Kris Benson

2000 Game Recap: Hampton Finally Pitches Like Mets Ace

Well, the Mets got exactly what they needed. In an insane road trip apparently put together by someone who doesn’t own a map, the Mets finally got a day off. Rickey Henderson was back in the lineup putting his problems aside for a day. Finally, they got that well pitched effort from Mike Hampton after a Mets loss.

And the Mets needed this effort from Hampton. They needed it because they needed to get off the snide. They also needed it because Kris Benson was nearly equal to him today.

As an early practical matter, the Mets got their first hit out of the way early on an Edgardo Alfonzo infield single. That caused a bit of relief for a team who was just nearly no-hit by Ryan Dempster. There was more relief in the third when Derek Bell and Alfonzo hit back-to-back homers to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.

After that, there was no more scoring in what proved to be a 2-0 Mets victory in what proved to be a pitcher’s duel. While Benson was putting up zeros in seven of the eight innings he pitched, Hampton put up zeros in all 8.1 innings he pitched. However, just because Hampton didn’t allow a run doesn’t mean it was always easy. In fact, he needed to get a number of big outs.

In the second, Kevin Young singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Hampton got the next to Pirates to ground out to preserve the tie. The biggest challenge came in the fifth when Young singled and Wil Cordero doubled to begin the inning.

Hampton first struck out Pat Meares. Then, with the infield drawn in, Robin Ventura fielded the Luis Sojo grounder, and he nailed Young at the plate. Hampton then escaped the jam by getting Benson to ground out. The Pirates could not get to Hampton again until the ninth.

In that ninth inning, Hampton allowed a lead-off single to Brian Giles, and then with one out, he plunked Cordero. That put the tying runs on base with one out. Despite his recent struggles, Bobby Valentine went to Armando Benitez to record the save.

Benitez would reward Valentine’s faith in him getting Meares to fly out before striking out John Vander Wal to end the game. With that, Benitez recorded his ninth save of the season, and mostly, the struggling Mets finally won a game. That was even better with Hampton playing the role of stopper like the team had hoped he would be when they obtained him this past offseason.

Game Notes: With the off day, the Mets are going to skip Bill Pulsipher‘s next start and move him to the bullpen. While the team may want to keep him there permanently, those plans may be encumbered by Rich Rodriguez‘s contract. Henderson was placed on outright waivers but said they have no intention of releasing him.

2000 Game Recap: Ventura Giveth But Mostly Taketh

The bad news is this game encapsulated everything which has gone wrong for the Mets early on this season. The good news is despite everything which had gone wrong, the Mets were somehow able to pull out a victory.

With Mike Piazza back in the lineup, the Mets offense shut down by Jimmy Anderson came alive against Kris Benson. Before the Pirates could even come to the plate, the Mets had a 3-0 lead courtesy of Robin Ventura‘s three run homer. What is startling for Ventura is the 1999 Gold Glove winner has more errors (3) than homers (1) so far this season. More on that later.

The Mets 3-0 lead was extremely short lived as Bobby Jones didn’t even record an out in the game. Two batters into the game, he had a strained calf, and he had to come out of the game. This was the third straight start he couldn’t even pitch past four innings. As if his performance wasn’t enough of an issue, his now being injured could force the issue.

Jones wasn’t the only one dealing with an injury issue. Rickey Henderson was lifted for Jon Nunnally after getting hit by a pitch while leading off the game.

Pat Mahomes came into the game, and he didn’t appear quite ready to go. He was greeted by Brian Giles hitting an RBI double, and he’d be hit hard allowing four first inning runs (including the two he inherited) putting the Mets behind 4-3.

After that first inning, Mahomes would settle in a bit, and the Mets offesne would grab him a lead. First, it was a Nunnally two run homer in the second, and then it was a Todd Zeile two RBI double in the third. The Zeile double chased Benson from the game.

The Mets had a 6-4 lead, and that’s when the sloppiness started. With two outs in the third, Rey Ordonez would boot a ground ball leading to two unearned runs. The first came off a Jason Kendall RBI single, and the second was off Giles’ second double of the game. With that the Mets 6-4 lead became a 7-6 deficit.

Fortunately, the Mets offense was still humming. They came right back and retook the lead. Once again, it was Nunnally. He hit a one out single, and he stole second. He then scored on a Derek Bell RBI single. After an Edgardo Alfonzo double, and Ventura RBI single, the Mets were back on top 9-7. They would not fall behind again.

One of the reasons was while the Mets were playing sloppy defense, Bell continued his terrific early defense. With John Vander Wal on second with two outs, Aramis Ramirez hit a ball to deep right which seemed destined for extra bases. Bell would leap and rob Ramirez of a hit preserving the Mets two run lead and sending the game into the fifth.

The Mets would then build on their lead. After loading the bases with three straight singles to start the sixth, Ventura would hit a sacrifice fly. Later on in the inning, Jay Payton hit a bases clearing double expanding the Mets lead to 11-7.

The Pirates would again pull closer after Giles and Wil Cordero hit a pair of solo shots off of Turk Wendell in the sixth. Still, the Mets would maintain their lead, and that lead would grow to 12-7 when Ventura hit an RBI double in the eighth.

Overall, the Mets were extremely sloppy in this game, including Zeile getting mixed up on who should cover first along with three errors. Still, they were hitting, and when they hit, this team can win any game. Bell, Piazza, and Ventura each had three hit games, and Ventura drove in half of the team’s runs with six RBI.

At the end of the day, a win is a win, and for the first time this season, the Mets have won a series. It wasn’t pretty, and it came against a bad team, but it is a start.

Game Notes: This was Ventura’s first two error game since 1998. Ordonez now has four errors, which matches his total for all of last year.

Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.

 

Patriots Winning The Super Bowl Is A Bad Omen For The Mets

Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:

2002
Super Bowl XXXVI
Mets: 79-86

After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.

What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.

2004
Super Bowl XXXVIII
Mets:
71-91

This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player.  Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.

As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.

As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.

Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.

2005
Super Bowl XXXIX
Mets:
83-79

With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific  collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:

The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.

Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.

2015
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1

Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.

2017
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: 70-92

The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.

Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.

Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.

As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.

2019
Super Bowl LIII
Mets: ?

This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.

The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.

Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.

Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.

 

Good Luck Jose Bautista

While it may sound strange now, back in 2004, the Mets actually traded away Jose Bautista to try to make the postseason. As absurd as that may sound, the Mets obtained him for just Justin Huber, and he was then flipped for Kris Benson.

As odd as the circumstances surrounding his arrival and departure for the Mets might’ve been in 2004, his story nearly 14 years later might top it.

After a storied Blue Jays career, the best Bautista could muster last offseason was a minor league deal from the Braves to return to third base. After 12 Major League games with the Braves, he hit .143/.250/.343, and he would be released.

On May 22nd, Bautista was sitting on his couch in Tampa when the Mets came calling.

A team once so blessed with outfield depth was in desperate need for an outfielder, and Bautista was the best of the lot. On that day, Bautista went from his couch to being instead in the starting lineup.

Bautista was signed as the Mets were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. The team who was once 12-2 was 24-19 and trailed Bautista’s former team by 3.5 games.

Well, since Bautista was signed, everything fell apart to the point the Mets were sellers at the trade deadline. While there were many people to be blamed, Bautista wasn’t one of them. In fact, the Mets did catch lightning in a bottle with Bautista.

In that horrid June when the Mets went 5-21, Bautista was great. In 25 games that month, Bautista hit .250/.434/.536 with seven doubles, three homers, and 11 RBI.

Bautista was everything the Mets hoped he would be. He not only played a very solid outfield, but he would also handle first, second, and third. Seemingly each and every day, Bautista found a way to contribute. That included him hitting his first career walk off homer:

It was a signature moment for a 15 year veteran who had a number of them in his illustrious career.

Fourteen years after having pass on by, the Mets got a chance to see Bautista put on their uniform. Bautista was willing to contribute to the Mets in any way they asked, and contribute he did.

He’s now joining Asdrubal Cabrera in Philadelphia in the hopes of another magical postseason run with more epic bat flips. Despite his destination, it will be fun to see him get that chance.

Best of luck to him.