Kenny Rogers

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.

Patrick Mahomes Could Thrive In New York Like His Father Did

Tonight is a jam packed sports night.  For Mets fans, no matter how bad things are, you are turning into the game against the Braves if for no other reason than to see Noah Syndergaard  pitch.  For Rangers fans, it is the first game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Ottawa Senators and their old friend Derick Brassard.  However, as we all know the first round of the NFL Draft will get the largest share of publicity.  The NFL gets the lion share no matter what it is doing.

The NFL Draft does present someone of an intriguing possibility for Mets fans.  One of the top QB prospects in this draft is Texas Tech Patrick Mahomes.  He has quite the pedigree with him being the godson of former Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins.  Oh, and Patrick Mahomes is the son of former Mets reliever Pat Mahomes.

Unlike his son, Mahomes wasn’t really on anyone’s radar heading into the 1999 season.  Through six major league seasons, he was 21-28 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.627 WHIP.  After a poor 1997 season, where he was only able to pitch in 10 games for the Boston Red Sox, Mahomes found himself pitching for the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese Leagues.  In his eight starts and two relief appearances, he was far from impressive going 0-4 with a 5.98 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP.  Still, Mahomes must have done something right in that stint as the Mets signed him to a minor league deal in the offseason.

With Josias Manzanillo struggling to start the year, there was an opening in the Mets bullpen in 1999.  Mahomes was called up, and he took complete advantage of his opportunity.  Mahomes became the long man in the Mets bullpen, and he thrived in that role.  While the long man in the bullpen is an overlooked role on most teams, it was vitally important to that 1999 team.

Al Leiter and Kenny Rogers were the only pitchers who averaged more than six innings pitched, and Rogers didn’t come to the Mets until July.  One of the team’s better starters, Bobby Jones, was injured leading to a revolving door of fifth starters.  Top options in Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel had the talent, but they couldn’t go deep into games.  Overall, the team needed a good long man.  Mahomes was that and more.

During the season, Mahomes would make just 39 appearances, but he would pitch 63.2 innings.  It should be noted Mahomes was partially able to pitch those innings because unlike most relievers Bobby Valentine could trust him at the plate.  During the 1999 season, Mahomes was 5-16 with three doubles and three RBI.  However, we all know Valetine kept going to him because of the results Mahomes got on the mound.

In Mahomes’ 39 appearances, he had a 3.68 ERA and a 1.272 WHIP.  As a result of his terrific pitching, he finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record.  Considering it was the steroids era, those are truly impressive numbers.  Considering where he was just a season ago, they are inspiring.

Mahomes would continue pitching well into the postseason where he had a 2.25 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in eight innings over four appearances.  Notably, Mahomes pitched four shutout innings in at epic Game 6 of the NLCS which permitted the Mets to get back into the game.  What was once unfathomable when Leiter gave up five innings in the first inning, the Mets took the lead in the seventh inning.   While the Mets did not win that game, they were in that position because Mahomes stepped up big in that spot.  That was a theme for him during the 1999 season.

So to that extent, we know that big game ability is in the Mahomes gene pool.  We also know the ability to play in New York in high pressure situations is as well.  To that end, maybe, just maybe, Patrick Mahomes would be a fine fit with either the New York Giants, as Eli Manning’s successor in waiting, or the New York Jets as the latest franchise quarterback.

The talent is there.  In a recent Peter King MMQB column, Mahomes was compared favorably to Brett Favre.  With talent like that and his background, there should be no doubt Mahomes can thrive in not just the NFL, but also in New York.  His name may not get called tonight, but it will likely get called on Friday.

Whatever the future holds for him, the best of luck to Mahomes.  His father was one of the players that made one of the most enjoyable seasons in Mets history happen.  Hopefully, wherever Mahomes lands, he can provide those fans the same joy his father provided Mets fans.  With any luck, that will be with the Giants.

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.

 

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.

Is Now the Time to Extend Matt Harvey?

Back in 2014, Jaime Garcia had surgery to have a rib removed in order to alleviate his thoracic outlet syndrome.  He came back about a year after the surgery was performed, and he had a strong 2015 season going 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA and a 1.049 WHIP in 20 starts.  So far this year, he has struggled a bit with a 7-6 record with a 3.98 ERA and a 1.363 WHIP in 19 starts.  On the whole, it would be fair to say Garcia is a success story for players who have had surgery to alleviate their thoracic outlet syndrome.

His former Cardinals teammate, Chris Carpenter, was not as lucky.  He would have the surgery in 2012, and he would never be able to return.  Now, there are a world of differences between Garcia and Carpenter, and this is probably too simplistic a conclusion, but overall the Cardinals franchise has had a 50% success rate in pitchers returning from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

Fact of the matter is, we still don’t know enough to know how a pitcher will return from the surgery.  For every Kenny Rogers, there is a Jeremy Bonderman.  There is the Garcias and the Matt Harrisons of the world who have returned to initially pitch well after the surgery only to see their future performance regress.  Overall, there are a lot of question marks about not only how successful the surgery is in restoring a pitcher to full health, but also what the lasting effects of the surgery is.  This is the point where Matt Harvey is right now.

With Harvey having the surgery, he missed the remainder of the 2016 season, but really he missed more.  Harvey wasn’t right throughout the 2016 season.  Accordingly, the Mets missed out on a real chance to challenge for the division, and for his part, Harvey missed out on his chance to build off of a strong 2015 season that culminated in his great Game 5 World Series start.  While the surgery was successful, and Harvey has been reportedly been long tossing and looks ready to start the 2017 season.  What Harvey will be in 2017 still remains a mystery.

In 2013, Harvey helped make the Mets a much more relevant franchise being a Cy Young contender and staring the All Star Game before his succumbing to a UCL tear requiring Tommy John surgery.  Last year, Harvey was part of a starting rotation that led the Mets to not only winning the National League East, but also the pennant.  The Mets are a better team with him in the rotation, and they will be a better team going forward with a healthy Harvey in the fold.  The question is not only if he will be healthy, but also for how long will he be effective?  These are the questions hanging over the heads of both Harvey and the Mets organization.

The Mets could let Harvey work his way back from the surgery and hopefully return to form ext year when he will be 28 years old.  From there, they could let him pitch for a year and a half before determining whether they want to open the pocketbooks to make Harvey the pitcher they want to extend.  It might be the prudent way to go.  However, it could also prove to be the expensive route as well.

Realistically speaking, there may be no better opportunity for the Mets to discuss an extension with Harvey.  Given his previous comments on the matter and the uncertainty of his future, Harvey may be more open to a contract extension now than he ever was or will ever be.  Scott Boras may not prove to be an impediment as evidenced by the Stephen Strasburg extension with the Washington Nationals.  There may be an opportunity here.

As we have seen, the strength of this Mets team is pitching.  When healthy, the rotation of Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz helps overcome the Mets offensive issues.  This is a rotation that helped the Mets go to the World Series last year.  However, this is a rotation that may ultimately need to be broken up as arbitration and free agency may prove too costly to keep them all together.  If you make a move on Harvey now, you would most likely get him at a discount thereby allowing you to allocate that money towards a deGrom or a Syndergaard.  With that in mind, the Mets may be best suited to rolling the dice and making a move to keep Harvey for the long term.

Indians Fans Deserve a World Series More than Cubs Fans

Time and again, we have heard about the Billy Goat curse and the Chicago Cubs not having won a World Series since 1908.  As a result, many are supposed to empathize with them for their time falling short time and again.  Moreover, many sympathize with a fan base that has never seen their team win a World Series in their lifetime.  While all of this is true, it is not appreciably different than being a Cleveland Indians fan.

The Indians last won the World Series in 1948 against the Boston Braves.  Yes, the Boston, not Atlanta Braves.  That’s how long ago the Indians last World Series title was.  If you are to assume that a 10 year old had the full capacity to appreciate the World Series victory and remember the run to the World Series, that means Indians fans who could relish those Lou Boudreau teams were born in 1938.  That would make those fans 78 years old today.  Rounding up just a tad, unless you are an octogenarian, Indians fans have never seen their team win a World Series.  What they have seen is some excruciating losses.

Back in 1995, the Indians sent out what could be considered the greatest offensive team ever assembled.  That Indians team was shut down by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Steve Avery over the six game set.  A team that had scored 840 runs in 144 games (strike shortened season), an average of 5.8 runs per game, could only muster 19 runs (3.2 runs per game) in the series.  A team that was shutout just three times in the regular season would be shut out in Game Six of the World Series in an excruciating 1-0 loss.

The 1997 Indians weren’t the favorites to win the World Series.  Instead, they had to fight and claw their way back to the World Series.  They needed the rookie Jaret Wright to become a Yankee killer and Sandy Alomar, Jr.Moi to hit a pivotal home run in what was going to be the Game 4 clincher of the ALDS for the defending champion Yankees.  Instead, the Indians persevered and would win their second pennant in three years after beating the Orioles in six in the ALCS.  It should be noted Armando Benitez took the loss in that game being a harbinger of things to come for Mets fans.

That 1997 World Series was thrilling with the Marlins and Indians alternating wins setting the stage for an epic Game 7.  The Indians had to like their chances with their newfound postseason hero Wright going up against Al Leiter.  The Indians had tattooed Leiter for seven runs in 4.2 innings in Game 4.  Leiter would never win a postseason start in his career.  While it was more of a challenge than the Indians expected, they hand their closer, Jose Mesa, on the mound with a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning.  Mesa would blow the game allowing Craig Counsell to hit a sacrifice fly to score Moises Alou (again how was he not the MVP of that series) to tie the game.  The Indians couldn’t touch the Marlins bullpen in extra innings.  Finally, in the 11th, Charles Nagy gave up the game winning hit to Edgar Renteria scoring Counsell of all people as the winning run.  That is as excruciating a loss as it gets for a fan.

There have been other tales of recent woe for this Indians fan base.  In 1998, the Yankees exacted revenge against Wright and the Indians by scoring five runs in the first inning off Wright en route to a Yankees 4-2 ALCS series win.  In 1999, the Indians blew a 2-0 series lead and a 5-2 lead in Game 5 to lose the ALDS to the Red Sox.  That game was memorable for Pedro Martinez‘s epic performance out of the bullpen.  The lean years were not too far away from here.

Then there was an Indians resurgence.  In 2007, the Indians had a 3-1 game lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS with Game 5 at home.  CC Sabathia just couldn’t close the deal, and the Indians bullpen would implode leading the Red Sox to their comeback.  Like the rest of baseball, the Indians would watch helplessly as the Red Sox would win their second World Series in four years.  To make matters worse, the small market Indians would have to break up the team.  Two years later, Indians fans would watch as Sabathia took the hill for the Yankees in Game One of the World Series against Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.

In response, many Cubs fans will scream the Bartman Game!  One of their own prevented them from winning the pennant and going to the World Series back in 2003.  Of course, that narrative is a bit nonsense because there is a real debate as to whether or not Alou could catch that ball.  Furthermore, that didn’t cause Dusty Baker to leave Mark Prior out there too long.  It didn’t cause Alex Gonzalez to allow a double play ball to go through his legs.  It didn’t cause the Cubs to blow a 3-0 lead.  It certainly didn’t cause the Cubs and Kerry Wood to blow a 5-3 lead in Game 7.  Furthermore, it did not cause Cubs fans to try to ruin Bartman’s life.

Absolutely, blowing a 3-1 series lead when your team hasn’t won a World Series in nearly a century is devastating.  It was no more devastating than the Indians blowing the 2007 ALCS.  It is definitively not more devastating than the 1997 World Series.

Sure, it hurts to lose and not be competitive.  However, as a Mets fan I know the 2015 World Series loss was infinitely more hurtful than anything I saw from 1991 – 1996 or 2001 – 2004 or even 2009 – 2014.  No, it is hte misses that stick with you the longest.  Personally, I’m more haunted by Ron Darling pitching the worst game of his life against an unbeatable Orel Hershiser, Kenny Rogers walking Andruw Jones, Luis Sojo‘s two RBI single off Leiter, Carlos Beltran looking at an Adam Wainwright curveball, Eric Hosmer‘s mad dash to home plate, and any of the other events that led to those deciding plays which ended the Mets postseasons.

The Cubs may not have won since 1908, but the Indians fan base is the more tortured fan base.  They deserve this World Series title more than anyone.

Goodbye Turner Field

In many ways, Turner Field was an absolute eye sore from the general design of the place to the players who wore the Braves uniforms to Kenny Rogers inability to throw one over the plate against Andruw Jones.  What was ugliest of all was the Mets record there as the Mets were 67-106 at Turner Field.  Keep in mind, that record was boosted by the Mets winning 11 of their last 14 there.

Just as the Mets luck would go, just as they were getting the hang of things there, the Braves decided to tear the place down.  At least the Mets would close out their book at Turner Field in style.

First, it was the pitching of Seth Lugo.  Again, he was economical with his pitches, and he was able to go deep into games.  What is also impressive was his ability to once again navigate his way out of trouble.  This is where there is a real debate between “traditionalist” and “stat-guys.”  The traditionalist say he has an innate ability to get himself out of trouble while stat-guys say he is going to regress to the mean.  Right now, with the Mets in fight for the Wild Card, the results are all that matter, and Lugo is getting the results.

After Freddie Freeman singled home Adonis Garcia, the Braves would then load the bases with no outs.  At this point, the game was quickly turning from an easy 6-1 lead to a typical Turner Field nightmare.  Lugo then induced Anthony Recker to pop out to first base.  To be fair, having seen his time with the Mets, that wasn’t exactly impressive.  What was impressive was him using his slider to induce a groundball from Dansby Swanson.  Despite his speed, the Mets were able to turn the 6-4-3 double play to keep it at 6-1.

It was another great game from Lugo whose final line was seven innings, six hits, two runs, two earned, one walk, and five strikeouts.  Overall, he is solidifying his spot on the postseason roster.  Lugo got the win not just because of his pitching, but also because the Mets offense exploded.

As usual, when discussing the Mets offense exploding, you need to start with Yoenis Cespedes.  In the first, his ground out scored Asdrubal Cabrera, who somehow legged out a triple on one leg, to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.  In the third, he then did this:

At this point, not even Lawrence Chipper Jones could have save the Braves.

A shocking James Loney home run in the fourth would make it a 6-0 game.  Credit is due to Loney here.  After a disturbingly bad August, he has turned things around in September.  So far this month, he is hitting .333/.391/.571 with two doubles, a homer, and three RBI.  At a time when the Mets need to ride the hot hand to get the Wild Card, Loney has to be playing right now.  No, I did not like saying that.

Add in another big rally in the fifth, featuring another Loney RBI base hit, and the Mets would go on to win 10-3.  It was such a beating that even Lugo got into the action hitting a sacrifice fly.  With that huge lead, it was beyond bizarre that Terry Collins would take his sweet time removing his injured players from the game.  He didn’t remove Cabrera until the eighth despite having Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds on the bench.  At least, Cecchini would get a pinch hitting appearance in the game (striking out).  He waited until the ninth to remove Curtis Granderson for Michael Conforto even if it would behoove the Mets to give Granderson some extra rest where they can find it.  Naturally, Cespedes would play the entire game.

It was a good day for the Mets as is everyday they beat the Braves.  With the Cardinals losing, the Mets found themselves back a half-game ahead of them in the Wild Card standings and tied with them in the loss column.  The only real problem with the game was the fact that once again the Mets failed to wear the First Responders caps to honor the fallen.

Game Notes: Logan Verrett is pretty much done for the season.  He got mop-up work in the ninth, and he couldn’t complete the task.  After allowing a run, he then loaded the bases, and he needed to be bailed out by Josh Edgin.  Edgin would get out of the inning without allowing another run.

From Todd Hundley to Mike Piazza

The things we are willing to tell ourselves as fans can sometimes be quite outlandish.  Back in 1997, if you polled Mets fans, they would probably tell you they would rather have Todd Hundley than Mike Piazza.  Why not?

The two were the same age.  Both were All Stars in 1996 and 1997.  In those two years, Hundley had hit 71 homers to Piazza’s 76.  Hundley had 198 RBI to Piazza’s 229.  Hundley’s 53 doubles surpassed Piazza’s 48.  In fact, Hundley’s 127 extra base hits were actually two more than Piazza’s 125.  On top of that, Hundley was a switch hitter and a much better defensive catcher.  He was the homegrown Met that was afan favorite with his very own Todd Squad cheering section at Shea Stadium.  Hundley’s career was taking off, and he was seen by Mets fans as a newer version of Gay Carter.  When he returned from his elbow surgery in 1998, he was expected to once again be the slugging defensive minded catcher who was going to lead the Mets to the postseaon for this first time in a decade.  If you took a poll of Mets fans, they may begrudging admit Piazza was the better player, but overall, they would also state their belief that they would rather have Hundley as he was their guy.  It was all a moot point anyway because there was no way the Dodgers would ever get rid of Piazza.

Until they did.  There wasn’t a baseball fan alive in 1998 that was utterly shocked when Piazza was traded to the Florida Marlins along with future Met Todd Zeile for a package that included future Met Gary Sheffield and former/future Met Bobby Bonilla.  Once Piazza was a Marlin, the world over knew the team that sold everything except the copper wiring after winning the 1997 World Series was going to trade the impending free agent Piazza.  All of a sudden, the very same Mets fans who loved Hundley, desperately wanted Piazza.  Myself included.

It was certainly possible.  In that offseason, the Mets had acquired Al Leiter and Dennis Cook.  There was a reporte there.  Even with those trades, the Mets still had a good farm system headlined by Mookie Wilson‘s stepson, Preston Wilson, who could justifiable headline a Piazza trade.  Without Hundley, the team was languishing around .500, and they needed a shot in the arm if they were ever going to earn a postseason berth.  You could tell yourself that when Hundley got back he could either play left field in place of the struggling Bernard Gilkey or in right in place of another fan favorite, Butch Huskey.  At least, that is what you told yourself.

Amazing, it actually happened.  On May 22, 1998, the 24-20 Mets actually pulled off a trade to acquire Piazza.  Perhaps just as a amazing, when the Mets activated Hundley from the disabled list on July 22nd, they put him in left field.  Very rarely in life does things happen exactly as you imagined it would.  This did.

Except it didn’t.  While Piazza was originally greeted with a hero’s welcome, he would then become roundly booed by the very same fan base who was desperate to acquire him.  Hundley would be a disaster in left field.  As uncomfortable as he was in the field, he was equally uncomfortable at the plate hitting .162/.248/.252 with only one home run.  He eventually forced Bobby Valentine‘s hand, and he became the backup catcher to Piazza.  In retrospect, how could it have ever worked?  Piazza was a star in Los Angeles, which is nowhere near the hot bed New York was.  Hundley was a catcher out of the womb as he was taught the position by his father Randy Hundley.

But then on a September 16th game in the old Astrodome, it all worked according to plan.  In the top of the ninth, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Piazza, who had been 0-3 on the night, stepped in the box against Billy Wagner with two on and two out.  He would launch a go-ahead three run homer.  After Cook blew the save in the ninth, Hundley would be summoned to pinch hit in the top of the 11th.  He would hit a game winning home run.  It would be the first and only time Piazza and Hundley would homer in the same game.  In fact, it was Hundley’s last homer as a Met.  At that point, the Mets seemed to have control of the Wild Card, but they would eventually fall apart, thanks in LARGE part to Mel Rojas, and they would just miss out on the postseason.

Going into that offseason, the Mets had to make a choice.  Do you stick with your guy Hundley behind the plate, or do you bring back Piazza.  To everyone’s delight, the Mets made Piazza the highest paid player in the game giving him a seven year $91 million dollar contract.  When the Mets re-signed him, the Mets seemed assured of returning to the postseason.

And they did with the help of both Piazza and Hundley.  With Piazza back in the fold, the Mets had to move Hundley.  That spurned two shrewd moves by Steve Phillips that helped build a supporting cast around their superstar.  Hundley was traded for Roger Cedeno and Charles Johnson, the same Johnson who was traded by the Marlins to acquire Piazza.  Cedeno would spend 1999 being tutored by Rickey Henderson, and he would set the then Mets single season record for stolen bases while manning right field.  Phillips would then flip Johnson for Armando Benitez, who would become a dominant closer out of the bullpen.

Piazza was dominant that year.  He hit .301/.361/.575 with 40 homers, a Mets right-handed batter single season record, and 124 RBI, which is the Mets single season record.  He led the Mets throught the play-in game and into the NLCS.  His seventh inning opposite field home run off John Smoltz in Game Six of the NLCS tied the game at 7-7.  In a game they once trailed 5-0 and 7-3 and a series they had trailed three games to none, it seemed like the Mets were on the verge of pulling off the impossible.  With a Kenny Rogers walk, they didn’t.  The Mets came so close to making the World Series, but they fell short.  Even with as much as Piazza gave them, they would need more in order to make it to their first World Series since 1986 and to play in consecutive postseasons in team history.

Amazingly, Piazza had another gear.  He would hit .324/.398/.614 with 38 homers and 113 RBI.  It remains the highest slugging percentage in team history.  The 78 homers and 237 RBI over two years stands as the team records over a two year stretch.  He would tie the Mets single season record with three grand slams.  In 2000, the Mets would go to the World Series, and they would fall agonizingly close as his shot to center field fell just short of tying the game.

It was a start to an amazing Mets career and part of a Hall of Fame career.  Before Piazza left the Mets after the 2005 season, he would hold many records.  He would have the most home runs by any right-handed Mets batter and second most all time to Darryl Strawberry.  He would also be second to Strawberry in team RBI.  He would be passed by David Wright in those catergories.  However, Wright wouldn’t pass Piazza in some other catergories.  Piazza has the third highest team batting average, and he has the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.  He would also hit the most home runs all time by a catcher surpassing Johnny Bench.  It was one of many memorable home runs in Piazza’s time with the Mets, which included the June 30, 2000 home run capping a 10 run eighth inning rally that saw the Mets overcome an 8-1 deficit against the Braves, and the most important home run he would ever hit:

Now, Piazza is going to be a Hall of Famer.  He is going to be a Hall of Famer in a Mets uniform.  It never seemed possible.

Years ago, Mets fans would’ve picked Hundley over Piazza.  Almost twenty years later, Piazza chose us when he chose to enter the Hall of Fame as a New York Met joining Tom Seaver as the only Mets in the Hall of Fame.  It was an incredible ride that has seen Piazza become perhaps the most beloved Met to ever wear the uniform.  He deserves that love and much more.  He deserves every congratulation and accolade the Mets, Mets fans, and all of baseball can throw his way.

Thank you Mike Piazza.

 

Tears of Joy Was Not Good

Supposedly, this documentary was directed at Mets fans.  As such, I really wanted to like it. With that said, wow that completely missed the mark. 

Yes, completely. I know it’s an hour show. However, it missed so many HUGE storylines. First, there was no real mention of Matt Harvey. Seriously?  He was coming back from Tommy John surgery. It was the reason for the flip-flopping on the six man rotation all season. There was the Yankee game. There was the innings limit drama. There was the whole keeping him in too long in Game 5. Harvey was a huge, important, and at times, divisive figure.  He barely received a blurb. 

Speaking of pitching. This could’ve been the year Jacob deGrom became the staff ace. He was utterly dominant in the first half. He was the story of the All Star Game. He opened the postseason with a 13 strikeout performance. He somehow gutted out Game 5 of the NLDS, which is known as The Murphy Game

Both pitchers got less coverage than Steven Matz‘s debut and his grandfather. It was a big moment in the season, but also lost there was the Mets mismanaging his injury in a season of the Mets mismanaging injuries. Heck, Matz got more coverage than any pitcher. That includes Noah Syndergaard, who was probably standing 60′ 6′ away.  It also includes Jeurys Familia, who got thrust into the closer’s role due to two Jenrry Mejia PED suspensions. Familia was arguably the team MVP, but you wouldn’t know if from any of this. 

Speaking of MVPs, if he wasn’t interviewed, I wouldn’t have known Curtis Granderson was even on the team. Granderson may have been the sole professional bat on an injury ridden deplorable offense. We heard about David Wright‘s back, but we didn’t hear about any of the other injuries (even in passing) that led to John Mayberry, Jr. and Eric Campbell hitting in the middle of the lineup. How do you miss this?  Ask any Mets fan, and they will tell you that was a seminal moment in the season. 

It was part of the whole Mets mockery of the fans with Panic City. It lead to an important Mike Vaccaro column about the Mets malpractice. This column really touched upon what it meant to be a Mets fan since the Madoff scandal. We were angry. Very angry. There was a campaign to buy a billboard did the Wilpons to sell the team. That side of the story wasn’t voiced, not even with Joe & Evan. 

Instead, we got The 7 Line Army story. I mean no disrespect to Darren Meenan and what he’s created, but why was The 7 Lime Army featured more than anything else?  The 7 Line Army got more coverage than Yoenis Cespedes being the hottest hitter anyone has ever seen.  Seriously, when Cespedes hit the NLDS homer, we saw The 7 Line Army celebrating instead of an epic bat flip. Interview Darren Meenan?  Absolutely. He’s a fan, and he’s made a successful business out of his fandom. However, I’m sorry. The 7 Line Army was not the defining story of the 2015 season. Yet, it got a lot of coverage. Maybe the most coverage. 

With that, a lot was missed. Think about it. There were many key games this past season. If you take longer than a nanosecond to pinpoint the Padres game as the nadir, you’re a casual fan. If you don’t know the game to which I’m referring, you’re not a Mets fan. That game  set the stage for the exhilaration fans felt after the Cespedes’ trade. No matter your feelings about the trade, you were excited to se degree that the Mets were remade and going for it. 

That trade flipped the script on the season for the fans . . . perhaps for the team as well. The Mets went from an under-.500 team falling apart at the seams to real contenders. They went from a laughingstock with the Carlos Gomez trade debacle to a force to be reckoned. The documentary took the incredible, real-life drama that unfolded and omitted it. You could do a mini-series on July 30th and July 31st. Instead, we get a snarky Tom Verducci comment about Mets fans not being happy. I would say the quote was taken out of context, but really, how could it be?  Until that trade, the Mets had cheap owners and an under-.500 ball club. Any fan had a right to be angry. 

That’s the thing overall. You simply cannot discuss the fans without capturing their anger. It’s an example of how passionate Mets fans are. We’re not the hapless bunch we were presented as to the world. We are fans that have lived through nightmares. There was the worst team ever assembled. The Midnight Massacre. There were the misses in the 80’s.  The Worst Team Money Can Buy. Kenny Rogers walked in the series winning run. Mike Piazza‘s ball died on the warning track. Carlos Beltran struck out looking followed by two collapses. All hope was then seemingly lost with the Madoff scandal. 

However, Mets fans have seen enough magic to believe in anything. The Miracle Mets. Ya Gotta Believe! A little roller up the first base line. The Grand Slam Single. Overall, Mets fans don’t expect the worst. We’re not Cubs fans or pre-2004 Red Sox fans. No, we believe anything can and will happen. It’s a feeling that was awoken with Harvey’s right arm. It’s a feeling that’s not going away. 

So no, Tears of Joy didn’t tell the world about Mets fans. It missed the mark despite excellent work by Anthony DiComo, Jared Diamond, and Jim Breuer. 

Also, it didn’t tell me about the team or the season. From my understanding of Tears of Joy, Daniel Murphy had a hot streak before losing the World Series with an error. All 27 homerun Lucas Duda did was make a poor throw home. I could go on and on ad nauseum, but you get it. You watched the season. You know just as well as I do that Tears of Joy didn’t do a good job describing the ups and [mostly] downs of the season. 

No, overall it mostly failed to capture the season or the fans. It’s disappointing really, just as the end of the 2015 season was. I guess there it at least hit the right tone. 

Save Your Money

This is the sixth time the Mets have made the playoffs in my lifetime. In 1986 and 1988, I was too young to run out and buy playoff gear. In the subsequent years, I was able to purchase playoff gear, and I did. I wasted my money.

I look at my 1999 playoff stuff, and I see Kenny Rogers walking in the series winning run. I look at my 2000 playoff stuff, and I’m reminded of the Mets losing the Subway Series. I loved my three quarter sleeve 2006 NL East Champion t-shirt up until the Carlos Beltran strikeout. 

I don’t wear the stuff anymore. It’s just reminders of painful losses. Also, I’ve realized it’s not the gear I want. I want the World Series gear. 

Being a Giants fan, I only got the Super Bowl Champion gear. Some people got me the NFC Champions and the NFC East Champions. I never wear them. If I’m wearing something, I’m wearing the Super Bowl Champion gear. 

So take my advice. Don’t rush out and buy the NL East Champions gear. I understand your excitement, but you’ll wear it for a month at most. Save your money for the World Series. You can use the extra money to get extra stuff. Trust me. You’ll thank me later.