May 04

Mariano Rivera Reminds Mets Fans How Fragile Things Can Be

This is a Mets blog, but also a baseball blog, and part of baseball is Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ Hall of Fame closer. Mets fans remember Rivera because he snuffed out many games over the years, including Game 5 of the 2000 World Series.

RIVERA: The end of an era? (YES)

When the ball left Mike Piazza’s bat with a crack I thought it had a chance, but like many before, because of that awesome cutter, Piazza didn’t get all of it and the ball died. It is one of baseball’s most dominating pitches, like Tom Seaver’s slider, Doc  Gooden’s fastball and Johan Santana’s change. Not many solved it.

After watching the Knicks get pulverized last night and getting bored watching the same about the Mavericks, I started to channel surf and caught the tease about Rivera being hurt and his career possibly being over.

Watching him crumpled on the warning track I recalled my eight years covering him and recalled several moments. Coming to mind immediately was his constant demeanor. Whether he sawed off another bat to end a game, or when Luis Gonzalez beat him with a bloop single to win the 2001 World Series, he was a stand-up guy.

However, one time after he blew several save opportunities in a row he got testy and said he was a human being and not a machine with oil running through his veins. It was surprising to hear, but it showed he was, indeed, human.

I enjoyed stopping by his locker to chat about things non-baseball. One spring I told him a joke three days in a row. On the fourth day, he came up to me and said, “where is my joke?” I loved that.

Another time I asked if he could play any position but his own what would it be and he said centerfield. So, to see him shag fly balls was not a surprise. He did it on a daily basis throughout his career.

But, to be injured shagging flies is a freak, unusual thing. Somewhat like his cutter, it is something that can’t be explained. He wasn’t injured because he is over 40 – see Derrick Rose also tearing his ACL – but being over 40 will make the comeback all the more difficult.

Sure, I can see him retiring, but I can also envision his pride not letting him go like this.

Yes, it was an unexplainable injury, but a reminder of how fragile things can be for an athlete. Mets fans have seen more than their fare share in recent years, like Ike Davis’ ankle, David Wright playing a month with a fracture in his back, the concussions of Jason Bay and Ryan Church, and how Billy Wagner’s elbow injury might have cost them the playoffs in 2008 and subsequently brought on the Francisco Rodriguez era.

Followers of the Mets know better than most how an injury can’t be projected, but can determine the course of a team. If Jose Reyes didn’t have an injury history would he have been re-signed? How things might have been different in recent seasons without injuries to Wright, Wagner, Carlos Beltran and Duaner Sanchez.

If Sanchez doesn’t get hurt in that taxi accident, the Mets never would have traded Xavier Nady for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez.

Just think of how things could have been different.

 

Jul 30

Favorite Doc and Straw moment

Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry will be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame this weekend. Both players brought a certain electricity to Shea Stadium.

Each player had the ability to grab the crowd by the scruff of the neck.

For Strawberry, it was the sense of anticipation with every at-bat. He was one of the few players who kept you riveted every time he came to the plate because there was the prospect of hitting a mammoth home run like the one he hit off the scoreboard clock in St. Louis.

For Gooden, during the summers of 1985 and 1986 there was a buzz at Shea whenever he took the mound. I remember how the crowd would rise and scream whenever he got two strikes on a hitter. Gooden had electric stuff, the kind that made you wonder if this would be the night he’d throw a no-hitter.

Eventually, he did. But, fittingly in the tormented history of this franchise, he did so for the Yankees.

Is there a special Doc or Straw moment for you?

Mar 24

March 24.10: Wrapping up the Day.

Jose Reyes returned to camp today, but couldn’t guarantee he’d be ready for Opening Day. And, Reyes said his leg won’t enable him to go all out anytime soon, so he’s got to take it easy.

Jerry Manuel said he doesn’t expect Reyes to be playing by this weekend, telling reporters: “I couldn’t give you a timetable, but it sure is good to have him back.’’

Reyes didn’t run at full speed, but participated in workouts and said he expects to feel sore tomorrow. Reyes said doctors told him he had a virus that elevated his levels and he has diet restrictions, such as not being able to eat seafood.

* Johan Santana gave up two runs on eight hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings.

* Doc Gooden was arrested Tuesday morning for driving under the influence. Is he ever going to get it together?

* It appears the fifth starter job is Jon Niese’s to lose with Fernando Nieve and Hisanori Takahashi trying to earn spots in the bullpen.

* Several reports have the Mets trying to deal outfielder Gary Matthews for pitching. But, considering where Matthews is in his career, what could he bring in return?

Sep 10

Doc back in baseball

There was a time when the nickname said it all. When you said “Doc,” everybody knew exactly who you were talking about. Dwight Gooden and the “K” corner was the best there was for several magical seasons at Shea Stadium.

Drugs took it all away, but he saved enough magic for one more night: A no-hitter while with the Yankees in 2006. The Mets’ franchise has never thrown one.

GOODEN: There was a time when he was special.

GOODEN: There was a time when he was special.

After bouncing around the Yankees and Mets in goodwill fashion the past few years, Gooden will now serve as a senior vice president of the Newark Bears, an Atlantic League franchise. Gooden will be the Bears’ community ambassador and work with youth baseball camps and leagues.

 

It is hoped Gooden’s story will sink in with more than a few kids.

I saw Gooden pitch several times and the feeling was always electric. The fastball sizzled and the curve fell off the table and there was always the feeling of utter domination.

Now is a good time to share some Doc moments.