Aug 21

The Summer of ’69

The Mets are honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Miracle Mets this weekend. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan are back, bringing with them glorious memories.

It was truly an amazing year, with man landing on the moon, the Vietnam War raging and unrest on college campuses throughout the country. Still, baseball captivated us and helped heal the wounds from the civil rights riots from the previous summer.

SEAVER: Tom was Terrific

SEAVER: Tom was Terrific

In the American League, powerful Baltimore rolled, and for much of the summer the Chicago Cubs seemed poised to shed years of frustration and mediocrity. Then, there were the Mets, who, were picked to finish third. Considering the early years of the franchise that was pretty good.

But, the Mets amazed with great pitching.

Offensively, this was not an awesome team. Cleon Jones was the best hitter and there was Tommie Agee. But, Ron Swoboda, Al Weis, Buddy Harrelson, Jerry Grote, Art Shamsky, Ken Boswell didn’t strike fear among opposing pitchers.

A late-season trade acquired slugger Donn Clendenon (click for video) provided the Mets with an offensive identity they lacked. In 202 at-bats, Clendenon had 51 hits, but 12 of them were homers and he drove in 37 runs.

“When we got him, we became a different team,” Harrelson said. “We never had a three-run homer type of guy. He was always humble, never cocky. We were still young kids in that era. He was a veteran that came in and made us better. When you threw him into the mix with the rest of us, we became a dangerous force.

“We knew we had a good team with him, but we didn’t know quite how good. Gil (Hodges) thought we were better than we were. He was the MVP — a very dangerous player.”

While Clendenon gave the Mets pop, they won on a pitching staff that threw an incredible 28 shutouts. Seaver won 25 games.

That season the Mets got off to a slow start, but even after winning two series against the Cubs, they were still in Leo Durocher’s rear view mirror.

On August 13, the Mets were in third place, 9.5 games behind the Cubs, but overtook them with a 38-11 stretch. Included in that was a double-header sweep of Pittsburgh, winning each game 1-0 with the pitchers (Koosman and Don Cardwell) driving in the winning runs.

On Sept. 10, after a double-header sweep of the Expos and the Cubs losing that day to Philadelphia, the Mets moved into first place for the first time in franchise history.

The Mets swept Atlanta in the NLCS, and Seaver was beaten in Game 1 of the World Series at Baltimore. The Mets were about to come back to earth, but reeled off four straight wins … the final out coming on Davey Johnson’s lazy fly to Jones.

I remember a lot from that season: Seaver’s near perfect game; the July series with the Cubs; the black cat; all those shutouts; Steve Carlton striking out 19 Mets but Swoboda hitting a pair of homers for the win; the shoe polish incident in the Series; those catches by Agee and Swoboda; and the luck of J.C. Martin being ruled safe when he clearly ran inside the baseline.

What’s your favorite memory from that season?

Aug 21

About last night …. take another look at K-Rod.

Last winter when the Mets were pondering Francisco Rodriguez, I and other journalists took a cautious approach, saying his fastball was down and the violence of his delivery made him vulnerable to injury.

K-ROD: Not automatic.

K-ROD: Not automatic.


There’s not indication Rodriguez is injured now other than the normal aches and pains of a long season. But in reality, Rodriguez hasn’t had the work load he’s had in other seasons. The save opportunities are down and he’s had long stretches where he doesn’t appear in a game.

Even so, Rodriguez hasn’t been a walk in a park. Well, walks yes. His control is off and there have been times when he’s been hit hard. He’s averaging a strikeout for each of his 56 innings pitched, but he’s walked 32 and given up 40 hits. In short, he’s been far from flawless.

He’s not been automatic and the odds are he’ll break down before his contract is up.

Billy Wagner threw harder than him last night, but don’t read anything into that. Wagner is already on the waiver wire and the Mets are waiting to see who bites, and there will be interest.

Aug 20

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #121; Wagner activated.

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

The 56-64 Mets conclude their series tonight against Atlanta with Johan Santana (13-8, 3.10 ERA) going against rookie Kenshin Kawakami (5-9, 4.13 ERA).

The Mets were torched last night in one of the worst defeats of the season.

Gary Sheffield was in the original line-up but was scratched leading to speculation something might be cooking.

Instead, here’s the line-up against Kawakami:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Daniel Murphy, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Cory Sullivan, LF
Fernando Tatis, 3B
Brian Schneider, C
Anderson Hernandez, SS
Johan Santana, LP

NOTES: Lefty reliever Billy Wagner was activated from the 90-day disabled list. Look for the Mets to attempt to make a waiver deal for him. … Santana is 1-1 in two starts against Atlanta this season, but has yet to allow an earned run. … Carlos Beltran is shagging fly balls, but still needs to test his knee running the bases.

Aug 20

Reading between the lines

Gary Sheffield says he’s feeling fine, but nonetheless was scratched from tonight’s line-up. Could it be the Mets have something brewing? It’s possible. Trouble is the Mets pulled Sheffield off waivers earlier, which means they can’t make a deal for him. If they put him through waivers again and he’s claimed he’s gone and the Mets get nothing.

Gotta wonder.

Aug 20

Mets activate Wagner; release Hernandez

As expected, the Mets activated Billy Wagner from the 60-day disabled list this afternoon. Not so expected, that in order to make room they released Livan Hernandez.

Wagner made remarkable progress from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, but don’t expect to see much of him at Citi Field. He’ll get a few showcase appearances and then the Mets will attempt to make a waiver deal.

WAGNER: Here today, gone tomorrow?

WAGNER: Here today, gone tomorrow?


Wagner has a no-trade clause but would waive it in order to go to a contender. He says he could live for being a set-up man for the rest of this season but wants to be a closer next year. The Chicago Cubs, for one, need a closer.

I’ve always liked Wagner, especially for his outspoken nature. He’s always been a stand-up guy as knows the pulse of the clubhouse.

As for Hernandez, he started at 5-1 and then hit a wall. He was 7-8 with a 5.47 ERA, but had a 7.33 ERA in July and an 11.30 ERA in August.

There are contenders who need innings, and Hernandez pitched well enough to where some team will take a look.