Todd Zeile

Mets Moonlight Graham

With the second Field of Dreams game, we get to revisit all the things and the people who made that movie special. At least this year, chief among them was the late, great Ray Liotta.

It was Liotta who brought Shoeless Joe Jackson to life. Of course, the story revolves around Shoeless Joe, but he wasn’t the only player key to the plot.

The other famous player was Moonlight Graham.

Graham was the player JD Salinger, sorry Terence Mann, saw on the scoreboard at Fenway Park. He got his one wish to get a plate appearance, but then he had to abandon the dream to save the girl choking.

Ray Kinsella did a masterful job learning who the real Moonlight Graham was and incorporating him into the tale. Sadly, the real Moonlight Graham wasn’t really rewarded did the great post-baseball life he led by getting that plate appearance.

Moonlight Graham’s special or unique. Rather, it just happened to be the one highlighted in a novel and a major motion picture. Really, every franchise has their own Moonlight Graham.

For the New York Mets, that’s Joe Heitpas.

Hietpas made his Major League debut on October 3. 2004. He replaced Todd Zeile, who was playing in his last ever game, and he caught one inning. He’s never bat in that game or any subsequent game.

Of course, that season, the Mets finished 20 games under .500 nowhere near the pennant race. They let Zeile catch but couldn’t get Hietpas even one at-bat or start. Part of the reason was an abdominal muscle strain, but still, the Mets were terrible.

After the season, the Mets hired Omar Minaya and revamped the roster. Between his minor league hitting and there now being more depth, Hietpas never would get a chance to be called up as a catcher again.

The Mets did want to try him at pitcher. Initially, he wanted to make it as a catcher and demurred. He eventually relented, but he had no control, and he would finally be released ending his professional baseball career.

According to SABR, as of September 2018, Hietpas was the last position player to make his Major League debut in the field and never get a plate appearance. Per Hietpas, he doesn’t regret not getting that at-bat.

He’s put together a good life since raising a family. Still, to this day, you have to wonder just how much he really wanted to just wink at the pitcher as he went into his windup.

Edwin Díaz Is No Luis Castillo

For some reason , bizarre things just seem to happen to the New York Mets when they play the New York Yankees. The Mets usually lose as a result.

Choose your moment of infamy. Todd Zeile’s would be homer off Andy Pettitte landing on top of the left field wall leading to Derek Jeter nailing Timo Pérez at the plate.

Of course, the moment which will forever haunt us all is the Luis Castillo dropped pop up. Instead of a Mets win, they lose as Mark Teixeira got on his horse (pun intended) and scored from first to win the game.

For a moment, it seemed like the Mets were going to have another one of those awful gut wrenching moments against the Yankees.

With the Mets up 6-3, a runner on first, and one out, Aaron Judge hit a tapper back to Edwin Díaz. What could’ve been a game ending double play looked like another game just horrifically thrown away.

There are no words for how bad that was. In that moment, you do have a slight pause and concern Díaz will throw it into center, but you never imagine he just won’t throw it at all.

You can already see the narratives emerging. The Mets are reeling, and the Yankees would be the ones who effectively ended their season. The Mets were again going to give away the division to the Atlanta Braves.

Diaz is not a big time closer who cannot handle the pressure situations or New York. He cannot handle the four out saves, and if the Mets even get to October, he will melt down there. Really, this was going to be as insufferable a loss as the Mets could possibly have.

Of course, there would be Mets fans concerns and panic coupled with Yankees fans gloating to make it all the worse. Thankfully, that moment was just a moment we can all laugh about now.

Instead of Anthony Rizzo hitting that game tying three run homer we all expected, he struck out. Then, Gleyber Torres struck out to end the game. Essentially, Diaz did what great closers do – they shake it off and get the next batter.

Maybe this is a sign things are different this year. Certainly, it is a sign Diaz is different, and maybe these two things go hand-in-hand. Whatever the case, we don’t have another Luis Castillo moment, and for that, we as Mets fans can be eternally grateful.



Mets McCann Beat Good Teams On Road

When you have a staff like the New York Mets have, all the offense needs to do is score a couple of runs. When they didn’t for Max Scherzer last night, they needed late inning heroics.

Tonight, the Mets got runs for Chris Bassitt, and it seemed like everything was in cruise control. Again, Bassitt was terrific.

Bassitt did have to navigate through the first inning, but it was relatively smooth sailing from there. He was working well up in the zone much to the consternation of the St. Louis Cardinals.

He pitched so well Paul DeJong didn’t even have a hit. When things are going good, they’re going good.

On the other side, the Cardinals started Jordan Hicks getting the start. He was the only Cardinals pitcher to give up runs.

The Mets opened the scoring in the third on back-to-back doubles from Jeff McNeil and James McCann. McCann had a three hit game and is apparently heating up.

After Brandon Nimmo walked, Hicks left the game with an injury. Starling Marte greeted Andre Pallante with an RBI single.

The Mets were up 2-0 with two on and no outs, and they appeared poised to blow it open. After Francisco Lindor grounded into a double play, that was it for the scoring in the inning.

One thing that was noticeable was how the ball wasn’t carrying. It was a cool night in St. Louis, but this has been a much talked about issue in baseball this season. That said, this was seemingly the first time it was truly noticeable in a Mets game.

While there wasn’t much in terms of threats after that third inning, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t drama. In the eighth, Cardinals reliever Kodi Whitley hit Pete Alonso in the helmet.

Alonso and the Mets were furious, and the benches cleared. Intentional or not, Alonso was hit in the head for the second time this season.

The Mets wouldn’t make the Cardinals pay in the eighth, but they would in the ninth.

Mark Canha hit a one out single, and Travis Jankowski pinch ran for him. Jankowski went first to third on a McNeil single.

After McCann struck out, Nimmo had a typical tough at-bat where he drew a walk. That brought up Marte who was hit by a pitch forcing home a run.

Marte wasn’t happy, but a run scored showing it was unintentional.

An interesting aside here is after Alonso was hit by the pitch, warnings were issued. Despite that Adam Ottavino plunked Tommy Edman in the eighth. Marte was plunked by Aaron Brooks in the ninth.

With no intention adjudged, neither Ottavino nor Brooks were ejected.

Drew Smith had pitched a scoreless seventh in front of Ottavino’s scoreless eighth. Even with Seth Lugo also warming, Buck Showalter went with Edwin Diaz in the ninth.

Traditionally, Diaz isn’t good on a second straight day. After a leadoff walk, it seemed like he was in for trouble again. However, he’d settle down and record the save.

With that, the Mets secured their fourth shutout of the season. It’s also the first time in franchise history they won the first six series to open the season.

Game Notes: Mets batters have been hit 18 times which is the most in the majors. Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez were unavailable leading to Todd Zeile to join Gary Cohen.

Todd Zeile Comments About Marcus Stroman Problematic

Todd Zeile covered the New York Mets as an analyst throughout the 2021 season. That left him eight months to say something about Marcus Stroman.

However, now that Stroman is gone Zeile calls him one of the most divisive players in the Mets clubhouse last year. He intimated things in the clubhouse are better just because Stroman is a Chicago Cub.

Mind you, he didn’t say this when Luis Rojas was taking the fall for the purported clubhouse issues. Notably, he didn’t rebut Rojas when the former manager lauded Stroman for being a great teammate.

He didn’t say anything when there were reports of the Mets having a special chemistry. He was silent on Stroman when the narrative emerged the Mets didn’t do more at the trade deadline because they didn’t want to infringe on the clubhouse chemistry.

Zeile also was silent on Stroman when the clubhouse chemistry issue emerged with Javier Báez‘s thumbs down to the fans. There was a perfect opportunity to address team chemistry and issues. Zeile said nothing.

Time and again, Zeile was silent on Stroman’s impact in the Mets clubhouse. However, now with Buck Showalter being hired and Stroman a Cub, he is telling everyone Stroman is divisive.

Zeile sat on this information until the offseason. He sat on it during the many times the Mets clubhouse chemistry was at issue (good or bad). Now, that he never has to face Stroman, he’s more than ready to denigrate him.

This is completely unprofessional, and it highlights Zeile has little to no credibility. He had pertinent information to share in his role as analyst, and he didn’t disclose it.

Zeile didn’t have the courage to say anything while Stroman was a Met. He didn’t have the courage to say anything while the possibility of Stroman returning existed. This is as callow as it gets.

With these comments, Zeile lost credibility. It leaves you wondering what other information is he failing to disclose just to make his life easier. What is he not telling us so he can avoid an awkward conversation with a player?

Mets fans deserve better than this. The Mets players do as well.

“Don’t Just Believe, Know” Can Become “Ya Gotta Believe!”

Back in 1973, Tug McGraw got himself in a little bit of hot water with New York Mets Chairman of the Board when he responded to the pep talk with the “Ya Gotta Believe!” chant. It irked Grant, who was a renown miser, but here’s the key thing with McGraw – he backed it up.

At that point, McGraw was having a career worst year. From July 11 until the end of the season, McGraw made 28 appearances pitching an astounding 69.1 innings.

Over that stretch, McGraw was 5-2 with 14 saves, a 2.21 ERA, and a 1.067 WHIP. He would pitch 3.0 innings on the final game of the season earning the save as the Mets won the division by a game.

McGraw went forth and backed it up with a terrific postseason. In fact, it was probably one of the finest postseason performances from a Mets reliever. Overall, he was 1-0 with two saves and a 1.98 ERA.

While his earlier jeering battle cry fell flat and irked the Mets front office, his backing it up made it a well known and beloved Mets battle cry.

This is a similar situation Pete Alonso now finds himself.

The Philadelphia Phillies just swept the Mets knocking them from first place to third. It’s part of a maddening 1-9 stretch which has seen the Mets fall to just one game over .500 as this team looks like they’re going to completely fall apart.

Making this all the worse was the most recent loss was a complete hit two hit shut out at the hands of former Met (who wanted to remain a Met) Zack Wheeler. Fans have not been this dejected all season.

The very last thing Mets fans wanted was some Pollyanna pep talk from the fan favorite telling everyone everyone is fine. Well, that’s what they got from Alonso:

This feel exceedingly flat. That goes double with Alonso going 0-for-11 in the series with five strikeouts. One of those strikeouts came in the ninth when he represented the go-ahead run.

Really, Alonso has been terrible of late. Over his last 16 games, he’s hit .140/.269/.316. His not hitting has coincided with the Mets collapse.

Todd Zeile was irked by the comments. He wanted to see more accountability and a more honest assessment of the situation. This echoed Mets fan sentiment. Being honest, it was a very mild account of how fans felt.

There’s a problem with the sentiment from Zeile and others. They were expecting Alonso to be someone he’s not. What we got from Alonso was who he is.

Alonso is where he is due to the belief he has in himself. He’s the player he is because his focus isn’t just on process, but more to the point, not getting too low. He’s the living embodiment of McGraw’s mantra.

Now, it’s really up to Alonso to back it up just like McGraw did. If he takes off and the Mets do win this division, fans will have a much different reaction to the comment.

If the Mets win the division, “Don’t Just Believe, Know” will become a fitting sequel to “Ya Gotta Believe!”

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Sweep Braves?

With the weather, the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves only played one game of the weekend series. With the Mets winning, they swept all the games they did play:

1. You just can’t beat the Mets at Citi Field. So far, they’re 15-5, and that’s even with a Triple-A roster.

2. The Braves are an incredibly flawed team, and there’s only so much Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña can do.

3. The Mets are starting to get healthy with Taijuan Walker back. They also have Seth Lugo and Pete Alonso ready to be activated any day now.

4. Lugo presents an interesting dilemma for the Mets as they robbed Peter to pay Paul by opening up roster spots. Lugo coming off the 60 day IL means someone has to come off the 40 man roster.

5. In past years, the Mets really didn’t have enough players for an everyday lineup, and now, we’re worrying about the backups to the backups. Things really are different.

6. Walker picked right up where he left off, which is to say, he was very good.

7. Mets were cautious with both Walker and Jacob deGrom in their returns from the IL. Again, it’s nice to see things are different around here.

8. One of the biggest changes we see are rain outs. Steve Cohen is making the calls sooner preventing fans from having to unnecessarily make the trek.

9. A side point here is we’ve seen Mets players get injured and seasons get turned sideways with players playing in poor conditions as the Wilpons push to get another gate.

10. James McCann needs to be commended. He got pushed to first due to his own play, Tomas Nido‘s play, and injuries. He responded to the challenge by playing great.

11. Seeing McCann at first, and seeing his bat come alive again, you do wonder if he can play third. After all, it is a shift Todd Zeile (permanently) and Gary Carter (as a sub) have successfully made.

12. Seeing how McCann has played of late, there’s nothing wrong with the McCann/Nido platoon. In fact, it’s a good plan to get the most out of them and the starters.

13. Its a very small sample size, but Billy McKinney looks really good. He could well be someone who more than adequately fills in that 4th/5th OF role.

14. It’ll be something people overlook when they talk about how disappointing Dominic Smith has been, and he has, but he’s been playing hurt at a time when the Mets needed him.

15. Maybe it’s due to overwork, regression to the mean, or something else, but Miguel Castro is starting to look like the enigma he was with the Baltimore Orioles again.

16. Jason Bay got a much longer leash than Francisco Lindor has when it’s come to the booing.

17. On Lindor, this team is winning with pitching and defense, and he’s on the forefront of that. It’s something to remember when the Mets are healthy and debating putting in the full can’t field lineup.

18. By every objective measure, Jonathan Villar has been a below average player, but man, he finds a way to make an impact on a game.

19. The fact Kevin Pillar is going to be one of the first players back is a minor miracle given the injury he suffered and a testament to how tough he is.

20. The May games are over, and the Mets are in first place. They have the largest division lead while they’re getting healthy. Let’s hope this is enough to stave off the usual June swoon.

Francisco Lindor Rat/Raccoon Story Genius

There is not one soul on the planet who believes Francisco Lindor‘s explanation about what happened. Really, no one believes there was a dispute between him and Jeff McNeil over whether they saw a rat or a raccoon in the clubhouse.

We know there was some sort of an altercation. Well, we at least expect there’s one. What really happened is only known by the Mets team.

Yes, it’s the job of the reporters to ask questions and get to the bottom of things. However, their reaction was been way over the top. Instead of bemusement, we saw a charge led by Todd Zeile where they were personally insulted.

Of course, they didn’t with Jeff Wilpon when he stood in the way of Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Jed Lowrie, and countless others with their career threatening and altering injuries. The same goes for creating an environment of harassment with Mickey Callaway, other employees, and his own actions. Who knows what other heinous acts went unreported.

That’s partially besides the point. The media gets to cover what they want to cover. Then again, teams and players in turn get to dictate how to respond to inquiries. There are several options including ignoring the questions, boilerplate answers, and as we saw with Lindor, having some fun with it.

And, the Mets did have fun with it. We saw McNeil have fun saying it was a possum. We also saw tweets from players like Marcus Stroman, Dominic Smith, and Tomas Nido.

Instead of the incident between Lindor and McNeil dividing them and the team, we saw it become a moment which brought the team together. We got a sense of that from Stroman.

It’s also something which has galvanized the fanbase. Mets fans are very protective of their players, and they’re all the moreso when they believe their players are being unfairly maligned.

The raccoon is also a fun angle reminiscent of the rally raccoon. For that matter, Mets fans always enjoy a good animal story whether it’s the black cat or Yoenis Cespedes‘ rally parakeet.

Whatever the case, Lindor took what could’ve been a divisive moment, and he made it absurd. From there, the players and fans rallied together. His ability to do that may very well pay dividends now and in the future.

You Can Wear 21 But Can’t Wear The First Responder Caps

This week, MLB made the fitting tribute of allowing Puerto Rican players and Neil Walker to wear 21 in tribute of Roberto Clemente. It’s a departure from the norm, but it’s a necessary one because there are people and events so important, we need to honor them.

It’s why Major League Baseball players wear 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. It’s why the Houston Astros wore caps last year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. It’s why MLB has special caps for Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, and other days of the year.

Actually no, those are a cash grab. That’s what brings us to the Mets not wearing the first responder caps.

Not since Al Leiter wore a cap for each of the first responders on the one year anniversary of 9/11 have players been permitted to wear the caps. Truth be told, the Mets weren’t allowed to wear them in 2001, but Todd Zeile led his teammates in defying that order.

We know the great lengths MLB has gone to stop it. That includes sending operatives in to collect the caps pregame. Even when David Wright purportedly tried to hide a cap to wear it on the field, they found it and confiscated it.

The reason this is happening is MLB hasn’t found a way to market the caps for profit. Make no mistake, MLB loves making profits off tragedy and crisis. After all, they’re selling you officially licensed face masks during this pandemic.

That’s well within their rights. No one is going to tell them to not make money. After all, they’re a business.

On that note, doing the right thing here and allowing players to wear caps honoring first responders doesn’t cost anything. If anything, it helps get attention for the sport. That’s not too dissimilar from MLB already does when they and the Mets will promote the Mike Piazza home run today.

As an aside, the Wilpons selling that jersey for a profit is another indication of why they needed to be gone. Fortunately, they will be soon.

Overall, MLB did right by Clemente and Robinson. They honored the moon landing. They need to now allow the first responder caps because Pete Alonso getting everyone cleats doesn’t cut it.

If anything, it highlights how everyone but MLB seems to get the importance of remembering 9/11 and the impact that event has had on New Yorkers to this day.

2000 Game Recap: Hampton Goes The Distance

When you have a tired and beleaguered bullpen, and your team has had to go to the whip to pull out some games, what you desperately need is for a starting pitcher to step up and get you innings. Mike Hampton did more than that in going the distance for the second time this season.

In fact, it was a complete game shut out where he set a season high with nine strikeouts.

After the fifth inning, Hampton would not allow another hit, and he would limit the Pirates to just five hits total. With him pitching this way, the win was assured. The question was just how badly the Mets would beat the Pirates. It was a rout.

The game winning RBI was a Jay Payton RBI single in the second scoring Robin Ventura, who had led off the inning with a double off Kris Benson. It would stay close through five-and-a-half until the Mets offense battered a tiring Benson.

In the sixth, the Mets loaded the bases with no outs. Ventura would walk to force home the first run, and Todd Zeile would hit a sacrifice fly to increase the Mets lead to 3-0. The Mets then put the game away in the seventh.

Joe McEwing led off the inning with a single, and he went to third on a Melvin Mora single. Mora then stole second, and he would come home to score with McEwing on a Derek Bell RBI single. The Mets weren’t done there. Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza hit back-to-back doubles to increase the Mets lead to 7-0. It was 8-0 after a Ventura RBI single.

Mora would cap off the Mets scoring with a solo homer in the eighth. That was the capper for a great game from Mora. He was 4-for-5 with three runs, a double, homer, RBI, and a stolen base. If not for Hampton going to the distance, he would have been the star of the game.

Game Notes: With Hampton complaining about the city traffic, there are some who are concerned about the Mets chances to re-sign him. Mora seems to be winning the shortstop job. He has a five game hitting streak, and he is hitting .281 this month.

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.

2000 Game Recap: Mets Offense Picks Up Reed And Flailing Bullpen

For a moment, it had seemed Rick Reed turned the corner, had been past the injuries, and is now the pitcher he was early on in the season. That didn’t seem the case today as the Pirates roughed him up. Over the three innings he lasted, he allowed homers to John Vander Wal and Kevin Young.

In total, he allowed four runs in three innings, and he slogged through with 75 pitches. With the pitch count an ineffectiveness, he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the third.

While Jason Tyner didn’t get a hit, Melvin Mora would get a rally started with a bunt single. Later that inning, Derek Bell and Edgardo Alfonzo would hit a pair of RBI doubles. Combined with Robin Ventura‘s solo homer in the second, the Mets pulled themselves to within 4-3. It was going to be one of those games.

Pat Mahomes came in for Reed, and he was just okay. Over his three innings, he allowed two runs, which came on a Bruce Aven two RBI double in the fifth. After Ventura got one of those runs back in the sixth with his second solo homer of the game, Dennis Cook came in and was as bad as he’s been all season.

Cook allowed a leadoff homer to Brian Giles to start the seventh. Aven would double off of Cook, and later in the inning, Abraham Nunez would hit a two out RBI single giving the Pirates an 8-4 lead. With the way the Mets bullpen has been pitching, that lead seemed safe enough even for the Pirates.

That was until the bottom of the seventh when Mike Piazza jolted the Mets. After a Bell lead-off single, Alfonzo drew a walk. Both would score on a Piazza RBI double. Nunez would give back the run he knocked in when his error allowed Jay Payton to reach and Piazza to score.

The Mets were now withing 8-7, and Bobby Valentine wasn’t taking any chances with his leaky bullpen anymore. With the game on the line, he only trusted John Franco and Armando Benitez the rest of the way. The two would combine to shut the Pirates out over the final two innings and allow the Mets to take the lead.

After Bell drew a one out walk, he was knocked home on a game tying Alfonzo double. After Piazza struck out, Ventura was intentionally walked. Alfonzo and Ventura would come home to score on a go-ahead Todd Zeile RBI double.

When Benitez set the Pirates down in order in the ninth, the Mets turned what could have been a very troublesome game into a good come from behind win. As we see, their bullpen still needs a lot of help, but you will take wins like these whenever they come along.

Game Notes: It may be public posturing, but Steve Phillips has indicated he’s comfortable going forward with Melvin Mora and Kurt Abbott at SS the rest of the way. Before Reed’s short start here, the Mets had quality starts in eight of the last nine games. Piazza has a 13 game hitting streak.

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.