It was a muggy and rainy day that might’ve lead to the game being called on any other night.
But they weren’t going to call this game as it was the night the Mets were retiring Mike Piazza‘s number 31. With the 31 inside a home plate mowed into centerfield, the Mets were ready, and nothing was going to stop the night.
Then Piazza would come through the Mets dugout that seemed to have most of the players there, and the crowd erupted.
The video introducing him was spot on making sure to put an emphasis on his post 9/11 home run
The only thing missing from the tribute was Mets fans giving him a curtain call after he homered off former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez.
Speaking of former teammates, there was some surprise that there weren’t more of his old Mets teammates there. Frankly, I was shocked there was no John Franco, but you don’t know the scheduling issues that would prevent people from coming. For example, you know White Sox manager Robin Ventura would never be able to make it.
You still didn’t notice it too much with who was there. There was old fan favorite Cliff Floyd. The best Mets second baseman of all time Edgardo Alfonzo. The last player there was the first Mets pitcher Piazza ever caught, Al Leiter. Since leaving the Mets, Leiter was never treated properly by Mets fans for how great a Met he was, but on this day, he would be with a loud standing ovation. Then we finally saw the number unveiled:
Piazza honored everyone including the fans. He took in the moment as Mets fans did as well. His induction to Cooperstown was a coronation, but this was a celebration with 42,207 of his closest friends. There would be no roomfor booing as Piazza would remind the fans when he brought up the Wilpons. That’s the power of Piazza – he can get the fans to stop booing the Wilpons.
He gave a poignant speech letting the fans know that for as long as his 31 hangs in Citi Field, he will be with all of us. As he parted, he tried to inspire everyone saying that whenever the team needs inspiration, they need only look up to left field and remember that old Mikey is with them.
After he threw out the first pitch from home plate to Leiter, it was game time
Yes, there were some jokes about Piazza not doing it to Alfonzo at second. The real joke was what followed. The team either didn’t listen or was too undermanned to draw from these inspirational words.
The game itself. It was never going to match the beauty of that ceremony, but it didn’t need to be that ugly. The team never heeded his parting advice.
Given how the Mets have been playing, and the lineup that was put out there, the loss was no surprise. The Mets starter AAA cast-off Justin Ruggiano in center, a reall defensively challenged Kelly Johnson at first, a 43 year old Bartolo Colon on three days rest, and of course Neil Walker. Not even facing the worst starter in baseball Jorge De La Rosa could revive this offense.
It was just a brutal game that saw Terry Collins get tossed in the fourth, and frankly, most Mets fans didn’t stay for much longer than that it a 7-2 loss.
Overall, the only thing worse than the loss was knowing that Tom Seaver was physically unable to attend the ceremony. It was still a great night, and years from now, I will always remember seeing this for the first time.
Game Notes: Jose Reyes was put on the DL before the game.
* Photo courtesy of Jeremy Posner
For whatever reason, the Mets are changing how the retired numbers are displayed. It used to be in the order the numbers were retired, and now with Piazza’s ceremony on the horizon, the Mets have changed it to reverse order. It’ll be interesting to see if that is how it remains. What is also interesting is that the Mets have tipped their hands, and they have shown that they are going to do a “uniform” display of the retired numbers:
What is interesting about that is Piazza never specifically wore that jersey. Sure, the Mets would occasionally wear pinstripes during Piazza’s tenure with the Mets, but when they did the number had a dropshadow.
Instead of the jersey number as the Mets will most likely display it, the Mets should have gone with the black jerseys to represent not just Piazza, but also the specific Mets era in which he played:
That’s the jersey Piazza wore in his first playoff game with the Mets (road version of the black jerseys in Game 1 of the 1999 NLDS). It was a game the Mets won highlighted by an Edgardo Alfonzo grandslam. It was the jersey he was wearing when Robin Ventura hit the Grand Slam single. It was the jersey he wore when he hit the three run homer to cap a 10 run eighth inning rally that saw the Mets overcome an 8-1 deficit against the hated Braves. It was the jersey he wore when the Mets won the 2000 Pennant. It was the jersey he wore when he broke Johnny Bench‘s record for most home runs by a catcher. And yes, it was the jersey he wore when he hit the post 9/11 home run.
Overall, if you conjure up your favorite moment of that era or of Piazza in a Mets uniform, chances are the Mets were wearing the black uniforms. It doesn’t really matter that Piazza wore the snow white jerseys more than any other jersey. The Mets need for symmetry should not outweigh properly representing history, and remember, it was their idea to have the black jerseys in the first place. Instead, the 31 that will forever hang in the Left Field Legends Landing should be the Mets black jersey as that is the jersey that most fans associate with Piazza.
Unfortunately, that is not what is going to happen, and with it the Mets will fail to properly reflect their history.
It’s a process that began with Game 5 of the World Series.
In that game, I saw Terry Collins turn to noted steroid cheat, Bartolo Colon, when the Mets were down in extra innings. The Mets went to him even after he blew Game 1 of the World Series. Why turn to a younger, fresher, and overall better arm like Hansel Robles? No we go to Colon, who blew it again.
I processed the emotions of that loss, and I moved on. Then the Mets bring back Collins, the very same man who managed a horrendous World Series. They brought back Colon because, well, there was no good reason for that. Also, because Sandy Alderson is trying to replicate his late 80’s Oakland Athletics teams (i.e. steroid users), he added Antonio Bastardo to the bullpen mix. That was also after the Mets offered Jenrry Mejia a contract – if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.
While the Mets made sure to keep their steroid cheats, they got rid of Daniel Murphy, who single-handedly carried the Mets this offseason. I guess if Murphy started a steroids cycle and hit 30 home runs last year, the Mets would’ve given him a legitimate contract.
Think about it. The Mets threw away Murphy, who led them to the World Series, and they kept Lucas Duda, who literally threw away the Mets chances of winning a World Series. If the Mets were really serious about winning, they would keep the players that helped them win, and they would’ve gotten rid of the streaky players that did nothing to help them win anything.
Furthermore, during the offseason, we had to see Matt Harvey flaunt his bedroom prowess on Bravo. We saw Noah Syndergaard take a victory lap at every New York stadium and arena after the Mets lost. He probably should’ve spent that time learning how not to lose a World Series or needlessly throw at batter’s heads.
Even better, the Mets released Ruben Tejada for no reason at all. Tejada was an integral part of this Mets team. It was his injury that galvanized the Mets. Even with a cane, he was able to help the Mets win the pennant. When the Mets released him, they not only got rid of their leader, they had no legitimate backup plan. Eric Campbell has no business being a baseball player, and Matt Reynolds is a complete bust. Seriously, just remember it was Omar Minaya’s players, not Sandy Alderson’s that won the pennant.
I got past all of that and more. However, this Spring Training was the final straw. This Mets team has gone 13 straight games without a win. It’s clear from all of this Spring Training, they’re not taking getting ready for the season seriously.
Well, if this team can’t take winning seriously, I can’t root for this team anymore. I still can’t root for another NL team, and I’ll never root for the Yankees. I’ll be honest. It’s hard to pick another team to root for. I’ve been a Mets fan all my life, and the vast majority of my family (including my Dad and brother) are Mets fans.
Right now, I’m leaning towards the White Sox. Their coaching staff is full of great former Mets like Robin Ventura, Joe McEwing, and Daryl Boston. They’re taking getting ready for this season seriously. They actually addressed their needs in the offseason, and they let Adam LaRoche know they will not let his son be a distraction.
I wish Mets fans the best of luck. It’s been 30 years since the last World Series. I’d like to tell you to hang in there; that’ll happen soon. However, I’ve seen two collapses, Carlos Beltran not swinging, and Mike Piazza fly out to deep center. I know it’ll never happen in my lifetime, especially not with this offseason.
Best of luck to you Mets fans. Go ChiSox!
Being a father while being a big leaguer must be extremely difficult. You are effectively on the road nine months out of the year.
That’s why we hear stories about how players like bringing their kids around whenever possible. There are the stories of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Bonds hanging around their Dad’s clubhouses. There was Dusty Baker’s son acting as the bat boy during the 2002 World Series. Now, we have the story of Adam LaRoche and his son.
LaRoche has historically had his son hang around during Spring Training. His son would get his own locker allowing him to hang out with his dad. With LaRoche’s job as a baseball player, this is making up for lost time. After Spring Training is over, LaRoche is on the road the rest of the year. He goes from city to city. He plays night games and gets home late. This is his best chance to spend quality time with his son. While you normally can’t put a price on that, LaRoche did. He determined this was worth more than $13 million.
Before signing with the White Sox last year, Robin Ventura told LaRoche he would have no problem with LaRoche’s son hanging around the clubhouse. In fact, LaRoche’s son had his own locker during the regular season so he could hang out during home games. At no time was LaRoche’s son a distraction. That didn’t prevent the White Sox front office from asking LaRoche to only bring his son around only half the amount of time. Instead, LaRoche decided to retire. He would rather retire than spend less time with his son.
The front office decision did not sit well with the players. As Karl Ravech said on Mike & Mike this morning, the White Sox players threatened to boycott yesterday. They were not going to take the field for practice. They were not going to play in Spring Training games. It wasn’t until Robin Ventura interceded that the disgruntled players finally agreed to go out there for practice and play in Spring Training games.
Every take I see is that there’s no bad guy in this situation. I disagree. When the players show a united front here, it’s the front office that’s the bad guy. We can have an honest debate as to whether children belong in the clubhouse at all. We can have an honest debate as to whether LaRoche’s son was in the clubhouse too frequently. However, the front office made a very poor decision here.
First, the front office caused the retirement of their first baseman. Second, it almost caused a team mutiny. Third, it undermined the manager who is in charge of the clubhouse. There is no scenario in which you can look at this decision and say it was the right decision.
Strange enough, the only good thing that arose from this situation was seeing how well Robin Ventura handled the situation. He kept control of the team and the clubhouse with an angry team on the verge of a boycott. He showed himself to be a strong leader who is respected by his team. Seeing this, maybe the front office should’ve allowed Ventura to handle this whole situation.
They didn’t, and now they are down a first baseman.
It’s that time of the year when we get that warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s a time when you feel even closer to what you love. I am of course referring to Pitchers and Catchers reporting to Spring Training this week.
As the Mets report, they are trying to do something that only Bobby Valentine’s Mets have ever done. They are trying to go to the postseason for consecutive years. It’s still amazing to think that in the 54 year history of the Mets, they have only e been in consecutive postseasons only once. Gil Hodges couldn’t do it. Davey Johnson couldn’t. Willie Randolph came agonizingly close.
No, the only one to do it was Bobby V. He did it with a core of Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura, and Al Leiter. He had a terrific bullpen of Armando Benitez, John Franco, Turk Wendell, and Dennis Cook. Each year, he had drastically different outfields and rotations. Yet, he was still able to make it work. He got the most out of these teams. The Mets made consecutive NLCS appearances, and they were close to winning a World Series.
This now is the task set forth for Terry Collins. For the first time in 16 years and the second time in Mets history, he is tasked with leading a Mets team to consecutive postseason berths. Like Bobby V, he has a strong core of players. Unlike Bobby V, he has not had much turnover in the roster.
Overall, the one thing uniting Bobby V’s Mets and Terry Collins’ Mets is hope. Mets fans hope and believe in this team. We all believe this is our year even after a heartbreaking loss. And yes, as this is Valentine’s Day, Mets fans love their team.
So remember on this the coldest of Bobby Valentine’s Day, Spring is in the air, and we will soon be reunited with the team we love.
My favorite Mets team was the 1999 team. I loved everything about that team from Bobby V to Mike Piazza to Edgardo Alfonzo to Robin Ventura to John Olerud. It was my first real taste of a pennant race and the playoffs. I was lucky to be there for Pratt’s All Folks and the Grand Slam Single. I look back on the year with melancoly because of this:
In 2000, the Mets got Mike Hampton. The season became World Series or bust. A strange feeling for a Mets fan. Hampton would deliver. He was the NLCS MVP. The Mets then had to face the Yankees in the World Series. It was a cruel series with Todd Zeile‘s ball landing on the wall and falling back into play. Timo Perez didn’t run and didn’t score. Roger Clemens threw a bat at Piazza and wasn’t ejected. The series then ended in the most heartbreaking way possible:
The Mets would be terrible for the next few years, but everything came together in 2006. Our homegrown stars, Jose Reyes and David Wright, we’re becoming superstars. They were joined by the two Carloses: Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. It was a team that ran roughshod over the National League. Beltran was the best baseball player on the planet that year (who somehow didn’t win the MVP). The Mets had momentum in Game Seven with Endy Chavez’s catch. Here’s how that season ended:
In 2007, the Mets reloaded and were primed to go back to the World Series. They were up 7 with 17 to play. On the final game of the season, they sent future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine to the mound with his 300 wins. He wouldn’t be devastated when he got out of the first, but we would:
In 2008, the Mets diagnosed their problem, and much like 2000, they went out to get it. The Mets brought in Johan Santana, and he delivered. they needed him in a strange year that saw Wille Randolph fired after a win on the first game of a west coast trip. The interim manager threatened to cut Reyes if he didn’t come off the field after pulling up lame, and people acted like it was a good thing. Through all of that, the Mets were collapsing again, and yet an injured Santana took the ball on three days rest. He saved the season, but only for a day:
The last three were the most difficult for me because I was there. It got more difficult because Citi Field was initially a disappointment. It got worse because the product on the field was bad.
Then Matt Harvey came up and was an All Star. Jacob deGrom came from seemingly nowhere to become a Rookie of the Year and an All Star. They were joined by Noah Syndergaard. The Mets made a flurry of trades including one for Yoenis Cespedes. Daniel Murphy had an out of body experience. Then this happened:
All that pain. All that suffering. We know what it’s like to be Mets fans. There’s pain and suffering. However, there are moments of pure joy. It’s all the losing that makes nights like last night all the more special.
We’re Mets fans. We were there for all of this. There are older fans who experienced more pain, but also more joy. There are younger fans who only know losing. Now, we’re all Pennant Winners. It’s like the 80’s again when the Mets are the best team of baseball. We’re “Back in the New York groove!”
Rarely, if ever, do you see the Mets go all-in on a season. In fact, the only time I remember it happening was 1999 when Steve Phillips traded everyone to try to improve the team after just missing out on the playoffs in 1998.
Watching that 1999 team was probably the most fun I had watching baseball. With that season came so many highlights including the Al Leiter two-hitter in the Wild Card play-in game, Pratt’s All Folks, and the Grand Slam Single. The season ended cruelly with Kenny Rogers . . . .
If you remember, that year the Mets gave away Jason Isringhausen for Billy Taylor. As we know Taylor had no regular season impact and was left off the playoff roster. It also saw Octavio Dotel get called up too soon and stay in the majors too long to the tune of a 5.38 ERA. He was warming in the bullpen when Kenny Rogers . . . .
This year, the Mets are seemingly all-in like they were in 1999. They gave up their two best prospects who have not appeared in the majors this year. In exchange the Mets received two and a half months of Tyler Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes, who is leaving as a free agent. Because of deplorable offense, Michael Conforto was rushed to the majors, and the Mets won’t send him back down.
Look, I understand going all-in. It led to a run in 1999, and to a certain extent 2000. However, in order to go all-in, you don’t hedge your bets.
For starters, that means ending the innings limits nonsense. First of all, the underlying theorem was proven incorrect. Second, the rotation is set up nicely the rest of the year if it’s left unadulterated. Third, Steven Matz must go to the bullpen upon his return from the DL.
If the Mets make the playoffs, he will be in the bullpen anyway (if he makes the postseason roster). He can be like the 2006 Adam Wainwright or the 2008 David Price out there. This will help him and the Mets. If you put him in the rotation, you mess up the rotation and you endanger the opportunity that Matz can be effective in the postseason as a reliever.
If the Mets are truly all-in as their trades and treatment of Conforto suggest, Matz will be a reliever. If the Mets put him in the rotation and try spot starts or a six man rotation in September, then they should’ve sent down Conforto. You can’t go half way in being all-in.
Let’s hope no matter what they do, it works out to their benefit. Let’s also hope we’re talking potential postseason roster moves instead.