Masato Yoshii

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 55 Orel Hershiser

Before the 1999 season, Orel Hershiser was reviled by Mets fans. His 1988 NLCS MVP performance is what stood between them and what Mets fans believed was a rightfully the Mets second World Series in three seasons. Instead, Hershiser earned a save in Game 4 while picking the win in a masterful Game 7 performance.

A decade later, the Mets made the somewhat controversial move to sign Hershiser during Spring Training. It turned out to be a great move for the franchise.

It didn’t look like it in the beginning as Hershiser got knocked around in April and May. To make matters worse, the Mets were unperforming leading to Steve Phillips firing three of Bobby Valentine‘s coaches on June 6th. At that point in the season, the Mets were a .500 team after getting it handed to them by the Yankees.

n June 7th, Hershiser got the ball, and he made the first step towards salvaging the Mets season. In that start, Hershiser picked up the win after allowing two earned over six innings. This was part of a terrific stretch where both the Mets and Hershiser turned their seasons around.

From May 21 – June 29, Hershiser was 7-1 with a 2.94 ERA. Over that time frame, the Mets went from firing coaches to 11 games over .500 and in the thick of the postseason races. That’s where the Mets were all season, and as luck would have it, the Mets found themselves tied with the Cincinnati Reds on the final day of the regular season, and the Mets handed the ball to Hershiser.

Hershiser allowed a run in the first before shutting down the Pirates over the next five innings. He would pick up a no decision in a game the Mets eventually won on a wild pitch scoring Melvin Mora in the bottom of the ninth. Despite pitching this big game, the Mets opted to put this battled tested veteran who had a number of huge postseason starts in the bullpen.

In that postseason, Hershiser would make only two appearances. The first was a scoreless inning locking up a Mets victory in Game 3 of the NLDS. The next was a huge relief appearance in Game 5 of the NLCS to help keep the Mets alive in the series.

Up until that Game 5, Hershiser’s big contribution in that series was pointing out to Eddie Coleman and Steve Somers just how much Chipper Jones hated being called by his given”Larry.” With that, Hershiser improbably gave birth to the Larry chants which would fill Shea Stadium for its final days.

In Game 5, the Mets were fighting off elimination. The early 2-0 lead went by the wayside with Masato Yoshii giving up two runs with no outs in the fourth. Hershiser entered the game in an almost impossible situation with runners on first and second with no outs.

He responded by striking out Andruw Jones and Eddie Perez back-to-back before getting Walt Weiss to ground out back to him. Hershiser then followed that up by shutting out the Braves for an additional 2.1 innings. It was those 3.1 scoreless innings which would keep the game and the Mets alive long enough for Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam single many innings later.

Surprisingly, Hershiser was not done in that series. Despite being a 40 year old starter, he found himself back on the mound two days later in Game 6. He pitched a scoreless seventh before the Mets took the lead in the top of the eighth on a Mora RBI single. In another universe, Hershiser would have gotten the win there, but the Mets would lose that game, and Hershiser’s one year tenure with the Mets was over.

During that year, Hershiser had an eventful season which included him being the starting pitcher for the Mercury Mets and giving Mets fans their favorite jeer. He put together a good year, and he had some postseason glory for the Mets instead of against the Mets in what was a near Hall of Fame career. As he was an integral part of that 1999 team, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 55.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry

19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw

46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford
54. T.J. Rivera

 

2000 Game Recap: Someone Named Bubba Carpenter Beats Mets

Once again, Rick Reed allowed two earned (or fewer) over seven innings. Once again, he was dominating this time striking out 10 batters. Only this time, it wasn’t good enough for the Mets.

While Reed was striking out Rockies left and right, Masato Yoshii was back at Shea Stadium, and he looked more comfortable on that mound than he has all year on the mound in Coors. In fact, Yoshii would match Reed allowing three runs over seven innings himself.

In fact, the Rockies would be leading with Brent Mayne of all people leading the charge. Mayne had an RBI double in the second and an RBI single in the fourth. Reed hurt himself in that fourth inning throwing one away during a pick-off allowing Jeffrey Hammonds to go from first-to third. He would score that inning on a Darren Bragg RBI single.

The Mets had only two runs entering the bottom of the seventh. In the second, Robin Ventura hit homer off of Yoshii. Later, in the fourth, Derek Bell hit a lead-off double, and he would score after a pair of ground outs from Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza. Ventura would double after the Piazza ground out, but he would be stranded there.

Yoshii would again stifle a Mets two run rally in the sixth. After a pair of Alfonzo and Piazza singles put runners on the corners, Ventura grounded out to end the inning. This put the Mets down one entering the bottom half of the inning. That’s when Todd Zeile hit a game tying homer. The problem is the Mets offense couldn’t push a run across after that homer.

John Franco and Armando Benitez (two innings) did their part by combining to pitch three scoreless innings. During that time, the Mets offense could not get out of its own way.

Going back to the seventh, after Zeile’s homer, the Mets had runners on first and second with one out only for that rally to end on a Joe McEwing GIDP. Like in the seventh, the Mets had a two out rally in the 10th which they squandered. Bell singled, and Alfonzo drew a walk, but Piazza would ground out to end the inning.

The Mets would rue wasting these chances as Turk Wendell surrendered a home to Bubba Carpenter in the 11th. Carpenter is a 31 year old rookie who no one has ever heard of before today. These are the types of homers which eat away at you because 31 year old rookies like Carpenter should not be beating you.

But, he did because Wendell threw a bad pitch and because the Mets offense could not push home yet another runner who was in scoring position. Zeile hit a one out double, and Bobby Valentine would have Kurt Abbott pinch run for him. Abbott moved to third on an Agbayani ground out, but he would stay there as Matt Franco struck out to end the game.

Again, the Mets are losing games they should win, and they are losing to inferior teams. Simply put, if the Mets have any designs on making the postseason this year, they have to play better than this. There really are no excuses for this.

Game Notes: Darryl Hamilton has begun rehabbing after surgery for his toe. Over his last five games, Zeile is 10-for-18.

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.

2000 Game Recap: Mets Pound Rockies

At some level, we have to find out what the Coors Field pitching line equivalent is at a normal ballpark. On some level, it would seem that one run is equivalent to six runs. The reason for that conversation is while Rick Reed again pitched at least seven innings, he allowed more than one run in his start.

The Rockies set a season worst for runs scored against Reed when Larry Walker hit a two run homer in the bottom of the first. After that, Reed settled in, and he would pitch four consecutive scoreless innings. In that time, the Mets offense battered former teammate Masato Yoshii and the Rockies bullpen.

The Mets first tied the score in the second starting with back-to-back doubles from Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile. Zeile would later score on a Rey Ordonez RBI single. The Mets offense would then explode in the fourth inning.

The first big hit was a Jay Payton RBI triple. He would come to score on a Todd Pratt RBI single. This was the first of a career best four hits from Pratt who did a more than adequate job filling in for the injured Piazza. Overall, Pratt was 4-for-5 with a run, double, and an RBI.

Pratt and Edgardo Alfonzo were the two Mets with four hits. Derek Bell and Zeile would have three hit days, and every Mets player in the lineup would have at least one hit with the position players all getting two hits. In total, the Mets would accumulate a season high 23 hits.

After the Pratt RBI single, Reed would sacrifice him to second, and Rickey Henderson would walk. That chased Yoshii. It also turned out to be a mistake as Rich Croushore was not up to the task.

Croushore would walk Bell before issuing back-to-back walks to Alonzo and Ventura loading the bases. Bell singled, and Croushore walked the bases loaded again before giving up a Zeile RBI single. In total, it was a six run inning putting the Mets on their way to a 13-6 victory.

Reed showed no real ill effects of the palm injury which had cost him a start. Not only would he last the seven innings, but he would also have a base hit in addition to two sacrifice bunts. Not only did Reed get healthy and once again pitch like the Mets real ace, but the Mets offense also got healthy. As a result, this team snapped its three game losing streak.

Game Recap: Vance Wilson was called-up to back-up Todd Pratt with Mike Piazza dealing with a wrist injury. Eric Cammack was sent down to make room for Wilson on the roster. Piazza will not be doing on the DL. Ordonez made his fifth error on the season.

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.

2000 Game Recap: Mets Lose Game And Might Lose Piazza

For some reason, the Mets were not given a travel day before flying almost across the country to play a day game in Coors Field. Anytime a team has to do that, they are at a disadvantage. That is all the more the case as the fatigued players have to deal with the thin air. That thin air is also a great disadvantage for pitchers.

Much like he has most of this season, Mike Hampton struggled in his start in Coors Field. While we can over-focus on that, fact is this is an environment ill-suited for Hampton and really any pitcher who toes the rubber.

With Hampton, it was once again the walks which got him into trouble. In the Rockies six run third, Hampton ignited a powder keg by walking Brian Hunter and Mike Lansing ahead of the heart of the Rockies order, and beginning with a Larry Walker two RBI triple, the Rockies would make him pay.

That Walker triple was the first of five straight Rockies hits. Four of those hits would go for extra bases including a Todd Helton RBI triple. Later in the fifth, Hampton’s last inning, the Mets defense did him no favors with Edgardo Alfonzo making a rare error leading to an unearned run.

That Alfonzo error turned out to be much worse than your typical error leading to an unearned run. On the play, Alfonzo was trying to nail Helton at the plate. His low throw led to Piazza putting down an awkward tag, losing the ball, and having to leave the game with an injured wrist.

Getting back to Hampton, this is Coors Field, but once again, there is question whether he is the ace the Mets thought they were getting. His final line in this game was 5.0 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 2 K. That’s not exactly awe inspiring, and notably, Pedro Astacio wasn’t having the same issues. To be fair, Astacio has called Coors home for two years now, and he wasn’t exactly great either.

The key difference is Astacio found his way out of jams. In the first, he got Todd Zeile to ground out to get out of a bases loaded jam. In the fifth, the Mets had the bases loaded with no outs, and Astacio was able to limit the damage by getting Jay Payton to hit into a double play. As a result, he exited the fifth with a 7-2 lead.

The Mets got a rally going again in the seventh. Robin Ventura and Zeile hit back-t0-back RBI singles, and Payton hit an RBI double. Astacio would then be relieved by Stan Belinda, and he would receive an ovation for allowing JUST five runs over 6.2 innings. Again, this is Coors Field.

That Mets rally was just too little too late. At that point, the game was out of reach, even by Coors Field standards, as Eric Cammack provided little relief allowing four runs in the sixth. After Rich Rodriguez allowed a run in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets would lose the game 12-5.

In the grand scheme of things, the Mets losing this game isn’t that big of a deal. The bigger issue and potential loss is Piazza. Fortunately, x-rays were negative. However, wrist injuries tend to linger, and no one really knows when Piazza can get back to being Piazza. If Piazza isn’t Piazza, there’s not telling what will happen to this Mets team who just started playing like contenders again.

Game Notes: Masato Yoshii, who the Mets traded to the Rockies in the offseason, is slated to pitch against his former team tomorrow. Notably, that trade not only gave the Mets both Bobby Jones and Bobby Jones, but it also meant Yoshii did not get to return to his native Japan as a Major League player.

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.

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.

 

Tyler Yates Cost the Mets the 2006 World Series

With my Back to the Future post yesterday, I began to think about how some seemingly innocuous decisions had an impact on the Mets future. In 2004, the Mets organization put way too much stock in Spring Training performance and gave Tyler Yates a rotation spot and sent Aaron Heilman to AAA. 

Yates was terrible as a starter.  He allowed batters to hit .317/.405/.475 against him in seven starts. He had a 6.34 ERA and a 1.929 WHIP. I’m still stunned he went 1-4. He should’ve gone 0-7. Actually, he should never have started a game. The spot should’ve gone to Heilman. 

Instead, Heilman spent most of the year in AAA. He made a few starts in 2004 and 2005, but he was mostly used as a reliever. Going into the 2006 season, Heilman found himself in another battle for the fifth starter spot. He lost the battle, but he became a quality set-up man. 

Heilman started as the seventh inning guy. He took over the eighth inning after Duaner Sanchez‘s cab ride. For the year, he went 4-5 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP. He allowed batters to hit .231/.298/.332. However, we remember none of this. We remember him as the guy who allowed the Yadier Molina homerun. We remember him as the guy who lost Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Ironically, we don’t have the same memories of Rick Aguilera

The reason is the Mets rallied in 1986 whereas the 2006 Mets didn’t. Maybe the Mets aren’t in that position if Heilman made the starting rotation in 2004 and stayed there. It’s possible Heilman would’ve gone the way of Masato Yoshii or Mark Clark. They were good pitchers that were with the Mets for a short time. However, unless you’re a diehard, you have no lasting memories of them. 

We do have a lasting memory of Aaron Heilman. His path there was all started because the Mets thought Tyler Yates was a better starting pitcher in 2004.