Reed and Farnsworth were both able to fairly navigate through what little trouble they had until the fifth inning. Both pitchers would get touched up that inning.
The Mets broke through in the top of the fifth after Todd Zeile and Rey Ordonez drew back-to-back walks to start the inning. After Reed sacrificed them over, Rickey Henderson delivered a sacrifice fly to give the Mets the lead.
As alluded to earlier, it didn’t last long as the Mets infield defense giveth and taketh. After a Joe Girardi lead-off single, Zeile threw away Farmsworth’s sac bunt putting runners at the corners with no outs. Reed minimized the damage by getting Eric Young to hit into a 4-6-3 double play. The run scored, but the rally was over.
The Mets put pressure on the Cubs the ensuing two innings, but they just could not get that key hit.
In the sixth, the Mets loaded the bases with two outs and chased Farnsworth, but Ordonez couldn’t get the key hit. In the seventh, the Mets had first and second with two outs with Mike Piazza unable to deliver the key hit.
The shame is Reed was pitching a gem. In his eight innings, he allowed one unearned run with allowing just two walks and four hits. He should’ve easily walked away with the win. Instead, for a moment, it looked as if the Mets would blow it.
In the bottom of the ninth, John Franco had one of his typical filthy innings. Soon after a Mark Grace single to lead-off the inning, the Cubs quickly had first and second with one out. Franco quickly put out the fire he started striking out Cole Liniak before getting Girardi to ground out to end the inning.
Turk Wendell repeated Franco’s high wire act in the 10th by putting two on with two out. Dennis Cook relieved him. He first made things worse by walking Grace to load the bases before striking out Henry Rodriguez to end the inning.
Finally, after a couple of failed rallies for both teams, the Mets broke through against Danny Young in the 11th.
After two quick outs, Zeile got the rally started with a single. The bases were then loaded after Ordonez and Melvin Mora drew back-to-back walks. Agbayani then pinch hit for Cook:
On a 1-0 pitch, Agbayani hit one just over the CF wall for what was termed a Sayonara Slam.
What really stood out about the game winning grand slam was the fact this was supposed to be Agbayani’s last game before getting sent back down to Norfolk. At the moment, the Mets outfield and roster is very crowded.
In addition to the everyday outfield of Henderson-Darryl Hamilton–Derek Bell, the Mets also gave Kurt Abbott, Agbayani, Matt Franco, Joe McEwing, Mora, and others, the Mets have good depth. As a result, options and versatility work against him. That said, it’ll be very interesting if it is indeed Agbayani who gets sent down when the Mets need Glendon Rusch to make a start.
Whichever way the Mets decide, they already have a key hit from Agbayani which helped them secure a split from the Japan series.
Game Notes: Ordóñez’s Major League record for errorless games at SS was snapped with a first inning error. Even with the error, he’s shown remarkable patience at the plate drawing three walks in nine plate appearances. This follows a career high 49 walks last year.
Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.
With yesterday being Black Friday, people ran out to stores and websites looking for deals, and today, they’re assessing what they got and still need to get. Being Mets fans, we expect the team to spend most of the offseason diving through the discount bins.
To a certain extent, every team needs to do that. The player signed to a minor league deal or on the cheap emerges to be much better than anyone could’ve reasonably expected. Many times, when that happens, your team takes it to the next level. In honor of Black Friday, here are some of the best bargain signings the Mets have made in their history.
For this list, we are only looking at players signed to minor league deals, and as this is the Mets we are talking about, it’s being run on Small Business Saturday.
C Todd Pratt – he went from delivering Dominos to being signed to a minor league deal with the Mets. Three years later, Pratt would hit a walk-off homer off of Matt Mantei clinching the first NLDS in team history.
1B James Loney – in 2016, the Mets were left without a first baseman due to Lucas Duda‘s back injury as well as a host of other injuries on the team. Loney would step in and help the team hitting .305/.367/.463 over his first 22 games to help keep that team afloat and make that push for the Wild Card.
2B Jose Valentin – the Mets signed Valentin to be veteran depth only for him to fill the vacuum left at second base by Anderson Hernandez‘s offensive struggles and Kazuo Matsui‘s injuries. In addition to his 3.6 WAR in 2006, he would hit two homers in the NL East clincher.
3B Matt Franco – signed a minor league deal with the Mets entering the 1996 season. He’d emerge as a good pinch hitter who hit a game winning single off Mariano Rivera clinching the Mets first series win in the Subway Series.
SS Omar Quintanilla – the Mets let Jose Reyes go due to a mixture of the Madoff scandal and the belief Ruben Tejada was ready to be the every day shortstop. When Tejada wasn’t Quintanilla was a pleasant surprise with a career year before being traded for cash considerations.
LF Melvin Mora – Mora signed a minor league deal coming out of Japan. In the 162nd game of the 1999 season, he scored on a wild pitch enduring the playoff game. In the Grand Slam Single game, he hit the cut off man leading to Keith Lockhart getting cut down at the plate. In that postseason, he hit .400/.500/.600.
CF Endy Chavez – signed as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, a season where he’d have the greatest catch in NLCS history. He’d also have other defensive gems and game winning bunts in his Mets career.
RF Marlon Byrd – back in the cavernous Citi Field days, Byrd came to the Mets on a minor league deal in 2013 and hit 21 homers before getting traded to the Pirates in a deal which netted Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.
RP Pedro Feliciano – soon dubbed Perpetual Pedro due to his rubber arm, he’d be a key piece of a great 2006 bullpen, and he’d emerge as the best LOOGY in franchise history.
SP R.A. Dickey – this is the gold standard. Dickey was signed to a minor league deal in 2009, and a few short seasons later, he would become the biggest surprise Cy Young winner in Major League history. The Mets then selling high on him and getting Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud for him makes signing Dickey all the more legendary.
When you look at particular days on the calendar, some have more meaning than others. There is your wedding anniversary and your children’s birthdays. Of course, there is Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July. For the Mets, they have October 17.
In 1969, this would be the day after Jerry Koosman‘s complete game in Game 5 of the World Series. This would be the first ever full day the Mets would be reigning World Series Champions.
As amazing as that was, thirty years later, the Mets would play in another epic Game 5. The Mets trailed the Braves 3-0 in the NLCS. There would be a Game 5 because John Olerud hit a two RBI single off John Rocker in the bottom of the eighth. The thrill of that victory was nothing compared to Game 5.
That Game 5 was an epic 15 inning game which was the longest postseason game in Major League history. You heart was in your throats for each and every inning. That was all the more the case when Melvin Mora threw out Keith Lockhart in the 13th. Lockhart would get the Mets back with an RBI triple in the 15th.
The Mets came back in a rally started with a simply great 12 pitch at-bat by Shawon Dunston. In a game with a series of unlikely events, Edgardo Alfonzo laid down a sacrifice bunt leading to the Braves loading the bases. Todd Pratt drew a game tying RBI walk before Robin Ventura hit the most famous single in baseball history:
This still stands as one of the greatest moments in Mets history, and it is one of the biggest moments in postseason history.
Sixteen years later, Matt Harvey would pitch in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cubs. It was a game which featured it all.
Daniel Murphy continued his postseason heroics with a first inning homer off Jon Lester. Yoenis Cespedes would throw a runner out at the plate. Travis d’Arnaud would actually hit the Home Run Apple. Through it all, Harvey struck out nine through 7.2 innings before Jeurys Familia slammed the door shut.
Sure, there are some down moments on this date just like you have had a bad birthday or two. However, through it all, this date has had some magic to it. Certainly, that’s what it felt like in 1999 and 2015 – pure magic.
Maybe, just maybe, we will see this day have some magic in 2020 with Jacob deGrom pitching and a beloved Mets player like Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, or Jeff McNeil getting a huge hit. With this being the Mets, you never know.
After the Mets took two of three against the Reds, their chances of being one of the two Wild Cards has worsened. In fact, according to Fangraphs their chances are 2.0 percent. As Lloyd Christmas would say, “So, you’re saying there’s a chance.” Here’s where the standings are at the moment:
As it stands for the Mets, they are going to need some help. The good news is with the Cubs getting swept in a four game series with the Cardinals and their losing six straight, they are tied in the loss column with the Mets. That means the Mets are really only behind the Wild Card leaders at the moment. This makes this an exercise in how the Mets fare against the top two teams:
Basically speaking, as Todd Frazier eluded to on Saturday, the Mets need to run the table. However, that still might not be enough to claim a Wild Card. For the Mets, their playing the Marlins in a four game set is a good start for them. If they sweep like they should, they may have a shot.
The Nationals are about to embark on a five game set against with Philadelphia Phillies. You could imagine Bryce Harper is going to try all he can do to knock his old team out of the postseason. As shown above, it’s not going to be just personal as the Phillies are on the very periphery of this race. Of course, after one loss, the Phillies are out, so it will be interesting to see how the Phillies respond when that loss happens.
After the Phillies, the Nationals finish the season with the Indians, who are in a dog fight with the Rays and Athletics for the two Wild Card spots. What makes those games all the tougher is the Indians may be getting Jose Ramirez back. While you can’t anticipate a Nationals collapse, it is certainly on the table.
What may not be on the table is a Brewers collapse, and yet, there is hope the Christian Yelich-less team may finally stumble. After all, they are no longer playing a Pirates team who is easier than a bye.
The Brewers are one game under on the road, and as we recently saw, the Reds and Rockies haven’t given up on the season. It should also be noted that even with the Reds and Rockies being under .500, both teams are over .500 at home. Moreover, the Brewers and Reds season series is tied with the Brewers losing the last three they played in Cincinnati.
All told, the Nationals and Brewers have a difficult end to the season. The issue for the Mets is whether it is difficult enough for them to make a run against the Marlins and a Braves team which really has nothing to do but get ready to host the Cardinals in the NLDS.
Hopefully, this should be a very interesting final week to the season. If everything breaks right for the Mets, we should hopefully see what we saw 20 years ago with Melvin Mora scoring followed by Al Leiter pitching a one hitter. You never know.
With Jacob deGrom receiving his contract extension, it appears he is going to be a Mets pitcher during his prime, and it sets the stage for him to join David Wright and Ed Kranepool as Mets for life. With that being the bulk of the list, there is a host of Mets players who got away. The most famous of which was Tom Seaver who headlined the Midnight Massacre. Putting Seaver aside, the Mets bloggers discussed those players who got away:
Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)
Honestly in recent memory John Olerud comes to mind. He had one of the best pure swings I can remember. Other than that I guess you have to bring up Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner, but who saw those coming?
Daniel Murphy is the most recent Met to have gotten away. And, I’ve heard there are people in the front office who would like a mulligan on that one as well. Having him in 2016 and 2017 would’ve been huge, and not having him kill the Mets in DC would have been huge too.
Allison McCague (Amazin’ Avenue)
To me the most egregious example of a Met getting away is Justin Turner, simply by virtue of how little it would have cost to keep him. Of course, it was impossible to know that he would put up the numbers he did after leaving the Mets, but unlike the Murphy situation where it was a choice not to sign the player as a free agent, they non-tendered a perfectly serviceable utility man just because they didn’t want to pay him and trashed his character on the way out for good measure. I think a dark horse candidate in this conversation, however, would be Collin McHugh, who changed his approach after joining the Astros by throwing his fastball less often and his off-speed pitches more often to much greater success than he ever had as a Met. And now he remains a key piece in the Astros bullpen as they head into another season where they will likely make a push for the postseason.
I’ll give you Justin Turner for sure. What irks me is he’s a good guy and even in the form he was in when he was here, was a valuable piece for the solution. That he evolved thanks to the tutelage of Marlon Byrd while he was here makes it even worse, since this version of Justin Turner would‘ve unquestionably transformed the Mets.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)
Olerud; he was a far superior player to Todd Zeile. Just look at his seasons 2000-02; think he would have helped? In my opinion, if Mets have Olerud, they win 2000 World Series. My God, remember the Zeile farewell tour? Infamnia!
Tim Ryder (MMO)
I’m gonna hesitantly go with Melvin Mora. The guy he got traded away for, Mike Bordick, was a fine pickup and helped that 2000 team get over the hump, no doubt. But Mora went on to have a solid little career and Bordick was back in Baltimore via free agency the following season.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
The Mets let 18-year-old Paul Blair go to the Orioles in the minor league draft of 1962. Blair played 18 seasons in the majors, winning eight Gold Gloves as the premier AL center fielder of his generation.
Then again, had the Mets kept Blair, they wouldn’t have needed to trade for Tommie Agee prior to 1968, and Agee robbed Blair in the 1969 Series, so all’s well that ended well, perhaps.
Pete McCarthy (OABT)
I thought Nolan Ryan was the only answer to this question, but there are some fun ones in here. Yay Mets!
Far be it from me to disagree with you Pete but Ryan wanted out as much as the Mets were frustrated with him. It wasn’t so much that they traded Ryan and he became a Hall of Famer after it’s what they traded him for.
Scott Kazmir would like a word.
There is always going to be a part of me who wonders what would have happened if the Mets kept Darryl Strawberry. He would have one good year in Los Angeles before everything fell apart for both him and the Mets. For those who forget, the Mets opted to replace him with Vince Coleman, who was detestable as a Met, and it lead to a series of poor decisions which built as bad and unlikable a Mets team as we have ever seen. For Strawberry, his personal problems were far worse than anything the Mets encountered.
Looking at everything, there are a number of mistakes like trading Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga, but that at least indirectly led to the team signing Robin Ventura. Murphy leaving transferred the balance of power back to the Nationals.
But overall, the one which comes to mind right now is Matt Harvey. For Harvey, it was more than trading him for Devin Mesoraco. It was everything. The 2013 version looked like future Hall of Fame. The 2015 version looked like a staff ace. The ramifications of that 2015 season were far reaching, and we never saw Harvey return, literally and figuratively.
Before you go away from this piece, please sure you click on the links and visit the sites of those who have taken their time to contribute to this roundtable.
Also, a very special congratulations to Pete McCarthy and his wife on the birth of their baby girl!
The Mets Fan
How You Became A Mets Fan
I became a Mets fan in the late summer of 1969, a propitious time for a six-year-old on Long Island to fall in love with baseball. The excitement they were stirring in the papers attracted me, so I tuned in and never tuned out.
Favorite Mets Player
My favorite Met is Tom Seaver. He was my first favorite and remains my forever favorite.
Favorite Moment in Mets History
My personal favorite moment is Melvin Mora scoring on a wild pitch in the ninth inning, October 3, 1999, to send the Mets to at least a Wild Card play-in game. But it’s hard to not objectively rank Mookie’s roller up the first base line No. 1 in franchise history.
Message to Mets Fans
My message to Mets fans is threefold: Hang in there, gang; spring is coming; read Faith and Fear.
It has been almost 15 years since Bobby Valentine has managed the Mets, and because of how history works, the enduring image we have of Bobby V is the time he came back into the dugout with sunglasses and a fake mustache made with eye back after he had been thrown out of a game. Bobby V was much more than that.
After a disappointing player career that included two forgettable seasons with the Mets, Valentine became a coach. In 1983, he was named the third base coach for the George Bamberger led Mets. Despite Bamberger not lasting the season, and General Manager Frank Cashen cleaning house, the Mets decided to keep Valentine when Davey Johnson was hired. From 1983 – 1985, Valentine was generally regarded as a very good third base coach, who helped in the development of a young Mets team from cellar dwellers to contenders. He would be hired as the Texas Rangers manager, and he would miss all of the 1986 season.
After his stint in Texas, a brief stop in Norfolk, and one in Japan, the Mets brought Bobby V back to the organization for the 1996 season. Initially, he was named as the manager of the Tides. However, after Dallas Green had finally run through all of the young arms on the team, Valentine was named the interim manager for the final 31 games of the season. In the offseason, the interim tag would be removed, and he would start the 1997 season as the Mets manager.
The 1997 Mets were THE surprise team in all of baseball. Despite a starting rotation that was comprised of Rick Reed, Dave Mlicki, Bobby Jones, Mark Clark, Brian Bohanon, and Armando Reynoso, the Mets would go from a 71 win team to an 88 win team. Now, there were good seasons for the turnaround. There was the acquisition of John Olerud. There was also another strong season from Lance Johnson, and Todd Hundley proved his record setting 41 home run 1996 season was no fluke. However, there were other factors at play, and they were directly related to the manger.
First, Edgardo Alfonzo was made the everyday third baseman instead of the utility player he was under Green. Also, while Reed had started the season coming out of the bullpen, Bobby V moved him into the rotation. Additionally, whereas Green’s calling card was to abuse his starters’ arms, Valentine protected his starters’ arms (his starters averaged six innings per start and less), and he used the bullpen to his advantage. On a more subjective note, this was a team that played harder and was more sound fundamentally. It was a team that probably played over their heads for much of the season.
One important note from this season, Mlicki threw a complete game shut-out against the Yankees in the first ever Subway Series game. While the Mets were overmatched in terms of talent in that three game series, Bobby V had that group ready to play, and they very nearly took the three game set from the Yankees.
With the Mets having overachieved, the front office led by General Manager Steve Phillips gave his manager some reinforcements. The team would acquire Al Leiter and Dennis Cook from the Marlins. The Mets would also add Japanese pitcher Masato Yoshii from Japan. However, this team was struggling due to Hundley’s elbow injury and Bernard Gilkey and Carlos Baerga having yet another disappointing season. Bobby V and the Mets kept the team above .500 and competitive long enough to allow the front office to make the bold move to add Mike Piazza.
From there, the Mets took off, and they would actually be in the thick of the Wild Card race. They were in it despite the Hundley LF experiment not working. They were in it despite getting nothing offensively from left field and their middle infield. They were in it despite the fact the Mets effectively had a three man bullpen. The latter (I’m looking at you Mel Rojas) coupled with the Braves dominance of the Mets led to a late season collapse and the team barely missing out on the Wild Card.
The Mets re-loaded in 1999 with Rickey Henderson, Robin Ventura, Roger Cedeno, Armando Benitez, and Orel Hershiser (no, Bobby Bonilla is not getting lumped in here). Things do not initially go as planned. After blowing a late lead, the Yankees beat the Mets, and the Mets found themselves a game under .500. Phillips responded by firing almost all of Bobby V’s coaching staff.
The Mets and Bobby V responded by becoming the hottest team in baseball. From that point forward, the Mets were 70-37. At points during the season, they even held onto first place for a few days. The Mets were helped by Bobby V being judicious with Henderson’s playing time to help keep him fresh. Like in year’s past, Bobby V moved on from a veteran not performing to give Cedeno a chance to play everyday, and he was rewarded. Again, like in previous seasons, Bobby V had to handle a less than stellar starting rotation.
In what was a fun and tumultuous season, the Mets won 97 games. The team nearly avoided disaster again by forcing a one game playoff against the Reds for the Wild Card. Not only did the Mets take that game, but they upset the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. The NLDS performance is all the more impressive when you consider Piazza was forced to miss the last two games due to injury. In the NLCS, they just met a Braves team that had their number for the past three seasons. Still, even with the Braves jumping all over the Mets and getting a 3-0 series lead, we saw the Mets fight back.
In Game 4, it was an eighth inning two run go-ahead Olerud RBI single off John Rocker. In Game 5, it was a 15 inning game that was waiting for the other team to blink first. While, the Mets blinked in the top of the 15th with a Keith Lockhart RBI triple, the Mets responded in the bottom of the 15th with Ventura’s Grand Slam single to send the series back to Atlanta. The Mets would be ever so close in Game 6. They fought back from a 5-0 and 7-3 deficit. Unforutnately, neither John Franco nor Benitez could hold a lead to force a Game 7. Then Kenny Rogers couldn’t navigate his way around a lead-off double and bases loaded one out situation in the 11th.
In 2000, Bobby V finally got the rotation he needed with the trade acquiring Mike Hampton and the emergence of Glendon Rusch. However, even with the much improved rotation, it still was not an easy year for the Mets. It rarely ever was during Bobby V’s tenure.
First, the Mets had to deal with the Henderson and Darryl Hamilton situations. Henderson became a malcontent that wanted a new contract. Hamilton lost his starting job due to a toe injury and had become a part time player. The result was the complete transformation of the outfield with Benny Agbayani and Jay Payton becoming everyday players. In the infield, the Mets lost Olerud to free agency and had to convert free agent third baseman Todd Zeile into a first baseman. Additionally, the Mets lost Gold Glove shortstop Rey Ordonez to injury leading the team to have to rely on Melvin Mora as their shortstop for much of the season. In what was perhaps Bobby V’s finest managing job with the Mets, the team made the postseason for the second straight year. It was the first time in Mets history they had gone to consecutive playoff games.
In the postseason, the team showed the same toughness and grit as they had in prior years. In the first game of the NLDS, they overcame an injury to Derek Bell and saw Timo Perez become a folk hero. The Mets outlasted the Giants in Game 2 despite a Benitez blown save. In Game 3, Agbayani hit a walk-off homer in the 13th, and Game 4 saw the Jones one-hitter. With the Mets not having to face the Braves in the NLCS, they steamrolled through the Cardinals en route to their first World Series since 1986. While the team never gave in, the balls did not bounce in their favor. That was no more apparent than when Zeile’s fly ball hit the top of the left field wall and bounced back into play.
From there, Phillips lost his magic touch. The team started to get old in 2001, and by 2002, everything fell apart. After what was his first season under .500 with the Mets, Bobby V was fired after the 2002 season. With one exception, it was the end of a forgettable and disappointing two seasons for the Mets.
One thing that cannot be lost with the 2001 season was how the Mets dealt with the aftermath of 9/11. Every player did their part. So did their manager. After 9/11 happened, Bobby V was a visible face of the Mets franchise visiting firehouses and helping relief aid at Shea Stadium. When it was time to return to playing games, he was able to get his players in a mindset to play baseball games. That is no small feat when your captain was a local guy who lost a friend on 9/11. Also, while it was the players who spearheaded wearing the First Responders’ caps, it was their manager who stood by their side and encouraged them to wear them despite requests to take them off from the Commissioner’s Office.
Through the roller coaster ride that was the 1,003 games of the Bobby V Era, the Mets were 536-437. During that span, Bobby V managed the second most games in Mets history while earning the second most wins in Mets history. His .534 winning percentage is the third best in Mets history just behind Johnson and Willie Randolph. In all but his final season as Mets manager, the Mets either met or exceed their expected (Pythagorean) record.
Bobby V stands as just one of two managers to go to consecutive postseasons. His 13 postseason wins are the most by any manager in Mets history. He’s the only Mets manager to win a postseason series in consecutive postseasons. He’s managed in more postseason series than any other Mets manager.
Overall, Bobby V is an important part of Mets history. Out of all the managers in Mets history, it is fair to say the Bobby V consistently did more with the talent given to him by his front office. For some, he is the best manager in Mets history. Most will certainly agree he is at least the third best manager in Mets history. For all of this, and how he represented the Mets organization during 9/11 and the aftermath, Bobby V should be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.
Recent reports indicate that President Elect Donald Trump is considering Bobby Valentine as the United States Ambassador to Japan. If Valentine is indeed selected as the Ambassador to Japan, it would be his second biggest accomplishment. Naturally, his biggest accomplishment was leading the 2000 Mets not only to the postseason, but to the National League Pennant.
As luck would have it, the New York Mets would begin the season in Japan. Valentine’s Opening Day outfield was Rickey Henderson–Darryl Hamilton–Derek Bell. Of that group, only Bell would play in a postseason game for the Mets, and he would be injured in Game One of the NLDS. Henderson would prove to be a malcontent that wanted a new contract, and ultimately, he would be released in May. Hamilton would lose his job in April after suffering a toe injury. This led to the Mets outfield being Benny Agbayani–Jay Payton-Bell for most of the season.
The one thing Agbayani could do was hit. In 2000, he hit .289/.391/.477 with 15 homers and 60 RBI in 119 games. However, he was a terrible fielder who did this in the field during a game that season:
For his part, Payton was one of the heralded players out of Georgia Tech that included Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra. While Payton was once considered on par with them, if not better. As a prospect, Payton’s star would diminish a bit, but he would still become a major league player. In his 2000 rookie season, Payton relatively struggled at the plate hitting .291/.331/.447 with 17 homers and 62 RBI in 149 games.
There was more than that. Valentine also had to help make Todd Zeile an effective first baseman after he spent most of his career as a third baseman. Zeile was of course signed to replace John Olerud, who departed in free agency. While Zeile had a nice season hitting .268/.356/.467 with 22 homers and 79 RBI, his production fell far short of Olerud’s .298/.427/.463, 19 homer run, 96 RBI season. When you consider the drop off defensively from the Gold Glover Olerud to the quickly adapting Zeile, the team was noticeably worse at first base.
The team was also worse at shortstop. While Rey Ordonez never hit for much, he was a Gold Glover at shortstop. The Mets would miss that defense after he broke his left arm trying to get a tag down in May. This led to the Mets trying to get by with Melvin Mora at shortstop, who struggled at the plate and in the field. This led to the ill advised trade for Mike Bordick who would hit .260/.321/.365 in his 56 games as a Met.
In reality, this was all part of a Mets team that was considerably weaker than the 1999 version. Pat Mahomes was nowhere near as good as he was in 1999. In place of well established veterans like Orel Hershiser and Kenny Rogers in the rotation, the Mets had Glendon Rusch and the return of Bobby Jones. However, it should be noted the rotation was one area the Mets were better.
Whereas the 1999 Mets were an offensive juggernaut with a strong bullpen, the 2000 Mets were built on starting pitching. Al Leiter had an improved season making him 1A behind the ace the Mets acquired in the offseason, Mike Hampton. With Rusch and Jones outperforming their expectations, and quite possibly what their rotation counterparts did in 1999, the rotation was one area the Mets were improved.
The rotation along with two terrific players in Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo, Valentine was able to lead the Mets to the World Series. Valentine was able to do that despite a diminished offense, vastly diminished defense, an overall less talented roster, and some drama (which usually follows Valentine wherever he goes). It was a team that outperformed their Pythagorean win-loss record by six games. It was a team that outperformed expectations.
Making it to the 2000 World Series should be considered Valentine’s biggest accomplishment. That Mets team really had no business making it to the postseason let alone the World Series. It is why that should stand as Valentine’s biggest accomplishment even if he were to be named as President Trump’s choice to be the Ambassador to Japan.
I remember back in 2000, the stories were that Bobby Valentine needed to make the World Series in order to keep his job. The amazing thing is he actually did it.
Just think about everything that had to happen that year for the Mets to make the World Series. First, the Mets had an overhaul of its outfield during the season. On Opening Day, the Mets outfield was, from left to right, Rickey Henderson–Darryl Hamilton–Derek Bell. At the end of the year, it was Benny Agbayani–Jay Payton-Derek Bell. Agbayani was only on the Opening Day roster because MLB allowed the team to have expanded rosters for their opening series in Japan.
On top of that, Todd Zeile was signed to replace John Olerud. Zeile had to become a first baseman after playing third for 10 years. Edgardo Alfonzo had to adapt from moving from the second spot in the lineup to the third spot. The Mets lost Rey Ordonez to injury and first replaced him with Melvin Mora for 96 games before trading him for the light hitting Mike Bordick. More or less, all of these moves worked. Then came the postseason.
A lot happened in the NLDS. After losing Game One, the Mets faced a quasi must win in Game Two. They were leading before Armando Benitez blew a save. I know. I’m shocked too. The Mets regained the lead, and they won the game when John Franco got a borderline third strike call against Barry Bonds. In Game Three, the Mets won on a Agbayani 13th inning walk off homerun. This was followed by Bobby Jones closing out the series on a one-hitter.
The Mets were then fortunate that the Braves lost to the Cardinals in the other NLDS series. The Mets tore through the Cardinals with new leadoff hitter Timo Perez. We saw all that luck run out in the World Series. We watched Zeile’s potential homerun land on top of the fence and bounce back. On the same play, Perez was thrown out at home. In the same game, Benitez blew the save. Unfortunately, there were no more heroics.
We saw this repeated in 2015. The epically bad Mets offense had to have its pitching hold things together until help came. Part of that required the Nationals to underperform while the Mets were fighting tooth and nail just to stay in the race.
In the NLDS, the Mets were on the verge of elimination. They weren’t eliminated because somehow, some way Jacob deGrom pitched six innings with absolutely nothing. The Mets then needed Daniel Murphy to have a game for the ages. He stole a base while no one was looking, and he hit a big homerun. It was part of an amazing run through the postseason for Murphy. Like in 2000, it came to a crashing halt in the World Series.
No matter how good your team is, it takes a lot of luck to win the World Series. Look at the 86 Mets.
In the NLCS, they barely outlasted the Astros. In Game Three, they needed a Lenny Dykstra two run homerun in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5. In Game Five, Gary Carter hit a walk off single in the 12th to send the Mets back to Houston up 3-2. It was important because they didn’t want to face Mike Scott and his newfound abilities. With that pressure, they rallied from three down in the ninth, blew a 14th inning lead, and nearly blew a three run lead in the 16th inning.
Following this, the Mets quickly fell down 0-2 in the World Series before heading to Boston. After taking 2/3 in Boston, the Mets had to rally in the eighth just to tie Game Six. There are books that can be written not only about the 10th inning, but also Mookie Wilson‘s at bat.
First, they had to have a none on two out rally with each batter getting two strikes against them. For Calvin Schiraldi to even be in the position to meltdown, he had to be traded by the Mets to the Red Sox heading into the 1986 season. In return, the Mets got Bobby Ojeda, who won Game Three and started Game Six. John McNamara removed Schiraldi way too late and brought in Bob Stanley. His “wild pitch” in Mookie’s at bat allowed the tying run to score. You know the rest:
By the way, keep in mind Bill Buckner wasn’t pulled for a defensive replacement. Also, the Mets had to rally late from 3-0 deficit just to tie Game Seven.
We need to keep all of this is mind when setting expectations for the 2016 season. Terry Collins is right when he says World Series title or bust is unfair. We know way too much can happen between now and the World Series. Right now, the only goal should be winning the NL East. If the Mets do that, they have met their reasonable expectations. After that, the Mets are going to need a little luck to win the World Series.