Mike Cameron

Keith Hernandez Has A Message For Mets Fans

With the Mets playing on the West Coast, and on a Friday night to boot, it is understandable if you missed the game last night.  If you did, you missed the special message Keith Hernandez had for Mets fans:

Actually, Keith was just showing us how he cut his finger shaving.  For those interested, Keith uses a single blade when he shaves.

Right now, that moment goes down in the annuls of famous Mets moments in San Diego including the David Wright barehanded catch, the Carlos Beltran/Mike Cameron headfirst collision, and the Bartolo Colon home run.

Overall, it’s silly moments like this, or when a Keith, who thought he was off camera, gave his assessment of Tanner Roark‘s performance, that makes this booth the best in baseball.  They’re honest, and you never know when they’re going to do something so innocently bizarre that you will never forget the moment.

Congratulations Carlos Beltran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Boo Carlos Beltran

Tonight, Carlos Beltran returns to Citi Field. This time he’s wearing a Yankees uniform. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s an All Time great Met. 

If you look at WAR, Beltran is the sixth best Mets to ever put on the uniform. He was better than Edgardo AlfonzoJose ReyesKeith Hernandez, and Mike Piazza. In his seven years with the Mets, he went to five All Star Games and won three Gold Gloves. He should have won the 2006 NL MVP Award. He was the best CF the Mets ever had in their history. 

More than that he was a gamer. After that violent August 11, 2005 collision with Mike Cameron, he suffered facial fractures and was hospitalized.  He only missed four games. In the last game at Shea, with the season on the line, he hit a game tying homerun to keep their hopes alive. He was also terrific in the 2006 postseason with a .422 OBP and 3 homeruns. 

That’s where it all gets mixed up. The strikeout. I can’t defend it. He didn’t even try to foul if off. What I can defend is the work that came before and after it. I was happy when he got a loud ovation at the 2013 All Star Game. It was all the more impressive because he was wearing a Cardinals uniform. He comes back again tonight wearing a Yankee uniform. 

It’s not cause to boo. He didn’t leave the Mets for them. He was traded away, and the Mets never showed interest in bringing him back. So when he comes up to bat the first time, give him some applause to thank him for his time with the Mets. 

Put Me in Coach . . .

“Look at me, I can be Centerfield.”  That is about as fun as the baseball songs get. Another one of my favorites is “Talkin’ Baseball” with it’s famous refrain of “Willie, Mickey, the Duke.” As you can see, Centerfield is an important position with much history in New York City.  You always hear about those good old days of Willie, Mickey, and the Duke playing CF in New York City at the same time. That doesn’t seem fair or possible. The Yankees have had an absurd tradition with their centerfielders with Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. The Mets tradition hasn’t been as good, but then again whose has? However, we’ve had some fun names and good players come through and man centerfield in Flushing.

In 1969, the Mets had Tommie Agee, who for at least the 1969 World Series, was the best defensive CF to ever play the game: 

Unfortunately, the Mets did try Willie Mays out in CF in the last two years of his career. From what I’ve been told, it did not end well. Then there was fan favorite Lee Mazzilli, who played for some truly awful Mets teams. However, he was the star, if not the MVP, of of the 1979 All Star Game (back when the ASG meant something). Lee Mazzilli then gave way to Ron Darling. They would both win a World Series together with the Mets in 1986.

Speaking of 1986, the Mets had two other fan favorites who played CF: Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra. Both contributed to the 1986 World Series victory immensely between Dykstra’s leadoff homerun against Oil Can Boyd, and well, we know about Wilson:

After that, we saw a bit of a dry spell with highlights like Lance Johnson, the late Darryl Hamilton, Jay Payton, and Mike Cameron. Then, we were blessed with Carlos Beltran. Say what you will about the Wainwright strikeout, in my opinion, he’s even money on making it into the Hall of Fame, and there’s a significant chance he goes in as a New York Met. Although with the way he was treated here by the fans, and mostly by the Wilpons, he’s probably going in as a Royal.

Now after Juan Lagares’ 2014 Gold Glove season and reasonable contract extension, we’re back to who should play CF. This is important because Lagares has a triple slash line of .254/.280/.333. Even if he was what he was defensively last year, this is unacceptable. Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with his injured elbow. Regardless, CF is now a problem.

It should be noted his splits against LHP are .279/.338/.412. That is much better especially when you consider his defense. Add to the fact that Kirk Nieuwenhuis has hit .333/.400/.444 over the past two weeks (mostly against RHP), there is a real platoon here. Niewenhuis is a very capable CF, but he’s not in Lagares’ league defensively . . . then again who is?

With the Yoenis Cespedes acquisition, there have been some overtures that Curtis Granderson move to CF, a position he hasn’t played since 2012. This is dangerous because the Mets starting pitchers get more outs in the air than on the ground this year. Here are their respective ground ball percentages:

Matt Harvey 44.4%

Jacob deGrom 43.2%

Noah Syndergaard 45.9%

Jon Niese 54.6%

Bartolo Colon 39.9%

According, with the exception of maybe Niese, the Mets need their best defensive outfield out there are all times. This means Lagares must play as much as possible. Granderson and his good OF defense should stay in a corner OF spot where it will remain good defense. While Lagares isn’t hitting and Nieuwenhuis is, the platoon should remain in place.

While we all agree the Mets need to ride their pitching to the postseason, we should also agree that they need to put their best defense out there to help the pitching. Remember helping a pitcher is more than just scoring runs . . . it’s also about preventing runs with good defense. The only effect the Cespedes acquisition should have on the outfield configuration is to demote Michael Conforto to AAA and put Cespedes in LF, where he has played all year. I think that outfield alignment is the best there is that is ready to go out there and play.