MIke Piazza

It Was Worth the Wait

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 CespedesDaniel 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!”

Mets “Closer” Than in 2006

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 Hate the Dodgers

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!

The Unlikely Heroes

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!

Wright’s Moment

Given that today is Trivia Friday, here’s another question for you. Who was the last Mets player to knock in a run in the playoffs?  If the title didn’t give it away, the answer is David Wright

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. 

Dodgers & Mets All Stars

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. 

From Gil Hodges to Mike Piazza, former Dodger stars have found their way to the Mets. These Dodger stars have been important parts of Mets postseason runs:

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!

Mets Magic Number is 00

Today is a day to celebrate because THE METS ARE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS!  Today, the ride is complete. We’ve reviewed the bad years and players, and we’ve seen how good we have it now. However, there’s been one fan who’s been there from the beginning, who can really enjoy this. That’s Magic Number 00 Mr. Met:

 

He was there for the Can’t Anybody Play This Game 1962 Mets. He was there for the 1992 Worst Team Money Can Buy Mets.  He was there for the 1998, 2007, and 2008 collapses. He’s seen the worst. 

He’s also seen the best. He’s seen the 1969 Miracle Mets. The 1973 Ya Gotta Believe Mets, and the 1986 Amazin’ Mets. He’s seen the Mike Piazza 9/11 homerun and the  Endy Chavez catch. 

He’s going to be there with us as we see how this improbable season unfolds. I’ve enjoyed the ride and I don’t want it to stop. 
LETS GO METS!

Don’t Boo Carlos Beltran

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

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

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

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

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

Mets Magic Number is 9 

After the Marlins beat the Nationals last night, the Mets magic number is finally in single digits. At a minimum, I thought it was nice to be off of 10. However, I saw the choices for 9, and I quickly realized it was going to be difficult to find a player that fits within my parameters

Many of the players either played well or were on good teams. Many of the players played before I was born. However, I knew there was a player out there. I trusted that I could find someone who wasn’t that good and played on a bad Mets team. I then found my man Craig Brazell:

 
If you don’t remember him, it’s probably because he only played 24 games with the 2004 Mets, who went 71-91. In these 24 games, he would hit .265/.286/.412. He wouldn’t play in the majors for another three years when he would play five games for the Royals. 

It’s a shame because he was an actual major league prospect. He was a Top 10 organizational player seen to have good power and a good glove at firstbase. Unfortunately for him, he was blocked by the Mike Piazza firstbase experiment. The next season, he was blocked by Doug Mientkiewicz (because Carlos Delgado wouldn’t sign with the Mets). After 2005, he was granted free agency, and he left Mets organization. 

In some ways, Brazell reminds me of Ike Davis in that they were both good fielding first base prospects with power (Davis was a much better prospect). Unfortunately, neither panned out even if Davis had some early success. However, unlike with Brazell, the Mets had a viable option in their system with Lucas Duda

That’s what this season has taught us. You need organizational depth. You need it not just to get the players you need at the trade deadline, but also to fill-in spots for your team when there is injury or ineffectiveness. It’s unfortunate when the prospects work out. It’s devastating when there’s no viable alternatives at the ready. 

So with that, let’s offer a hat tip to our magic man number nine, Craig Brazell. 

Do You Still Celebrate Harvey Day?

It’s been an eventful week for Matt Harvey, the Mets, and Mets fans. Who are we kidding?  It’s been an eventful two years. All season long, Mets fans have celebrated Harvey starts as “Happy Harvey Day!”

I get the impression Mets fans aren’t celebrating Harvey Day anymore. They’re willing to overlook his 12-7 record with a 2.60 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. They’re overlooking how they pined for him all of 2014 because he was the key to being a team that could be a World Series contender. They’re overlooking the fact that Harvey has so far delivered.

I understand the anger. I understand the frustration. I can even understand why people presume that they can tell someone to tell someone to do with their health and career. What I can’t understand is forgetting all that Harvey has done for the Mets. What I can’t understand is the Mets fans double standards. 

Mets fans actually booed a looming free agent superstar in Mike Piazza. For comparison purposes, it would be like the Mets fans booing Yoenis Cespedes now, and Cespedes is nowhere near the player Piazza is.  I’m sure the Mets fans will elect to boo Harvey as well. I guess that puts Harvey in good company. 

Also, the Mets have botched the handling of Harvey’s inning limits, whether or not the 180 was a strict limit. Seriously, they’ve aborted the six man rotation on three different occasions. They’ve refused to bring back Dillon Gee. They never called anyone else up to take Steven Matz‘s place in the six man rotation when he was injured

The Mets made their choice. They let Harvey, and the other pitchers, rack up innings so they had a better chance of winning games in the short term. They were hoping they could bully their pitchers to ignore doctor’s, and yes, agent’s advice, to go beyond their innings limits. We’re going to boo Harvey for this?

I’m not. I’m going to cheer Harvey today (from my living room). I’ll cheer him in this and all other starts he makes in 2015 and beyond. I hope you will as well.