Tom Glavine

deGrom Hurt, More Than This Game May Be Lost

Through the first four innings, Jacob deGrom was pitching like the ace we know he is.  After a tough loss, and with first place in the balance, he was as great as he has ever been.  Through the first four innings, deGrom had walked none, allowed just two hits, and he struck out six.

He then went into the tunnel into the clubhouse.  He was done for the day with a hyper-extended elbow.  Based upon the ensuing MRI, he may be gone longer than that.  If deGrom is gone, the Mets will have lost much more than a 7-0 game.

Look, we can get into Tom GlavineGreg MadduxJohn Smoltz 1999 strike zone Sean Newcomb was getting from Home Plate Umpire Lance Barrett.  The Mets were clearly irritated by it, and we even saw Todd Frazier say something about umpiring in general after the game.

We can delve into Paul Sewald and Robert Gsellman struggled out of the bullpen really for the first time all season long.

We can even wonder how in the word Wilmer Flores forgot to do the one thing in baseball he is actually good at doing – hitting left-handed pitching.

Really, right now, none of this matters.  As it stood, this pitching staff needed at least one more starter, and that was assuming Jason Vargas will get better and Zack Wheeler won’t turn back into the guy who forced the Mets to put him in Triple-A to start the season.

Sure, the Mets are just a half game back, and it is possible Matt Harvey, Seth Lugo, and/or Corey Oswalt step up here.  We saw something like that happen in 2016 when Lugo and Gsellman performed a miracle over the last month of the season.

Maybe it’s being a little overly dramatic, but after what we saw with Noah Syndergaard‘s injury last year, and how the energy from the team and the ballpark flat-line after deGrom left the game, it’s very possible the Mets need a miracle.

I guess it’s times like these we all channel our inner Tug McGraw and say, “Ya Gotta Believe”

Game Notes: AJ Ramos now has a five appearance stretch without issuing a walk. There was a delay in the game because Yoenis Cespedes‘ necklace broke, and they had to get the diamonds off the diamond.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Opening Day Memories

With the Mets 2018 season beginning today, we are all hopeful that this will be the first Mets team since 1986 to win a World Series.  If history is any judge, fans will depart Citi Field with that feeling as the New York Mets do have the best winning percentage on Opening Day.  Whether the good feelings and warm memories continue from there is anyone’s guess.

As you look to turn on the television or head to the ballpark, we thought we would share some of our Opening Day memories with you in the latest edition of the Mets Blogger Roundtable.

Roger Cormier (Good Fundies & Fangraphs)

Two words: Collin Cowgill (That’s not my actual answer)

I think I’m going to cheat here. The first game that came to mind for favorite Opening Day memory was the Mets’ home opener in 2000. It was their first game played in North America, if that helps? The Mets split a two-game set in Japan the week before and then faced off against the Padres at Shea, and I was there. It was my first time attending a home opener, and I had to bend the rules that day too, seeing as I was, technically speaking, scheduled to continue my high school education that afternoon. A couple of friends and I cut class, took the 2/3, transferred to the 7, sauntered up to the ticket window, bought four tickets, and enjoyed a 2-1 victory. I brazenly put the schedule magnet giveaway on the refrigerator, and as far as I know was never caught. Please do not tell my mother.

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

My favorite Opening Day memory was Tom Seaver‘s 1983 Opening Day start.  It was tremendous.

The details of Seaver’s homecoming were detailed in this Sports Illustrated piece.

Joe Maracic (Loud Egg)

This one has me stumped since I have not been to a Mets opening day since the Shea days. One that stands out is the chilly home opener for Tom Glavine. A 15-2 Mets loss I believe. Good times.

Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)

I cut school to go to Opening Day in 1980. My mother wrote a note to the teacher saying “sorry my son was absent. He went to Opening Day. P.S. the Mets won 5-2.” The teacher let me off the hook but only because the Mets won. I cut school in 1983 to see Seaver’s return as a Met. I cut school in 1988 to see Darryl Strawberry hit a HR on Opening Day, then left early to get back to theater rehearsal, and I had to platoon style elbow crawl my way under the director so she wouldn’t know I was gone. Luckily they never got to my scene yet so I was out of trouble. Until we left for the day and the director said “How was the game?” As many times as I cut school for Opening Day, it’s a wonder I can put a sentence together.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend 17 Opening Days/Home Openers (18, counting the first home game after the 1981 strike, which was functionally a second Home Opener), my favorite among them the 2001 Home Opener, when the 2000 NL pennant was raised, we were handed replica championship flags on our way in, Tsuyoshi Shinjo introduced himself to us with a homer, Mike Piazza socked two, the Mets obliterated the Braves and, not incidentally, the weather was perfect.

But with all due respect to the thrill of being on hand to, as Howie Rose says, welcome the National League season to New York, my core Opening Day memory is from 1975, when I convinced a friend to skip Hebrew School and watch the rest of the first game of that season.

The game began while we were still in shall we say regular school (sixth grade). Our teacher put the Mets and Phillies on the classroom TV. One wise guy tried to switch to the Yankees. Out of pique, the teacher switched it off.

Fast forward a bit, and my aforementioned friend and I went to my house to catch a little more of the game before we had to get to Hebrew School. This was Seaver versus Steve Carlton, and it was such an occasion that I said to him, “I’m not going to Hebrew School today.” He was convinced to not go, either.

We watched to the end and were rewarded for our truancy. Seaver pitched a complete game. Dave Kingman homered in his first game as a Met, and Joe Torre (also a new Met) drove in the winning run in the ninth, or what we would today call walkoff fashion. The whole winter was about reconstructing a dismal 1974 squad and hoping Seaver would be healthy. For one day, everything clicked as we dreamed.

The other thing I remember distinctly was Bob Murphy hosting the TV postgame show, first time we ever saw anybody but Ralph Kiner in that role. I learned decades later that Ralph was holding out for an increase in his Kiner’s Korner deal, which he eventually got.

There’ve been more dramatic Opening Days since, but that one will always be Opening Day Like It Oughta Be to me.

There’ve been some unfortunate Opening Day/Night results over the years, but there’s nothing about beginning a baseball season that doesn’t have at least one inherent saving grace to it. At last, we are in baseball season.

Mets Daddy

There are two that readily stick out in my mind.  The first was 1995, the first year after the strike.  It was also my first Opening Day.  I remember the tickets were cheap, and the crowd was rowdier than usual with many people running onto the field.  It first seemed like protest, and then it just seemed to morph into a drunken stupor.  John Franco blowing a 9th inning save chance, and the Mets blowing leads in the 13th and 14th innings were really just afterthoughts to all the mayhem and the fact baseball was finally back in our lives.

My favorite Opening Day was the 2006 Opening Day.  With the Mets obtaining Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca in the offseason, there was an anticipation the 2006 team could be a special one.

That day certainly was.  Xavier Nady, the guy Omar gambled on when he traded Mike Cameron to the Padres, immediately made himself welcome to fans with an RBI double.  David Wright was showered with MVP chants which only reverberated louder when he homered.  Anderson Hernandez made an incredible defensive play at second.  Then Billy Wagner entered the game to “Enter Sandman” to close out the game.

I remember feeling this was a team capable of winning a World Series.  I also remember my Dad taking the longer way home so we can get our free Bobbleheads from P.C. Richard and because we could hear Mike and the Mad Dog, who were in rare form, going bezerk over the audacity for Wagner to use Mariano Rivera‘s entrance song.

One fun thing about doing this Roundtable is I discovered Joe, Roger, and I were all at the 2003 homer opener.  This is part of my fun in doing these Roundtables, and I hope some of the fun you have is getting a snippet of the fine work from some fellow Mets fans.  I hope this encourages you to visit their sites.

Astros And Dodgers Fans, This One Is Going To Hurt For A While

If you ask a New York Giants fan about the postseason, they will reminisce about Super Bowl XLII and XLVI.  You will hear about the Helmet Catch and Eli hitting Manningham down the sideline for 38 yards.  You know what you don’t hear about?  Fassell having the Giants ill prepared for Super Bowl XXXV or Trey Junkin.

The reason is simple when you win, you remember it forever.  However, when you lose, and you lose and lose, that memory festers and worsens year to year.

For years and even until this day, you will occasionally hear Howie Rose bemoan Yogi Berra‘s decision to go with Tom Seaver on short rest over George Stone in Game 6 of the 1973 World Series.  One of the reasons that memory lingers is the Mets where irrelevant from 1974 until 1984.

After 1986, Mets fans were in their glory, and to this day many fans who got to live through 1986 talk about it as fondly today as they probably did when they got to work on October 28, 1986.

Behind them is a group of Mets fans who never really got to live through the 1986 World Series.  As a result, they just know Madoff Scandals and hauting postseason failures:

1988 NLCS

  • Davey Johnson botched that series including leaving in Dwight Gooden too long in Game Four.  Doc would allow a game tying home run in the top of the ninth to Mike Scioscia.
  • It was the last hurrah for Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez who struggled over the final few games of the series, and respectively faced poor and injury plagued 1989 seasons before finding new homes in 1989.

1999 NLCS

  • First and foremost, the one thing that should stick out was how those Braves teams just tortured the Mets, and the Mets could never get past them.
  • Both John Franco and Armando Benitez blew leads in Game 6 preventing the Mets from sending the series to a seventh game and letting the Mets be the team to do what the Red Sox did to the Yankees five years later.
  • Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded to end the series.

2000 World Series

2006 NLCS

2015 World Series

2016 Wild Card Game

  • Connor Gillaspie

The list for the aforementioned series really goes on and on, but those were just some of the highlights.  After tonight’s game, that is what Astros and Dodgers fans will be doing.  They’ll be asking if Dave Roberts was too aggressive with his pitching changes while A.J. Hinch was not aggressive enough.  Why didn’t Chris Taylor try to score, or why could Josh Reddick just put the ball in play.  Really, the list goes on and on.

For one fan base, they will focus on the things that went wrong.  Considering the Dodgers haven’t won in 29 years and the Astros have never won, the pain of this loss is going to hurt all the more.  For the fanbase that gets to win this one, they will have memories to cherish for a lifetime, and they will never again be bothered by the what ifs that could have plagued their team in this epic World Series.

Time To Find Out If Wilmer Flores Is An Everyday Player

Heading into this season, it seems like Wilmer Flores had crafted a role for himself as a platoon player.  Flores has just absolutely killed left-handed pitching.  Since 2015 when Flores was handed the starting shortstop job, Flores has hit .335/.377/.661 against left-handed pitching.  Essentially, he’s Babe Ruth when there is a left-handed pitcher on the mound.

Unfortunately, as good as Flores has been against left-handed pitching, he has been that poor against right-handed pitching.  In the same time frame, Flores has hit .248/.286/.358 off right-handed pitching.  Whereas he’s Ruth with a left-handed pitcher on the mound, he’s Ruben Tejada at the plate when there is a right-handed pitcher on the mound.  Because Flores is a poor defender out there, you can really justify using him in a platoon type of role.  Now, there are many a careers made out of being that type of a player.  As we have already seen with Flores, you can still be a revered player with a fan base being that type of a player.

But, Flores is a 25 year old player.  He should want to be more than that, and at his age, he is capable of doing more than that.  Certainly, he is paired with a hitting coach in Kevin Long who has helped other players, namely Neil Walker, to figure out how to become more of a platoon neutral bat.  Looking at Flores this month, it appears as if he is starting to turn the corner against right-handed pitching.

Over the past month, Flores is hitting .380/.415/.520 with four doubles, a homer, and 11 RBI in 53 at-bats against right-handed pitching.  Now, given the numbers, it is hard to treat this more than a fluky small sample size result.  Flores’ .417 BABIP would seem to indicate that.  There’s also the matter of who Flores is facing.  Over the past month, he’s done his damage against pitchers like Jarred Cosart, Jesse Chavez, Tom Koehler, Matt Cain, and Matt Garza.  This isn’t exactly Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.

And yet, you can only face the pitchers the other team puts on the mound.  The fact that Flores is hitting well against them is a credit to him, especially when you consider he may not have hit them as well in prior seasons.  This also might be part of Flores’ maturation as a hitter.  This year, he is pulling the ball more and striking out less.  He appears to be more selective at the plate, especially against right-handed pitching.  While you can’t expect Flores to hit .380 against right-handed pitching, it’s possible he could hit them well enough to play everyday.

In fact, this isn’t Flores first good stretch against right-handed pitching.  With the injuries last year, Flores was unexpectedly thrust into an everyday role.  Before he went out with his own injury, Flores was improving against right-handed pitching.  During the month of June, he hit .267/.328/.433 off right-handed pitching.  After slumping against right-handed pitching in July, Flores picked it back up again in August hitting .273/.313/.386.  No, these are not outstanding numbers, but they are an improvement of his career .255/.289/.374 line against right-handed pitching.

Certainly, Flores has earned the right to show the Mets how much of the past month is a fluke.  David Wright isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.  Jose Reyes is hitting .202/.274/.326 for the season and .228/.287/.358 in the month of May.  Also, for those wanting to keep Flores on the bench against right-handed pitching, Reyes is hitting .205/.269/.315 against right-handed pitching.  Considering the option right now is between Reyes and Flores, the Mets have to go with Flores now.

If nothing else, Flores presents the Mets with something Reyes can’t – upside.  Flores is a young player who could be coming into his own right now.  However, we won’t know if that’s the case unless we see him play.  Considering the alternatives, it’s time to make Flores the everyday third baseman and finally find out what Flores is as a major league player.

Changing My Mind on Fred McGriff

Overall, I have decided to vote for Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker on my IBWAA ballot.  If they were up for IBWAA vote, I would have also voted for Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell while not voting for Edgar Martinez.  In looking at Kent, Mussina, and Walker, I went back over their careers, and I re-assessed whether or not I should vote for them.  Ultimately, I did.  I did the same with players I did not vote for, and as a result, I added one to my ballot:

Fred McGriff, 1B

Stats: 19 seasons, .284/.377/.509, 2,490 H, 441 2B, 24 3B, 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, 38 SB

Advanced: 52.4 WAR, 35.8 WAR7, 44.1 JAWS

Awards: 3X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star

During Hall of Fame voting, many times you will hear about a player being a compiler.  There are two ways you can define compiler: (1) someone who put up a number of counting stats over a very good but not great long career; or (2) Fred McGriff.

Arguably, McGriff was never a truly great player.  In fact, from a WAR perspective, he only had three seasons that you would rate him at superstar or MVP level.    If you take out the partial seasons he played in his first and last year, McGriff averaged a 3.1 WAR.  Basically, this means for most of McGriff’s career, he was a very good, but not quite All Star caliber player.  In that sense, his five All Star appearances seem right on the money.

Like Guerrero.  McGriff’s advanced statistics were held down by his perceived poor base running and defense.  Certainly, McGriff was no Keith Hernandez out there.  In fact, despite his appearance on the Tom Emanski videos, McGriff was not a particularly good first baseman.  Certainly, his .992 fielding percentage was nothing special as far as first baseman go.  It goes a long way in explaining why McGriff had a -18.1 dWAR in his career.  With that said, I am not sure how reliable that -18.1 figure is.

One of McGriff’s contemporaries at first base was the man who replaced him at first base in Toronto – John Olerud.  In Olerud’s playing days, he was considered a very good first baseman who won four Gold Gloves, and in reality, probably should have won more.  That notion has been reinforced by some advanced metrics.  For his career, Olerud’s dWAR was -2.

When reputation and advanced metrics agree a players is a good defensive player at his position, and dWAR completely disagrees, it gives you pause as to whether the calculation is entirely correct.  Assuming McGriff was only half as bad as dWAR suggested, his career WAR would increase to 61.5, which would leave him only 4.4 WAR short of what the average Hall of Famer was.  In fact, you could conclude McGriff was a poor first baseman that merited a negative dWAR and still have him reach the average WAR for a first baseman.

Despite all this hand wringing, the fact remains McGriff probably falls short of being a Hall of Famer due to his defense, and yes, defense matters.  With that said, there are two other factors which give McGriff the benefit of the doubt.

First, McGriff was a money player that was typically at his best when there was a lot at stake.  Using the baseline of his .284/.377/.509 career slash line, here are McGriff’s stats in big situations:

  • RISP: .277/.403/.479
  • RISP, two outs: .241/.399/.421
  • High Leverage: .290/.385/.500

Typically speaking, McGriff was at a minimum slightly better in pressure situations.

Another example of how good McGriff was in pressure situations was the 1993 season.  At the time the Braves acquired McGriff, the Braves trailed the San Francisco Giants by nine games in the National League West Standings.  Over the final 68 games of the season, McGriff would hit an astounding .310/.392/.612 with 19 homers and 55 RBI.  Essentially, McGriff was Yoenis Cespedes before Cespedes was Cespedes.  The Braves needed each and every single one of those homers as they finished one game ahead of the Giants in the standings.

Granted, that was just one season.  However, McGriff’s clutch hitting was also evident in the postseason.  In 50 postseason games, McGriff was a .303/.385/.532 hitter with 10 homers and 37 RBI.  His clutch postseason hitting helped the Braves win their only World Series with the vaunted Greg MadduxTom GlavineJohn Smoltz rotation.  In the 1995 postseason, McGriff hit .333/.415/.649 with four homers and nine RBI.

Overall, his postseason play combined with the question marks surrounding the defensive statistics that push his WAR outside Hall of Fame averages is enough for him to get my vote even if it is my the narrowest or margins.

There is one other small factor at play.  Anyone who saw McGriff towards the end of his career knew he was sticking around to try to get to 500 homers.  At the time, 500 homers was a golden benchmark which led to almost automatic Hall of Fame induction.  Well, McGriff didn’t get there as he fell seven home runs short.  He fell seven home runs short because he began his career in a de facto platoon with Cecil Fielder.  He fell seven home runs short because of the 1994 strike.   He fell seven home runs short because there were pitchers juicing while he wasn’t.  He fell seven home runs short because he was washed up at age 40.  Ultimately, he fell seven home runs short because he just wasn’t good enough to get those seven home runs.

Do you know where he would rank on the all-time home run list with those seven extra home runs?  11th.  Do you know where he currently stands on the list?  11th.  Ultimately, seven home runs over the course of a 19 year career is about one-third of a home run per season.  One-third of a home run per season doesn’t amount to much.  If that is the case, seven home runs should not be the line of demarcation between him being a Hall of Famer and him not garnering much support.

With or without the seven home runs, you can justify voting for McGriff who had a good career for almost all of his 19 seasons.  He has certainly done enough to justify being inducted into Cooperstown.

 

Terry Francona’s Tactics Were Reminiscent of Willie Randolph

This postseason Terry Francona relied heavily on this three best relievers throughout the postseason.  One reason why he did it was Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen were all terrific relievers.  Another reason why is the Indians starting rotation was decimated by injuries.  Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were out of the rotation due to injury before the postseason, and Trevor Bauer lacerated his hand while fixing a drone.  Francona was forced to do what he did in the postseason.  It was not unlike Willie Randolph in 2006.

Like Francona, the Mets were running away with the division when disaster struck.  Their ace, Pedro Martinez, was ruled out for the postseason due to an injured leg, and then all hope of his return for the postseason was abandoned when it was discovered he had a torn rotator cuff.  While Steve Trachsel was purportedly healthy a year removed from a cervical discectomy, he wasn’t the same pitcher anymore finishing the year with a 4.97 ERA.  On the eve of the NLDS, Orlando Hernandez (“El Duque”) suffered a torn calf muscle thereby putting John Maine in position to start Game 1.

The surprise starter Maine gave the Mets 4.1 strong innings.  Still, with runners on first and second with one out, Randolph wasn’t taking any chances in a 2-1 game.  He first went to Pedro Feliciano to get Kenny Lofton, and then he went to Chad Bradford to get Nomar Garciaparra.  The bullpen pitched the final 4.2 innings to secure the victory.  This would essentially be how Randolph would manage the rest of the 2006 postseason in non-Tom Glavine starts.  Overall, here’s a look at when the Mets bullpen entered each game that postseason:

NLDS Game 1 John Maine 4.1 Chad Bradford
NLDS Game 2 Tom Glavine 6.0 Pedro Feliciano
NLDS Game 3 Steve Trachsel 3.1 Darren Oliver
NLCS Game 1 Tom Glavine 7.0 Guillermo Mota
NLCS Game 2 John Maine 4.0 Chad Bradford
NLCS Game 3 Steve Trachsel 1.0 Darren Oliver
NLCS Game 4 Oliver Perez 5.2 Chad Bradford
NLCS Game 5 Tom Glavine 4.0 Chad Bradford
NLCS Game 6 John Maine 5.1 Chad Bradford
NLCS Game 7 Oliver Perez 6.0 Chad Bradford

Overall, the Mets starters pitched 47.2 innings that entire postseason meaning they averaged 4.2 innings per start.  This year, the Indians starters pitched the very same 4.2 innings per star those 2006 Mets did.  Despite Francona and Randolph having the very same approaches to the postseason games, Francona was hailed as a visionary and a genius, whereas many blame Randolph for the Mets failures in the postseason.  The difference?

It started in Game 2 of the NLCS.  Mota infamously shook off Paul Lo Duca, and Scott Spiezio hit a game tying triple.  When Billy Wagner subsequently allowed a So Taguchi lead-off home run, it was a completely different NLCS.  Then in Game 7, Aaron Heilman left a change-up up in the zone, and Yadier Molina hit a go-ahead two run home run.  If not for those two mistakes, the Mets are in the World Series, and quite possibly, it is Randolph, not Francona that is seen as the visionary.

But the Mets lost because their pitchers did not execute in the two biggest moments of that series.  As such, Francona is the genius because to the victor goes the spoils.

What I Want From the World Series

When your team is not in the World Series, the one thing you really want is a memorable World Series.  Even if a team you hates wins the World Series, you want to be rewarded for the time you invest watching the World Series.  In my lifetime, here are some of the World Series I found to be absolutely riveting:

1991 World Series

As for as World Series go, this one could very well be the gold standard.  Five of the seven games were decided by one run.  Three of the games went into extra innings including Games 6 and 7.  With Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, Kevin Tapani, and of course Jack Morris, there was great pitching that led to tense innings and rallies.  In six of the seven games, both teams scored five runs or less.  However, what truly made this series great was two all time games to close out the series.

In Game 6, Kirby Puckett put the Twins on his back.  He made that leaping catch snatching Ron Gant‘s home run from clearing that plexiglass, and then he hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning that included a classic call:

Then in Game 7, Morris went the distance in a 1-0 10 inning game that featured rookie Chuck Knoblauch deking 13 year veteran Lonnie Smith from scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning that probably would have been the game winner.  Then in the 10th inning Gene Larkin became the unlikeliest of heroes by getting the World Series walk-off single.

1993 World Series

Generally speaking, this would have been an average World Series as most six game World Series are.  However, there was a lot in this World Series.

Lenny Dykstra turned into Babe Ruth during the series.  Roberto Alomar hit .480 in the series, and he wasn’t even the best hitter.  That honor goes to Paul Molitor who hit .500 in the series.  Game 4 saw the Blue Jays mount a frantic eighth inning come from behind rally to win by a score of 15-14.  And as if this wasn’t enough, in Game 6 Joe Carter did something only Bill Mazeroski had done:

1997 World Series

This series wasn’t particularly memorable despite a couple of slugfests in Games 3 and 5.  No, what made this series was an epic Game 7.  The Indians were seeking to win their first World Series since 1948.  They had their closer Jose Mesa on the mound and a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.

The Marlins first scratched in a run in the bottom of the ninth with a Craig Counsell sacrifice fly scoring Moises Alou.  The Marlins started the game winning rally in the bottom of the 11th with a Bobby Bonillia single off Charles NagyEventually, the Marlins loaded the bases with one out.  Devon White, who won the World Series with the aforementioned Blue Jays, grounded into a force play with Tony Fernandez nailing Bonilla at the plate.  Then with two outs, rookie Edgar Renteria singled home Counsell to win the World Series.

Note, this would’ve been rated much higher if not for the MVP mysteriously being given to Livan Hernandez (5.27 ERA) over Alou, and for Bonilla having such a huge Game 7.

2001 World Series

This World Series had it all.  Curt Schilling did the old fashioned 1-4-7 you want your ace to do in the biggest series of the year.  Randy Johnson was better than that shutting out the Yankees in Game 2, shutting them down in Game 6, and pitching on no days rest to keep the Yankees at bay in Game 7.

Game 7 was an epic back-and-forth matchup.  Alfonso Soriano broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth to set the stage for the great Mariano Rivera who is the greatest postseaon closer, if not pitcher, of all time.  This would be the one World Series blown save in his career.  He was uncharacteristically frazzled making an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt.  Still, he recovered, and the Yankees got the forceout at third on the next bunt attempt.  Tony Womack would then shock everyone by hitting a game tying double.  After Counsell (him again) was hit by a pitch, Luis Gonzalez would bloop a walk-off World Series winning single over the head of Derek Jeter.

However, that World Series was not memorable for Game 7.  It was memorable because those games were played post-9/11, and they were memorable due to what happened at Yankee Stadium.  Before Game 3, President Bush threw a curveball for a strike off the mound before a hard fought Yankees win.  In Game 4, the Yankees were on the verge of falling behind 3-1 in the series before Tino Martinez hit an improbably two out home run off Byung-hyun Kim to tie the game, and Jeter hit a walk-off home run in the 10th to become “Mr. November.”  In Game 5, the Yankees were again down two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.  This time it was Scott Brosius who did the impossible hitting a game tying two run home run to send the game into extras with Soriano getting the walk-off hit in the 12th.

Overall, baseball does not get better than that three game set in the Bronx, especially in the backdrop those games were played.

2002 World Series

This World Series was memorable for a few reasons: (1) The Angels not being able to get Barry Bonds out; (2) J.T. Snow saving Dusty Baker‘s son at home plate; and (3) that Rally Monkey.

That Rally Monkey was all the more prevalent in Game 6.  In that game, Baker made the fateful decision to lift Russ Ortiz with a 5-0 lead, two on, and one out in the seventh inning.  Scott Spiezio greeted Felix Rodriguez with a three run homer.  Darin Erstad then led off the seventh inning with a solo shot off Todd Worrell.  Worrell made matters worse by allowing back-to-back singles thereby putting closer Robb Nen in a precarious situation.  Nen would allow a go-ahead two run double to World Series MVP Troy Glaus giving the Angels a 6-5 win.  In Game 7, rookie John Lackey took care of business and shut down a Giants team that should have won the World Series in Game 6.

2011 World Series

For the most part, this was a well played if not memorable World Series through the first five games.  In the seventh inning, Adrian Beltre broke a 4-4 tie that sparked a three run inning that seemingly was going to deliver the first ever World Series title to the Rangers franchise.  The World Series title was going to be even sweeter for a Rangers team that had their doors blown off in the 2010 World Series.

In the eighth, Allen Craig hit a solo shot to draw the Cardinals within two.  There was still a large enough lead for the excellent Rangers closer, Neftali Feliz to put the game to rest.  The game was there to win even after a Albert Pujols double and a Lance Berkman walk.  Then with two outs, David Freese unleashed a two RBI game tying double to keep the World Series alive.  If that wasn’t painful enough, the Rangers were in for more pain.

Josh Hamilton would hit a two run homer in the top of the 10th to give the Rangers the lead.  At this point, victory was almost assured.  The Cardinals were undeterred putting the first two on against Darren Oliver.  After a sacrifice bunt, Ryan Theriot plated a run with an RBI groundout, and Berkman brought home the tying run with an RBI single.

The Rangers would have no response in either Game 6 or Game 7.  In the bottom of the 11th, Freese, the World Series MVP, would hit a walk-off home run that not only sealed Game 6, but also demoralized a Rangers team heading into Game 7.

2014 World Series

Of note, five of the first six games were terrible.  Absolutely terrible.  Through the first six games, the average margin of victory was six runs per game, and that includes a one run game in Game 3.  Taking aside Game 3, the average margin of victory was seven runs per game.  This is really the type of series you expect with some truly terrible starting pitching on both sides.  In fact, the only starter who was actually good was Madison Bumgarner.

That’s an understatement.  Bumgarner made Morris look like a Little Leaguer with his World Series performance.  In his World Series MVP performance, he appeared in three games going 2-0 with one save, a 0.43 ERA and a 0.476 WHIP.  He came out of the bullpen in the fifth inning in Game 7 with the Giants having a 3-2 lead.  Watching him pitch on two days rest, you kept waiting for him to falter, and then this happened:

Alex Gordon‘s two out single almost became a Little League home run with Gregor Blanco letting the ball bounce past him and Juan Perez nearly booting the ball away.  The debate would rage for days as to whether he should have gone home (he shouldn’t have) with Bumgarner being Bumgarner.  Those that believed he should have gone only intensified their arguments when Salvador Perez fouled out to Pablo Sandoval to end the World Series.

2017 World Series

There is enough here for a classic World Series with two great teams, and two great storylines.  Honestly, the Indians fans deserve this more as they are far more tortured than the Cubs fan.  Ideally, this series goes seven with the Indians pulling it out in classic fashion.  Hopefully, a majority of the games are close.  No matter what happens, all we need is one or two games or moments to make this a series for the ages.  That’s all we can realistically hope to get.

Things are already off to a good start with Dexter Fowler being the first ever black man to play for the Chicago Cubs in a World Series game.

Indians Fans Deserve a World Series More than Cubs Fans

Time and again, we have heard about the Billy Goat curse and the Chicago Cubs not having won a World Series since 1908.  As a result, many are supposed to empathize with them for their time falling short time and again.  Moreover, many sympathize with a fan base that has never seen their team win a World Series in their lifetime.  While all of this is true, it is not appreciably different than being a Cleveland Indians fan.

The Indians last won the World Series in 1948 against the Boston Braves.  Yes, the Boston, not Atlanta Braves.  That’s how long ago the Indians last World Series title was.  If you are to assume that a 10 year old had the full capacity to appreciate the World Series victory and remember the run to the World Series, that means Indians fans who could relish those Lou Boudreau teams were born in 1938.  That would make those fans 78 years old today.  Rounding up just a tad, unless you are an octogenarian, Indians fans have never seen their team win a World Series.  What they have seen is some excruciating losses.

Back in 1995, the Indians sent out what could be considered the greatest offensive team ever assembled.  That Indians team was shut down by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Steve Avery over the six game set.  A team that had scored 840 runs in 144 games (strike shortened season), an average of 5.8 runs per game, could only muster 19 runs (3.2 runs per game) in the series.  A team that was shutout just three times in the regular season would be shut out in Game Six of the World Series in an excruciating 1-0 loss.

The 1997 Indians weren’t the favorites to win the World Series.  Instead, they had to fight and claw their way back to the World Series.  They needed the rookie Jaret Wright to become a Yankee killer and Sandy Alomar, Jr.Moi to hit a pivotal home run in what was going to be the Game 4 clincher of the ALDS for the defending champion Yankees.  Instead, the Indians persevered and would win their second pennant in three years after beating the Orioles in six in the ALCS.  It should be noted Armando Benitez took the loss in that game being a harbinger of things to come for Mets fans.

That 1997 World Series was thrilling with the Marlins and Indians alternating wins setting the stage for an epic Game 7.  The Indians had to like their chances with their newfound postseason hero Wright going up against Al Leiter.  The Indians had tattooed Leiter for seven runs in 4.2 innings in Game 4.  Leiter would never win a postseason start in his career.  While it was more of a challenge than the Indians expected, they hand their closer, Jose Mesa, on the mound with a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning.  Mesa would blow the game allowing Craig Counsell to hit a sacrifice fly to score Moises Alou (again how was he not the MVP of that series) to tie the game.  The Indians couldn’t touch the Marlins bullpen in extra innings.  Finally, in the 11th, Charles Nagy gave up the game winning hit to Edgar Renteria scoring Counsell of all people as the winning run.  That is as excruciating a loss as it gets for a fan.

There have been other tales of recent woe for this Indians fan base.  In 1998, the Yankees exacted revenge against Wright and the Indians by scoring five runs in the first inning off Wright en route to a Yankees 4-2 ALCS series win.  In 1999, the Indians blew a 2-0 series lead and a 5-2 lead in Game 5 to lose the ALDS to the Red Sox.  That game was memorable for Pedro Martinez‘s epic performance out of the bullpen.  The lean years were not too far away from here.

Then there was an Indians resurgence.  In 2007, the Indians had a 3-1 game lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS with Game 5 at home.  CC Sabathia just couldn’t close the deal, and the Indians bullpen would implode leading the Red Sox to their comeback.  Like the rest of baseball, the Indians would watch helplessly as the Red Sox would win their second World Series in four years.  To make matters worse, the small market Indians would have to break up the team.  Two years later, Indians fans would watch as Sabathia took the hill for the Yankees in Game One of the World Series against Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.

In response, many Cubs fans will scream the Bartman Game!  One of their own prevented them from winning the pennant and going to the World Series back in 2003.  Of course, that narrative is a bit nonsense because there is a real debate as to whether or not Alou could catch that ball.  Furthermore, that didn’t cause Dusty Baker to leave Mark Prior out there too long.  It didn’t cause Alex Gonzalez to allow a double play ball to go through his legs.  It didn’t cause the Cubs to blow a 3-0 lead.  It certainly didn’t cause the Cubs and Kerry Wood to blow a 5-3 lead in Game 7.  Furthermore, it did not cause Cubs fans to try to ruin Bartman’s life.

Absolutely, blowing a 3-1 series lead when your team hasn’t won a World Series in nearly a century is devastating.  It was no more devastating than the Indians blowing the 2007 ALCS.  It is definitively not more devastating than the 1997 World Series.

Sure, it hurts to lose and not be competitive.  However, as a Mets fan I know the 2015 World Series loss was infinitely more hurtful than anything I saw from 1991 – 1996 or 2001 – 2004 or even 2009 – 2014.  No, it is hte misses that stick with you the longest.  Personally, I’m more haunted by Ron Darling pitching the worst game of his life against an unbeatable Orel Hershiser, Kenny Rogers walking Andruw Jones, Luis Sojo‘s two RBI single off Leiter, Carlos Beltran looking at an Adam Wainwright curveball, Eric Hosmer‘s mad dash to home plate, and any of the other events that led to those deciding plays which ended the Mets postseasons.

The Cubs may not have won since 1908, but the Indians fan base is the more tortured fan base.  They deserve this World Series title more than anyone.

That’s How You Finish Out the Regular Season at Home

Growing up, my family did not always go to Opening Day.  It was sometimes difficult for my Dad to get off of work, and even if he could, we had my mother insisting that my brother and I could not miss a day of school just to go to a Mets game.  What eventually happened is that my father, brother, and I usually found ourselves going to the last game of the season, which usually falls on a Sunday.

When you go to Opening Day, there is always hope.  Even when your team stinks, you can find some reason for hope. I remember thinking back in 1993 that the 1992 Mets season was just a fluke.  Bobby Bonilla was certainly going to be better.  Howard Johnson was back in the infield where he belonged.  This could be the year Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent break out.  The team still had Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen with John Franco in the bullpen.  It turns out the 1993 team was even worse than the 1992 team.

The last game of the season always has an interesting feel to it.  When we went to the final game of the season, it was more of a farewell to an awful season.  Being ever the optimist, we still had hope for a bright future with Pete Schourek throwing eight brillant innings to cap off a Mets six game winning streak.  It seemed like 1994 was going to be a big year in baseball.  It was, but that’s a whole other story.

There was the devastating 2007 finale.  Heading into that game, most Mets fans believed that despite the epic collapse, the Mets were going to take care of the Marlins.  They just snapped a five game losing streak behind a brilliant John Maine performance and the offense coming alive to score 13 runs.  Even better, the Phillies seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit with them getting shut down by Matt Chico and a terrible Marlins team.  The sense was if the Mets won this game, the Phillies would feel the pressure and lose their game.  Even if the Phillies won their game, the Mets would beat the Phillies and return to the postseason like everyone expected.

After Tom Glavine laid an egg, which included out and out throwing a ball into left field trying to get Cody Ross, who was going to third on the original throw to home.  At 5-0, the Mets were still in the game.  David Wright was having a torrid September.  Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were big game players.  I don’t think Moises Alou made an out that entire month.  With that in mind, I turned to my father, and I said to him, “If the Mets allow one more run, the game is over . . . .”  As the words left my mouth, Jorge Soler allowed a two run double to Dan Uggla.  Sure, they would play eight and a half more innings, but the collapse was over right then and there.

That 2007 finale hung over the 2008 finale.  Mets fans were probably a bit more optimistic than they had a right to be.  The day before Johan Santana took the ball with three days rest, and he pitched a complete game three hitter.  The Mets had Oliver Perez going in the finale.  Back then, this was considered a good thing.  The offense was clicking again.  However, that bullpen was just so awful.  The Mets were relying on Luis Ayala to close out games, and believe it or not, his 5.05 ERA and 1.389 WHIP was considered a steadying presence to an injury ravaged bullpen.  Beltran would hit a huge home run to tie the game, but the joy wouldn’t last.  Jerry Manuel, just an awful manager, turned to Scott Schoeneweis to gave up the winning home run to Wes Helms (Mets killer no matter what uniform he wore), and then aforementioned Ayala gave up another one that inning to Uggla to seal the deal at 4-2.

Fittingly, the last out was made by Ryan Church.  He was the same Mets player the Mets flew back and forth to the West Coast despite him having a concussion.  Remember the days when the Mets didn’t handle injuries well?  Nevermind.  In any event, I was one of the few that stayed to watch Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza close out Shea Stadium.  Many disagree, but I thought it helped.

Last year, was just a celebration.  The Mets had already clinched the NL East, and they were off to their first postseason since 2006.  The only thing left was the Mets winning one more game to get to 90 wins.  The 90 wins was window dressing, but the shift from 89 to 90 is just so satisfying.  It means more than 86 to 87 wins or 88 to 89 wins.  That 90 win mark is an important threshold for the psyche of teams and fans.

This year was something different altogether.  In terms of pure baseball, the Mets entered the day tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card with the Cardinals just a half a game behind (tied in the loss column).  The night before the Mets had seen Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero combine to put the team in a 10-0 hole that the Las Vegas 51s just couldn’t quite pull them out from under.  Still, that rally had created some buzz as did Robert Gsellman starting the game.  However, there was the shock of the Jose Fernandez news that muted some of the pregame buzz.

After the moment of silence, there was a game to be played, and it was just pure Mets dominance.

Gsellman would pitch seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.  More amazing than that was the fact that he actually got a bunt single.  For a player that can only bunt due to an injury to his non-pitching shoulder, the Phillies sure acted surprised by the play.  Overall, it was a great day by Gsellman who was helped out by the Mets offense and a little defense along the way:

 

It was that type of day for the Mets.  After Saturday’s pinch hit home run there was a Jay Bruce sighting again on Sunday.  On the day, he was 2-4 with two runs and a double.  It was easily the best game he had as a Met.  His second inning double would start the rally that ended with James Loney hitting an RBI groundout.  Then, as  Cousin Brucey would say, “the hits just keep on comin’!”  No, that was not just an allusion to the Phillies pitchers who hit three batters in the game.  It refers to the Mets offense.

Curtis Granderson hit a fourth inning solo shot to make it 2-0.  It was his 30th of the year making it the first time  the Mets have had a pair of 30 home run outfielders since, really who even knows?  In the fifth, T.J. Rivera plated a run with an RBI single.  Later in the fifth, Jose Reyes would the first of his two RBI bases loaded walks.  Overall, the big blow would come in the seventh off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera:

The grand slam put the capper on not just the game, but a pretty remarkable season at home where the Mets were 44-37 on the season.  The Mets also hit 193 homers at home, which was the most ever hit at Citi Field, and more than any the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium in any one season:

In the eighth, the Mets just poured it on with some of the 51s getting into the game.  Gavin Cecchini was hit by a pitch, Brandon Nimmo and Ty Kelly walked, and Eric Campbell got another RBI pinch hit.  Throw in a Michael Conforto two RBI double, and the Mets would win 17-0.  Exiting Citi Field, you got the sense this was not the last time you would see this team at home.  As it stands now, the Mets back to being a game up on the Giants, and the Cardinals fell to 1.5 games back.

There haven’t been many final games to the season like this one, and I’m not sure there ever will be.  Overall, it was a great way to close out the regular season at Citi Field.  However, for right now, it is not good-bye like it was in 1993, and it certainly isn’t good riddance like it was in 2007.  Rather, this game had more of a feeling of, “See you again soon.”

  
  

 

Rivera Should Be Thor’s Personal Catcher

When the Mets activated Travis d’Arnaud from the disabled list, they decided to send Kevin Plawecki down to AAA and keep Rene Rivera.  Obviously, Rivera is going to serve as d’Arnaud’s backup, but there is also a possibility that he could have an expanded role with the team as Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher.  It is a move that makes a lot of sense for both the Mets and Syndergaard.

It is no secret that Syndergaard struggles holding runners on base.  This became painfully obvious on April 25th when the Reds were a perfect five for five in stolen base attempts.  In Syndergaard’s next start, Brandon Crawford and Matt Duffy each stole a base while he was pitching.  Coming into that game, Crawford had stole 14 bases over five years and Duffy had not stolen a base all year. For his career, base runners were 27 for 30 in stolen base attempts when he was on the mound.  Through May 1st, base stealers were 12/13 in five games  This was something that could have become a mental issue for a pitcher that was on the brink of realizing his full potential as an ace.

After that game, Terry Collins began to have River catch Syndergaard.  With  In fact, Rivera has caught eight of Syndergaard’s last nine starts.  In those eight starts, there have been fewer stolen base attempts.  Part of this has been Syndergaard making adjustments.  A larger part of that was Rivera’s arm behind the plate.  While base runners are still having success on the base paths, Rivera’s presence has at least allowed Syndergaard to focus on the batter instead of being overly concerned with the running game.

Overall, Rivera’s presence is a big reason why he should be Syndergaard’s personal catcher.  With the Rays, Rivera was a part in the development of Chris Archer, who is a pitcher with every bit of the potential and ability as Syndergaard.  With Rivera behind the plate, opposing batters hit for a 93 OPS+ as opposed to a 100 OPS+ with other catchers.  With Rivera gone this year, Archer is struggling.  He is 4-9 with a 4.60 ERA and a 1.442 WHIP.  Rivera has had a similar effect on Syndergaard this year.  When River is behind the plate, Syndergaard has a 2.12 ERA and 1.026 WHIP.  This is the lowest ERA and WHIP combination Syndergaard has with any Mets catcher who has caught him for more than one game.

Aside from the positive effect of a Syndergaard/Rivera pairing, there is another consideration.  Throughout his career, d’Arnaud has had trouble staying on the field.  If the Mets were to give him every fifth day off during a Syndergaard start, it might allow him to be fresher as the season progresses.  As he’s fresher, he may be less prone to injury.  Presumably, not having his top hitting hand abused by Syndergaard’s 100 MPH fastballs could be beneficial to d’Arnaud when he’s at bat.  Overall, this could be a very successful strategy that other pitching dependent teams have used in the past.

During the Braves run with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, Maddux used a personal catcher.  It was mostly Eddie Perez who puts up similar offensive numbers to Rivera.  Maddux felt comfortable with Perez behind the plate.  Judging from Maddux’s Hall of Fame statistics, it’s hard to fault him for wanting his personal catcher.  Meanwhile, Glavine, Smoltz, and the rest of the Braves’ starting staff used the Braves’ starting catcher which was the offensively superior Javy Lopez.  With Lopez getting those additional days off, he was stronger as the season progressed, and he put up terrific offensive numbers.  Given how similarly these Braves teams are built to the current Mets team, the Mets should really consider following this model especially when you see how well a Syndergaard-Rivera pairing has worked.