Rick Aguilera

Game 6 Would Not Have Happened In The NFL

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.

An Examination of the Jose Reyes Signing

A woman is on the hotel bed before her husband pulls her off the bed. He proceeds to push her. When that isn’t enough, he grabs her around the throat and throws her into a sliding glass door leading out to a balcony. There’s an ensuing crash that stirs security.

The husband and wife are separated by security. The wife requests a medic to come to the hotel to treat injuries to her left leg and scratches to her throat – the same throat her attacker grabbed before throwing her into a glass door. When medics arrive to treat, it’s agreed she should get further treatment at the hospital.  During the time period she is separated from her husband, the wife cooperates with the police and gives them sufficient information to file a police report and have the District Attorney’s Office proceed with pressing charges against the husband.

The prosecution is ready to go to trial. However, the trial never happens. The victim wife refuses to cooperate.  The husband now is a free man. If you didn’t know it by know, that’s what we know happened with Jose Reyes and his wife.

Yes, there are various people saying there could have been any number of things that could have happened in the room that have gone unreported.  That is undeniably true.  You could say there was alcohol or that she was antagonizing him verbally or that she had the audacity to fight back causing Reyes to escalate the violence.  There are a number of scenarios you could conjure up to make the October 31, 2015 incident between Reyes and his wife seem better or worse depending on your point of view.  No matter what you think might have or could have transpired, we don’t know anything different from Reyes’ wife’s account as no one has presented anything contradicting her statements to the police.  Even if you have a doubt in your mind as to everything that transpired, Reyes still hit his wife, and that is inexcusable.

To say the Rockies thought so as well when they released him is not being completely honest.  The Rockies’ shortstop of the future, Trevor Story, has played well enough that they don’t need Reyes.  There is no way you’re considering Reyes at third when you have Nolan Arenado.  Same goes for second with DJ LeMahieu.  It was easy for them to take a principled stand when they had no room for a greatly diminished Reyes on the roster.  It’s a whole other matter when you actually have a need for Reyes as the Mets apparently think they do know when they signed him to presumably play third base.

WHY THE REUNION MAKES SENSE

As a pure baseball decision, a Mets-Reyes reunion makes sense.  He Reyes is flat out a better ballplayer than Eric Campbell and Ty Kelly.  Even with how well he’s played since his recent call-up, it’s hard to fathom that Matt Reynolds is a better baseball player than Reyes.  Maybe, just maybe, you could argue that he’s a better everyday option than Wilmer Flores despite having never played third base in the majors.  In that sense you can understand the signing.

Another reason for the reunion is because everyone remembers what Reyes used to be.  As a Met, he was a .292/.341/.441 hitter who averaged 11 triples and 41 stolen bases a year.  He was electric in the field and on the base paths.  He’s the Mets all-time leader in stolen bases and triples.  He’s the best shortstop in Mets history.  He was a beloved player, and many wish he never left the Mets in the first place.

However, as is apparent with that October 31, 2015 incident, Reyes is not who Mets fans think he is.

WHY REYES ISN’T A FIT FOR THE ROSTER

Since he left the Mets, Reyes has gotten progressively worse. Last year when the Blue Jays were chasing their first playoff berth since 1993, they moved Reyes, who had become a liability, for Troy Tulowitzki.  At that time, Reyes was only hitting .285/.322/.385 with no triples and only 16 stolen bases.  When he went to the Rockies, he complained about the trade and openly stated he wanted out.  He finished the year hitting .259/.291/.368 in Coors Field of all places.  He played a poor shortstop in both places.

Both Coors Field and the Rogers Centre are known as hitter’s parks, and last year Reyes didn’t hit much in either park.  Clearly, the Mets hope is that Reyes will be rejuvenated by becoming a Met again.  It’ll be interesting to see if it comes to be especially since Citi Field is decidedly less hitter friendly than either ballpark Reyes called home last year.  In the event Reyes doesn’t produce, the Mets will be left in a difficult situation as they may need to bench Reyes.  Seeing how he reacted in Colorado, it is fair to question how he would accept a benching.

Ultimately, you could understand the Mets rolling the dice on Reyes if the other options didn’t work.  However, the Mets haven’t tried everything.

Earlier in the year, the Mets passed on Ruben Tejada even though he was better than Reyes last year, has actually played third base, and did a good job as a utility player for the Mets last year.  The Mets still haven’t tried Dilson Herrera at second base this year like they had done in years past.  The Mets made this move before finding out if Yusilesky Gourriel could be a viable option for the team this year.  There are other options on the trade market as well.

However, the Mets decided to sign Reyes despite the fact that he may be a distraction (aside from any perceived clubhouse issues that arose in Colorado).  The Mets will have to address the domestic violence issues upon officially signing Reyes.  They may have to do it more frequently than that.  There may be various advocacy groups who seek to have protests or other efforts to denounce the Mets and Reyes.  It’s the type of situation the Mets tried to separate themselves from back in 2010.

THE K-ROD INCIDENT

In 2010, it was alleged Francisco Rodriguez unleashed a verbal tirade against his girlfriend.  When her father sought to intervene, K-Rod proceeded to punch him.  He continued to punch him and bang the man’s head against a wall.  The Mets initially put K-Rod on the restricted list for two days.  When it was discovered K-Rod injured his thumb in the altercation, the Mets put K-Rod on the disqualified list and withheld the remaining $3.1 million from his 2010 salary.  They further sought to make his contract non-guaranteed, but ultimately backed off that stance once K-Rod filed a grievance.

Unlike Reyes, the charges were not dropped against K-Rod.  In the offseason, he would plead guilty to the misdemeanor.  Part of his sentence was to undergo therapy.  Presumably, this therapy is similar in nature to the therapy Reyes is currently undergoing as part of his MLB suspension.

It is worth mentioning that in 2012 K-Rod was arrested again for domestic violence.  In this incident, it was alleged that he struck his girlfriend in their home (different girlfriend than the one he had in 2010).  K-Rod would not stand trial for this incident as the alleged victim recanted her story that K-Rod caused her injuries, and the two key witnesses were flown back to Venezuela.

In that offseason, K-Rod would re-sign with the Milwaukee Brewers who cheered him after each and every strikeout and each and every scoreless appearance.  It was not too dissimilar to how the Mets fans cheered K-Rod in 2011 when he recorded 23 saves before being traded to the Brewers.

FAN RECEPTION

When Reyes ultimately steps back on the field, he is going to be cheered again by Mets fans.  He will be greeted with JOSE! chants.  This really shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Ultimately, fans want to cheer for players no matter how despicable they are.  Anyone who read the book, The Year the Bad Guys Won, knows about the various and sundry issues with the 1986 Mets.  There was Darryl Strawberry and his having fist fights with his wife.  There was Dwight Gooden‘s problem with drugs that go so bad he missed the championship parade because he was high at his dealer’s apartment in the projects.  Ron Darling, Tim Teufel, Bob Ojeda, and Rick Aguilera got into a bar fight in Houston where they assaulted bouncers who turned out to be off-duty police officers.  This is just a snippet of the problems with this team.  Still, these players are forever revered and will be cheered wherever they go now matter what happens.

They are cheered because they produce.  It’s the same way with this team.  Terry Collins is beloved by many.  However, many overlook his past drunk driving conviction.  Bartolo Colon can seemingly do no wrong except when it comes to using steroids and failing to pay child support.  There are Mets who have done far worse than either of these guys.  Some of these acts are know.  Others aren’t.  Still, fans cheer them for their performance on the field.  In that way, Mets fans are no different than other fans.  We have to look no further than the Yankee fans cheering Aroldis Chapman in his first game back from his own suspension.

WHAT FANS ARE ACTUALLY CHEERING

Still, when Mets fans are cheeering Reyes, they are cheering for a player that beat his wife to the point where she needed to go to the hospital.

Furthermore, most Mets fans, even those who didn’t want Reyes in the first place, still want the team to succeed.  Most will cheer him if he makes a big defensive play or gets a big base hit.  Mets fans cheered Bobby Bonilla when he got hits, and there may be no more reviled Met than him (NOTE: only comparing fan reception as Bonilla has never been charged with a crime).  You may not want Reyes on the team, but you want the Mets to succeed.  No matter where you fall on the spectrum of Reyes, that means you too want Reyes to succeed.

If all goes according to plan, Reyes will be an important part of the Mets, and he will help the Mets win the World Series.  If that is the case then in some sick, twisted way, you could say the best thing that happened to the 2016 Mets was the October 31, 2015 incident.

WHERE I STAND

Being completely honest, I’m going to root for the Mets whether or not Reyes actually plays for them this year.  Even if I won’t purchase any tickets directly from the Mets, I will still use the tickets in my possession.  When Reyes comes up to bat or makes an error, I’ll boo.  I’m not going to participate in any JOSE! chants.  When he gets a hit or makes a good defensive play, I’ll cheer.  It’s the same way I reacted to Bobby Bonilla, even if that is an unfair comparison.

For Reyes, I want him to be worth it.  I want him to do more than show he’s atoned. I want him to speak out on the matter (even if it’s complicated as the statute of limitations has not expired). I want him to show he’s a better person for having gone through this incident. Whether or not October 31, 2015 was an isolated incident, I want the physical altercations between him and his wife to cease. I want his family to be safe. 

On the field, I want the Mets to win the World Series this year no matter who is on the roster.  With that said, it will be a bit unsettling having Reyes be an important part of the equation.  I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that the Mets might be able to win a World Series because Reyes beat his wife.  Having Reyes contribute will take some of the joy out of winning – whether it be a game or a World Series.

 

 

 

 

 

Thor Trying to Avoid Tommy John Surgery

Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured. 

Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:

I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level. 

The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them. 

One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common?  They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery. 

Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point. 

Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck?  Could this all have been avoided?  Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanNolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury. 

In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight GoodenRon DarlingSid Fernandez, Rick AguileraRandy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career. 

In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational?  Is it bad luck?  Is it preparation?  For his part, Harvey wonders what if:

I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen. 

That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation?  Is it good genes?  Is it just good luck?  Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it. 

It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously.  There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery. 

Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him. 

Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com

Tyler Yates Cost the Mets the 2006 World Series

With my Back to the Future post yesterday, I began to think about how some seemingly innocuous decisions had an impact on the Mets future. In 2004, the Mets organization put way too much stock in Spring Training performance and gave Tyler Yates a rotation spot and sent Aaron Heilman to AAA. 

Yates was terrible as a starter.  He allowed batters to hit .317/.405/.475 against him in seven starts. He had a 6.34 ERA and a 1.929 WHIP. I’m still stunned he went 1-4. He should’ve gone 0-7. Actually, he should never have started a game. The spot should’ve gone to Heilman. 

Instead, Heilman spent most of the year in AAA. He made a few starts in 2004 and 2005, but he was mostly used as a reliever. Going into the 2006 season, Heilman found himself in another battle for the fifth starter spot. He lost the battle, but he became a quality set-up man. 

Heilman started as the seventh inning guy. He took over the eighth inning after Duaner Sanchez‘s cab ride. For the year, he went 4-5 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP. He allowed batters to hit .231/.298/.332. However, we remember none of this. We remember him as the guy who allowed the Yadier Molina homerun. We remember him as the guy who lost Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Ironically, we don’t have the same memories of Rick Aguilera

The reason is the Mets rallied in 1986 whereas the 2006 Mets didn’t. Maybe the Mets aren’t in that position if Heilman made the starting rotation in 2004 and stayed there. It’s possible Heilman would’ve gone the way of Masato Yoshii or Mark Clark. They were good pitchers that were with the Mets for a short time. However, unless you’re a diehard, you have no lasting memories of them. 

We do have a lasting memory of Aaron Heilman. His path there was all started because the Mets thought Tyler Yates was a better starting pitcher in 2004.