With yesterday being Black Friday, people ran out to stores and websites looking for deals, and today, they’re assessing what they got and still need to get. Being Mets fans, we expect the team to spend most of the offseason diving through the discount bins.
To a certain extent, every team needs to do that. The player signed to a minor league deal or on the cheap emerges to be much better than anyone could’ve reasonably expected. Many times, when that happens, your team takes it to the next level. In honor of Black Friday, here are some of the best bargain signings the Mets have made in their history.
For this list, we are only looking at players signed to minor league deals, and as this is the Mets we are talking about, it’s being run on Small Business Saturday.
C Todd Pratt – he went from delivering Dominos to being signed to a minor league deal with the Mets. Three years later, Pratt would hit a walk-off homer off of Matt Mantei clinching the first NLDS in team history.
1B James Loney – in 2016, the Mets were left without a first baseman due to Lucas Duda‘s back injury as well as a host of other injuries on the team. Loney would step in and help the team hitting .305/.367/.463 over his first 22 games to help keep that team afloat and make that push for the Wild Card.
2B Jose Valentin – the Mets signed Valentin to be veteran depth only for him to fill the vacuum left at second base by Anderson Hernandez‘s offensive struggles and Kazuo Matsui‘s injuries. In addition to his 3.6 WAR in 2006, he would hit two homers in the NL East clincher.
3B Matt Franco – signed a minor league deal with the Mets entering the 1996 season. He’d emerge as a good pinch hitter who hit a game winning single off Mariano Rivera clinching the Mets first series win in the Subway Series.
SS Omar Quintanilla – the Mets let Jose Reyes go due to a mixture of the Madoff scandal and the belief Ruben Tejada was ready to be the every day shortstop. When Tejada wasn’t Quintanilla was a pleasant surprise with a career year before being traded for cash considerations.
LF Melvin Mora – Mora signed a minor league deal coming out of Japan. In the 162nd game of the 1999 season, he scored on a wild pitch enduring the playoff game. In the Grand Slam Single game, he hit the cut off man leading to Keith Lockhart getting cut down at the plate. In that postseason, he hit .400/.500/.600.
CF Endy Chavez – signed as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, a season where he’d have the greatest catch in NLCS history. He’d also have other defensive gems and game winning bunts in his Mets career.
RF Marlon Byrd – back in the cavernous Citi Field days, Byrd came to the Mets on a minor league deal in 2013 and hit 21 homers before getting traded to the Pirates in a deal which netted Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.
RP Pedro Feliciano – soon dubbed Perpetual Pedro due to his rubber arm, he’d be a key piece of a great 2006 bullpen, and he’d emerge as the best LOOGY in franchise history.
SP R.A. Dickey – this is the gold standard. Dickey was signed to a minor league deal in 2009, and a few short seasons later, he would become the biggest surprise Cy Young winner in Major League history. The Mets then selling high on him and getting Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud for him makes signing Dickey all the more legendary.
When you look at particular days on the calendar, some have more meaning than others. There is your wedding anniversary and your children’s birthdays. Of course, there is Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July. For the Mets, they have October 17.
In 1969, this would be the day after Jerry Koosman‘s complete game in Game 5 of the World Series. This would be the first ever full day the Mets would be reigning World Series Champions.
As amazing as that was, thirty years later, the Mets would play in another epic Game 5. The Mets trailed the Braves 3-0 in the NLCS. There would be a Game 5 because John Olerud hit a two RBI single off John Rocker in the bottom of the eighth. The thrill of that victory was nothing compared to Game 5.
That Game 5 was an epic 15 inning game which was the longest postseason game in Major League history. You heart was in your throats for each and every inning. That was all the more the case when Melvin Mora threw out Keith Lockhart in the 13th. Lockhart would get the Mets back with an RBI triple in the 15th.
The Mets came back in a rally started with a simply great 12 pitch at-bat by Shawon Dunston. In a game with a series of unlikely events, Edgardo Alfonzo laid down a sacrifice bunt leading to the Braves loading the bases. Todd Pratt drew a game tying RBI walk before Robin Ventura hit the most famous single in baseball history:
This still stands as one of the greatest moments in Mets history, and it is one of the biggest moments in postseason history.
Sixteen years later, Matt Harvey would pitch in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cubs. It was a game which featured it all.
Daniel Murphy continued his postseason heroics with a first inning homer off Jon Lester. Yoenis Cespedes would throw a runner out at the plate. Travis d’Arnaud would actually hit the Home Run Apple. Through it all, Harvey struck out nine through 7.2 innings before Jeurys Familia slammed the door shut.
Sure, there are some down moments on this date just like you have had a bad birthday or two. However, through it all, this date has had some magic to it. Certainly, that’s what it felt like in 1999 and 2015 – pure magic.
Maybe, just maybe, we will see this day have some magic in 2020 with Jacob deGrom pitching and a beloved Mets player like Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, or Jeff McNeil getting a huge hit. With this being the Mets, you never know.
There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.
When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:
Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.
Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.
Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.
And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.
The Mets Fan
How You Became a Mets Fan
I’ve asked myself this question many times. How DID I become a Mets fan??? Well, the answer is . . . I don’t flipping know. To me, it feels like one of those things that just is. Like time. When did time become time? It is man made after all. For me, that’s the Mets. It just feels like it’s always been. My first Met memories though are of being 4/5 years old and me and my brother rubbing this little sculpture in our living room to give Darryl Strawberry “Homerun Power!”
Favorite Mets Player
To pick just one would be crazy. But, ugh Jesus… I have the weirdest players I connect with. Jose Vizcaino was def one, Lance Johnson was my fav player, while with the Mets, certainly John Olerud…. if I had to pick ONE Met that resides above all other Mets . . . Fonzie… Piazza…. it’s tough to pick ONE. All of the above! And Al Leiter. Leiter and Bobby Jones and Rick Reed… haha I could go on forever.
Favorite Moment in Mets HistoryBefore 2015 is have to say Pratt’s HR in the post season. Maybe the 99 play in game vs the reds. That ’99 team was my fav Mets team. Ever. But 2015 was magical. It was a shame we couldn’t guide it home all the way. But that year, we should all be thankful for that magic year.
Message to Mets Fans
Don’t Jump. All things ebb and flow and things will get better. Or worse. Idk. We are in this together though.
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!
During the course of the 2018 season, my hope is to feature a new Mets fan each and every week by having them answer five quick questions about their particular fandom. For me, this is part of a natural outgrowth of the site because part of my intention was to discuss my experiences as a father raising my sons to be Mets fans.
As we know being a fan is a unique experience for everyone, and I’m sure my sons will have a much more unique experience than I have had as a fan. The hope is to have a fun mix of fans – celebrity, media, and average fans like you and me.
So to that end, I will start off the new feature answering the same five questions butchers, bakers, and the people on the streets will be answering.
The Mets Fan:
For my readers, I am the self dubbed Mets Daddy. To my sons, I am just daddy. To my detractors, I am someone that just needs to go away.
Alongside my work here, you can also find my work on Metsmerized Online, Mets Minors, and Gotham Baseball. With a newborn in the house and a four year old, there’s not much opportunity for me to sleep, so it’s more entertaining to write about the Mets than to watch the same terrible late night TV night in and night out.
How You Became a Mets Fan:
My father grew up in a household where my grandfather was a New York Giants fan, his younger brother was a New York Yankees fan, and he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Given that environment, you could understand why he would look to ensure his children grew up Mets fans.
As a little kid, my dad saw an opportunity with my love of strawberries. He told me about how the Mets had this great player coming to the team named Darryl Strawberry. When Strawberry was called up to the Mets, he took me to my first ever Mets game to see him play. Seeing my first ever baseball game at Shea Stadium helped make me the diehard fan I am today.
Favorite Mets Player:
When I think of my favorite Mets player, there are a few names I consider. As noted above, Strawberry is on the list. Gary Carter was always a favorite of mine, and growing up, I wanted to become a catcher because of him. In more recent vintage, Daniel Murphy was a person favorite, and how could he not with the 2015 postseason he had. Like any other Mets fan, I love David Wright.
However, my guy will always be Mike Piazza. When he came to the Mets, this went from a nice little team to a World Series contender. I still remember all of the homers including the one after 9/11, which for my money is the biggest home run ever hit. More than that, Piazza is a guy who wanted to big stage, and when Cooperstown came calling, he chose to be a Met partially due to us fans.
Favorite Moment In Mets History:
I’ve been exceedingly lucky as a fan. I was there for the Todd Pratt homer clinching the 1999 NLDS. I was in the park the night of Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single. There was also the Bobby Jones one-hitter. My first real memory as a fan was watching Mookie Wilson‘s little roller up the first base line go through Bill Buckner‘s legs.
However, despite all those classic moments, the one I will always treasure most was going to Game 3 of the 2015 World Series with my dad and brother. It also helped that Noah Syndergaardstood 60’6″ away, Wright hit the first World Series homer in Citi Field history, and Curtis Granderson hit a homer to give the Mets the lead for good that game. The fans even got a chance to sing along to Piano Man with Billy Joel.
Going to a Mets World Series game with my dad and brother had long been a dream of mine. Seeing them win a World Series game and feeling that euphoria leaving Citi Field that night will be next to impossible to top.
Message to Mets Fans:
Some of the best Mets seasons are never the ones you expect. The 1969 team was never supposed to win. The 1999 Mets were put together on a wing and a prayer. Back in 2006, it was hard to believe anyone would ever unseat the Braves as the NL East Champions in the Wild Card Era. Heading into the 2015 season, Bryce Harper was asking where his World Series ring was after the Nationals signed Max Scherzer. As Mets fans, we had Michael Cuddyer.
Point is, even if you are extremely frustrated by the Wilpons and how they choose to operate this team, just remember, when you least expect it, that old Mets Magic is right around the corner. After all, Ya Gotta Believe!
Heading into the 1999 season, the Mets desperately needed another infielder. After debating names like B.J. Surhoff, the Mets went with 30 year old Robin Ventura, who was arguably coming off his worst season at the plate since his first full season in the majors.
While Ventura’s bat may have been a bit of a question mark, his glove wasn’t. At the time he was signed, Ventura was widely regarded as one of the best defensive third baseman in the game – if not THE best. With him alongside Rey Ordonez, the Mets knew from a defensive perspective they were going to have the best left side of the infield in all of baseball.
As it turns out, it was much more than that. With John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo, the Mets assembled what many regard as the best defensive infield. Both Ventura and Ordonez would win Gold Gloves giving that infield the metal it needed to prove the point.
More than that, Ventura was rejuvenated as a Met. In 1999, he had his best every year hitting an astounding .301/.379/.529 with 32 homers and 120 RBI. He would amass the third most WAR among NL position players, and he would finish sixth in the MVP voting. As we know, he still had some magic left, as with this help of Todd Pratt, he would launch the Grand Slam Single in Game 5 of the NLCS.
After his Mets career, Ventura would eventually find himself as a manger of the Chicago White Sox, and he would manage Todd Frazier, the player who is now looking to pick up his mantle from the 1999 season.
Frazier has built himself a reputation as a good defensive third baseman. In 2017, among players with over a thousand innings at third base, he had the third highest DRS trailing just Nolan Arenado and Evan Longoria. With Frazier now joining Amed Rosario on the left side of the infield, the Mets promise to have the best defensive left side of the infield they have had in decades. Along with the San Francisco Giants, they are on the short list of teams that can argue they have the best defensive left side of the infield in baseball.
At the plate, Frazier is a good hitter. Over the past four seasons, he’s averaged a .243/.322/.464 batting line with 33 homers and 86 RBI. That equates to a 113 OPS+ and wRC+. Many will knock him for his declining batting average, but it should be noted last year, he had a career best .344 OBP and 14.4% walk rate. In sum, his batting average is going down, but he’s getting on base more frequently.
Like Ventura, there’s optimism for a much improved season at the plate. We have already seen him become a more patient hitter at the plate. We have also seen him post an absurdly low .236 and .226 BABIP in succeeding years. Part of that is Ventura is a dead pull hitter making it easier to shift against him. Seeing how low those marks are and how hard he hits the ball, there’s some bad luck involved.
All of this makes him a prime candidate for a turnaround similar to what we saw with Jay Bruce last year. The Mets will give him the information and will have him work with Pat Roessler. This should allow Frazier to have a much improved year at the plate.
If that is the case, Frazier is going to have a great year with the Mets. And while he’s admittedly not as good a player as Ventura was, he can have a similar impact. Frazier can be the guy in the clubhouse blasting “Mo Jo Rising,” helps create a great left side infield defense, and deepen the Mets lineup.
And if all that happens, this could be a postseason team, which should give us excitement over what heroics we are about to see next.
This past week my Dad turned 70 years old. It is because of him that my brother and I have been lifelong Mets fans. For that, I’m not sure to thank him or to curse him. All joking aside, some of my fondest memories with my Dad have involved baseball.
There were the Mets games through the years. We were there for Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam single. We saw Todd Pratt‘s homer ending the 1999 NLDS. We were there a year later as Bobby Jones propelled the Mets to the 2000 NLCS. There was the last game at Shea Stadium, and the first game at Citi Field.
We saw Matt Harvey come so close to pitching a no-hitter against the White Sox. We loved see Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero have their first ever start at Citi Field in the 2013 Future’s Game. Our favorite moment at a Mets game hands down was Game 3 of the 2015 World Series.
But it was more than the Mets games. There were the catches he used to have with my brother and I in the backyard. There was him throwing pitches to help try me to become a catcher. There were the times, he would throw batting practice to my brother and I.
When it came time to give him a gift, my family wanted to give him more than a present. We wanted to give him a memory that would at least rival the fond memories we had of him. With us not having 499 friends to invite to a Mets game, or the money to purchase those tickets, that left us with the Brooklyn Cyclones.
Brooklyn in and of itself was fitting. It was the place he would commute over an hour each way in order for him to support our family, to put my brother and I through school.
After speaking with the Cyclones, Joe Senis specifically, we were able to arrange for my father to throw out the first pitch before Saturday’s Cyclones game. Not just that, but at my Dad’s request, they allowed his grandson to take the mound with him (and throw out a pitch of his own):
Personally, I think they both did a great job:
Also, great job by Kurt Horne catching both of those pitches and for taking a brief moment to shake my Dad’s and my son’s hands. It was also great Edgardo Alfonzo, one of my Dad’s favorite Mets, gave us his autograph.
That’s not all the Cyclones did for us. They also sent the mascot up to where we were sitting for some family photos . . .
and they put on a great postgame fireworks show:
In what is masked as an attempt to make games move at a faster pace, MLB with approval of MLBPA has agreed that pitchers will no longer have to throw four balls to issue a walk. Rather, now, the manager in the dugout will simply make a signal, and the batter at the plate will take first base.
While the rule seems benign, it does go against one of the basic tenents of what baseball great. It it the idea that at any moment, no matter how seemingly insignificant it is, you can see something special, something bizarre, or something you have never seen before:
As you can see, you never now what is going to happen. Except now, you do. Each one of those players will automatically be awarded first taking away the potential that something will happen. Baseball is doing this despite the fact that your average intentional walk lasts less than a minute. Baseball is doing this despite teams not issuing many intentional walks.
As reported by Newsday, there were only 932 intentional walks last year. Considering there are 2,430 games in a baseball season, baseball is looking for a resolution for something that happens less than once per game. It happens less than every other game. In essence, baseball, issued a rule change that eliminates the possibility of anything happening on a play that doesn’t even happen every game. This is like the NFL issuing a rule change with regards to the kick-off after a safety, the NBA issuing a rule change on what to do when a ball gets stuck between the backboard and the rim, or the NHL changing what type of shots are permitted on an in-game penalty shot.
Essentially, it is a rule change that affects something that rarely happens. It is a rule change that will have little to no impact on the casual fan. It will have no impact on fans that dislike the sport. More importantly, it only serves to anger your most ardent fans. At the end of the day, you have to ask why this was done?
For expediency? Pace of play? Make games go quicker?
In reality, it has no impact on that.
If Manfred really wants to make an impact might as well eliminate the home run trot. According to ESPN Home Run Tracker, there were 5,610 homers hit in the major leagues last year. This means that on average there are two home runs hit in an average baseball game. If you were to eliminate, the home run trot, you could really shave some time off of games, especially with some of the slower home run trots:
If everyone is being intellectually honest, removing the home run trot from games will make games move along much swifter. Given the fact that there are many more home runs hit than intentional walks, removing the home run trot would have a far greater impact than removing the intentional walk.
Also, if we’re being honest, no fan really cares about the home run trot except when they are looking for the celebration at home plate after a walk-off. However, that celebration could be heightened without the home run trot. Imagine a player hitting a home run and then immediately getting mobbed by his teammates on the field. It would look something like this:
Pure jubilation. Except, here is the strange thing. This celebration turned a home run that probably would have been a highlight of a six game series to an all time baseball moment. It was the Grand Slam Single. With that Robin Ventura will be forever immortalized because of Todd Pratt and the rest of the Mets tackling him on the field.
That’s what we lose when we eliminate throwing four balls or home run trots. You lose the impossible. You lose the potential or chance for the next great moment. Ultimately, this is why the rule is dumb. You’re changing what makes baseball great.
No, intentional walks do not make baseball great. Rather, it is that something amazing could happen during those four pitches. For most fans, you may not feel like you are missing anything when in reality you are missing everything.
During this offseason, the Mets were put in a somewhat peculiar position. Longtime Mets announcer and play-by-play man, Gary Cohen, was a finalist for the Ford C. Frick Award. This would have meant that Cohen would have found himself enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame before he was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.
Now, it should be noted the Ford C. Frick Award is not technically being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. As the Baseball Hall of Fame notes, “The Ford C. Frick Award is presented annually during Hall of Fame Weekend. Each award recipient (not to be confused with an inductee) is presented with a calligraphy of the award and is recognized in the “Scribes & Mikemen” exhibit in the Library of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.” With that caveat, for many receiving the award is commensurate with an announcer being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
While Cohen ultimately did not received the award, you know it is only a matter of time before he receives it. As any Mets fan that listened to him on the radio from 1989 – 2005, or on SNY from 2006 until the present, Cohen is the best in the business. For those unaware, he is a compilation of some of his best calls in a number of the best moments in Mets history:
The Todd Pratt Home Run:
I particularly like this one due to the comparison to Chris Berman
The Robin Ventura Grand Slam Single:
The Endy Chavez Catch:
The Mike Piazza home-run capping off the 10 run inning against the Braves:
The Johan Santana n0-hitter:
The Wilmer Flores walk-off home-run:
And while, it was not the greatest moment in Mets history, his call on the Bartolo Colon home run is as good a call as you are going to hear anywhere:
There are several calls that you can choose from him because Cohen is just that good a broadcaster. It’s a testament to him that he made the transition from being quite possibly the best play-by-play announcer in all of baseball to being great as a television announcer on SNY. They are different mediums, and he seemingly made the seamless switch to describing each and every part of the action to sitting back and let the moment speak for itself. He has also given room for both Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez to shine in their roles as color commentators.
Whether, it is his screaming “IT’S OUTTA HERE!” or “THE BALLGAME IS OVER!” Cohen has a way of not only capturing the emotion of the big moment, he also has a way of making them seem bigger. With that said, there is another big moment in Mets history he should not be there to call. That would be the day he is inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.