John Olerud

October 17 A Special Day For Mets

When you look at particular days on the calendar, some have more meaning than others. There is your wedding anniversary and your children’s birthdays. Of course, there is Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July. For the Mets, they have October 17.

In 1969, this would be the day after Jerry Koosman‘s complete game in Game 5 of the World Series. This would be the first ever full day the Mets would be reigning World Series Champions.

As amazing as that was, thirty years later, the Mets would play in another epic Game 5. The Mets trailed the Braves 3-0 in the NLCS. There would be a Game 5 because John Olerud hit a two RBI single off John Rocker in the bottom of the eighth. The thrill of that victory was nothing compared to Game 5.

That Game 5 was an epic 15 inning game which was the longest postseason game in Major League history. You heart was in your throats for each and every inning. That was all the more the case when Melvin Mora threw out Keith Lockhart in the 13th. Lockhart would get the Mets back with an RBI triple in the 15th.

The Mets came back in a rally started with a simply great 12 pitch at-bat by Shawon Dunston. In a game with a series of unlikely events, Edgardo Alfonzo laid down a sacrifice bunt leading to the Braves loading the bases. Todd Pratt drew a game tying RBI walk before Robin Ventura hit the most famous single in baseball history:

This still stands as one of the greatest moments in Mets history, and it is one of the biggest moments in postseason history.

Sixteen years later, Matt Harvey would pitch in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cubs. It was a game which featured it all.

Daniel Murphy continued his postseason heroics with a first inning homer off Jon Lester. Yoenis Cespedes would throw a runner out at the plate. Travis d’Arnaud would actually hit the Home Run Apple. Through it all, Harvey struck out nine through 7.2 innings before Jeurys Familia slammed the door shut.

Sure, there are some down moments on this date just like you have had a bad birthday or two. However, through it all, this date has had some magic to it. Certainly, that’s what it felt like in 1999 and 2015 – pure magic.

Maybe, just maybe, we will see this day have some magic in 2020 with Jacob deGrom pitching and a beloved Mets player like Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, or Jeff McNeil getting a huge hit. With this being the Mets, you never know.

 

Trivia Friday: Mets Best Defenders

Last year, the Mets were the second worst defensive team in the National League with a combined -77 DRS. So far, the Mets ate the worst defensive team in the National League with a -22 DRS.

The biggest culprits are Amed Rosario (worst SS in the NL by DRS) and J.D. Davis (worst infielder in baseball). This is a far cry of the days John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura, and Rey Ordonez made up the best infield in history.

What we don’t know is what their DRS would’ve been. The reason is DRS came widely available in 2003. Can you name the Mets best defensive players at each position since then? Good luck!


Tom Glavine Kevin Plawecki Daniel Murphy Jose Valentin Chris Woodward Endy Chavez Juan Lagares Jeff Francoeur

Mets Blogger Roundtable: The Mets Who Got Away

With Jacob deGrom receiving his contract extension, it appears he is going to be a Mets pitcher during his prime, and it sets the stage for him to join David Wright and Ed Kranepool as Mets for life. With that being the bulk of the list, there is a host of Mets players who got away. The most famous of which was Tom Seaver who headlined the Midnight Massacre. Putting Seaver aside, the Mets bloggers discussed those players who got away:

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

Honestly in recent memory John Olerud comes to mind. He had one of the best pure swings I can remember. Other than that I guess you have to bring up Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner, but who saw those coming?

Michael Baron

Daniel Murphy is the most recent Met to have gotten away. And, I’ve heard there are people in the front office who would like a mulligan on that one as well. Having him in 2016 and 2017 would’ve been huge, and not having him kill the Mets in DC would have been huge too.

Allison McCague (Amazin’ Avenue)

To me the most egregious example of a Met getting away is Justin Turner, simply by virtue of how little it would have cost to keep him. Of course, it was impossible to know that he would put up the numbers he did after leaving the Mets, but unlike the Murphy situation where it was a choice not to sign the player as a free agent, they non-tendered a perfectly serviceable utility man just because they didn’t want to pay him and trashed his character on the way out for good measure. I think a dark horse candidate in this conversation, however, would be Collin McHugh, who changed his approach after joining the Astros by throwing his fastball less often and his off-speed pitches more often to much greater success than he ever had as a Met. And now he remains a key piece in the Astros bullpen as they head into another season where they will likely make a push for the postseason.

Michael Baron

I’ll give you Justin Turner for sure. What irks me is he’s a good guy and even in the form he was in when he was here, was a valuable piece for the solution. That he evolved thanks to the tutelage of Marlon Byrd while he was here makes it even worse, since this version of Justin Turner would‘ve unquestionably transformed the Mets.

Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)

Darren O’Day … just because we lost the Rule 5 pick because Omar Minaya didn’t want to put Mike Pelfrey on the disabled list. That still triggers me.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

Joe Hietpas! Got to take the field, but then left without ever getting to bat…he’s Moonlight Graham!

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

Olerud; he was a far superior player to Todd Zeile. Just look at his seasons 2000-02; think he would have helped? In my opinion, if Mets have Olerud, they win 2000 World Series. My God, remember the Zeile farewell tour? Infamnia!

Tim Ryder (MMO)

I’m gonna hesitantly go with Melvin Mora. The guy he got traded away for, Mike Bordick, was a fine pickup and helped that 2000 team get over the hump, no doubt. But Mora went on to have a solid little career and Bordick was back in Baltimore via free agency the following season.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

The Mets let 18-year-old Paul Blair go to the Orioles in the minor league draft of 1962. Blair played 18 seasons in the majors, winning eight Gold Gloves as the premier AL center fielder of his generation.

Then again, had the Mets kept Blair, they wouldn’t have needed to trade for Tommie Agee prior to 1968, and Agee robbed Blair in the 1969 Series, so all’s well that ended well, perhaps.

Pete McCarthy (OABT)

I thought Nolan Ryan was the only answer to this question, but there are some fun ones in here. Yay Mets!

Mark Healey

Far be it from me to disagree with you Pete but Ryan wanted out as much as the Mets were frustrated with him. It wasn’t so much that they traded Ryan and he became a Hall of Famer after it’s what they traded him for.

Metstradamus

Scott Kazmir would like a word.

Mets Daddy

There is always going to be a part of me who wonders what would have happened if the Mets kept Darryl Strawberry. He would have one good year in Los Angeles before everything fell apart for both him and the Mets. For those who forget, the Mets opted to replace him with Vince Coleman, who was detestable as a Met, and it lead to a series of poor decisions which built as bad and unlikable a Mets team as we have ever seen. For Strawberry, his personal problems were far worse than anything the Mets encountered.

Looking at everything, there are a number of mistakes like trading Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga, but that at least indirectly led to the team signing Robin Ventura. Murphy leaving transferred the balance of power back to the Nationals.

But overall, the one which comes to mind right now is Matt Harvey. For Harvey, it was more than trading him for Devin Mesoraco. It was everything. The 2013 version looked like future Hall of Fame. The 2015 version looked like a staff ace. The ramifications of that 2015 season were far reaching, and we never saw Harvey return, literally and figuratively.

Before you go away from this piece, please sure you click on the links and visit the sites of those who have taken their time to contribute to this roundtable.

Also, a very special congratulations to Pete McCarthy and his wife on the birth of their baby girl!

 

Meet The Mets Fan: JT Teran

The Mets Fan

Hey everyone! I’m JT Teran. I’m a former baseball writer at Rising Apple, and I currently own a hardwood flooring business in upstate New York.

How You Became a Mets Fan

After coming back to the US in 1999 at age 11, I started watching baseball with my uncle. While he’s a Yankee fan, he still taught me a lot about the game and would have me watch “the best first baseman in the game” John Olerud whenever I was over. I fell in love with the 99 squad and the subsequent heartbreak of the NLCS that year only cemented the fact that this would be the team I should root for.

Favorite Mets Player

My favorite Mets player of all-time is easily Carlos Beltran. His struggles in 2005 and incredible bounce-back season the following year was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen as a fan. Every time he came up to bat, you knew something special was going to happen. I think he became a favorite of mine after the NLCS that year. It was the worst seeing my favorite player strike out looking, but years later, I mainly just remember the awesome games I got to see him play in live those years.

Favorite Moment in Mets History

I unfortunately wasn’t alive in 1986, and while the World Series appearances in 2000 and 2015 were incredible, the best moment for me will still be Johan’s no-hitter. I was at the movies, and a friend of mine kept blowing up my phone with text messages that Johan Santana had a no-hitter in the seventh. I, of course, immediately left the theater and caught the last three innings on TV in a shady Ruby Tuesday’s bar. I still can’t believe he actually got it done.

Message to Mets Fans

The motto we all know, love, and sometimes shake our heads at: Ya Gotta Believe. This team has been incredibly frustrating to watch these last two seasons and with the Wilpons still at the helm, it may not look like there’s much hope for the future. Somehow, someway though, we all have to believe that the Mets will turn it around soon and will again give us the same amount of excitement we saw in 2015. BELIEVE.

Turning Off Wilpon Defender Mike Francesca

In 1997, the team had a surprising 88 win season with young players like Edgardo Alfonzo beginning to make his mark, accomplished players like John Olerud rejuvenating their careers, and players like Rick Reed seemingly coming out of nowhere to be good Major League players.  With a brash Bobby Valentine at the helm, many expected the Mets to make the leap in 1998.

As the 1998 season unfolded, it wasn’t to be, and that was mainly because their star catcher Todd Hundley had offseason elbow surgery which was going to keep him out for a while.

The Mets did start well.  On May 13th, the Mets were 19-15, albeit seven games back in the division.  Then, the following day, shockwaves went through Major League Baseball, and not just because the Mets were swept in a doubleheader by the Padres.  No, out of nowhere Mike Piazza was traded to the Florida Marlins.

It was an absolute blockbuster with Piazza and Todd Zeile going to the Marlins, who just dismantled the 1997 World Series winning team, for Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson, and Gary Sheffield.

Everyone in baseball knew the Marlins were looking to flip Piazza for prospects, and a talented Mets farm system seemed to make them one of the favorites if they were interested.  Problem was, they weren’t interested.

After this trade happened, the Mets would fall to nine games out in the division.  While this was happening, Mike and the Mad Dog would take to the air day-in and day-out clamoring for the Mets to go out and get Piazza.  Their assault was relentless.

Finally, on May 22nd, the Mets would acquire Piazza from the Marlins for Preston Wilson, Geoff Goetz, and Ed Yarnall.  To hear Francesca tell it, he played a key role in that happening:

While a noted blowhard, you can never discount how public pressure forces teams to act.  After all if we look back to 2015, with all that happened, we did see the Mets swing a trade to obtain Yoenis Cespedes.  The public pressure continued in the ensuring offseason with the team, who had already moved on from Cespedes by signing Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center, acquiescing and signing Cespedes to what was essentially a one year deal.

The team didn’t let things play out after the 2016 season.  They jumped fairly quickly, and they signed Cespedes to a four year deal even with full knowledge of his heel issues.  Certainly, much of this was the result of the public pressure, which was given a voice on New York airwaves by people like Francesca.

Now?  Well, Francesca has gone from being an important voice to being a mouthpiece for the Wilpons.

He is now defending the Wilpons saying they are spending money.  He notes how the team has the seventh highest payroll in the majors.  That is patently false.  Cots, Spotrac and Steve the Ump ranks the Mets payroll 12th. Really, everyone ranks the Mets payroll 12th.

The AP ranked the Yankees, not the Mets as having the seventh highest payroll.  Maybe, Francesca read New York and was confused.

Putting the ranking aside, lost in that is the Mets recover 75% of David Wright‘s salary, which, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Jeff Wilpon has admitted does not get reinvested into baseball operations.  That means the Mets payroll is actually $15 million less than advertised.

Dropping the Mets payroll by $15 million, the Mets payroll drops to 15th in the majors.  With the $3 million saved in the Jeurys Familia trade, the payroll drops to 16th.  Yes, a New York market team, who is currently  refusing to give Jacob deGrom, currently the best starter in baseball, a contract extension, is in the bottom half of the league in spending.

For his part, Francesca defends this.  He will say the Mets spend, but they don’t spend well.  Nothing backs this up remotely.  Nothing.

Instead of pointing the finger where it belongs, the Wilpons, he will continue to bash Mickey Callaway as if he is the scourge of the Mets organization.  He will look at all the surrounds the Mets and mock them while failing to even consider pointing the blame at ownership.

And for all that, I’ve stopped listening to him.  After over 30 years of listening to him, I’m done.  And I suspect I will not be the only Mets fan who feels this way.

Meet The Mets Fan: Josh Eppard

The Mets Fan

I’m Josh Eppard. Musician. Wayward lost youth who figured it out at the very last second. I play drums in Coheed and Cambria, a nerd rock band and I have six rap records out. Seriously. Haha.

How You Became a Mets Fan

I’ve asked myself this question many times. How DID I become a Mets fan??? Well, the answer is . . . I don’t flipping know. To me, it feels like one of those things that just is. Like time. When did time become time? It is man made after all. For me, that’s the Mets. It just feels like it’s always been. My first Met memories though are of being 4/5 years old and me and my brother rubbing this little sculpture in our living room to give Darryl Strawberry “Homerun Power!”

Favorite Mets Player

To pick just one would be crazy. But, ugh Jesus… I have the weirdest players I connect with. Jose Vizcaino was def one, Lance Johnson was my fav player, while with the Mets, certainly John Olerud…. if I had to pick ONE Met that resides above all other Mets . . . FonziePiazza…. it’s tough to pick ONE. All of the above! And Al Leiter. Leiter and Bobby Jones and Rick Reed… haha I could go on forever.

Favorite Moment in Mets HistoryBefore 2015 is have to say Pratt’s HR in the post season. Maybe the 99 play in game vs the reds. That ’99 team was my fav Mets team. Ever. But 2015 was magical. It was a shame we couldn’t guide it home all the way. But that year, we should all be thankful for that magic year.

Message to Mets Fans

Don’t Jump. All things ebb and flow and things will get better. Or worse. Idk. We are in this together though.

Meet The Mets Fan: Derek Carty

The Mets Fan

My name is Derek Carty. I’m the former fantasy manager for sabermetric sites Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times (now part of FanGraphs), but I’m best known these days for my work in Daily Fantasy. I write for ESPN, was on Baseball Tonight during the 2015 season, and put out content through RotoGrinders, including my DFS projection system THE BAT, which has been shown to outperform even Vegas lines.

How You Became a Mets Fan

I’ve been a Mets fan since I was a kid. The crazy-good infield of John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordonez, and Robin Ventura was what I grew up with. I’ve become more jaded over the years…

Favorite Mets Player

Mike Piazza, and it’s not close. Everyone agrees he’s the best hitting catcher of all time, but he was an incredibly underrated defender that got shafted because of the era he played in. He had a bad arm, and that’s all anyone ever focused on back then. But a catcher’s arm is much less important than his framing, and Baseball Prospectus’s retro framing stats show that he was +60 runs above average for his career. He gave some back with the arm, but for his career he was actually a well above-average defender, despite a reputation as a bad one. This is the greatest catcher of all time. Not the greatest hitting catcher. The greatest catcher. Not getting into the Hall on the first ballot was an absolute joke.

Favorite Moment in Met History

2000 NLCS Game 5. I remember listening to “Who Let the Mets Out” on repeat lol.

Message to Mets Fans

“Try not to cry”? That’s been my motto. The way they handled the trade deadline (specifically Lucas Duda and Jay Bruce) was terrible, the Bruce deal this off-season was bad, the way they’ve handled their pitchers has been bad. Seriously, what were they thinking with Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz last year? I really want to be optimistic, but it’s tough. There is *some* reason for it. I like the Todd Frazier deal. I like that they are trying to fix the training staff. I think the A-Gon deal is an okay low-risk move. But as long as the Wilpons are in charge, I have a hard time seeing this organization ever really turning a corner. I have them projected for 84 wins this year, which is solid and could put them in contention for the Second Wild Card, but that’s assuming relatively good health. A team in a market like NYC needs to be better, even if they have to tear it all down first.

Leiter, New Jersey Hall of Famer, Among Forgotten Group of Mets Not in Mets Hall of Fame

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.

Edgardo Alfonzo is the best middle infielder in Mets history, and he was a key player on a Mets team that went to consecutive postseasons for the first time in team history.

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.

 

Put Bobby Valentine in the Mets Hall of Fame

It has been almost 15 years since Bobby Valentine has managed the Mets, and because of how history works, the enduring image we have of Bobby V is the time he came back into the dugout with sunglasses and a fake mustache made with eye back after he had been thrown out of a game.  Bobby V was much more than that.

After a disappointing player career that included two forgettable seasons with the Mets, Valentine became a coach.  In 1983, he was named the third base coach for the George Bamberger led Mets.  Despite Bamberger not lasting the season, and General Manager Frank Cashen cleaning house, the Mets decided to keep Valentine when Davey Johnson was hired.  From 1983 – 1985, Valentine was generally regarded as a very good third base coach, who helped in the development of a young Mets team from cellar dwellers to contenders.  He would be hired as the Texas Rangers manager, and he would miss all of the 1986 season. 

After his stint in Texas, a brief stop in Norfolk, and one in Japan, the Mets brought Bobby V back to the organization for the 1996 season.  Initially, he was named as the manager of the Tides.   However, after Dallas Green had finally run through all of the young arms on the team, Valentine was named the interim manager for the final 31 games of the season.  In the offseason, the interim tag would be removed, and he would start the 1997 season as the Mets manager.

The 1997 Mets were THE surprise team in all of baseball.  Despite a starting rotation that was comprised of Rick Reed, Dave Mlicki, Bobby Jones, Mark Clark, Brian Bohanon, and Armando Reynoso, the Mets would go from a 71 win team to an 88 win team.  Now, there were good seasons for the turnaround.  There was the acquisition of John Olerud.  There was also another strong season from Lance Johnson, and Todd Hundley proved his record setting 41 home run 1996 season was no fluke.  However, there were other factors at play, and they were directly related to the manger.

First, Edgardo Alfonzo was made the everyday third baseman instead of the utility player he was under Green.  Also, while Reed had started the season coming out of the bullpen, Bobby V moved him into the rotation.  Additionally, whereas Green’s calling card was to abuse his starters’ arms, Valentine protected his starters’ arms (his starters averaged six innings per start and less), and he used the bullpen to his advantage.  On a more subjective note, this was a team that played harder and was more sound fundamentally.  It was a team that probably played over their heads for much of the season.

One important note from this season, Mlicki threw a complete game shut-out against the Yankees in the first ever Subway Series game.  While the Mets were overmatched in terms of talent in that three game series, Bobby V had that group ready to play, and they very nearly took the three game set from the Yankees.

With the Mets having overachieved, the front office led by General Manager Steve Phillips gave his manager some reinforcements.  The team would acquire Al Leiter and Dennis Cook from the Marlins.  The Mets would also add Japanese pitcher Masato Yoshii from Japan.  However, this team was struggling due to Hundley’s elbow injury and Bernard Gilkey and Carlos Baerga having yet another disappointing season.  Bobby V and the Mets kept the team above .500 and competitive long enough to allow the front office to make the bold move to add Mike Piazza.

From there, the Mets took off, and they would actually be in the thick of the Wild Card race.  They were in it despite the Hundley LF experiment not working.  They were in it despite getting nothing offensively from left field and their middle infield.  They were in it despite the fact the Mets effectively had a three man bullpen.  The latter (I’m looking at you Mel Rojas) coupled with the Braves dominance of the Mets led to a late season collapse and the team barely missing out on the Wild Card.

The Mets re-loaded in 1999 with Rickey Henderson, Robin Ventura, Roger Cedeno, Armando Benitez, and Orel Hershiser (no, Bobby Bonilla is not getting lumped in here).  Things do not initially go as planned.  After blowing a late lead, the Yankees beat the Mets, and the Mets found themselves a game under .500.  Phillips responded by firing almost all of Bobby V’s coaching staff.

The Mets and Bobby V responded by becoming the hottest team in baseball.  From that point forward, the Mets were 70-37.  At points during the season, they even held onto first place for a few days.  The Mets were helped by Bobby V being judicious with Henderson’s playing time to help keep him fresh.  Like in year’s past, Bobby V moved on from a veteran not performing to give Cedeno a chance to play everyday, and he was rewarded.  Again, like in previous seasons, Bobby V had to handle a less than stellar starting rotation.

In what was a fun and tumultuous season, the Mets won 97 games.  The team nearly avoided disaster again by forcing a one game playoff against the Reds for the Wild Card.  Not only did the Mets take that game, but they upset the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.  The NLDS performance is all the more impressive when you consider Piazza was forced to miss the last two games due to injury.  In the NLCS, they just met a Braves team that had their number for the past three seasons.  Still, even with the Braves jumping all over the Mets and getting a 3-0 series lead, we saw the Mets fight back.

In Game 4, it was an eighth inning two run go-ahead Olerud RBI single off John Rocker.  In Game 5, it was a 15 inning game that was waiting for the other team to blink first.  While, the Mets blinked in the top of the 15th with a Keith Lockhart RBI triple, the Mets responded in the bottom of the 15th with Ventura’s Grand Slam single to send the series back to Atlanta.  The Mets would be ever so close in Game 6.  They fought back from a 5-0 and 7-3 deficit.  Unforutnately, neither John Franco nor Benitez could hold a lead to force a Game 7.  Then Kenny Rogers couldn’t navigate his way around a lead-off double and bases loaded one out situation in the 11th.

In 2000, Bobby V finally got the rotation he needed with the trade acquiring Mike Hampton and the emergence of Glendon Rusch.  However, even with the much improved rotation, it still was not an easy year for the Mets.  It rarely ever was during Bobby V’s tenure.

First, the Mets had to deal with the Henderson and Darryl Hamilton situations.  Henderson became a malcontent that wanted a new contract.  Hamilton lost his starting job due to a toe injury and had become a part time player.  The result was the complete transformation of the outfield with Benny Agbayani and Jay Payton becoming everyday players.  In the infield, the Mets lost Olerud to free agency and had to convert free agent third baseman Todd Zeile into a first baseman.  Additionally, the Mets lost Gold Glove shortstop Rey Ordonez to injury leading the team to have to rely on Melvin Mora as their shortstop for much of the season.  In what was perhaps Bobby V’s finest managing job with the Mets, the team made the postseason for the second straight year.  It was the first time in Mets history they had gone to consecutive playoff games.

In the postseason, the team showed the same toughness and grit as they had in prior years.  In the first game of the NLDS, they overcame an injury to Derek Bell and saw Timo Perez become a folk hero.  The Mets outlasted the Giants in Game 2 despite a Benitez blown save.  In Game 3, Agbayani hit a walk-off homer in the 13th, and Game 4 saw the Jones one-hitter.  With the Mets not having to face the Braves in the NLCS, they steamrolled through the Cardinals en route to their first World Series since 1986.  While the team never gave in, the balls did not bounce in their favor.  That was no more apparent than when Zeile’s fly ball hit the top of the left field wall and bounced back into play.

From there, Phillips lost his magic touch.  The team started to get old in 2001, and by 2002, everything fell apart.  After what was his first season under .500 with the Mets, Bobby V was fired after the 2002 season.  With one exception, it was the end of a forgettable and disappointing two seasons for the Mets.

One thing that cannot be lost with the 2001 season was how the Mets dealt with the aftermath of 9/11.  Every player did their part.  So did their manager.  After 9/11 happened, Bobby V was a visible face of the Mets franchise visiting firehouses and helping relief aid at Shea Stadium.  When it was time to return to playing games, he was able to get his players in a mindset to play baseball games.  That is no small feat when your captain was a local guy who lost a friend on 9/11.  Also, while it was the players who spearheaded wearing the First Responders’ caps, it was their manager who stood by their side and encouraged them to wear them despite requests to take them off from the Commissioner’s Office.

Through the roller coaster ride that was the 1,003 games of the Bobby V Era, the Mets were 536-437.  During that span, Bobby V managed the second most games in Mets history while earning the second most wins in Mets history.  His .534 winning percentage is the third best in Mets history just behind Johnson and Willie Randolph.  In all but his final season as Mets manager, the Mets either met or exceed their expected (Pythagorean) record.

Bobby V stands as just one of two managers to go to consecutive postseasons.  His 13 postseason wins are the most by any manager in Mets history.  He’s the only Mets manager to win a postseason series in consecutive postseasons.  He’s managed in more postseason series than any other Mets manager.

Overall, Bobby V is an important part of Mets history.  Out of all the managers in Mets history, it is fair to say the Bobby V consistently did more with the talent given to him by his front office.  For some, he is the best manager in Mets history.  Most will certainly agree he is at least the third best manager in Mets history.  For all of this, and how he represented the Mets organization during 9/11 and the aftermath, Bobby V should be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

 

Changing My Mind on Fred McGriff

Overall, I have decided to vote for Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker on my IBWAA ballot.  If they were up for IBWAA vote, I would have also voted for Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell while not voting for Edgar Martinez.  In looking at Kent, Mussina, and Walker, I went back over their careers, and I re-assessed whether or not I should vote for them.  Ultimately, I did.  I did the same with players I did not vote for, and as a result, I added one to my ballot:

Fred McGriff, 1B

Stats: 19 seasons, .284/.377/.509, 2,490 H, 441 2B, 24 3B, 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, 38 SB

Advanced: 52.4 WAR, 35.8 WAR7, 44.1 JAWS

Awards: 3X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star

During Hall of Fame voting, many times you will hear about a player being a compiler.  There are two ways you can define compiler: (1) someone who put up a number of counting stats over a very good but not great long career; or (2) Fred McGriff.

Arguably, McGriff was never a truly great player.  In fact, from a WAR perspective, he only had three seasons that you would rate him at superstar or MVP level.    If you take out the partial seasons he played in his first and last year, McGriff averaged a 3.1 WAR.  Basically, this means for most of McGriff’s career, he was a very good, but not quite All Star caliber player.  In that sense, his five All Star appearances seem right on the money.

Like Guerrero.  McGriff’s advanced statistics were held down by his perceived poor base running and defense.  Certainly, McGriff was no Keith Hernandez out there.  In fact, despite his appearance on the Tom Emanski videos, McGriff was not a particularly good first baseman.  Certainly, his .992 fielding percentage was nothing special as far as first baseman go.  It goes a long way in explaining why McGriff had a -18.1 dWAR in his career.  With that said, I am not sure how reliable that -18.1 figure is.

One of McGriff’s contemporaries at first base was the man who replaced him at first base in Toronto – John Olerud.  In Olerud’s playing days, he was considered a very good first baseman who won four Gold Gloves, and in reality, probably should have won more.  That notion has been reinforced by some advanced metrics.  For his career, Olerud’s dWAR was -2.

When reputation and advanced metrics agree a players is a good defensive player at his position, and dWAR completely disagrees, it gives you pause as to whether the calculation is entirely correct.  Assuming McGriff was only half as bad as dWAR suggested, his career WAR would increase to 61.5, which would leave him only 4.4 WAR short of what the average Hall of Famer was.  In fact, you could conclude McGriff was a poor first baseman that merited a negative dWAR and still have him reach the average WAR for a first baseman.

Despite all this hand wringing, the fact remains McGriff probably falls short of being a Hall of Famer due to his defense, and yes, defense matters.  With that said, there are two other factors which give McGriff the benefit of the doubt.

First, McGriff was a money player that was typically at his best when there was a lot at stake.  Using the baseline of his .284/.377/.509 career slash line, here are McGriff’s stats in big situations:

  • RISP: .277/.403/.479
  • RISP, two outs: .241/.399/.421
  • High Leverage: .290/.385/.500

Typically speaking, McGriff was at a minimum slightly better in pressure situations.

Another example of how good McGriff was in pressure situations was the 1993 season.  At the time the Braves acquired McGriff, the Braves trailed the San Francisco Giants by nine games in the National League West Standings.  Over the final 68 games of the season, McGriff would hit an astounding .310/.392/.612 with 19 homers and 55 RBI.  Essentially, McGriff was Yoenis Cespedes before Cespedes was Cespedes.  The Braves needed each and every single one of those homers as they finished one game ahead of the Giants in the standings.

Granted, that was just one season.  However, McGriff’s clutch hitting was also evident in the postseason.  In 50 postseason games, McGriff was a .303/.385/.532 hitter with 10 homers and 37 RBI.  His clutch postseason hitting helped the Braves win their only World Series with the vaunted Greg MadduxTom GlavineJohn Smoltz rotation.  In the 1995 postseason, McGriff hit .333/.415/.649 with four homers and nine RBI.

Overall, his postseason play combined with the question marks surrounding the defensive statistics that push his WAR outside Hall of Fame averages is enough for him to get my vote even if it is my the narrowest or margins.

There is one other small factor at play.  Anyone who saw McGriff towards the end of his career knew he was sticking around to try to get to 500 homers.  At the time, 500 homers was a golden benchmark which led to almost automatic Hall of Fame induction.  Well, McGriff didn’t get there as he fell seven home runs short.  He fell seven home runs short because he began his career in a de facto platoon with Cecil Fielder.  He fell seven home runs short because of the 1994 strike.   He fell seven home runs short because there were pitchers juicing while he wasn’t.  He fell seven home runs short because he was washed up at age 40.  Ultimately, he fell seven home runs short because he just wasn’t good enough to get those seven home runs.

Do you know where he would rank on the all-time home run list with those seven extra home runs?  11th.  Do you know where he currently stands on the list?  11th.  Ultimately, seven home runs over the course of a 19 year career is about one-third of a home run per season.  One-third of a home run per season doesn’t amount to much.  If that is the case, seven home runs should not be the line of demarcation between him being a Hall of Famer and him not garnering much support.

With or without the seven home runs, you can justify voting for McGriff who had a good career for almost all of his 19 seasons.  He has certainly done enough to justify being inducted into Cooperstown.