MIke Piazza

Americas Past Time May Become New York’s Sport

The greatest player, Babe Ruth, built his legend in New York.  Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in New York.  We still wax poetic about Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

New York is the home of some of the greatest games ever played.  Bobby Thompson hit the shot heard round the world, and Mookie Wilson hit a little dribbler up the first base line.

Teams that are based in New York have won 35 World Series.  This is the most amount of championships belonging to any city in any sport.

Despite the largely debunked story about the origins of baseball, the Baseball Hall of Fame was built and placed in Cooperstown, New York.  Naturally, New York teams have the most amount of Hall of Famers.

If baseball is American’s Past Time then New York is its heart and soul.  And yet, it took a class of fourth graders from Cooperstown to make the case baseball should be the official sport of the State of New York.

In a report from The Citizen, Ms. Anne Reis’ fourth grade class did the research and made the case that baseball should be the official sport of New York as part of a lesson on official New York State designations.  They provided their findings to their local state senator Jim Seward.

Seward has taken the information, and now he has proposed a bill in the legislature to designate baseball as the official sport of New York.  Such efforts should thrill baseball fans everywhere.  Undoubtedly, it was a special moment for Ms. Reis’ class.

Upon her now former students hearing the news, Ms. Reis said, “”They’re thrilled.  They’re in fifth grade at this point, so I went downstairs and went to all the different classrooms and let them know what had happened.”

Hopefully, this designation will become official.  We all know how important baseball is to the state.  We need not look any further than the importance of Mike Piazza‘s home run in the first game back in New York after the terror attacks of 9/11.  Baseball matters, and it matters more in New York than anywhere.

These kids know that, and they did something about it.  These children accomplished something by putting in the requisite time and research.  It’s a testament to them, and it is a good example for people everywhere.

Three Current Mets and Their Hall of Fame Outlook

The Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez in what should be the first of many Hall of Fame classes we see without a Mets player being inducted.  The Mets had to wait 23 years between the elections of Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza.  Depending on which hat Carlos Beltran selects when he is likely inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Mets may be waiting even longer than that.  How long the Mets wait may depend on the Hall of Fame worthiness of one of the players currently on the Mets roster.  Here are some players with a chance to be Hall of Famers one day:

#1 David Wright

Career Stats: .296/.376/.491, 949 R, 1,777 H, 390 2B, 26 3B, 242 HR, 970 RBI, 196 SB

Awards: 7X All-Star, 2X Gold Glove, 2X Silver Slugger

Advanced Stats: 49.9 WAR, 133 OPS+, 133 wRC+

Hall of Fame Metrics: 40.0 WAR7, 45.0 JAWS

The Case For: With his spinal stenosis, Wright has been that rare breed of player that not only spends his whole career with one team, but also winds up owning almost all of a team’s offensive records.  At this point in time, he is the career leader in runs, hits, doubles, and RBI.  He is only 10 behind Darryl Strawberry for the team home run lead.  It is rare that with a franchise in as existence as long as the Mets that the team’s best ever offensive player is not inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Superlatives aside, there is a statistical foundation for Wright’s induction.  His 133 OPS+ would be the sixth best by a Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of the likes of Wade Boggs and Ron Santo.  His 133 wRC+ would be the third best among third base Hall of Famers with him trailing just Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and Home Run Baker.  His OBP would be the fifth best among Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of the likes of George Brett.  His slugging would be third among Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of players like Brooks Robinson.

No matter how you look at it, Wright has been a top five to top ten third baseman all-time.  As seen with his Gold Gloves, he is one of the more complete players we have ever seen at the position.

The Case Against: Due in large part of the spinal stenosis, Wright’s peak was not as high as it would be for a traditional Hall of Famer.  In fact his WAR, WAR7, and JAWS trail the 67.5/42.7/55.1 an average Hall of Fame third baseman has accumulated in their career.  In fact, Wright trails  Robin Ventura in WAR and JAWS, and Ventura didn’t garner the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot.  Overall, while you can say that Wright at his peak was one of the best third baseman ever, his peak did not last long, and he become too injury prone to put together a great career.

Verdict:  Fortunately for Wright, he still has time to put up some more numbers to help bolster his Hall of Fame chances.  However, with his spinal stenosis and now cervical fusion, it is hard to imagine him putting up positive WAR seasons that will move the meter enough to classify him as a Hall of Famer.

#2 Yoenis Cespedes

Career Stats: .272/.325/.494, 406 R, 743 H, 149 2B, 22 3B, 137 HR, 453 RBI, 40 SB

Awards: 2X All-Star, 1X Gold Glove, 1X Silver Slugger

Advanced Stats: 18.7 WAR, 124 OPS+, 123 wRC+

Hall of Fame Metrics: 18.7 WAR7, 18.7 JAWS

The Case For: Unlike Wright, who is winding down is career, Cespedes, 31, seems to have quality years ahead of him.  The belief in the possibility of becoming a Hall of Famer started on August 1, 2015, which is the first time he set foot in the batter’s box as a member of the New York Mets.  Cespedes had the type of finish to the 2015 season people will talk about for years to come.  In the final 57 games of the season, Cespedes hit 17 homers and 44 RBI.  The Mets went from being three games over .500 and two games out of the division to finishing the season on a 37-22 run and winning the division by seven games.  In his Mets career, the Mets are 110-79 with him in the lineup, and a game under .500 when he is not.  Simply put, Cespedes is a difference maker.

He’s also a completely different player.  From 2012 – 2014, Cespedes was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI.  Since coming to the Mets, Cespedes is a .282/.348/.554 hitter who has a 162 game average of 42 homers and 119 RBI.  Before becoming a Met, he averaged 3.1 WAR per season.  In 2015, his first truly great season, he posted a 6.3 WAR.  Last season, in part due to his injuries and his playing out of position, he regressed back to a 2.9 WAR.  With him returning to left field, where he is a Gold Glover, he should return to being a player who can post six WAR seasons.  If so, Cespedes has a shot of clearing the 65.1 WAR, 41.5 WAR7, and 53.3 JAWS an average Hall of Fame left fielder has accumulated.

The Case Against: Cespedes is already 31 years old, and to ask him to put forth five more MVP level type seasons is unrealistic.  The unfortunate truth is Cespedes may have gotten too late a start to his career due to his being born in Cuba, played at a horrendous ballpark in O.co Stadium for a player of his skill set too long, and he became a much improved hitter too late in his career.

Verdict: Unfortunately, Cespedes didn’t do enough early in his career, and it is not likely he’s going to be a truly great player into his mid to late 30s.  Overall, is going to go down as a beloved Met, but much like Keith Hernandez, he is going to fall short.

#3 Noah Syndergaard

Career Stats: 23-16, 2.89 ERA, 55 G, 54 GS, 333.2 IP, 384 K, 1.103 WHIP, 10.4 K/9

Awards: 1X All Star

Advanced Stats: 137 ERA+, 2.72 FIP, 7.4 WAR

The Case For: In some sense, Syndergaard represents the trio that includes him, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom.  The reason why Syndergaard was selected was he is the youngest, has a fastball that gets over 100 MPH, and he is the only one without any injuries in his young career.  Naturally, like with any young pitcher, health is going to be the key.

Last season, we saw Syndergaard scratch the surface of what he can be as a starter.  He not only posts high strikeout numbers, but he generally induces weak contact.  In fact, his 0.5 HR/9 was the best mark in the major leagues last year.  Not so coincidentally, so was his 2.29 FIP.  To cap off the season, Syndergaard pitched in a do-or-die Wild Card Game against Madison Bumgarner, who is the best big game pitcher we have in baseball.  Syndergaard not only matched him scoreless inning for scoreless inning, he also out-pitched Bumgarner for those seven innings.

Syndergaard has slowly been moving from one of the most talented pitchers in the game to one of the best pitchers in the game.  At 23, we can expect him to have many great seasons, and quite possibly multiple Cy Young awards.  Really, at this point in his career, anything is possible.

The Case Against: That’s the problem with anything being possible.  At one point in time Dwight Gooden was a no-doubt Hall of Famer.  In fact, Gooden’s 1985 season was one of the greatest regular seasons a starting pitcher has ever had.  However, as we know Gooden never made the Hall of Fame.  Yes, much of that had to do with Gooden’s drug problems, but it should also be noted Gooden dealt with arm injuries as well.  He probably threw too many innings at an early age, and he would eventually needed shoulder surgery.  This as much as anything had to do with Gooden’s career falling apart.

Besides Gooden, you can name any number of pitchers who went from great to broken.  That’s the nature of pitching.

Verdict: Syndergaard not only has the talent, but he also has the drive to be truly great.  As long as luck holds out, and he listens to his body, like he did last year, Syndergaard should remain healthy putting him in good position to make a run at the Hall of Fame.

Put Gary Cohen In the Mets Hall of Fame

During this offseason, the Mets were put in a somewhat peculiar position.  Longtime Mets announcer and play-by-play man, Gary Cohen, was a finalist for the Ford C. Frick Award.  This would have meant that Cohen would have found himself enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame before he was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

Now, it should be noted the Ford C. Frick Award is not technically being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  As the Baseball Hall of Fame  notes, “The Ford C. Frick Award is presented annually during Hall of Fame Weekend. Each award recipient (not to be confused with an inductee) is presented with a calligraphy of the award and is recognized in the “Scribes & Mikemen” exhibit in the Library of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.”  With that caveat, for many receiving the award is commensurate with an announcer being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

While Cohen ultimately did not received the award, you know it is only a matter of time before he receives it.  As any Mets fan that listened to him on the radio from 1989 – 2005, or on SNY from 2006 until the present, Cohen is the best in the business.  For those unaware, he is a compilation of some of his best calls in a number of the best moments in Mets history:

The Todd Pratt Home Run:

I particularly like this one due to the comparison to Chris Berman

The Robin Ventura Grand Slam Single:

The Endy Chavez Catch:

The Mike Piazza home-run capping off the 10 run inning against the Braves:

The Johan Santana n0-hitter:

The Wilmer Flores walk-off home-run:

And while, it was not the greatest moment in Mets history, his call on the Bartolo Colon home run is as good a call as you are going to hear anywhere:

There are several calls that you can choose from him because Cohen is just that good a broadcaster.  It’s a testament to him that he made the transition from being quite possibly the best play-by-play announcer in all of baseball to being great as a television announcer on SNY.  They are different mediums, and he seemingly made the seamless switch to describing each and every part of the action to sitting back and let the moment speak for itself.  He has also given room for both Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez to shine in their roles as color commentators.

Whether, it is his screaming “IT’S OUTTA HERE!” or “THE BALLGAME IS OVER!” Cohen has a way of not only capturing the emotion of the big moment, he also has a way of making them seem bigger.  With that said, there is another big moment in Mets history he should not be there to call.  That would be the day he is inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

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.

 

Al Leiter Should Be a Mets Hall of Famer

In 2000, the New York Mets made the postseason in consecutive years for the first time in their history.  It was a two year run that produced some of the most memorable moments in Mets history.

In the Mets first ever NLDS game, Edgardo Alfonzo hit two home runs, including a grand slam.  The Mets would win that NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 10th inning walk-off home run from Todd Pratt in a moment dubbed Pratt’s All Folks.  The NLCS featured Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single, and Mike Piazza‘s opposite field home run against John Smoltz which capped the Mets rallying from an early 5-0 and 7-3 deficits in what was a heart wrenching game.

In the 2000 NLDS, John Franco froze Barry Bonds to get a 10th inning strikeout to rescue the Mets from an Armando Benitez blown save.  In Game 3, Benny Agbayani would hit a walk-off 13th inning home run giving the Mets a 2-1 lead in the series setting the stage for Bobby Jones‘ brilliant one-hitter to cap the series.  In the NLCS, Timo Perez became a folk hero as the Mets swept the hated Cardinals to return to the World Series for the first time since 1986.

None of this . . . not one single moment would have been possible without Al Leiter.

Starting on September 21st, the Mets lost seven games in a row and eight of nine.  The losing streak saw the Mets four game lead in the Wild Card turn into a two game deficit.  It appeared that for the second season in a row, the Mets were going to blow a fairly sizeable lead in the Wild Card race and miss the postseason all together.  Fortunately, the Mets would win out and force a one game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds for the Wild Card and the right to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1999 NLDS.

After Rickey Henderson and Alfonzo hit back-to-back home runs to open the game, Leiter would do the rest.  Leiter was simply brilliant in a complete game two-hit seven strikeout shutout.  This start came off the heels of Leiter’s last start of the season where he out-dueled Greg Maddux to snap the the Mets eight game losing streak and put the team back in position to make a run at the Wild Card.

Typically, that was the type of pitcher Leiter was in a Mets uniform.  He rose to the occasion in some when the Mets needed him.  He was the guy who helped pitch the Mets into the 1999 postseason.  He was the guy who helped turn around the 2000 NLDS by shutting down the San Francisco Giants over eight plus innings.  He was the pitcher who gave everything he had in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series.  Much like the Mets in that two year time frame, he was terrific, but time and again, he came up just short.  In seven postseason starts for the Mets, he was 0-2 with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.080 WHIP.  Taking out the 1999 NLCS Game 6 start against the Braves he made on three days rest and couldn’t record an out, his Mets postseason ERA and WHIP respectively drops to 2.58 and 1.015.

Leiter’s greatness as a Met extend far beyond the superlatives of his moments in big games and how well he pitched in the postseason.  He was also very good in the regular season.

Leiter first came to the Mets in a February 1998 trade that featured the Mets sending prized prospect A.J. Burnett to a Florida Marlins team that was dismantling their World Series winning club.  The trade was a sign the Mets were interested in moving on from a team that was rebuilding to a team that was ready to start competing.  Adding a pitcher like Leiter, while a risk, certainly paid dividends.

In 1998, Leiter would arguably post the best year of his career going 17-6 with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.150 WHIP.  That season Leiter was unquestionably the ace for a Mets team that surprised everyone by competing for a Wild Card spot deep into the season.  For much of Leiter’s seven year career he served as either the Mets ace, 1A, or number two starter.

In his entire Mets career, Leiter was 95-67 with a 3.42 ERA, 1,360.0 innings pitched, 1,106 strikeouts, and a 1.300 WHIP.  In that seven year span, Leiter posted a very good 124 ERA+ and a 28.0 WAR.  He would make an All Star team and he would have one Top 10 Cy Young Award finish.  With strong numbers like these, it should be no surprise Leiter’s name is scattered across the Mets record books:

  • Wins (95) – sixth
  • Games Started (213) – sixth
  • Innings Pitched (1,360.0) – seventh
  • Strikeouts (1,106) – seventh
  • WAR (28.0) – 11th

In terms of all-time Mets pitchers, Leiter’s WAR ranks him as the sixth best pitcher in Mets history behind Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Sid Fernandez, and Jon Matlack.  In terms of left-handed starters, Leiter ranks third in wins, seventh in ERA, third in starts, fourth in innings pitched, and third in strikeouts.

In terms of advanced statistics, Leiter’s 1998 season was the seventh best by a Mets pitcher by ERA+.  In fact, his Mets career ERA+ ranks him as the eighth best pitcher in Mets history.  Among pitchers that have thrown more than a thousand innings, his ERA+ is second all-time to just Seaver.  Adjusted pitching runs ranks him as the third best pitcher in Mets history just behind Seaver and Gooden, and adjusted pitching wins ranks him fourth.  In terms of WPA, he ranks fourth all time, third among starters, and second among left-handed pitchers.

Simply put, Leiter had a terrific career in a Mets uniform.  His 1998 season was one of the best by a Mets starter.  By most measures, he’s a top 10 or top 5 pitcher in Mets history.  He has came up big in big moments time and time again.  He was also part of a group of Mets players that welcomed Piazza after the trade with the Marlins and made him feel welcome enough for Piazza to re-sign with the Mets.

More than any of the aforementioned stats, there is another factor.  There is no way you can adequately tell the history of the Mets franchise without discussing Leiter.  Leiter was an important member of two Mets teams that made the postseason.  He is a major part of one of the best eras in Mets baseball, and he’s a part of one of the most beloved teams in Mets history.  Moreover, he is a part of a core group of Mets that have been long overlooked for the Mets Hall of Fame.  Despite 1997 – 2001 being one of the better stretches in Mets history,  Piazza and Franco remain the only Mets from those teams to be represented in the Mets Hall of Fame.  They were not the only contributors to this run.

This era of Mets baseball has been long overlooked by this team.  It is time some of those important Mets get inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  Leiter is one of the Mets that deserve induction.

Why Isn’t Edgardo Alfonzo In the Mets Hall of Fame?

Back in 2012, the New York Mets announced their 50th Anniversary Team.  Reviewing the list none of the players named should come as a surprise.  It should come as even less of a surprise that of all the players named to the team, all the retired players have been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  Well, all but one player has.

The greatest second baseman in Mets history, Edgardo Alfonzo, still has not been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  He has not been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame despite his being retired since 2006 and despite his presence in the Mets organization for the past few seasons.  Put another way, this is not a player who has poor ties with the organization and that would be hard to bring back to honor him.  Looking at it from that perspective, it is shocking to say the least that Alfonzo is not in the Mets Hall of Fame.

Judging by WAR alone, Alfonzo is the best middle infielder in Mets history posting a career 29.5 WAR as a Met.  That 29.5 WAR ranks him as the seventh best Met in history.  That puts him ahead of players like Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, and Bud Harrelson, all of whom have already been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  With that said, WAR only tells part of the story of the impact Alfonzo has had on Mets history.

In eight seasons as a New York Met, Alfonzo hit .292/.367/.445 with 120 homers and 538 RBI.  In those eight years, Alfonzo was one of the best Mets to ever put on a uniform.  It’s why he was named as the best second baseman in Mets history.  Naturally, Alfonzo ranks high in the Top 10 in many offensive categories:

  • Games (1,086) – 10th
  • PA (4,449) – 8th
  • AB (3,897) – 9th
  • Runs (614) – 5th
  • Hits (1,136) – 5th
  • Doubles (212) – 6th
  • Homers (120) – 9th
  • XBH (346) – 8th
  • RBI (538) – 7th
  • Average (.292) – tied 5th
  • OBP (.367) – 7th

The advanced numbers paint a number better picture of Alfonzo.  His WAR is fourth best for a Mets position player, second for a Mets infielder, and the best for a Mets middle infielder.  His 2000 6.4 WAR ranks as the fifth best season by a Mets position player.  His defensive WAR is the sixth best in Mets history, third best by a Mets infielder, and best by a Mets second baseman.  He ranks fifth in runs created, eighth in adjusted batting runs, and eighth in WPA.

Alfonzo led the Mets in runs, hits, and doubles in the 1990s.  In that same decade, he also had the finished second in games played, at bats, total bases, and RBI.  In the decade he was also fourth in triples, seventh in homers, eighth in stolen bases, third in walks, and third in batting average.  Arguably, he was the Mets best player of the decade.

In addition to these numbers, Alfonzo was named to an All Star team (should have been more than the one), won a Silver Slugger, and had three top 15 MVP finishes.  He finished second in Gold Glove voting in 1999 and 2001 as a second baseman.  In 1997, he finished second in Gold Glove voting as a third baseman.  Still, Alfonzo was much more than all of this.

When thinking of Alfonzo it is near impossible to choose just one moment that highlights his career.  You can start with him being part of the greatest defensive infield ever assembled.  In the 1999 Wild Card play-in game, he followed Rickey Henderson‘s leadoff home run with a home run of his own to give Al Leiter all the cushion he needed for the Mets to claim the Wild Card and head to the NLDS.  In Game One of the NLDS, he would homer off Randy Johnson in the first inning to give the Mets a 1-0 lead, and then he would hit a grand slam off of Bobby Chouinard in the ninth to break the 4-4 tie.  In the clinching Game 4, he got the Mets on the board with a fourth inning homer off of Brian Anderson.

Alfonzo would come up similarly big in the 2000 NLDS.  In Game 2, with the Mets already down 1-o in the series, and with Armando Benitez having blown the save, Alfonzo ripped a double down the left field line scoring Lenny Harris.  Lost in the shuffle of that inning was the fact that he had hit a home run in the ninth giving the Mets some much needed insurance runs.  In any event, the RBI double allowed the Mets to tie the series and return to the NLCS for a second consecutive year.  In the 2000 NLCS, Alfonzo was one of a few Mets that probably should have been named the NLCS MVP.  In the five game series, Alfonzo hit an incredible .444/.565/.611 with five runs, a double, a triple, and four RBI.

Unsurprisingly, Alfonzo is the Mets all-time leader in postseason hits, games played, and g0-ahead hits.  In fact, four of those hits were in the 7th inning or later.  That is the second best mark in postseason history – not Mets postseason history – all of baseball history.

Speaking of hits, Alfonzo became the first ever Met to go 6/6 in a game.  In what ranks as the most impressive hitting display in Mets history, Alfonzo hit three home runs and a double while recording five RBI.  There have been no Mets and only one National League player that has posted a higher game score since 1999.

Somehow, some way none of this has garnered Alfonzo enough support to be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  It’s wrong because Alfonzo is not just the best second baseman in Mets history, he is the best middle infielder in Mets history.  He was a pivotal member of two teams that went to the postseason, and he had huge hits on those postseasons.  He has set a number of Mets records.  Overall, there is absolutely no way you can deny that Alfonzo is one of the best players in Mets history.  Accordingly, he deserves enshrinement into the Mets Hall of Fame.

The Larry Walker Double Standard

There have been several reasons that have been indicated for the uptick of votes for players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on this year’s Hall of Fame voting.  Some point to the dubious election of Bud Selig.  Others will wrongly used Mike Piazza‘s induction into the Hall of Fame as a justification.  More believe this is just a reflection of the changing Hall of Fame electorate.  Whatever the case, there is no doubt that Bonds and Clemens have received more support this year than they have in past years.

Using Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker, Bonds and Clemens respectively received 44.3% and 45.2% of the vote last year.  In published votes, Bonds and Clemens respectively received 47.3% and 47.2% of the vote.  This year those vote totals are way up.  With there being 163 published ballots this year, Bonds and Clemens have respectively received 69.5% and 68.9% of the vote.  That is a huge jump from where they were last year.

At this point, it is fair to say people are beginning to judge players like Bonds and Clemens on their numbers alone.  They are beginning the process of either ignoring, compartmentalizing, justifying, or even not caring about the effects steroids have had on each player’s numbers.  More and more voters are saying it does not matter if these numbers are enhanced in any way.  Rather, they are saying the numbers these players put up deserve induction into the Hall of Fame.

With that being the case, where is the support for Larry Walker?

Now, the Hall of Fame case of Larry Walker has not been hindered by any allegations of steroids use.  Rather, voters have not voted for him because his numbers were inflated by his playing at Coors Field.

Buster Olney, a writer who has supported the induction of Bonds and Clemens before forever abstaining in his Hall of Fame voting, said regarding Walker, “The difference in the numbers between Walker in Coors Field and on the road are enormous, to the degree that you’re not quite sure what to make of his performance; was he a superstar or a really, really good player?  I’ve thought that the baseball writers are in the same position judging Walker that the Colorado front office has been in when assessing its own talent: Exactly how good are they?”  (Patrick Saunders, Denver Post).

Before giving up his vote, it should be noted Olney never did vote for Walker despite voting for players like Bonds, Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro in his last ever ballot submitted.  Notably, Olney took no issue with stats enhanced by steroids use, but he had a real problem with stats enhanced by Coors Field.  Apparently, he’s not the only one.

So far this year, out of the 116 people who voted for either Bonds or Clemens, only 24 writers voted for Walker as well.  Now, there are a myriad of reasons why people could justify not voting for Walker.  For some, they noted injuries.  For others, they note this is still a loaded ballot, and Walker remains just short.  Still, the overriding factor for the lack of support for Walker is the Coors Field thin air of suspicion that Walker’s numbers were aided by his home ballpark.

For example, Jeff Fletcher, who voted for Bonds and Clemens, noted that one reason he withheld his vote for Walker in this year’s Hall of Fame election was Walker’s home-road splits.  Another writer, Scott Priestle, voted for Bonds and Clemens, and yet, he has not voted for Walker due to the perceived Coors Field effect.  Assuredly, they are not the only ones who have withheld their vote due to the perceived Coors Field effect.  They are certainly not the only ones who have voted for steroids users while not voting for Walker.

And yes, Walker greatly benefited from playing at Coors Field.  Over the course of his career, Walker hit .381/.462/.710 with 154 homers and 521 RBI in 597 games at Coors Field.  At Coors Field, he was 23 points higher than his career .313 batting average, 62 points higher than his career .400 OBP, and 145 points higher than his .565 slugging.  Walker hit 40% of his career homers and RBI at Coors Field as well.  Overlooking these numbers, it is hard to argue that Walker put up Hall of Fame caliber numbers due to his 10 years as a Colorado Rockie.

Somehow there are writers that are holding this against him while casting votes for Bonds, Clemens, and other players who have been definitively linked to steroids use.  It begs the question why stats increased through ill gotten means are more virtuous and/or more legitimate than numbers legally put up at a ballpark authorized by Major League Baseball?  It begs the question why Walker gets penalized for Coors Field while Bonds and Clemens are rewarded for steroids.

If it doesn’t make sense to you, it shouldn’t.  It’s a double standard.  It’s one that needs to end before Walker loses enough support to fall off the ballot.  It’s one that needs to end in order for him to be inducted into Cooperstown.

 

Bob Nightengale Continues Our Fake News Dilemma

Depending on what your personal politics are, there was a moment or 31 that led you to believe that fake news had become an important issue during the election.  For people that follow politics, it was a new and stunning revelation.  If you are a baseball fan, particularly one who is invested in Hall of Fame voting, you have been well aware of this problem.

Despite having the numbers to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, Mike Piazza had been largely kept off of people’s ballots due to the unfounded presumption he had used steroids during his career.  That is unless you believe noted dermatologist Murray Chass and his unsupported position that Piazza having back acne was a sure indicator of steroid use.  Note, there are several causes of back acne in adults that have nothing to do with steroids.  Despite that people have used the back acne, as well as Piazza’s physique as the basis for their mostly unfounded belief he used steroids.

What has been peculiar is the same litmus test has been used as an indication that Jeff Bagwell used steroids, but someone like Rickey Henderson did not.  Ultimately, what we have seen is a guessing game where some writers are presenting opinions as fact without any reprecussions.  And yet, despite the absence of proof on players like Piazza or Bagwell, there are some who continue to insist they used steroids.  Worse yet, they are using Piazza’s induction into the Hall of Fame last year as a basis to justify the induction of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and other players who have been proven to use steroids.  The latest example is Bob Nightengale:

In his column for USA Today, Nightengale would double-down on this claim:

The BBWAA finally recognizes the absurdity of keeping Bonds and Clemens out of the Hall of Fame but letting Mike Piazza, Bagwell and soon Ivan Rodriguez into the hallowed halls.

Simply put, this is fake news.  It is fake news because the is absolutely no documentation, test results or otherwise, that establishes Piazza has used illegal PEDs during his entire career.  In the absence of any valid proof, this is fake news not even fit for publications such as The World Weekly News, The Onion, or the National Inquirer.  Yet somehow, some way, this was published in USA Today even though it was presented as fact.

Overall, Piazza’s induction into the Hall of Fame establishes is a player who was the greatest hitter at his position deserves enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.  If you wanted, you could extend Piazza’s induction coupled with Craig Biggio‘s induction into the Hall of Fame to stand for the proposition that innuendo and unfounded rumors are insufficient to prevent a worthy player from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

However, you cannot state Piazza’s induction into the Hall of Fame stands for the proposition that steroid users should now be inducted into the Hall of Fame because, simply put, there is no incontrovertible evidence Piazza used steroids.  To assert otherwise would be to propagate the issue of fake news in our society.

 

Michael Conforto Should Play For Team Italy

Team Italy is recruiting Michael Conforto to play for them in the World Baseball Classic.  They have gone so far as to name Conforto to their preliminary roster, along with fellow Met Brandon Nimmo, despite not having heard back from Conforto regarding his willingness to play in the tournament.

By many accounts, it seems doubtful Conforto will play in the tournament.  Earlier, Conforto had listened to his advisers in rebuffing Terry Collins‘ request that Conforto play Winter Ball.  The decision was grounded in many factors included risk of injury and level of competition.  Arguably, the same concerns would present itself with the WBC leading to Conforto ultimately deciding not to play for Italy.

That would be a mistake.

The first reason why it would be a mistake is Conforto would miss out on an opportunity to work closely with Mike Piazza.  In 1998, Piazza struggled with the Mets, and he was booed by the fans.  Piazza was able to overcome the booing, and he helped bring the Mets to the precipice of the Wild Card.  In subsequent years, Piazza was the superstar who led the Mets to consecutive postseason appearances.  He is also the first Mets position player to have his number retired and be inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Considering Conforto’s struggles in 2016, there are few people on this planet who can better help him than Piazza.  Piazza understands what is means to struggle with the Mets, and how to overcome those struggles to become one of the best and most beloved players in Mets history.  Essentially, Piazza understands what Conforto has gone through, and better yet, he understands what it takes to get to that next level.  That next level is where Conforto wants to be as a player.

However, it is more than mental.  Piazza has widely credited for Team Italy’s unexpected run in the 2013 WBC.  Cubs first baseman, Anthony Rizzo said of Piazza, “In my opinion, he’s a Hall of Famer. When he opens his mouth, you listen. He just makes you so relaxed.  He’d be a great hitting coach.” (USA Today).

While Piazza is not the hitting coach for Team Italy anymore, the effect Piazza has on players is well noted.

Speaking of Rizzo, another important factor is Conforto will get to experience being the focal point of an offense as he is bound to be one of the better players on Team Italy.  Conforto is likely going to be pitched tough by some of the best pitchers in the world.  As it stands, Italy is in Pool D with Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.  It’s already been confirmed that Oliver Perez, Roberto Osuna, Felix Hernandez, and Francisco Rodriguez, and Seth Lugo will pitch.  As we have seen in year’s past, there will be many more quality pitchers Conforto will have to contend with in real pressure packed situations.  That is a good thing for a player still developing into a middle of the order bat.  It’s also better thatn getting on a bus to face another team’s AA, AAA, and AAAA pitchers.

Another factor for Conforto is the WBC gives him an opportunity to get out from the pressure of New York for a while and try to improve as a player.  It could be helpful to get out from under the constant, and at times difficult, New York media, and go play for Team Italy.  With Team Italy, it may be easier to focus on improving as a ballplayer. Furthermore, with coaches like Piazza, it may be helpful to hear another voice that can help him either mechanically or mentally.

Overall, there are many benefits for Conforto playing in the WBC.  It is an opportunity that is in front of him, and it is one he should probably take, especially when you consider how much someone like Piazza can help him.

A Mets Carol

On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, faithful manager Terry Collins enters Fred Wilpon’s office.

Terry: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.

Fred: What do you mean build?

Terry:  Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address.  With Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins free agents, we need a couple of relievers in the bullpen, and –

Fred: Relievers?  I just gave you two guys last week!

Terry: I know, but those were minor league deals.

Fred: I don’t get it.  After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.

Terry:  Well, we do owe the fans.

Fred:  Seriously?

Terry:  Well, I guess not.  Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.

Fred: Bah!

Not long after Terry leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich.  He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008.  He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him.  It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out.  Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.

Fred: No, it can’t be.  Is that really you?

M. Donald Grant: It is.

Fred: But, you’re dead.  How?  How?

M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.

Fred: What?

M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone.  Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?

Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!

M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no.  No!  I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again.  But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!

Fred: The horror.

M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.

Fred: No . . . NO! . . .  You’ve got to save me.

M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits.  Listen to them!  Do what they say!  Or you will be cursed for eternity.

And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room.  A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.  Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed.  After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep.  Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd.  It jostled Fred from his sleep.  Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.

Fred: No, it can’t be.  Is it really you Gary?

Before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter.  Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top.  Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.

Gary: It’s really me Fred.  I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.

Fred: Am I dead?

Gary:  No, you’re not.  I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.

With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room.  As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.

Fred: What a dump!

Gary: You didn’t always think so.  In fact, you used to love coming here.  Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be.  Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.

Fred:  Those Gooden starts were something special.  No one could beat us then, and we knew it.  We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.

Gary:  This is how things used to be.  It was always this way.  You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him.  You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo.  That team came close.  You did it again with Carlos Beltran.  You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player.  You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done.  It didn’t work, but the fans came.  More importantly, everyone respected you for it.

Fred: But they don’t understand.

Gary: Let’s see what happened next.

With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory.  As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated.  The fans were angry with the team.  It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer.  It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.

Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in?  Where are all the fans?

Gary: You didn’t.  It’s 2012.

Fred:  That was an ugly time.  Fans constantly complaining and booing.  The team and I were personally cash strapped.  I had no idea what our future was or could be.  Worse yet, no one seemed to understand.  The fans, the players, the press.  No one.  The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear.  I can’t . . .

Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy.  Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.

Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night.  It gives me the strangest dreams.  And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache.  I never want to get back to that point . . .

As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner.  Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team failed to win the Wild Card Game.  While the team acted quickly and brought back Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets offseason has been marked by inactivity.  Recently, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson stated the Mets were going to have to move a contract like Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson before they could sign additional players this offseason.  We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.

Fred:  Ralph?

Ralph:  Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners.  As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!

Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.

Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.

Ralph:  Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2017 roster will look like.

Fred:  We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field.  We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.

Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you.  In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should.  It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise.  During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.”  From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs.  This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908.  The Cubs were once defeated –

Fred:  Okay, okay.  No, we’re not spending any money until we move a contract.  That’s just the way things work now.  This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.

Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money.  And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them.  When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.

Fred: Let’s be honest.  The fans will let me do whatever I want so long as we’re winning.  With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Cespedes.  We have free t-shirts.  We get to hype up the starts of not just Matt Harvey, but also Noah Syndergaard.  As for the players, the only thing they really care about is their salary.

Ralph:  That’s not true.  Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.

A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Collins about the upcoming season.

Collins: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.  And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.

David:  It’s hard skip.  I wake up in pain everyday.  It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too.  I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out.  I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck.  It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell.  It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter.  Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it.  But it just gets harder and harder.

Collins:  You know the whole team is behind you.  If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask.  And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.

David:  I can’t hang ’em up.  Not yet.  Not with this team.  We’re so close.  I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short.  I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.

Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.

David:  And it’s not just about me.  I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career.  They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys.  They’ve cheered for me.  They’ve always been there for me.  And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family.  I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left.  They decided to keep me.  They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain.  I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.

Fred:  I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.

Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off.  At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening.  He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey.  The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues.  At first, Hamilton says nothing.  He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.

Fred follows Darryl down a hallway.  Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges.  On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career.  A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring.  Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty.  Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man.  He’s there with another person.

Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight.  With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.

David: I don’t care.  I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again.  There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.

Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly.  You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few.  Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you.  The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.

Fred: What, what happened to him?

Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.

Fred:  He never won?  But we had Harvey and Syndergaard.  We had Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz.  We had Cespedes.  Of course we won at least one.  There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series.  Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.

David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did.  I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have.  Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.

Woman: What happened?

David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015.  After that, we always just seemed one or two players short.  We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .

As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway.  The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field.  Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues.  In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.

Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field.  I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.

Worker 2:  Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.

Worker 1:  And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.

Worker 2:  How can you?  They let the whole thing fall apart.

Worker 1:  Good riddance!

Fred: What is happening here?  What old group?  Who authorized these statues?

With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s.  Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.

Man:  Shhh!  It’s about to be on the television.

Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s.  With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.

Fred: Darryl!  What are they talking about?

Man:  This is a dream come true for me.  As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today.  And yet, here I am.

Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.

Man:  Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family.  From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans.  My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.

As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.

Fred:  Darryl, what is happening with my team?  Was it . . .

As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home.  Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters.  Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.

Reporter:  How do you feel today?

Jeff:  How do you expect me to feel?  The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.

Reporter:  What message do you have for Mets fans?

Jeff:  I’m not sure where you guys have been all these years.  If you came to the park, we might’ve been able to improve the team and prevent this day from happening.

Fred:  Jeff, don’t tell me you did it!  Don’t tell me you sold my team!

Reporter:  How do you think your father would feel about this moment?

Jeff:  Look guys, it’s been a hard day in what has been a hard few years.  I just want to go home to my family.

Fred:  Jeff!  Jeff!  I’m over here!  Jeff!

With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car.  Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets.  With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time,  he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it.  The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.

The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich.  The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint.  When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.

Fred:  It’s December 25, 2016!  I still own the team!  The spirits have given me another chance!

Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Collins, Alderson, and Wright.

Fred:  I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer.  We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it.  Sandy, the shackles are off.  You have everything you need at your disposal.  We owe Terry the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series.  And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest.  We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series.  It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.

Terry:  Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!

David:  God bless us everyone!