Orel Hershiser

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 57 Johan Santana

Mostly due to Nolan Ryan, there have been 12 no-hitters thrown by pitchers after they left the Mets. There have been 10 pitchers to throw no-hitters before coming to the Mets. Hideo Nomo is the one pitcher who threw a no-hitter before and after pitching for the Mets. Through it all, the swinging bunts, the bloop singles, the defensive misplays, everything, there has been just one man who has thrown a no-hitter in a Mets uniform.

Johan Santana.

If he did nothing else in his Mets career, this would have been enough to make Santana the best ever Mets pitcher to wear the number 57. However, his career would prove to be much more than this moment.

Santana originally came to the Mets after the collapse of the 2007 season. Omar Minaya waited out the field, and he eventually got the Twins to accept the trade, and then, he got the Mets to make Santana the highest paid pitcher in the game. It was all designed to prevent another 2007, and really handle the unfinished business from 2006.

It was actually a slow start for Santana in his first season with the Mets, which shouldn’t have been all the surprising as that is what he typically did with the Twins. However, in June, Santana turned it on, and he was phenomenal in a Cy Young worthy season. Somehow, he only finished third in Cy Young voting despite leading the league in ERA, GS, and IP.

However, as we know, with aces it is not just about the win-loss record. It is about stepping up when your team needs it most. That’s exactly what Santana did. Really, he was simply brilliant down the stretch. In the second half, he was 8-0 with a 2.17 ERA and a 1.096 WHIP. People may have wanted to give credit to the managerial switch or something else, but fact, is the biggest driver of the Mets turning it around was Santana being Santana.

That included him demanding the ball on the penultimate game of the season. With the Mets in a position where they could not afford to lose another game, Santana took the mound on three days rest and threw the last great game a Mets pitcher would have at Shea. He shut out the Marlins allowing just three hits while striking out nine. The fact he did this on an injured knee made this start all the more incredible.

That would prove to be the last time the Mets won at Shea, and it would be the last start Santana would make with the Mets being contenders.

Partially due to the injuries setting in, people tend to forget Santana was still a very good pitcher over the ensuing two years, which included his being named an All-Star in 2009. Over the first two years in Citi Field, Santana had a 131 ERA+. As noted, the injuries would mount with him needing surgery on his knee, elbow, and shoulder in successive seasons.

The last surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder cost him all of the 2011 season. Simply put, pitchers really don’t recover from that surgery. Santana somehow did even if it was for a short duration. In his first 11 starts, which includes the famed 134 pitch no-hitter, Santana was 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA and 1.029 WHIP. Essentially, Santana was back, but unfortunately, the wear and tear of pitching every fifth day proved to be too much. His entire career would last just 10 more starts.

Through all of it, Santana had established himself as one of the best starters in Mets history. He has the sixth best ERA+ with the 10th best K/BB. If you take out his 2012 season, he would rank higher in those and other categories, but then again, if you take out that season, you miss the only no-hitter in Mets history. For that no-hitter and all the great things he did in a Mets uniform, Santana is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 57.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry

19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw

46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford
54. T.J. Rivera
55. Orel Hershiser
56. Andres Torres

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 56 Andres Torres

In an ill-fated trade with the San Francisco Giants, the Mets had obtained Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez in exchange for Angel Pagan. In Torres, the Mets got not just the best player in team history to wear the number 56, but also an advocate for ADHD.

Torres had been diagnosed with ADHD, and he spoke at length about its impact on his life and his baseball career. he would go on to do interviews and a documentary about it. That was his significant off the field contributions. On the field, he had a very underappreciated season.

One reason for his season being underappreciated was Torres had dealt with early injuries, and at one point, he was mired in an 0-for-18 streak in the second half. Another reason why it was underappreciated was Pagan went to the Giants, and he had a very good year for a Giants team which won the World Series.

Little did people know at the time, but Torres would have a very good defensive year posting a 4 DRS in center. To put in perspective how good a year that was defensively, since the inception of DRS, only four other Mets have posted a better single-season DRS, a list which includes Gold Glovers Carlos Beltran and Juan Lagares, but surprisingly not Mike Cameron.

At the plate, Torres did not have a particularly strong season with an 88 wRC+. That said, he joined Jose Reyes as the only two Mets players to have multiple games in a season where they hit a homer and a triple. When all was said and done, Torres had amassed a 1.5 WAR which is higher than the other 1o players who wore the uniform with the New York Mets, which is why he’s the best Mets player to ever wear the number.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry

19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw

46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford
54. T.J. Rivera
55. Orel Hershiser

 

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 55 Orel Hershiser

Before the 1999 season, Orel Hershiser was reviled by Mets fans. His 1988 NLCS MVP performance is what stood between them and what Mets fans believed was a rightfully the Mets second World Series in three seasons. Instead, Hershiser earned a save in Game 4 while picking the win in a masterful Game 7 performance.

A decade later, the Mets made the somewhat controversial move to sign Hershiser during Spring Training. It turned out to be a great move for the franchise.

It didn’t look like it in the beginning as Hershiser got knocked around in April and May. To make matters worse, the Mets were unperforming leading to Steve Phillips firing three of Bobby Valentine‘s coaches on June 6th. At that point in the season, the Mets were a .500 team after getting it handed to them by the Yankees.

n June 7th, Hershiser got the ball, and he made the first step towards salvaging the Mets season. In that start, Hershiser picked up the win after allowing two earned over six innings. This was part of a terrific stretch where both the Mets and Hershiser turned their seasons around.

From May 21 – June 29, Hershiser was 7-1 with a 2.94 ERA. Over that time frame, the Mets went from firing coaches to 11 games over .500 and in the thick of the postseason races. That’s where the Mets were all season, and as luck would have it, the Mets found themselves tied with the Cincinnati Reds on the final day of the regular season, and the Mets handed the ball to Hershiser.

Hershiser allowed a run in the first before shutting down the Pirates over the next five innings. He would pick up a no decision in a game the Mets eventually won on a wild pitch scoring Melvin Mora in the bottom of the ninth. Despite pitching this big game, the Mets opted to put this battled tested veteran who had a number of huge postseason starts in the bullpen.

In that postseason, Hershiser would make only two appearances. The first was a scoreless inning locking up a Mets victory in Game 3 of the NLDS. The next was a huge relief appearance in Game 5 of the NLCS to help keep the Mets alive in the series.

Up until that Game 5, Hershiser’s big contribution in that series was pointing out to Eddie Coleman and Steve Somers just how much Chipper Jones hated being called by his given”Larry.” With that, Hershiser improbably gave birth to the Larry chants which would fill Shea Stadium for its final days.

In Game 5, the Mets were fighting off elimination. The early 2-0 lead went by the wayside with Masato Yoshii giving up two runs with no outs in the fourth. Hershiser entered the game in an almost impossible situation with runners on first and second with no outs.

He responded by striking out Andruw Jones and Eddie Perez back-to-back before getting Walt Weiss to ground out back to him. Hershiser then followed that up by shutting out the Braves for an additional 2.1 innings. It was those 3.1 scoreless innings which would keep the game and the Mets alive long enough for Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam single many innings later.

Surprisingly, Hershiser was not done in that series. Despite being a 40 year old starter, he found himself back on the mound two days later in Game 6. He pitched a scoreless seventh before the Mets took the lead in the top of the eighth on a Mora RBI single. In another universe, Hershiser would have gotten the win there, but the Mets would lose that game, and Hershiser’s one year tenure with the Mets was over.

During that year, Hershiser had an eventful season which included him being the starting pitcher for the Mercury Mets and giving Mets fans their favorite jeer. He put together a good year, and he had some postseason glory for the Mets instead of against the Mets in what was a near Hall of Fame career. As he was an integral part of that 1999 team, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 55.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry

19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw

46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford
54. T.J. Rivera

 

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 44 David Cone

While many remember him for wearing number 17 in honor of Keith Hernandez, and the last we saw of him was wearing Dwight Gooden‘s number 16, for most of his Mets career, David Cone wore the number 44.

That was the number Cone was wearing in 1988 when he emerged as the big time pitcher he would be known as throughout his Major League career. Despite starting the year in the bullpen, he would break through into the starting rotation by May, and he would immediately stake his claim to a rotation spot by pitching a complete game shutout against the Braves.

That was just the start of what was a great year for Cone. Cone would jump out of the gate winning his first seven starts. When he lost his first game, it would only be one of three games he lost on the entire year. That seven game winning streak wasn’t his best streak of the year. In fact, Cone would win his final eight games of that 1988 season. With that, Cone would become the first ever Mets pitcher to win 20 games his first full season in the rotation.

In almost any other year, this would have been good enough for Cone to win the Cy Young. In that 1988 season, he had the best winning percentage, and he had the second best ERA in the majors. He had the top ERA out of anyone who pitched over 200 innings. Ultimately, he was in the top 5 to 10 in nearly every pitching category, but he really had no chance with Orel Hershiser‘s record setting 1988 season.

It is really difficult to figure out a true highlight from that season. After all, he had two separate 10 inning complete games. He struck out 10+ seven different times. That was partially the result of that laredo slider. Ultimately, in that 1988 season, we really learned how special a pitcher Cone would be.

The 1988 Mets would win the division for the second time in three years. Cone would take it on the chin in Game 2 after some bold talk, but he would soon step up big time. In Game 3, after a huge five run eighth, Cone entered the game for Randy Myers to close out that victory giving the Mets a then 2-1 series lead.

When Cone took the mound again in Game 6, the Mets were on the verge of elimination. He would not let that happen with a gutty complete game victory evening up the series. This was really the first truly great postseason start which would one day become the hallmark of his career.

The shame for Cone was this was his only chance to pitch for the Mets in the postseason. That great Mets team would fall apart due to a mixture of age, off the field problems, and some really ill-advised transactions. Despite the Mets falling apart over the years, Cone would remain great.

Over that time frame, much like in 1988, Gooden would be the ace in name, but by production, Cone was the true ace of those Mets staffs.

During his time with the Mets, he was a real fan favorite with the Coneheads there to greet his every start. Cone was there with great outings racking up big strikeout totals, and on more than one occasion, he would with becoming the first Mets pitcher to pitch a no-hitter. The closest he got was April 28, 1992 when a Benny Distefano swinging bunt with one out in the eighth refused to roll foul.

One of the reasons Cone was able to flirt with no hitters like this was he was so difficult to hit. In five of his first six seasons with the Mets, he struck out over 200 batters. In 1990 and 1991, he led the league in strikeouts. In fact, from 1988 – 1992, Cone had struck out more batters than any other National League pitcher.

It was more than just the strikeouts for Cone. He also had the most shutouts over that time frame while pitching the third most innings. He was third overall in FIP trailing just Gooden and Jose Rijo. His WAR was the third best in all of baseball.

To put it in perspective, he trailed just Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux, and he was ahead of Nolan Ryan. If not for Clemens cheating, those three pitchers would be in the Hall of Fame. Really, when you look at it, during his time with the Mets, Cone was a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher. Somehow, despite that, he was just an All-Star twice and received Cy Young votes just once in his Mets career.

Really, he did things only Hall of Fame caliber pitchers could do like tying the National League single game strike out record on the final game of the 1991 season:

While that mark would later fall, at the time, that tied him with Tom Seaver for the most by any National League pitcher. To this day, it remains a Mets record. That should put Cone’s Mets career in perspective. He did the things only Seaver could do. As it stands, Cone was a truly great Mets pitcher.

He’s only one of nine Mets pitchers to win 20 in a season. By WAR, he is the ninth best pitcher in team history. By FIP, he is the sixth best. He is also eighth all-time in wins, third in K/9, 10th in innings pitched, sixth in strikeouts, seventh in complete games, and fifth in shutouts.

One special thing Cone did do was return to the Mets. Due to injuries which had taken their toll on his arm and health, he missed the 2002 season. The Mets gave him a shot in 2003, and in his first start of that season, he shut out the Montreal Expos for five innings for the last win of his Major League career.

Even with Cone having a 17 year career taking him to both New York teams, Toronto, Kansas City, and Boston, Cone’s first and last win of his career would come while wearing a Mets uniform. Over that time, he’d wear many numbers, but in the end, he would ultimately become the best Mets player to ever wear the number 44.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry

19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky

25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy

29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza

32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey

34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 16 Dwight Gooden

There was a time when we thought Dwight Gooden was not only going to be the best Mets player of all-time, but he may be one of the best ever. That was how great Gooden was to start his career, and arguably, even with Tom Seaver and Jacob deGrom, Gooden put together the best two year stretch a Mets pitcher ever had.

To say Gooden was a phenom in 1984 was a complete and utter understatement. Gooden burst onto the scene leading the league in strikeouts, FIP, H/9, HR/9, and K.9. To date, his 11.4 K/9 that season still remains a Mets single-season record. His 276 strikeouts that season ranks “only” third in Mets history, but it was the Major League rookie record for strikeouts:

Not only was Gooden the youngest pitcher to ever pitch in an All-Star Game, but he would also strike out the side. Notably, in that game, he and Fernando Valenzuela combined to strike out six straight batters. That remains an All-Star Game record.

As great as he was in 1984, he would be even better in 1985. That 1985 season still ranks as the best season a Mets pitcher has ever had. Gooden’s 12.2 WAR mark that year still rates as the highest WAR any Met has had in any season. That year also marked the Mets single-season record for shutouts and WPA.

Perhaps, the best way to describe just how dominant Gooden was in the 1985 season is to point out how batters had absolutely no chance against him. In fact, as pointed out by Sports Illustrated, Larry Bowa told Gooden he had been tipping his pitches that entire season. Even with batters knowing what was coming, they still couldn’t hit him. One of the reasons why is he had a curveball so good Tim McCarver once dubbed it Lord Charles.

During the year, Gooden won the unanimous Cy Young, and he won the pitcher’s Triple Crown. His numbers that year look like video game numbers: 24-4, 1.53 ERA, 276.2 IP, 0.965 WHIP, and 268 strikeouts. He was simply untouchable.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons including drug and arm issues, Gooden never got back to this level. Still, he was a bona fide ace. In 1986, he would become the youngest pitcher to ever start an All Star Game. While he would amazingly never earn a postseason win in his career, he would still have some great starts. For example, in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS, Gooden would allow just one run over 10.0 innings. While Gooden struggled in that World Series, he was still a World Series champion.

That’s when things really went downhill. Gooden missed the championship parade, and he would serve the first of his suspensions related to his cocaine use. The last one cost him the entirety of the 1995 season, and it would be the end of his Mets career.

After that 1986 season, he would still have highlights. Despite the suspension to start the year, he’d be lovingly greeted by Mets fans in his 1987 debut. He’d also finish in the top five of Cy Young voting. In 1988, he’d again pitch atop the Mets rotation who would win the NL East for the second time in three years.

While much of the focus was on Mike Scioscia in that series, his performance was overlooked. In his Game 1 no decision, he struck out 10 and out-pitched Orel Hershiser. Even though he got the no decision, he helped the Mets jump out to an early 1-0 lead in that series:

One thing which was understandably lost was his coming out of the bullpen on two days rest in Game 7 to pitch three shutout innings.

Gooden’s last good year came in 1990. Looking past his 3.83 ERA, which was startling a career high, he led the league in FIP and HR/9. It was also his fifth season pitching 200 innings, an it was the fourth time he would strike out 200 batters. For that season, he would finish fourth in the Cy Young voting.

Even with the troubles and much of the promise unfulfilled, Gooden remains a great all-time Met and Mets Hall of Famer. He is arguably the second best pitcher in Mets history. To date, he still holds team records in win percentage and HR/9. He also ranks second in WAR among pitchers, wins, strikeouts, and FIP.

Gooden is all over the top 10 in Mets pitcher career and single-season records. By WAR, he is the third best player to ever wear the Mets uniform. While we may fret over what might’ve been, what we got was a World Series, and the best player to ever wear the number 16.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Gooden was the 16th best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 16.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter

9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns

13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran

National League Postseason Mets Fans Worst Nightmare

Here’s how bad the National League postseason has shaped up to be. The Washington Nationals, the team who delivered to the Mets a devastating loss when Kurt Suzuki homered off Edwin Diaz, could quite possibly be the lesser of all evils.

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the Mets most fiercest and longest running rivals. There are stories of Terry Pendleton, John Tudor, and others from the 1980s. The rivalry pushed forward into this century with the postseason match-ups. The last one ended with Adam Wainwright‘s curveball striking out Carlos Beltran in what could be argued was the worst loss in Mets history.

Speaking of torment, there is the Atlanta Braves. Since the dawn of the Wild Card, no team has so tormented the Mets. We saw Brian Jordan and the Braves keep the Mets out of the 1998 postseason. Chipper Jones, who was all too happy to chide Mets fans, almost repeated the act in 1999. There’s nothing to say of John Rocker‘s behavior on and off the field that year. Throw in that NLCS ending with Kenny Rogers walking Andruw Jones, you have enough torment to last a lifetime.

That torment continued into this year with the Braves dominating the Mets all year. With that team having Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., and a young and still developing core, this promises to last deep into the future.

Then there are the Dodgers. Any team who willingly takes on and purposefully promotes Chase Utley deserves hatred just for that. But the history of those two teams goes deeper. There was the 1988 NLCS with Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson unofficially ending the Mets 1980s run.

Finally, there is the Nationals. This is a rivalry which only began in 2015 when the Mets and Nationals were good for the first time since the Expos franchise was founded in 1969. Whether it is Bryce Harper‘s hubris asking where his ring was when the team signed Max Scherzer, or it was Daniel Murphy tormenting them after he was the Mets 2015 postseason hero, fans seem to have developed a particular hatred of this team.

No matter how you slice or dice it, choosing a team to root for in the NLDS and eventually the NLCS is an exercise in rooting for the lesser of all evils. Who you think is the lesser of all evils likely depends on your age and your memories of a particular loss here or there.

Instead of looking at things from the perspective of lament, you should realize that three of the teams Mets fans absolutely despise will lose, and they will likely lose in excruciating fashion. That will be quite enjoyable to watch. It should also be enjoyable to watch whichever team win the pennant lose to the Rays, Twins, or Astros in the World Series.

Chipper’s Hall of Fame Plaque Will Say Larry

It all began with Orel Hershiser. On the eve of the NLCS, he shared the information with Eddie Coleman. He was there and Steve Somers was here on our radios discussing it. In the pre-Twitter era, this was how you conveyed messages to Mets fans.

Mets fans would get that message loud and clear, and they would then deliver that message beginning with player introductions before Game 3 of the NLCS, and they delivered it every time he stood at the plate:

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

It was the only way Mets fans could try to torture Chipper Jones; the man who built a Hall of Fame resume by and large by his performance against the Mets.

Jones revealed in tweaking the Mets fans. He chided them one time saying, “Now all the Mets’ fans can go home and put their Yankees stuff on,” after he and the Braves had once again left the Mets for dead.

He named his first child Shea.

More than that, he hit .309/.406/.543 with 49 homers and 159 RBI against the Mets in his career.

In response, well, Mets fans had their beloved “LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!” chant. Whether or not, it worked didn’t matter. What mattered was the name got under Chipper’s skin.

Undoubtedly, Chipper got the best of the Mets in his playing days. The Braves knocked the Mets out of Wild Card position in 1998, and they won the 1999 NLCS. The Braves won the NL East from 1995 – 2005.

And now, he’s a Hall of Famer. Coincidentally, that may be where Mets fans win the war.

If you’ve ever seen a Hall of Fame plaque, it lists your given named with the nickname underneath in quotes.

It’s not Tom Seaver. It’s George Thomas Seaver.

It’s not Nolan Ryan. It’s Lynn Nolan Ryan.

It’s not Yogi Berra. It’s Lawrence Peter Berra.

It won’t be Chipper Jones. It will be Larry Wayne Jones.

That’s right. For all time, he will be Larry. It’s a warm reminder for Mets fans who loved to chide him with the name.

Hopefully, Chipper Jones gets a chuckle about that fact. Honestly, I hope it doesn’t detract from the moment from a great baseball player who was truly a worthy advisory.

Enjoy your moment Larry.

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.

 

Bobby Valentine’s Second Greatest Achievement

Recent reports indicate that President Elect Donald Trump is considering Bobby Valentine as the United States Ambassador to Japan.  If Valentine is indeed selected as the Ambassador to Japan, it would be his second biggest accomplishment.  Naturally, his biggest accomplishment was leading the 2000 Mets not only to the postseason, but to the National League Pennant.

As luck would have it, the New York Mets would begin the season in Japan.  Valentine’s Opening Day outfield was Rickey HendersonDarryl HamiltonDerek Bell.  Of that group, only Bell would play in a postseason game for the Mets, and he would be injured in Game One of the NLDS.  Henderson would prove to be a malcontent that wanted a new contract, and ultimately, he would be released in May.  Hamilton would lose his job in April after suffering a toe injury.  This led to the Mets outfield being Benny AgbayaniJay Payton-Bell for most of the season.

The one thing Agbayani could do was hit.  In 2000, he hit .289/.391/.477 with 15 homers and 60 RBI in 119 games.  However, he was a terrible fielder who did this in the field during a game that season:

 

For his part, Payton was one of the heralded players out of Georgia Tech that included Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra.  While Payton was once considered on par with them, if not better.  As a prospect, Payton’s star would diminish a bit, but he would still become a major league player.  In his 2000 rookie season, Payton relatively struggled at the plate hitting .291/.331/.447 with 17 homers and 62 RBI in 149 games.

There was more than that.  Valentine also had to help make Todd Zeile an effective first baseman after he spent most of his career as a third baseman.  Zeile was of course signed to replace John Olerud, who departed in free agency.  While Zeile had a nice season hitting .268/.356/.467 with 22 homers and 79 RBI, his production fell far short of Olerud’s .298/.427/.463, 19 homer run, 96 RBI season.  When you consider the drop off defensively from the Gold Glover Olerud to the quickly adapting Zeile, the team was noticeably worse at first base.

The team was also worse at shortstop.  While Rey Ordonez never hit for much, he was a Gold Glover at shortstop.  The Mets would miss that defense after he broke his left arm trying to get a tag down in May.  This led to the Mets trying to get by with Melvin Mora at shortstop, who struggled at the plate and in the field.  This led to the ill advised trade for Mike Bordick who would hit .260/.321/.365 in his 56 games as a Met.

In reality, this was all part of a Mets team that was considerably weaker than the 1999 version.  Pat Mahomes was nowhere near as good as he was in 1999.  In place of well established veterans like Orel Hershiser and Kenny Rogers in the rotation, the Mets had Glendon Rusch and the return of Bobby Jones.  However, it should be noted the rotation was one area the Mets were better.

Whereas the 1999 Mets were an offensive juggernaut with a strong bullpen, the 2000 Mets were built on starting pitching.  Al Leiter had an improved season making him 1A behind the ace the Mets acquired in the offseason, Mike Hampton.  With Rusch and Jones outperforming their expectations, and quite possibly what their rotation counterparts did in 1999, the rotation was one area the Mets were improved.

The rotation along with two terrific players in Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo, Valentine was able to lead the Mets to the World Series.  Valentine was able to do that despite a diminished offense, vastly diminished defense, an overall less talented roster, and some drama (which usually follows Valentine wherever he goes).  It was a team that outperformed their Pythagorean win-loss record by six games.  It was a team that outperformed expectations.

Making it to the 2000 World Series should be considered Valentine’s biggest accomplishment.  That Mets team really had no business making it to the postseason let alone the World Series.  It is why that should stand as Valentine’s biggest accomplishment even if he were to be named as President Trump’s choice to be the Ambassador to Japan.

Indians Fans Deserve a World Series More than Cubs Fans

Time and again, we have heard about the Billy Goat curse and the Chicago Cubs not having won a World Series since 1908.  As a result, many are supposed to empathize with them for their time falling short time and again.  Moreover, many sympathize with a fan base that has never seen their team win a World Series in their lifetime.  While all of this is true, it is not appreciably different than being a Cleveland Indians fan.

The Indians last won the World Series in 1948 against the Boston Braves.  Yes, the Boston, not Atlanta Braves.  That’s how long ago the Indians last World Series title was.  If you are to assume that a 10 year old had the full capacity to appreciate the World Series victory and remember the run to the World Series, that means Indians fans who could relish those Lou Boudreau teams were born in 1938.  That would make those fans 78 years old today.  Rounding up just a tad, unless you are an octogenarian, Indians fans have never seen their team win a World Series.  What they have seen is some excruciating losses.

Back in 1995, the Indians sent out what could be considered the greatest offensive team ever assembled.  That Indians team was shut down by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Steve Avery over the six game set.  A team that had scored 840 runs in 144 games (strike shortened season), an average of 5.8 runs per game, could only muster 19 runs (3.2 runs per game) in the series.  A team that was shutout just three times in the regular season would be shut out in Game Six of the World Series in an excruciating 1-0 loss.

The 1997 Indians weren’t the favorites to win the World Series.  Instead, they had to fight and claw their way back to the World Series.  They needed the rookie Jaret Wright to become a Yankee killer and Sandy Alomar, Jr.Moi to hit a pivotal home run in what was going to be the Game 4 clincher of the ALDS for the defending champion Yankees.  Instead, the Indians persevered and would win their second pennant in three years after beating the Orioles in six in the ALCS.  It should be noted Armando Benitez took the loss in that game being a harbinger of things to come for Mets fans.

That 1997 World Series was thrilling with the Marlins and Indians alternating wins setting the stage for an epic Game 7.  The Indians had to like their chances with their newfound postseason hero Wright going up against Al Leiter.  The Indians had tattooed Leiter for seven runs in 4.2 innings in Game 4.  Leiter would never win a postseason start in his career.  While it was more of a challenge than the Indians expected, they hand their closer, Jose Mesa, on the mound with a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning.  Mesa would blow the game allowing Craig Counsell to hit a sacrifice fly to score Moises Alou (again how was he not the MVP of that series) to tie the game.  The Indians couldn’t touch the Marlins bullpen in extra innings.  Finally, in the 11th, Charles Nagy gave up the game winning hit to Edgar Renteria scoring Counsell of all people as the winning run.  That is as excruciating a loss as it gets for a fan.

There have been other tales of recent woe for this Indians fan base.  In 1998, the Yankees exacted revenge against Wright and the Indians by scoring five runs in the first inning off Wright en route to a Yankees 4-2 ALCS series win.  In 1999, the Indians blew a 2-0 series lead and a 5-2 lead in Game 5 to lose the ALDS to the Red Sox.  That game was memorable for Pedro Martinez‘s epic performance out of the bullpen.  The lean years were not too far away from here.

Then there was an Indians resurgence.  In 2007, the Indians had a 3-1 game lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS with Game 5 at home.  CC Sabathia just couldn’t close the deal, and the Indians bullpen would implode leading the Red Sox to their comeback.  Like the rest of baseball, the Indians would watch helplessly as the Red Sox would win their second World Series in four years.  To make matters worse, the small market Indians would have to break up the team.  Two years later, Indians fans would watch as Sabathia took the hill for the Yankees in Game One of the World Series against Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.

In response, many Cubs fans will scream the Bartman Game!  One of their own prevented them from winning the pennant and going to the World Series back in 2003.  Of course, that narrative is a bit nonsense because there is a real debate as to whether or not Alou could catch that ball.  Furthermore, that didn’t cause Dusty Baker to leave Mark Prior out there too long.  It didn’t cause Alex Gonzalez to allow a double play ball to go through his legs.  It didn’t cause the Cubs to blow a 3-0 lead.  It certainly didn’t cause the Cubs and Kerry Wood to blow a 5-3 lead in Game 7.  Furthermore, it did not cause Cubs fans to try to ruin Bartman’s life.

Absolutely, blowing a 3-1 series lead when your team hasn’t won a World Series in nearly a century is devastating.  It was no more devastating than the Indians blowing the 2007 ALCS.  It is definitively not more devastating than the 1997 World Series.

Sure, it hurts to lose and not be competitive.  However, as a Mets fan I know the 2015 World Series loss was infinitely more hurtful than anything I saw from 1991 – 1996 or 2001 – 2004 or even 2009 – 2014.  No, it is hte misses that stick with you the longest.  Personally, I’m more haunted by Ron Darling pitching the worst game of his life against an unbeatable Orel Hershiser, Kenny Rogers walking Andruw Jones, Luis Sojo‘s two RBI single off Leiter, Carlos Beltran looking at an Adam Wainwright curveball, Eric Hosmer‘s mad dash to home plate, and any of the other events that led to those deciding plays which ended the Mets postseasons.

The Cubs may not have won since 1908, but the Indians fan base is the more tortured fan base.  They deserve this World Series title more than anyone.