Tonight it’s official. The torch has been passed. The face of the ex-Mets has officially become Mike Piazza. He’s throwing out the first pitch before the first Mets home World Series game.
This spot used to belong to Tom Seaver. He’s still the greatest Met to put on the uniform. He just might be the greatest right handed pitcher ever. That will never change. However, he’s 70 years old. We don’t know how much the Lyme disease has taken out of him. If he’s not here, it means he can’t be here. It’s sad, but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten. However, someone needs to take up that mantle. Someone needs to throw that first pitch.
There are plenty of options from the 1986 team. With the start of SNY, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling have become even more beloved. There’s always Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. If you’re looking for some October magic, look no further than Mookie Wilson.
But no, tonight is for your franchise’s best player. Without Seaver being available it’s Piazza. He’s the guy who was the Mets. He lead the team to the postseason in 1999 and 2000. He hit the post-9/11 homerun. He is the greatest hitting catcher of all time. He will be the second one to wear a Mets cap in the Hall of Fame. With all he’s meant to the Mets and their fans, he should be a part of this.
So while the Mets come home, so does Mike Piazza. This time he comes home as our best player just like it was in his playing days.
In many ways, 1980 is a very important marker for the New York Mets. I’m not using this year because this is the year Nelson Doubleday (RIP) purchased the Mets. Rather I’m using this date to create a demarcation in Mets fandom.
Those fans born between January 1, 1980 – October 27, 1986 are a distinct group. Most likely you are part of a group who went to their first Mets game with their father at Shea Stadium. Your childhood home with its ramps and neon figures are gone. As a result, this same group probably brought their son/daughter to their first game at Citi Field.
As your first Mets game was at Shea Stadium in the 80’s, this was what you knew the song “Meet the Mets” to be:
It blared on the loudspeakers outside Shea. It was part of the intro to the WFAN games. Speaking of which, up until this past year, you only knew of the Mets on WFAN. Now, they’re on WOR, and you’re version of “Meet the Mets” has disappeared.
You also grew up with Tim McCarver when he was good. You mostly grew up with Fran Healey, who was never quite as bad as advertised. You knew and loved Bob Murphy, but Howie Rose and Gary Cohen are your guys. You love Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling as players, but if you’re being honest, you really know them more as broadcasters.
You were raised with four divisions, no Wild Card, and no Interleague play. It was baseball when it was more pure, but in some ways, it seems less fun in retrospect. The rivals of your youth all moved to the NL Cental. In their place was the never lose the division Braves.
Mostly, it’s been cruel to be born in this timeframe. The Mets won a World Series in your lifetime, but it was a World Series of which you have little to no recollection. It’s a cruel twist of fate for something so prominent in your team’s and baseball’s history occurred when you were alive, and you really can’t remember it. At least not all of it.
Your only true World Series experience was the Subway Series, and the Mets lost it to the hated Yankees. To make matters worse, Mike Piazza made the last out on what seemed at first glance to be the game tying homerun, and Derek Jeter was the World Series MVP.
Thsnkfully, things are looking up now. We saw Generation K falter, but now we have the stud muffins succeeding. We seem to have the team that can have long sustained success like those 80’s teams. However, we’re now old enough to enjoy it.
We now have a Mets team in the World Series that’s the only show in town. No sharing the spotlight. This is our moment. This is the World Series we get to enjoy and remember. So if you’re from Long Island, New Jersey, Brooklyn, Queens, and Connecticut, Lets Go Mets!
That’s the cheer for the New York Mets!
From the moment he arrived in 1998, Mike Piazza brought the Mets to another level. The Mets went from young and improving to a playoff team.
He was joined by some terrific Mets along the way. Edgardo Alfonzo, John Olerud, Robin Ventura, Al Leiter, etc. However, Piazza was the man. He was (and still is) the greatest hitting catcher in the history of the game. With some bad luck and some other factors, the Mets didn’t win the World Series when Piazza was with the Mets.
The Mets missed their shot. The Mets were beset with hard times and bad decisions after that. However, Piazza still had his moments:
However, he never got his chance to go back to the playoffs, to win a ring. I thought about that in 2006. I was hoping the Mets would bring him back like they did Lee Mazzilli in 1986. I understood why they didn’t.
Paul Lo Duca had a terrific year. Piazza was still a capable starting catcher with pop in his bat. You couldn’t ask either to sit on the bench. You also don’t want to invite the controversy. It still doesn’t mean I didn’t miss him, especially with Ramon Castro being the backup catcher.
For the first time since 2006, the Mets were in the playoffs. For the first time since 2000, the Mets are in the World Series. There was a time it was all because of Piazza. He’s retired now on the cusp of the Hall of Fame. It’s where he belongs.
I just wish he was here.
In 2000, Mike Hampton became the first Met ever to win the NLCS MVP. He was 2-0 He didn’t allow a run. He pitched a complete game shutout in the clinching Game 5.
He was terrible in his only World Series start. He allowed four earned in six innings, and he wasn’t even that good. He was critical of Mike Piazza for not starting a brawl after the Roger Clemens bat throwing incident. He made this statement even though he tied the rubber in Game 2, and he never sought retaliation.
After the season, he left the Mets for Colorado due to the school system. I’m sure the eight year $121 million contract didn’t play a part. He warned every boo that would be rained upon him on every return trip to Shea Stadium. So why am I thanking him?
David Wright. Wright was the compensatory draft pick the Mets received when Hampton signed with the Rockies. Because Hampton left, we’ve had Wright’s terrific career. He’s been an All Star, MVP candidate, and the Captain. His career so far merits Hall of Fame consideration.
Now, he’s going to play in a World Series. It may be nine years after than we thought, but Wright has led the Mets to the World Series. It wouldn’t have been possible if Hampton didn’t do to Colorado.
So, thank you Mike Hampton for leaving town. We were better off for it.
My favorite Mets team was the 1999 team. I loved everything about that team from Bobby V to Mike Piazza to Edgardo Alfonzo to Robin Ventura to John Olerud. It was my first real taste of a pennant race and the playoffs. I was lucky to be there for Pratt’s All Folks and the Grand Slam Single. I look back on the year with melancoly because of this:
In 2000, the Mets got Mike Hampton. The season became World Series or bust. A strange feeling for a Mets fan. Hampton would deliver. He was the NLCS MVP. The Mets then had to face the Yankees in the World Series. It was a cruel series with Todd Zeile‘s ball landing on the wall and falling back into play. Timo Perez didn’t run and didn’t score. Roger Clemens threw a bat at Piazza and wasn’t ejected. The series then ended in the most heartbreaking way possible:
The Mets would be terrible for the next few years, but everything came together in 2006. Our homegrown stars, Jose Reyes and David Wright, we’re becoming superstars. They were joined by the two Carloses: Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. It was a team that ran roughshod over the National League. Beltran was the best baseball player on the planet that year (who somehow didn’t win the MVP). The Mets had momentum in Game Seven with Endy Chavez’s catch. Here’s how that season ended:
In 2007, the Mets reloaded and were primed to go back to the World Series. They were up 7 with 17 to play. On the final game of the season, they sent future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine to the mound with his 300 wins. He wouldn’t be devastated when he got out of the first, but we would:
In 2008, the Mets diagnosed their problem, and much like 2000, they went out to get it. The Mets brought in Johan Santana, and he delivered. they needed him in a strange year that saw Wille Randolph fired after a win on the first game of a west coast trip. The interim manager threatened to cut Reyes if he didn’t come off the field after pulling up lame, and people acted like it was a good thing. Through all of that, the Mets were collapsing again, and yet an injured Santana took the ball on three days rest. He saved the season, but only for a day:
The last three were the most difficult for me because I was there. It got more difficult because Citi Field was initially a disappointment. It got worse because the product on the field was bad.
Then Matt Harvey came up and was an All Star. Jacob deGrom came from seemingly nowhere to become a Rookie of the Year and an All Star. They were joined by Noah Syndergaard. The Mets made a flurry of trades including one for Yoenis Cespedes. Daniel Murphy had an out of body experience. Then this happened:
All that pain. All that suffering. We know what it’s like to be Mets fans. There’s pain and suffering. However, there are moments of pure joy. It’s all the losing that makes nights like last night all the more special.
We’re Mets fans. We were there for all of this. There are older fans who experienced more pain, but also more joy. There are younger fans who only know losing. Now, we’re all Pennant Winners. It’s like the 80’s again when the Mets are the best team of baseball. We’re “Back in the New York groove!”
In 2006, every Mets fan thought the Mets going to the World Series was a foregone conclusion. Confidence was at an all time high after Tom Glavine shut out the Cardinals in Game One.
Then Game Two happened. The Mets terrific bullpen couldn’t protect a two run lead. It all started with a Guillermo Mota changeup to Scott Spiezio. I knew the Mora trade was rotten from the beginning. The Mets somewhat understandably didn’t re-sign Mike Piazza. Then the next year they bring in the guy who repeatedly beaned Piazza. Bad karma.
The game remained tied into the ninth when Billy Wagner allowed a go-ahead homerun to So Taguchi. SO TAGUCHI! I still can’t believe it to this day. Wagner allowed two more runs. I’m still in shock nine years later that the Mets lost that game 9-6. It was the pivotal moment in the Cardinals upset over the Mets. By the way, do you remember who got the save in that game? Adam Wainwright. Yup.
I was thinking about that game a lot last night. The Cubs had a much better lineup. The Mets bullpen is not as good as the 2006 version. However, one part of the Mets bullpen was better. The closer.
Wagner was a terrific closer during his major league career amassing 422 saves. He was great with the Mets in 2006 with 40 saves. However, he was a terrible closer in the postseason. He had a 10.03 ERA and a 1.971 WHIP.
The Mets now have Jeurys Familia. In six games, he’s pitched 7.2 innings. He has not allowed an earned run, walked one, and struck out four. He has a 0.391 WHIP. He’s a perfect 4/4 in save opportunities. He’s better than anyone could’ve imagined. He’s the difference between a Taguchi homerun and a 2-0 series lead.
The Mets are now the closest they’ve been to the World Series in 15 years. The better closer has brought them closer.
I was lucky. When I first became interested in baseball the Mets were really good. They finished second or higher in the NL East from 1984 – 1990.
During that time span, I was only concerned about the Mets. Hating the Yankees didn’t even make sense yet. They were not good enough to be hated. Besides, they played in the American League, and they never played the Mets in the regular season. I really didn’t hate any teams until 1988.
I remember the exact moment. It was the day of my aunt’s bridal shower, which was being hosted at my parent’s house. The men were thrown into the basement to watch the NLCS. With the game tied at three, Jay Howell got caught cheating. He was using pine tar. When the Mets went off to score five runs after his ejection, it was the first time I experienced schadenfreude.
The moment got me really interested and focused on the 1988 NLCS; more than an eight year old should. I lived and died with that team for the next four games. I was devastated when the Mets lost. I then hate watched the World Series for the first time in my life. Kirk Gibson‘s homerun was one of the greatest moments in MLB history. However, I was just angry the Dodgers won again.
My hatred of the Dodgers would only grow from there. Darryl Strawberry was my favorite player. As a kid, I had no real grasp of free agency. The Dodgers would teach me all about it. I was in the car with my Dad listening to WFAN after we visited Nana. I then heard that Strawberry signed with the Dodgers.
I didn’t understand. How could my favorite player go to the Dodgers? He was a Met. I was crushed. It got worse. I also loved Gary Carter. Later that offseason, he would also sign with the Dodgers. I remember the first Mets-Dodgers game in 1991. I was sitting in my parent’s basement playing Strat-O-Matic with my Dad when the game started.
As I grew older, I came to hate other teams more. However, I always hated the Dodgers. It’s what made the Mike Piazza years even sweeter. It’s what made the Paul Lo Duca double tag out at home plate even better. It’s why I’m even more excited for this series.
Lets Go Mets!
Fifteen years ago today, I went to my first Mets playoff game. Somehow, even with Mike Piazza injured, the Mets lead the NLDS 2-1. They found themselves in a extra innings looking for just one big hit:
I don’t think there was anyone on the planet who thought Todd Pratt was going to hit a walkoff, series-clinching homerun.
The next year, the NLDS heroes would be Benny Agbayani . . .
. . . and Bobby Jones
Who’s it going to be this year? Could it be Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who’s already had a huge pinch hit homerun this year:
How about Wilmer Flores:
Whoever it is, that player is about to forever become a part of Mets lore.
LETS GO METS!
Seriously, how many Mets fans remember that Wright knocked in Carlos Beltran to give the Mets a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS? I doubt many because most people focus on his .160/.276/.320 line in the NLCS. They choose not to focus on the RBI or his .333/.385/.500 line in the 2006 NLDS. Instead the narrative became Wright isn’t clutch.
In 2000, I remember similar rumblings being uttered about the then face of the Mets franchise, Mike Piazza. Up until 2000, Piazza was not seen as a playoff performer. That perception did not change with his homerun against John Smoltz in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS. Rather, it changed when he hit a double with third base coach John Stearns proclaiming over and over again, “The monster is out of the cage!”
Piazza would hit extremely well in the 2000 playoffs. He hit .214/.389/.286 in the NLDS. He hit .412/.545/.941 (video game numbers) in the NLCS. He hit .273/.273/.636 in the World Series. Overall, he hit six doubles, four homeruns, and eight RBIs. Not too bad for a career .242/.301/.458 postseason hitter.
I wasn’t surprised by Piazza in 2000. He hit .324/.398/.570 with 32 homers and 111 RBIs. He is a career .3o8/.377/.545 hitter. I expected Piazza to hit in 2000. It was only a matter of time before he busted out in the playoffs. I’m expecting Wright to perform just as well.
Sure, his 2006 playoff numbers were not good. However, he is a career .298/.377/.492 hitter. Since returning from his back injury, Wright has hit .277/.381/.437 with seven doubles, four homeruns, and 13 RBIs. Like Piazza, it’s his team. Like Piazza, it’s his moment. Like Piazza, I’m expecting him to perform.
Wright is capable of doing it. He’s the face of the franchise. He’s the guy who stayed. He’s the Captain of the team. He’s chasing a World Series ring. It’s his time. It’s his moment.
If he performs like we know he can, it’ll be his World Series ring.
Whether people in Los Angeles know it, these two franchises will forever be linked. As many of you younger Mets fans (I can still call myself that, right?), many of our fathers grew up as a Brooklyn Dodger fan. They became Mets fans because the Dodgers left town.
The Mets came into existence as a result of the Dodgers moving from Brooklyn. The Mets owners won’t quite let the Dodgers go. The teams have also shared stars.
You know what’s insane about that play? You know other than it happened. Former Dodger Shawn Green relayed the ball to former Dodger Jose Valentin, who threw the ball to former Dodger Paul Lo Duca. The first runner tagged out was former Met Jeff Kent. It seems that J.D. Drew wasn’t supposed to be part of this play at all.
In any event, rather than go on about how much I hate the Dodgers (don’t worry, that’s coming tomorrow) I thought it would be fun to name the best players who have played for the Mets and Dodgers.
Some ground rules. I want someone who played well with the Mets and Dodgers. Using a Giants example, I’m not picking Willie Mays for CF even though he could be the greatest CF in MLB history. I want someone like Piazza, who was great (or at least good) with both teams. So, here’s my list:
P – Bobby Ojeda
C – Mike Piazza
1B – Eddie Murray
2B – Jeff Kent
3B – Todd Zeile
SS – Jose Vizcaino
LF – Danny Heep
CF – Brett Butler
RF – Darryl Strawberry
Honestly, I thought this team would be better. The main problem was the derth of left fielders. Another problem was someone like Zeile. He played 3B for the Dodgers, but he mostly played 1B for the Mets. As you can tell, I leaned towards the player who was better as a Mets. If there are any suggestions, I’ll be happy to update this list.
As we know, the Dodgers and Mets have a complicated history. The next chapter begins tomorrow night. Lets Go Mets!