Jul 29

Where Does Piazza Rank On Your All-Time Mets’ List?

Hall of Famer Mike Piazza is undoubtedly one of the greatest Mets of all time. Where does he rank on your list?

From the following, please rank your list of all-time Mets.

1.   Tom Seaver

2.   Piazza

3.   David Wright

4.   Jerry Koosman

5.   Dwight Gooden

6.   Darryl Strawberry

7.   Keith Hernandez

8.   Gary Carter

9.    Bud Harrelson

10.  Ed Kranepool

11.  Ron Swoboda

12.  Tug McGraw

13.  Rusty Staub

14. Jerry Grote

15. Edgardo Alfonzo

16. Other


Feb 22

Mets Should Dig Into Their History For Instructors

I was thrilled to hear today the Mets invited Mike Piazza to spring training to be a guest instructor. I only hope being inducted into the Hall of Fame isn’t the only reason for the gesture. Frankly, it is something they should be doing every spring – and not just with Piazza.

PIAZZA: To visit spring training.

PIAZZA: To visit spring training.

When I covered the Yankees, their spring training resembled an Old Timers Day with Yogi Berra, Don Mattingly, Rich Gossage, Whitey Ford, Graig Nettles and Reggie Jackson. It should be the same way with the Mets.

There’s nobody better than Tom Seaver to discuss pitching with this rotation. If not him then Jerry Koosman or Jon Matlack. And, hasn’t all been forgiven with Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry?

Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson, Mookie Wilson, Ed Kranepool, Ray Knight, Ron Hunt and Ron Swoboda are all historic Mets with something to bring to the table. Of course, I’d like to see Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling be more active.

Not only can they impart their baseball knowledge, but also what it was like to play for the Mets in a different era. It’s organizational pride and it shouldn’t be forgotten.

Feb 17

Mets’ Numbers To Be Retired; Don’t Forget Kranepool

Well Adam, since you asked, yes I have several Mets in mind, including an iconic figure who often gets lost in the franchise’s lore, who should have their numbers retired. In his daily “Morning Briefing’’ column ESPN’s Adam Rubin proposed the question what Mets should have their uniform number retired.

His piece came on the heels of an article written by The New York Post’s Kevin Kiernan suggesting Mike Piazza have his No. 31 retired. I have no argument with Kevin on Piazza, who after all, could be in Cooperstown next year or the following.

KRANEPOOL: Don't forget No. 7

KRANEPOOL: Don’t forget No. 7

Everybody suggests Piazza, so that’s not a surprise, and there are those pushing for the foundation players of the 1980s teams: Keith HernandezGary Carter, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. If you will, they were the Mets’ Core Four from that era.

I’m all for those guys having their numbers on the outfield wall at Citi Field, but the one guy I’d like to be the first to endorse is Ed Kranepool. Yes, you read correctly.

Kranepool is the first Met I remember growing up, then came Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. By the way, I think Koosman also gets overlooked as a significant Met, and yes, his No. 36 should also be on the wall.

Let’s talk about Kranepool for a moment. Is he a Hall of Fame player? No. However, he made his debut in 1962 as a 17-year-old and for much of the 1960s and 1970s, was a key offensive force for the Mets.  He ranks in the top ten in franchise history in games (1st, 1,853), at-bats (2nd, 5,436), runs scored (9th, 536), hits (2nd, 1,418), doubles (2nd, 225), triples (10th, 25), homers (10th, 118), RBI (614) and walks (8th, 454).

Many of those numbers have been dwarfed, but for a long time many of the records belonged to Kranepool, and for that, he should be honored.

The Mets’ history will always lag behind that of the Yankees because the latter has over a 50-year head start. However, the Mets have their own history and it should be recognized. Kranepool is part of that history.

So, 25 years from now, when some seven-year-old kid – 7 was Kranepool’s number – asks his grandfather about the numbers on the wall, I want one of his memories to be that of Kranepool.


Apr 26

Summer of ’73 Series: Matlack Takes One On The Head

My series on the “Summer of ’73: The Lost Year,” continues today with a book excerpt from talented author Matthew Silverman, whose work should be familiar to all Mets fans.

Silverman joins us today with a piece on Jon Matlack from his newest book, “Swinging ’73: Baseball’s Wildest Season. You can purchase his works at www.amazon.com

“When the 1973 season is referenced by Mets fans, it is usually only the miraculous finish that comes to mind, how the team that began the last day of August in last place wound up clinching a division title on the first day of October. But how did the Mets, three years removed from the 1969 world championship, get themselves into the kind of jam that required a miracle to rescue them? There was a lot of bad luck, a lack of foresight, and too much forehead in the case of a second-year southpaw named Jon Matlack.” – Matt Silverman


After dropping the May 7 series opener to the Mets, 7–2, the Braves stood at 9?17, last in their division and second only to the 5?19 Cardinals for the worst start in baseball. The next night looked to be a rerun, with the Mets holding a 3–1 lead in the seventh with Jon Matlack, one of the game’s top young lefties, on the mound. Atlanta’s lineup had firepower, but Marty Perez wasn’t one of the big guns. In 310 career games to that point, he was a .230 hitter with a slugging percentage of just .294. Batting in front of the legendary Aaron in manager Eddie Mathews’s lineup, no one was going to pitch around Perez, especially with the bases full, two outs, and Matlack holding that two-run lead with a light rain falling. Perez worked the count to two balls, two strikes, and Matlack threw a curve that he thought the batter went around on. The umpires said no. Here comes the payoff pitch . . .

51m8pXGhKWL“I’m trying to nail down this game,” Matlack recalls. “I overthrew the next pitch. It was a fastball, and I landed really hard when I threw it. I lost sight of the ball to the plate. I could see him swing and hear the bat crack, but I don’t pick up the baseball until it’s right on top of me. I barely got the fingers of my left hand in front of my face. It hit my fingers [on the mitt], hit my cap, and it hit me just over the left eye. They tell me—I don’t know because I couldn’t see it—but it went from my forehead into the dugout. It cost me two runs and ultimately cost me the ballgame.”

The sudden tie fell to secondary importance during this frightening moment at Shea Stadium. Right fielder Rusty Staub, shaking his head at the memory of it years later, summed up his teammates’ reaction: “We were just all thrilled that he wasn’t dead.” Dee Matlack wasn’t even sure of that as the trainer came out and pulled a tarp over her prone husband’s body as the rain fell.

“They’re messing with me, and it’s raining,” he thought as catcher Jerry Grote and his teammates gathered around him. “My wife thinks I’m dead because they cover me up with a tarp.” Still conscious and bleeding from his head, the dazed pitcher thought he’d been struck in the mouth until things came into sharp, painful focus. “I can see my forehead at this point. I can see it literally swollen up to where I can see it. I had a whale of a headache and felt very weak.”

First baseman Ed Kranepool stood over Matlack as he was attended to at Shea. “You think about Herb Score,” he said, recalling the sensational Indians southpaw hit in the face with a line drive against the Yankees in 1957. “It changed his whole career. Matlack was very fortunate.”

Like Score at the time of the injury, Matlack was a 23-year-old southpaw and recent Rookie of the Year winner with seemingly unlimited potential. Matlack had been the lone ray of sunshine to emerge in the wake of the Nolan Ryan trade. As a rookie taking Ryan’s place in the rotation in 1972, he won 15 games, threw 4 shutouts, and compiled an ERA (2.32) more than half a run per game better than ace Tom Seaver’s. Matlack also had better luck than Score, who came back a year after being hit but left baseball by age 28.

“That’s the first I hear his name,” says Matlack of Score. “I was reading the paper the next day in the hospital—there’s my picture and this guy I don’t recognize. It tells me about how Herb Score got hit and never came back and all this kind of stuff. I can’t say I wasn’t apprehensive about the whole thing, but I was of the belief that the only reason I got hit was because I was unable to track the ball. Had I been able to see the ball, one of two things would have happened—I would have defended myself, caught it or otherwise would have been able to get out of the way. Through lack of seeing it was what caused me to get hit. That’s what kept me moving forward, thinking that when I got back everything would be fine because I was going to see the ball. I wasn’t going to overthrow fastballs, so I was going to be OK.”

Matlack was going to be OK, but he sustained a fractured skull—and that was how it went for most of 1973 for the Mets: peculiar bounces, painful injuries, bad luck. With Matlack on his way to the hospital, the Braves scored five more runs in the inning, saddling the southpaw with a 10–6 loss as well as a throbbing, swollen head. The Mets found all kinds of ways to lose both games and players for most of 1973.

Though the Mets won four straight immediately after Matlack went down, the team stumbled to a 34?51 mark over the next three months that saw the manager nearly lose his job while players continued to go down with bizarre injuries. Eight different Mets hit the disabled list in 1973—the most in franchise history to that point—and that figure didn’t even include Matlack, who didn’t go on the DL after getting hit. He missed just two starts, fractured skull and all.

Matthew Silverman is author of 10 books on baseball. He blogs regularly at metsilverman.com and tweets @metsilverman.

Sep 24

Wright Hoping For Strong Finish To Salvage Season

David Wright was in full salvage mode yesterday, both from a team and individual perspective, After a blazing first half in which he carried the Mets, he’s fallen off dramatically and with his fall so has his team.

There have been numerous times during the Mets’ dreadful second half when they could have turned things around, but failed.

WRIGHT: A frustrating second half. (AP)

Now mathematically eliminated and after being ripped publicly by their manager, the Mets now have one more opportunity to wash out the foul taste in their mouths created by going from eight games over .500 to 14 games below.

I’ve mentioned several times how the Mets have a chance to become next year’s Orioles, who won 11 of their last 16 games last season and rode that momentum into 2012.

Wright noticed, too.

“It’d be nice to finish on a strong note,’’ Wright said. “You look at, for example, what the Orioles did, they finished strong last year and it kind of carried over into this year. It’d be nice to do that. And I think there’s a lot of individuals that want to finish strong and we as a team and an organization would like to finish strong.’’

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