The Mets Fan
I’m Phil Kerpen, a DC political/policy guy, and I tweet about that and Mets stuff which is kind of a weird mix but some people seem to like it.
I grew up in Brooklyn, but I’ve been in Washington for almost 20 years now. I’ve got four kids and the oldest is six so our house is a pretty busy, but I still try to watch most of the Mets games MLB TV is so great. I still remember listening to strained WFAN signals but these days being a fan in a different city is pretty easy. The first few years after the Expos moved here were pretty great — I got to see the Mets in person for nine games a year, and Mets fans pretty much dominated the sparse crowds at RFK. It’s different now as the Nationals have developed a fan base, but there’s always still a decent Mets contingent here.
How You Became a Mets Fan
I was born in ’79 and started paying attention to baseball in ’85. My brother is a couple years older, and we started collecting baseball cards, watching games, etc. We got an exemption from bedtime for the ’86 World Series, and I’ve been pretty much hooked ever since — although I’ve tried to quit a few times!\n
Favorite Mets Player
Dwight Gooden was my guy as a kid (my brother was a massive Darryl Strawberry fan), so I guess I’d go with him. For a long time, my automatic answer would have been Todd Hundley, but after the Mitchell Report, he’s disqualified. Yoenis Cespedes is my favorite current Met. Hope he brings back his custom walk-up song “The Power” this year — it’s the best.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
Can’t top “Little roller up along first,” but the other big one for me personally was the Dave Mlicki shutout at Yankee Stadium in 97. It was about a month after my 18th birthday, and I went with my little brother. Nonstop trash talk with the Yankees fans, and Mlicki was in and out of trouble every inning but somehow managed to pull it off.
Message to Mets Fans
This team is hot garbage.
When it was announced the Mets were going to try Wilmer Flores in the outfield, it was met with a collective groan from Mets fans. That shouldn’t be surprising as Wilmer has established himself to be not exactly fleet of foot, nor has he shown himself to be a great defender anywhere the Mets have dared to put him.
As a result, Mets fans were reminded of the horrors of watching Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, and Todd Hundley in the outfield. With injuries to Juan Lagares and Jay Bruce this Spring, we are a step closer to seeing that happen.
Given this being Spring Training, and with the Mets health perpetually being what it is, this is exactly the time of year you are supposed to be experimenting with these types of moves. Maybe, just maybe, Flores could handle the position.
Let’s start with the obvious – Wilmer is slow. That is something not just proved by the eye test but also by Statcast data.
As published on Baseball Savant, Flores had a sprint speed of 25.7 feet per second. To put that in perspective, Flores ranked 398th out of the 451 MLB players ranked. While this isn’t surprising, it is surprising Flores was ranked ahead of two outfielders – Jose Bautista and Matt Kemp.
Now, no one should consider Bautista or Kemp good fielders anymore. Last year, Bautista posted a -8 DRS in 1,242.2 innings in right, and Kemp posted a -17 DRS in 851.2 innings in left. Using Fangraphs parameters, that puts Bautista and Kemp in the poor to awful range.
Judging from Kemp and Bautista, Flores ceiling in the outfield is probably being a poor outfielder. As Mets fans, we already have that expectation no matter where Flores plays. Last season, he had a -14 DRS. Being a versatile and poor fielder is kind of Flores’ thing.
However, unlike Kemp and Bautista, we shouldn’t expect to see Flores spend the majority of his time in the outfield. Basically, what is instructive is Flores is just fast enough to fake it in the outfield. However, the issues is whether he can field enough out there.
When it comes to fly balls and pop ups, Flores has never had a real issue fielding the ball, so long as he doesn’t have to deal with a bat boy (who aren’t in the outfield):
Really, when it comes to Wilmer his defensive issues have typically been range and arm. That’s a big reason why he didn’t work at shortstop and why he has shown himself to be a poor fit at third. Again, as noted throughout his career, he’s not a real fit anywhere.
Really, it could be he’s as poor a fit in the outfield as he is in the infield, so why not? If he’s hitting, they are going to want to find a spot for him in the lineup. If this team repeats their injury issues from last season, and 2018 has not gotten off to a great start, the team may be forced to put him out there. At a minimum, you’d be hard pressed to argue he could be any worse out there.
The Mets Fan
How You Became a Mets Fan
Parents are huge Mets fans, so I was born into it. Don’t remember a specific moment or reason why I stuck with it. They weren’t very good in my formative years but they were always my team!
Favorite Mets Player
Mike Piazza would be the easy choice looking back but I had many “favorite Mets” over the years. David Cone, Howard Johnson, Todd Hundley all held that title at some point. Jason Isringhausen was my guy, though! Looked like a stud at the end of ’95 so I bought all of his rookie cards and spent way too much allowance having his name printed on the back of my Mets jersey. Had to pay by the letter! And they only had yellow letters. UniWatch would not approve.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
Todd Pratt‘s home run in the ’99 NLDS. Was starved for playoff baseball after growing up with the lousy 90’s Mets and you couldn’t have a more climactic end to the series. Still can’t watch a replay without sweating Steve Finley suddenly pulling the ball out of his glove.
Message to Mets Fans
It’s been amazing talking about the Mets every night on the radio over the last four seasons with you. Let’s hope for some more Todd Pratt moments in the near future. LGM!
Recently in the news, it was reported former Mets great Al Leiter will be a part of a 20 person class that will be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Of all the people inducted, Leiter will be the only baseball player.
It is interesting Leiter is being inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, but he is not being inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. Last year, I made the case for his induction into the Mets Hall of Fame. Rather than regurgitate the full case here, I’ll quickly note he’s in the Top 10 in wins, strikeouts, and ERA+ in what has been a pitching rich Mets history.
As it stands, from that era of Mets baseball, only Mike Piazza and John Franco have been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame. As we know, Piazza is a Hall of Famer who has had his number retired by the team. Franco, the Mets leader in saves, had his best years before Leiter even joined the team.
Behind Piazza and Franco, there are some Mets from those late 90s, early 2000s teams that certainly merit induction.
In three years with the Mets, Robin Ventura won a Gold Glove, hit .260/.360/.468, and he had an all-time great postseason moment with the Grand Slam Single.
You could argue John Olerud had a similar, albeit not as great impact, on the Mets as Keith Hernandez. He came over in what became a ridiculously lopsided trade, and once he become a Met, the team had taken off.
With Olerud in the fold, the Mets went from a 71 to an 88 win team. If not for Mel Rojas, that 1998 team probably makes the postseason. In 1999, Olerud was a key part of a Mets team that won the Wild Card and went to the NLCS.
And speaking of that 1998 team, there is Todd Hundley. Still to this day, Hundley remains the Mets single season home run leader.
Certainly, you can make arguments against some of these players, but ultimately, the fact the great contributions of Mets players who helped bring the team to consecutive postseasons has been far overlooked by this franchise. It needs to be remedied, and it can start with Leiter adding Mets Hall of Famer to his New Jersey Hall of Famer resume.
Like seemingly every Major League team, the New York Mets are interested in obtaining the Japanese Babe Ruth – Shohei Ohtani. While it is good to hear the Mets are in fact interested in entering the race for the pitcher/hitter, no one should expect the Mets to get him.
This isn’t a financial reason either. Ohtani comes with a $20 million posting fee which is only accepted by the team who is deemed to have one the claim. The Mets can only offer him a bonus from their international bonus pool which currently stands at $150,000. This pales in comparison to the $3,535,000 the Rangers could offer him or the $3,250,000 the Yankees could offer him.
Now, the Mets don’t have the pool money those teams have because the Mets have spent their money acquiring players. The one caveat here is if Ohtani really wanted to come to the Mets, the Mets could very well trade for additional pool money.
The issue is why would Ohtani want to come to the Mets? Given the Collective Bargaining Agreement constructs, Ohtani is going to make roughly the same amount as T.J. Rivera did last year. If he waited two years, he’d possibly get Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract. In many ways, you could argue, Ohtani isn’t motivated as much by the money as he is by the chance of accomplishing his dream of playing in the majors.
For him, that means both pitching and hitting. Likely, that means Ohtani belongs in the American League where he could DH on a somewhat regular basis. During his five year career in the Japanese Leagues, his positional breakdown was as follows: P (85 G), RF (57 G), LF (7 G), DH (256 G).
Consider for a moment, Ohtani has not appeared in the outfield since 2014. There are a few reasons for that including Ohtani’s recent medical history. A bigger reason is a team does not want their top of the rotation starter airing it out in right field to try to nail a runner at the plate, nor do they want that pitcher diving to catch a ball and risk the injuries we have seen Juan Lagares suffer the past few seasons.
You could argue this could lead a team to try to move him to first base. However, if you view Ohtani as a top of the rotation starter, would you be willing to risk a Cliff Floyd – Todd Hundley type of collision? There is next to no chance you would do that, and that is even before you consider a team not wanting to waste teaching Otani a new position in lieu of working with his new pitching coach.
As much as National League teams want Ohtani, they really can’t afford the risk of playing Ohtani everyday. You don’t want him in right field a day after he threw 100 pitches. Accordingly, there are some necessary off days he is going to need. Every National League team knows this, including the Mets. Ohtani and his agents know this as well.
If Ohtani really wants to pitch and hit, he’s really limited to the American League where he can DH on the days he’s not starting.
Of course, there is still every possibility Ohtani really does want to do it all, which would include fielding. To be fair, there haven’t been comments from Ohtani regarding his wants from that regard.
Still, if you were a betting man, you would likely bet on Ohtani choosing an American League team because that is the team best suited for not only his talents, but also for his own personal goals. If that is the case, while we can point fingers at the Mets for missing out on players over the years, they will not be to blame for missing out on a once in a generation type of talent.
Look, we can all agree the Dodgers are a much better team than the Mets. There are several reasons why this is the case, and there is another time to re-evaluate how the Mets have gone from beating the Dodgers in the 2015 NLDS to being completely over-matched in a three game series where Clayton Kershaw didn’t even pitch.
Teams have bad series all the time. Even when the Mets are good, we see clunkers like this from time to time. However, this series seemed more than that. This was a team thoroughly out-classed on the field. It makes you shudder when you consider the Mets had Jacob deGrom and Seth Lugo going.
At this point, it’s time to press the reset button. We all know the Mets aren’t going to the postseason. With each passing day, even getting to .500 is a pipe dream. For what it’s worth, getting to .500 is detrimental. The Mets need to lose as many games as they can to get the best possible draft pick they can in the 2018 draft. You want the Mets to be able to go and draft the next Michael Conforto.
No matter what happens, we know the Mets are going to continue to lose a number of games to close out the season. That’s fine. We’ve all accepted it. What we cannot accept is turning on the game and watching a team lose without any purpose whatsoever.
What is the team accomplishing by playing Wilmer Flores and Jay Bruce at first base? Neither one of them are going to be the first baseman next year. That job is going to Dominic Smith. With each game Flores and Bruce play first, and Smith remains in the minors, the Mets have accomplished absolutely nothing.
What does playing Curtis Granderson everyday accomplish? He’s been a good Met and an even better man. He’s also accepted a role as the team’s fourth outfielder. It’s likely he will be gone after the 2017 season. With each game he plays, you learn nothing about him. All the while, Brandon Nimmo sits languishing on your bench not even getting at-bats in Triple-A to help him improve as a player.
For that matter, why is Gavin Cecchini in Triple-A? Do we really need to learn more about Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera? Isn’t one or two of them likely gone after the season? If not, aren’t their roles going to be much different in 2018? Reyes should be firmly on the bench in 2018, and Cabrera has shown he should be at third base. If that is the case, why isn’t Cecchini playing second base over these two?
Ultimately, you can justify playing any of the aforementioned veterans you want. Certainly, you want Neil Walker to showcase himself to teams after a lengthy disabled list stint. However, the aforementioned veterans have already been showcased and teams have passed on them for a variety of reasons. Playing them everyday serves this Mets team no purposes. That is unless the Mets are going to have a huge push to celebrate Bruce passing Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley for the Mets single season home run record like they pushed Reyes winning the Mets first ever batting title. Note, Reyes’ batting title didn’t exactly draw fans to the park.
Calling up Amed Rosario was a step in the right direction. Seeing Paul Sewald pitch in some high leverage situations is another step. Taking a chance on Chris Flexen was inspired. However, it’s simply not enough. Sooner or later, Mets fans are going to tune out these games . . . if they haven’t already.
To that end, it’s time to get Smith and Cecchini up here and play them everyday or close to it. Fans would rather see them work through some growing pains at the major league level than watch Bruce, Cabrera, Granderson, Reyes, and Walker lose in lackluster fashion.
It’s time to turn the page if for no other reason than it’s time to give fans a reason to watch what has become a dreadful team.
With the Mets trading Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays, we bring an end to the Mets career of one of the better Mets in their history, and we also see the beginning of the end of an era of Mets baseball.
Duda was a player with a promising bat the Mets that first Omar then Sandy tried to get into the lineup. With players blocking his path to his natural first base position, Duda would be moved to the outfield. Duda would be standing there ins what was then a fairly cavernous right field when Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Lost in that game was Duda homering in the sixth to put the game away.
Despite Duda being in the outfield during one of the biggest moments in Mets history, it became increasingly clear he wasn’t an outfielder. He belonged at first base. The fact he even forced a competition for the spot with Ike Davis was impressive. Duda did all he could to wrestle that spot from Davis, and he finally showed the Mets what he could do hitting 30 home runs in 2014. He had more in store in 2015.
When people have typically written about the 2015 season, they usually credit with Yoenis Cespedes for winning the National League East. This overlooks how Duda almost single-handedly pulled the Mets into first place in 2015:
In that pivotal series that saw the Mets go from second to first place, Duda was 8-9 with a double, three homers, and five RBI. With Mets fans debate over whether Duda was clutch or not, this series should answer the question in the affirmative.
As we know that season would eventually end in heartbreak. Duda played his part throwing away the ball in Game 5 allowing Eric Hosmer to score the tying run. It was hard to watch, and unfortunately, it masked all the good he had done that season including his grand slam in the division clincher and his homer effectively sealing the pennant:
These are many of the many great things Duda has done in a Mets uniform. He was the second Mets player in history to hit three home runs in a game at home. Shockingly, he was second to Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Speaking of homering at Citi Field, Duda leaves the Mets as the all-time leader in home runs at Citi Field.
Hitting homers was one of the things Duda did well. This year, he passed notable Mets like Edgardo Alfonzo, Kevin McReynolds, and Todd Hundley to finish his Mets career with the seventh most in Mets history. Depending on whether you view Dave Kingman as an outfielder or first baseman, Duda’s 125 Mets homers are either the most or second most for a Mets first baseman.
There were many great moments with Duda, but none of the aforementioned moments were my favorite. My favorite Duda moment was a seemingly meaningless Spring Training Game in 2015.
One night, I was sitting up watching the game with my then one year old half watching a Spring Training game when Duda ripped a double leading to an enthusiastic Gary Cohen call to the effect of “LUCAS DUDA rips an RBI double . . . .” My son immediately latched on and began screaming Duda, and he wanted to see Duda play more and hit more. As that season wore on, he became more and more interested in baseball, and he would learn the Mets players. First one he’d learn:
That was a magical year as both a father and a Mets fan. I’d get to see the Mets go to the World Series for the third time in my life, but it would be the first time I’d get to experience it with my son. I still remember him trying to stay up to watch the games with me. I remember him getting me a Duda jersey for Father’s Day and getting the Duda growth chart at one of the Mets games. Even with Duda gone, we will still use it. I also remember him going crazy during that World Series cheering for the Mets:
Duda leaving does not only mean we are saying good bye to a good player who began his career with the Mets. We are also saying good-bye to a part of a Mets era. It was an era that saw the Mets go from a frustrating team a team that came so close to winning a World Series.
On a personal note, I see Duda leaving as part of the ever changing realization that my son is no longer a baby – he’s now a little boy. He doesn’t just snuggle up with me at bedtime trying to watch Mets games, he now goes outside and plays baseball with me.
Like Granderson, I still want to hold on to not just Duda, but all of these memories. In reality, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. With that said, I enjoyed each and every minute Duda was a Met (except for that throw), and I appreciate all he has done in a Mets uniform. He was a class act, who was always there to answer questions in even the hardest of times. On a personal note, he helped make another great fan. He deserves another opportunity to win a World Series, and I hope he does get that ring.
Good luck Lucas Duda.
Looking at the numbers, Jay Bruce is having one of his better seasons as a professional and a much better season than most expected with his nightmare stint with the Mets last year. So far, he has played in 91 games hitting .264/.328/.523 with 25 homers and 67 RBI. If he were to finish the season with the Mets, he may very possibly challenge the Mets single season home run mark of 41 shared by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran. He should not get that chance.
Simply put, the Mets have to trade Jay Bruce at the trade deadline.
The 30 year old right fielder is a free agent at the end of the season. Given the fact the Mets are not going anywhere this season with or without him, there is no reason to hold onto him. There’s even less reason when you consider the Mets are probably better off without him next year.
Heading into next year, the Mets will have Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto firmly set in the Mets outfield for the next three years. During their tenure with the Mets, both players have shown they are capable of handling center on a short term basis, but both players have also shown they should not be playing center field on a full time basis. With respect to Cespedes, it is clear neither side wants him moving back to center.
On Conforto’s part, he seemingly wants to play the position. On the surface, he appears serviceable at the position with a 225.2 innings at the position, Conforto has a 0 DRS and a 1.2 DRS. Given his work ethic and his athletic ability, he could improve those numbers. However, he’s not likely to improve them to the point where he’s a good enough defender at the position.
Ultimately, the Mets need a good center fielder. Their Mets center fielders, including Conforto, have posted a 0 DRS, which is 18th in the majors. The Mets are in the bottom half of the league defensively at an important defensive position. That has been a common theme with this team. This is a bad defensive team that has been bad at key defensive positions.
This has had a direct result on the struggles on the pitching staff. As a team, the Mets pitchers have allowed an absurdly high .320 BABIP, which is dead last in the majors. Yes, the pitching staff has had some issues, and yes, the left side of the infield, which is atrocious with a -29 DRS contribute to this. Another contributing factor is the lack of a true center fielder who can cover the amount of ground a major league center fielder needs to cover. Again, the Mets center fielders are 18th in the majors. The team needs an upgrade.
Part of that is finally finding out what Brandon Nimmo can provide. At a minimum, the Mets need to see if he can platoon with Juan Lagares next year. For that to happen, the Mets need to trade Jay Bruce to free up some playing time for Nimmo.
If Nimmo can handle the job, great. If not, the Mets could decide to go with Lagares, or they can look outside the organization for players like Lorenzo Cain. The one thing they cannot do is bring back Jay Bruce.
Bruce has been a good player for the Mets, he has been healthy, and he has done all the team has asked him to do. The reward for that is to send him to a contender. It’s not to bring him back on an overpriced deal or to risk getting stuck overpaying him on a qualifying offer next year. Bringing him back is only going to cement the Mets defensive problems, and it is going to lead to another season like this. No one should want that, Jay Bruce included.
Accordingly, it is time the Mets put defense front and center, and move on from Jay Bruce.
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.
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.