Based upon his receiving just 18.1% of the vote last year, it does not seem like Jeff Kent will get anywhere close to the 75% threshold for Hall of Fame induction. Unfortunately, it does not appear as if he is going to get the push he needs to get anywhere close to that 75% in any of the subsequent three years meaning he will one day need to have his case reassessed by the Veteran’s Committee.
Now, there are viable reasons to overlook Kent’s candidacy. After all, his 55.4 WAR puts him below the 69.4 WAR of the average second baseman. The same can be said of his 35.7 WAR7 and 45.6 JAWS. Assessing just those numbers, you could say Kent belongs just in that proverbial Hall of Very Good, but not the Hall of Fame.
However, there is more to his case, and it merits a deeper look.
First and foremost, there are the homers. In his career, Kent hit 377 homers with 351 of them coming as a second baseman. That mark is the best among second baseman in Major League history. In terms of Hall of Fame eligible players, that puts him ahead of Rogers Hornsby, Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, and Joe Gordon, each of whom are Hall of Famers.
There’s more to it. Mike Piazza is the all-time leader in homers at the catcher position. Cal Ripken Jr. is the all-time leader in homers by a shortstop. Mike Schmidt is the all-time leader in homers at third. They are all in the Hall of Fame. Right now, looking across every position, the all-time home run leader at a position was inducted into the Hall of Fame when there was no PED issues.
There’s more to Kent’s offense than just homers. His 562 doubles were also the fifth most at the second base position putting him behind Hall of Famers like Biggio and Charlie Gehringer but ahead of Hornsby, Roberto Alomar, Billy Herman, Frankie Frisch, and Morgan. Breaking it down, Kent is the only Hall of Fame eligible player in the top ten in doubles at the second base position who has not been inducted.
Going deeper, Todd Helton and Kent are the only Hall of Fame eligible players at their position to be in the top five all-time in doubles (not implicated with PEDs) not inducted into the Hall of Fame. That was cemented with Ted Simmons recent election by the Veterans’ Committee.
While considered an out of date stat, Kent’s 1,518 RBI are the third most at the position. All of the Hall of Fame eligible second baseman in the top 10 are in the Hall of Fame except Kent. Again, barring PEDs, the top three Hall of Fame eligible players in RBI have been inducted. All except Kent.
In terms of RBI, there is more to it. Right now, the only non-PED implicated Hall of Fame eligible players who have at least 1,500 RBI not inducted into the Hall of Fame are Fred McGriff and Carlos Delgado. Essentially, if you are a non-1B with 1,500 RBI, you were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Kent is also second all-time in slugging at the position. Again, every clean Hall of Famer in the top two in slugging at their position has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. He’s also fourth in OPS. As you can assume, every clean Hall of Fame eligible player in the top five in OPS at their position have been inducted.
It’s this type of production which arguably makes Kent the second best offensive second baseman all-time to Hornsby. That would also make Kent the best at his position in the post World War II Era. It is one of the reasons why he was the 2000 National League MVP.
A second baseman winning the MVP is a rare feat indeed. In fact, there have been only 10 second baseman in Major League history who have done that. With the exception of Dustin Pedroia, who is not yet Hall of Fame eligible, everyone second baseman who has won the award is in the Hall of Fame. That’s everyone except Kent.
Really, the only reason Kent is not in the Hall of Fame is his abrasive personality and his defense. Honestly, there is not much to defend his defense, which was admittedly subpar. However, we should take into consideration Kent has turned the 11th most double plays among second baseman in Hall of Fame history. That is more than Sandberg and Biggio.
Also, for what it is worth his total zone rating is higher than Alomar’s. That’s not insignificant when Alomar is considered a very good defensive second baseman.
There’s one other factor to consider with Kent’s Hall of Fame case. He was an excellent postseason player. In 49 postseason games, he hit .276/.340/.500 with 11 doubles, nine homers, and 23 RBI. Prorated over a 162 game season, those numbers would equate to 36 doubles, 30 homers, and 76 RBI.
That is high end production in games which matter most. Speaking of which, in his only World Series appearance in 2002, he would hit three homers.
Overall, in his 17 year career, Jeff Kent established himself as the second best offensive second baseman, and really, he was the premier slugger at the position. For those efforts, he put up stats which would have been otherwise Hall of Fame worthy, and he would win an MVP award. While he may not be a proverbial first ballot Hall of Famerr, he is someone who has put together a career worthy of induction.
Hall of Fame voting can be very inconsistent at times. For example, we have seen Lou Whitaker (75.1 WAR) and Willie Randolph (65.9 WAR) both get five percented from the ballot on their first appearance while we have seen Ryne Sandberg (68.0 WAR) inducted on his third ballot, and Roberto Alomar (67.1 WAR) inducted on his second ballot. Those same inconsistencies apply to other positions as well as we saw with this most recent Hall of Fame induction.
This past weekend, Roy Halladay was inducted on his first year on the ballot. In 16 Major League seasons, Halladay was 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, and a 6.9 K/9. He would have a stretch of his career where he was as dominant as any pitcher in the game wining two Cy Young Awards and finishing in the top five seven times. From an advanced statistics perspective, he had a 64.3 WAR, 131 ERA+, and a 3.39 FIP.
Behind the numbers, there are a number of great starts and stories with him. Perhaps there is no bigger start than his first ever postseason start where he threw a no-hitter for the Phillies in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. You could also argue for his perfect game against the Marlins. Between the moments, the numbers, and the awards, it was determined Halladay was a first ballot Hall of Famer.
When you look at David Cone‘s career, he was not far off from Halladay.
Cone would pitch 17 seasons with the 17th season being a five game stint with the 2003 Mets. In his career, he was 194-126 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and an 8.3 K/9. While never seen as quite the dominating starter Halladay was over his career, Cone would win the 1994 American League Cy Young, and he would have five top five finishes in his career. From an advanced statistics perspective, Cone had a 62.3 WAR, 121 ERA+, and a 3.57 FIP.
Looking at Halladay and Cone, the numbers would indicate Halladay was the better pitcher. However, the separation is not as great as the Hall of Fame voting indicates. Whereas Halladay was a first ballot Hall of Famer, Cone would only receive 3.9 percent of the vote in his first and only year on the ballot. This would certainly suggest a lack of appreciation for what Cone accomplished in his career.
Cone is only one of 21 pitchers to throw a perfect game. He was as big a big game pitcher as there ever was. In the World Series, Cone has a 2-1 record with a 2.12 ERA. When his teams faced elimination, Cone made two starts. The first was a complete game gem against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1988 NLCS. The second was against the Mariners where he departed the game with the teams tied in the eighth. In those elimination games, he was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA.
In his postseason career, Cone would make five starts with his team behind in the series. In those five starts, Cone was 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA. This includes his aforementioned complete game gem in the 1988 NLCS as well as his out-dueling Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in the 1996 World Series to get the Yankees back into that series and eventually win it. On that front, Cone has five World Series rings in his career. That’s one for each All Star appearance.
Considering the Hall of Fame is about honoring the best of the best, you can make the argument there is room for a pitcher like Cone who as at his best on the biggest stages. Looking at his numbers when the chips were down, there is maybe a handful of pitchers you would want over him. If Cone faced any of them, he would give them all he had.
With the understanding it’s not just postseason moments and World Series rings, going back into the numbers, Cone fares well against Hall of Famers. His 62.3 WAR ranks ahead of Hall of Famers like Juan Marichal, Early Wynn, Jim Bunning, and Whitey Ford. Looking at his peak, his 43.4 WAR7 ranks him ahead of Hall of Famers like Mordecai Brown, Don Sutton, and Jack Morris, and his 52.8 JAWS rates him ahead of Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Lemon.
His 121 ERA+ ties him with Don Drysdale, and it has him ahead of Warren Spahn, Bert Blyleven, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan and Glavine. His 2,773 strike outs is 24th best all-time, and it has him ahead of Hall of Famers like Christy Mathewson, Koufax, Halladay, and Catfish Hunter.
He has more complete games than more recent Hall of Famers like John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez. He has more shutouts than Halladay, Pedro, and Smoltz. In terms of WPA (wins probability added), Cone is 52nd all-time among pitchers. His 25.42 mark rates him ahead of Hall of Famers like Lefty Gomez, Dean, and Phil Niekro.
Looking back, it is very likely Cone’s failure to reach 200 wins hurt him. After all, the average Hall of Fame pitcher has 246 wins, and there are just 11 Hall of Fame starters with fewer than 200 wins. It should also be noted a decade later there is fundamentally different emphasis put on the importance of the win, and with that newer perspective it may be time to reevaluate David Cone’s career.
Upon further review, it may be reasonable to determine Cone still falls short. In all honesty, his career may be the ultimate borderline case. However, it is also a much stronger case than a player who had received just five percent of the vote. Certainly, his all-time rankings in the aforementioned categories, his postseason performances, and his perfect game does deserve a fresher look. Hopefully, sometime in the ensuing years we see the Veteran’s Committee (or whatever it is called now) take another look at Cone, and upon a further examination, we may see him get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
On Thursday, I had the honor and the privilege of being a guest on A Metsian Podcast. It was a lot of fun and cathartic, and I would hope you would all take a listen by clicking on the link provided.
I’m not sure if this is a reason to entice you to listen, but during the course of the podcast, I personally mentioned or discussed the following Mets players: Tom Seaver, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Cliff Floyd, Nolan Ryan, Aaron Sele, Jason Vargas, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Roberto Alomar, Juan Samuel, Jim Fregosi, Bret Saberhagen, Vince Coleman, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Flexen, Paul Sewald, Sean Gilmartin, Darren Oliver, Pat Mahomes, Eric Hanhold, Steve Villines, Corey Oswalt, Jacob Rhame, Hansel Robles, Stephen Nogosek, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Darryl Strawberry, and others. This list is off the top of my head.
Looking at that list, maybe that’s why they haven’t brought me back after my last appearance three years ago when I went on a Daniel Murphy rant.
This was quite a night for the Mets who have frustrated the fan base with poor play and not meeting expectations. That started with the night’s starter Jason Vargas.
Against a Reds team with the fifth worst team wRC+, Vargas had his best and longest outing of the year. With the help of some good defense, balls dying on the track, and some rope-a-dope, he would allow just one earned on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts.
Mickey Callaway trusted Vargas to go out for the sixth. After getting one out, Eugenio Suarez finally got to Vargas with a home run. With Vargas at 86 pitches, he was lifted for Robert Gsellman. The shame was Vargas did pitch well enough to win, but he wouldn’t get it because he left the game with the score tied 1-1.
On the other side, the Reds had Luis Castillo on the mound. No, not the Luis Castillo of dropped ball infamy. No, this Castillo has been great all year for the Reds entering the game with a league leading 1.23 ERA.
Even with him having a dominant outing tonight, the Mets would get to him partially because Amed Rosario proved to be his kryptonite. The struggling Rosario had a great game going 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base.
In the third, Rosario started a rally with a leadoff single. Juan Lagares hit into a fielder’s choice, and Lagares would be sacrificed to second by Vargas. He was then on third when Castillo unleashed a wild pitch. This put him in a position to score when McNeil laid down a great bunt:
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 1, 2019
What was interesting is McNeil seemed intent on bunting his way on there. In fact, two pitches prior to the hit, he fouled off a bunt attempt. McNeil pulled a Roberto Alomar and dove to first JUST beating Castillo to the bag.
The score would stay tied 1-1 entering the bottom of the seventh. That’s when Todd Frazier jumped all over the first pitch of the inning:
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 1, 2019
In the bottom of the inning, the Mets would also get him an insurance run. McNeil, who was great tonight (4-for-5, R, 2B, RBI) got the rally started with a double against Robert Stephenson.
After a couple of strikeouts, McNeil was in a position to be stranded at second. With Michael Conforto‘s struggled against Castillo all night (3 K), even the LOOGY Amir Garrett must’ve been a welcome site. It sure seemed that way when he delivered an RBI single to give the Mets a 3-1 lead.
Familia then started the ninth with two strikeouts giving the Mets some hope this would end without a hitch.
Of course, Familia would walk Jesse Winker and allow a hit to Jose Iglesias to make things too close to comfort. Callaway stuck by Familia in the spot. It seemed like the wrong move when Kyle Farmer hit a soft RBI single over Pete Alonso‘s head to pull the Reds to within 3-2. Worse yet, the tying run was at third.
Callaway would go too far with Familia. Jose Peraza hit the game tying single. Then again, it seemed like his only other choice was Drew Gagnon, and that’s not exactly a safe choice. Gagnon would find himself in the inning anyway.
With Votto due up, Daniel Zamora came in, and he made matters worse by walking Votto to load the bases. Gagnon would get the job done striking out Suarez to keep the game tied. He’d get into trouble in the 10th, but he’d get out of that jam too.
J.D. Davis had a very good at-bat to start the 10th, and he’d double off a hanging slider from Raisel Iglesias. After a McNeil single, Alonso got his first walk-off RBI with a sacrifice fly giving the Mets a 4-3 win.
This was never how you would draw it up, but you gladly take this one. Certainly, this game was a testament that it takes everyone contributing to win. Hopefully, this won’t be the last time this year we say that.
The Mets finished their first homestand of the season going 2-3, and now they are embark on a brutal road trip taking them through Atlanta, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Here are some observations before the Mets set off for that trip:
- Jacob deGrom just didn’t have it. It was bound to happen, but it was still startling to see.
- Anyone who even suggests deGrom’s struggles were related to Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate simply doesn’t know anything about baseball. It wasn’t d’Arnaud who caused the chilly weather, nor was it the weather which caused deGrom to miss his pitches by a foot.
- Baseball is funny sometimes. After thorough research shows Citi Field suppresses exit velocities, the ball was flying out of Citi Field. Of course, when you have power hitters like Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto that will happen anyway.
- In one series, Mitch Garver went from a nameless guy to the second coming of Mike Piazza.
- Jason Vargas was terrible, and it is simply inexcusable he was not so much as challenged for the fifth starter spot.
- The Mets have gotten away with calling up Alonso saying every game matters while carrying Vargas as the fifth starter and having Tim Peterson in the bullpen. Why do fans just let the Mets get away with pushing narratives like this?
- The booing of Brandon Nimmo and d’Arnaud was embarrassing. Mets fans should be better than that.
- And just like that, in his last three games, Nimmo is 4-for-10, with two doubles, a homer, three RBI, a walk, and a HBP.
- What the Mets did to Corey Oswalt is inexcusable. He effectively lost a year getting jerked around by the team, and the first chance this new regime gets, they call him up on three days rest to sit in the bullpen.
- Oswalt should be making Vargas’ start this Saturday, and if he doesn’t the Mets cannot pitch Oswalt until then because they may need him to piggyback that start.
- These two games were miserable creating difficult pitching situations. It led to deGrom’s struggles, and it likely led to Jeurys Familia‘s, but that’s now two bad outings from him. Too soon to overreact, but not too soon to take notice.
- After J.D. Davis‘ two home run game, he’s back to being Davis. He his 42.9% of his balls on the ground, and he has hit 45.8% on the ground this year. His inability to make a play at third led to Familia getting in trouble, and he almost botched a double play only to be saved by Luis Guillorme making an amazing turn.
- With Todd Frazier getting a rehab start at SS, it would seem Guillorme will be the odd man out, which is a shame because he’s doing everything he could do to stay. It’s at the point where he’s having to wear batting gloves because he has blisters from all his extra batting practice. He’s also been really good in the field.
- When you have players fighting this hard to stay in the majors, you will get the best results not just from them, but also from the players they are pushing. We are seeing some of that with this team.
- Robinson Cano has a knack for the moment with two big home runs already and a walk yesterday. That said, his overall body of work has not been good. He may be a slow starter, but he has never been this slow. It’s something worth monitoring with his age, PED suspension, and the Mets history on this front (Roberto Alomar).
- Mets are going to regret waking up the Nationals. They went from a team in trouble to a team who took consecutive road series from the red hot Mets and Phillies.
- There may be some holes and warning signs with Alonso here and there, including his having difficulty on two grounders this series, but pointing them out would be being a killjoy. So far, Alonso has been great, and the only things people should point out is how great he has been.
- We should not care what his final stat line said. Noah Syndergaard was dominant yesterday, and when you consider how everyone else pitched, he looked all the more so. Really, if not for some poor defense, he gets through the eighth unscathed.
- Good for Jay Bruce hitting seven homers so far this season and helping the Mariners to a 12-2 start. He gave the Mets everything he had, and it was not his fault it was a poor fit.
- In waht was promised to be a tight NL East, we have the Mets, Braves, and Phillies tied atop the division with a 7-4 record with the Nationals right behind them at 6-5.
Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.
There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.
To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .
Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.
That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.
Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:
- Amos Otis for Joe Foy
- Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel
- Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga
- Jason Isrinhausen for Billy Taylor
- Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano
There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.
With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.
Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.
Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.
So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.
Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:
Super Bowl XXXVI
After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.
What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player. Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.
As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.
As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.
Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.
Super Bowl XXXIX
With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:
The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.
Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1
Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.
Super Bowl XLIX
The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.
Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.
Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.
As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.
Super Bowl LIII
This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.
The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.
Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.
Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.
I’m not sure where the axiom ever arose, but somewhere, sometime people made the decision teams could not possibly rebuild in New York. I always found this statement odd because on the one hand, New York fans are credited as smart a fanbase as there is in sports, but by the same token, many believe we are too ignorant to accept a team rebuilding.
This notion has created MANY mistakes by our professional teams. Rather than admit defeat, we have seen the Mets constantly try to hold on tightly as their short lived runs slip away. With respect to the Mets, we have seen it time and again – Eddie Murray, Roberto Alomar, Jason Bay, etc. Bad contracts and trades resulting in even more disappointing seasons. Worse yet, it was all part of a mismanagement of assets which delayed rebuilds and made the cupboards even barer when the time came to finally strip it all down.
As bad as the Mets history is, the Knicks history is worse – so much worse. Just a series of Eddie Currys and Antoio McDyesses and Stephen Marburys. It’s ridiculous, and it’s why after Ewing left, this organization has been a mess.
However, when it comes to postseason droughts and an outright refusal to rebuild, I think back to the Rangers. In the pre-salary cap NHL, the Rangers just outright refused to commit to a rebuild. What ensued was trades for big names and getting the top free agent available – LaFontaine, Lindros, Fleury, Dunham, Holik, Jagr, Kovalev, and the return of Messier.
It makes you question, what if a New York team actually acknowledged they hit the end of the line with their roster, and they were going to make the hard choice and rebuild. Well, with the New York Rangers, we are about to find out:
If you are a Rangers fan, you knew the team didn’t have it this season. However, as an organization, you could talk yourself into this being just about the injuries with Kreider and Shattenkirk going down. Maybe it’s true, and maybe it isn’t.
It doesn’t matter because the overriding point is the Rangers knew they weren’t going to sniff the Cup this year, so why continue down this road? The team smartly accepted the end of this run, and presumably, they look at the trade deadline as an opportunity to jump start their rebuild. With any luck, you can get the assets to make this a retooling. Largely, that will depend on which assets the Rangers opt to trade.
Overall, as a fan, I’d rather my organization be as up front with me as the Rangers just were. This is a unique step for a New York organization, and it is one that should be lauded. Hopefully, this will prove to be a positive step forward for an organization which looks to win its first Cup since 1994.
I know it is something I wish the Mets were more honest about in years past and with this roster. Last year, hard choices were eschewed, and instead of cleaning house, the Mets got a collection of right-handed relievers, none of which are supposed make the Opening Day roster, and continued to play the likes of Jose Reyes over younger kids who could’ve used the development time.
Maybe after seeing how the Rangers chose to conduct their business, other New York sports teams will follow. Maybe then people will say New York is the best place to rebuild.
If you reset yourself back to 2007, your impression of Curt Schilling was that he was a big game pitcher. Your first real memory of him was him striking out the first five batters he faced in the 1993 NLCS en route to the Phillies going to the World Series and Schilling winning the MVP. In 2001, Schilling combined with Randy Johnson to beat the Yankees in seven games to win the World Series. He and Johnson would shared the World Series MVP. In 2004, Schilling would be best remembered for the bloody sock that permitted him to win an important Game 6 that would help the Red Sox become the first team to overcome an 0-3 deficit in a postseason series.
He was not only a big game pitcher, he was also a great pitcher. Over his 20 year career, he was 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and a 1.137 WHIP. In the postseason, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP. He has three World Series rings to go with the aforementioned MVP awards. This is an exceedingly strong Hall of Fame case.
Schilling has an even stronger case when you go deeper into the numbers. The average Hall of Famer starting pitcher has a 73.9 career, WAR, 50.3 WAR7, and a 62.1 JAWS score. For his career, Schilling has a 79.9 career WAR, 49.0 WAR7, and a 64.5 JAWS score. Based upon those numbers it appeared as if Schilling may eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The voting history certainly looked that way. In 2013, Schilling’s first year on the ballot, he garnered 38.8% of the vote. Schilling has seen an uptick each subsequent year with him getting 52.3% of the vote last year. Certainly, with the remaining years on the ballot, it would seem as if he was eventually going to be elected. That may no longer be the case.
Since his retirement, Schilling has been a lightning rod. His 38 Studios went bankrupt, and Schilling faced a lawsuit from the State of Rhode Island. He became an outspoken, if not controversial, voice during in his retirement. His tweets have led to multiple suspensions and eventual firing from ESPN. With Schilling no longer being employed by ESPN, he has not had any need to choose his words more carefully (if he ever felt the need). His latest transgression was promoting the idea of lynching journalists. Schilling did later state it was sarcasm, but the damage was already done.
Prominent journalists like Jon Heyman and Mike Vaccaro noted that they may not vote for Schilling for the Hall of Fame again this year. They are hardly alone. While Schilling should likely clear the 5% threshold and remain on the ballot, it is clear the momentum towards him being elected to the Hall of Fame has come to a screeching halt. If that is indeed the case, it won’t be the first time Schilling believes his personal beliefs and politics have hurt his Hall of Fame chance.
Assume for a minute that Schilling is right, should his personal politics and “sarcasm” prevent his election into the Hall of Fame? Those who say yes will undoubtedly invoke the character clause, and there is good reason for that. The character clause has been used to prevent gamblers like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose from induction into the Hall of Fame. It is currently being used to prevent steroids players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame. Seeing how it was applied, it could then be extended for people of poor moral fiber like Schilling is believed to be.
Except it hasn’t quite worked that way. Cap Anson was the genesis of the ridiculously named “Gentleman’s Agreement” that kept black players out of baseball until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Rogers Hornsby was alleged to be a member of the KKK. Roberto Alomar and Kirby Puckett had been involved in domestic violence disputes. Mickey Mantle was a drunk who played games hungover. Paul Molitor used cocaine. Each of these players took part in these activities while playing, and each one of them was inducted into the Hall of Fame. This doesn’t even take half of the things Babe Ruth was thought to have done during his career. The character clause wasn’t invoked as the character clause has been taken to mean cheating the game.
So no, the character clause should not prevent Schilling’s induction. Even with that said, it is going to be a factor because writers are human. More importantly, with players like Bonds and Clemens not getting elected into the Hall of Fame, there is a backlog of candidates forcing writers to leave worthy player(s) off of their ballot. If you find yourself in that situation, why not Schilling? You know he’s not going to garner enough support this year, so why let that stop another worthy candidate, like Tim Raines, from getting elected? It is a fair and reasonable position.
Ultimately, I hope it doesn’t come to that. In my opinion, Schilling was a Hall of Famer, and I think the Hall of Fame electorate was progressing in that direction. While people are critical of the writers, they did elect players like Eddie Murray and Jim Rice who were famously cantankerous with the media (but not to the level of Schilling’s tweet). With that in mind, if Schilling is not elected to the Hall of Fame this year or the next or ever, he will have no one to blame but himself.
By his own words, Schilling believed his actions and beliefs hurt his chances of getting elected in the past. When he sent that last Tweet, he should have known it would again have a profound impact. There will be many who point fingers at different writers for not voting for Schilling, but that blame will be misplaced. It was Schilling who knew the potential consequences of his actions, and he did it anyway. Ultimately, Schilling is his own worst enemy when it comes to his not being elected in the Hall of Fame.
When your team is not in the World Series, the one thing you really want is a memorable World Series. Even if a team you hates wins the World Series, you want to be rewarded for the time you invest watching the World Series. In my lifetime, here are some of the World Series I found to be absolutely riveting:
1991 World Series
As for as World Series go, this one could very well be the gold standard. Five of the seven games were decided by one run. Three of the games went into extra innings including Games 6 and 7. With Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, Kevin Tapani, and of course Jack Morris, there was great pitching that led to tense innings and rallies. In six of the seven games, both teams scored five runs or less. However, what truly made this series great was two all time games to close out the series.
In Game 6, Kirby Puckett put the Twins on his back. He made that leaping catch snatching Ron Gant‘s home run from clearing that plexiglass, and then he hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning that included a classic call:
Then in Game 7, Morris went the distance in a 1-0 10 inning game that featured rookie Chuck Knoblauch deking 13 year veteran Lonnie Smith from scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning that probably would have been the game winner. Then in the 10th inning Gene Larkin became the unlikeliest of heroes by getting the World Series walk-off single.
1993 World Series
Generally speaking, this would have been an average World Series as most six game World Series are. However, there was a lot in this World Series.
Lenny Dykstra turned into Babe Ruth during the series. Roberto Alomar hit .480 in the series, and he wasn’t even the best hitter. That honor goes to Paul Molitor who hit .500 in the series. Game 4 saw the Blue Jays mount a frantic eighth inning come from behind rally to win by a score of 15-14. And as if this wasn’t enough, in Game 6 Joe Carter did something only Bill Mazeroski had done:
1997 World Series
This series wasn’t particularly memorable despite a couple of slugfests in Games 3 and 5. No, what made this series was an epic Game 7. The Indians were seeking to win their first World Series since 1948. They had their closer Jose Mesa on the mound and a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
The Marlins first scratched in a run in the bottom of the ninth with a Craig Counsell sacrifice fly scoring Moises Alou. The Marlins started the game winning rally in the bottom of the 11th with a Bobby Bonillia single off Charles Nagy. Eventually, the Marlins loaded the bases with one out. Devon White, who won the World Series with the aforementioned Blue Jays, grounded into a force play with Tony Fernandez nailing Bonilla at the plate. Then with two outs, rookie Edgar Renteria singled home Counsell to win the World Series.
Note, this would’ve been rated much higher if not for the MVP mysteriously being given to Livan Hernandez (5.27 ERA) over Alou, and for Bonilla having such a huge Game 7.
2001 World Series
This World Series had it all. Curt Schilling did the old fashioned 1-4-7 you want your ace to do in the biggest series of the year. Randy Johnson was better than that shutting out the Yankees in Game 2, shutting them down in Game 6, and pitching on no days rest to keep the Yankees at bay in Game 7.
Game 7 was an epic back-and-forth matchup. Alfonso Soriano broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth to set the stage for the great Mariano Rivera who is the greatest postseaon closer, if not pitcher, of all time. This would be the one World Series blown save in his career. He was uncharacteristically frazzled making an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Still, he recovered, and the Yankees got the forceout at third on the next bunt attempt. Tony Womack would then shock everyone by hitting a game tying double. After Counsell (him again) was hit by a pitch, Luis Gonzalez would bloop a walk-off World Series winning single over the head of Derek Jeter.
However, that World Series was not memorable for Game 7. It was memorable because those games were played post-9/11, and they were memorable due to what happened at Yankee Stadium. Before Game 3, President Bush threw a curveball for a strike off the mound before a hard fought Yankees win. In Game 4, the Yankees were on the verge of falling behind 3-1 in the series before Tino Martinez hit an improbably two out home run off Byung-hyun Kim to tie the game, and Jeter hit a walk-off home run in the 10th to become “Mr. November.” In Game 5, the Yankees were again down two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This time it was Scott Brosius who did the impossible hitting a game tying two run home run to send the game into extras with Soriano getting the walk-off hit in the 12th.
Overall, baseball does not get better than that three game set in the Bronx, especially in the backdrop those games were played.
2002 World Series
That Rally Monkey was all the more prevalent in Game 6. In that game, Baker made the fateful decision to lift Russ Ortiz with a 5-0 lead, two on, and one out in the seventh inning. Scott Spiezio greeted Felix Rodriguez with a three run homer. Darin Erstad then led off the seventh inning with a solo shot off Todd Worrell. Worrell made matters worse by allowing back-to-back singles thereby putting closer Robb Nen in a precarious situation. Nen would allow a go-ahead two run double to World Series MVP Troy Glaus giving the Angels a 6-5 win. In Game 7, rookie John Lackey took care of business and shut down a Giants team that should have won the World Series in Game 6.
2011 World Series
For the most part, this was a well played if not memorable World Series through the first five games. In the seventh inning, Adrian Beltre broke a 4-4 tie that sparked a three run inning that seemingly was going to deliver the first ever World Series title to the Rangers franchise. The World Series title was going to be even sweeter for a Rangers team that had their doors blown off in the 2010 World Series.
In the eighth, Allen Craig hit a solo shot to draw the Cardinals within two. There was still a large enough lead for the excellent Rangers closer, Neftali Feliz to put the game to rest. The game was there to win even after a Albert Pujols double and a Lance Berkman walk. Then with two outs, David Freese unleashed a two RBI game tying double to keep the World Series alive. If that wasn’t painful enough, the Rangers were in for more pain.
Josh Hamilton would hit a two run homer in the top of the 10th to give the Rangers the lead. At this point, victory was almost assured. The Cardinals were undeterred putting the first two on against Darren Oliver. After a sacrifice bunt, Ryan Theriot plated a run with an RBI groundout, and Berkman brought home the tying run with an RBI single.
The Rangers would have no response in either Game 6 or Game 7. In the bottom of the 11th, Freese, the World Series MVP, would hit a walk-off home run that not only sealed Game 6, but also demoralized a Rangers team heading into Game 7.
2014 World Series
Of note, five of the first six games were terrible. Absolutely terrible. Through the first six games, the average margin of victory was six runs per game, and that includes a one run game in Game 3. Taking aside Game 3, the average margin of victory was seven runs per game. This is really the type of series you expect with some truly terrible starting pitching on both sides. In fact, the only starter who was actually good was Madison Bumgarner.
That’s an understatement. Bumgarner made Morris look like a Little Leaguer with his World Series performance. In his World Series MVP performance, he appeared in three games going 2-0 with one save, a 0.43 ERA and a 0.476 WHIP. He came out of the bullpen in the fifth inning in Game 7 with the Giants having a 3-2 lead. Watching him pitch on two days rest, you kept waiting for him to falter, and then this happened:
Alex Gordon‘s two out single almost became a Little League home run with Gregor Blanco letting the ball bounce past him and Juan Perez nearly booting the ball away. The debate would rage for days as to whether he should have gone home (he shouldn’t have) with Bumgarner being Bumgarner. Those that believed he should have gone only intensified their arguments when Salvador Perez fouled out to Pablo Sandoval to end the World Series.
2017 World Series
There is enough here for a classic World Series with two great teams, and two great storylines. Honestly, the Indians fans deserve this more as they are far more tortured than the Cubs fan. Ideally, this series goes seven with the Indians pulling it out in classic fashion. Hopefully, a majority of the games are close. No matter what happens, all we need is one or two games or moments to make this a series for the ages. That’s all we can realistically hope to get.
Things are already off to a good start with Dexter Fowler being the first ever black man to play for the Chicago Cubs in a World Series game.