John Olerud

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.

 

Bobby Valentine’s Second Greatest Achievement

Recent reports indicate that President Elect Donald Trump is considering Bobby Valentine as the United States Ambassador to Japan.  If Valentine is indeed selected as the Ambassador to Japan, it would be his second biggest accomplishment.  Naturally, his biggest accomplishment was leading the 2000 Mets not only to the postseason, but to the National League Pennant.

As luck would have it, the New York Mets would begin the season in Japan.  Valentine’s Opening Day outfield was Rickey HendersonDarryl HamiltonDerek Bell.  Of that group, only Bell would play in a postseason game for the Mets, and he would be injured in Game One of the NLDS.  Henderson would prove to be a malcontent that wanted a new contract, and ultimately, he would be released in May.  Hamilton would lose his job in April after suffering a toe injury.  This led to the Mets outfield being Benny AgbayaniJay Payton-Bell for most of the season.

The one thing Agbayani could do was hit.  In 2000, he hit .289/.391/.477 with 15 homers and 60 RBI in 119 games.  However, he was a terrible fielder who did this in the field during a game that season:

 

For his part, Payton was one of the heralded players out of Georgia Tech that included Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra.  While Payton was once considered on par with them, if not better.  As a prospect, Payton’s star would diminish a bit, but he would still become a major league player.  In his 2000 rookie season, Payton relatively struggled at the plate hitting .291/.331/.447 with 17 homers and 62 RBI in 149 games.

There was more than that.  Valentine also had to help make Todd Zeile an effective first baseman after he spent most of his career as a third baseman.  Zeile was of course signed to replace John Olerud, who departed in free agency.  While Zeile had a nice season hitting .268/.356/.467 with 22 homers and 79 RBI, his production fell far short of Olerud’s .298/.427/.463, 19 homer run, 96 RBI season.  When you consider the drop off defensively from the Gold Glover Olerud to the quickly adapting Zeile, the team was noticeably worse at first base.

The team was also worse at shortstop.  While Rey Ordonez never hit for much, he was a Gold Glover at shortstop.  The Mets would miss that defense after he broke his left arm trying to get a tag down in May.  This led to the Mets trying to get by with Melvin Mora at shortstop, who struggled at the plate and in the field.  This led to the ill advised trade for Mike Bordick who would hit .260/.321/.365 in his 56 games as a Met.

In reality, this was all part of a Mets team that was considerably weaker than the 1999 version.  Pat Mahomes was nowhere near as good as he was in 1999.  In place of well established veterans like Orel Hershiser and Kenny Rogers in the rotation, the Mets had Glendon Rusch and the return of Bobby Jones.  However, it should be noted the rotation was one area the Mets were better.

Whereas the 1999 Mets were an offensive juggernaut with a strong bullpen, the 2000 Mets were built on starting pitching.  Al Leiter had an improved season making him 1A behind the ace the Mets acquired in the offseason, Mike Hampton.  With Rusch and Jones outperforming their expectations, and quite possibly what their rotation counterparts did in 1999, the rotation was one area the Mets were improved.

The rotation along with two terrific players in Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo, Valentine was able to lead the Mets to the World Series.  Valentine was able to do that despite a diminished offense, vastly diminished defense, an overall less talented roster, and some drama (which usually follows Valentine wherever he goes).  It was a team that outperformed their Pythagorean win-loss record by six games.  It was a team that outperformed expectations.

Making it to the 2000 World Series should be considered Valentine’s biggest accomplishment.  That Mets team really had no business making it to the postseason let alone the World Series.  It is why that should stand as Valentine’s biggest accomplishment even if he were to be named as President Trump’s choice to be the Ambassador to Japan.

Mets Don’t Go Back to the Future

With the addition of John Olerud and the emergence of Rick Reed, the 1997 Mets made a tremendous leap forward going 88-74 to be a factor in the Wild Card race.  However, they would eventually lose out to a Florida Marlins team that was literally built to win the World Series that one season.

After that season, the Marlins disbanded because, as we were first learning out, that’s what the Marlins do when they win.  The Mets were one of the main beneficiaries of the the offseason sell-off with them obtaining Al Leiter and Dennis Cook.  Then the real boon came when the Marlins had swung a deal with the Dodgers to obtain Mike Piazza to unload a bunch of big contracts.  With the Mets struggling, due in large part to Todd Hundley‘s elbow injury, the Mets moved quickly and added Piazza.  With a week left in the season, the Mets won to go to 88-68.  All the Mets needed to do in the final week of the season was to win one more game to at least force a playoff with the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs for the Wild Card.  They didn’t.  Once again, finishing the year 88-74 was not good enough for the Wild Card.

Entering the final game of the 2016 season, with the Mets having already clinched the Wild Card, the Mets needed just one more win to finish the year at 88-74.

There was a version of me 20 years younger that wanted to see the Mets get that win to erase some of the bad feelings that an 88-74 record created.  It was going to be a difficult task because the Mets objective wasn’t to win this game.  The sole objective was to just get through it with everybody healthy so as not to compromise the team for the winner-take-all Wild Card Game this Wednesday at Citi Field.

For starters, it was Gabriel Ynoa who took the mound instead of Noah Syndergaard. Terry Collins would also give an at-bat a piece to Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis CespedesJay Bruce would get two.  T.J. Rivera, Jose Reyes, Rene Rivera, and Travis d’Arnaud would not play.  This was a full-on keep people fresh and don’t get anyone injured operation.

Ynoa would acquit himself well even if he couldn’t go five.  He would only throw 52 pitches in 4.2 innings allowing five hits, one run, one earned, and one walk with two strikeouts.  Collins would lift him for Jerry Blevins, who is probably the one Mets reliever who could’ve used some work, to get out of the fifth.  At that point, the Phillies were only up 1-0 on a third inning Maikel Franco RBI single.

The Mets would eventually go ahead in this game making the 88-74 season a reality.  In the sixth, Matt Reynolds doubled, and he would score on an Alejandro De Aza RBI singles.  In the seventh, Kelly Johnson hit a leadoff single, and he would score on a Kevin Plawecki two out RBI double.

The lead would not last long as the Phillies went to work against Erik Goeddel in the bottom of the seventh.  After an Andres Blanco single, an Aaron Altherr walk, and a Lucas Duda throwing error, the Phillies loaded the bases with no outs.  Cesar Hernandez brought home the first two runs on an RBI single, and then Jimmy Paredes knocked in the third run of the inning with a sacrifice fly.  That Paerdes sacrifice fly was an extra base hit if anyone other than Juan Lagares was manning center field.  Lagares once again reminded everyone that he is the best fielding center fielder in baseball, and that if he can at least manage one at-bat per game, he needs to be on the postseason roster.

The Phillies then added a run in the eighth off Jim Henderson to make the game 5-2.  That would be the final score of a game where both teams reached their primary objective.  The Phillies were able to provide a fitting send-off for Ryan Howard removing him from the game in the eighth so he could leave to a standing ovation.  The Mets just got through the game without suffering any injuries, and also got much needed reps for Duda and Lagares.

The Mets weren’t able to get that final win to erase the angst of the past when 88 wins just wasn’t good enough for the postseason.  Ironically, 87 was good enough this year.  With those 87 wins, the Mets put the capper on a mostly frustrating season.  However, in the end, they were able to go to make consecutive postseason appearances for only the second time in their history.  When viewed through that prism, this was a successful and enjoyable season.

Who To Trade?

Last year, the Mets parted with number of pitching prospects in a drive to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2006.  Over the course of this past year, we have seen some of them actually pitching in the major leagues:

  • In 16 starts for the Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer is 9-2 with a 2.50 ERA and a 1.089 WHIP.  He is the leading candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year Award, and he should receive some Cy Young Award votes at the end of the season.
  • The Tigers traded Luis Cessa in the offseason to the New York Yankees.  Cessa has pitched briefly out of the bullpen for the Yankees this year.  In his six appearances, he has pitched 13.2 innings going 1-0 with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.244 WHIP.
  • The Atlanta Braves do not seem quite sure what to make of John Gant and his quirky delivery, but they seem to be convinced he’s a major league caliber pitcher.  Out of the bullpen, Gant has made seven appearances with no record, a 6.17 ERA, and a 1.714 WHIP.  As a starter, Gant has performed considerably better going 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.179 WHIP.

As we know, the Mets got Yoenis Cespedes for Fulmer and Cessa.  Gant was part of a trade that netted the Mets Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  The Mets also made trades of varying success to obtain Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, and Eric O’Flaherty.  Overall, the Mets gave up valuable pieces to obtain major league players that helped them win the National League Pennant.

As of right now, the Mets are in a similar situation to where they were last season.  They need to assess what they need (starter, reliever, and right handed bat off the bench) and what they are willing to trade to obtain those pieces.  Sooner or later, the right player is going to come along, and the Mets are going to have to decide whether to trade next year’s Fulmer for this year’s Cespedes.  The issue becomes who do you and who do you not trade.  Here is a look at the Mets top prospects teams are sure to be inquiring about.

Amed Rosario

Each and every team is going to inquire on Rosario, and the answer time and time again is going to be no.  It’s for good reason as well.  When the Mets signed him out of the Dominican Republic, his defense was seen as a given, but there were concerns about his bat.  Rosario has put many of those concerns to bed by hitting .321/.372/.464 with 19 doubles, 12 triples, three homers and 56 RBI between St. Lucie and Binghamton.  He was a Florida State Leauge All Star, on the Team World Roster for the Future’s Game, and he was named MLB.com‘s 18th best prospect.  Unless you are talking a Mike Trout trade, Rosario is off the table.

Dominic Smith

This is where things start to get a little interesting as Smith has really taken off since Rosario joined him in AA hitting .336/.398/.626 with five doubles, one triples, eight homers and 27 RBI.  Smith is starting to show the power that could take him from a very good prospect to an elite prospect with the ranks of Rosario.  Already, Smith is a plus defender at first base, and he has the ability to drive the ball gap-to-gap.  If you trade him, you could be trading away the next John Olerud or worse if his power game continues to develop.  If you keep him, you risk him becoming the next James Loney.  Yes, Loney has been a quality major league first baseman, but Loney should never be what stands between you and getting an All Star or difference maker at the trade deadline that could put the team over the top.

Dilson Herrera

It seems that since Herrera came to the Mets in the Marlon Byrd trade, he was touted as the Mets second baseman of the future.  He was someone who could handle the position well defensively while being a real force at the plate.  He showed that he has unique power for the position.  Due to injuries in 2014, the Mets brought him up from AA to play in the majors.  Last year, he was seen as an offensive spark when a number of players went down due to injury.  This year he hasn’t been a consideration at all.  He has struggled in AAA hitting .277/.331/.471 in the Pacific Coast League which is a hitter’s league.  Part of that might be teams figuring him out.  Part of that may be him dealing with a shoulder injury sapping him of some of his offensive ability and having him fall into bad habits at the plate.  He is less patient at the plate, and he is lunging for balls he wouldn’t last year.  If you move him, you are moving the guy that could be a multiple time All Star.  If you don’t, you just might be hanging onto a guy that may never figure it out.

Gavin Cecchini

Cecchini is in a tough position in the Mets organization.  He isn’t seen as good a prospect at short as Rosario, and he has had some trouble handling the position at Cashman Field, who has an infield that is not kind to infielders.  He’s a good hitter hitting .315/.392/.441 with 18 doubles, two triples, five homers, and 40 RBI, and he reminds you of a right-handed Daniel Murphy at the plate.  However, he is not considered as good of an offensive prospect as an Herrera.  Furthermore, his bat does not have the power profile that would play at third or the outfield.  By many accounts, Cecchini will play in the majors one day.  What you don’t know is what he will be.  Will he be the next Murphy at the plate with similar defensive versatility?  With that in mind, will he develop power as he gets older and fills out like Murphy did?  Will he turn into the next Matt Reynolds – a major league utility player?  Again, you don’t want to lose the next Murphy for a rental, but you also don’t want to miss out on someone because you wnated to keep another Reynolds or Joe McEwing type of player.

Kevin Plawecki

Most Mets fans would jump at the opportunity to trade him.  He hasn’t hit at all in the majors despite given extended looks on two different occassions.  However, Plawecki has been a good defensive catcher and pitch framer.  He was also once considered a prospect who could push Travis d’Arnaud for playing time.  Keep in mind that since his demotion, Plawecki is hitting .291/.347/.512 with four doubles, five homers, and 21 RBI in 27 games.  These numbers aren’t exciting, especially in the Pacific Coast League, but it shows he is starting to become more patient at the plate and more selective swinging at pitches.  Also keep in mind that catcher is a position that players tend to develop later in their careers than other positions.  Plawecki could still very well be the Mets catcher of the future, or he could be a solid backup.  He may not be the type of player who should hold up a deal, but he definitively is a player you want to protect if at all possible.

Ultimately, it seems like one of the aforementioned players are going to have to be traded if the Mets want to acquire an impact player like Jonathan Lucroy.  However, they need to be very careful about which one.

In an ideal world, Rosario and Smith are non-starters.  These are two players who are excelling in AA at a young age, and they appear primed to contribute to the Mets sooner than expected.  You do not ever want to give up a Rosario or a Smith.  These players should prove to be fixtures in the Mets lineup for ten plus years.  Still, you’re going to have to give up someone if you are going to want to add that last piece who could put the Mets over the top in 2016.

That piece appears to be between Herrera and Cecchini.  The Mets may very well have a preference between these two players, and coming into this season, it seemed like Herrera.  However, that does not mean they still feel the same way, nor does it mean that other teams think similarly.  Regardless of how the Mets feel, a team may force their hand to trade one or the other to hopefully trade for this year’s version of Yoenis Cespedes.  In the end, it seems like the Mets will be giving up a Herrera or a Cecchini like they did with Fulmer last year if they want to make a move.

The hope is that the player has the impact Cespedes did last year and that the Mets take the next step and win the 2016 World Series.

Editor’s Note: this was also published on Mets Minors

 

It’s Not World Series or Bust

I remember back in 2000, the stories were that Bobby Valentine needed to make the World Series in order to keep his job. The amazing thing is he actually did it. 

Just think about everything that had to happen that year for the Mets to make the World Series. First, the Mets had an overhaul of its outfield during the season.  On Opening Day, the Mets outfield was, from left to right, Rickey HendersonDarryl HamiltonDerek Bell. At the end of the year, it was Benny AgbayaniJay Payton-Derek Bell. Agbayani was only on the Opening Day roster because MLB allowed the team to have expanded rosters for their opening series in Japan. 

On top of that, Todd Zeile was signed to replace John Olerud. Zeile had to become a first baseman after playing third for 10 years. Edgardo Alfonzo had to adapt from moving from the second spot in the lineup to the third spot. The Mets lost Rey Ordonez to injury and first replaced him with Melvin Mora for 96 games before trading him for the light hitting Mike Bordick. More or less, all of these moves worked. Then came the postseason. 
A lot happened in the NLDS. After losing Game One, the Mets faced a quasi must win in Game Two. They were leading before Armando Benitez blew a save. I know. I’m shocked too. The Mets regained the lead, and they won the game when John Franco got a borderline third strike call against Barry Bonds. In Game Three, the Mets won on a Agbayani 13th inning walk off homerun. This was followed by Bobby Jones closing out the series on a one-hitter. 

The Mets were then fortunate that the Braves lost to the Cardinals in the other NLDS series. The Mets tore through the Cardinals with new leadoff hitter Timo Perez. We saw all that luck run out in the World Series. We watched Zeile’s potential homerun land on top of the fence and bounce back. On the same play, Perez was thrown out at home. In the same game, Benitez blew the save. Unfortunately, there were no more heroics. 

We saw this repeated in 2015. The epically bad Mets offense had to have its pitching hold things together until help came. Part of that required the Nationals to underperform while the Mets were fighting tooth and nail just to stay in the race. 

In the NLDS, the Mets were on the verge of elimination. They weren’t eliminated because somehow, some way Jacob deGrom pitched six innings with absolutely nothing. The Mets then needed Daniel Murphy to have a game for the ages. He stole a base while no one was looking, and he hit a big homerun. It was part of an amazing run through the postseason for Murphy. Like in 2000, it came to a crashing halt in the World Series. 

No matter how good your team is, it takes a lot of luck to win the World Series. Look at the 86 Mets. 

In the NLCS, they barely outlasted the Astros. In Game Three, they needed a Lenny Dykstra two run homerun in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5. In Game Five, Gary Carter hit a walk off single in the 12th to send the Mets back to Houston up 3-2. It was important because they didn’t want to face Mike Scott and his newfound abilities. With that pressure, they rallied from three down in the ninth, blew a 14th inning lead, and nearly blew a three run lead in the 16th inning. 

Following this, the Mets quickly fell down 0-2 in the World Series before heading to Boston. After taking 2/3 in Boston, the Mets had to rally in the eighth just to tie Game Six. There are books that can be written not only about the 10th inning, but also Mookie Wilson‘s at bat. 

First, they had to have a none on two out rally with each batter getting two strikes against them.  For Calvin Schiraldi to even be in the position to meltdown, he had to be traded by the Mets to the Red Sox heading into the 1986 season. In return, the Mets got Bobby Ojeda, who won Game Three and started Game Six. John McNamara removed Schiraldi way too late and brought in Bob Stanley. His “wild pitch” in Mookie’s at bat allowed the tying run to score. You know the rest:

By the way, keep in mind Bill Buckner wasn’t pulled for a defensive replacement. Also, the Mets had to rally late from 3-0 deficit just to tie Game Seven. 

We need to keep all of this is mind when setting expectations for the 2016 season. Terry Collins is right when he says World Series title or bust is unfair. We know way too much can happen between now and the World Series. Right now, the only goal should be winning the NL East. If the Mets do that, they have met their reasonable expectations. After that, the Mets are going to need a little luck to win the World Series. 

Fortunately, the Mets are carrying a four leaf clover in the form of Matt HarveyJacob deGromNoah Syndergaard, and Jeurys Familia

The Highs and Lows of 1986

How you view a particular year or period of time completely depends on your perspective. When you bring up 1986 in the New York Metropolitan area, the first thing that comes to mind is the ’86 Mets. As a diehard Mets fan, 1986 should’ve been the greatest year ever.  

I became a Mets fan because my Dad saw to it. He did what all Dad’s do to make our sons love the sports teams we love. Basically, he used everything at his disposal. What gave him the most leverage was my love of strawberry ice cream. He used that information to tell me the Mets had this player named Darryl Strawberry who was going to play for the Mets. When Strawberry first got called up in 1983, he brought me to see him play. I was immediately hooked. Right now, I’m using the same tactics with my son to much success even if I have to find him a new favorite player

Now, I was young when 1986 happened. When I think back to it, I really have one memory from that entire season:

The reason why I remember that moment was my family was hosting an engagement party for my aunt, who lived with us. Instead of this being the families getting to know each other type of party, it turned into everyone watching Game Six of the World Series. I still remember the way everyone celebrated when that “little roller up the first base line” went through Buckner’s legs. I just remember the sheer joy and elation. That moment as much as anything else may be the reason I’m such a huge Mets fan. 

It was a moment I remembered when I was watching the 1999 NLCS with my Dad. We just watched John Olerud hit a game-winning single off the hated John Rocker for what we hoped would be the Mets climb to be the first ever team to to come back from an 0-3 deficit. I thought to take the opportunity to talk to my Dad about that 1986 season. I could’ve said a million different things. I could’ve asked about his memories of the season. I could’ve asked how the Mets coming back from an 0-3 deficit would compare to that Game Six rally. I didn’t. Instead, I said to my Dad, “Watching this just reminds you that 1986 was a great year!”

Without skipping a beat, my Dad replied, “Yeah, except for your grandfather dying.”  

I was five at the time.  While I only had one memory from the entire 1986 season, I can tell you everything about walking into Nana and Grandpa’s house the day my beloved Grandfather died of throat cancer on a beautiful April day. It was a day in which everyone else was thinking about baseball and a soon to start Mets championship season. It was the beginning of a great year for Mets fans. However, for my family, 1986 was decidedly not a good year. We lost a loved one to cancer. 

Now, 30 years later the Mets are primed and ready to win another World Series. Over the course of the 2016 season, there will be deaths to mourn, weddings to celebrate, and births that will forever change our lives for the better. 

Throughout all of it, baseball is there. Baseball is there to help us to get through the tough times. It’s there to share with our children when they are born, and they become Mets fans of their own. It’s part of what makes baseball great. It’s always there for you. So yes, 1986 was a terrible year for my family. However, the ’86 Mets were a reminder that even it times of sorrow, there is still room for joy, for celebration. 

Lets Go Mets!

This article will be run as part of the Baseball Continuum Blogathon. The Blogathon is raising money for the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. 

Wish Mike Piazza Was Here

From the moment he arrived in 1998, Mike Piazza brought the Mets to another level. The Mets went from young and improving to a playoff team. 

He was joined by some terrific Mets along the way. Edgardo AlfonzoJohn OlerudRobin VenturaAl Leiter, etc. However, Piazza was the man. He was (and still is) the greatest hitting catcher in the history of the game. With some bad luck and some other factors, the Mets didn’t win the World Series when Piazza was with the Mets. 

The Mets missed their shot.  The Mets were beset with hard times and bad decisions after that. However, Piazza still had his moments: 

However, he never got his chance to go back to the playoffs, to win a ring. I thought about that in 2006. I was hoping the Mets would bring him back like they did Lee Mazzilli in 1986. I understood why they didn’t. 

Paul Lo Duca had a terrific year. Piazza was still a capable starting catcher with pop in his bat. You couldn’t ask either to sit on the bench. You also don’t want to invite the controversy. It still doesn’t mean I didn’t miss him, especially with Ramon Castro being the backup catcher. 

For the first time since 2006, the Mets were in the playoffs. For the first time since 2000, the Mets are in the World Series. There was a time it was all because of Piazza. He’s retired now on the cusp of the Hall of Fame. It’s where he belongs. 

I just wish he was here. 

It Was Worth the Wait

My favorite Mets team was the 1999 team. I loved everything about that team from Bobby V to Mike Piazza to Edgardo Alfonzo to Robin Ventura to John Olerud. It was my first real taste of a pennant race and the playoffs. I was lucky to be there for Pratt’s All Folks and the Grand Slam Single. I look back on the year with melancoly because of this:

In 2000, the Mets got Mike Hampton. The season became World Series or bust. A strange feeling for a Mets fan. Hampton would deliver. He was the NLCS MVP. The Mets then had to face the Yankees in the World Series. It was a cruel series with Todd Zeile‘s ball landing on the wall and falling back into play.  Timo Perez didn’t run and didn’t score. Roger Clemens threw a bat at Piazza and wasn’t ejected. The series then ended in the most heartbreaking way possible:

The Mets would be terrible for the next few years, but everything came together in 2006. Our homegrown stars, Jose Reyes and David Wright, we’re becoming superstars. They were joined by the two Carloses: Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. It was a team that ran roughshod over the National League. Beltran was the best baseball player on the planet that year (who somehow didn’t win the MVP). The Mets had momentum in Game Seven with Endy Chavez’s catch. Here’s how that season ended:

In 2007, the Mets reloaded and were primed to go back to the World Series. They were up 7 with 17 to play. On the final game of the season, they sent future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine to the mound with his 300 wins. He wouldn’t be devastated when he got out of the first, but we would:

In 2008, the Mets diagnosed their problem, and much like 2000, they went out to get it. The Mets brought in Johan Santana, and he delivered. they needed him in a strange year that saw Wille Randolph fired after a win on the first game of a west coast trip. The interim manager threatened to cut Reyes if he didn’t come off the field after pulling up lame, and people acted like it was a good thing. Through all of that, the Mets were collapsing again, and yet an injured Santana took the ball on three days rest. He saved the season, but only for a day: 

The last three were the most difficult for me because I was there. It got more difficult because Citi Field was initially a disappointment. It got worse because the product on the field was bad. 

Then Matt Harvey came up and was an All Star. Jacob deGrom came from seemingly nowhere to become a Rookie of the Year and an All Star. They were joined by Noah Syndergaard. The Mets made a flurry of trades including one for Yoenis CespedesDaniel Murphy had an out of body experience. Then this happened:

All that pain. All that suffering. We know what it’s like to be Mets fans. There’s pain and suffering. However, there are moments of pure joy. It’s all the losing that makes nights like last night all the more special. 

We’re Mets fans. We were there for all of this. There are older fans who experienced more pain, but also more joy. There are younger fans who only know losing. Now, we’re all Pennant Winners. It’s like the 80’s again when the Mets are the best team of baseball. We’re “Back in the New York groove!”