldHR) September 25, 2016
In the eighth, the Mets just poured it on with some of the 51s getting into the game. Gavin Cecchini was hit by a pitch, Brandon Nimmo and Ty Kelly walked, and Eric Campbell got another RBI pinch hit. Throw in a Michael Conforto two RBI double, and the Mets would win 17-0. Exiting Citi Field, you got the sense this was not the last time you would see this team at home. As it stands now, the Mets back to being a game up on the Giants, and the Cardinals fell to 1.5 games back.
There haven’t been many final games to the season like this one, and I’m not sure there ever will be. Overall, it was a great way to close out the regular season at Citi Field. However, for right now, it is not good-bye like it was in 1993, and it certainly isn’t good riddance like it was in 2007. Rather, this game had more of a feeling of, “See you again soon.”
You never know what is going to happen before or during a postseason series. How a team responds to it may determine if a team wins or loses a series.
I was reminded of that with another playoff series against the Dodgers. Both times the Mets played the Dodgers, one of their starting pitchers was injured.
In 1988, Bobby Ojeda suffered a potentially career ending injury on the same day the Mets clinched at least a tie atop the NL East. It threw the Mets postseason rotation off kilter. Dwight Gooden started Games 1 and 4 (on three day’s rest). He wouldn’t make another start in the series.
I still don’t know what Davey Johnson was thinking. The Mets had a 2-1 series lead. They already won a game in which Orel Hershiser started. Johnson unnecessarily went to Gooden on three days rest, and then he left him in too long. Even more baffling is the fact that Johnson went to Sid Fernandez in Game 5 with the series tied 2-2.
Honestly, I don’t think Johnson doesn’t make a ponderous decision like this if Ojeda was able to pitch. Ojeda was 2-0 in the 1986 postseason. He stabilized things in Game 3, and he gave the Mets a chance in Game 6. Johnson doesn’t skip his start in 1988, and the Mets probably don’t blow that series.
Eighteen years later, the Mets again found themselves facing the Dodgers in the playoffs. Again, a key starting pitcher went down. Two days before the NLDS, El Duque, the scheduled Game 1 starter, went down with a torn calf muscle. Keep in mind, he was the second choice after Pedro Martinez suffered a rotator cuff injury.
Willie Randolph gave the ball to John Maine. Maine lasted 4.1 innings before hitting trouble. Randolph quickly turned to his incredible bullpen who brought it home. The Mets responded better to the problem in 2006, and they won the series.
It’s possible the Mets have already been presented with their Ojeda-El Duque dilemma with Steven Matz. Matz slept on a sofa, and he injured his back. The Mets now have a critical decision to make, especially with Matz having a successful simulated game. If he responds well, he may be on the roster. If not, it will be Sean Gilmartin.
Whomever the Mets choose, history shows it’s not who you pick that’s important. It’s how you respond to the crisis that’s important. Fortunately, this is one of Terry Collins’ strengths. Hopefully, there won’t be any more surprises.
Lets Go Mets!
Did you ever hear of the saying, the more things change the more they stay the same? The saying drives me absolutely nuts. Inherently, something that is static cannot also be idle at the same time. However, for the first time I am starting to understand this saying.
I believe this season is starting to resemble 2005. Sure there was some optimism before that season with the signings of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. This was also going to be the first full season David Wright and Jose Reyes were going to play together. That team also had some holes: Doug Mientkiewicz had a great glove but not the bat to play 1B, Kaz Matsui was being shifted to play 2B after he showed he couldn’t play SS the prior year, and let’s not forget the closer was Braden Looper in a largely ineffective bullpen. However, I don’t know of anyone that expected the Mets to realistically make the playoffs that year.
At that point, the Mets fans were suffering. In 2001, the Mets rallied around the city, but they fell short of making the playoffs in an otherwise disappointing season. In 2002, we watched Steve Phillips attempt to recreate the team as an offensive juggernaut with the likes of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno. This lead to three years of just bad baseball. Now, the Mets fans were clamoring for a move to be made. We wanted to see Piazza go out on his last year with the Mets with a winner. At the Trading Deadline, the Mets found themselves only 4 games out of the Wild Card.
However, Omar Minaya stayed the course. The Mets made no trades. He kept his bullets for the offseason. If you recall, that was a magical offseason with the additions of Paul LoDuca, Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Xavier Nady, Endy Chavez, Julio Franco, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, John Maine, Jorge Julio (was was then traded in season for El Duque), Darren Oliver, and Billy Wagner. Omar showing restraint permitted the Mets to build that great 2006 team the fans loved.
Now, Mets fans have been suffering longer than they were in 2005, and they are begging for just one bat (which I don’t think will do the trick). While Mets fans were disappointed in 2005, I don’t remember them being a distraught as they are now. I think the difference is trust. We trusted that ownership and Omar would spend the money to get the players that were needed. In fact, they just come off of a spending spree that netted Pedro and Beltran. Now, fans don’t trust that ownership will spend the money. I believe this is the trust gap that is the biggest sense of frustration with this team.
It’s a shame too because I remember 2005 being a fun season. So far, I think 2015 has been gut-wrenching with all the tight, low-scoring games. My only hope is that if the Mets don’t make a move now, they have a plan for what can be realistically accomplished this summer. There will be LF available who can really help the team in the short term, but the market is scarce on middle infielders. My fingers are crossed. I want to be able to go to a playoff game with my father and son.