Nov 25

Mets Give Us Many Reasons To Be Thankful

As Mets fans, we have had a lot to be thankful for over the years. First and foremost, we have a team we care about deeply. They give us a release from our daily trials and pressures.

If you’re a shut-in, they give you entertainment and a sense of belonging to a greater entity. They make your day.

MARVELOUS MARV

MARVELOUS MARV

They are our team, unlike any other, and we are thankful for the passion in our hearts whenever we find our seat at Citi Field or turn on the television. For the next three hours, they entertain and sometimes frustrate us. But, we’ll always watch.

I don’t believe in the term “die hard Mets fan,’’ because dying means you eventually turn away from them. If you’re a fan, you always stay. Once you give your heart to them, you don’t take it back.

I also don’t believe in “long suffering Mets fan.” They might frustrate us, but we don’t watch to suffer. We watch in hope.

It’s why, on the day after Thanksgiving, you’re reading Mets blogs, you’re waiting for the Winter Meetings and the hope they’ll do something big, and you’re waiting for spring training.

Quite frankly, the Wilpons and GM Sandy Alderson, from their lofty perches, don’t understand what we do about the team they run.

It’s the holiday season and the order is Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Opening Day. Aren’t they the ones that really matter?

As a Mets fan, what are you most thankful for?

How about William Shea, who when the Dodgers and Giants left the city, fought to bring National League baseball back to New York?

You’re thankful for:

Catcher Hobie Landrith, the first player taken by the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft.

Casey Stengel, the Old Professor was the Mets’ first manager. His words made us dizzy as we watched that 120-loss team in 1962.

Don Zimmer, a Brooklyn Dodger who became an original Met.

Frank Thomas, the Mets’ first star and Ron Hunt, the first All-Star.

We’re thankful for the legends of Marvelous Marv Throneberry; Choo Choo Coleman; Al Jackson; Roger Craig; Jim Hickman; Roy McMillan and his specs; Jay Hook, the winning pitcher in the club’s first victory.

We’re thankful for the former stars who became Mets for a brief time: Richie Ashburn, Gus Bell, Duke Snider, Yogi Berra, and, of course, Gil Hodges.

We’re thankful the Mets let us watch baseball once again in the Polo Grounds. And, we’re thankful for Shea Stadium, that when it opened in 1964 brought a bright and shiny toy for our team to play in.

Once state-of-the-art, even when Shea Stadium became cold, drafty and leaky, we’re thankful because it was our home.

We’re thankful for Hodges’ steadying hand that brought us the Miracle Mets of 1969, with the celebration at Shea Stadium. We’re thankful the Mets became baseball’s best “worst-to-first story.’’

We’re thankful for 1969, and the brilliance that was Tom Seaver, a future Hall of Famer and the franchise’s greatest player.

SEAVER: The Franchise. (Mets)

SEAVER: The Franchise. (Mets)

We’re thankful that season also showcased Jerry Koosman’s guile; Jerry Grote’s toughness; Bud Harrelson’s steadiness at shortstop; Ed Kranepool, who struggled through the hard times to taste champagne; for Tommie Agee’s glove and power; for the addition of Donn Clendenon; and for the steady bat of Cleon Jones.

We’re thankful Hodges had the backbone to publicly discipline Jones, a turning point to that season.

We’re thankful we saw a real team in 1969, with many non-descript players had their moments. Al Weis, Ron Swoboda, Don Cardwell, Ken Boswell, J.C. Martin, Joe Foy, and so many others.

We’re thankful we got to see Nolan Ryan in his Hall of Fame infancy that year.

We’re thankful for organist Jane Jarvis, sign-man Karl Ehrhardt, Banner Day, and the guy we sit next to for nine innings and talk Mets.

We’re also thankful for the second championship season, 1986, when victory was expected and featured one of the game’s greatest comebacks.

We’re thankful the immense talent that wooed us that summer: the brashness of manager Davey Johnson who predicted domination; Keith Hernandez’s leadership, a nifty glove and timely bat; the captaincy of Gary Carter that put the team over the top; the grit and toughness of Len Dykstra, Wally Backman and Ray Knight; the prodigious power of Darryl Strawberry; and, of course, Mookie Wilson.

We’re thankful for Dwight Gooden’s mastery and the K Corner; Sid Fernandez’s overpowering stuff; and the calmness of Ron Darling and Bob Ojeda. We’re thankful for the deepest rotation in franchise history.

We’re thankful the “ball got through Buckner.”

WRIGHT: The Captain. (AP)

WRIGHT: The Captain. (AP)

Although they didn’t win, we’re thankful for the World Series runs in 1973, 2000 and 2015. Because, even in defeat, those teams brought thrills, joy and pride.

We’re thankful for so many more stars thrilled us, even if it was for a brief time: Lee Mazzilli and Rusty Staub; Jon Matlack and Al Leiter; John Milner and Carlos Delgado; Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco; John Stearns and Felix Millan; Tug McGraw and David Cone; Howard Johnson and Edgardo Alfonzo; Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy; Hubie Brooks and Jon Olerud; Rey Ordonez and John Franco; Dave Kingman and Rickey Henderson.

There are so many. You think of one and another comes to mind.

We’re thankful we got to see Willie Mays one more time in a New York uniform. He wasn’t vintage, but the memories of him were.

We’re thankful Carlos Beltran always busted his butt for us, even playing with a fractured face.

We’re thankful for Johan Santana’s willingness to take the ball and the might he finally gave us a no-hitter.

We’re thankful to have a player who embodies the word “class,’’ and that is David Wright. We’re thankful we saw his development from prospect to All-Star. He means so much to us that we hurt when he hurts.

We’re thankful the game’s greatest hitting catcher, Mike Piazza, thought so much of his time here that he chose to wear a Mets’ cap into the Hall of Fame. There’s no greater honor a player can give to his city and fan base.

We’re thankful for the great rotations we’ve had, and for the future of the rotation we have now: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. They give us dreams.

We’re thankful for scintillating moments veteran journeymen pitchers R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon gave us. They gave us a chance to win every fifth day.

We’re thankful for Citi Field, one of baseball’s jewel stadiums. Hopefully, it will bring us the great moments Shea Stadium did.

We’re thankful for so many great plays, from Jones’ catch to end the `69 Series to the plays made by Agee and Swoboda that year. … For Staub playing with a busted shoulder in `73, and, Endy Chavez’s catch in the 2006 NLCS.

We’re thankful for the summer Yoenis Cespedes gave us in 2015 and wonder if he’ll be back for more.

We’re thankful for the enduring pictures and images spun by the words of Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner and Lindsey Nelson. We’re thankful for Kiner’s stories and malapropos; Nelson’s sports coats and the soothing voice of Murph, especially after that win over the Phillies: “and the Mets win it … They win the damn thing.”

We’re thankful for that great broadcasting team, and the one we have now in Gary, Keith and Ron. We’re thankful Gary Cohen is staying.

We’re thankful for the voices when we’re in our cars or grilling on the deck: Howie Rose and Josh Lewin bring us to the game.

We’re thankful for so many memories and for the memories to come.

Yes, with Thanksgiving gone and Christmas approaching, the Mets give us so many reasons to be thankful. Not the least of which is hope for 2017.

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May 08

Will Matt Harvey Ever Get That Great Moment?

Alex Rios’ two-out infield single was the only thing that stood between Matt Harvey and a perfect game.

Managers don’t usually say these things, but Terry Collins thought in the fifth inning Harvey was heading toward history. Even Harvey knew he was on Tuesday night.

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

“Everything was obviously working,’’ Harvey told reporters last night. “When I can throw my slider for a strike and also bounce it when I need to, that’s when it starts getting fun. That was definitely the best I felt all year.’’

He was that on and didn’t get it. The way baseball works, and Harvey understands this, is he could get it on a night he feels awful.

While we are engrossed in the no-hitter pursuit, they are rare because of the nuances in the game. Jim Qualls broke up Tom Seaver’s perfect-game bid in 1969 with a clean single, but as Rios showed they all aren’t line drives.

Rios beat out a dribbler in the shortstop hole. Other no-hitters have been broken up by broken-bat bloops or balls lost in the sun, or bunts. And, who doesn’t remember how Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game on Jim Joyce’s blown call?

Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone threw no-hitters with other teams, when their electric stuff lost some voltage.

No-hitters are flukes, thrown by forgettable names, and not thrown by the greatest arms the sport has ever witnessed. That Nolan Ryan threw seven and Sandy Koufax threw four, and Johnny Vander Meer had them in consecutive starts is incomprehensible. They had skill and stuff, but perhaps it was a matter of the Baseball Gods smiling on them those days.

Harvey has already lost two no-hitters after seven innings this year, so we know the stuff is there, but it isn’t always about stuff. Hey, if a guy swings a bat anything can happen.

What I liked about Harvey was his stuff, his demeanor and his concentration. Do you know how hard it is to breathe and focus when you nose is stuffed with cotton? Harvey started the game with a bloody nose that continued in the early innings.

His focus only sharpened.

What I also liked about him was his acceptance in losing the perfect game. He didn’t regret the slider he threw Rios, and praised Ruben Tejada’s effort.

“In that hole it’s tough,’’ Harvey said. “Obviously anything going away and then making that long throw, I knew it was going to have to be absolutely perfect. He made an awesome attempt.’’

Harvey remains at 4-0 after three straight no-decisions. His 58-12 strikeouts-to-walks ratio illustrates dominance on both the stuff and command levels. What can you say about a 1.28 ERA?

One more number about Harvey is intriguing, and that is his “24 Hour Rule,’’ in which he gives himself a day to relish in a good start or lament something negative, such as losing a perfect game.

Then, it is back to work. On Thursday he will start focusing on Sunday’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yes, Harvey has no-hit potential. No, I can’t say he will ever throw one, but I don’t care. Harvey might not ever get that great moment, but he’s on the way to a great career, and I don’t want to miss a start.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

 

 

Mar 02

Trying To Understand The World Baseball Classic; David Wright Departs

David Cone once told me there could never be a true World Series after the real one because there are only so many pitches in an arm.

It just wouldn’t be practical for one to put his career in jeopardy for a mythical world tournament. Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander – neither of whom are in the World Baseball Classic – instead remain in their spring training camps preparing to pitch for teams that pay them.

WRIGHT: Playing for USA

WRIGHT: Playing for USA (AP)

Make no mistake, the World Baseball Classic is about two clashing financial perspectives. First, there is the noble objective of trying to promote baseball globally, and yes, that means selling even more Yankees and Dodgers caps in countries where the $20 to buy such a hat could more than feed a family for a week.

The other financial viewpoint is from the athletes who are training for their jobs. Mike Trout, arguably the best player in the sport last year, isn’t playing. There are dozens of others staying home.

David Wright is going. This is important to him.

However, baseball is not like soccer or basketball, sports that can be played in a tournament format. Excellence in baseball takes a month in the United States, with three levels of competition. And, that’s with ten teams.

To do a baseball justice on a world stage would require at least two months, not the two weeks they are trying to jam this in.

And, can it be a true tournament if many of the best players in the major leagues aren’t present? Another thing I find puzzling is why don’t the major leaguers – who represent teams in the United States – not play just for the United States. There is not even a masking of their loyalties.

Johan Santana wanted to play for Venezuela, his native country and not for the United States, the home of his employer who will pay him $31 million this season whether he throws a pitch or not.

Continue reading

Apr 22

Add Phil Humber To The List

Add Phil Humber to the list of ex-Mets to throw a no-hitter. Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan seven times, David Cone and Dwight Gooden. Meanwhile, the Mets’ franchise doesn’t have any.

I liked dealing with Humber when he was with the Mets. He was always pleasant to speak with and had a good sense of humor. At the time, I was happy for him when he was traded because I knew it gave him a chance to pitch, something that wasn’t going to happen any time soon with the Mets.

The Mets, of course, shouldn’t lament the trade of Humber because it brought them Johan Santana. At the time, I know few people regretted the deal.

HUMBER: Nice thing for a nice guy.

I don’t write this to rip the Mets. Far from it. I mention it to point out how fickle baseball can be.

Here we are, watching the Mets blow a ninth-inning lead when their rising young outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis overruns a pop-up only to win the game in the bottom of the inning on a wild throw. Amazing stuff. It really was.

Of course, it paled to what happened in Fenway Park. The iconic ballpark – celebrating its 100th anniversary – has been the site of hundreds of memorable moments with dozens of Red Sox collapses. So, why not celebrate that history in grand style? Down 9-0, the Yankees stormed back to back-to-back monster innings to rout the Sox, 15-9.

If Bobby Valentine has a magic touch as a manager, now is the time to use it. Games like yesterday can carry a psychological impact. For the Mets, it could right them after a three-game losing streak. For the Red Sox, as the papers point out this morning, it could carry devastating consequences.

Then again, it could carry no impact. That’s the fickle nature of the sport and one of the reasons it drives us crazy. And, one of the reasons why we love it so.

 

Sep 27

Reyes: A parting gift?

What we’ve never seen from the Mets has been a batting title winner, and Jose Reyes is leading by micro-percentage points. Undoubtedly, a feel good story for the Mets would be for him to win the tile and announce he’s staying.

It would give us a fresh feel and sense of optimism heading into winter, which for the Mets is two days away.

But, I can’t help but think Reyes winning the title will be a paring gift before he hits free agency. For an organization whose history has been tumultuous – some would even say cursed at times – it seems fitting.

In a roundabout way it would be like Tom Seaver, David Cone, Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden throwing their no-hitters as ex-Mets.

Part of me doesn’t want to see Reyes win the title and flaunt it in another uniform, but another part of me knows Mets history well enough to think that will be the case.