With Mike Piazza hinting more numbers are going to be retired, there were renewed calls for Keith Hernandez‘s 17 to be retired. Previously, the Mets had only retired the numbers of players who wore a Mets cap on their Hall of Fame plaque meaning the Mets first captain did not have his number retired.
One of the biggest issues with that is Hernandez should have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by now.
To put things in perspective, according to Baseball Reference, the average Hall of Fame first baseman has a 66.9 WAR, 42.7 WAR7, and a 54.8 JAWS. For his part, Hernandez is just a hair behind those marks with a 60.3/41.3/50.8. However, that is part of the story.
Currently, there are 24 first basemen in the Hall of Fame. Of those 24, only 10 of those players were above the 66.9 WAR mark. There were 11 above the WAR7 mark, and there were nine above the JAWS mark. The main reason for this is because Lou Gehrig, Cap Anson, and Jimmie Foxx skewed those numbers upwards. Notably, Gehrig’s and Anson’s careers were over before World War II, and Foxx has already played 16 years out of a 20 year career before the war began.
When you look at it, Hernandez has a higher WAR mark than eight of the first baseman inducted in the Hall of Fame, and he is 0.1 WAR behind Harmon Killebrew. Hernandez has a higher WAR7 mark than nine of the first baseman in the Hall of Fame including his being 1.2 ahead of Eddie Murray. His JAWS is better than 10 of the first baseman in the Hall of Fame including his being 0.4 behind Hank Greenberg.
When you look at the numbers of first baseman inducted into the Hall of Fame whose careers occurred post World War II and post Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, Hernandez is right in the mix of that group. In many ways, the two things that hurt Hernandez was he did it a different way than most of those first baseman.
Hernandez was not a slugger at the position in a traditional sense. Rather, he was more of a gap hitter who hit for average. Still, he was a good hitter with a 131 wRC+. That mark is good enough to tie him with Orlando Cepeda and put him ahead of Murray and Jim Bottomley.
Looking at traditional numbers, Hernandez had 426 doubles putting him ahead of players like George Sisler and Willie McCovey. His OBP is higher than Sisler and McCovey as well as Killebrew. The only ding against Hernandez is the power numbers you see with homers, RBI, and SLG where he would trail most Hall of Fame first baseman.
That said, all of those first baseman are a clear step behind Hernandez defensively. In fact, Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman to ever play the game.
This isn’t just the eye test, although when you look at plays like that, it helps. Hernandez is the all-time leader in Total Zone with a 121 mark. That puts him significantly ahead of Roger Connor, who has the second best mark at first base.
Keep in mind, when looking at defensive stats, Total Zone is the best one to look at when analyzing players across generations. On that note, here is the TZ leaders for each position across baseball history:
- C Ivan Rodriguez
- 1B Keith Hernandez
- 2B Bid McPhee
- 3B Brooks Robinson
- SS Ozzie Smith
- LF Barry Bonds*
- CF Willie Mays
- RF Roberto Clemente
With the exception of Bonds, who is not in the Hall of Fame purely due to steroids, the best defensive player at each position is in the Hall of Fame. Well, that’s everyone except Hernandez.
It’s not just the stats. There is also Gold Gloves. Again, we see Hernandez and Bonds as the only players to have the most Gold Gloves at their position not be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame:
- P Greg Maddux
- C Ivan Rodriguez
- 1B Keith Hernandez
- 2B Roberto Alomar
- 3B Brooks Robinson
- SS Ozzie Smith
- LF Barry Bonds
- CF Willie Mays
- RF Roberto Clemente
Really, when we look at baseball history, we have seen a number of players inducted into the Hall of Fame due to their ability to play defense at a virtuoso level. Smith is the classic example. It was the argument for inducting Bill Mazeroski. Yet, for some reason, that argument has not been advanced to push Keith Hernandez into the Hall of Fame.
Remember, Hernandez wasn’t just a glove at first base. As noted above, he contributed offensively. He won the 1979 batting title. He led the league in runs twice. In his career, he also led the league at one point in doubles, walks, intentional walks, and OBP. In his career, he won two Silver Sluggers. Hernandez was also an 11 time Gold Glover, five time All-Star, and the 1979 NL MVP. Hernandez also won two World Series titles in his career.
Another important point was Hernandez was seen as a leader in his playing days, and he was the first captain in Mets history. When you look at Hernandez, he had a Hall of Fame caliber career in every single sense of the word. As you see with his broadcasts on SNY, this was a player who loved baseball and understood it better than just about everyone.
All told, Hernandez is one of the best defensive players in baseball history, and he is one of the best first basemen to ever step foot on the field. He did it different than most others at this position, but all told, he did it better than almost everyone. Next time he is eligible for the Hall of Fame, he should be inducted.
Typically speaking, deciding who is “THE BEST” at something is a futile endeavor. After all, trying to apply objective measures to reach a subjective opinion is a concept somewhat at odds with itself.
In terms of baseball, it’s nearly impossible with the change of eras. Should Babe Ruth be considered the best ever when he played before integration? Should Barry Bonds be disqualified due to PEDs? Should we split the difference and say it’s Willie Mays?
Again, there’s just too many factors at play to determine who is THE BEST. To that end, we should look at this more as who’s in the discussion rather than who is atop the list.
In terms of the Mets, we know Tom Seaver is the best player to ever play for the team. That’s one of the rare instances where it’s clear-cut. It’s far from clear-cut on the manager side.
For 25 years, it was clearly Gil Hodges. He led the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series partially due to innovation. Hodges utilized platoons, and he might’ve been the first manager to utilize a five man rotation.
As we all know Hodges never got the chance to cement himself as the best manager ever as he suddenly died of a heart attack on the eve of the 1972 season. You can’t help but wonder what he could’ve done with the Mets getting Rusty Staub.
In 1984, the Mets hired Davey Johnson, who arguably went on to become the best manager in team history. In addition to winning the 1986 World Series, his teams never finished lower than second in the division.
Johnson was also the only Mets manager to win multiple division titles. In his tenure, his teams averaged 96 wins. It’s part of the reason why he has the most wins and highest winning percentage. Those were the Mets glory years, and he was at the helm.
Arguably, Hodges and Johnson are the Mets two best managers. However, there could be a case for Bobby Valentine.
Valentine is third in terms of wins and winning percentage. He came one year short of Johnson’s team record by having five consecutive winning seasons. However, notably, Valentine’s teams were not as loaded as Johnson’s.
Despite that, Valentine was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons. He’s the only Mets manager to lead his team to a postseason series victory in consecutive seasons. In fact, he’s the only one to do it in any two seasons.
Overall, that’s the top three, and people should feel comfortable ranking them as they see fit. There’s a justifiable reason to put them in any order from 1-3. That said, Hodges and Johnson have the edge having won a Word Series.
After that trio, it’s fair to say Willie Randolph was a clear fourth. In addition to his leading the Mets to the 2006 NLCS, he never had a losing record while amassing the second best winning percentage in team history. His hand in developing David Wright and Jose Reyes to not only reach their potential, but also handling the city should never be discounted.
Honestly, if that isn’t your 1-4, you’re simply doing it wrong.
Terry Collins has a losing record and the most losses in team history. He blew a World Series. He also unapologetically destroyed reliever careers (see Tim Byrdak, Jim Henderson) while admitting he didn’t want to develop young players like Michael Conforto.
Yogi Berra was the manager who led the Mets to their second pennant, but he also finished with a sub .500 career despite having a World Series contending type of roster for part of his tenure.
After that, well, just consider there are only six Mets managers with a winning record. Two of them, Bud Harrelson and Mickey Callaway, were not generally well regarded for their managerial abilities. After that, there’s a lot of bad, including Hall of Famers Casey Stengel and Joe Torre.
Through Mets history, it’s clear who the four best managers are even if the order isn’t nearly as clear. Past them, it’s an uninspiring debate among pretty poor choices.
In the end, your list is personal to you, and no one can quite tell you you’re right or wrong. That is unless you do something monumentally stupid like having Hodges outside the top three or putting Stengel on your list.
Short of that, everyone’s opinions are valid, and it’s a fun debate. And remember, that’s all this is – a fun debate. It’s nothing more than that because you can’t definitely prove one is better than the other.
Joan Payson, the original Mets owner, loved Willie Mays so much that not only did she have the Mets trade to get him in 1972, she unofficially retired the number. In fact, since Mays retired after the 1973 World Series, the number has only been worn by Kelvin Torve (who switched his number in-season), Rickey Henderson, and now Robinson Cano.
Beyond that group, there were Mets players who wore the number briefly. Ed Charles wore it for one season before switching to 5. Ken Boswell switched from that number to 12. Jim Beauchamp gave up his 24 to Mays. Then, there was Art Shamsky who wore it throughout his three year Mets career.
Shamsky first came to the Mets in the same offseason as Gil Hodges. Things could not have been worse for Shamsky. He was leaving a good Reds team who already had Tony Perez and Pete Rose, and he was going to what was the worst baseball franchise in the history of baseball.
In his first year with the Mets, he was little more than a league average hitter, but this was an improved Mets team who seemed to pull off the impossible by not losing 90 games for the first time in their history. To that end, things seemed to be improving for Shamsky and the Mets, but that was only momentary.
Shamsky hurt his back entering the 1969 season, and he started late. What he couldn’t have known at the time was he was about to embark on the best season of his life. That 1969 season would prove not only to be his most memorable but also his best individual season.
While being platooned with Ron Swoboda, Shamsky hit .300/.375/.488 with nine doubles, three triples, 14 homers, and 47 RBI in 100 games. Nearly each of those marks were a career best for him including the 139 OPS+. Included in those 47 RBI were game winners.
Where Shamsky would really shine that season was the postseason. In the NLCS against the Braves, he was a difficult out hitting .538 in the series. When he reached base in his final NLCS at-bat, that would be the final time he would reach base in that postseason. Even if he didn’t get another hit, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have an impact.
Never known for his defense, it was a terrific diving play. It was one of the miraculous diving defensive plays from the Mets in that series which helped them pull off the miracle that was the 1969 World Series. Like the rest of his teammates, he would become a World Series champion.
Shamsky would play two more years with the Mets after that 1969 World Series with him having another good year in 1970 before being released in 1971. Through his career, he is the 50th best Mets position player by WAR putting him ahead of any other Mets player who wore the number 24. Overall, even if legends like Mays and Henderson wore the number 24 with the Mets, it was Shamsky who was the best Mets player to wear that number.
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
The Mets franchise was forever changed on June 15, 1983. On that date, the Mets took a chance by obtaining Keith Hernandez from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. We may not see it like that now, but it was a risk.
He was only available due to his clashes with Whitey Herzog, and many expected after the season he was just going to demand his way out of New York. After all, he was very clearly and publicly not happy with being traded to the Mets. And yet, Frank Cashen and the Mets did all they could do to convince Hernandez to stay.
With Hernandez staying, the Mets got a Gold Glover at first. That’s understating it a bit. People, including opposing teams, said you couldn’t even bunt on him. The Mets took advantage of his strong and accurate arm by having him handle relays. In sum, Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman of all-time, and he would win five Gold Gloves with the Mets; six if you include his 1983 season split between the Mets and the Cardinals.
More than the glove and the bat in the middle of the lineup, Hernandez was undoubtedly the leader of the Mets. His experience, especially his World Series experience, not only gave him the credibility in the clubhouse, but it also allowed him to help the Mets realize their potential and to believe they could be great.
That started almost immediately with the Mets shocking baseball by improving 22 games and by being in first place entering August. This would be the first of five straight 90+ win seasons and seven straight seasons of finishing in second place or better. Over that time, Hernandez finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times including a second place finish in 1984.
While he was the consummate leader of those teams, eventually leading to his being named the first team captain in 1987, we really saw his leadership at the forefront in 1986, the year the Mets won the World Series. It should be noted it was during this year he was voted as an All-Star starter for the only time in his career, and he would lead the league in walks.
Hernandez may not have had a lot of hits in that series, but he made sure to have an impact. After the Mets dropped Game 1 of the NLCS to Mike Scott and the Astros, he responded with a two RBI game. His next RBI in the series wouldn’t come until Game 6, but it was one of the most important hits in Mets history.
Down 3-0 in the ninth and facing a Game 7 against Scott, something each Mets player feared, the Mets had a furious ninth inning rally to tie the score. In that furious rally, Hernandez hit an RBI double scoring Mookie Wilson to pull the Mets within one. Later that inning, he’d score the tying run on a Ray Knight sacrifice fly.
That wasn’t his most noted impact on this game. In this back-and-forth game with the Mets blowing a 14th inning lead and their about to blow a three run 16th inning lead, Hernandez went to the mound to demand Gary Carter not call a fastball or that Jesse Orosco not throw another to Kevin Bass. Orosco would strike out Bass on a curve to win the pennant.
In the 1986 World Series, there are two events for which Hernandez was most known. The first was in Game 6. After flying out in the 10th, he went to the dugout as he could not bear to see the Red Sox celebrate at Shea Stadium. As the rally took off, he refused to move from his seat as there were hits in it, and he was not going to move until the Mets won the game.
His next moment was in Game 7. Many forget it, but the Mets were actually down 3-0 in that game heading into the bottom of the sixth. The Mets didn’t break through until Hernandez delivered the Mets first RBI of that game:
In that World Series clinching game, Hernandez had three RBI. With that, Hernandez fulfilled the promise of what everyone believed would happen under his leadership – the Mets were World Series champions. While he was not the best or most talented, he was the one who helped lead the Mets to that championship.
That 1986 season was his second best in a Mets uniform. Unfortunately, from there, he would start to decline. Notably, in that decline, he made another All-Star team, and he won two more Gold Gloves. He would also help lead the Mets to the 1988 NL East title. Unfortunately, the Mets would lose that series, and Hernandez would have his own Willie Mays moment, but in the end, the Mets never get there without their fearless leader.
He was so beloved a figure, even after his departure, that David Cone switched his number from 44 to 17 when Hernandez left. To this day, fans clamor for his number to be retired.
Through it all, Hernandez is the best defensive first baseman in baseball history, and he is the Mets best ever first baseman. He was the first captain, and he is probably the greatest leader in team history. He is currently serving as the bridge from the greatness of the Mets past to the present. He will go down as one of the most important figures in team history, and he is definitively the best Mets player to ever wear the number 17.
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
All the time we talk about key trades or signings which take teams over the top. While it was Keith Hernandez which helped the Mets realize their potential, it was Gary Carter which took this team from a very good team to a World Series winner, and as a result, he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 8.
The Mets obtained Carter in a bold move to help take this team over the top. The team traded away their starting third baseman (Hubie Brooks) and starting catcher (Mike Fitzgerald) along with two well regarded prospects to get Carter. One of those prospects was Floyd Youmans, who was a high school teammate of Dwight Gooden.
In retrospect, even with Brooks having a long career, this was an absolute steal. It wasn’t even in retrospect. In fact, Carter would immediately show Mets fans the type of Hall of Fame player the team acquired:
In the Mets history, they have had Mike Piazza, and they had Todd Hundley setting home run records. Despite all of that, to this date, Carter’s 6.9 WAR during the 1985 season still stands as the best ever produced by a Mets catcher. In fact, at the time, it trailed just Cleon Jones‘ 7.0 mark in 1969 as the best a Mets position player has ever had.
It was during that season Carter began to sow the seeds of the 1986 World Series. He mentored a young staff that included Rick Aguilera, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Gooden, Roger McDowell, and others. Darling would tell the Baseball Hall of Fame, “And the thing about Gary was that before computers, before Sabermetrics, he had it in his brain. The entire National League, he could pull up that knowledge at any time and direct it on a very talented, young pitching staff to heights they probably wouldn’t have reached without him.”
Those Mets had a chance late in the season. In the penultimate series of the season, the Mets took the first two games in St. Louis, and if they completed the sweep, they’d tie atop the division with one series remaining. Unfortunately, their eighth inning rally came up short, and the 98 win team would miss the postseason. As we know, that is something that would never happen in the Wild Card Era.
The 1986 Mets would not be denied, and that team established themselves as one of the great teams in Major League history. Once again, Carter was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and he finished in the top six in MVP voting. However, when we talk about that postseason.
Looking at his stats that postseason, it is hard to conclude anything but Carter struggled. Still, when he was absolutely needed, he came through for the team. The first time we saw that happen was when he hit a walk-off single in the 12th off Charlie Kerfeld to help the Mets get a 3-2 series lead and achieve their goal of not seeing Mike Scott again in that series.
Carter’s biggest moments came in the World Series. After looking fatigued and getting beat by the Red Sox in the first two games at Shea Stadium, Lenny Dykstra ignited the Mets with a lead-off homer. Carter would take it from there hitting an RBI double in that game and then having a two home run game in the Mets Game 4 win.
While the Mets absolutely needed both of those homers, and they needed Carter’s performance in both of those games, Carter will always be remembered for just one single. In Game 6, the Mets were down 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th. After Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez flew out, Carter strode to the plate against Calvin Schiraldi. He was the last man standing between the Red Sox winning their first World Series since 1918:
As written in Jeff Pearlman’s book, The Bad Guys Won, Carter would say, “I wasn’t going to make the last out of the World Series.” Carter accomplished much more than that. He would spark the greatest rally in World Series history. In sparking that rally, he accomplished exactly what the Mets intended to do when they obtained him – win a World Series.
We didn’t realize it at that time, but 1986 was the last truly great year from Carter. Still, he was an All Star in each of the ensuing two seasons, and he would be named just the second captain in team history joining his teammate Hernandez as co-captains.
While people realize how great Carter was and how important he was to those Mets teams, they may not realize his impact on the Mets record books. By the time he left the Mets, he had the second highest single-season WAR for a position player. He had the third highest single season offensive WAR. In fact, it was the highest when he accomplished the feat in 1985.
In that 1985 season, he was just a hair behind John Stearns and Jerry Grote for the best defensive WAR from a Mets catcher. His 105 RBI in 1986 tied Rusty Staub for the Mets single-season record. He still holds the single season record for RBI. He is all over the single season record lists.
Mostly, he was the only Hall of Fame caliber player on those Mets teams. Aside from Willie Mays, he is arguably the best position player to ever wear a Mets uniform. Yes, even better than Piazza. On that note, Carter and Piazza are currently the only two position players in Mets history who were Hall of Famers who played like it on the Mets.
If not for the Hall of Fame frankly selectively enforcing a rule they did not enforce for players like Reggie Jackson, he would wear a Mets hat on his Hall of Fame plaque, and he would have had his number retired by now. Despite that decision, nothing can take away from the impact he had on the Mets and the World Series he brought to the team. No one can change his being the best Mets player who ever wore the number 8.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Carter was the eighth best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 8.
Due to COVID19, ESPN is planning to replace their Opening Day programming by re-airing the Home Run Derby from the past five seasons. With them being run in reverse, Mets fans get to see Pete Alonso winning the 2019 Home Run Derby in the 6:00 P.M rebroadcast, and they get the end the day watching Todd Frazier, then of the Cincinnati Reds, winning the 2015 Home Run Derby.
While this the Home Run Derby we all know and love (at least some of us), watching players like Yoenis Cespedes launch homers into the Citi Field stands under a bracket format is not in congruence with the original concept. In fact, the original Home Run Derby was quite different.
Under the original format, sluggers would face off against each other in a nine inning game. The game was very much akin to a baseball game with nine innings and three outs per inning. Under the construct of the game, anything not hit for a homer was an out, and if a batter did not swing at a strike, it was an out.
Re-watching those games/episodes, you’ll notice they were played at an empty Wrigley Field. No, not the Wrigley Field in Chicago, but the old one in Los Angeles. The venue was selected for a myriad of reasons including it being supposedly neutral to right and left-handed hitters.
In this series, we saw some of the greatest sluggers of all-time face off against once another. Perhaps, it should come as little surprise Hank Aaron had the best record in the show’s history. The only other two hitters with a winning record were Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, two Hall of Famers who are also members of the 500 home run club.
Conceptually, pulling off this version of the Home Run Derby could be accomplished with the outbreak of COVID19. As we know a pitcher stands 60’6″ away from the batter. The two batters can stay in their own dugouts, and they only come out after the other batter has cleared the playing surface.
In lieu of a catcher or umpire, we can just let balls go to the backstop, and we can let technology determine if it was a strike or ball. If nothing else, it would be a good test of the technology MLB wants to eventually introduce to the Major Leagues.
With the announcer up in the broadcast booth, there would be social distancing of much more than six feet between everyone. At least in theory, this makes the set-up of a Home Run Derby possible, at least conceptually. In reality, that may not be realistic, at least not yet.
Frankly, there is too much inter-personal contact necessary to set up the event. Someone is going to have to set up cameras, microphones, and handle the baseballs. There are many more things which would need to be done to allow this to happen, which, given the current state, would make this event impractical.
That’s at least right now. Hopefully, there will be a point where we will be able to have expanded testing efforts, which could permit individuals and players who have tested negative to have this event in an empty ballpark. Potentially, baseball could do this during the time period between people getting cleared on a widescale basis and everyone being able to return to work/baseball.
At this moment, it’s just an idea, but it may be a worthwhile idea to pursue. After all, the Home Run Derby is one of the more popular events of not just the All-Star festivities, but the entire season. If possible, it would give us a live sporting event until games can return.
The first ever time Major League Baseball ever had to shorten a season was during World War I. As explained by the Baseball Hall of Fame, things were much different during that war than it was during any subsequent war. Part of the reason was after World War I, President Roosevelt encouraged baseball to keep playing even as players like Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams were shipped overseas.
With players joining the war effort during World War I, including Christy Mathewson, who was exposed to chemical weapons during an exercise, Major League Baseball shortened the season by 14 games, which back in 1918 meant going from 154 to 140 games. They also canceled the minor league season.
It would become the earliest ever World Series played with Babe Ruth leading the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title by extending his World Series record consecutive scoreless innings streak to 29.2
Yes, that’s exactly how long ago a Major League season had to be shortened by world events. At that time, not only was Babe Ruth not a Yankee, but he was also not a slugging outfielder.
The ensuing season would forever be known for the Black Sox scandal with Eddie Cicotte plunking Morrie Rath to let the gamblers know the fix was on. As time has wore on, that scandal has completely overshadowed the fact the 1919 season was a shortened one as well.
The 1919 season was also shortened from 154 to 140 games to permit the players time to come home and get into baseball shape to play in the 1919 season. You have to wonder if those 14 games had been played if the late charging Cleveland Indians could have made up the 4.0 game deficit in the standings under new manager Tris Speaker. You also wonder if the owners didn’t “release” all the players at the end of the 1918 season to save money if there ever would have been a fix.
Believe it or not, that 1919 season was the last time a baseball season was interrupted by world events.
Major League Baseball played full seasons during World War II, and there was even the AAGPBL to help fill the gaps. To a certain extent, you can’t help but think of that with Tom Hanks being the first known celebrity being infected with COVID19. After all, it Hanks who played Jimmy Dugan, a player based off of Jimmie Foxx, in A League of Their Own.
World War II would be the last time baseball players were subject to the draft. That meant playing through the Vietnam War, and after the Vietnam War, there were no longer any drafts in the United States.
Baseball did not have to take time off when President Kennedy was assassinated as Kennedy was assassinated in the offseason. The same holds true for the President Reagan assassination attempt as that happened during Spring Training.
Really, it would not be until 9/11 that world events would directly impact a baseball season. That one was more than world events as it was an attack against the United States with the Twin Towers falling. Baseball, like everything else, shut down for a week or more as we went through the process of healing. For most New Yorkers, we really didn’t feel normal until Mike Piazza homered off Steve Karsay:
As we know, even with that interruption, baseball still played their full 162 game slate, which led to them playing into November. That led to Derek Jeter being called Mr. November in a series where the winning run was blooped over his head by Luis Gonzalez and Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson were named co-MVPs of the World Series.
So, while baseball had been impacted directly and indirectly by world events, we are in relatively uncharted territory. In fact, not even the deadly Spanish flu which followed World War I would impact baseball, at least not in terms of interrupting as season.
As a result, baseball has really only been impacted by self-wounds like the 1981 and the 1994 strikes.
Not once over the past century has baseball been prevented from playing a full schedule due to world or national events. Over the past century, baseball has always found a way to play while the world was hurting to give us the escapism we all needed.
If nothing else, that should tell you just how different the COVID19 pandemic is. Baseball could not be stopped by wars or assassinations. They could not be stopped by attacks on United States soil, whether that be Pearl Harbor or 9/11. No, the only thing that could stop it is a pandemic.
COVID19 is the only thing which has stopped baseball in a century. If you are one of the people who are at the beach on Spring Break or have not socially isolated, please let that tell you just how dangerous this situation is.
With yesterday being International Women’s Day, Sabr released a bio of Joan Payson, the woman who was the original owner of the New York Mets. The article written by Joan M. Thomas was quite enlightening about just how important a figure Payson is not just in Mets but also Major League history.
As noted in the article, Payson was a pioneer who was the first woman to ever purchase a baseball team. This opportunity presented itself when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved to California. For her part, Payson was a minority owner in the Giants, and she was one of the people who sought to bring National League Baseball back to New York with her being the owner of the New York team of the Continental League.
Payson loved baseball listening to games wherever she went. As we know, she unofficially retired 24 in honor of Willie Mays, her favorite player. She was involved with the Mets top to bottom including the team getting its name in her apartment.
Under her stewardship, the Mets not only obtained Tom Seaver, but they would become the first ever expansion team to win a World Series. That would make her the first ever woman to own a team to win the World Series. Through and through, Payson was a true baseball pioneer.
In that way, she has a profile similar to Hall of Famer Effa Manley. Manley was inducted into the Hall of Fame because of her ownership of the Newark Eagles, a team who would win the Negro League World Series in 1946. More than that, she emerged as an important owner who helped legitimize the league. In fact, when Larry Doby was signed by the Cleveland Indians, her team received compensation much in the same way we have seen NPL teams receive compensation when players like Ichiro Suzuki came to the Major Leagues.
With Manley’s induction, there was a precedent set. The Hall of Fame inducted Manley because she was a pioneer who was a winner. Manley was inducted because she was an important owner in the Negro Leagues. Ultimately, she was inducted because of her impact on the game.
No, Payson did not face the same societal problems Manley did. Far from it. However, Payson is an important figure in Major League history.
It was her involvement in the Continental League which helped drive expansion. She became the first woman to purchase a Major League team. She was the first ever woman to own a team which won the World Series. The effects of what she did as an owner are still present today.
Fact is, Payson is an important figure in Major League history, and her impact on the game should be recognized with her being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, when the Veteran’s Committee or Modern Baseball Committee convene later this year, Payson will not only be on the ballot, but she will also be elected.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is home to some of the worst human beings you can find. This despite the character clause being one of the considerations voters must take into account.
Cap Anson was one of the driving forces behind the ill-named “Gentleman’s Agreement” which attempted to keep black players out of baseball. He also went out of his way to personally vet the races of players to see who should and should not be allowed to share the field with him.
However, because he had 3,435 hits, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1939.
Then, there’s Tom Yawkey who was inducted for nothing other than owning the Boston Red Sox for 44 years. In that time, he fought against integration with the Red Sox being the absolute last team to sign a black player. During his time, Yawkey helped commit other vile acts like helping cover up sexual assaults.
At the end of the day, it’s difficult to reconcile having a Hall of Fame with people like Anson alongside truly great human beings like Roberto Clemente.
More to the point, it’s really difficult to reconcile a Hall of Fame which has a Tom Yawkey, but not a Curtis Granderson.
As noted by MMO‘s Michael Mayer, Granderson joins a group including Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and George Brett as the only four players in Major League history who have “at least 90 triples, 150 stolen bases, 315 homers, and .330 OBP.”
Despite these accomplishments, it’s unlikely Granderson gets inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player. However, that does not mean there isn’t room for him in the Hall of Fame.
Granderson is the only player in Major League history to be named the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award four times. That’s two more than anyone else.
Through his Grand Kids Foundation, Granderson has provided over 35 million meals to families in need and over $3.5 million to food banks. He’s also run summer camps and helped build facilitates to help expose children to baseball and a healthy lifestyle. This is just the tip of the iceberg on what he’s done to help people.
That includes his $5 million donation to the University of Illinois which was the largest donation an athlete has ever made to his alma mater. In addition to being used for Illinois baseball games, the field is also used for “hosting several area little league teams for games, camps and clinics.”
Through it all, Granderson is as good a human being as there has ever been to don a Major League uniform. When you combine on the field success with his off the field endeavors, he may be second only to Clemente.
When the Hall of Fame has wings which honor broadcasters and writers by name and displays baseball related art, there should be room to honor truly great human beings who have played the game.
More to the point, there needs to be room in the Hall of Fame for people like Curtis Granderson. It’s incumbent upon baseball to not let what he’s done fade away decades from now.
No, the Curtis Grandersons of this world are true role models, and baseball should honor them and uphold them as an ideal much like they do with people inducted as players. There’s room for a humanitarian wing. Let it be named after Roberto Clemente, and five years from now, let Granderson be the wing’s first inductee.
Back in the days before SNY, way back to the WWOR days, rain delays and rain outs didn’t mean Mets Yearbooks or Rain Delay Theatres. No, it meant Oscar Madison and Felix Unger:
Growing up, there was always a sense of disappointment when you turned on the TV to see The Odd Couple because it meant no Mets baseball. And yet, you got over it because The Odd Couple was a good show.
No, as I get older, I do yearn for the days of The Odd Couple. That goes double when you consider the Mets made shows completely tone deaf shows like Amazin’ Finishes highlighting, amongst others, the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
There was something so uniquely Mets about The Odd Couple, and it stretched farther than Oscar Madison’s Mets cap.
In some ways, Oscar was the old Brooklyn Dodgers and Felix was the New York Giants. They were sent away from their homes, and somehow they came together and somehow had to find a way to co-exist and attract a new wife (new fans) in New York.
It wasn’t always easy, but underneath there was hope. Mostly, there was a life after well worth living. That’s the New York Mets.
In many ways, The Odd Couple was the perfect show to air during Mets delays, and now, according to the TV Guide, it’s gone from the airways.
On a day where we see marathons for classic shows like The Honeymooners and The Twilight Zone, there could be room for SNY to have a marathon for The Odd Couple. More than that, they should have room to bring the show back and once again make it part of the quintessential Mets experience.