Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to listen to Boomer and Gio. During that time, the subject of Max Scherzer arose, and well, there’s a reason I no longer listen to WFAN (nor should any respectable sports fan).
Per Gio, Scherzer was terrible, and he should only be known for three things:
- Failing against the Braves and Padres
- His oblique
- Making $43 million
Somehow, some way, Gio was able to reduce Scherzer’s year to two starts. Nothing else matters but those two starts.
Of course, those starts were massively disappointing. It was shocking. It was reminiscent of Tom Glavine. Just another future Hall of Famer from a division rival who failed the Mets in a big spot.
However, much like Glavine, Scherzer was much more than that one start.
Scherzer coming to the Mets was an immediate culture change. Not only did Scherzer add an ace, but he was a known fierce competitor. Mostly, the Mets were adding a Hall of Famer pitching near the top of his game.
In some ways, this was adding Pedro Martinez in 2005. With him came instant credibility for the franchise. It changed the narrative for the Mets. They were now a destination. They now meant business.
Much like Martinez, Scherzer backed it up. On the season, he was 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA, 0.908 WHIP, 1.5 BB/9, and a 10.7 K/9. He had a 5.3 WAR, 169 ERA+, and a 2.62 FIP.
Even with the oblique injuries, he was 12th in the majors in innings pitched. He still averaged 6.1 innings per start.
His FIP ranked third in the National League. His WAR was sixth. His K% was third. His K-BB% was second best in the majors.
In every sense of the word, Scherzer was an ace. That was of increased importance for the Mets with Jacob deGrom out until August.
This Mets team won 101 games, the second most in team history. Scherzer was a huge reason why the team was in that position. In fact, he ranked third on the team in WAR.
The end of the Mets season and Scherzer’s was disappointing. Both were in part due to Scherzer pitching through an oblique injury. That said, despite the oblique he battled most of the season, Scherzer was great.
Ultimately, the oblique might’ve robbed Scherzer and the Mets a World Series. This is not too dissimilar from how Martinez’s toe and shoulder helped rob the 2006 Mets of a World Series.
However, that doesn’t change how great Scherzer was in 2022. He was as advertised. He helped make the Mets a great team and pushed this franchise closer to a World Series.
If and when the Mets win next season, Scherzer will be a big part of that. The oblique will heal, but the guy who was an ace in 2022 remains. And yes, he was an ace. Look at the numbers and his impact on the Mets instead of people trying to lie to you because they had sour grapes about the end of the season.
Scherzer was great and will be great again next year.
Since taking over the New York Mets, Steve Cohen has done everything he’s promised to do. He’s been a far departure from the Wilpon ownership.
He has celebrated Mets history. Old Timer’s Day came back, and along with it, came some ostracized fan favorites. In fact, Ray Knight would say he loved the Mets but hated the Wilpons.
More than that, he’s tried to win. His first bold move (or at least the organization’s under his stewardship) was to trade for Francisco Lindor. Lindor was then given the richest contract for a shortstop and player in Mets history.
The end result was a 101 win team which claimed the top Wild Card spot. Yes, it was a disappointment and a collapse, but the Mets still made the postseason.
Game 1 was a dud with Scherzer allowing seven runs. It was a complete and utter disappointment reminiscent of Tom Glavine in 2007 (although not nearly as short or fatal).
In Game 2, the Mets had Jacob deGrom. The Mets ace, and second best player in Mets history, wasn’t at his best. However, at 70% (or whatever percent you want to give him), he helped keep the San Diego Padres at bay until the bats woke up.
That set up a winner-take-all Game 3. It was at Citi Field. A ballpark we all promised we’d sell out if the Mets were good again and in the postseason.
Attendance at Citi Field tonight: 39,241.— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) October 10, 2022
That is not a sellout.
Sunday night wasn’t an excuse. First of all, it was Columbus Day Weekend. Mostly, IT WAS THE POSTSEASON!!!!
These are things we’ve mocked other markets for doing. This shouldn’t happen here. The greatest city in the world. A National League baseball city. The postseason. An elimination game.
The Mets had an owner who spent and spent to get the Mets to this spot. This was the dream. October baseball because of ownership who cared.
And then, fans couldn’t sell out the ballpark.
This was an embarrassing moment for a fanbase who has prided itself on being a great and loyal fanbase. Honestly, Mets fans, we’re better than this.
Put aside the frustrations leading to that game. There was a postseason game at Citi Field, and as a fanbase, we didn’t show up. Not nearly enough.
Steve Cohen promised us everything we’ve ever wanted, and he delivered. The very least we can do is show up for a winner-take-all postseason game at Citi Field.
As a New York Mets fan, you thought it couldn’t get worse than 2007. Seven in 17. Tom Glavine not devastated after allowing seven runs in 0.2 innings.
That was a horror show we all watched unfold, but at least we could see it coming. There were starts in the final week of the season from David Williams and Phillip Humber. Billy Wagner was battling back spasms, and Aaron Heilman was gassed.
There were many issues with that team, and they were not remotely built to win the World Series. That makes that team vastly different than the 2022 Mets, a team which will also live in Mets infamy.
Make no mistake. The 2022 Mets collapse and choke was far worse than the 2007 Mets. The aftermath may only punctuate that.
On June 1, the Mets led the National League East by 10.5 games. This the third largest blown division lead in Major League history. It is the largest blown lead over a full 162 game season since the inception of division play. Notably. it is only the second such collapse since the inception of the Wild Card.
From a Mets perspective, this was made all the worse by their September. Remember, they had the easiest closing schedule in baseball with a three game lead.
The Mets were 2-6 against the Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, and Miami Marlins at home before the Atlanta Braves series. Really, the NL East never should have been at play when the Mets traveled to Atlanta.
Despite the Mets having their rotation aligned, they were swept by the Braves. This wasn’t Williams or Pelfrey faltering. It was Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Chris Bassitt faltering with each pitching worse than the last.
Yes, Starling Marte was injured, and he was a very good player and emotional leader all year. That said, the Mets should not have needed him to beat the worst teams in baseball. Again, this is far more about the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Miami Marlins stretch than it was about the Braves series, a series that never should have mattered.
The Mets controlled the division and their own destiny. They completely and utterly failed doing it in historic fashion. As a result, they were the Wild Card and not a division winner.
In the Wild Card series, the Mets only showed up for the second game. It’s a harsh but fair criticism. Note, this isn’t saying they didn’t want to win. Of course, they wanted to win. They were desperate to win . It’s odd to say for a 101 win team, but they didn’t have what it took to win.
Like the Braves series, Scherzer and Bassitt were bad. For his part, deGrom was good but human. It is very clear by now Scherzer’s oblique and deGrom’s blister compromised them. Bassitt was just one fumes after pitching a career high in innings. However, it is more than that.
There’s plenty of blame to go around here. That includes Buck Showalter, who made a series of baffling decisions in the Braves series and the postseason. It’s Billy Eppler who failed at the trade deadline and who failed to call up his prospects in Mark Vientos and Francisco Álvarez who were just not given sufficient opportunity to get acclimated to the majors before being thrown into a pennant race.
What remains is the first 100+ win team to make the LDS since the inception of the series. It is the largest blown division lead in a full 162 game season since the inception of division play. It is a team which managed just one hit in an elimination game, the fewest a team has ever had.
The Mets entered the postseason with the best home winning percentage in the postseason. They lost two out of three getting outscored 16-8. They scored a total of one run in their two losses. ONE RUN.
This was a complete collapse from a team we all expected to be a true World Series contender. It failed because it couldn’t beat bad teams. It failed for so many reasons. In the end, this was a historic collapse in its own right, and yes, it was absolutely worse than 2007 because this team should have won the World Series.
The history of the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves is typically a one-sided affair. Worse yet, it’s one which features Mets collapses and heart ache.
Most of the horrors were fueled by Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz. Glavine came to the Mets, and the balance of power in the NL East seemed to eventually shift to the Mets. Of course, Glavine melted down in Game 162, and nothing would be the same for that Mets team.
Things re-kindled last year. The Mets were in first place for 103 days. Not only did they eventually cede first place to the eventual World Series champion Braves, but they would also have the indignity of finishing under .500.
Things looked dire again this year. The Mets built a 10.5 game lead. It was 6.5 games after the Mets took four of five in an early August series. The Braves should’ve been left for dead, but they fought back.
It was one thing for the Braves to tie the division. It was another for them to take a half-game lead. The Mets responded by trouncing the Miami Marlins.
They have also gotten some help from the Seattle Mariners. Remember, for all the Braves exploits, they’re only 28-33 against teams with a winning record.
After splitting the first two games of the series, the Braves faced a 6-1 deficit in the eighth before Michael Harris II homered. He’d do it again in an improbable five run ninth giving the Braves a 7-6 lead. The second homer was off former Mets reliever Paul Sewald.
The Mets had already retaken the NL East lead, but this Mariners series could’ve given the Mets some breathing room. The Mets needed a re-payment for the favor of the Robinson Canó trade.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Not from the Mets perspective.
Put the 1969 NLCS aside. That was another time in another era of baseball.
The Wild Card and Inter-league play came and so did the Braves tormenting the Mets. Yes, the Mets won two pennants and two division titles. The made the postseason five times.
However, when it came down to just these two teams, the Braves were always on top. The Mets never won a division where the Braves finished second. When they met in the postseason, the Braves came out on top.
That’s what makes the Suarez homer a game changer. In the history of Mets-Braves, the Braves win that game, stay a half game back (tied in the loss column), and they eventually overtake the Mets.
Suarez homered. That is changing the narrative. It moved the Mets up 1.5 games. It’s a little breathing room.
If the Mets do indeed win the division this was one of a series of pivotal moments. It may be THE moment. If so, the Mets owe the Mariners and Suarez a debt of gratitude.
The shocking part of The Oscars was when Will Smith responded to a Chris Rock joke about his wife by slapping him in the face and then yelling at him. Being a diehard Mets fan, Rock is obviously accustomed to unexpected slaps in the face.
In fact, through the years, there are just a number of players Mets fans just wanted to give the Will Smith treatment to for what they did on or off the field. To wit, here is the Mets all-time deserved a slap team:
SP Tom Glavine – Glavine was never truly appreciated by Mets fans after he had beaten them all those years with the Atlanta Braves. Despite his success, any goodwill he had unraveled as he did in the final game of the 2007 season. After the game, Glavine explained to devastated fans, he was disappointed but not devastated.
RP Guillermo Mota – How do you shake off Paul Lo Duca and then get beat by Scott Spiezio ? That moment forever changed the trajectory of that series. Also, why was he such a punk constantly throwing at Mike Piazza?
C Kevin Plawecki – When T.J. Rivera wore the crown after a Mets win (why was that ever a thing?), we saw the type of objects he kept in his locker. Making matters worse, he was a better relief pitcher than he was a hitter with the Mets (I kid, I kid).
1B Lucas Duda – Duda was an underrated Met, and he was a driving force for the 2015 Mets comeback to win the division, but that throw to home plate was one of the worst throws in Mets history.
2B Luis Castillo – How in the world do you just drop an easy pop-up which could end the game, and why did he have to do it against the Yankees? Consider he under performed his contract so much even the Wilpons were willing to eat money just to get rid of him.
3B Jim Fregosi – It’s astounding. The 1962 Mets were the worst team in Major League history, and yet, the first real instance we see the Mets mocked for is when the team traded Nolan Ryan in the deal for Fregosi. After the trade, Ryan became a Hall of Famer, and the Mets would eventually see Fregosi off to the Rangers. To make matters worse, we’re constantly reminded of this every single trade deadline when we hear about all-time worst trades.
SS Mike Bordick – In typical Mets fashion, Bordick went from career year to near career worst numbers when he went from the Baltimore Orioles to the Mets. Making this even worse is the fact the trade cost the Mets Melvin Mora who was both beloved and a future All-Star and Silver Slugger.
OF Vince Coleman – There should be no more reviled Mets player than Coleman. He was the enemy with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was flat out terrible with the Mets, and he would throw a firecracker at fans. He would even injure Dwight Gooden‘s shoulder practicing his golf swing, He’s literally the worst to put on a Mets uniform.
OF Roger Cedeno – Mets fans were beyond excited Cedeno was returning in what we hoped was a retooling of the pennant winning roster. Instead, what we got was “The Worst Team Money Could Buy” Part Deux with Cedeno being flat out terrible.
OF Bobby Bonilla – He wore earplugs because he couldn’t handle the heckling. He was playing cards in the clubhouse when the Mets lost the 1999 NLCS. He became a perpetual punchline for a team who never spent money.
Keep in mind, this is not a complete list. We can go on and on and on. No matter where you wind up on any of these players and your suggestions for others, please keep in mind, no one deserves the treatment more than Jeff Wilpon. No one did more to hurt the Mets than him during his stretch of absolute embarrassing incompetence.
During Spring Training, Buck Showalter has made it a point to bring Keith Hernandez down to the field. In fact, as reported by Bob Klapisch of nj.com, Showalter removed the old rule which banned Hernandez from the batting cages. Showalter made it a point to get rid of the dumb rule (which was explained away because Hernandez was a part of SNY).
Specifically, Showalter noted, “I wanted people to notice Keith next to me and it wasn’t by coincidence. To me, Keith Hernandez is Mets royalty. He can go wherever he wants around here. This is his team.”
Showalter is exactly right here. After all, Hernandez was the first captain in team history. That 1986 team constantly talks about how much Hernandez meant to that team in terms of his leadership and defense. To keep that away from the team is pure and utter Wilpon nonsense. Well, the Wilpons are gone and so is much of their stupidity.
This was something Bobby Valentine had done so well during his Mets tenure. We didn’t just see the Mets greats pass through Spring Training for a photo op and media attention. That is something we will see this Spring with Mike Piazza, Al Leiter, David Wright, and others passing through and working with the players for a day or so.
Valentine had taken it a step further than that. Valentine put Mookie Wilson on his coaching staff. We also saw it with him having Al Jackson, an original Met just inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, on his coaching staff. There many be many reasons why Valentine did that, and it could very well be because Davey Johnson once did the same thing with him and Bud Harrelson on the Mets coaching staff.
Being a Met is different than being a part of any other team. It’s being the big market target while sitting in the shadow of the Yankees. It’s having a fan base who clings to Tug McGraw‘s “Ya Gotta Believe!” who also expects Tom Glavine to implode completing the collapse. We know Gary Carter is going to start an improbable rally while fully expecting Lucas Duda to throw it nowhere near Travis d’Arnaud.
The Mets are the most unique team in all of sports, and they have the fanbase to match. Each and every player who has come through here fully understands it. After all, Carlos Beltran went from reviled while playing here to a standing ovation at the All Star Game wearing the enemy St. Louis Cardinals uniform and fans who cheered him as a conquering hero when he was brought back as the manager.
Valentine knew all of this, and he had a coaching staff reflect that. Showalter seems to get that as well, and he wants the former Mets to be a part of this team both in Spring Training and beyond. He understands the team history, and in the end, Showalter just implicitly gets it.
When the Mets have a manager who gets what being a New York Met is all about, magic happens. We saw it in 1986 and 1999. Mookie brought home Ray Knight. Robin Ventura hit a grand slam single. Seeing how Showalter is managing this team, Mets fans should be ready to see what is coming next.
With the institution of the universal DH, MLB has officially killed off National League Baseball. As such, the only real difference between the two leagues is their names. One just happens to be the American League, and the other just happens to be the National. Why are we even bothering anymore?
It’s not like changing up divisions and leagues is unheard of in this sport. Tom Seaver led the Mets to the first ever NL East title in 1969. Prior to that, there were no divisions in either league. Fast forward to 1994, and the Montreal Expos would have won the division led by players like Moises Alou, Cliff Floyd, and Pedro Martinez. Of course, that season didn’t reach completion because of the strike.
As a result, the first World Series with a Wild Card in the postseason was won by the Atlanta Braves with Tom Glavine taking home World Series MVP honors. The Braves would win the NL East as part of their journey. An interesting fact here is the Braves won the first ever NL West title, and they actually played the Mets in the inaugural NLCS.
Baseball has moved and changed teams and divisional structures as they have seen fit. When baseball expanded in 1998 to include the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Milwaukee Brewers were moved from the AL Central to the NL Central. In 2013, the Houston Astros, who were an expansion team the same season as the Mets, were switched from the NL Central to the AL West because baseball wanted six five team divisions.
Things change according to the random whims of the commissioner. We see that has happened with the institution of the universal DH, and we are likely going to see it again with MLB trying to increase the amount of postseason teams from the current five per league to seven per league. That is again completely radical, and it cries for the need for another correlative move.
Before delving further, one of the reasons for the push for an expanded postseason is increased revenues. It should also be noted the reason for revenue sharing and compensation systems is to address the (laughable) assertions owning an MLB franchise isn’t profitable and costs need to be reduced. One major cost which can be cut is travel fees.
To do that, you can more geographically align the divisions of baseball like it is done in the NBA and NHL. After all, we see MLB trying to more align their sport like those, so why not take a look at what that would look like:
- Baltimore Orioles
- Boston Red Sox
- New York Mets
- New York Yankees
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Washington Nationals
- Atlanta Braves
- Cincinnati Reds
- Houston Astros
- Miami Marlins
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Texas Rangers
- Chicago Cubs
- Chicago White Sox
- Cleveland Guardians
- Detroit Tigers
- Kansas City Royals
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Minnesota Twins
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Colorado Rockies
- Los Angeles Angels
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Oakland Athletics
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
- Seattle Mariners
Yes, this does call for the inclusion of two expansion teams. Let’s face it. It is well past time for MLB to expand. If the NHL can support 32 teams, MLB certainly can. There are markets in the United States and Canada which have been relatively untapped, and to a certain extent, the minor league retraction has created a void in many communities for baseball. At least geographically, the southeast with cities like Raleigh and Nashville makes sense, but MLB can look elsewhere and align differently if it makes more financial sense.
As for the blowing up of some rivalries, well, that’s a consequence. That said, it wasn’t a concern when the Brewers and Astros changed leagues. There is also the important consideration the geographical rivalries will be off the charts, and there will certainly be the development of new rivalries.
Now, the next step is especially radical, but then again, so was the death of National League baseball. Before delving further, we first need to acknowledge baseball’s crown jewel is the World Series. Baseball needs to do all it can endeavor to create the best possible World Series matchups to generate more fan interest. The best way to do that is to actually set up the best possible match-ups in the World Series.
For that, just eliminate the AL and NL in its entirety. Instead, just have the four divisions. If you want to keep an AL and NL for nostalgia stake and create new names for the other two divisions, fine. That said, the World Series should abandon the concept of the AL against the NL. Instead, it should be the two best postseason teams.
This is where MLB can borrow a bit from the NHL. Since MLB wants an expanded postseason, they can have the top three teams in each division make the postseason. After that, the next eight non-automatic qualifying teams, regardless of division and division rank, can play a one game Wild Card Game to qualify for the Division Series. The World Series will instantly become increasingly more interesting.
The potential match-ups can radically change. For example, one year, the Mets and Cardinals could meet in the World Series, and the next, they could meet in the Championship Series. As a bit of added intrigue, under this format, MLB could get their biggest dream to come true with a Yankees-Red Sox World Series. The ratings and revenues from that may set records never before seen.
Overall, MLB has been forever changed with the death of National League baseball. As a result, instead of trying to hold onto some vestiges of the NL, it is time to just let it go away entirely and focus on what would create the most interesting and exciting baseball. Creating a four league format would be refreshing, and it would create the best possible postseasons. From there, genuine interest (and associated revenues) would grow putting baseball in the best footing it has been in a century.
Due to the 1994 baseball strike, Rick Reed was not welcome in many clubhouses. For a brief time that included the Mets one, but with the way he performed for the team, the pitcher who was a replacement player to help pay for his mother’s medical bills, would endear himself to a team, a city, and a fanbase.
After he left the Reds partially due to his teammates consternation with his being a replacement player, the Mets picked him up on a minor league deal. While he may not have been accepted in Cincinnati, he would be accepted in New York. When he pitch the way he did and help turn the Mets around, you understand why.
His first ever start for the Mets was seven scoreless innings against the San Francisco Giants. Through June 1 of that year, he would have a 1.18 ERA, and for the season, Reed was 13-9 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.042 WHIP, and a 3.65 K/BB. To put in persective how good a season he had, he was ahead of pitchers like Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in ERA and ERA+. Remember, this was the era where the Braves pitchers got triple the size of the strike zone than everyone else did.
If there was any doubt about him in 1997, he would put those doubts to rest with a very good 1998 where he would be named an All-Star for the first time in his career. While it was not looked upon at the time, Reed was once again one of the best pitchers in the National League. He would finish in the top 20 in many categories like FIP indicating he was much more than just a replacement player.
When you pitch as well as Reed did in 1997 and 1998, fans will certainly remember you. However, it was what he did in 1999 and 2000 which led to Mets fans forever cherishing him. In 1999, Reed had dealt with finger issues, and we saw a dip in all of his stats as a result. However, when the Mets needed him most, Reed was there pushing the Mets to the postseason.
It gets overlooked a bit now, but the 1998 Mets had collapsed much in the same way the 2007 and 2008 teams would, but we don’t remember that as much because of the 1999 team. That 1999 team was on the verge of collapsing and missing the postseason like that 1998 team did. Enter Rick Reed.
Entering that final series, the Mets needed to sweep the Pirates and hope for some luck. On the penultimate day of the season, Reed took the ball, and he pitched perhaps his greatest game as a Mets. Sure, there were times he flirted with no-hitters, but in this game he rose to the challenge pitching a complete game shutout while striking out 12 batters.
He didn’t even give the Pirates a chance to play the role of spoilers. It was this outstanding effort which helped the Mets reach a tie atop of the Wild Card standings and eventually grab that Wild Card spot.
Reed’s first postseason start was the pivotal Game 3 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks. With the series tied 1-1, Reed held onto an early 3-0 lead, and he would be the winner after allowing just two earned over six innings. The next time Reed took the mound, the stakes were even higher.
In Game 4 of the NLCS, the Mets were in risk of being swept by the Braves. For seven innings, he had actually out-pitched Smoltz, perhaps the best big game pitcher of his generation. However, he didn’t pick up the win as he allowed back-to-back homers to Brian Jordan and Ryan Klesko to start the eighth. Even though the Mets fell behind 2-1, Reed had kept it close enough for John Olerud to deliver a clutch two RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to extend that series.
Unfortunately, Reed did not get the ball in Game 7 like was planned. Instead, he took the ball in Japan for the Mets second game of the season. Through the first month of the season, Reed was the Mets best pitcher keeping a team in flux and turmoil afloat until they could figure it out.
In that season, Reed once again emerged as a top of the rotation type starter sitting JUST outside the top 20 in many key stats like FIP. What’s interesting is at the time Reed was never perceived as that, but truth be told, the Mets players and fans trusted him just as much as anyone there was in baseball when he toed the rubber.
We saw that in action when Reed once again was the pitcher taking the ball in Game 3 of the NLDS. In that game, Reed pitched well allowing just two earned over six innings. He was rewarded with a no decision for his efforts in a game Benny Agbayani won with a walk-off homer in the 13th. To a certain extent, it was reminiscent of his first start of the season where he pitched brilliantly, and Agbayani hit the Sayonara Slam.
Reed didn’t have it in the NLCS, but he was still part of the last Mets team to win a pennant at Shea Stadium. Reed would also start the final World Series game the Mets ever won at Shea. With the Mets down in the series 2-0, Reed allowed two earned over six innings, but he would pick up the no decision as the game was tied when he departed. Eventually, the Mets won the game on an Agbayani go-ahead RBI single in the eighth.
Again, there was no scheduled Game 7 start for Reed, and little did we know it at the time, Reed’s career with the Mets was soon coming to a close.
In 2001, a vast majority of the Mets roster regressed. The exceptions to that were Reed, Al Leiter, and Mike Piazza. In that 2001 season, he and Piazza would be the Mets All-Star representatives. Soon after, with the Mets not really in contention, he would be traded to the Minnesota Twins. Years later, Reed would describe that trade as “baseball kinda died for us, my wife and I.” (Anthony McCarron, NY Daily News).
When Reed left, he left behind a larger legacy than many realize. In the history of the Mets, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Pedro Martinez, Jacob deGrom, and Reed are the only right-handed starters to make multiple All-Star teams.
By WAR, he is the ninth best pitcher in Mets history, and he is 10th best by ERA+. He is second in win/loss percentage, and he is also in the top five in WHIP, BB/9, and K/BB. That speaks to the way he had mastered his control to get batters out. By and large, it is why he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 35.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy
29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza
32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey
34. Noah Syndergaard
The Mets have won two World Series with Donn Clendenon and Ray Knight being the MVPs of those series. Aside from being Mets, one thing that links them is they both wore the number 22. However, while each have their own special place in Mets history, the best Mets player to ever wear the number was Al Leiter.
After being the starting pitcher in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, Leiter was shipped out as Wayne Huizenga ordered a firesale of the team. Leiter, who grew up a Mets fan in New Jersey, would get to live out his childhood dream of pitching for the Mets. On that note, before there was Todd Frazier, Leiter was the Mets player from Toms River, NJ.
The Leiter trade was a significant step for the franchise. Not only did it come at a steep cost which included AJ Burnett, but it was an indication the Mets were looking to take the next step forward after a surprising 88 win season in 1997. Leiter went from a star studded rotation in Florida to the Mets ace.
In that 1998 season, he was 17-6 with a 2.47 ERA, 1.150 WHIP, and an 8.1 K/9. Using the stat ERA+, Leiter’s 1998 season was the best by any Mets pitcher not named Dwight Gooden, Jacob deGrom, or Tom Seaver. Put another way, it was the best season by any Mets left-handed pitcher, a group which includes Tom Glavine, Jerry Koosman, and Johan Santana.
While Mike Piazza got much of the publicity for that season, and deservedly so, by WAR, Leiter was the second best player on that Mets team. It should be noted he was the pitcher who was on the mound when Piazza first came to the Mets. The two of them became friends, and Leiter was one of the reasons Piazza stayed.
Leiter would not be able to replicate his 1998 success in a Mets uniform, but he would go on to put together a great Mets career. While it may not have been his best season, Leiter would come up big time and again.
After the May firings of Bobby Valentine‘s coaching staff, Leiter won six of his next seven starts to help get the Mets from one game under .500 at the beginning of June to 11 games over just one month later. That helped turn the 1999 season from a forgettable one to one of the most special ones in team history.
When the Mets were staring down a late season collapse for the second straight year, Leiter helped right the ship by beating the Braves to allow the team to tie the Reds atop the Wild Card standings to force a play-in game. Leiter would get the ball, and he would turn in what was arguably the greatest regular season pitching performance in team history:
In a game the Mets absolutely had to have, Leiter put his best performance in a Mets uniform pitching a two hit shut-out on the road against the Reds to send the Mets to the NLDS. One interesting note is that while this is classified as a one-game playoff, it is considered a regular season game.
One of the reasons this is interesting is because despite some truly great performances in the postseason, Leiter never won a postseason game with the Mets. Mostly, it was due to some bad luck like when he lost Game 3 of the NLCS when the greatest infield of all-time allowed an unearned run in the Mets 1-0 loss. To be fair, his teammates picked him up in Game 6.
In 2000, for the first time in his Mets career, he was not the designated ace. That didn’t matter all that much as Leiter had a great season making the All Star team while going 16-8 with a 3.20 ERA. Things would not be as difficult for the Mets this year as they easily made the postseason.
In typical Leiter hard luck fashion, his gem in Game 2 of the NLDS went by the wayside when Armando Benitez blew the save. Still, Leiter’s performance was important as it helped right the ship after an opening game loss, and it helped propel the Mets to the NLCS. In the NLCS, Turk Wendell vultured a win.
In that World Series, Benitez yet again blew the save in Game 1 costing Leiter a win. That series did not go the Mets way, and they were forced to win a Game 5 to send the series back to Yankee Stadium. In that Game 5, Leiter gave everything he had to try to will the Mets to victory. Being a terrible hitter, he would even try to bunt his way on to drive home a run. Sadly, he was out of gas after 142 pitches, and his defense just couldn’t get to that one ground ball.
The Mets never reached those heights again during Leiter’s tenure. However, he had one more big moment left in the tank.
Many forget this now, but after the 9/11 attacks, it was Leiter, the local kid from Toms River, NJ, who was handed the baseball when the Mets returned to action in Pittsburgh. He received a no decision after limiting the Pirates to one run over seven innings.
One really important note here is Leiter is the last Mets player to ever wear a First Responder’s cap. On the one year anniversary, Leiter cycled through the caps for each of the first responder agencies pitching a complete game shutout against the Braves.
In Leiter’s final few years with the Mets, they never got back to the postseason, but Leiter still remained a very good pitcher for the team. Notably, he never had a losing record for the Mets, and he won 10+ in his seven years with the Mets with a 3.42 ERA. He would also accomplish some truly astonishing feats.
In 2000, he won the Roberto Clemente Award. In 2002, he became the first Major League pitcher to defeat all 30 teams. In one he probably wants to have back, he was the last ever pitcher to lose a game to the Montreal Expos. Overall, he became of the best pitchers in Mets history.
In fact, he could make the claim as the best ever left-handed pitcher. On that note, among Mets pitchers who have thrown at least 1,000 innings, only Jacob deGrom and Seaver have a better ERA+. Overall, Leiter is in the Mets top 1o in wins, GS, IP, strikeouts, WAR, and ERA+. He should be in the Mets Hall of Fame, but for now, he is going to have to settle for being the best Mets player to ever wear the number 22.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
Before there was Jarred Kelenic, there was Scott Kazmir. Back on July 30, 2004, for some reason or another, a Mets team four games under .500 and 7.5 games out of a postseason spot believed they were in it, so they traded Kazmir and Jose Diaz for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.
That trade could not have gone worse for the Mets.
First, the Mets pinned the blame on Rick Peterson for saying he worried about Kazmir’s mechanics and for saying he could fix Zambrano in a second. They blamed Kazmir for his supposedly abrasive personality. They blamed Al Leiter, Tom Glavine, John Franco, and other veterans for having issues with Kazmir’s clubhouse demeanor. They blamed everyone but the decision makers (read: Jeff Wilpon).
Zambrano would not be the key piece to the Mets rotation they wanted us all to believe. Ironically, for a team worried about Kazmir’s durability, Zambrano broke down. Over his 2+ years with the Mets, Zambrano pitched just 201.1 innings with a 94 ERA+ and 4.35 FIP.
Meanwhile, Kazmir was emerging as a top of the line starter for the Rays. He was a two time All-Star in his six years there, lead the league in strikeouts in 2007, and he helped pitch the Rays to the the 2008 and 2009 postseasons.
To be fair, Kazmir did eventually have injury problems. He recovered from them, and he was an effective starter again. He would then get injured again with his fastball dropping into the 80s leading to his eventual release in the 2017 Spring Training. He didn’t retire, and now, he is attempting a comeback.
— Kevin Poppe, RSCC*D (@TheKevinPoppe) February 8, 2020
With his being away for a few years, Kazmir has had time to heal and get his fastball back. If you revisit his 2016 season, his last healthy one, Baseball Savant rated extremely well in terms of strikeout rate, hard hit rate, and exit velocity. Point is, when healthy, he could pitch.
At least, right now, he appears healthy. With him now working out for teams, we will soon find out if he can pitch like he did in 2016. If so, the team who takes a chance on him could benefit.
With his being away from the game for a few years and his durability concerns, it would seem Kazmir belongs in the bullpen, which is where the Mets argued he belonged all along. If that is the case, teams should push hard to sign him.
Fact is with the new three batter reliever rule, teams will need left-handed relievers who can pitch to both right-handed and left-handed batters. Like most left-handed starters, that is Kazmir. Or better put, if healthy and has a reasonable facsimile of his stuff, that could be Kazmir.
In terms of the Mets, they really don’t have that type of reliever in the minors right now, at least not a Major League ready one. The hope is Chasen Shreve could potentially be that, but he has had shoulder issues, and he has not been the same. If nothing else, Kazmir would be extra insurance.
It could also right a wrong and could give Mets fans a little more excitement. Much like how fans rallied around Jason Isringhausen, who had a surprise rebound season in 2011, we could see the same with Kazmir in 2020. Maybe, we could see Kazmir helping pitch the Mets to the postseason like he did with the Rays and like Mets fans once hoped he would.
At the end of the day, it will likely cost the Mets just a minor league deal to find out. With that being the case, the Mets should bring him back to the organization.