Yogi Berra

Best Mets Of All-Time: No. 45 Tug McGraw

Even though John Franco had one of the better Mets careers, and he would wear the number 45, when it came down to all he had accomplished with the Mets, he mostly did it while wearing the number 31. Instead, the best player to wear the number 45 with the Mets was the man Franco honored when he switched to the number – Tug McGraw.

McGraw was a larger than life personality, and he was a beloved Mets closer who was a part of the 1969 World Series and 1973 pennant winning Mets teams. What is really interesting with McGraw is that his first big moment with the Mets came with him as a starter.

Before August 36, 1965, the Mets had never beaten Sandy Koufax. Really, Koufax embarrassed the Mets earlier in their history with a no-hitter and a 13-0 record. However, on this one day, the rookie McGraw would out-pitch the Hall of Famer to help the Mets beat Koufax for the first time. While McGraw would win this game, he just was not a starter.

After three years of being in and out of the rotation, McGraw served in the Marines Reserves, dealt with some arm injuries, and he would learn the screwball. That screwball is the first major thing which would change his career. The other was Gil Hodges moving McGraw into the bullpen in 1969.

McGraw was an important part of that Mets bullpen which went from laughingstock to World Series champions. In that 1969 season, McGraw was 9-3 with 12 saves, a 2.24 ERA, and 1.335 WHIP. Despite his great regular season, the Mets mostly rode with Ron Taylor in the postseason.

In fact, McGraw would only make one appearance that postseason. After Jerry Koosman couldn’t get out of the fifth in Game 2 of the NLCS, Ron Taylor pitched 1.1 innings to help get the Mets back in front. For the final three innings, it was McGraw. In those three innings, he shut down the Braves offense, and he would become the first Mets left-handed reliever to earn a postseason save.

Over the next few years McGraw would pitch well while splitting closing duties. While 1969 had served as his breakout season, 1971 would be where he showed he was ready to take his game to another level. During that 1971 season, McGraw was 11-4 with eight saves, a 1.70 ERA, and a 1.027.

In 1972, everything changed for the Mets. On the eve of the season, Hodges died from a heart attack putting Yogi Berra in charge as the Mets manager. Whereas McGraw was the first manager who believed in McGraw as a reliever, it was Berra who truly envisioned him as a closer. By and large, McGraw was the closer for that team, and he responded.

In 1972, McGraw set the Mets all-time record with 27 saves. That record would stand until 1984 when Jesse Orosco broke it. As it stands, it is still in the top 20 in Mets history. With McGraw repeating his 1.70 ERA, amassing the 27 saves, and having an 8-6 record, he would be an All-Star for the first only time as a member of the Mets. In that game, McGraw would pick up the win.

What is interesting for McGraw is he is mostly known for the 1973 season despite it being one of the worst of his Mets career, at least in his career as a Mets reliever. Through July 9th, McGraw had a 6.20 ERA with Berra trying to find ways to get McGraw back on track. One thing McGraw did on his own was to meet with a motivational speaker who kept telling him to believe in himself.

That set the stage for M.Donald Grant’s team pep talk. Grant’s message the front office still believed in a Mets team who was 11 games under .500 led McGraw to seemingly sarcastically start chanting, “Ya Gotta Believe!” much to the amusement of his teammates. For his part, Grant wasn’t so amused, and told McGraw he better start pitching better.

McGraw did, and he was a key component in the Mets turnaround. From July 11 until the end of the season, McGraw was 5-2 with 14 saves, a 2.21 ERA, and a 1.067 WHIP. In what is unheard of in today’s game, McGraw made 1o separate appearances of over three innings. That included one six inning and one 5.2 inning outing. He would also be on the mound when the Mets clinched the division:

With that, McGraw would get the chance to be an impactful reliever in the postseason. In that postseason, McGraw was as dominant as we have ever seen a Mets reliever in a postseason. Perhaps, it was the best postseason we have ever seen a Mets reliever have.

Between the NLCS and World Series, McGraw was 1-0 with two saves and a 1.93 ERA. That included his no allowing a run five NLCS innings and his earning a save in the Mets first ever winner-take-all game. That set him up to finally be able to pitch in the World Series.

McGraw would pitch in five of the seven games. While he would blow his first ever World Series save chance in Game 2, he would stay in the game and pitch six innings total as he and the Mets picked up the win in 12 innings. He would convert his next and last save chance with 2.2 scoreless innings in Game 5. Unfortunately, the Mets were not able to win that fourth and final game, and they would lose their first ever postseason series.

While McGraw was an emotional leader who gave birth to the franchise rallying cry of “Ya Gotta Believe!” he was not a Met for long. In 1974, he would struggle, and the Mets would put him in a variety of roles. After the season, the Mets traded him to the Phillies, and it was discovered he had shoulder issues. As those shoulder issues resolved, the Phillies had a great reliever who would be on the mound as they won their first World Series.

Among Mets relievers, McGraw has the third most wins and sixth most saves. While he is fifth in appearances, he is second in innings. Really, he was the first big time reliever in team history, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 45.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
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
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver

42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 41 Tom Seaver

There is no doubt here. Not only is Tom Seaver the best player in Mets and baseball history to ever wear the number 41. He is simply the best player in the history of the New York Mets. More than that, he could be the best right-handed pitcher in the history of baseball who, to date, has the highest ever voting percentage of any starting pitcher inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The fact Seaver even became a Met was pure luck. The Atlanta Braves had illegally signed Seaver leading to the Commissioner’s Office to declare the contract null and void. As Seaver was not allowed to return to pitch in college, ti was determined that any team willing to match his bonus could sign him. Three teams stepped up, but it was the Mets who won that lottery forever altering the course of franchise history.

Not only did Seaver become the first Mets rookie to win the Rookie of the Year award, but he would begin to completely rewrite the Mets history books in the process. Part of that was his making his first All-Star team, which was the first of his seven consecutive appearances and 10 total as a member of the New York Mets.

In 1968, Seaver began his rewrite of some of baseball’s history books. Coming off his Rookie of the Year season, Seaver would be the Mets Opening Day starter. This was the first of what is a still standing MLB record of 16 Opening Day starts. That was just one of the many incredible and record setting things Seaver did as a member of the Mets.

While Seaver was known to be destined for greatness, we saw him be truly great, clearly a step ahead of everyone, in 1969. In that season, he would have a great season setting more Mets records along the way, and he’d have one of his signature performances with the Imperfect Game:

That game was great for many reasons. Aside from the greatness it showed, it was a message sending game to the Cubs the surging Mets were for real, and the Mets had the pitching to take them down, which they eventually would.

Seaver was the man who got the ball in their first ever postseason. While not being classic Seaver, he still won the first ever postseason game the Mets ever played. He would not, however, win the first World Series game in Mets history. He would rebound, and he would be great in Game 4 picking up the win after limiting the Orioles to just one run over 10 innings.

The Mets won that improbable World Series, and they only got to that point because they had Seaver, who at the point was already the best pitcher in the game. There would be so much more in store, including his 19 strikeout game in 1970, which was a then Major League record:

As great as he was in those seasons and those moments, Seaver had an absolute season for the ages. In 1971, Seaver was definitively the best pitcher on the planet. He led the Majors in ERA, ERA+, FIP, and K/9, and he was third in strikeouts. By ERA+, only Dwight Gooden‘s 1985 season would be better in Mets history. Somehow, Seaver, despite being the best pitcher on the planet, finished second to Fergie Jenkins in Cy Young voting. To this day, it remains one of the worst decisions voters have ever made.

While cheated in 1971, Seaver would the Cy Young in 1973 and 1975. When Seaver won the Cy Young in 1975, he became the first right-handed pitcher in Major League history to ever win three Cy Young Awards.

Of note with that 1973 Cy Young, when he won that award, he became the first ever pitcher to win the award without winning 20 games. It should also be noted Seaver was one of the major reasons the Mets were even able to win the division that year.

In the NLCS, he took the loss in Game 1 despite allowing just two earned over 8.1 innings. In the deciding Game 5, he would not be denied. He shut down the Big Red Machine over 8.1 innings this time allowing just one earned. With that Seaver once again led the Mets to the World Series. In an alternate universe, Yogi Berra held onto Seaver to pitch and win Game 7.

In reality, Seaver should have been a Met for life. However, M. Donald Grant thought he was bigger than the team, and instead waged a war against Seaver using his newspaper connections to help force Seaver out of town. While fans lament many deals, the trade which sent Seaver to the Reds remains the worst in team history. Certainly, the Midnight Massacre was among the most depressing days to be a Mets fan.

Seaver’s Mets story didn’t end there. He would have a hero’s return in 1983. Not only would he pitch well that year, but he would serve as a mentor to the young players on that staff like Ron Darling. Ironically, he was part of the contingent who bonded with Keith Hernandez and helped convince him to stay.

After the season, the Met miscalculated. They left Seaver exposed to claims never believing he would be claimed. Sadly, he was claimed by the White Sox. This meant Seaver’s 300th win would be with the White Sox. Still, that moment would happen in New York as Seaver would ruin Phil Rizzuto Day for the Yankees.

When Seaver’s career was over, he was clearly one of the best pitchers to ever take the mound. At the time, his three Cy Youngs were the most of any right-handed pitcher of all-time. His 3,640 strikeouts were the third most of all-time and the sixth most in Major League history today.

Since World War II, only Warren Spahn has more shutouts meaning he has more shutouts than any other right-handed pitcher over that stretch. His WAR is the seventh best of all-time, and since World War II only the steroid driven career of Roger Clemens was better. When you take it all into account, Seaver could rightfully stake a claim as the best right-handed pitcher of all-time and the best pitcher since World War II. Seaver is definitively the best National League pitcher ever.

He’s also definitively the best Mets player ever. That is why he is The Franchise. His number was the first player’s number retired by the Mets. Citi Field is now located at 41 Seaver Way. He owns almost every record of significance in Mets history. He is the best 41 in team history.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
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
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 32 Jon Matlack

When people talk about the Mets as an organization, the common refrain is that this is an organization built on pitching. When discussing the Mets pitching, there is talk about Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. We also hear about Dwight Gooden and Jacob deGrom. There is also the legends who finished their careers here like Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana.

Rarely, you hear about Jon Matlack, who by FIP, is the fourth best pitcher to ever don a Mets uniform. He should be discussed.

Matlack was the fourth overall pick in the 1967 draft, and he would soon show he could be considered the first draft pick the Mets truly nailed.

After a brief cup of coffee in 1971, Matlack began the 1972 season on the Opening Day roster, and he would put together the second Rookie of the Year campaign in Mets history. In 34 starts, he was 15-10 with a 2.32 ERA. To put in perspective how good he was that season, he had a better ERA and ERA+ than Seaver. Expectations were naturally high for him in 1973.

There are many remarkable things which have happened in Mets history, especially on the pitching front. It is really difficult to argue any Mets player did anything more remarkable than what Matlack did in 1973.

On May 8, 1973, Marty Perez of the Atlanta Braves hit a comebacker which not only hit Matlack in the head, but it would also fracture his skull. Somehow, Matlack returned to the mound after missing just two starts. A man with a fractured skull missed just two starts, and he would help the Mets win a pennant.

One area where Matlack’s reputation suffers is he frankly pitched in the wrong era. In the modern game, we have come to de-emphasize win/loss record. That became all the more evident when deGrom won back-to-back Cy Young awards despite winning just 21 games total over the two seasons.

With Matlack, his 1973 season was largely overlooked due to his having a 14-16 record. Lost in that was his being sixth in the league in WAR and FIP (stats not used in 1973) and third in the league in strikeouts. He would not garner one Cy Young vote, nor would he be an All-Star. That didn’t matter because he would be heard from in 1973.

As the story goes, M. Donald Grant was his typical tone deaf self when he delivered that July motivational speech leading to Tug McGraw‘s part inspired, part rallying cry “Ya Gotta Believe!” chant. Part of the reason this was a rallying cry was how the Mets players responded. That included Matlack who was lights out to end the 1973 season.

On the eve of Grant’s speech to the team, Matlack pitched a one hit shutout against the Houston Astros. From that point forward, Matlack had a 2.81 ERA. From August 1 until the end of the year, Matlack was 7-2 with a 2.66 ERA. For a pitcher who struggled getting wins in his Mets career, he certainly got them when they counted.

Matlack was then great in his one and only postseason with the Mets. With the Mets down 1-0 in the series, Matlack had a truly great pitching performance pitching a complete game two hit shut out of a Reds lineup which had some of the greatest hitters of all-time in Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and Pete Rose. Here is the full game rebroadcast:

Matlack helped turn that series around for the Mets, and after their huge upset of a Reds team on the precipice of becoming one of the greatest teams of all-time, Matlack got the ball in Game One of the World Series, and he would come within a Felix Millan (uncharacteristic) error of a victory.

Matlack followed that game with a brilliant Game 4 performance. Over eight innings, he allowed just one unearned run over eight innings. He got the victory, and the Mets had tied the series. To hear Howie Rose tell it time and again, Matlack was the victim of one of the biggest blunders in Mets managerial history.

The Mets lead the World Series 3-2 heading back to Oakland. Instead of allowing Gary Gentry pitch Game 6 and reserving Seaver for Game 7, Yogi Berra opted to push Seaver and Matlack on three days rest. Matlack just wasn’t up to the task in Game 7 taking the loss. Even with that loss, he had a 2.16 ERA in his three World Series starts, and he had a 1.40 ERA in his four postseason starts.

No matter how you slice or dice it, that’s a great postseason. It is one which would have been remembered more had the Mets actually pulled out the 1973 World Series. Perhaps, that would have put Matlack more into the memories of current day Mets fans.

While Matlack had been previously overlooked, he was no longer. In each of the ensuing three seasons, Matlack was an All-Star, and in the 1975 All-Star Game he would become the first and only Mets player to be named the MVP. He picked up the win in the game after pitching two shut out innings where he struck out four the six batters he faced.

While an All-Star in 1974, he didn’t get one single Cy Young vote. He didn’t get one despite leading the league in shut outs, FIP, and WAR, and he was third in the league in ERA. If it was 2020, he might have been the Cy Young winner. Instead, he and his losing record didn’t have a shot.

Because of this win-loss record, Matlack would not get a Cy Young vote until 1976. In that year, he again led the league in shutouts. He would have a career best 17 wins, and he would tie fewest losses in a full season with the Mets. It wasn’t his best season, but it was the one which he had the the most notoriety because with the 1970s mentality  there was just more emphasis on wins.

Overall, Matlack is all over the Mets career top 10 pitching rankings. He is seventh all-time in WAR and wins. He is fifth in ERA, which is first among Mets left-handed pitchers. He ranks fourth in complete games and second in shut outs. As noted above, he is fourth in FIP.

That FIP is the best among left-handed pitchers in Mets history giving him a claim to being the best left-handed pitcher in team history. He is certainly the most underappreciated, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 32.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
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

Best Mets Of All Time: No. 21 Cleon Jones

When it comes to the storied past of the Mets turning the corner from losers to World Series contenders, Cleon Jones is as an important figure as nearly any other Mets player on that team. Really, Jones was in the middle of everything which happened on those teams.

For a while, it didn’t seem like that was going to be the case. Even with his finished fourth in the 1966 Rookie of the Year vote, he had not done much to distinguish himself. Then, in 1967, the Mets got a manager in Gil Hodges who believed in him, and at the end of the year, the Mets obtained his close childhood friend Tommie Agee. With them in the fold, Jones would turn the corner in a big way in 1968

In that 1968 season, Jones, now a left fielder, had the type of breakout year you desperately want to see from 25 year old players. He set career highs in nearly every offensive category. Mostly, he made the transition from promising young player to reliable everyday player. He would then have one of the great seasons in Mets history in 1969.

In 1969, Jones would post a 7.0 WAR. At that time, it was easily the Mets single-season record. It was a record which stood for 27 years. Fifty-one years has passed since that season, and with players like David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Gary Carter, that mark has dropped from one to seven. Even if numerically it ranks seventh, Jones’ 1969 season still remains the greatest single-season a Mets position player has ever had.

During that year, Jones would make the All-Star team, becoming the Mets first left fielder to accomplish the feat. He would hit .340/.422/.482 with 25 2B, four 3B, 12 homers, 75 RBI, and 16 stolen bases, and he led the team in nearly every offensive category. He would then power the Mets in the NLCS. In that three game sweep against the Braves, he ranked second on the team, trailing just his friend Agee, in OPS.

While Jones had a great NLCS, he will forever be remembered for the World Series. It may not be as remembered now, but Jones really struggled in that series against the Orioles great pitching. It wasn’t until Game 5 that he really had an impact. In the famous shoe polish play, Jones was the batter hit by the pitch, and he was the one who began arguing he should go to first.

Jones being awarded first would allow him to score on the Donn Clendenon homer pulling the Mets to within 3-2. They’d tie the score later, and it was Jones with a lead-off double in the sixth which began the series winning rally. In fact, it’s a footnote lost in Mets history, but Jones is the first Mets player to score a World Series winning run. Even if he’s not recognized as such, we all know it was him who caught the final out:

In Mets history, we talk about Art Shamsky and Endy Chavez, but if you really think about it, that might really be the greatest catch in Mets history. Yes, it was a routine fly ball off the bat of Davey Johnson, but it was the catch which secured the final out of what remains the greatest upset in World Series history.

Jones remained a good and productive  player for the Mets for a few years, but he would never again be able to repeat his 1969 success. That is even with him having a very good 1971 season where he had a 4.8 WAR. In that year, he set a career high with six triples. However, it would not be until the 1973 season we would see his next truly impactful play in Mets history. It was called the “Ball on the Wall” play.

On September 20, 1973, the Mets were attempting their improbable run to a division title, and they trailed the first place Pittsburgh Pirates by 1.5 games in the standings. Entering this five game series, the Mets had trailed the Pirates by 2.5 games. Even after dropping the first game, they could claim first place by sweeping the remaining games.

The Mets took the next two games, and they rallied to force extra innings in this game. In the top of the 13th, Pirates rookie Dave Augustine hit what looked like a go-ahead two run homer. However, much like Todd Zeile‘s ball in the 2000 World Series, it hit the top of the wall and came back into play.

Jones tracked the play perfectly, and he made a perfect relay throw to Wayne Garrett, who got it there in plenty of time to get Richie Zisk out at the plate. It was about as well executed a relay as you will ever see, and the Mets would win the game on a walk-off single by Ron Hodges. Much like other times in Mets history, Jones’ other contribution was overlooked with his hitting an RBI single which first got the Mets on the board.

The Mets finished off the Pirates in that game and that series. They took first place, and they never looked back. Of note, Jones hit six homers over the course of that final month of the season which saw the Mets go from 5.5 games back to their second ever division title. Again, Jones was good in the NLCS hitting .300/.364/.400 in the Mets five game upset of the Big Red Machine.

Jones saved his best for last. In the winner-take-all Game 5, he was 3-for-5 with a run, double, and two RBI. One interesting fact is after scoring the winning run of the 1969 World Series, Jones would drive in the winning run of the 1973 NLCS meaning he was involved in the winning runs in consecutive series.

Jones was very good in the World Series. In fact, he was second to just Rusty Staub in team OPS. Unfortunately, despite his efforts as well as those from his teammates, the Mets would lose that series in seven games.

Jones had a good 1974 season before things got so bad it was past the point of reconciliation. There was an incident during his rehab from knee surgery, and despite charges being dropped, M. Donald Grant levied the largest ever fine in Mets history against him. Things deteriorated, and after a 1975 altercation with Yogi Berra, he was released.

That wasn’t his first altercation with a manager as he was infamously lifted from a game in 1969 by Hodges, but things only improved from there. For some reason or another, probably Jones’ knee or Grant being Grant, that was it.

When Jones left, he was definitively the best left fielder in Mets history, a title he still holds to this day. He won a World Series and another pennant with the team, and he played a vital role in both. He is prominent in the Mets record books including his having the fourth most hits, 10th most doubles, and fourth most triples. He is in the Mets Hall of Fame, and he is the best Mets player to ever wear the number 21.

Previous

1.Mookie Wilson
2.Mackey Sasser
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

Mets Second Game Record Not as Good as Opening Day Record

Much is made of the Mets having the best Opening Day record among all 30 Major League teams.  That record expanded to 37-20 in what was Mickey Callaway‘s first game as the manager of the Mets.  Considering the Mets have had more losing than winning seasons in their history, we know those good times do not keep rolling on throughout the season.

Looking throughout Mets history, as the excitement of Opening Day fades, so does the Mets record.  In the 56 year history of the Mets, the team’s record in the second game of the season is 28-28 (.500).

The record does get a little dicier from there.  In those previously famed 36 wins, the Mets have followed them with defeats in 20 of those games (.444).

When it comes to the Cardinals, the Mets are now 6-2 against them on Opening Day.  The Mets are also 2-6 against them in the second game of the season.

When looking through the Mets managerial history, there have been 12 managers who made their debut with the Mets on Opening Day.  Of those 12 managers only Joe Frazier debuted with the 1976 Mets by winning his first two games.  That year, the Mets would finish 86-76.  That would also be the last year the Mets would have a winning record until 1984.

Frazier and the Mets would start the 1977 season going 15-30, and Frazier’s managerial record would drop to 101-106.  Of course, a large part of that was his losing both Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman, both of who were traded the previous season in the “Midnight Massacre.”

As an aside, Frazier, Willie Randolph, and Yogi Berra are the managers to begin their Mets managerial careers on Opening Day to have a winning record in their first season as manager.  Willie’s and Yogi’s Mets both lost the second game of the season.  Unlike Frazier, both Willie and Yogi would take Mets team to the postseason in their second season as the Mets manager.

Of course, past is only prelude.  It is not determinative of what will happen in the future.  Just because the Mets won their opener, it does not mean the Mets have just a 44% or 50% chance of winning that game.  Really, with the Mets sending Jacob deGrom to the mound, you’d have to believe the Mets odds of winning are much better than that.

Having watched the Mets win on Opening Day, it seemed like this was a different Mets team.  It felt like this was a team that is going to surprise us this season and really set themselves apart from Mets teams from years past.  That’s part of the fun of Opening Day.  Who knows how long this feeling will last?  Perhaps, we will find the answer later today.

Chipper’s Hall of Fame Plaque Will Say Larry

It all began with Orel Hershiser. On the eve of the NLCS, he shared the information with Eddie Coleman. He was there and Steve Somers was here on our radios discussing it. In the pre-Twitter era, this was how you conveyed messages to Mets fans.

Mets fans would get that message loud and clear, and they would then deliver that message beginning with player introductions before Game 3 of the NLCS, and they delivered it every time he stood at the plate:

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

It was the only way Mets fans could try to torture Chipper Jones; the man who built a Hall of Fame resume by and large by his performance against the Mets.

Jones revealed in tweaking the Mets fans. He chided them one time saying, “Now all the Mets’ fans can go home and put their Yankees stuff on,” after he and the Braves had once again left the Mets for dead.

He named his first child Shea.

More than that, he hit .309/.406/.543 with 49 homers and 159 RBI against the Mets in his career.

In response, well, Mets fans had their beloved “LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!” chant. Whether or not, it worked didn’t matter. What mattered was the name got under Chipper’s skin.

Undoubtedly, Chipper got the best of the Mets in his playing days. The Braves knocked the Mets out of Wild Card position in 1998, and they won the 1999 NLCS. The Braves won the NL East from 1995 – 2005.

And now, he’s a Hall of Famer. Coincidentally, that may be where Mets fans win the war.

If you’ve ever seen a Hall of Fame plaque, it lists your given named with the nickname underneath in quotes.

It’s not Tom Seaver. It’s George Thomas Seaver.

It’s not Nolan Ryan. It’s Lynn Nolan Ryan.

It’s not Yogi Berra. It’s Lawrence Peter Berra.

It won’t be Chipper Jones. It will be Larry Wayne Jones.

That’s right. For all time, he will be Larry. It’s a warm reminder for Mets fans who loved to chide him with the name.

Hopefully, Chipper Jones gets a chuckle about that fact. Honestly, I hope it doesn’t detract from the moment from a great baseball player who was truly a worthy advisory.

Enjoy your moment Larry.

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.

Angels in Citi Field

It’s a tough time for the Mets. They gave their all in Game 1, but they lost. They unravelled in Game 2. They’re halfway on their way to losing the World Series. It’s times like these you seemingly only have a hope and a prayer. It’s times like theses you need your guardian angel. The Mets are full in that department. 

In the heavens, Nelson Doubleday sees his Mets suffering. This is the team he rescued from irrelevancy. He once took the helm and ushered in the greatest era of Mets baseball. He knows this team needs his help. 

He knows he can’t do it alone, so he grabs the one man who he knows can gather together the right mix of angels to make this happen. Frank Cashen gives a nod to Mr. Doubleday, and he finds them. He sends them down to Citi Field to help and deliver a message. 

You always start with a winner.  It’s better to have someone who knows how to utilize a young pitching staff. How to bring them to new heights. How to lead them to a championship. He summons Gil Hodges, who under the din of Citi Field is Hodges reaching out to boost morale. 

He summons Yogi Berra. Yogi can’t understand the despair, then again he knows better than anyone it gets late early in New York. The wind swirling into Citi Field reminds us, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” 
For help, Yogi turns to his closer Tug McGraw. Tug is all fired up. He’s been here before with Gil and Yogi. With a loud bang in the concourse in Citi Field you can hear old Tug jumping up and down screaming, “Ya Gotta Believe.” 

Cashen though knows he needs one more. Who better to turn to than the man he last turned to when he was trying to capture a World Series. Gary Carter knows what he’s there to do. You just don’t make the last out. With every crack of the bat, The Kid lets the Mets know they won’t make the last out.  

With that Cashen’s work is done. He’s assembled a group of greats, a group of legends, a group of angels. They’ll be there tonight to guide the Mets to victory. They didn’t let the Mets lose without a fight before, and they won’t let it happen this time either. They’re watching over the Mets. 

We all know what’s leading the Mets to victory tonight even if our human eyes will never see the hands that brought those Mets runs home. 

Trivia Friday

With the passing of Yogi Berra, i figured i should ask a Berra-Mets trivia question. With Berra ending his playing career with the Mets, and with Berra managing the Mets to the 1973 pennant, i thought the quiz should see if you can name the former Mets players who managed for them. Good luck!


The Mets Should Honor Yogi

Earlier this year, the Mets organization embarrassed themselves by not having a patch to commemorate the late Nelson Doubleday. I hope the Mets don’t repeat the mistake with Yogi Berra

Yes, Yogi was a Yankee. He was also a Met. He was the man who took over when Gil Hodges tragically passed. As a manager, he brought the Mets their second pennant. He was good enough for the Mets to ask him to come back for the ceremony after the Last Game at Shea:

 
Yogi was a big part of the Mets history. When the Mets are chasing an NL pennant and a World Series, it would be fitting to have a tribute to the greatest winner in MLB history. When times get tough, it would be great to have the reminder of the Met who said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”   
He deserves to be honored with a patch.