The Mets Fan
How You Became a Mets Fan
Parents are huge Mets fans, so I was born into it. Don’t remember a specific moment or reason why I stuck with it. They weren’t very good in my formative years but they were always my team!
Favorite Mets Player
Mike Piazza would be the easy choice looking back but I had many “favorite Mets” over the years. David Cone, Howard Johnson, Todd Hundley all held that title at some point. Jason Isringhausen was my guy, though! Looked like a stud at the end of ’95 so I bought all of his rookie cards and spent way too much allowance having his name printed on the back of my Mets jersey. Had to pay by the letter! And they only had yellow letters. UniWatch would not approve.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
Todd Pratt‘s home run in the ’99 NLDS. Was starved for playoff baseball after growing up with the lousy 90’s Mets and you couldn’t have a more climactic end to the series. Still can’t watch a replay without sweating Steve Finley suddenly pulling the ball out of his glove.
Message to Mets Fans
It’s been amazing talking about the Mets every night on the radio over the last four seasons with you. Let’s hope for some more Todd Pratt moments in the near future. LGM!
Today is the last day of the season, well at least for the Mets. With the Mets being 28 games out of first, the only thing left to do is to play this game, hope no one else gets hurt, and not drag things out more than they need.
If there are extras, let’s not hope either manager waits until the 14th inning to put Oliver Perez into the game.
More than any of that, you want to see a great game. You want to have your decision to watch that game and frankly your fandom rewarded. You want David Cone‘s start to end the 1991 season.
The 1991 Mets were officially the end of the line for the best run in Mets history. There would be no finish of second place or better. Instead, the Mets were in fifth place, and they fired their manager Bud Harrelson.
None of that mattered when Cone started the finale of the regular season in Philadelphia.
Cone came out, and he struck out the side in the first. He did it again in the second. He was well on his way to tying Tom Seaver‘s then National League mark of 19 strikeouts in a game.
For those roughly two and a half hours, the Mets weren’t a bad team having their worst season in about a decade. No, they were the best team in baseball, and the baseball world tuned in to see if Cone would achieve baseball immortality.
And that’s why we watch.
You never know what’s going to happen. The 1991 season was a disaster, and Cone had himself a down year. You couldn’t tell that day.
That start there was why you watch. Sure, with Noah Syndergaard pitching 1-2 innings, you’re likely not going to see anyone have a 19 strikeout performance. But that’s just one possibility.
Really, the possibilities are endless. Those endless possibilities are why we watch now. We watch because we’re Mets fans. We watch as baseball fans.
Today, there will be baseball games. As long as there are games being played, there is ever the chance something special will happen.
So, yes, tune in and see the Mets final game. Tune in to see if you can see something you’ve never seen happen in a game. Really, you tune in because you’re a Mets fan.
Hopefully, you’ll be rewarded somehow today with a great performance by the Mets.
At the 2006 trade deadline, many believed the Mets were in need of a big starting pitcher to help the best team in baseball win the World Series. At that time, the big name was Barry Zito, but the Mets were reportedly balking at the asking price which included their top prospect in addition to their best set-up man in Aaron Heilman. Certainly, Heilman became untouchable with Duaner Sanchez‘s injury. However, there is still some debate whether any of the Mets prospects should have been so untouchable so as to prevent them from being moved in a trade many believed the Mets needed to make to win the World Series.
Keeping in mind the Mets didn’t want to move a top prospect, let’s take a look at who was considered the Mets Top 10 prospects back in 2006 and see how their respective careers fared:
The Mets 2003 first round draft pick was seen by many as a future star in the major leagues. He was supposed to be a five tool center fielder. Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way.
Milledge first got his chance in 2006 at first due to a Xavier Nady injury and then because of Nady being traded to sure up their bullpen due to the Sanchez injury. Milledge would show he was not quite ready for the limelight. That shouldn’t be surprising considering he had only played 84 games in AAA, and he was 21 years old. In 56 games, he would only hit .241/.310/.380 with four homers and 22 RBI. He would be unfairly chastised for high fiving the fans after a game tying home run in extra innings.
Unfortunately for him, the home run that led to much hand wringing might’ve been the top moment in his career. Milledge would never figure it out for the Mets, and his star potential would diminish. In 2007, the Mets would move him for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
Overall, Milledge would only play six years in the majors hitting .269/.328/.395 in parts of six major league seasons. He would play his last game for the Chicago White Sox as a 26 year old in April 2011. From there, he would play four years in Japan. In Japan, he wouldn’t re-establish himself as a major leaguer like Cecil Fielder did, nor would he become an acclaimed Japanese League player like Tuffy Rhodes. Rather, he hit a disappointing .272/.348/.447 averaging 10 home runs and 32 RBI.
Milledge suffered injuries limiting him to just 34 games in 2014 and 2015. No one would sign him to play professional baseball anywhere in 2016. In the end his professional baseball career is over at the age of 31.
Petit was the one major prospect the Mets would move to help the 2006 team. The Mets included him in a deal with Grant Psomas and Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado. Delgado would go on to become a slugger at first base the Mets had never truly had in their history. For his part, Petit has put together a nice major leauge career.
Petit would not figure things out until he became a San Francisco Giant in 2012. Under the tutledge of Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy, he would become a very good long man in the bullpen. In his four years with the Giants, he as 10-7 with one save, a 3.66 ERA, and a 1.128 WHIP.
His best work was in the 2014 postseason. That year the Giants rotation was Madison Bumgarner and a group of starters the team could not truly trust to go five innings in a game. Accordingly, Petit was used almost as a piggyback starting pitcher. In that 2014 postseason, Petit would make four appearances going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA (no runs allowed in the NLDS or NLCS) and a 0.868 WHIP.
In the past offseason, Petit was a free agent, and he signed a one year $3 million deal with the Washington Nationals with a $3 million team option for 2016. He struggled this year in his 35 relief appearances and one start going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.323 WHIP.
In his nine year career, Petit is 23-32 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP. Whether or not his option is picked up by the Nationals, we should see Petit pitch in his tenth major league season in 2017.
The Mets traded their 2004 third round pick with Dante Brinkley for Paul Lo Duca. Lo Duca was the emotional leader for the 2006 Mets that almost went to the World Series, and Hernandez never pitched in the major leagues.
Hernandez would bounce around from the Marlins to the Mariners to the Red Sox to the Royals to the White Sox and finally to the Diamondbacks. While Hernandez had shown some early promise with the Mets, he never realized it. He topped out at AAA where he would pitch for four seasons going 30-36 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP.
Hernandez has not given up on his major league dream. Since 2012, Hernandez has been pitching in the Atlantic Leagues. Over the past three seasons, he has pitched Winter Ball. He made 25 starts and two relief appearances for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he was 7-10 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP. At the moment, the 30 year old Hernandez has not been signed to play for a Winter Leagues team.
The Mets 1999 38th round draft pick was part of the aforementioned trade that helped the Mets acquire Delgado. The Mets were largely able to use Jacobs as part of the trade because of the tremendous start to his career.
In 2005, Jacobs hit .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers and 23 RBI in 30 games. While Jacobs continued to be a power hitter after leaving the Mets, he would never again reach those levels. Eventually, his impatience at the plate caught up to him, and he would only only last seven years in the major leagues. His penultimate season was with the Mets in 2010 when he was unseated by Ike Davis as the Mets first baseman.
After being released by the Mets, Jacobs has spent the past six seasons in AAA with a 13 game cup of coffee for the Diamondbacks in 2012. In Jacob’s seven year career, he hit .253/.313/.473 with 100 homers and 312 RBI. As a Met, he hit .290/.360/.645 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Jacobs would have the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.
At this point, it is unknown if the 35 year old Jacobs will continue playing professional baseball in 2017.
The one theme that is developing here is that while these players didn’t have a big impact in the majors or the Mets, Omar Minaya utilized these players to help the ballclub. Humber is a perfect example of that.
The Mets 2004 first round pick (third overall) had an inauspicious start to his professional career needing Tommy John surgery in 2005.
With that Humber would only make one start in his Mets career, and it wasn’t particularly good. With the Mets collapsing in the 2007, and the team having a rash of starting pitcher injuries, the team turned to the highest drafted player in their system. Humber kept the woeful Washington Nationals at bay for the first three innings before allowing Church to hit a two run homer in the fourth and then sowing the seeds for a huge rally in the fifth inning that would see the Mets once 6-0 lead completely evaporate in a frustrating 9-6 loss. This would be the last time Humber took the mound for the Mets. In his Mets career, he would make one start and four relief appearances with no decisions, a 6.00 ERA, and a 1.333 WHIP.
Still, he showed enough to be a major part in the trade that would bring Johan Santana to the Mets. Santana and Humber would both enter immortality. Santana would throw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Humber would become perhaps the unlikeliest of all pitchers to throw a perfect game. It was the 21st perfect game in baseball history. He joined David Cone as the only ex-Mets to throw a perfect game. He joined a much longer list of seven former Mets, highlighted by Nolan Ryan, who threw a no-hitter AFTER leaving the Mets. Humber would also become the pitcher with the highest career ERA to throw a perfect game.
In all, Humber played for five major league teams over his eight major league seasons. In those eight major league seasons, he has gone 16-23 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. He threw his last major league pitch in 2013 in a season he went 0-8 in 13 starts. In 2014, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics’ AAA affiliate. In 2015, he pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leagues going 3-3 with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.855 WHIP in 11 starts and one relief appearance.
Humber had signed on with the San Diego Padres and was invited to Spring Training in 2016. He was released prior to the start of the season, and he did not throw one pitch for any professional team in 2016. He is currently 33 years old, and at this point, he has not announced his retirement.
Gomez has been far and away the best player on the list of the 2006 Mets top prospects. He would be moved with Humber as a centerpiece in the Santana trade.
In Gomez’s early career, it was clear he was a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. He made highlight reel play after highlight reel play for the Twins. However, it was clear from how he was struggling at the plate, the projected five tool player wasn’t quite ready to be the hitter everyone anticipated he would be at the major league level. Eventually, the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers, and in Milwaukee, Gomez would figure it out.
In Gomez’s five plus years with the Brewers, he won a Gold Glove and was a two time All Star. He was also a coveted player at the 2015 trade deadline, and he almost became a New York Met again in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores. As we all remember, Flores cried on the field, and the Mets front office was disappointed in Gomez’s medicals causing them to rescind the trade due to a purported hip issue.
Gomez would then be traded to the Astros, and the Mets would appear to be vindicated for their decision. Gomez played 126 games for the Astros before being released and picked up by the Texas Rangers. In Texas, Gomez began playing like the player the Mets coveted at the 2015 trade deadline. The 33 game burst came at the right time as the 30 year old Gomez will be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.
Overall, Gomez has played for 10 years, and he is a .257/.312/.415 hitter with 116 home runs, 453 RBI, and 239 stolen bases. He is still a good center fielder, and he may still have a couple of good seasons in front of him.
From the moment the Mets signed him as a 16 year old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, F-Mart was seen as a top prospect. Many imagined he would become a five tool player like a Carlos Beltran. Instead, his career went the way of Alex Ochoa.
F-Mart was the first big prize Minaya brought in when he become the General Manager of the Mets. Understandably, he was considered untouchable in trade discussions. As it turns out, the Mets wished they moved him when they had the opportunity.
F-Mart would only play in 47 games over three years with the Mets hitting just .183/.250/.290 with two homers and 12 RBI. Eventually, with him not progressing as the Mets once hoped he would, and a different regime in place, F-Mart would eventually be put on waivers and claimed by the Houston Astros. With the Astros, he would only play in 52 games over two years, and he would just hit .225/.285/.424 with seven homers and 17 RBI.
In 2013, the Astros traded him to the Yankees for minor league depth. After the 2013 season, F-Mart would become a free agent, and he would find no suitors.
In 2014, he only played in the Dominican Winter Leagues, and in 2015, he played in only seven games in the Mexican Leagues. Given how he has bounced around and seeing how many major league teams have either passed on him or have forgotten his existence, it is hard to believe that he is just 28 years old.
Hernandez is undeterred, and he is still playing baseball. Right now, he is playing alongside current Mets shortstop prospect Luis Guillorme for Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds. Spain would go 0-2 in the European Qualifier and will not be a finalist for the World Baseball Classic.
The Mets acquired Hernandez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for backup catcher Vance Wilson in 2005. Hernandez intrigued the Mets because he was an exceptionally skilled defensive shortstop. The question with him was whether he was ever going to hit.
Despite these questions, and with Kaz Matsui starting the year on the disabled list, Hernandez would actually be the Mets Opening Day second baseman. On Opening Day, he would show everyone why he was so highly regarded defensively with an impressive over the shoulder catch. However, Hernandez would also show he would never be able to hit at the big league level. That fact may have forever changed Mets history.
Despite hitting .152/.164/.242 in 25 games with the Mets, he would make the NLCS roster. In Game 7 of the NLCS, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Instead of going to Hernandez to pinch-hit for Heilman to get the bunt down, Willie Randolph went to an injured Cliff Floyd to try to win the game. Floyd would strike out, and Hernandez would enter the game only as a pinch runner for Lo Duca, who had worked out a walk to load the bases. From first base, Hernandez got a good view of how the series would end. Had Hernandez been able to hit just a little bit, it is possible he would have been sent up to bunt, and maybe things would have gone differently.
Overall, Hernandez never did show the ability to hit at the major league level. The Mets gave up waiting. In 2008, with the Mets desperate for relievers to plug in holes to a decimated bullpen, Hernandez was traded to the Nationals for Luis Ayala.
Hernandez would play for four teams in six seasons hitting .241/.300/.314 with four homers and 60 RBI. While he did show he was skilled defensively, he could never hit enough to stick in the majors, and as a result, his major league career was over in 2010 when he was 27 years old.
From 2011 – 2013, Hernandez would play in AAA. For the past three seasons, he has played in the Japanese Leagues. In every season since 2006, the 33 year old has played in the Dominican Winter Leagues for Tigres del Licey. It is unknown at this point if he is going to play for the Tigres this year or if he will return to the Japanese Leagues next year.
Bannister was the Mets 2003 seventh round draft pick out of USC. He would become the first ever Brooklyn Cyclones pitcher to pitch a game for the New York Mets. Bannister had earned that right by beating out Heilman for the fifth spot in the 2006 Mets Opening Day rotation. There were a myriad of reasons including but not limited to Heilman’s importance in the bullpen.
Bannister’s career would get off to quite the start with him going 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.393 WHIP. While he struggled with his command and couldn’t go very deep into games as a result, the Mets were willing to stick with him through those five starts. Unfortunately, Bannister would suffer a hamstring injury at the end of April that would linger for most of the year. By the time he was healthy, John Maine was already a fixture in the rotation. With the Mets acquiring Perez at the trade deadline, there was no longer a spot for him on the major league roster.
With there no longer being any room for him, the Mets moved him in the offseason to the Kansas City Royals for Ambiorix Burgos. It was a trade that was detrimental for both players. Bannister would pitch four years for the Royals going 35-49 with a 5.13 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP. Burgos’ Mets career was marked by ineffectiveness, injury, and domestic violence.
After going 37-50 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP in his five year major league career, Bannister had signed a two year deal to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants. Bannister would never pitch for the Giants. After an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Bannister retired from baseball. Since the 2015 season, the 35 year old Bannister has been a professional scout for the Boston Red Sox.
In 2003, Soler defected to the Dominican Republic from Cuba. The following year he would sign a three year $2.8 million contract with the New York Mets.
Soler would only pitch for the major league club in 2006. He would make eight starts highlighted by a complete game two hit shut out of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, the rest of his starts weren’t as great, and he would finish the year going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP. His contract would expire at the end of the season, and the Mets would not re-sign him.
Soler would pitch in 14 games, mostly out of the bullpen, for the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate in 2007. In the following two seasons, Soler would return to the tri-state area pitching for the Long Island Ducks and Newark Bears of the Independent Leagues. He would not pitch well at either stop, and no one would offer him a contract to play professional baseball in 2010. In 2011, he pitched in two games in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues. Since that time, the 37 year old Soler has not pitched in professional baseball.
At this time, it is unknown as to what Soler has been doing in his post-baseball career.
What is known is that while the top prospects from the 2006 season largely did not pan out, then Mets GM Omar Minaya was able to utilize a number of the players to improve the 2006 and 2007 Mets teams that fell just short. This has left many fans wondering what would have happened if Milledge was moved at his peak value or what would have happened if Hernandez learned how to hit. Things may have gone very differently in both of those seasons.
Still, while you could call each of these prospects, save Gomez, a bust. It is notable that nine of the 10 players played in the major leagues for multiple seasons. Three of the players played in the postseason, and one won a World Series. There have been All Star appearances and a perfect game from this group. While you expected more, each player left their own mark on the Mets and the game of baseball.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.
With the induction of Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey, Jr. coupled with Alan Trammell having fallen off the ballot, some of the glut that has been there in year’s past is no longer there. Still, there are a number of people on the ballot who are deserving of Hall of Fame induction.
Before addressing who I did and who I did not vote for, it should be noted that I am not one who believes steroids users should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. However, I do believe there needs to be some evidence of usage if you are going to deny someone of a vote. For far too long Piazza was denied induction despite the complete lack of credible evidence against him. This fate has also befallen Jeff Bagwell. And no, my opinion on this did not change with the induction of Bud Selig. One mistake should not beget another.
For example, Jesse Haines is considered one of the worst selections in major league history. However, he is not used as a door to induct any starter with a 200 wins and an ERA above 3.50. If that was the case, David Cone and Dwight Gooden would be kicking themselves over retiring before getting those last six wins.
That is why I typically compare players to the average Hall of Famer at that position. Saying someone is similar to the worst player inducted only serves to reduce the quality of the players inducted. To compare everyone to the best of the best excludes players who had truly remarkable careers. With that said, I compare players to the average with some caveats. First, you should get extra credit for postseason play. Second, you should get extra credit for doing something better than anyone has at that position. Third, winning hardware and awards do matter. Note, I only treat those as bonuses and not detractors.
With that long preamble, here are the players I voted for in last year’s IBWAA balloting. After re-examining the respective cases, I am once again voting for the following players:
Career Stats: 17 seasons, .313/.400/.565, 471 2B, 62 3B, 383 HR, 1,311 RBI, 230 SB
Advanced: 72.6 WAR, 44.6 WAR7, 58.6 JAWS
Awards: 7X Gold Glove, 3X Silver Slugger, 5X All-Star, 1997 NL MVP
While Mark McGwire was generally seen as the test for whether steroids players would be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Walker has been the test case for players that have put up terrific offensive numbers at Coors Field. So far, Walker has been penalized for playing in Coors Field, and many people have disregarded someone who has been one of the best right fielders to every play the game.
In his heyday, Walker was not only an outstanding hitter, he was an outstanding fielder as evidenced by his Gold Gloves. He was one of the most complete players of his generation. Despite that, he is being discounted due to Coors Field where players put up proverbial video game numbers.
Yes, Walker did benefit from playing in Coors Field. In his career, Walker was a .381/.462/.710 hitter. However, it should be noted that on the road for his career, Walker was a 278/.370/.495 hitter. Furthermore, in his six years with the Expos at the beginning of his career, he hit .281/.357/.483. Reggie Jackson, who was a first ballot inductee, was a career .262/.356/.490 hitter. Walker’s road and Expos numbers compare very favorably to Jackson.
With the Jackson comparison, the MVP Award, the Gold Gloves, and the advanced stats, Walker should be inducted into Cooperstown.
Stats: 17 seasons, .290/.356/.500, 560 2B, 47 3B, 377 HR, 1,518 RBI, 94 SB
Advanced: 55.2 WAR, 35.6 WAR7, 45.4 JAWS
Awards: 4X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star, 2000 NL MVP
There are many good reasons not to vote for Kent. He was a corner infielder masquerading as a second baseman. The advanced stats certainly don’t match up to the standard for induction into the Hall of Fame. All of this is very true, but I voted for him anyway.
The reason is Kent is the best slugging second baseman in major league history, and he’s the best hitter at the position next to Rogers Hornsby. Among second baseman, he’s hit the most home runs, fourth most doubles, third highest RBI, and the second highest slugging percentage. When you add the 2000 MVP to the picture, there is enough there to say Kent deserves induction into Cooperstown.
Stats: 20 seasons, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 83 CG, 22 SHO, 22 SV, 1.137 WHIP, 3,116 K
Advanced: 79.9 WAR, 49.0 WAR7, 64.5 JAWS
Awards: 6X All-Star, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 WS MVP
Many could look upon Schilling’s career, and they could lament over a relatively low win total and high ERA. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Schilling.
Looking at Schilling’s advanced numbers, he certainly has done enough to earn induction into the Hall of Fame. His WAR and JAWS are above the average for Hall of Fame pitchers. His 127 ERA+ is the same as Tom Seaver‘s. In terms of more traditional stats, Schilling is in the Top 15 on the career strike out list. He is also has the second best K/BB ratio among players eligible for the Hall of Fame. These numbers alone should warrant induction.
On top of that, Schilling is the definition of a Big Game Pitcher. In his postseason career, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP. In the World Series, Schilling was 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA and a 0.896 WHIP. He has won an NLCS MVP and a World Series MVP. He was a key member of three World Series winning clubs. Between his postseason heroics and his regular season dominance, Schilling is a Hall of Famer.
Overall, if we are being honest, the reason Schilling won’t be inducted this year or the upcoming years will be a result of his post-career actions.
Stats: 18 seasons, 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 57 CG, 23 SHO, 1.192 WHIP, 2,813 K
Advanced: 83.0 WAR, 44.5 WAR7, 63.8 JAWS
Awards: 6X Gold Glove, 5X All-Star
At age 39, Mussina finally got to the elusive benchmark of 20 wins in a season. Judging from that year, it appeared he had an extra couple of years left in him to go make a run at 300 like many in his shoes would have. Certainly, with his conditioning and the like, he had at least three years left in him to get it, and if he had, he likely would have been elected into the Hall of Fame without much of a fight.
However, Mussina did not get to that magical number leaving us to examine what was an interesting and a very good career.
To appropriately view Mussina, it needs to be within the context of his era. Mussina not only played during the Steroids Era, but he also pitched in a bandbox like Camden Yards for the majority of his career. It is a huge reason why that despite his relatively high 3.68 ERA for Hall of Fame standards, Mussina has a career 123 ERA+. His 123 ERA+ is the same as Juan Marichal who pitched in a different era, had a career 2.89 ERA, and was a inducted his fourth time on the ballot.
Mussian’s ERA+ is also much higher to first ballot Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and his 112 ERA+. What is interesting about that is despite being completely different pitchers with very different careers, Mussina and Ryan have similar cases from an advanced stat point of view. Despite having pitched in nine more seasons than Mussina, Ryan actually trails Mussina in career WAR. Ryan also trails Mussina in WAR7 and JAWS.
This is not to diminish Ryan’s career. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer for a reason. He was a 300 game winner with more strikeouts and no-hitters than anyone in baseball history. Despite these tremendous stats, it is arguable that Mussina was a the superior pitcher to Ryan. When you can create a valid argument why someone was a better pitcher than a no-doubt Hall of Famer like Ryan, you belong in the Hall of Fame; and ultimately, that is why Mussina belongs in Cooperstown.
On August 11, 1992, the Mets had a day to honor Tom Seaver for being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Considering he was the best pitcher in Mets history, you would think the honor of starting that game would go to Dwight Gooden, who was the only Mets pitcher who would break any of Seaver’s records. David Cone was another terrific choice given how great a pitcher he was for the Mets. Bret Saberhagen would have been fitting as he was a two time Cy Young winner and a former World Series MVP. Even Sid Fernandez could have fit the bill as it was his Game Seven performance that helped prevent Seaver from winning one last ring in 1986.
Instead, it was Eric Hillman, who was making his first ever major league start on a dark and rainy night that drove away most of the fans who should have been there to celebrate with Seaver. To be fair, that game would’ve been called almost any other night had it not been Seaver’s night. Between the weather, and who was going to be honored, it was a difficult situation for a young pitcher. Hillman was up to the challenge pitching eight scoreless innings to help defeat the first place Pittsburgh Pirates.
With Monday’s rainout, the Mets will be in a similar position for Mike Piazza‘s number retirement ceremony.
It was supposed to be Noah Syndergaard. Who better to celebrate the career of the Mets rock star catcher than to have the Mets rock star starting pitcher? Who better to honor the power Piazza showed at the plate than the power pitcher who can routinely throw over 100 MPH? The long haired starting pitcher dominating the opponents should have started the game honoring the long haired dominant hitter. It was all too perfect to be true. With the rain, it’s not going to happen.
Instead, the Mets are most likely going to get a spot starter making his first ever major league start similar to what happened with Eric Hillman on Tom Seaver’s night. It just seems to go that way on a night when the Mets honor their Hall of Famers.
The start could to to Seth Lugo, who has pitched extremely well out of the bullpen in his four appearances this year. Gabriel Ynoa could be summoned from the minor leagues to make his first ever start as could his Las Vegas 51s teammate Robert Gsellman. Whoever it turns out to be, they have some large shoes to fill. No, not Syndergaard’s, the 6’10” Hillman’s. Whoever the Mets give the chance to make his first ever career start needs to go out there and put up a dominant performance like Hillman’s to allow the fans to celebrate deep into the night.
Given the fact that the Mets weren’t going to have any players playing tonight, I wasn’t as excited for the All Star Game. However, it was still a baseball game with the best players in the game, so naturally, I tuned in to watch. Here are some quick thoughts:
I still can’t believe Collins let Jose Fernandez pitch to David Ortiz after Fernandez said he was going to groove one in to Ortiz in a game with World Series homefield advantage on the line. Fortunately, he didn’t, and Ortiz walked.
Speaking of Ortiz, just go away already. I double down on those feelings after seeing how Tim Duncan retired today.
love how Terry Collins lifted all the Cubs starters – Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, and Addison Russell – as the game got close and late. You don’t want the Cubs playing with the World Series on the line.
By the way, remember when the Mets announced to everyone they were signing Zobrist – even after he already agreed to a deal with the Cubs?
As I learned during Game 3 of the World Series, the home team tapes the Stand Up to Cancer signs to each seat with a generic statement like “Survivors.” During the World Series, you could fill-out your own in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. I was shocked there weren’t any “Tony Gwynn” signs in San Diego.
Speaking of the signs, it was classy for Collins, Tim Teufel, and other members of the Mets to hold up signs for Sandy Alderson. I did wonder where the signs for Shannon Forde were. By the way, it was really classy for Daniel Murphy to hold up a sign for “Sandy Alderson” with the way Alderson let it be known he didn’t want Murphy around:
Speaking of Murphy, that Net Negative saved a run with a nice defensive play that Neil Walker doesn’t make. Just saying. It should be noted Murphy reached base in all three at bats, including being the first ever batter to be awarded first base after a replay in the All Star Game, as he’s clutch in the biggest moments.
It was fun being able to root for Murphy again. It was also great seeing Carlos Beltran appear in the game in what is likely to be the last one for the future Hall of Famer. He joined David Cone as the only players to appear for the Mets and Yankees in an All Star Game. Note, remember this on Friday.
I was shocked Mark Melancon wasn’t wearing his Mets hat when Collins brought him into the game in the seventh.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 12, 2016
Nice to hear the blurb about how Terry Collins wanted to get at least one representative from each team in the game and then not pitch Jeurys Familia or Bartolo Colon. Apparently, he thought Mets fans were content seeing just him. But hey, at least the fans of the other 14 teams were upset with him.
And that’s the thing, in essence, I tuned in to watch Terry Collins manage and try to figure out again why the Mets didn’t re-sign Daniel Murphy. In the process, the National League lost the game and homefield advantage in the World Series in a game that saw them leave 10 runners on base.
In that sense, the game wasn’t too dissimilar than watching a Mets game.
Lost in all the offensive struggles is the fact that this Mets team is built upon pitching. As a franchise, the Mets always have and always will be built upon pitching. It started with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack in the late 60’s. It was continued in the 80’s with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, and David Cone. The mantle was supposed to be picked up this year by the Mets young rotation.
However, the rotation has had some struggles. Matt Harvey struggled mightily going 2-4 in May with a 5.91 ERA. To a lesser extent, Jacob deGrom struggled in May going 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA. The concern with deGrom was not so much the results but the seemingly precipitous drop in velocity. These were to the two aces the Mets road all last year and into the postseason. These were supposed to be the two aces this year leading the team while the younger starters developed. Instead, the reverse has been true.
Noah Syndergaard has taken the next step this year. He is 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA and a 0.958 WHIP. He is throwing fastballs up and over 100 MPH, and more impressively, he is throwing sliders around 95 MPH. He is as dominant a pitcher as there is in baseball right now.
Steven Matz was named the National League Rookie of the Month for the Month of May. It was a well deserved honor after going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.757 WHIP. In fact, if you take away his first nightmare of a start, a start he made after a long period of inactivity, Matz is 7-0 with a 1.51 ERA and a 0.932 WHIP. Matz has been the pitcher everyone has imagined he would be and more since he burst onto the scene last year beating the Reds from the mound at the plate.
Overall, Syndergaard and Matz have taken the next step. On almost any other rotation, they would be the unquestioned ace. That was the same thing that has been said for Harvey and deGrom. On that front, there is some great news as well. In Harvey’s last start, he went seven innings allowing only two hits, no runs, and one walk with striking out six. In deGrom’s last start, he went seven innings allowing five hits, one run, and two walks while striking out 10. More importantly, deGrom’s velocity is returning with him getting his fastball up to 96 MPH.
So yes, it appears like the 2016 Mets are continuing the franchise’s legacy of having great pitching. With Syndergaard and Matz being ahead of schedule in their development coupled with Harvey and deGrom starting to return to last year’s form, the Mets rotation is stacked with four aces. If you’re a baseball player or a poker player, you know four aces is next to impossible to beat no matter whatever else you have in your hand . . . even if that hand contains the deuce that the Mets offense was over the month of May.
Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured.
Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:
I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level.
The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them.
One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common? They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery.
Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point.
Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck? Could this all have been avoided? Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury.
In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Rick Aguilera, Randy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career.
In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational? Is it bad luck? Is it preparation? For his part, Harvey wonders what if:
I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen.
That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation? Is it good genes? Is it just good luck? Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it.
It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously. There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him.
Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com
You know sometimes we forget about the impact Keith Hernandez had upon his teammates.
After Hernandez left the Mets, David Cone switched his number from 44 to 17 to honor his former teammate. He would wear it again with the Royals. His fellow color commentator, Ron Darling, wore 17 while a member of the Athletics. Bob Ojeda and Roger McDowell did the same with their future teams. In fact, they occupied the number during Mike Piazza‘s early tenure with the Dodgers. This is interesting because Piazza wanted number 17:
Mets connection with 31, I grabbed it as a rookie b/c Roger McDowell took 17 after Bob Ojeda left LA, hmm?
— Mike Piazza (@mikepiazza31) August 27, 2015
When Piazza joined the Mets, John Franco gave him his number 31. It was a terrific gesture that was part of a full court press to make Piazza comfortable and to get him to resign with the Mets. Piazza’s chosen number,17, was taken by Luis Lopez. He’s one of the many who have had the number that drives Hernandez nuts. I’m assuming Piazza never asked for the number.
With Piazza on the verge of being elected to the Hall of Fame, I presume the Mets would retire his number during the following season. We know that number will be 31. While Franco was a fine Met and a good closer, I’m sure there will be no groundswell to retire the number in his honor as well.
Now if Piazza wore 17, I’m assuming the Mets would’ve told Luis Lopez to find another number. If Piazza’s number 17 was retired, there would’ve been a major groundswell to retire the number in Hernandez’s honor as well. We know there is one already amongst the fan base. Retiring Piazza’s number might’ve created an avenue to retire the number of a popular player and broadcaster. However, Piazza never got to wear 17, and it’s Hernandez’s fault.
He left a tremendous impact with the fans and his teammates. The fans and his teammates wanted to honor him. It’s ironic this impact is what is preventing him from having his number retired.
Somewhere in my house, I have a “Mojo Rising” t-shirt featuring the greatest infield ever. It became the anthem of the 1999 season. After Kenny Rogers forgot how to throw a strike, there was no more “Mojo Risin.” I also stopped wearing the t-shirt.
The following season seemingly every team adapted “Who Let the Dogs Out?” as their rally cry. I don’t know that I ever got that song out of my head. I knew something bad was going to happen when the Baha Men performed before Game Four of the 2000 World Series. My fears were realized when I watched David Cone struck out Mike Piazza. Luckily, after the 2000 World Series went away, so did the Baha Men.
Speaking of the 2000 World Series, N’Sync performed the National Anthem at Game Three of the World Series. It was the wrong boy band. Clearly, this wrong choice set forth a catastrophic chain of events which led to the Yankees winning the World Series. That’s right. I’m blaming N’Sync.
It seems Juan Uribe wants to right that wrong. He started blasting and dancing to the Backstreet Boy in the locker room. This is one of the reasons why Uribe is such a great addition. He keeps things loose in the clubhouse, and he keeps things fun. We all laughed when we saw it. It was fun. I can see this Backstreet Boys being a thing.
Why not? The dumbest things become a thing during a time when your team is winning. Earlier this year, it was the Citi Field raccoon:
These things take on a life of its own. Personally, I like the Backstreet Boys meme. First, it doesn’t seem as forced as the other ones. Second, it’s fun, and the Mets can have fun with it by blasting it on the loudspeakers. I think we should petition Uribe and the other Mets to use the Backstreet Boys for their walk-up music. It’s as organic as Robin Ventura playing “L.A. Woman” in the clubhouse leading to “Mojo Risin” t-shirts. Finally, the Backstreet Boys are there at the promised land:
Let’s let the Backstreet Boys lead us to heaven. They already seem to know the way. Lets Go Mets!