With Tom Seaver being diagnosed with dementia, there is a renewed call for the Mets to honor their history and to build a Seaver statue outside Citi Field. For Mets fans and for other teams, this is something which should not be up for a debate. After all, when other teams built their new stadiums, they incorporated statutes of their great players around their ballpark. Even older stadiums are incorporating statues.
This is part of honoring a team’s past. This is something which seems obvious, but it never occurred to the Mets when they build Citi Field.
Looking at the original construct of Citi Field, the seats were green, and the outfield walls were black. The Home Run Apple from Shea Stadium was tucked away. The Mets Hall of Fame was nowhere to be seen. Really, the only trace of the team’s history was the retired numbers and pennants on what was then known as “The Great Wall of Flushing.”
To be fair to the Mets, it may have been an honest oversight. Moreover, it could have been the result of public pressure altering plans. Due to a number of circumstances, there was a push to name Citi Field after Jackie Robinson. For example, George Vecsey wrote an article about it in the New York Times. He would be far from the only one.
Really, this was a pressure the Mets had faced since 1997. Whether it was in response to the pressure or whether it was always part of the plans, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda was born in a ballpark which was meant to invoke memories of the old Ebbets Field. Certainly, that left plenty of room for the detractors before anyone ever stepped foot inside the stadium.
While the perception the Mets had no intention to honor their history may not have been fair, the team gave it credence when the Mets overreacted to Dwight Gooden signed a wall in what was then dubbed the “Ebbets Field Club.” Initially, the Mets planned to erase the signature. As reportedby the New York Daily News, the Mets heard the backlash, and they were going to listen to their fans:
PR honcho Jay Horwitz said the wall will be removed from the club, preserved behind Plexiglass and moved to an undisclosed area at Citi Field that is more accessible to all fans. He added that the Mets plan to procure similar autographs from other popular ex-Mets such as Tom Seaver, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza and Mookie Wilson and display them around the concourse.
It has almost been a decade since this incident transpired. Honestly, has anyone seen a wall with autographs from all the great Mets players? Is it hiding in some suite most fans don’t have access? Is it in the executive offices no one sees? Is it tucked in a corner somewhere in an area no one regularly passes during games?
Perhaps one good location for the wall would be the Mets Hall of Fame. The Mets Hall of Fame is a whole other matter all together.
You could point out one of the reasons why the Mets Hall of Fame may not be all you want it to be is due to limited space. Of course, that is a problem which arises when you don’t make provisions for one in your original plans for the ballpark. It’s also a problem when the team sells important memorabilia like the jersey Mike Piazza wore when he hit his post 9/11 home run.
Of course, this shouldn’t surprise anyone was the team store really spills into the Mets Hall of Fame. While you’re crowding to see the original Mr. Met costume, you can go through the racks of game worn wear and other merchandise which has spilled on over from the main team store.
But it’s not just the lack of statues, or the inaccessible and probably nonexistent wall, or even a ill-executed Hall of Fame. Just look at what happened to the retired numbers and pennants.
The once prominently displayed retired numbers on the left field wall now hang high above the left field Promenade above the foul pole. The pennants have also been removed from the left field wall. They now reside on the facade hanging above the field level in left field. Now, this may not seem like all that much. After all, most teams do not have their retired numbers and pennants on full display on their outfield walls, but for the Mets, this is a clear break in tradition with no real reason for it.
In the end, that’s the biggest problem. There’s no real reason for any of this. The Mets are a franchise which is now 57 years old. They have have had two players inducted into the Hall of Fame. They have won two World Series and been to three others. They have played in some of the most classic games in Major League history, and their status as an expansion team has forever ingrained them in the fabric of the game.
And yet, when you walk around their ballpark, with or without a Seaver statue, you’d have no idea that was the case.
In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, with the Mets one loss away from losing the World Series, Dave Henderson led off the top of the 10th with a home run off Rick Aguilera. After that, the Red Sox would rally and tack on another run on a Marty Barrett RBI single.
After two quick outs to start the bottom of the 10th, all mayhem would break loose starting with a Gary Carter two out single. Eventually, as a Mookie Wilson grounder would slip under Bill Buckner‘s glove, the Mets would be euphoric, and baseball would have one of the greatest games ever played. It is a game which is the epitome of what makes baseball great. So long as you have one out remaining, anything, and as we saw on that October 25th night, ANYTHING can happen.
As we saw last night, that doesn’t happen in football.
Last night, in a back-and-forth finish to the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs and Patriots headed to overtime. The Patriots won the toss, and they took the ball 75 yards before scoring the game winning touchdown. That’s similar to Super Bowl LI where the Patriots overcame the largest deficit in Super Bowl history to tie the score and force the first ever Super Bowl overtime. The Patriots won the coin toss and marched down the field and won without Matt Ryan and the Falcons touching the ball.
If the NFL overtime rules applied to baseball, the Boston Red Sox would have won the 1986 World Series after Henderson hit a leadoff homer against Aguilera. If that seems stupid, it should.
The NFL is the only sport that allows an overtime game be decided without permitting both sides to have a chance to score. Sure, it there wasn’t a touchdown, the Chiefs would have had an opportunity, but there was a touchdown.
Even if you were to look at the NHL having sudden death, it’s important to remember they have a face-off and not a coin flip to determine initial possession. They also also set no impediment for the losing team to have a fair shot at scoring. If you were to apply the NFL rules to the NHL, it would be flipping a coin and determining which team goes on the power play to being overtime.
Really, the NFL overtime is a gimmick, and it’s a dumb one at that. While they can assert it’s for player safety, they have no issue playing a full 15 minutes in the event of a tie. As we saw in the 2013 playoff game between the Rams and Panthers, the NFL has no issue going to a second overtime to decide a playoff game. They also have no issue with Thursday night games.
Fact is, the NFL is cheating their fans of a real chance to see something special. Sure, the Patriots win over the Chiefs was memorable, but as we saw with the 1986 World Series, they’re missing on what could happen next. It’s what happens next which takes a great game and makes it legendary.
It’s why baseball will always be better than football.
On Sunday, I published a tongue-in-cheek recommendation as to what promotions the Mets should have during the 2018 season. The original concept of the post was the Mets promotional schedule feels like it is lacking this year, and the team should be looking for better ways to honor their players.
With that in mind, I asked the Mets Blogger Roundtable what promotions they would like to see the Mets institute during the 2018 season:
The Mets should re-introduce Old Timers Day. Promotions are nice, but they generally consist of things which either break, get lost, forgotten, or all three. Old Timers Day can be traditional and memorable as fans connect emotionally with the players. Sure, there’s no sponsored bobble head doll, hat, or a fidget spinner that goes with it – sometimes the greatest souvenir can be reconnecting with the past, which is why what such a day would be so great for everyone involved.
There was a character on “Rick and Morty” called “Mr. Meeseeks.” He lived only to fix one problem of yours before ceasing to exist. He wanted to cease to be, is the thing – his catch phrase is “Existence is pain!” Naturally, some unknown hero on the internet created a “Mr. Metseeks.” My interpretation of Mr. Metseeks is Mr. Metseeks cannot die until the Mets win the World Series. We all started kind, then have only grown more bitter, and increasing irritated over the years, when the Mets did not fulfill their destiny. We are all Mr. Metseeks. Let’s have an action figure of ourselves some Saturday in 2018. Why? Because a “Jay Brews” shirt sends the wrong message to the youths.
Ernest Dove (MMO & MMN)
As a South Florida resident and fan of the High-A St. Lucie Mets, I can’t help but suggest the MLB Mets model the St. Lucie Mets with $1 beer $1 hot dog night. With ticket prices continuing to skyrocket, I think it would be a great idea for Mets to win over their fans with a night of cheap food and drinks. I’m not suggesting bottles of beer. I’m talking $1 plastic cups here. It might pack the place. And along with the obvious on the alcohol, this would also allow for parents to ensure all their kids are fed. Do it!
Old Timer’s Day; as a kid I always loved Mets Old Timer’s Day, and frankly, I miss it dearly.
In 2009, the New York Times quoted then-Mets executive Dave Howard: “It was particularly unpopular as a promotion. We didn’t see an increase in ticket sales or interest from sponsors or even from people who already had tickets. It died of its own unpopularity in the early ’90s. We felt we were better served by bringing our alumni back over several days instead of one day.”
Now, I liked Dave Howard, nice guy, but that statement was crap. a) outside of a rare 1986 tribute when the hell do the Mets ever “bring their alumni back?”
Maybe be creative? Maybe call it “Amazin Day,” and combine the old Photo Day with an autograph day, have the former Mets like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Art Shamsky, Mookie Wilson, Rusty Staub, Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Piazza, Felix Millan, etc. gather at Citi Field and have a Mets fan’s dream of a day? Yeah, it would cost money, but it’d be sold out and there are a thousand marketing ideas that would make it a must-have ticket (and memorabilia money maker) every year!
The idea that Mets fans wouldn’t embrace a day to celebrate their team’s history is ridiculous.
I wish it was only a cost-effectiveness issue. But it’s not. Frankly, the Mets can’t even send out a promo video without doing something dumb like trying to avoid the existence of a 20-game winner who just won the organizations first Cy Young Award in almost 30 years. It is the fear of ridicule, of blowback, and of honest feedback from a fanbase that’s tired of the losing and the stupidity. In 1989, Davey Johnson was omitted from the list of some two dozen people invited to Old-Timers’ Day.
Why? If the Old-Timers’ Day crowd cheered Johnson, would the Mets’ front office and Harrelson be embarrassed? If the crowd booed him, would he be embarrassed? Like many, many, many others have said many, many, many times, the Wilpons and by extension, their PR and Marketing departments lack a cohesive link to their smartest and most loyal fans. Maybe it’s time to listen to a few of them.
During the course of the 2018 season, my hope is to feature a new Mets fan each and every week by having them answer five quick questions about their particular fandom. For me, this is part of a natural outgrowth of the site because part of my intention was to discuss my experiences as a father raising my sons to be Mets fans.
As we know being a fan is a unique experience for everyone, and I’m sure my sons will have a much more unique experience than I have had as a fan. The hope is to have a fun mix of fans – celebrity, media, and average fans like you and me.
So to that end, I will start off the new feature answering the same five questions butchers, bakers, and the people on the streets will be answering.
The Mets Fan:
For my readers, I am the self dubbed Mets Daddy. To my sons, I am just daddy. To my detractors, I am someone that just needs to go away.
Alongside my work here, you can also find my work on Metsmerized Online, Mets Minors, and Gotham Baseball. With a newborn in the house and a four year old, there’s not much opportunity for me to sleep, so it’s more entertaining to write about the Mets than to watch the same terrible late night TV night in and night out.
How You Became a Mets Fan:
My father grew up in a household where my grandfather was a New York Giants fan, his younger brother was a New York Yankees fan, and he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Given that environment, you could understand why he would look to ensure his children grew up Mets fans.
As a little kid, my dad saw an opportunity with my love of strawberries. He told me about how the Mets had this great player coming to the team named Darryl Strawberry. When Strawberry was called up to the Mets, he took me to my first ever Mets game to see him play. Seeing my first ever baseball game at Shea Stadium helped make me the diehard fan I am today.
Favorite Mets Player:
When I think of my favorite Mets player, there are a few names I consider. As noted above, Strawberry is on the list. Gary Carter was always a favorite of mine, and growing up, I wanted to become a catcher because of him. In more recent vintage, Daniel Murphy was a person favorite, and how could he not with the 2015 postseason he had. Like any other Mets fan, I love David Wright.
However, my guy will always be Mike Piazza. When he came to the Mets, this went from a nice little team to a World Series contender. I still remember all of the homers including the one after 9/11, which for my money is the biggest home run ever hit. More than that, Piazza is a guy who wanted to big stage, and when Cooperstown came calling, he chose to be a Met partially due to us fans.
Favorite Moment In Mets History:
I’ve been exceedingly lucky as a fan. I was there for the Todd Pratt homer clinching the 1999 NLDS. I was in the park the night of Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single. There was also the Bobby Jones one-hitter. My first real memory as a fan was watching Mookie Wilson‘s little roller up the first base line go through Bill Buckner‘s legs.
However, despite all those classic moments, the one I will always treasure most was going to Game 3 of the 2015 World Series with my dad and brother. It also helped that Noah Syndergaardstood 60’6″ away, Wright hit the first World Series homer in Citi Field history, and Curtis Granderson hit a homer to give the Mets the lead for good that game. The fans even got a chance to sing along to Piano Man with Billy Joel.
Going to a Mets World Series game with my dad and brother had long been a dream of mine. Seeing them win a World Series game and feeling that euphoria leaving Citi Field that night will be next to impossible to top.
Message to Mets Fans:
Some of the best Mets seasons are never the ones you expect. The 1969 team was never supposed to win. The 1999 Mets were put together on a wing and a prayer. Back in 2006, it was hard to believe anyone would ever unseat the Braves as the NL East Champions in the Wild Card Era. Heading into the 2015 season, Bryce Harper was asking where his World Series ring was after the Nationals signed Max Scherzer. As Mets fans, we had Michael Cuddyer.
Point is, even if you are extremely frustrated by the Wilpons and how they choose to operate this team, just remember, when you least expect it, that old Mets Magic is right around the corner. After all, Ya Gotta Believe!
When I was talking with my Dad about the postseason, we were prattling off how most of the teams in the postseason haven’t won in quite some time:
- Astros – Never
- Nationals – Never
- Rockies – Never
- Indians – 1948
- Dodgers – 1988
- Twins – 1991
- Diamondbacks – 2001
- Yankees – 2009
- Red Sox – 2013
- Cubs – 2016
Just go back over that list again.
For nearly a century, the dream World Series matchup was Red Sox-Cubs. 1912 versus 1908. The Curse of the Bambino versus the Billy Goat Curse.
Then there was all of the Hall of Famers on both sides who never won a World Series. For the Cubs, you had absolute legends like Ernie Banks and Ferguson Jenkins. The Red Sox had Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.
Throw in Fenway and Wrigley with the Green Monster and the ivy, this was the World Series to end all World Series because these were two teams pathologically incapable of winning World Series.
We know it all changed for the Red Sox with a Dave Roberts stolen base propelling the Red Sox to overcome an 0-3 ALCS deficit. It would be a Kris Bryant homer to start the game winning rally in Game five of the World Series. Before each of those moments, these were two franchises who seemed incapable of winning a World Series. There was also a time the Mets would take full advantage.
Now, the Mets are behind both the Red Sox and the Cubs. Now, it looks like the Mets who are the team that can’t win a World Series.
In 1988, Mike Scioscia hit a grand slam against Dwight Gooden. In 1999, Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded. In 2000, Timo Perez didn’t run out a Todd Zeile fly ball that landed on top of the wall. In 2006, So Taguchi homered off of Guillermo Mota, and yes, Carlos Beltran struck out looking against Adam Wainwright. In 2015, Jeurys Familia blew three saves with the help of Daniel Murphy overrunning a grounder and a way offline Lucas Duda throw. Last year, it was Conor Gillaspie who hit a three run homer in the Wild Card Game.
In reality, the Mets aren’t cursed even with all that ensued after the Madoff scandal. However, with each passing year, you can forgive fans for starting to feel this way. It’s been 31 years since the Mets last won a World Series. In those 31 years, the Mets have reached the postseason six times, and they were eliminated in excruciating fashion each time.
Again, the Mets are not cursed. Still, it is depressing to now live in a world where the Red Sox and the Cubs have won a World Series more recently than the Mets.
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.
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.
One of the best things about being a parent is you get the opportunity to remedy the perceived wrongs from your childhood. No matter how small or childish they may seem, we all have ones that linger. One of my lingering issues was my parents not going out and getting the Halloween Pail Happy Meals when my brother and I were children.
You see the Mets winning the World Series wasn’t the only major event of October 1986. I’ve never confirmed this, but I’m pretty sure Mookie Wilson got one of these for his stepson and nephew Preston Wilson. Much like the Mets hopes of winning the World Series the following year, my hopes of getting a McDonald’s Halloween Pail were dashed in 1987. My chances of obtaining one in 1989 were as much as nonstarter as the Mets chances were that year. In 1990, Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were closer to New York than I was to getting my Halloween Pail. In 1992, there were no hopes for me or the Mets. From there, the Halloween Pails all but disappeared.
That was up until last year when the Halloween Pails re-emerged. Despite Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard not being alive in 1986, these trio of arms led the Mets to the World Series in the same year the Halloween Pails returned. Never underestimate the power of the pails. Like the good Mets fan and father (or petulant child) that I am, I made sure to get all four of them for my son who really had no clue who the Minions were or why he needed four of these pails. That changes this year.
My son loves Peanuts. He has loved them since we took him to see The Peanuts Movie, his first ever movie, for his birthday last year, and since he saw A Charlie Brown Christmas last year. Like any child, he loves Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the whole Peanuts gang:
With that, we have now found the intersection where my son’s love of Peanuts and my need to get these Halloween Pails have met in the parenting Venn diagram. With that, I have checked one thing off my parenting bucket list, and I will now seek out curing other perceived wrongs like never getting the chance to attend a Mets World Series victory parade. I guess that one will just have to wait until next year.
To ensure that will happen, I think McDonalds will need to roll out an Avengers Halloween Pail featuring Thor, Captain America (David Wright), Iron Man (Steven Matz), and The Incredible Hulk (Lucas Duda).
By the way, the Great Pumpkin is on tonight:
— PEANUTS (@Snoopy) October 19, 2016
Did you ever watch a compilation of the greatest moments in Major Leauge history? If you have, you usually come across Mookie Wilson‘s little roller up the first base line, and as a Mets fan it brings you a smile. If you’re a Red Sox fan, you cringe each and every time you see the ball roll through Bill Buckner‘s legs and watch a delirious Ray Knight cross home plate.
As I learned yesterday, the Mets now have their Buckner moment.
In Game Three of the ALDS between the Rangers and the Blue Jays, the score was tied 6-6 in the bottom of the 10th inning. The Blue Jays had runners at first and second with one out. Russell Martin hit a ball to the third base hole that seemed too slow to turn the double play. That didn’t deter Rougned Odor. After received the throw from Elvis Andrus, he made an offline throw to the first baseman Mitch Moreland, who was unable to handle the ball. While this was occurring reigning AL MVP, Josh Donaldson, did not stop running. He rounded third and headed home. By the time Moreland would pick the ball up and throw home, it was too late. It was just a brutal way for the Rangers to lose the ALDS.
Sure enough, everyone started comparing Donaldson to Eric Hosmer. MLB even did a Vine comparing the two plays:
And now we know that every time a player hustles to make a play, invariably there is going to be a comparison to the infamous Lucas Duda throw home in Game Five of the 2015 World Series.
Duda deserves a better fate that this, as did Buckner. The Mets don’t go to the 2015 World Series without him. As we saw this past season, when Duda suffered a stress fracture in his lower back, the team missed his presence in the lineup, and yes, the team missed his defense at first base. One throw doesn’t change what he has accomplished in his career, nor does it change how much the Mets need him back on the field in 2017.
However, that throw does define him. Years later, all people outside of New York will know about him is he is the guy that made the poor throw. Assuredly, someone is going to invariably blame him for blowing not just the game, but the entire World Series. It’ll be nonsense.
As we saw in 1986, it wasn’t just Buckner. It was Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell, and Knight not willing to go down without a fight. It was Rich Gedman just missing a pitch, that was somehow ruled a Bob Stanley wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score. Furthermore, it was the Red Sox who blew a 3-0 lead in Game Seven of the World Series. Buckner’s error didn’t help things, but it wasn’t the reason why the Red Sox lost.
Last year, it was Terry Collins allowing Matt Harvey to talk him into pitching another inning. It was then Collins sticking with Harvey too long in that ninth inning before turning to Jeurys Familia. It was David Wright cutting in front of Wilmer Flores, to not only make a weak throw to get the out at first, but also to allow Hosmer to aggressively round an abandoned third base. It was also the Mets offense that didn’t score any runs in the bottom of the ninth or extra innings to lead to that loss.
Like Buckner, Duda didn’t help matters, and he will be forever blamed for the loss. Worse yet, people will forget two pretty good careers by letting their worst moments define them. They’ll have that opportunity because their respective errors will be replayed time and time again. In that sense, Duda has now become the Mets version of Buckner.
The things we are willing to tell ourselves as fans can sometimes be quite outlandish. Back in 1997, if you polled Mets fans, they would probably tell you they would rather have Todd Hundley than Mike Piazza. Why not?
The two were the same age. Both were All Stars in 1996 and 1997. In those two years, Hundley had hit 71 homers to Piazza’s 76. Hundley had 198 RBI to Piazza’s 229. Hundley’s 53 doubles surpassed Piazza’s 48. In fact, Hundley’s 127 extra base hits were actually two more than Piazza’s 125. On top of that, Hundley was a switch hitter and a much better defensive catcher. He was the homegrown Met that was afan favorite with his very own Todd Squad cheering section at Shea Stadium. Hundley’s career was taking off, and he was seen by Mets fans as a newer version of Gay Carter. When he returned from his elbow surgery in 1998, he was expected to once again be the slugging defensive minded catcher who was going to lead the Mets to the postseaon for this first time in a decade. If you took a poll of Mets fans, they may begrudging admit Piazza was the better player, but overall, they would also state their belief that they would rather have Hundley as he was their guy. It was all a moot point anyway because there was no way the Dodgers would ever get rid of Piazza.
Until they did. There wasn’t a baseball fan alive in 1998 that was utterly shocked when Piazza was traded to the Florida Marlins along with future Met Todd Zeile for a package that included future Met Gary Sheffield and former/future Met Bobby Bonilla. Once Piazza was a Marlin, the world over knew the team that sold everything except the copper wiring after winning the 1997 World Series was going to trade the impending free agent Piazza. All of a sudden, the very same Mets fans who loved Hundley, desperately wanted Piazza. Myself included.
It was certainly possible. In that offseason, the Mets had acquired Al Leiter and Dennis Cook. There was a reporte there. Even with those trades, the Mets still had a good farm system headlined by Mookie Wilson‘s stepson, Preston Wilson, who could justifiable headline a Piazza trade. Without Hundley, the team was languishing around .500, and they needed a shot in the arm if they were ever going to earn a postseason berth. You could tell yourself that when Hundley got back he could either play left field in place of the struggling Bernard Gilkey or in right in place of another fan favorite, Butch Huskey. At least, that is what you told yourself.
Amazing, it actually happened. On May 22, 1998, the 24-20 Mets actually pulled off a trade to acquire Piazza. Perhaps just as a amazing, when the Mets activated Hundley from the disabled list on July 22nd, they put him in left field. Very rarely in life does things happen exactly as you imagined it would. This did.
Except it didn’t. While Piazza was originally greeted with a hero’s welcome, he would then become roundly booed by the very same fan base who was desperate to acquire him. Hundley would be a disaster in left field. As uncomfortable as he was in the field, he was equally uncomfortable at the plate hitting .162/.248/.252 with only one home run. He eventually forced Bobby Valentine‘s hand, and he became the backup catcher to Piazza. In retrospect, how could it have ever worked? Piazza was a star in Los Angeles, which is nowhere near the hot bed New York was. Hundley was a catcher out of the womb as he was taught the position by his father Randy Hundley.
But then on a September 16th game in the old Astrodome, it all worked according to plan. In the top of the ninth, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Piazza, who had been 0-3 on the night, stepped in the box against Billy Wagner with two on and two out. He would launch a go-ahead three run homer. After Cook blew the save in the ninth, Hundley would be summoned to pinch hit in the top of the 11th. He would hit a game winning home run. It would be the first and only time Piazza and Hundley would homer in the same game. In fact, it was Hundley’s last homer as a Met. At that point, the Mets seemed to have control of the Wild Card, but they would eventually fall apart, thanks in LARGE part to Mel Rojas, and they would just miss out on the postseason.
Going into that offseason, the Mets had to make a choice. Do you stick with your guy Hundley behind the plate, or do you bring back Piazza. To everyone’s delight, the Mets made Piazza the highest paid player in the game giving him a seven year $91 million dollar contract. When the Mets re-signed him, the Mets seemed assured of returning to the postseason.
And they did with the help of both Piazza and Hundley. With Piazza back in the fold, the Mets had to move Hundley. That spurned two shrewd moves by Steve Phillips that helped build a supporting cast around their superstar. Hundley was traded for Roger Cedeno and Charles Johnson, the same Johnson who was traded by the Marlins to acquire Piazza. Cedeno would spend 1999 being tutored by Rickey Henderson, and he would set the then Mets single season record for stolen bases while manning right field. Phillips would then flip Johnson for Armando Benitez, who would become a dominant closer out of the bullpen.
Piazza was dominant that year. He hit .301/.361/.575 with 40 homers, a Mets right-handed batter single season record, and 124 RBI, which is the Mets single season record. He led the Mets throught the play-in game and into the NLCS. His seventh inning opposite field home run off John Smoltz in Game Six of the NLCS tied the game at 7-7. In a game they once trailed 5-0 and 7-3 and a series they had trailed three games to none, it seemed like the Mets were on the verge of pulling off the impossible. With a Kenny Rogers walk, they didn’t. The Mets came so close to making the World Series, but they fell short. Even with as much as Piazza gave them, they would need more in order to make it to their first World Series since 1986 and to play in consecutive postseasons in team history.
Amazingly, Piazza had another gear. He would hit .324/.398/.614 with 38 homers and 113 RBI. It remains the highest slugging percentage in team history. The 78 homers and 237 RBI over two years stands as the team records over a two year stretch. He would tie the Mets single season record with three grand slams. In 2000, the Mets would go to the World Series, and they would fall agonizingly close as his shot to center field fell just short of tying the game.
It was a start to an amazing Mets career and part of a Hall of Fame career. Before Piazza left the Mets after the 2005 season, he would hold many records. He would have the most home runs by any right-handed Mets batter and second most all time to Darryl Strawberry. He would also be second to Strawberry in team RBI. He would be passed by David Wright in those catergories. However, Wright wouldn’t pass Piazza in some other catergories. Piazza has the third highest team batting average, and he has the highest slugging percentage in Mets history. He would also hit the most home runs all time by a catcher surpassing Johnny Bench. It was one of many memorable home runs in Piazza’s time with the Mets, which included the June 30, 2000 home run capping a 10 run eighth inning rally that saw the Mets overcome an 8-1 deficit against the Braves, and the most important home run he would ever hit:
Now, Piazza is going to be a Hall of Famer. He is going to be a Hall of Famer in a Mets uniform. It never seemed possible.
Years ago, Mets fans would’ve picked Hundley over Piazza. Almost twenty years later, Piazza chose us when he chose to enter the Hall of Fame as a New York Met joining Tom Seaver as the only Mets in the Hall of Fame. It was an incredible ride that has seen Piazza become perhaps the most beloved Met to ever wear the uniform. He deserves that love and much more. He deserves every congratulation and accolade the Mets, Mets fans, and all of baseball can throw his way.
Thank you Mike Piazza.