May 04

Summer of 1973; The Forgotten Championship – Tom Seaver Against Bob Gibson

In today’s installment of “The Summer of 1973; The Forgotten Championship,’’ I chose a game from the month of April and will analyze it through the box score.

My pick is the fourth game of the season, April 12, at St. Louis, with Tom Seaver outdueling Bob Gibson, 2-1, to give the Mets a 4-0 start.

SEAVER: Carried the load all year.

SEAVER: Carried the load all year.

It was Seaver’s second start, with his first being a shutout over Philadelphia’s Steve Carlton. His third start was a 1-0 loss to Chicago’s Ferguson Jenkins.

Three games against three Hall of Famers, and five runs of support. It was pretty much that way for Seaver that season, his second in which he won the Cy Young Award.

Seaver was magnificent, going 19-10 with a league-leading 2.08 ERA, 18 complete games and 290 innings pitched. You don’t find that kind of durability anymore.

There are other amazing numbers, including a 0.976 WHIP and a 251-64 strikeouts-walks ratio. Seaver averaged 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings, the fourth straight season out of five in which he led the NL in that category.

All that is simply saying the words “overwhelmingly awesome and dominant’’ in numerical language. Old stats or new, batters had a hard time hitting off Seaver, let alone scoring against him that year.

In examining the box score from that afternoon, you can gain a sense of much the game has changed, beginning with it played in the afternoon.

Because it was a day game – and the match-ups – I thought it might have been Opening Day in St. Louis, but that was the previous day. A massive crowd of 12,290 showed up Opening Day, but only 6,356 saw Seaver-Carlton, which was played in a nifty 1:51.

In addition to the attendance, time it was played and length, what also stood out for me was how clean the box scores were. The Mets used only ten players, the last being Phil Hennigan relieving Seaver in the eighth inning. The Cardinals used 11 players, Tim McCarver as a pinch-hitter for shortstop Ray Busse, and reserve shortstop Mike Tyson. Gibson threw a complete game, one of 13 that season (breaking a string of five straight years of over 20 complete games).

If a game like that were played today, there would have been an abundance of gamesmanship in the form of pinch-hitters and relievers. Back then, the managers turned the game over to, and trusted, their starters.

The Mets gave Seaver all the support he needed in the first inning on Jon Milner’s RBI single and Cleon Jones’ sacrifice fly.

Small crowds, fast games and Hall of Fame pitching match-ups are an indication of how the game has changed over the past four decades.

This game also represented a trend to come that year, and that was the propensity for the Mets playing close games, as they were 31-32 in one-run games that year. One might have thought a World Series team would have a better one-run record, but it must be remembered the Mets barely cracked .500 that year.

It also showed Seaver would have to do much of the heavy lifting himself. And, he could handle the load.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 19

Marquee Billing: Matt Harvey Against Stephen Strasburg

If Matt Harvey is as good as advertised, there will be many more nights like tonight, with him going against another’s ace.

The expectations of Harvey is he will become the anchor of the Mets’ rotation for years to come, picking up along the way a Cy Young Award or two, numerous All-Star appearances, and in the best case scenario, nights of glory in October.

HARVEY: Wants the ball.

HARVEY: Wants the ball.

Late October.

He will become this generation’s Tom Seaver; he will become Dwight Gooden without the fall.

Think Sandy Koufax and Juan Marichal. Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson. Jim Palmer against Denny McLain.

It would be fun if that unfolds, but before we get lost in the future, let’s appreciate the present, which is Harvey against Washington’s Stephen Strasburg.

It shouldn’t be lost tonight is more than a marquee pairing of franchise arms, but for the Mets the need to shake a three-game funk in which their rotation and bullpen were hammered by the Colorado Rockies.

Harvey has known of this for a week, and had a good four hours on a plane last night from Denver to contemplate tonight. Not only of the Nationals’ potent line-up, but the electricity in the stands about the duel and expectations of him being “the real deal,’’ and rescuing this summer.

The scouting report on Harvey is not only about his plus-stuff, but his demeanor and poise. Harvey is very much aware what awaits him tonight, and most importantly, relishes the moment. He has confidence without the cockiness.

“He knows exactly who he is facing,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters in Denver before the Mets lost their third straight game against the Rockies.

“He’s one of these guys who says, `I’ll take the next game.’ He knows what’s going on and who he is facing. … I know he will be ready.’’

Fifteen games into the season and already the Mets are facing a pivotal moment. If they lose tonight, Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee are up next, and who can’t envision three losses spiraling into six? Who can’t imagine the Mets losing control of their season before the kids are out of school for the summer?

Hey, with their bullpen and back end of the rotation, the Mets could lose their summer before the Kentucky Derby.

The Mets are 7-7, which honestly exceeded spring training expectations. However, the expectations are greater than competing for the playoffs, but instead striving for respectability and relevance. Catching the Braves and Nationals will be for another year.

Statistically, Harvey has three of the Mets’ victories with a microscopic 0.82 ERA. He has given up six hits and six walks with 25 strikeouts in 22 innings. And, he’s done it when the belief was he wouldn’t have given the Mets anything less.

Collins said Harvey covets the big stage. He wants the ball. And, when he gets it tonight, he’ll know what to do.

Dec 26

One More Night Of Tom Seaver …

Good morning. I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas and you got what you wanted or needed. If I had the power, I would have given you these things:

* One more summer like 1969, when the expectations weren’t high and your team captured the imagination of the City and the nation.

* An ownership group solvent and desirous of giving you the talent you deserve to cheer for.

* One more night of Tom Seaver going into that classic windup and stride, brushing his right knee to the mound and throwing a darting fastball on the corner, with Willie Mays swinging and missing with a mighty grunt.

* Shea Stadium rocking one more time, with the stands actually moving as the K’s mount up for Dwight Gooden.

* Darryl Strawberry uncoiling that mighty swing of his and ripping a majestic blast deep into the bullpen area. That is, if it misses the scoreboard.

* Another summer against the classic rivalries, the Cubs, the Cardinals, the Braves … and beating them.

* Mike Piazza whiplash swing, rifling a line drive deep into the night.

* The gritty play of Len Dykstra and Wally Backman, diving for balls and into bases, letting us know hustle is still in vogue.

* Keith Hernandez, creeping in from first to pounce on the bunt and nail the runner going to third.

* Johan Santana, healthy from April through October.

* Jerry Koosman dropping a slow curve in on the hands of Willie McCovey.

* Those hundreds of creative signs on Banner Day.

* Seeing the stars come in one more time: Mays, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Gaylord Perry, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Richie Allen, Mike Schmidt, Willie Stargell, Fergie Jenkins, Dale Murphy and yes, Chipper Jones.

* Jose Reyes drilling a liner into the gap, striding around the bases and diving head first into third with a triple.

* Ed Kranepool holding on speedster Maury Wills at first.

* A Dave Kingman moonshot, without the complementary strikeout.

* Shea Stadium on a sunny, Sunday afternoon.

* Citi Field, full for once on a date other than Opening Day and against somebody other than the Yankees.

* Speaking of the Yankees, sweeping them during interleague play.

* Carlos Beltran running into the gap to chase down a line drive.

* A solid rotation of Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez.

* Randy Myers throwing smoke in the ninth.

* Billy Wagner doing the same.

* Jerry Grote blocking the plate.

* An October of magic, with J.C. Martin getting the call when he was struck running down the line … with Tommie Agee chasing down uncatchable fly balls and Donn Clendenon ripping home runs.

* A summer when the non-descript come through in the clutch: Ken Boswell and Al Weis; Ron Taylor and Don Cardwell.

* Another spring training with Casey Stengel telling his tales.

* Another summer with Gil Hodges in the dugout.

* David Wright with supporting hitters all around him.

* John Olerud’s sweet swing.

* Robin Ventura with the bases loaded.

* R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball floating towards home.

* And, one more dribbler down the first base line from Mooke Wilson ….

 

 

Nov 15

Cabrera, Trout And Posey Top MVP Candidates

AL MVP CANDIDATE MIGUEL CABRERA

The Major League postseason awards conclude today with the granddaddy of them all – the Most Valuable Player Awards.

San Francisco catcher Buster Posey and Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera competing against the Angels’ Mike Trout are considered the frontrunners. Throw a blanket over Cabrera and Trout in the American League.

Let’s look at the American League race first because of the potential closeness of the voting.

The award has been shared before, the National League in 1979 between the Cardinals’ Keith Hernandez and the Pirates’ Willie Stargell. It is possible to have co-winners in these awards because they are done on a point system: x number of points for first place, y number of points for second place and so on.

Clearly, Trout had a MVP season, especially impressive had he not missed the first month of the season. Had he played a full season, it is possible he might have prevented Cabrera from winning the Triple Crown, one of baseball’s rarest achievements last done in 1967 by Carl Yastrzemski.

There is no criteria set by the Baseball Writers Association of America, which is why relief pitchers have won (Rollie Fingers, 1981), Willie Hernandez (1984) and Dennis Eckersley (1992). Also, players from teams with losing records (Cal Ripken, 1991) and Ernie Banks (1958-59) have been honored, as well as starting pitchers (Justin Verlander, 2011), Denny McLain and Bob Gibson (1968), and Sandy Koufax (1963).

The voting for all postseason awards must be in on the last day of the regular season, so playoff performances are not counted. However, traditionally, many of the winners – if not most – come from teams in the postseason.

The arguments for Cabrera and Trout are equally compelling, if not convincing.

Cabrera won the Triple Crown which is rare and impressive, and led the American League in OPS; his team made the playoffs and he moved to a different position. All strong arguments for Cabrera.

However, Trout led the majors in runs scored – 20 more than Cabrera; accomplished what he did in fewer games; and his team had a better record than Cabrera’s; and he might have saved at least 20 more runs with his defense. All strong arguments for Trout.

I have no complaint for either, but if forced to choose between the two I would take Cabrera because of the Triple Crown. It is such a rare achievement I can’t overlook.

The National League is easy for me. The best players are Posey, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, last year’s winner, St. Louis’ Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, and Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.

Beltran and Molina will take votes from each other; McCutchen will be penalized by the Pirates’ late season collapse; and Braun will suffer from last year’s drug test controversy.

Posey, coming off a serious injury, hit .336 with over 100 RBI, and caught one of the game’s best staffs.

Jul 06

Reasons Why R.A. Dickey Should Start All-Star Game

There are numerous reasons why R.A. Dickey should start Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Kansas City, so it’s hard to understand Tony La Russa not naming him for the honor. He knows the rotation schedule of the other candidates, so what’s he waiting for? If he wants to screw with New York area fans, he’d start A.J. Burnett (9-2), right?

DICKEY: Should star All-Star Game (AP)

Here’s some of the reasons why he should start:

1. At 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA, he has the best record of any NL starter. Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (11-3), St. Louis’ Lance Lynn (11-4) – the obvious choice if La Russa was playing favorites – Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels (10-4) and San Francisco’s Matt Cain (9-3 and a no-hitter) are having the best seasons for a starter. But, Dickey’s recent run is of historic proportions. His recent ten-game winning streak is reminiscent of pitchers like Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson.

2. La Russa’s worry about not having a catcher familiar with catching a knuckleball has some merit, but I’m not completely buying it. If he’s worried about a wild pitch or passed ball costing a run, wouldn’t it be better for that to happen in the first or second innings and not late in the game?

3. Dickey is clearly the pitching curiosity of the first half, in either league. Give the fans what they want. Isn’t that what the game is supposed to be about?

There’s not guarantee of how well Dickey will pitch Tuesday. Recent starts against the Yankees and Phillies have not been good, but he’s always long on guts and his story is both inspiring personable.

He’ll only be in for an inning or two, but it should be the first two.