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, CSCS (@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.
Instead, Frank Clark got Jimmy Garopollo into a grasp only Eli Manning could’ve wrestled out of leading to the drive ending on downs.
A Damien Williams touchdown and Kendall Fuller pick later, and the Chiefs somewhat improbable comeback was accomplished, and they were Super Bowl Champions.
Twenty years later, Mets fans got to finally see Pat Mahomes win a title.
No, it wasn’t with the same team or even the same sport, but Mahomes is a champion. Still, with him wearing his father’s Mets jersey on occasion, as a Mets fan, you couldn’t help from feeling happy for the family.
With the Chiefs winning their first Super Bowl since Super Bowl IV, you also couldn’t help but feel optimism the Mets own drought will soon end.
Like the Chiefs for so many years, the Mets seemed snake bitten facing many brutal losses and horrific moments since their last title.
Of course, we have Beltran looking at an Adam Wainwright curveball and his teams teams collapse in the ensuing two years leaving everyone but Tom Glavine devastated. That’s nowhere near as bad as the embarrassment leading up to Beltran’s firing.
That cast a shadow over his World Series. Mets fans should be so lucky.
Terry Collins can completely blew the series with bad decisions which backfired all series long. Jeurys Familia‘s quick pitch didn’t fool Alex Gordon, and a year later, he was flat out beat by Conor Gillaspie.
This all meant David Wright, forced to retire too soon from spinal stenosis which robbed him of the Hall of Fame, never won a ring. To a lesser extent, there’s the career Matt Harvey never got to have due to his TOS.
Throw in the Madoff scandal and the Wilpons being the Wilpons, and this franchise seems as snakebitten as they come. That’s how the Chiefs fans once felt.
They don’t feel that way anymore. That changed with Mahomes, who is now a champion.
Maybe, just maybe, 2020 will be the year for the Mets.
It may sound ridiculous, but so is Andy Reid managing the clock well and having terrific game management in the fourth quarter to help the Chiefs win a Super Bowl.
September 30, 2007 was a devastating day for Mets fans.
Tom Glavine had the worst start of his professional career in a spot where he and the Mets could not afford it.
After seven earned in 0.1 innings and the hopes of a comeback dashed when Ramon Castro‘s potential grand slam in the bottom of the first turned into an inning ending fly out the Mets chances of winning the World Series were officially dashed.
Glavine may not have been devastated, but Mets fans who thought this was the year were. The Yadier Molina homer was still fresh in our minds, and Mookie Wilson‘s little roller was become a fleeting memory.
Back in 2007, I was a Mets and Giants season ticket holder. That meant after seeing one of the most devastating Mets loss I’ve ever seen in my life, I made the trek to Giants Stadium to watch the Giants play the Eagles.
If you think seeing the Mets lose that game was bad enough, imagine hearing the taunts of Phillies/Eagles fans during the tailgates and up until the National Anthem. The Phillies had made a historic comeback, and the Eagles were the defending NFC East champions coming off a 56-21 victory over the Lions.
To say the Eagles/Phillies fans were feeling themselves is quite the understatement.
They’d soon be quiet as the Giants sacked Donovan McNabb an NFL record 12 times. In that game, Eli was pedestrian, but he did what he needed to do to win that game.
For a Mets/Giants fan, it was as cathartic an experience as there was. It was also a prelude to bigger and better things.
Heading into 2007, it was the Mets who were supposed to win a World Series, but it was Eli Manning and the Giants who did it. Whereas the Mets made history by losing, Eli Manning and the Giants stopped history from being made by winning.
From 2007 on, Mets fans mostly knew pain and missed opportunities. Our lone bright spot for many years, David Wright, had his career end early robbing his Hall of Fame chances because of spinal stenosis. And yet, Eli was there. He was always there.
In what was the worst decade in New York sports history, Eli and the Giants were the only ones who could deliver a championship. If not for him, there would be a whole host of New York sports fans whose only experience seeing a team win a title would be the Yankees.
Through it all, Eli led the most improvable of title runs, and it happened at a time when New York Mets fans needed it most. We needed something to ease the pain of 2006 and 2007. For that alone, as a Mets fan I love Eli Manning.
As a Giants fan, Eli Manning means more than any other player in Giants history. In fact, because he’s the one who has delivered championships, to me, he’s been the most important New York player in my lifetime.
His eventual Hall of Fame induction is going to be as emotional as Mike Piazza‘s. Until then and well beyond, we have the fondest of memories from Eli Manning’s career.
Congratulations to Eli for a great career, and thank you for the ride.
The entire list of pitchers in Major League history who have won a Rookie of the Year award and two Cy Young Awards are Tom Seaver, Jacob deGrom, and Justin Verlander. That’s the entire list, and of the three deGrom is the only pitcher in Major League history to win a Rookie of the Year and consecutive Cy Young Awards.
On the topic of consecutive Cy Young Awards, that is a feat which has been accomplished by just 11 pitchers. Of those 10, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Steve Carlton, Pedro Martinez, and Jim Palmer are in the Hall of Fame. Roger Clemens likely would’ve been but for the steroids implications, and we reasonably expect Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer to be inducted when they are eligible.
Ultimately, that means seven of the 11 pitchers who have accomplished this feat are in the Hall of Fame. Looking forward, the question is whether deGrom can be the eighth.
When looking at deGrom’s Hall of Fame chances, the biggest obstacle at the moment is his not having made his Major League debut until his age 26 season. As noted by Beyond the Box Score, Old Hoss Radbourn, Mordecai Brown, Joe McGinnity, and Hoyt Wilhelm are the only four pitchers who debuted in or after their age 26 season inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Of those four three of them were starting pitchers.
Looking at the aforementioned three older starting pitchers, they averaged a 54.4 JAWS and a 58.9 WAR7. Even if deGrom were to repeat his 10.1 WAR from 2018, his subsequent 45.0 JAWS/WAR7 would fall short of the mean. However, it would put him in line with Brown.
But that is an important point. The one thing to take a look at is deGrom has only pitched six years in the majors. Even with his hitting the 200 inning mark in each of the past three years, he doesn’t have much mileage on his arm. This has him in the prime of his career with an opportunity to build off of these past two years.
Essentially, what deGrom needs to do is repeat the success Max Scherzer has had.
Entering his age 32 season Scherzer had accumulated a 37.0 WAR in 10 years. Over that time frame, he had two Cy Young awards with two other top five finishes. In the ensuing three years, Scherzer had accumulated a 21.7 WAR with another Cy Young and two more top three Cy Young finishes. At this moment in time, Scherzer is rightfully seen as a future Hall of Famer.
Assuming for a moment, deGrom has similar success over the next three years, he would have a 56.6 career WAR. That number would definitively put him in the conversation with the aforementioned starters, and it would start putting him in the larger conversation as well with his approaching his opt out year in his contract.
If deGrom does pitch that way, he is going to earn another Cy Young award. Winning that award would be of vital importance. While Denny McLain and Tim Lincecum have not and will not be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Clemens remains the only pitcher with more than three Cy Youngs not in the Hall of Fame, and again, we know there are extenuating circumstances there.
Now, we know the Hall of Fame is not just a WAR exercise. When looking at any position, especially pitcher, we need to dig a little deeper. When doing that, right now, deGrom’s case looks great.
So far, deGrom has the fifth best ERA+ in baseball history putting him ahead of pitchers like Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. His K/9 is 15th best ahead of hurlers like Pedro Martinez and Nolan Ryan. It’s not his strikeout rate, but his control which stands out. His 4.72 K/BB is eighth best in Major League history putting him ahead of pitchers like Greg Maddux and Roy Halladay.
As you break it down, deGrom stands right there among all the greats, and he has the awards to prove it. He also has the postseason success. When looking at deGrom, we are seeing a Hall of Fame career. All deGrom has to do from this point forward is stay healthy and maintain his greatness.
Whether he can do it is anyone’s guess. Whether he gets there or not, it is going to be fun watching him prove his greatness every fifth day in a New York Mets uniform.
With the Washington Nationals defeating the Houston Astros to win the 2019 World Series, the National League East has joined the American League Central as the only divisions in baseball to have had each of their teams win a World Series.
In terms of the AL Central, while all of their teams have won a World Series, not all of them have done it recently. For example, the Cleveland Indians last won in 1948, which was before the Mets or Nationals even came into existence. The Nationals first became a franchise in 1969, and they played their first game against Tom Seaver and the New York Mets. Little did anyone know it at the time, but that 1969 Mets team would win the World Series.
The Mets next World Series title came in 1986. As noted by Mark Simon of Sports Info Solutions, Jesse Orosco would become the last relief pitcher to have an RBI in a World Series game. This would also mark the last time the New York Mets have won a World Series.
Since that time, each of the Mets division rivals have won at least one World Series.
In the strike shortened 1995 season, the Atlanta Braves finally got over the hump when World Series MVP Tom Glavine pitched eight shut out innings allowing just one hit against an absolutely stacked Cleveland Indians lineup. Two years later, Glavine would lose Game 6 of the NLCS to MVP Livan Hernandez and the Florida Marlins.
When Edgar Renteria singled home Craig Counsell in the 11th inning of Game 7, that Marlins team would win their first World Series. Six years later, the Marlins would win their second World Series when Josh Beckett pitched a complete game shutout on three days rest to beat the 2003 New York Yankees in six games.
In 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies would break through and win the second World Series title in team history. Their clincher came when they and the Tampa Bay Rays resumed a rain shortened game the following day. The Phillies returned to the World Series the following year, but they lost in six to the New York Yankees.
That leaves the Mets with the longest drought, which stands at 33 years, as the longest in the division. It is not like the Mets haven’t had their chances.
Everything changed in 1988 with Mike Scioscia‘s grand slam. The 1999 Mets couldn’t pull off the miracle with Armando Benitez and John Franco blowing a save before Kenny Rogers walked in the series winning run. The following year, both Todd Zeile and Mike Piazza would come just short of hitting homers.
The 2006 Mets saw Guillermo Mota shake off Paul Lo Duca, and Carlos Beltran take a wicked Adam Wainwright curveball. There were the ensuing collapses the following years with Glavine getting shellacked by the Marlins in 2007, and Scott Schoeneweis allowing a homer to Wes Helms the ensuing year.
The Mets wouldn’t return to the postseason until 2015. Their World Series hopes were dashed when Daniel Murphy overran a ball, and Lucas Duda thew one away. The following year, Madison Bumgarner proved why he is an all-time great postseason pitcher with his throwing a complete game shutout in the 2016 Wild Card Game.
With Zack Wheeler being a free agent, the Mets offseason was already going to be an interesting one. It is now all the more interesting as you consider all the moves this team will need to make to bring home the team’s first World Series since 1986.
First and foremost, we all know the ideal 2019 World Series would involve the Mets beating whichever American League team won the pennant. As it stands, the 2019 World Series winner is not going to be an ideal situation for Mets fans. To that end, here’s a ranking on what Mets fans would probably like to see happen.
The Mets and Astros broke into the Majors together in 1962. Through that time, the only time these two franchises ever really clashed was the 1986 NLCS. In the NLCS, there were (proven) allegations Mike Scott was scuffing the ball. Fortunately, thanks to a miracle rally in Game 6 and Keith Hernandez threatening Jesse Orosco if he threw another fastball, the Mets prevailed in that series.
Really, if you want to be sour grapes about the Astros, you could pinpoint how an Astros World Series would cement their status as a better expansion franchise than the Mets. Still, when you see the other options, that is the least of Mets fans concerns.
The Washington Nationals franchise began in 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos. Before the time the Expos moved to Washington, the only real issue you’d have is the Expos taking out the Mets in 1998 ending their Wild Card dreams. Of course, with the Expos sending the Mets Gary Carter in 1985, you could overlook it.
Really, if you look deeper, there isn’t much to the Mets/Nationals rivalry. The two teams have only been good together in three seasons. In 2015, the Mets embarrassed a Nationals team who choked figuratively, and thanks to Jonathon Papelbon attacking Bryce Harper, they literally choked too.
In 2016, Daniel Murphy tipped the power balance between the two teams, but that still didn’t keep the Mets out of the postseason. After that season, the Nationals would remain a competitive team while the Mets fell by the wayside.
This year, the two teams were good again with some memorable games. The August 10th game was a real highlight for the Mets with Luis Guillorme‘s pinch hit homer followed by J.D. Davis‘ sacrifice fly to give the Mets an exciting victory. Of course, the less said the better about Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, Edwin Diaz, Ryan Zimmerman, and Kurt Suzuki, the better.
New York Yankees
Putting aside Yankee fans crowing about all the rings won back in the days of the reserve clause and the game being integrated, there is enough history between these teams to despite the Yankees. There’s Derek Jeter being named the MVP of the 2000 World Series. As bad as the blown game against the Nationals was, Luis Castillo dropping Alex Rodriguez leading to Mark Teixeira scoring the winning run arguably felt all the worse.
Since Interleague Play started, this has been an intense rivalry with the Mets having a number of low moments. Aside from these, there was Mariano Rivera being walked to force in a run, Johan Santana having a career worst start, and everything Roger Clemens. Really, Clemens throwing a ball and bat at Mike Piazza with the Yankees who once accused Clemens of head hunting rushing to his defense is sufficient enough to hate them.
Of course, we then have Joe Torre, who has been the one who not only delivers the message but also defends Major League Baseball not allowing the Mets to wear the First Responders’ caps on 9/11.
St. Louis Cardinals
The so-called “Best Fans in Baseball” called the New York Mets teams of the 1980s pond scum. That’s how intense this rivalry was, and really, continues to be.
Going back to the 1980s, this was as intense a rivalry as there was in baseball. You can pinpoint to any number of plays and player like Terry Pendleton, John Tudor, and so much more. Even with realignment, this rivalry never truly subdued. The Mets got the better of the Cardinals with Timo Perez, Edgardo Alfonzo, and NLCS MVP Mike Hampton running roughshod over the Cardinals.
In 2006, Adam Wainwright freezing Carlos Beltran is forever crystalized into everyone’s minds. Beyond that was Scott Spiezio‘s game tying RBI triple off Guillermo Mota (why did he shake off Paul Lo Duca) and So Taguchi‘s homer off Billy Wagner. There was much more including Albert Pujols trash talking Tom Glavine (back when that was a bad thing).
Overall, the absolute worst case scenario is a Cardinals-Yankees World Series. Really, Yankees against anyone is the worst case scenario. Of course, that is the worst case for this World Series. The real worst case is seeing what Brodie Van Wagenen has in store as he tries to top trading away Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz.
The Mets had a shot at pulling off the impossible because the schedules presented the opportunity. For the Mets, they just needed to beat up on the Marlins.
Jorge Alfaro homered in the second. Jon Berti doubled in the third, and he scored on a Miguel Rojas RBI single. That was an inning after Berti robbed Michael Conforto of a homer (or an extra base hit).
Matz put up some zeros as Caleb Smith shut down the Mets offense. Part of that was getting Todd Frazier out in big spots. He got Frazier out with the bases loaded and two outs in the first, and he then got him with runners at first and second with two outs in the third.
Then a crazy sixth inning happened. You could see it was nearing the end of the line for Matz, and then he loaded the bases. Rather than go to the bullpen, Mickey Callaway stuck with Matz for one batter too many.
When Alfaro hit his grand slam, it looked like the Mets were dead in the water.
That’s when this Mets team once again showed us the character they have. The Mets loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, and Amed Rosario would hit his second career grand slam to make it a game again:
When you know it's gone. 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/k4IOk3s3f5
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 24, 2019
At 6-4, it was a brand new game. That’s what made the seventh inning so crushing.
For some reason, it was Walker Lockett to start the seventh. Perhaps, the reason was the other options were equally as uninspiring or being saved for a little later, but the overriding point is, Lockett was actually an option, and he was used.
Curtis Granderson walked to lead off the inning, and Berti got another hit. That prompted Callaway to go to Brad Brach. What makes this game all the more infuriating was Brach should’ve gotten out of the inning.
Brach started late and got there late. As a result, not only was Ramirez ruled safe, but two runs would score.
Yes, two. Apparently, because Berti was running hard, he was allowed to score on a play Brach could’ve thrown home but didn’t because of the wrong call by the first base umpire.
The Mets were down 8-4. They had a chance to score in the bottom of the seventh, but Conforto struck out against the tough LOOGY Brian Moran to end the inning.
The Mets did little to nothing in the eighth and ninth. There was not another miracle run. Not in this game, and apparently not in this season. Once again it was the Marlins the final week of the season, and it came not too long after Christian Colon delivered his own death blow.
In the end, it’s all just salt being rubbed in the wound.
In 2007, the Mets were seven games ahead with 17 games to play. We all know that season ended with Tom Glavine melting down against the Florida Marlins. That humiliating collapse is not a good memory for Mets fans, but it should serve as a reminder that anything can happen.
There are better and more positive stories in Mets history on this point.
The 1969 Mets entered September five games back of the Cubs, and they’d go 24-8 to finish the season and win the division going away en route to winning one of the more unlikely championships in professional sports history.
In 1973, the Mets entered September 4.5 games of the Cardinals and Pirates. The “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets pulled it off with a 82-79 record. They’d then push off one dynasty another year by beating the Big Red Machine in the NLCS, and they’d come within one game of knocking off another.
As we know, recent history hasn’t been as kind. The 1998 Mets entered September just one game out of the Wild Card. On September 21, they were one game up in the race only to lose their final five games including getting swept by the Braves. What made that all the more difficult was they only needed to win just one game to tie the Cubs and Giants for what was then the only Wild Card spot.
In 1999, it did seem like there was going to be another collapse with the Mets losing seven straight in October, and they’d lose five of six to the Braves with Chipper Jones telling Mets fans to get their Yankees jerseys out of the closet. They’d get some help sweeping the Pirates to over come the two game deficit with three games remaining in the season before Al Leiter‘s one hitter propelled them to the NLDS.
Heading to the future, the Mets collapsed in 2007, and they did it again in 2008 with Jerry Manuel going to Scott Schoeneweis to end the season. There were bleak times ahead before the 2015 and 2016 season. In terms of 2016, it was a somewhat similar situation to this year where a down National League allowed the Mets to linger in the race.
It should be noted that 2016 team was just 1.5 games back of he St. Louis Cardinals for the second Wild Card. It was not the five game deficit this Mets team faced. In any event, that whole run left a bitter taste as Jeurys Familia allowed a three run homer to Conor Gillaspie to end that season.
Overall, it has been quite a mixed bag for the Mets in these late September Wild Card races. We’ve seen them collapse in 1998 and 2007. We have seen them force a one game playoff in 1999 and go on a magical run. Under a different system in 2016, they got to that game, but they couldn’t win it.
No matter how you break it down, there is one theme for all of those years – the Mets had a chance. As we have seen you have a chance even if you are down seven games with 17 remaining. You can look at that all as a negative all you want. That’s your prerogative.
However, this Mets team has Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz pitching great. Seth Lugo is the best reliever in baseball. Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto have played great all year, and Todd Frazier seems to be getting hot at the right time. There are so many more positives behind these players.
At the end of the day, there is legitimate reason for hope. As long as there is hope, there is every reason to believe the Mets can pull this off. We should all be excited at the opportunity before this team.
LETS GO METS!