Keith Hernandez

2017 Mets Carol

On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, new manager Mickey Callaway enters Fred Wilpon’s office.

Mickey: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.

Fred: What do you mean build?

Mickey: Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address.  We need a second baseman, some additional depth, and some bullpen –

Fred: Relievers? I just gave you Anthony Swarzak just last week!

Mickey: And I’m thankful for that.  But while I was in Cleveland, I learned you need more in your bullpen.  You need a couple of guys with interchangeable roles to help you get to where you want to go.  We need at least one more guy.

Fred: I don’t get it. After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.

Mickey: Well, I’d love to build a winner for the players and the fans.

Fred: Seriously?

Mickey: Well, I guess not. Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.

Fred: Bah!

Not long after Callaway leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich. He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008. He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him. It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.

Fred: No, it can’t be. Is that really you?

M. Donald Grant: It is.

Fred: But, you’re dead. How? How?

M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.

Fred: What?

M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone. Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?

Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!

M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no. No! I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again. But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!

Fred: The horror.

M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.

Fred: No . . . NO! . . . You’ve got to save me.

M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits. Listen to them! Do what they say! Or you will be cursed for eternity.

And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room. A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed. After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep. Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd. It jostled Fred from his sleep. Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.

Fred: No, it can’t be. Is it really you Gary?

Standing before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top. Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.

Gary: It’s really me Fred. I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.

Fred: Am I dead?

Gary: No, you’re not. I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.

With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room. As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.

Fred: What a dump!

Gary: You didn’t always think so. In fact, you used to love coming here. Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be. Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.

Fred: Those Gooden starts were something special. No one could beat us then, and we knew it. We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.

Gary: This is how things used to be. It was always this way. You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him. You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo. That team came close. You did it again with Carlos Beltran. You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player. You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done. It didn’t work, but the fans came. More importantly, everyone respected you for it.

Fred: But they don’t understand.

Gary: Let’s see what happened next.

With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory. As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated. The fans were angry with the team. It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer. It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.

Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in? Where are all the fans?

Gary: You didn’t. It’s 2012.

Fred: That was an ugly time. Fans constantly complaining and booing. The team and I were personally cash strapped. I had no idea what our future was or could be. Worse yet, no one seemed to understand. The fans, the players, the press. No one. The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear. I can’t . . .

Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy. Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.

Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night. It gives me the strangest dreams. And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache. I never want to get back to that point . . .

As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner. Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team lost over 90 games, missed the postseason for the first time in three years, and is now talking about cutting payroll.  We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners. As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!

Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.

Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.

Ralph: Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2018 roster will look like.

Fred: We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field. We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.

Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you. In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should. It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise. During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.” From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs. This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908. The Cubs were once defeated –

Fred: Okay, okay. No, we’re no expanding payroll.  The fans didn’t come last year, and I don’t have the money. That’s just the way things work now. This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.

Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money, especially since you have the BAM money, bought an Overlook League team, and are part of the new Islanders Belmont Arena. And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them. When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.

Fred: Let’s be honest. With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Yoenis CespedesNoah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom.  We have free t-shirts, garden gnomes, and bobbleheads.  We’re going to turn a profit all while giving the players what they want – money.

Ralph: That’s not true. Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.

A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Callaway about the upcoming season.

Mickey: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.

David: It’s hard skip. I wake up in pain everyday. It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too. I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out. I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck. It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell. It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter. Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it. But it just gets harder and harder.

Mickey: Look, I love you, and I know the team does too. If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask. And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.

David: I can’t hang ’em up. Not yet. I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.

Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.

David: And it’s not just about me. I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career. They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys. They’ve cheered for me. They’ve always been there for me. And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family. I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left. They decided to keep me. They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain. I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.

Fred: I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.

Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off. At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening. He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey. The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues. At first, Hamilton says nothing. He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.

Fred follows Darryl down a hallway. Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges. On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career. A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring. Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty. Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man. He’s there with another person.

Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight. With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.

David: I don’t care. I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again. There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.

Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly. You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few. Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you. The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.

Fred: What, what happened to him?

Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.

Fred: He never won? But we had Matt Harvey and Syndergaard. We had deGrom and Steven Matz.  Even Zack Wheeler returned.  We had five aces! Of course we won at least one. There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series. Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.

David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did. I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have. Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.

Woman: What happened?

David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015. After that, we always just seemed one or two players short. We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .

As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway. The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field. Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues. In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.

Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field. I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.

Worker 2: Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.

Worker 1: And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.

Worker 2: How can you? They let the whole thing fall apart.

Worker 1: Good riddance!

Fred: What is happening here? What old group? Who authorized these statues?

With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s. Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.

Man: Shhh! It’s about to be on the television.

Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s. With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.

Fred: Darryl! What are they talking about?

Man: This is a dream come true for me. As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today. And yet, here I am.

Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.

Man: Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family. From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans. My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.

As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.

Fred: Darryl, what is happening with my team? Was it . . .

As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home. Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters. Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.

Reporter: How do you feel today?

Jeff: How do you expect me to feel? The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.

Reporter: What message do you have for Mets fans?

Jeff: We just want them to continue supporting the New York Exelsior.  I still believe that sooner or later this investment will pay off.

Fred: Jeff, don’t tell me you did it! Don’t tell me you sold my team!

Reporter: How do you think your father would feel about this moment?

Jeff:  Well, the Dodgers just won another World Series with a payroll triple ours, so –

Fred: Jeff! Jeff! I’m over here! Jeff!

With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car. Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets. With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time, he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it. The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.

The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich. The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint. When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.

Fred: It’s December 25, 2017! I still own the team! The spirits have given me another chance!

Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Callaway, Alderson, and Wright.

Fred: I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer. We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it. Sandy, the shackles are off. You have everything you need at your disposal. We owe Mickey the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series. And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest. We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series. It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.

Mickey: Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!

David: God bless us everyone!

Mets Need To Get In On The Giancarlo Stanton Bidding

Right now, the rumors are the Marlins are going to be willing to trade the reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton for the extremely underwhelming package of Joe Panik, Tyler Beede, and Joe Shaw.  There is one caveat to a deal – the Giants have to pay $250 million of the $295 million remaining on Stanton’s contract.

What we don’t know at this moment is the particulars, including but not limited to the impact of Stanton’s pending opt out on the allocation of the remaining $295 million on his contract.

Considering this is the package the Marlins are currently contemplating, and in reality, are ready to go ahead and accept, it really makes you question where the Mets are in the bidding process.

No, we shouldn’t pretend there aren’t significant obstacles to a Mets-Marlins deal.  First and foremost, we have no idea about Derek Jeter‘s proclivity to striking a deal with a team that is not only a division rival, but also an inter-city rival from his playing days.

An additional obstacle is Stanton’s no trade clause.  For various rumors, he seems to be inclined to want to either play for the Marlins or the Dodgers next year.  Even as the Giants and Marlins seem to be nearing a deal, it seems the Giants have to meet with Stanton to try to sell him on the idea of becoming a Giant.  Considering the team’s recent success and willingness to spend to compete, this could be an indication of how resolute Stanton may be in his preferences.

We also know the Mets have their own limitations on the budget and prospect front. Still, even with those limitations, the Mets should still have enough to sell the Marlins and Stanton on the idea of becoming a New York Met.

Really, the one thing that jumps off the page at you is how well Stanton has performed at Citi Field.  In 52 games at Citi Field, he is hitting .258/.348/.613 with six doubles, 21 homers, and 43 RBI.

Outside of the two parks Stanton has called home, he has hit more homers at Citi Field than anywhere else.  That is all the more impressive because for a large part of his career, he has had to face tough Mets pitchers like R.A. Dickey, Jacob deGromJeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard.

Stanton would also arguably complete the Mets roster.  By acquiring Stanton, the Mets could shift Michael Conforto to first base.  This is good for a few reasons.

First, the Mets don’t have to be as concerned with Conforto laying full out for a ball and landing on his surgically repaired shoulder in the outfield.  Second, Keith Hernandez has long been enamored with Conforto’s potential at first base.  Third, an outfield left to right of Yoenis CespedesJuan Lagares-Stanton is outstanding defensively.

With the modern emphasis on fly balls, having strong outfield defense is an imperative.  That outfield will be as good as there is in Major League baseball.  With the bats of Cespedes, Conforto, and Stanton in the lineup, you can certainly carry Lagares’ bat in the lineup.

You can also handle Stanton financially.  While he has $295 million remaining on his contract, he has three years $77 million remaining before his opt out.  With him making $25 million next season, the Mets still have enough to add at least one impact reliever and fill around the edges with the rest of the roster.  With Stanton in the fold, that should certainly be enough.

As for prospects, you never know what another organization likes from your team.  However, if the Mets are looking to swing a deal, it wouldn’t hurt to start with a former first round pick in Dominic Smith, who could be all the more enticing for a team possibly looking to move Justin Bour.  The Mets also have a number of other prospects and players at or near the level of the Giants haul.  The combination of those players and the willingness to absorb the salary could be enough to get a deal done.

Maybe, just maybe, that would be enough to sell Stanton on coming to the Mets.  Certainly, he has been at Citi Field on nights it was absolutely electric, and he may want to be a part of that.  Maybe he doesn’t.  We wont’ know until the Mets try, which it does not seem like they are at the moment.

Congratulations Carlos Beltran

With the Houston Astros winning the World Series yesterday, future Hall of Famer, Carlos Beltran finally won his World Series ring.  It could not have happened to a better player and a better individual.

While many Mets fans may have been tangentially aware of the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year, everyone knew who he was went he had an incredible 2004 postseason for the Houston Astros.  During that postseason run for the Astros, Beltran hit .435/.536/1.022 with a record eight homers in a single postseason.

On that postseason stage, we saw not just a five tool player, but a great player who had that rare ability to raise his game on the bigger stage.  Those are the types of players who typically thrive in New York, and Mets fans were thrilled when Omar Minaya made the bold move and made him the Mets first ever $100 million player.

If we’re all honest, things did not go as well for Beltran with the Mets as we all would have hoped.  His first season was marred by struggles and his head-first collision with Mike Cameron in right center field at Petco Park that left Beltran with facial fractures and a concussion.  That collision was so bad he was the one that got lucky.

Still, during that first season with the Mets, he helped create a culture that led to one of the better runs in Mets history.  Early on in the 2005 Spring Training, Beltran took David Wright and Jose Reyes under his wing, and he showed them what it took not just to be Major League players, but great players.

This sparked the incredible 2006 season that ended in heartbreak.  Because baseball is a cruel sport, that season and perhaps Beltran’s entire career with the Mets will forever be remembered for Beltran’s strikeout with the bases loaded at the end of Game 7 of the NLCS.  However, Beltran’s season was much, much more than that.

Beltran would hit .275/.388/.594 with 38 doubles, a triple, 41 homers, 116 RBI, and 18 stolen bases.  By WAR, it was the greatest single season performance ANY Mets position player has ever had.  He was predominantly in the Top 5 to 10 in all single season Mets categories setting the marks for runs scored and tying the record for homers and extra base hits.  In addition to that, Beltran joined Tommie Agee as the only Mets outfielder to win a Gold Glove.  When Beltran would win in the following season, he became the only Mets outfielder to win multiple Gold Gloves.

Essentially, Beltran became the Mets version of Keith Hernandez and Mike Piazza.  He was the seminal figure that taught the young players how to play, and he was the player who led the charge by being the superstar.

By the way, for all the talk about the Adam Wainwright moment, Beltran hit .278/.422/.556 with three homers in that postseason.  The Mets don’t even get to that Game 7 without him.  He should have been revered for that season.

If only he was treated as such.  Though not his fault, from that 2006 NLCS on his Mets career became one of what if to hand wringing instead of celebration.  The disappointment of the 2006 NLCS carried forward into collapses in 2007 and 2008.  Although, he did all he could do to try to stop it.

In 2007, he hit eight homer and 27 RBI in September marking his highs for any month that season.  In 2008, he had an impossibly great month hitting .344/.440/.645 with six homers and 19 RBI.  This includes a game tying two run home run at the final game at Shea Stadium.  To that end, Beltran provided the Mets with the team’s final highlight at the beloved Shea.

From there, Beltran would have some injuries and run-ins with the front office.  Rightfully and despite the Mets objections, he had a knee procedure which probably extended his career.  Always, the good teammate and doing what was best for the team, he willingly moved from center to right in 2011 before he was traded away for Zack Wheeler.

Since Beltran has left, Mets fans have seemed to have warmed much more to him remembering him more for the great player he was than the strikeout.  When he was introduced at the 2013 All Star Game, he received the standing ovation he so rightfully deserved.

That’s what you do for a player that is the greatest center fielder in team history, and is arguably the best outfielder in team history.  More than that, that’s what you do for a player who built his Hall of Fame career during his seven year career with the Mets.

All Mets fans should now be congratulating one of the best players in team history for getting that elusive World Series ring which we all know meant so much to him.  He didn’t get it with the Mets.  Ironically, he got it with that Astros team with whom he built his postseason reputation that inspired Minaya to go out and get him.

This won’t be the final day of celebration for Beltran.  One day in the not too distant future, the Hall of Fame will come calling.  The hope is he wears a Mets cap, and he returns to Citi Field to watch his number 15 get retired and hang forever next to his fellow Mets greats.

Astros And Dodgers Fans, This One Is Going To Hurt For A While

If you ask a New York Giants fan about the postseason, they will reminisce about Super Bowl XLII and XLVI.  You will hear about the Helmet Catch and Eli hitting Manningham down the sideline for 38 yards.  You know what you don’t hear about?  Fassell having the Giants ill prepared for Super Bowl XXXV or Trey Junkin.

The reason is simple when you win, you remember it forever.  However, when you lose, and you lose and lose, that memory festers and worsens year to year.

For years and even until this day, you will occasionally hear Howie Rose bemoan Yogi Berra‘s decision to go with Tom Seaver on short rest over George Stone in Game 6 of the 1973 World Series.  One of the reasons that memory lingers is the Mets where irrelevant from 1974 until 1984.

After 1986, Mets fans were in their glory, and to this day many fans who got to live through 1986 talk about it as fondly today as they probably did when they got to work on October 28, 1986.

Behind them is a group of Mets fans who never really got to live through the 1986 World Series.  As a result, they just know Madoff Scandals and hauting postseason failures:

1988 NLCS

  • Davey Johnson botched that series including leaving in Dwight Gooden too long in Game Four.  Doc would allow a game tying home run in the top of the ninth to Mike Scioscia.
  • It was the last hurrah for Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez who struggled over the final few games of the series, and respectively faced poor and injury plagued 1989 seasons before finding new homes in 1989.

1999 NLCS

  • First and foremost, the one thing that should stick out was how those Braves teams just tortured the Mets, and the Mets could never get past them.
  • Both John Franco and Armando Benitez blew leads in Game 6 preventing the Mets from sending the series to a seventh game and letting the Mets be the team to do what the Red Sox did to the Yankees five years later.
  • Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded to end the series.

2000 World Series

2006 NLCS

2015 World Series

2016 Wild Card Game

  • Connor Gillaspie

The list for the aforementioned series really goes on and on, but those were just some of the highlights.  After tonight’s game, that is what Astros and Dodgers fans will be doing.  They’ll be asking if Dave Roberts was too aggressive with his pitching changes while A.J. Hinch was not aggressive enough.  Why didn’t Chris Taylor try to score, or why could Josh Reddick just put the ball in play.  Really, the list goes on and on.

For one fan base, they will focus on the things that went wrong.  Considering the Dodgers haven’t won in 29 years and the Astros have never won, the pain of this loss is going to hurt all the more.  For the fanbase that gets to win this one, they will have memories to cherish for a lifetime, and they will never again be bothered by the what ifs that could have plagued their team in this epic World Series.

T-Mobile Presents The Seventh Inning of Game One of the 2017 World Series

Watching the World Series last night, there was certainly a lot to unpack.  With the game time temperature being over 100 degrees, it was easily the hottest temperature for a World Series game.  What ensued from there was a very played, very enjoyable, and very interesting game.

Chris Taylor hit the first pitch from Dallas Keuchel for a home run.  This was the first time that has happened in a World Series since Alcides Escobar hit an inside the park home run off Matt Harvey on a ball that Yoenis Cespedes still hasn’t bothered to chase after.

Staying on the Mets related front, Curtis Granderson was removed from the World Series roster, but Chase Utley was kept on it.  Of course, this means we will have to keep an eye on Carlos Correa‘s legs should Utley make it on base.  Considering he’s gone 0 for his last 21 postseason at-bats, it does not seem like Houston will have a problem on that front.

There was also seeing Justin Turner hitting the game winning home run in the sixth inning was enough for the Dodgers to pull out the 3-1 victory.  This was just another reminder that the Mets had no need for the man who just tied Hall of Famer Duke Snider of “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke” fame for the most RBI in Dodgers postseason history.

That was enough because we got an old fashioned pitchers duel between Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw.  After an Alex Bregman fourth inning homer, many questioned whether we would see the return of the Kershaw who struggled in the postseason.  It didn’t happen.  Instead, Kershaw was Kershaw allowing just three hits over seven innings while striking out 11 Astros.

It was a great and rare 2 hour and 28 minute baseball game; not just World Series game, but baseball game.  It truly was a joy to watch except for the encroachment of the commercial breaks.

On three separate occasions during the telecast, Joe Buck broke from the action for a quick commercial break.  One was for Wendys and the other two were from T-Mobile.  Now, this didn’t happen while a ball was in play, but rather in between plays.  That’s typically the time for John Smoltz or whoever the color commentator is to give a quick quip or analysis.  At times, that’s when the sideline reporter is given the opportunity to provide insight or a sentimental story on a player:

How did MLB allow this to happen?  We didn’t see this at all during the games broadcast on FS1 this postseason.  We don’t see Fox do it to their other sports, especially not football.  In baseball’s biggest showcase, they’ve allowed Fox to broadcast intrusive commercials during game action.

What makes this all the more egregious is there are longer commercial breaks for nationally televised games.  Fox has an extra window to get in commercials.  There are plenty of other areas to get adverstising dollars.  Certainly, every Mets fan is aware of the Cholula hot sauce gun readings during Mets games.  If you’ve listened to a game on the radio, you’ve heard Howie mention it’s the 15th batter of the game necessitating we do a quick GEICO mention.

The point there is while it was an intrusion, it didn’t take away from the game action.  It was handled by the announcer who could then quickly throw it back to the game.  You didn’t have that with the odd split screen, you know, in case you actually wanted to watch the game.

Believe it or not, this was a bad omen.  It could very well be the beginning of much more instrusive commercials during not just nationally televised games, but also regionally televised games.  Once teams get the sense this is either permissible, or that fans have become apathetic to it, it’s going to happen.  And that’s a very bad thing, especially for Mets fans who tune into games partially to hear Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling.

In the end, the lasting image of the 2017 World Series may not be a Turner homer or Kershaw finally being Kershaw in the biggest stage of all.  Likely, it’s going to be a T-Mobile commercial.

Congratulations to Curtis Granderson or Carlos Beltran

With the World Series beginning tonight, Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson will be battling it out to win their first ever World Series ring.  This could be the last chance either player gets to win that elusive ring.

Between the two, it certainly looks like this will be Beltran’s last chance.  The 40 year old is coming off a season that saw him hit just .231/.283/.383 in 129 games.  During the season, his teammates jokingly buried his glove.  After the year, they may be cremating his bat as he has seen more and more of his at-bats go to Evan Gattis.  Once considered a sure thing in the postseason, he’s just 3-17 in this postseason including going 1-12 in the ALCS.

As for Granderson, you don’t know.  After just a dismal April, the slow starter began hitting again.  From May 1st until he was traded to the Dodgers, he was playing about as well as anyone hitting .263/.383/.570.  After becoming a Dodger, things were much different for Granderson.  In 36 games for the Dodgers, he hit a paltry .161/.288/.366.  In this postseason, he’s just 1-15 with an 0-7 in the NLCS.  Things have gotten to the point with him that there are actually calls for him to be left off the World Series roster in favor of Charlie Culberson.  Sure, this has something to do with Corey Seager‘s back injury, but still, many seem unaware of Granderson hitting three huge homers in the 2015 World Series.

Between the two, Beltran looks closer to the end than Granderson.  Whereas the decision may be all but made for Beltran, it appears Granderson will get to make the choice himself.  Still, as we know even if Granderson returns to play a 15th season at the age of 37, there is no guarantee he will ever get back to this point.

So this may very well be it for the both of them, and that’s a shame because both have been great players with Beltran likely being a future Hall of Famer.  Both were great Mets as well.  Beltran played at an MVP level for the Mets for many years, and he built his Hall of Fame case with the Mets.  He will go down as the best centerfielder in Mets history.

As for Granderson, he will go down as not just a very good player, but one of the finest human beings to ever wear a Major League uniform.  He’s the rare player that gets asked if he’s doing too much with his charitable endeavors.  In some ways, he played the Keith Hernandez type role with this current Mets core helping teach them how to be winners.

They both deserve rings, but in the end only one of them will get them.  All Mets fans should be thrilled for that player while feeling melancholy for the other.  No matter what happens both will forever be Mets, and both should forever be remembered fondly by Mets fans.

Why Didn’t Austin Jackson Run To First Base?

If you’ve watched Mets games long enough, you will at one point or another hear Keith Hernandez bemoan the lack of “Good Fundies.”  Seemingly, this is something he decries more and more.  And it’s not just because the Mets played some terrible baseball this year.  Rather, throughout baseball, we have seen a number of players fail to make the fundamentally correct play.

Most of the time, the lack of “Good Fundies” can really be attributed to a general lack of hustle and will.  That was no more evident than on the last out of Game 5 of the ALDS between the Yankees and the Indians (Warning: It’s a Sterling call, so you may want to mute it):

Considering how his skills behind the plate have been lambasted most of the year, it should be of no surprise Gary Sanchez dropped the third strike from Aroldis Chapman.  What should be a surprise is how Austin Jackson initially just stood there, and then he walked back to the dugout.

HE’S THE LAST OUT OF THE DIVISION SERIES!

Look at the play again.  Sanchez drops the ball on what was a questionable third strike call.  While he’s picking it up, Jackson voices his displeasure at the call.  While this is happening, Sanchez picks up the baseball, and he makes sure to put it in his back pocket.  Meanwhile, Jackson is still in the batter’s box.

According to MLB Rule 6.09(b): “The batter becomes a runner when – (b) The third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out.”

Now there are limits to the rule as provided in the comments to said rule: “A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.”

This could have left the matter up to interpretation by the umpire.  Arguably, by turning to argue first, Jackson may be been ruled out regardless of whether he attempted to go to first base or not.  However, we’ll never know if an umpire would have had the absolute gaul to invoke such a technicality because Jackson never bothered to go to first base.

Think about it. Sanchez looked at Jackson briefly as if he was going to tag him.  He chose not to and instead went to the mound to celebrate.

Looking at the play again, who knows how far Jackson could have gotten if he decided to go to first base.  The Yankees weren’t paying attention because they were celebrating.  The same goes for Jose Ramirez who we did not see touch home plate at any time during the Yankees celebration.

Instead of Jackson doing everything he could do to try to extend that game by busting it down to first base regardless of what the odds were, he instead chose to accept defeat and go back to his dugout.  Instead of seeing Jay Bruce at the plate with a berth to the ALCS on the line, we got to see the Yankees celebrate on the mound.

One last note is it’s strange we haven’t seen much discussion on this topic.  Sure, we’ll see Carlos Beltran striking out looking against Adam Wainwright, but we won’t see this discussed.  For how much Beltran was killed for that play, his knees were buckled by a great curveball.  Jackson just didn’t even bother.

As a fan, I’d rather see a player get beat like Beltran did than see a player give up like Jackson did any game of the week.  Honestly, I cannot possibly fathom how this isn’t a bigger issue.

Former Mets In The Postseason

When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals.  With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

East – Boston Red Sox

Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)

Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.

RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)

Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.

RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)

Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.

OF Chris Young (2014)

After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.

Central – Cleveland Indians

First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)

Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007.  He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.

RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)

Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.

RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)

Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons.  Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.

West – Houston Astros

DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)

Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform.  Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.

Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)

Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)

Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team.  Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.

Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)

Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark.  While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.

Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)

Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick.  He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.

Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)

Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.

Wild Card – New York Yankees

RHP Luis Cessa

Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.

Wild Card – Minnesota Twins

Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)

While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.

RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)

“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse.  There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.

RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)

Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability.  He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

East – Washington Nationals

OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)

De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets.  He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.

Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)

Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.

2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)

Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase.  Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant.  Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.

LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)

Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season.  He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract.  Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.

Central – Cubs

Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)

“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.

C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)

Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners.  It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.

West – Dodgers

Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)

Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers.  Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.

OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)

Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform.  He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most.  Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series.  His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.

3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)

Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible.  Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.

Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)

Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.

Wild Card – Diamondbacks

RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)

Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed.  While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.

Wild Card – Rockies

None

Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League.  Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.

 

Collins Wins Last Citi Field Game As Mets Manager

In what is likely Terry Collins last game as the Mets manager at Citi Field, he went out the way he would’ve wanted to go out. No, not  batting Jose Reyes lead-off while sitting Dominic Smith and Michael Conforto against the left-handed Braves starter Sean Newcomb.  Although, we can be sure he was happy to do that. No, Collins went out a winner. 

The main reason the Mets won this game was Robert Gsellman

Gsellman would allow just one run over six innings while allowing six hits. That sole run came off an Ozzie Albies two out RBI single in the third. That wouldn’t be the Braves last threat. 

In the fifth, the Braves loaded the bases with two outs with Mets killer Freddie Freeman striding to the plate. Gsellman would get out of the jam striking out Freeman: one of his four on the night. 

Gsellman would depart in the sixth due to the bat of Travis d’Arnaud. d’Arnaud would have all three Mets RBI on the night. 

In the fourth, he tied the game off a Dansby Swanson error scoring Juan Lagares. d’Arnaud was back abusing Swanson again in the fifth. 

Gsellman led off the fifth with a walk, and Reyes followed with a single. After a Lagares strikeout, an Asdrubal Cabrera groundout moved Gsellman and Reyes to second and third for d’Arnaud, who delivered a two RBI single under the diving Swanson for a 3-1 lead. 

The game would stay tight until the seventh when the Mets would blow the doors open with the help of a Freeman error. 

First baseman Kevin Plawecki got the rally started with a two out walk against Jim Johnson. The inning would continue after Freeman couldn’t come up with a Brandon Nimmo tough grounder. 

That error proved costly as Smith would snap out of a 3-35 streak with a three run homer into the Coke Den. 

Surprisingly, the rally would continue. Matt Reynolds singled, and Nori Aoki walked chasing Johnson. The Braves substituted Ian Krol for Johnson. In what may prove to be Reyes’ last at-bat at Citi Field in a Mets uniform, he doubled home Reynolds and Aoki giving the Mets a 7-1 lead. 

Jamie CallahanChasen Bradford, and Paul Sewald combined to pitch the final three scoreless innings preserving the 7-1 win. 
This game closed a chapter in the legacy of Collins and perhaps Reyes. It’s very likely neither one of them will be Mets next year. For Collins part, he deserved to go out this way. 

Through it all, he gave his all to the Mets and treated Mets fans better than any other Mets manager. Whoever takes over for him will have big shoes to fill on that front. 

Game Notes: Today was the 28th Anniversary of Keith Hernandez‘s and Gary Carter‘s last home game as a Met. 

Montero Wins – Yes, Seriously, He Did

In his major league career, Rafael Montero had a staggering 2-13 record. You’d be hard-pressed to say that record was the result of his team failing to pick him up. To be fair, he’s usually been so poor, he never really gave his teammates a chance. That wasn’t the case tonight. 

Montero was great for five innings allowing the Marlins to just four hits and two walks. He then ran into some issues in the sixth beginning with the opposing pitcher, Vance Worley, getting a lead-off single. 

The Marlins then got a trade-off they take every day of the week with a Dee Gordon, who hit a fly ball Brandon Nimmo couldn’t get, but he was still able to get Worley at second. 

After a Giancarlo Stanton walk and a Christian Yelich strikeout, Montero was on the cusp of getting out of the inning unscathed. 

He seemed like he did when Marcel Ozuna hit a ball to left. Mets fans thought Yoenis Cespedes could get it. Keith Hernandez gave him a pass. In any event, it was 1-0, and the way Worley was going, it seemed like that was all the Marlins needed. 

That changed when Matt Reynolds pinch hit for Montero and earned a lead-off walk. That walk ignited the Mets offense. 

After the walk, Nimmo singled to set up runners at the corners with no outs. Asdrubal Cabrera then tied the game with a deep fly ball to right. 

Don Mattingly tried to stem the tide by bringing in Drew Steckenrider. It didn’t work. 
Runners were at the corners again after a Cespedes single and a Steckenrider wild pitch. In a tough at-bat, Michael Conforto hit a hard grounder that ate up Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. 

That became a 5-1 lead when Wilmer Flores hit a three run homer. 

If you thought the three run homer by Flores off a right was a surprise, the ensuing two run homer by Kevin Plawecki was a downright shock. 

That Plawecki homer put the cap on a seven run inning where the Mets batted around. It also put Montero in line to win just his third game of his career. With him getting two wins this year, this is his first major league season with more than just one win. 

After that, we got to see why Dominic Smith is so well regarded by the Mets. 

In the eighth, he made a diving stop to rob Yelich of a potential extra base hit . . .

. . . and he followed that with his first homer at Citi Field. 

He absolutely clobbered that ball hitting it beyond what were the original fences. 

Between Hansel Robles and Chasen Bradford, the Mets locked down the 8-1 win. 

By the way, for all of the Mets refusal to have even a decent defense, the team turned five double plays. The defense did its part, and as you see, when you’re this good defensively, even Montero looks very good. 

Game Notes: Rene Rivera was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. With him a Cub, and Curtis Granderson a Dodger, the Mets were able to call up Plawecki and activate Tommy Milone from the DL.