Throughout their history, the Mets have have had some bold uniform designs which have elicited strong reactions. For the most part, the bold designs are met with near universal disdain or mockery.
The underscore jerseys were tainted not just because of the poor sense of fashion, but also because it was the jersey of Anthony Young‘s losing streak. There was the ill conceived white cap dubbed the “Ice Cream Man” cap. Certainly, these stand out as the most despised, but they’re not the most controversial.
No, that honor belongs to the black jerseys.
The black jerseys were a shock to the system and a complete departure from Mets tradition. Beloved announcer Howie Rose repeatedly voiced his displeasure for them. Noted Mets fan and uniform guru Paul Lukas of Uniwatch launched a campaign against them. Eventually, they and the many detractors won the day when the black uniforms were disposed of after the 2011 season.
However, for all those who despised them, there were a legion of Mets fans who loved them. As previously noted, one of the main reasons why is those jerseys are so closely tied to beloved Met Mike Piazza and a whole era of Mets baseball.
Piazza wore the black jersey when he capped off the 10 run inning against the Braves with a home run. Robin Ventura was wearing the black jersey when he hit the Grand Slam single. Mike Hampton was wearing the black jersey when he pitched a complete game shutout to win the fourth pennant in Mets history. Overall, they were plenty of great moments in those jerseys.
Going back, you have to question why those jerseys elicited such a visceral reaction. The answer is multilayered, and it’s more than just the traditionalist point of view.
One aspect was it got to be too big, and the Mets were a bit of a laughingstock. It wasn’t just the black jerseys. There was also the snow white jerseys along with the pinstripes. There was also a gray and black road jersey. In addition to five different types of jerseys, the team had three different caps.
Personally, the caps were an issue as the black caps were not aesthetically pleasing. The blue bill on the black hat with the two toned interlocking NY was too busy. That was at least better than the three toned interlocking NY on the all black cap. It should be noted those caps were worn predominantly even with fans arguably preferring the traditional blue and orange caps, which did match all five of the jerseys well enough.
More than the caps, the jerseys were probably just overdone. The traditional blue pinstripes were all but forgotten, and they were awkward looking with the completely unnecessary drop shadow.
Really, when you ruin the pinstripes and push them by the wayside, you give traditionalists more ammunition. Between them not giving up the cause, and with the Mets collapses and the team falling apart when they moved to Citi Field, it was time for a change.
The change has been good with the blue jerseys looking sharp. Mostly, it’s been great to see the Mets wear the pinstripes with the traditional caps again.
Still, with Piazza going to the Hall of Fame and the 20th anniversary of the 1999 team, you do wonder if there’s room for the return of the black jerseys. Under the right circumstances, there should be.
In their history, the Mets have had a number of truly awful free agent signings. Their foibles on the free agent market have inspired books, and they have led to the Mets having prolonged down periods which have led to the team being under .500 for extended periods and eventually rebuilding. Their mistakes are not limited to just any position. Really, they have made mistakes across the diamond:
C Rod Barajas (1 year, $500,000) – In the Mets history, they have had just four free agents catchers as their Opening Day starter with Barajas being one of them. With respect to Barajas, he was the cheap option in a truly uninspiring free agent group of catcher, and he would not last the season getting released towards the end of August.
1B Eddie Murray (2 years, $7.5 million) – Murray was the first piece the Mets locked down in what was to be known as the Worst Team Money Could Buy. In his previous stops, he was a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the best switch hitters to ever play the game. With the Mets, Murray had two disappointing seasons where he hit .274/.330/.446.
2B Luis Castillo (4 years, $25 million) – In 2007, the Mets needed a second baseman, and the team was able to get Castillo for nearly nothing. While that team collapsed, Castillo was hardly to blame hitting .316/.404/.418 over the final month of the season. To that end, it made sense to bring him back but not for the extreme overpay which was immediately panned by everyone. Castillo would disappoint from that point forward, and eh woudl become a symbol of what was wrong with the team with the seminal moment being his dropping Alex Rodriguez‘s pop up leading to the Mets losing a game to the Yankees.
3B Todd Frazier (2 years, $17 million) – After a year in which Frazier had his first ever trips to the deisabled list and he had a careeer worst .390 SLG and .693 OPS, he was an obvious candidate. Frankly, the choice was much easier when you consider how well Robin Ventura played during his Mets tenure and the Mets predominantly using homegrown players or trades to fill the position.
SS Kazuo Matsui (3 years, $20.1 million) – Despite the presence of Jose Reyes, the Mets opted to sign Matsui to be their shortstop. It looked like a great move when Matsui homered in his first ever at=bat, but it was all downhill from there as Matsui disappointed at the plate and in the field. Matsui dealt with injuries, was moved to second base, had a negative WAR in his last two years with the Mets, and he was eventually traded for Eli Marrero, who lasted just two months with the Mets.
LF George Foster (5 years, $10 million) – The Mets first free agent splash was Foster, and in many ways, Foster set the tone for some for the big moves the Mets would make in the future. Foster would go from being an All Star who hit .295/.373/.519 to someone who hit .252/.307/.422 in a Mets uniform. Overall, Foster had a rocky tenure with the team, and he would be released in 1986 after making comments to the press.
CF Vince Coleman (4 years, $11.95 million) – It wasn’t enough the Mets let Darryl Strawberry go to the Dodgers they replaced them with Coleman, a player who tortured the Mets. If Mets fans didn’t despise him enough when he wore a Cardinals uniform, they certainly did during his Mets tenure which featured not just poor play but also throwing firecrackers at a group of fans.
RF Roger Cedeno (4 years, $18 million) Cedeno wasn’t just an important part of the 1999 team, but he would also serve as a key piece of the trade which brought the Mets Mike Hampton. When he was a free agent, the Mets pounced to bring him back. Just three years later, he was a shadow of the player he was leading to his being traded to Wilson Delgado.
SP Oliver Perez (3 year $36 million) – After being obtaine by the Padresx, Perez was great in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, won 15 games in 2007, and gave the Mets every chance to win in the final game every played in Shea Stadium. Despite all of that, there were red flags everywhere, and Perez predictably failed after getting his big free agent deal. He struggled, and he would refuse a stint in the minors leading to the team freezing him out. His Mets career would end in infamy as he was brought into the 14th inning of the final game of the season after not having pitched in nearly a month. He’d be released after the season with a one year and $12 million left on his deal.
RP Francisco Rodriguez (3 years, $37 million) -Needing a close, the Mets went out and signed the closer who just set the single season saves record to a massive contract. In his first year in the deal, he had the second most blown saves in the NL and a then career worst ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, HR/9, BB/9, and K/9. In the second year of his deal, he was placed on the restricted list after being arrested for assaulting his girlfriend’s father in the family room at Citi Field. The Mets finally traded him in the last year of his deal to accomplish both rebuilding and to prevent an onerous option from being activated.
In Brodie Van Wagenen’s first offseason as Mets manager, it is incumbent upon him to navigate through the minefield of potential free agent busts which are lurking. The success of the 2019 Mets and his success during his tenure as the Mets General Manager depends on it.
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.
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 Henderson–Darryl Hamilton–Derek 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 Agbayani–Jay 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.
There are many factors to consider when voting for a candidate today. At this point, they have all be regurgitated and discussed at length, and hopefully, you have made your decision based upon sound criteria. However, if you are looking for a reason to change your mind or reason to have your mind made up for you, or you really want to base this important decision on how the Mets have fared with a Republican or a Democrat in office, you are in luck. Here is how the Mets have performed under each President in their 54 year history:
|John F. Kennedy||1962 – 1963||91 – 231||0.283|
|Lyndon B. Johnson||1964 – 1968||303 – 506||0.375|
|Richard M Nixon||1969 – 1974*||478 – 433||0.525|
|Gerald R. Ford||1974* – 1976||263 – 277||0.487|
|Jimmy Carter||1977 – 1980||260 – 388||0.401|
|Ronald Reagan||1981 – 1988||662 – 573||0.536|
|George H.W. Bush||1989 – 1992||386 – 423||0.477|
|William Jefferson Clinton||1993 – 2000||562 – 506||0.526|
|George W. Bush||2001 – 2008||651 – 643||0.503|
|Barack Obama||2009 – 2016||630-666||0.486|
* Nixon resigned from office August 9, 1974
Here are the cumulative results:
|Democrat||1,846 – 2,297||0.446|
|Republican||2,440 – 2,349||0.510|
Here are some interesting Mets postseason facts when there was a Democrat or Republican in the White House.
Democrat Postseason Facts
- The two times the Mets have been to back-to-back postseasons was when there was a Democrat in the White House (1999 & 2000 – Clinton; 2015 & 2016 – Obama)
- The Mets have only had an NLCS MVP when there was a Democrat in the White House (Mike Hampton – 2000; Daniel Murphy – 2015)
- The Mets have only won the division once (2015) with a Democrat in office. The other three postseason appearances were as the Wild Card.
- The Mets have appeared in four total postseasons and two World Series. The Mets are 21-17 in postseason games with the following records per round:
Wild Card Game 0 – 1 NLDS 9 – 4 NLCS 10 – 4 World Series 2 – 8
Republican Postseason Facts
- The Mets have won their only two World Series with a Republican in office (1969 – Nixon; 1986 – Reagan)
- In all five of their appearances in the postseason with a Republican in office, the Mets were the National Leauge East champions.
- In three of the five appearances, the Mets won 100+ games with the high water mark coming in 1986 with 108 wins
- In four of the five seasons the Mets appeared in the postseason with a Republican in office, the Mets had the best record in the National League (1973 is the exception). In two of those seasons (1986 & 2006), the Mets had the best record in baseball.
- In total, the Mets have appeared in five postseason and three World Series. The Mets are 30-20 in those postseason games with the following records per round:
NLDS 3 – 0 NLCS 16 – 12 World Series 11 – 8
If you wish to mainly focus on player performance over how the team has fared during each administration, Mets players have received more awards during Republican leadership:
Cy Young Award
Rookie of the Year
- Republican 3 (Seaver 1967; Jon Matlack 1972; Darryl Strawberry 1983; Gooden 1984)
- Democrat 1 (Jacob deGrom 2014)
Rolaids Relief Man
Sports Illustrated Man of the Year
- Republican 1 (Seaver 1969)
- Democrat 0
- Republican 14 (Tommie Agee 1970; Bud Harrelson 1971; Keith Hernandez 1983 – 1988; Ron Darling 1989; Carlos Beltran 2006 – 2008; David Wright 2007 – 2008)
- Democrat 6 (Doug Flynn 1980; Rey Ordonez 1997 – 1999; Robin Ventura 1999; Juan Lagares 2014)
- Republican 14 (Hernandez 1984; Gary Carter 1985 – 1986; Strawberry 1988; Howard Johnson1989 & 1991; Mike Piazza 2001 – 2002; Jose Reyes 2006; Beltran 2006 – 2007; Wright 2007 – 2008)
- Democrat 5 (Piazza 1998 – 2000; Edgardo Alfonzo 1999; Hampton 2000)
Roberto Clemente Award
From the Front Office side, Republicans have a 2-1 edge in executive of the year with Johnny Murphy winning in 1969, Frank Cashen winning in 1986, and Sandy Alderson winning in 2015. Baseball America named the Mets the top organization in baseball once in a Republican (1984) and once in a Democratic (1995) term.
As a general rule of thumb, the Mets and their players have performed better with a Republican in office. As you enter the voting booths today, take that as you will. Hopefully, you have more sound criteria for choosing your candidate.
With Mike Piazza finally getting elected to the Hall of Fame and this current Mets offseason, I’ve been thinking a lot about missed opportunities in Mets history. For me, the 2000 offseason and 2001 season might’ve been the biggest missed opportunity in Mets history (or at least my lifetime).
Coming off a disappointing loss in the World Series, the Mets had a ton of important decisions to make. The most intriguing one was Alex Rodriguez. The Mets passed calling him a 24 and 1 type of player. The biggest free agent in baseball history, a 25 year old shortstop with 40/40 capability, and the Mets weren’t interested. They weren’t interested despite A-Rod wanting to be a Met. The Mets wouldn’t sign a big bat in lieu of him.
The next big decision was NLCS MVP Mike Hampton. The Mets have up a lot to get him, namely Roger Cedeno and Octavio Dotel. However, Hampton delivered. He was 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA. He won a Silver Slugger. He was an ace. He and Al Leiter were terrific that year during the regular season, and they helped pitch the Mets to the World Series. The Mets wouldn’t outbid the Rockies, who offered him the biggest contract in baseball history (until A-Rod signed with the Rangers) and the benefits of the Denver school system.
With the Mets missing out with these two players (and Mike Mussina), the Mets decided to build a deep, cost effective starting rotation. By the way, where have we heard of a World Series losing team choosing depth over high-end expensive players? In any event, the Mets re-signed Rick Reed and added Kevin Appier and Steve Trachsel. The last two moves were about as popular now as they were then.
The end result? The Mets got a compensatory pick for Mike Hampton (more on that in a minute) and an 82-80 record. It would be the last year the Mrts finished above .500 until 2005, which was Piazza’s last year with the Mets. The end of Piazza’s prime was wasted by the Mets. He would never return to the postseason with them. He would never play in another World Series. Was it worth it? Well, it depends on your point-of-view.
For me, the pivotal figure in this inquiry is Hampton. For startees, I say Hampton because I believe the Mets were never truly enamored with A-Rod. The Wilpons and Nelson Doubleday were fighting over the valuation of the Mets. The Wilpons were buying out Doubleday, and they didn’t want the value of the franchise to increase any further. A-Rod would’ve done that. Furthermore, it’s likely they would’ve had a hard time signing A-Rod, building a pitching staff, and buying out Mr. Doubleday. Hence, it was Hampton and not A-Rod as the pivotal figure.
We know Hampton was terrible in Colorado, but then again most pitchers are. It’s fair to assume, he would’ve continued pitching as well as he did in 2000 for the next year or two with the Mets. That’s about a pitcher with a 4.7 – 6.6 WAR. Would that have been sufficient to keep the Mets afloat in 2001? Would he have been enough to rescue an offense with the least runs scored in all of baseball that year?
We don’t the the corresponding moves. We also don’t know if the lack of moves created a negative vibe over a Mets team that sputtered out of the gate in 2001. This was a team that was Jekyll and Hyde. It was 38-51 in the first half and 44-29 in the second half. In reality, their second half push came too late leaving them no margin of error, as we know all too well with yet another huge Armando Benitez blown save.
Maybe with Hampton the season starts off different. It’s possible the Mets don’t make the flurry of moves they did in 2002 that proved disasterous. Maybe with Hampton the Mets make the postseason in 2001 and/or 2002. Maybe Piazza gets his ring. Maybe Mets fans are not waiting 30 years for a World Series. We don’t know. All we know is two things: (1) the Mets missed Hampton; and (2) Hampton leaving might’ve been the best case scenario.
The second reason Hampton is the pivotal figure is the player the Mets got in his stead. When Hampton left, the Mets received a compensatory pick. With that pick the Mets selected one of the best high school bats. The Mets got a third base prospect by the name of David Wright. Wright has been a big part of Mets history. He’s the Mets All-Time leader in games played, runs, hits, doubles, RBI, and walks. He’s second in homers. He’s hit the first a Mets homerun at Citi Field and the first World Series homerun at Citi Field. He was a big part of two postseason teams, which is no small feat in Mets history.
Essentially, you cannot tell the story of the Mets without David Wright. It’s unfathomable to imagine Wright in another uniform. However, I ask you has he been worth it? Was he worth wasting away the last years of Piazza’s prime? Was he worth losing all momentum from the 1999 and 2000 seasons? Would you rather have had a shot for another World Series run back then in exchange for Wright’s entire career?
Before answering, I ask that you keep some thoughts in mind. The first is if Hampton returns, you don’t hate him the way you do now. In fact, you may not hate him at all. Next, I’m not asking you to assume the Mets win the World Series Hampton re-signs. I’m only requesting you think about how he would’ve impacted the 2001 Mets and/or his impact in subsequent years. With that in mind, what do you do?
Now, if you asked me this question in 2000, I’m taking Hampton. No doubt about it. Hampton was a much better option than Appier. If the Mets got Hampton and Appier without signing Trachsel, even better. However, I’ll be honest, while I can separate myself from my hatred of Hampton, I can’t separate myself from my love of David Wright.
Sure, Piazza is my favorite player, but Wright has also been a terrific Met. He’s a homegrown Met. He has a contract that may make him a lifetime Met. Generally speaking, Wright has been everything good about the sport of baseball since he was called up. He’s created some great memories for Mets fans. His name is all over the record books. I’m not sure I could part with that, perhaps not even at a chance at a World Series.
So begrudgingly, I believe I’d pick the entire career of David Wright over the possibility of another World Series title. Sure, World Series titles are rare, but so are the David Wrights of the world. I’m hoping in 2016 Mets fans can celebrate both Wright and a World Series title. It’s a lot more fun than playing the what if game.
In 2000, Mike Hampton became the first Met ever to win the NLCS MVP. He was 2-0 He didn’t allow a run. He pitched a complete game shutout in the clinching Game 5.
He was terrible in his only World Series start. He allowed four earned in six innings, and he wasn’t even that good. He was critical of Mike Piazza for not starting a brawl after the Roger Clemens bat throwing incident. He made this statement even though he tied the rubber in Game 2, and he never sought retaliation.
After the season, he left the Mets for Colorado due to the school system. I’m sure the eight year $121 million contract didn’t play a part. He warned every boo that would be rained upon him on every return trip to Shea Stadium. So why am I thanking him?
David Wright. Wright was the compensatory draft pick the Mets received when Hampton signed with the Rockies. Because Hampton left, we’ve had Wright’s terrific career. He’s been an All Star, MVP candidate, and the Captain. His career so far merits Hall of Fame consideration.
Now, he’s going to play in a World Series. It may be nine years after than we thought, but Wright has led the Mets to the World Series. It wouldn’t have been possible if Hampton didn’t do to Colorado.
So, thank you Mike Hampton for leaving town. We were better off for it.
My favorite Mets team was the 1999 team. I loved everything about that team from Bobby V to Mike Piazza to Edgardo Alfonzo to Robin Ventura to John Olerud. It was my first real taste of a pennant race and the playoffs. I was lucky to be there for Pratt’s All Folks and the Grand Slam Single. I look back on the year with melancoly because of this:
In 2000, the Mets got Mike Hampton. The season became World Series or bust. A strange feeling for a Mets fan. Hampton would deliver. He was the NLCS MVP. The Mets then had to face the Yankees in the World Series. It was a cruel series with Todd Zeile‘s ball landing on the wall and falling back into play. Timo Perez didn’t run and didn’t score. Roger Clemens threw a bat at Piazza and wasn’t ejected. The series then ended in the most heartbreaking way possible:
The Mets would be terrible for the next few years, but everything came together in 2006. Our homegrown stars, Jose Reyes and David Wright, we’re becoming superstars. They were joined by the two Carloses: Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. It was a team that ran roughshod over the National League. Beltran was the best baseball player on the planet that year (who somehow didn’t win the MVP). The Mets had momentum in Game Seven with Endy Chavez’s catch. Here’s how that season ended:
In 2007, the Mets reloaded and were primed to go back to the World Series. They were up 7 with 17 to play. On the final game of the season, they sent future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine to the mound with his 300 wins. He wouldn’t be devastated when he got out of the first, but we would:
In 2008, the Mets diagnosed their problem, and much like 2000, they went out to get it. The Mets brought in Johan Santana, and he delivered. they needed him in a strange year that saw Wille Randolph fired after a win on the first game of a west coast trip. The interim manager threatened to cut Reyes if he didn’t come off the field after pulling up lame, and people acted like it was a good thing. Through all of that, the Mets were collapsing again, and yet an injured Santana took the ball on three days rest. He saved the season, but only for a day:
The last three were the most difficult for me because I was there. It got more difficult because Citi Field was initially a disappointment. It got worse because the product on the field was bad.
Then Matt Harvey came up and was an All Star. Jacob deGrom came from seemingly nowhere to become a Rookie of the Year and an All Star. They were joined by Noah Syndergaard. The Mets made a flurry of trades including one for Yoenis Cespedes. Daniel Murphy had an out of body experience. Then this happened:
All that pain. All that suffering. We know what it’s like to be Mets fans. There’s pain and suffering. However, there are moments of pure joy. It’s all the losing that makes nights like last night all the more special.
We’re Mets fans. We were there for all of this. There are older fans who experienced more pain, but also more joy. There are younger fans who only know losing. Now, we’re all Pennant Winners. It’s like the 80’s again when the Mets are the best team of baseball. We’re “Back in the New York groove!”
If you’re a Mets fan, nights like tonight don’t come around often. Keep in mind 1986 was 29 years ago. Since that time, the Mets have only played in three games where a win meant the Mets went to the World Series.
In 1988, Orel Hershiser shut down the Mets in Game 7. In 2000, Mike Hampton, the only Met player to win the NLCS MVP, pitched the Mets into the Subway Series. We are all scarred by Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright in Game 7 in 2006. Tonight, the Mets can win and go to the 2015 World Series.
The Mets have four cracks at it. Obviously, each game the Mets don’t do it, the more nervous you’ll be. Don’t think about that. Just focus on tonight. There should be nothing but enthusiasm for tonight’s game. It’s alright to plan your celebration. I’m waking my son for the final out. Once it’s recorded, I’m talking to my Dad and brother. I’ll text my cousins as well.
We’ve been through all of this together. The ups and downs. We have waited for this day, not for nine years. I’ve waited for this all my life. You have too. Enjoy it.
LETS GO METS!
I love trivia, especially baseball trivia. I was the first solo winner on “Beer Money.” Hat tip to the “light hitting Mike Bordick.” My father and I had a failed attempt to be on Beat the Booth. As a result, each and every week, I submit a #StumpGary question.
The question on the TV didn’t exactly match my question:
Mets first round draft picks to represent them in the All Star Game? (Matlack, Mazzilli, Strawberry, Gooden, Jones, Harvey) #StumpGary
— Mets Daddy (@MetsDaddy2013) September 8, 2015
The one on TV expanded my question to include David Wright, who technically is a Supplemental Pick for the loss of Mike Hampton. It’s a technicality, but it’s SNY’s network and broadcast. I have no problem with them changing the question.
Here’s how it went:
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I also laughed when Gary was dismissive of the question because draft picks wasn’t his thing. The question was glossed over more than the usual question. I was still happy to see my Twitter handle on the screen.
So, I’m proud to say I stumped Gary. Maybe next year, I can be on Beat the Booth.