Aug 10

Today in Mets’ History: Remembering Don Cardwell.

Tom Seaver always said Don Cardwell was always one of the more important, yet under appreciated pitchers on the 1969 staff.

CARDWELL: Appreciated by his teammates.

On this date in 1969, Cardwell replaced Nolan Ryan in the third inning and went on to pitch four scoreless innings as the Mets defeated Atlanta, 3-0.

Cardwell offered professionalism and leadership to a young, talented staff. That season Cardwell was a study in perseverance. After a 3-9 start, starting in late July, Cardwell reeled off five straight wins, including a 1-0 shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second game of a doubleheader, Sept. 12.

Jerry Koosman won the first game, 1-0, and in a rarity, both Koosman and Cardwell drove in the runs.

The victory was the Mets’ ninth straight, and came two days after the team moved into first place for good in the NL East.

Cardwell, the prototypical journeyman pitcher, compiled a 102-138 record with a 3.92 ERA pitching for Philadelphia (1957-60), Chicago Cubs (1960-1962), Pittsburgh (1963-66), the Mets (1967-70) and Atlanta (1970).

Cardwell has the distinction of becoming the first major league pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his first start after being traded. After the Phillies traded him to the Cubs, on May 13, 1960, he no-hit St. Louis at Wrigley Field.

That season Cardwell won nine games for the Cubs, but he also hit five home runs.

Cardwell retired in 1970. He eventually returned to his hometown of Winston-Salem, NC, where he died at age 72, Jan. 14, 2008.




Aug 09

Last night is why we watch

It was a habit I picked up as a Little Leaguer, and that is to hang around until the last out. As a reporter, I had no choice, but as a casual viewer there were times I shut things down when the game got out of hand, which has happened more than a few times in recent seasons.

The Mets: Primetime entertainment last night reminds us of what's good.

But, not so much this year, and definitely not last night.

There’s a resiliency about these Mets that make up for their void in talent. There is a likable quality to this team because they overachieve. They hustle where previous Mets teams did not.

Mike Pelfrey was frustrating as he squandered a three-run lead, and then the bullpen blew up. Normally, that would be the story line, but this time the offense – which had been stagnant – responded and thankfully made us forget about Pelfrey.

Normally, when the Mets get hit with a four-spot in the eighth, it is time to look away, but they quickly put two on with one out, and there was the curiosity factor with Mike Baxter coming up.

Of course, I wanted to see the local kid. He’s a good story, and I always root for good stories. His double and Ronny Paulino’s sacrifice fly made it a two run game. They made it worthwhile to keep watching.

I thought about Scott Hairston’s homer in Washington, and Lucas Duda’s ninth-inning, game-tying homer the other day. OK, they still lost, but the situation was there again and it made me wonder.

Jason Pridie singled, and one out later, so did Justin Turner, who is becoming one of my favorite players to watch this year. He hung in on Heath Bell’s breaking ball and dumped it into left. It was a pitch that could easily have eaten him up.

David Wright singled in a run, and all of a sudden the winning run was on second after another wild pitch by Bell.

Up again was Duda, who for some reason reminds me of Lucas McCain of The Rifleman TV series. There’s the name, Lucas, of course, but Duda is bull strong like the McCain character. Connors, by the way, played briefly for the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Dodgers before turning to acting.

The Mets are counting on Duda for power, but it was great to see him go with the pitch and take it up the middle. Professional hitting at its best.

It has been a summer with a growing injury list, the saga of the Mets’ finances and the future of Jose Reyes and where he’ll take his tender hammy next year.

But, for one night at least it was good to get away from all that and watch the Mets show their heart.

After all, games like last night is why we watch, and maybe it was the first game for somebody who became hooked on your ball club.

Last night was a game that reminded us why we are baseball fans and that the baseball clock ticks in outs, not minutes.

And, when outs remain, so does hope.



Aug 08

Damn, maybe they are cursed.

I don’t believe in curses, I really don’t. But, with the Mets, they make you wonder.

Daniel Murphy sustained a Grade 2 MCL tear yesterday. He wasn’t even in the starting lineup, but entered late and left soon after when the Braves’ Jose Costanza slid into his left knee at second base. He’s done for the season. No surgery, but four months of recovery time.

MURPHY: Gone for year.

The way Murphy was hitting it appeared he turned the corner and all the Mets had to do was find a place for him. This is twice now where he’s been injured at second base, so that’s not his sweet spot.

At this timetable, Murphy won’t begin rehabbing until January, so we have no idea if he’ll be ready for spring training.

Meanwhile, Reyes, who missed 16 games with a strained left hamstring last month, reinjured the hammy running out a ball in the first inning.

If the same level of injury landed Reyes on the DL last time, it’s probably a decent assumption to think the same now. In any case, he won’t be playing soon.

Yesterday, I suggested Reyes was returning to earth with his injury and subsequent slump. There’s no reason to pull off that now.

Reyes has had hamstring problems at various times during his career, playing in just 54 games in 2004 and being limited to 36 in 2009. Yes, he had that stretch from 2006-08, but in seeking a long term contract they look at the recent injury history.

The injuries to Reyes and Murphy are two of many to the 2011 Mets, who are without Johan Santana – perhaps for the season – and another starter, Chris Young, for the year. David Wright missed two months with a stress fracture to his lower back, and Ike Davis is likely done for the year with an ankle injury which could require surgery.

On the lower levels, Fernando Martinez and Jenrry Mejia have all missed significant playing – and developing – time.

Ironically, as the Mets face losing Reyes to free-agency, this injury could enhance their chances. That is, if they want to take the risk. Should Reyes miss a significant amount of more time, his price could dip to where the Mets could be players.

But, do they want to bring back a guy who can’t stay on the field?


Aug 08

Today in Mets’ History: Remember George Foster.

On this day in 1985, George Foster had a big day for the Mets with three RBI in a 14-7 victory at Montreal. It was one of his few, if not his last.

FOSTER: Bust in Shea.

Even with his performance, Foster was overshadowed as Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Wally Backman also drove in three runs apiece.

After several monster years with Cincinnati, including hitting 52 and 40 homers in consecutive seasons, the Mets landed the slugger for Greg Harris, Jim Kern and Alex Trevino.

Finally, a true power machine was on his way to Shea

Foster, who already seemed on the downside of his career, was given a five-year, $10-million contract (worth over $22 million by today’s standards).

Foster hit 13 homers in 1982, his first year with the Mets, but bounced back the following year to hit 28, but it was merely a glimpse of his former self as he never hit that many again.

In parts of five seasons with the Mets, Foster hit 99 homers with 361 RBI and will always be regarded as one of the most disappointing acquisitions in club history.

Maybe Foster felt more at home in laid back Cincinnati with its roster of stars in Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez. Perhaps the expectations were too high in New York in the early years, but in the end Foster was also surrounded by stars so the spotlight wasn’t only on him.

Old accounts of him said he was moody, surly and didn’t hustle. In the end, Foster played the race card when talking about his diminished playing time.

“I don’t want to say it’s a racial thing, but … ’’

He was waived shortly after that and signed with the Chicago White Sox. Funny thing, it was Kevin Mitchell who replaced Foster in left field.

At the time the Mets dumped Foster in 1986, he had one homer and 13 RBI.

At one time the guy could play, but he’ll always be remembered as one of the most disliked Mets joining a group that includes Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman, Bret Saberthagen, Kaz Matsui and Scott Schoeneweis.

If you can think of others on the list, let us know.




Aug 06

Reyes coming to Earth?

Jose Reyes said he’s 100 percent, but he’s not really. He’s not been the player he was before going on the disabled list with a hamstring, and while he’s still had a good year, he once again served reminder of the dangers of giving him a long-term contract in the neighborhood of seven years.

REYES: Vulnerabilities showing.

The offensive rap on Reyes has always been giving away too many at-bats at the plate and falling back into bad habits, such as pulling off the ball and adopting an uppercut swing.

What were line drives and crisp ground balls have turned into weak fly balls and pop ups. He’s taking a 2-for-13 slide into tonight’s game against the Braves, including nine fly ball outs.

Reyes has had had a marvelous season and somebody will give him a payday this winter. If not the Mets, then somebody.

However, two things have surfaced to warrant caution in anybody dealing with Reyes, with the first being his propensity to injury and breaking down.

He hasn’t played in 150 games since 2008, and since 2003 has only logged at least 150 games four times. From 2005 through 2008, Reyes had at least 56 stolen bases.

For a player who makes his living with his legs, there are breakdown signs for the 28-year-old Reyes.

With his health always a concern, so is his performance. Players will always have slides and slumps, but there are still holes in Reyes’ game that indicate Carl Crawford money of $142 million over seven years – which Fred Wilpon said he would not get – will be unattainable.

After three years of leading the NL in stolen bases, he has 32 now, his most in four years. His on-base percentage on .376 is the highest of his career, but how much is that playing for the contract? His career .339 on-base is more representative of his capabilities, and that’s not worthy of Crawford money. I don’t know if it is worth more than a $100,000 million package.

He’s never walked more than 77 times in his career and has only drawn 29 this summer. His career strikeouts-to-walks ratio is 498 to 319.

Reyes is a good player having a good season, but as the last few weeks have shown, there are vulnerabilities in his game that say Wilpon might have been right all along.