Apr 11

Today In Mets’ History: Grote Homer Beats Reds

Not known for his power, on this day in 1971 Mets catcher Jerry Grote’s homer in the bottom of the 11th was the difference in a 1-0 victory over Cincinnati at Shea Stadium.

Batting eighth, Grote homered off Wayne Granger to lead off the inning. Grote homered twice that season and 39 times during his 16-year career, which included 12 seasons with the Mets where he carved a reputation as a defensive specialist with a strong throwing arm.

GROTE: Mets' best defensive catcher. (AP)

GROTE: Mets’ best defensive catcher. (AP)

Grote was a National League All-Star in 1968 and 1974. In those days, the NL was strong behind the plate with the likes of Johnny Bench, Tim McCarver and Randy Hundley.

How good was Grote defensively? Bench once said: “If Grote and I were on the same team, I’d be playing third base.”

Tom Seaver started that day and pitched nine scoreless innings. He was relieved by Tub McGraw, who worked two innings for the victory.

Grote also played with Houston (1963-64), the Dodgers (1977-78, and 81), and Kansas City (1981).

Grote was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 1992.

He is 73 and lives in San Antonio, Tx.

ON DECK: April 11, Mets’ Lineup Against Miami

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Apr 03

Today In Mets’ History: Win Seaver In Hat Lottery

On this date in 1966, Tom Seaver’s name was picked from a hat in a special draft, awarding him to the Mets over the Indians and Phillies.

SEAVER: Mets hit lottery with him. (Topps)

SEAVER: Mets hit lottery with him. (Topps)

In 1965, Seaver was originally drafted by the Dodgers following his 10-2 sophomore season. However, the Dodgers balked at Seaver’s $70,000 salary demands and he re-entered the draft for 1966. This time, the Braves took him.

Seaver signed with Atlanta, but the contract was voided by then commissioner William Eckert because his USC college team had played two exhibition games (although Seaver didn’t play).

When Seaver’s father threatened a lawsuit, Major League Baseball backtracked with the hat lottery.

There are some interesting “what ifs” had history played out differently. For example, had the Dodgers agree to Seaver’s original salary request, he and Don Drysdale could have formed an interesting tandem. No, he never would have played with Sandy Koufax, but they might have gone to spring training together in 1966, which was the Hall of Fame left-hander’s last season. Koufax retired after the World Series that year because of an arthritic condition in his left elbow.

More delicious, however, would have been had he gone to the Indians, where he could have been part of an interesting rotation featuring Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant and Sonny Siebert.

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Feb 26

Hypothetical Terry Collins Address To Mets

By all accounts, Mets’ manager Terry Collins‘ address to his players today was positive with him stressing the expectations will be higher this season and they should embrace being the hunted. Using that information, I’ve put together a hypothetical speech Collins should have said to his team this morning prior to their first full-squad workout in Port St. Lucie.

“Good morning, gentlemen. It’s great to see all of you. Of course, most of you have been here now for several days, which tells me a lot. It tells me how serious you are about the work ahead of us, which it get back to the World Series and win it this time.

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

“I know we all remember how great it felt after we clinched in Cincinnati, and after we beat the Dodgers and Cubs. I also know how bad we all felt after we lost the World Series. I’m sure you thought about it during the winter. I want you to carry that feeling with you this summer and use it to your advantage.

“Yes, last year was great. But, last year is also last year. Last year doesn’t guarantee us anything this year. Washington will be better. The Cubs are better. The Giants are better. St. Louis is good. The Dodgers and Pirates are good. Nobody will hand us anything. We have to earn anything we get, and that begins with us taking care of our business.

“The media will say David Wright and Matt Harvey are the leaders of this team, and they will right … but only a point. To me, a leader isn’t just a player who produces in a big spot, but somebody whose teammates can rely on at all times. A leader is somebody who does his job. That means keeping your head in the game and keeping your focus at all times.

“It means knowing what to do in the field before the pitch is thrown. It means not giving away at-bats. When we weren’t hitting last year it was mostly because we gave away too many at-bats. We have to do a better job of moving up runners, we have to be more aggressive on the bases and we have to take advantage of opportunities when we get them. Remember, nobody will give us anything.

“It’s a long season and we’re going to need everybody at one time or another. So, when your name is called you have to be ready to play.

“Last season taught us a lot of things. It taught us how great winning can feel. It also told us how bad losing can feel. Above all else, last year taught us how difficult winning can be and we’ll need everybody if we’re going to achieve what we want to do.”

Collins isn’t a rah-rah type, so there wasn’t any “win it for the Gipper,” emotion. So, all this is what he might have said to his team. Collins isn’t one to single players out in a team meeting. He’ll likely meet with his players individually. Hopefully, he’ll stress to Wright the need for him to be honest about how he feels and not fight him about rest.

And, along those lines, and you knew I would get to this eventually, in speaking to Harvey they would have to relive that ninth inning of Game 5. I hope Collins made Harvey understand he went against his better judgment when he let back out for the ninth inning. But, Collins let Harvey stay in the game because he trusted him.

That being said, I hope Collins made it known Harvey would have to regain that trust. And, that would start with Harvey not fighting his decisions when it comes to taking him out of a game.

 

Feb 16

Tejada Should Move On From Utley Play

Ruben Tejada is already in Port St. Lucie, but his mind isn’t there. His mind is nearly 3,000 miles to the west, in particular Los Angeles. Specifically, he’s back on Dodger Stadium lying in the dirt near the second base bag where Chase Utley mangled his right leg on an ultra-aggressive take-out slide last October.

TEJADA: Should move on from Utley. (AP)

TEJADA: Should move on from Utley. (AP)

Not surprisingly, he’s in favor of a proposed rule change designed to protect middle infielders, and told The Post’s Kevin Kernan he’s hoping to get an apology from Utley.

“I know it’s part of the game, but not like that,” Tejada said. “I would never do that to another infielder. That is the position I play and I would never want to hurt another player that plays that position like that.

“It would have been different if some other position player, a corner infielder or an outfielder had done that to me, but he is a middle infielder, he should know better.”

Tejada said Utley reached out to him and sent a gift, but wouldn’t elaborate. I’m sure it wasn’t an autographed photo of the play. But, Utley didn’t send what Tejada really wants.

“I would like to hear an apology,” Tejada said.

He won’t get it, and should stop thinking about it. Tejada should concentrate on moving on and not going back to that play. The umpires have the discretion to eject a player for something they consider a “dirty” play, but did nothing against Utley.

Only after an outcry from Mets’ fans and media about the play, and with MLB wanting to avoid an ugly scene when the series moved back to Citi Field, was Ultey suspended for two games. He is waiting for his appeal, which is one reason there hasn’t been an apology. An apology is an admission of guilt and there’s no way Utley would do that prior to the appeal.

Personally, I’m not so sure it was a blatantly dirty play. The throw from shortstop Wilmer Flores put Tejada out of position to make a play and directly into Utley’s path. So many things went into that play to the point where we can’t assume intent on Utley hurting Tejada. Actually, I’m betting the suspension will be reduced to one game.

Utley’s intent was to break up the double play and keep the inning alive, which he did. Doing so enabled the Dodgers to win the game and stay alive in the NLDS.

Tejada’s focus should be getting himself ready to play. As of now, he already lost his starting job to Asdrubal Cabrera and will enter the season as a bench player. His career has deviated sharply from when he was groomed to be Jose Reyes‘ replacement. One can easily envision Tejada being an ex-Met after this season and no apology can prevent that from happening.

Tejada has other things to focus on instead of holding out for an apology that might not even be warranted.

Dec 22

Mets Add Journeyman Outfielder De Aza

We knew the Mets weren’t going to bring back Yoenis Cespedes and diving deep into the free-agent market is not their style. They needed a left-handed hitting outfielder and addressed that void with Alejandro De Aza.

DE AZA:  Signed to platoon with Lagares. (AP)

DE AZA: Signed to platoon with Lagares. (AP)

De Aza was signed to platoon with Juan Lagares in center field. He’s a role player and nothing more.

He might be slightly better than Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but nothing to get excited about. His most relevant numbers are he’s 32; will make $4.5 million in 2016; has played for five teams in eight years, including three last season and hit .267 with a .331 on-base percentage last year.

He can play all three outfield positions and has some speed, with 86 career stolen bases. But, that doesn’t mean he’s a base running threat as he’s been thrown out 41 times. De Aza played for Baltimore, Boston and San Francisco last season. Three teams in one year, and five before the age of 32 tells you something, doesn’t it? It tells me this is no big deal; nothing to get excited about. This also tells me De Aza fits in with the Mets’ recent history of operating on the cheap.

We’re talking about a player who’ll be no better than the 23rd, 24th or 25th player on the roster. We’re not talking about somebody who will return them to the playoffs.

Actually, for my money they might be better off just playing Lagares full time and skipping the platoon.