Pete Schourek

Godspeed Anthony Young

While my father first introduced me to baseball with those 1980s team with Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter, I have relatively few memories of those teams due to my young age.  No, as luck would have it, my real fandom began just after those players departed the Mets.  That left me with an era of Bobby Bonilla being the best player on a team that went from World Series champions to refusing to rebuild.

As a result, I have an attachment to a group of moments and Mets players that were part of a largely forgettable era in Mets history.  I can spin tales of watching Mackey Sasser diving against the wall in right field.  I can tell you about Pete Schourek‘s dazzling one hitter against the Montreal Expos.  To me, Rico Brogna was a perennial All Star, and Todd Hundley was going to be one if they Mets would just stop playing Kelly Stinnett and Charlie O’Brien and his hockey mask over him.

Another important figure at that time was Anthony Young.

Here is what is lost in AY’s history.  He was a pretty good pitcher.  In fact, back in 1991, AY was regarded by Baseball America as the Mets top prospect.  When AY made it to the the majors, he showed he was a major league caliber pitcher.  He was never expected to be an ace, and there was some question whether he belonged in the rotation or in the bullpen, but overall, he belonged.

Taking a cursory look at his stats, he was largely forgettable.  As a Mets pitcher, AY had a 3.82 ERA and a 1.367 WHIP.  His ERA+ was 98 suggesting he was only slightly below average.  However, we know that wasn’t the full story.  It never is.  Missing here is the fact that AY lost a record 27 decisions in a row.

The losing streak started with AY struggling.  In three early May starts, he allowed five, four, and five earned runs.  He escaped his next start without a loss despite allowing four runs over 5.1 innings.  Fans started to get frustrated with him and boo.  AY would be shuffled between the rotation and the bullpen.

The losing streak became a “thing” in June when he made four starts and one relief appearance taking a loss in all of the games.  Now, he was at eight straight losses.  When John Franco went down with an elbow injury, AY became the closer.  When he saved a game against the Cubs in an extra-inning game, we all learned that recording a save did not interrupt a consecutive loss streak.

While in the bullpen, he blew five saves, and he would accumulate six more losses putting the streak at 14.  Things didn’t improve to start the 1993 season.  First in the bullpen and then the rotation, he lost game after game after game.  There were rumors of players griping.  At times, fans were frustrated as AY had become emblematic of the Mets of this era.  While the talent was there, the team just wasn’t winning.  It was getting hard to watch, and you wondered why the Mets kept throwing the same people out there expecting different results.

Somewhere during this stretch, AY moved from scapegoat to folk hero.  Fans began to cheer for him almost willing him to break this streak.  To a certain extent, AY deserved those cheers because he was not one to publicly complain about either his run support or the defense.  He was not complaining about being shuffled between the rotation and the bullpen.  He went out there and did his job.

Finally,on July 28th, an Eddie Murray walk-off double snapped AY’s 27 game losing streak putting his 1993 record at 1-13.  Both AY and Shea Stadium was jubilant.  The win put an end to an infamous streak that made a relatively pedestrian pitcher newsworthy.

Well, AY is back in the news again, and once again, it is for something beyond his control.  AY was recently diagnosed an inoperable brain tumor that doctors, and in reality everybody, hopes is benign.  At 51 years of age, AY, a man most known for his losing, cannot afford to take another loss.  He’s too young.  He’s a husband, father, grandfather, and a coach.  At this moment, now more than ever, he needs a save or a win.  At this stage, he’ll probably take whatever he can get.

At this point, Mets fans can only offer thoughts and prayers, to cheer him on like we all did when he was losing game after game.  Now more than ever, AY needs you.  I know I will be cheering for him just like I did him all those years ago.

That’s How You Finish Out the Regular Season at Home

Growing up, my family did not always go to Opening Day.  It was sometimes difficult for my Dad to get off of work, and even if he could, we had my mother insisting that my brother and I could not miss a day of school just to go to a Mets game.  What eventually happened is that my father, brother, and I usually found ourselves going to the last game of the season, which usually falls on a Sunday.

When you go to Opening Day, there is always hope.  Even when your team stinks, you can find some reason for hope. I remember thinking back in 1993 that the 1992 Mets season was just a fluke.  Bobby Bonilla was certainly going to be better.  Howard Johnson was back in the infield where he belonged.  This could be the year Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent break out.  The team still had Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen with John Franco in the bullpen.  It turns out the 1993 team was even worse than the 1992 team.

The last game of the season always has an interesting feel to it.  When we went to the final game of the season, it was more of a farewell to an awful season.  Being ever the optimist, we still had hope for a bright future with Pete Schourek throwing eight brillant innings to cap off a Mets six game winning streak.  It seemed like 1994 was going to be a big year in baseball.  It was, but that’s a whole other story.

There was the devastating 2007 finale.  Heading into that game, most Mets fans believed that despite the epic collapse, the Mets were going to take care of the Marlins.  They just snapped a five game losing streak behind a brilliant John Maine performance and the offense coming alive to score 13 runs.  Even better, the Phillies seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit with them getting shut down by Matt Chico and a terrible Marlins team.  The sense was if the Mets won this game, the Phillies would feel the pressure and lose their game.  Even if the Phillies won their game, the Mets would beat the Phillies and return to the postseason like everyone expected.

After Tom Glavine laid an egg, which included out and out throwing a ball into left field trying to get Cody Ross, who was going to third on the original throw to home.  At 5-0, the Mets were still in the game.  David Wright was having a torrid September.  Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were big game players.  I don’t think Moises Alou made an out that entire month.  With that in mind, I turned to my father, and I said to him, “If the Mets allow one more run, the game is over . . . .”  As the words left my mouth, Jorge Soler allowed a two run double to Dan Uggla.  Sure, they would play eight and a half more innings, but the collapse was over right then and there.

That 2007 finale hung over the 2008 finale.  Mets fans were probably a bit more optimistic than they had a right to be.  The day before Johan Santana took the ball with three days rest, and he pitched a complete game three hitter.  The Mets had Oliver Perez going in the finale.  Back then, this was considered a good thing.  The offense was clicking again.  However, that bullpen was just so awful.  The Mets were relying on Luis Ayala to close out games, and believe it or not, his 5.05 ERA and 1.389 WHIP was considered a steadying presence to an injury ravaged bullpen.  Beltran would hit a huge home run to tie the game, but the joy wouldn’t last.  Jerry Manuel, just an awful manager, turned to Scott Schoeneweis to gave up the winning home run to Wes Helms (Mets killer no matter what uniform he wore), and then aforementioned Ayala gave up another one that inning to Uggla to seal the deal at 4-2.

Fittingly, the last out was made by Ryan Church.  He was the same Mets player the Mets flew back and forth to the West Coast despite him having a concussion.  Remember the days when the Mets didn’t handle injuries well?  Nevermind.  In any event, I was one of the few that stayed to watch Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza close out Shea Stadium.  Many disagree, but I thought it helped.

Last year, was just a celebration.  The Mets had already clinched the NL East, and they were off to their first postseason since 2006.  The only thing left was the Mets winning one more game to get to 90 wins.  The 90 wins was window dressing, but the shift from 89 to 90 is just so satisfying.  It means more than 86 to 87 wins or 88 to 89 wins.  That 90 win mark is an important threshold for the psyche of teams and fans.

This year was something different altogether.  In terms of pure baseball, the Mets entered the day tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card with the Cardinals just a half a game behind (tied in the loss column).  The night before the Mets had seen Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero combine to put the team in a 10-0 hole that the Las Vegas 51s just couldn’t quite pull them out from under.  Still, that rally had created some buzz as did Robert Gsellman starting the game.  However, there was the shock of the Jose Fernandez news that muted some of the pregame buzz.

After the moment of silence, there was a game to be played, and it was just pure Mets dominance.

Gsellman would pitch seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.  More amazing than that was the fact that he actually got a bunt single.  For a player that can only bunt due to an injury to his non-pitching shoulder, the Phillies sure acted surprised by the play.  Overall, it was a great day by Gsellman who was helped out by the Mets offense and a little defense along the way:

 

It was that type of day for the Mets.  After Saturday’s pinch hit home run there was a Jay Bruce sighting again on Sunday.  On the day, he was 2-4 with two runs and a double.  It was easily the best game he had as a Met.  His second inning double would start the rally that ended with James Loney hitting an RBI groundout.  Then, as  Cousin Brucey would say, “the hits just keep on comin’!”  No, that was not just an allusion to the Phillies pitchers who hit three batters in the game.  It refers to the Mets offense.

Curtis Granderson hit a fourth inning solo shot to make it 2-0.  It was his 30th of the year making it the first time  the Mets have had a pair of 30 home run outfielders since, really who even knows?  In the fifth, T.J. Rivera plated a run with an RBI single.  Later in the fifth, Jose Reyes would the first of his two RBI bases loaded walks.  Overall, the big blow would come in the seventh off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera:

The grand slam put the capper on not just the game, but a pretty remarkable season at home where the Mets were 44-37 on the season.  The Mets also hit 193 homers at home, which was the most ever hit at Citi Field, and more than any the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium in any one season:

In the eighth, the Mets just poured it on with some of the 51s getting into the game.  Gavin Cecchini was hit by a pitch, Brandon Nimmo and Ty Kelly walked, and Eric Campbell got another RBI pinch hit.  Throw in a Michael Conforto two RBI double, and the Mets would win 17-0.  Exiting Citi Field, you got the sense this was not the last time you would see this team at home.  As it stands now, the Mets back to being a game up on the Giants, and the Cardinals fell to 1.5 games back.

There haven’t been many final games to the season like this one, and I’m not sure there ever will be.  Overall, it was a great way to close out the regular season at Citi Field.  However, for right now, it is not good-bye like it was in 1993, and it certainly isn’t good riddance like it was in 2007.  Rather, this game had more of a feeling of, “See you again soon.”