MIke Piazza

I Still Have Hope . . . Sandy Shouldn’t

After a sweep of the Giants in San Francisco, fans could allow themselves hope for the 2017 season again.  Yes, the Giants are a dreadful team, but there was a lot to like about the Mets in that series.  If you dig deeper, there is still things to like about this Mets team.

Jacob deGrom is in a stretch where he has gone at least eight innings in three consecutive starts.  This could be the best stretch of his career, which is certainly saying something.

Rafael Montero has now had three consecutive strong outings allowing just two earned runs over his last 14.1 inning pitched. In this stretch, he not only finally looks like a major league pitcher, he looks like a good major league pitcher.

Curtis Granderson has been the best hitting National League outfielder in the month of June (204 wRC+), and he’s been hitting .297/.408/.595 with 13 doubles, two triples, nine homers, and 23 RBI since May 1st.

Jay Bruce has been resurgent hitting .315/.358/.629 with four doubles, eight homers, and 17 RBI.  He’s on pace for his first 40 home run season and just his second 100 RBI season.

While acting unprofessional about the switch to second base in the clubhouse, Asdrubal Cabrera has been nothing but professional on the field going 7-14 in the series and playing a very good second base. 

Lucas Duda is flat out raking hitting .375/.474/.813 over the past week, and as we know when Duda gets hot like this, he can carry the team for a long stretch.  Just ask the 2015 Nationals.

Lost in all of that is Yoenis Cespedes being Cespedes, Addison Reed being a dominant closer, and Seth Lugo stabilizing the rotation.  There is even the specter of David Wright returning to the lineup.  When you combine that with the Mets schedule, this team is primed to reel off nine straight wins.

If the Mets were to win nine straight, they would be just one game under .500.  At that point, the Mets will be red hot heading to another big series in Washington.  Last time the teams played there, the Mets took two of three.  After that is a bad Cardinals team before the All Star Break.

Combine this hypothetical Mets run with a Rockies team losing six straight, and the Mets are right back in the mix with a bunch of teams hovering around .500 for a shot at the postseason.  Last year, the Mets were under .500 as late as August 19th, and they still made the postseason.  Throw in a potential Amed Rosario call up, and you really have things cooking.  Why not this year’s team?

Well, that’s easy.  The bullpen is a mess.  You have no idea when Noah Syndergaard and Neil Walker can return if they can return at all.  Jose Reyes is playing everyday.  The route to the postseason partially relies upon Montero being a good major league pitcher, and the Mets calling up Rosario.  At this point, those are two things no one should rely.

As a fan?  We should all enjoy the ride for as long as it will carry us.  As Mets fans, we have seen miracles.  We saw this team win in 1969.  We saw a team dead in the water in 1973 go all the way to game seven of the World Series.  We watched a Mookie Wilson grounder pass through Bill Buckner‘s legs.  We saw Mike Piazza homer in the first game in New York after 9/11.

As fans, we can hold out hope for the impossible.  We can dream.  Sandy doesn’t have that luxury.  He needs to look at the reality of the Mets situation and make the best moves he possibly can.  That includes trading Bruce, Duda, Granderson, and any other veteran who can get him a good return on the trade market.

That still shouldn’t stop us from dreaming.  Who knows?  Maybe Rosario, Gavin Cecchini, and Dominic Smith can led the Mets to the postseason after Sandy is done selling.

Trivia Friday – Best Players The Mets Ever Drafted

The Mets have added a whole other draft class and with them comes hope they will become great players that will lead the team to another World Series.  They were close with Michael Conforto in 2015, and hopefully, they will be close again.

Overall, many will tell you the draft is a crap shoot.  Sometimes the best player you draft is towards the end of the draft.  The Dodgers can tell you about that with Mike Piazza.  Other times, you draft the incredible talent, but you are unable to sign him to a deal.  He re-enters the draft, and you see him go and succeed elsewhere.  Worse yet, you do sign him, and you trade him before he figures it out.

In any event, the New York Mets have been drafting since 1965.  Can you name the 10 best players the Mets have ever drafted?  Good luck!


 

ESPN’s Intentionally Bad Baseball Coverage

As part of the unfortunate layoffs at ESPN this past week, their baseball coverage was gutted.  One of the top baseball reporters there is, Jayson Stark, was let go.  In addition, Baseball Tonight contributors Doug Glanville, Dallas Braden, and Raul Ibanez were also let go.  In fact, Baseball Tonight is essentially no more.  What was once one of the top shows covering baseball is now a once a week pre-game show for ESPN’s Sunday Night Game.

While you can certainly argue Baseball Tonight is not what is used to be, it still provided quality coverage.  Yes, Baseball Tonight was harmed by the MLB Network both in terms of the depth of coverage and the quality of analysts.  Still, Baseball Tonight mattered and had really good nights.  That’s no more.

In place of Baseball Tonight, ESPN has opted to go with Intentional Talk as its daily baseball coverage.  Both ESPN and MLB Network will air the show.  For a network that values First Take and Pardon the Interruption over good reporting, this should be no surprise.

Intentional Talk is as bad as it gets.  It’s just Charlie Rose and Kevin Millar with forced humor.  As usual, forced humor isn’t funny.  It’s what made the 2013 All Star and Legends Celebrity Softball game almost unbearable.

It should have been a lot of fun.  You had Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, John Franco, and Mike Piazza on the same field.  There was also former Met Rickey Henderson playing.  Comedian Kevin James stole the show by taking the game way too seriously.  Over all of this was Rose and Millar doing play-by-play.  It was awful, not funny, and the worst thing there was at Citi Field that year during a season where Matt Harvey had a season ending injury.

The addition of Intentional Talk to ESPN is a reminder they do not care about good coverage or baseball for that matter.  They mostly care about personalities, and Millar was a memorable one from his playing days.  It doesn’t matter that the show isn’t good or watchable.  The only thing that matters is it isn’t Baseball Tonight.

Overall, the biggest loss we might have seen from the ESPN layoffs was them essentially announcing they are ceasing their high quality baseball coverage.  That’s a shame.

A Win So Improbable Edgin Got The Save

So without Yoenis Cespedes and with Max Scherzer in the mound, the Mets really had no chance to beat the Nationals, right?  Well, at least for one night, it was no Yo no problem. 

With Cespedes out, someone had to replace him as the spark plug in the Mets offense. Tonight, Travis d’Arnaud was d’Man. In the second inning, his no doubt blast gave the Mets their first lead in over nine games:

Intersting enough, do you remember the last time the Mets had a lead in a game?  

https://twitter.com/studi_metsimus/status/858101051030990852

Unfortunately, that lead was short lived. In the bottom of the second, Jacob deGrom first allowed a solo home run to Ryan Zimmerman and then a two run homer to Matt Wieters. The Mets short lived 2-0 lead became a 3-2 deficit. From, there it was all Mets. 

deGrom settled in and started mowing down the Nationals. He didn’t allow another run in the final five innings he pitched. He was terrific striking out 12 while allowing those three runs. For the first time in nine games, he was a Mets pitcher that recorded a win. He was the first Mets starter to record a win since Zack Wheeler got the win on April 12th. 

He got the win because his battery mate made sure he had enough run support:

It was d’Arnaud’s first five RBI game of his career. He once again showed his offensive potential on a night reminiscent of Mike Piazza. He even had a 445 foot blast like Piazza used to do. 

The Mets then got to the Nationals bullpen in the eighth. It was a refreshing change after a terrible Nationals bullpen dominated the Mets batters at Citi Field. 

Jose Reyes led off the inning with a double off Jacob Turner. He moved to third on a fielder’s choice by T.J. Rivera. With Zimmerman coming off the bag, the Mets had runners at the corners with no outs. The Mets would then load the bases when d’Arnaud worked out a walk. 
Kevin Plawecki then pinch hit for deGrom and hit an RBI single through the drawn in infield. Yes, it did really happen. Michael Conforto made it 7-3 when he worked out a bases loaded walk. 
The damage would be limited there as Asdrubal Cabrera hit into the 3-2-4 double play, and Jay Bruce grounded out. Still, the Mets got two insurance runs. It turns out they needed them. 

Jerry Blevins came on to start the eighth, and he allowed a one out single to Trea Turner. After he struck out Bryce Harper, Collins turned to Addison Reed to get out of the inning. 
Reed was greeted by Zimmerman’s second homer of the game. Things got tense when Daniel Murphy ripped a single, and Reyes made an error allowing Anthony Rendon to reach. Reed was struggling, but bore down and got a huge strikeout of Jayson Werth to get out of the jam. 

This set the stage for Jeurys Familia to record his first save of the season. 

It wasn’t easy as the Nationals immediately loaded the bases off Familia with three straight singles to lead off the inning. The last one was an Adam Eaton infield single Reyes should’ve played but let go to Cabrera. While Reyes had a good night at the plate going 2-4 with two runs, a walk, double, and a stolen base, he was poor in the field again. 

With Eaton coming up lame on the play, Dusty Baker had to use three pinch runners in the inning. Believe it or not, that wasn’t the panic move of the game. 

After Familia struck out Turner, Terry Collins went to Josh Edgin to pitch to Harper. Somehow it worked with Edgin getting Harper to hit into the 1-2-3 double play. On a night where the Mets got an improbable win, why not Edgin recording the save there?  

Game Notes: With the Cespedes injury, Bruce returned to his familiar RF. The plan is to go with Rivera at first until Lucas Duda, who just began his rehab assignment, is ready to come off the DL. Reyes is heating up going six for his last 14 with a HR. Granderson is in a 1-22 funk and now has a lower batting average than Reyes. 

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.