May 12

Mets History Today: Sweeping the Braves behind Hobie and Gil

It was one of the few times when the Mets had their way with the Braves. On this date in 1962 in the Polo Grounds, the Mets got ninth-inning homers from Hobie Landrith and Gil Hodges for their first-ever doubleheader sweep of the Braves.

Landrith’s homer won the first game, 3-2, and Hodges’ homer won the nightcap, 8-7.

LANDRITH: A shining moment.

Landrith hit a two-run pinch homer on the first pitch, but it was almost voided with runner Rod Kanehl nearly missed touching third base.

Landrith was a journeyman reserve catcher who played for Cincinnati, the Cubs, Cardinals, Giants, Mets, Orioles and Senators. However, he’ll always be a trivia question answer to Mets fans for being the first pick of the team in the 1961 expansion draft.

It was after Landrith’s selection that then manager Casey Stengel said, “You gotta have a catcher or you’re going to have a lot of passed balls.’’

Landrith earned $75,000 that year. He returned his initial contract to team president George Weiss, saying it was a $3,000 paycut. Weiss sent that same contract back to Landrith three times before the catcher releneted.

Landrith was the Mets’ Opening Day catcher in 1962, but went 0-for-4, made an error and had the Cardinals steal three bases on him. He was replaced after that game by Joe Ginsberg.

Hodges, of course, was a New York legend, first as a player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and then as manager of the 1969 Mets.

Hodges had his No. 14 retired by the Mets, and to this day it is a mystery to me why he isn’t in the Hall of Fame.

GAME ONE BOX

GAME TWO BOX

 

May 02

Mets win, NY wins, US wins.

I woke up around 6 , turned on the TV and he was still dead.

The flag endures.

Osama bin Laden is dead, and it will be one of those moments that  you’ll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. For those who learned on ESPN last night, it was reminiscent of hearing John Lennon was murdered while watching Monday Football.

I was home channel surfing when I heard. I called a few friends and became mesmerized by the images on the screen. Just like when watching the Japan earthquake, Katrina, Columbine, and, of course, September 11. There is no script to history. It just relentless attacks us and grabs us by the scruff of the neck and shakes. It shook me to about 4 in the morning.

Flipping back to the Mets game, where it was tied in the ninth, 1-1 — 9-1-1. You don’t find irony or symbolism like that too often. It was  inspiring to hear the crowd spontaneously chanting, U-S-A, U-S-A. Sometimes the chant sounds forced and cliche. Not last night.

“I don’t like to give Philadelphia fans too much credit. But they got this one right,” said David Wright when asked about the chanting.

Yes, the Mets won, but the crowd reaction is what we’ll remember and take with us, much as we do the images of that day.

I was covering the Yankees at the time and took the weekend off to move to New York from Maryland. I was on the Jersey Turnpike just north of the Philadelphia exit when the planes hit the towers. Because all the bridges were closed what was normally a five-hour trip became 11. My movers were volunteer firefighters. My furniture didn’t arrive for several more days.

That week was spent covering workouts at Yankee Stadium and watching the Shea Stadium parking lot used for a staging ground for the EMS workers. It was inspiring to see Bobby Valentine and his Mets, in uniform, help the workers load trucks.

And, when the games finally resumed, we witnessed one of the most memorable home runs in New York history, Mike Piazza’s drive that beat the Braves. The Mets and Braves were mortal enemies at the time, and their display of unity that night was another memory. It was another example of how sports can be unifying.

So much has happened in the ten years since, and we’ve changed personally and as a nation in so many ways, and for a baseball writer it goes well beyond the joys of traveling, from the pat downs to the long lines to the general uneasiness of strangers.

I live in a small town in Connecticut, and the fallout hits here, too.

What small town doesn’t have a 9-1-1 Memorial? Who among us doesn’t know someone lost in the attacks and the subsequent military actions in the Middle East? The failing economy is a byproduct of that day, and with it the foreclosure signs, layoffs and stress of trying to make ends meet. Who among us doesn’t cringe when filling up our tanks and wonder when things will ever get back to normal.

Or, is this normal?

I hope you’ll share with us what you were doing that day.

Apr 01

Mets over/under for 2011 and some picks.

In most circles, the Mets are pegged for fourth place in the NL East with roughly 77 victories. Considering their offseason and the issues around the team that seems about right. I’ll throw out a number and you tell me if you’ll take the over/under.

 

Mets victories: 78

Phillies victories: 98

Mets victories over Phillies: 7

Mets victories over Braves: 8

Mike Pelfrey wins: 16

R.A. Dickey wins: 11

Jon Niese wins: 12

Different Mets pitchers to make a start: 11

Francisco Rodriguez game-ending appearances: 50

Rodriguez saves: 25

Ike Davis homers: 21

Games played by Jason Bay: 110

Bay homers: 19

Times Bay will appear on the DL: 2

Games played by Carlos Beltran assuming no trade: 110

Jose Reyes steals: 55

Reyes games with Mets assuming no trade: 145

David Wright homers: 30

Wright strikeouts: 130

Wright RBI: 107

Angel Pagan average: .280

Pagan stolen bases: 30

Jose Thole average: .275

Date we’ll see Johan Santana: Aug. 9

 

My picks:

NL East winner: Phillies

NL Central winner: Reds

NL West winner: Giants

NL wild card: Braves

NL champ: Phillies

Mets finish in NL East: fourth

NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado

NL Cy Young: Matt Cain, San Francisco

 

AL East winner: Boston

AL Central winner: Minnesota

AL West winner: Texas

AL wild-card: New York

AL Champ: Boston

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston

AL Cy Young: CC Sabathia, New York

World Series winner: Boston

Nov 17

Mets showed proper restraint in Uggla

Don’t be too harsh on the Mets for not going after Dan Uggla despite their need for a second baseman.

UGGLA: Did right thing in passing.

Surely, the Mets could have matched the Braves in the talent sent to Florida, but it is apparent they are looking ahead to after the 2011 season when the books are cleared to dive into the free-agent market. By that time their interest figures to be pitching, not throwing over $50 million at a defensive liability at second base, regardless of his power potential.

The Braves made the deal figuring on Uggla being a one-year rental for $7.8 million, a luxury the Mets could not afford.

Sandy Alderson is already on record saying the Mets wouldn’t be big players in the free-agent market because of the $36.5 million earmarked for Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Carlos Beltran, plus $21 million due Johan Santana, who might not be available following surgery.

The Mets need a starter, bullpen help after losing Hisanori Takahashi and likely Pedro Feliciano, a second baseman and back-up catcher.  Even if the Mets were to rent Uggla, the money would be better spent on those areas.

Omar Minaya hamstrung the Mets with bloated contracts. The last thing they need is another one in Uggla, either in the long or short term.

Sep 24

Expect more of the same ….

Unless the Mets discover a sense of pride and their offense this weekend, it is conceivable the Philadelphia Phillies will celebrate winning the NL East in front of their eyes. In 2007 and 2008 the Mets collapsed and were eliminated on the final day of the season. Last year was lost from June on.

This year, from their dugout, the Mets can watch their rivals celebrate success, something they haven’t been able to do since 2006.

And, even if the Phillies don’t bring back slugging outfielder Jayson Werth, the Phillies should remain far superior to the Mets.

They are better at starting pitching and in their bullpen, dwarf the Mets in power, and when it is all on the line, they aren’t afraid to make the big deal. Last year they brought in Cliff Lee; this year it was Roy Oswalt. And, of course, let’s not forget Roy Halladay while the Mets let the pitching market dwindle.

Both teams have had their share of injuries, but the Phillies acted through trade and a deeper minor league system to tread water when Ryan Howard and Chase Utley went down. The Mets forced the issue with Carlos Beltran last year which could conceivably cost them his services for the first half of this season. They also pushed the envelope with Jose Reyes when they should have disabled him around the All-Star break.

The Phillies have more pitching, more power, a front office willing and capable of making the big deal, and an overflowing ballpark that has them printing money to patch whatever holes.

This could be the third straight season the Phillies reach the World Series; the Mets have done it four times in their history.

The Phillies seem to do whatever it takes to improve. The Braves got better this year. The Marlins can’t be dismissed. The Mets? Well, they have $130 million earmarked to bring back the same group of dysfunctional players next year.

The Mets players might not think of that this weekend when then watch the Phillies celebrate. Maybe the Wilpons and management will.