Apr 22

Mets List: Mets-Braves Magic Moments

Unlike the Yankees, who always had the Red Sox as a historical sparring partner, the Mets haven’t had what you’d consider a for-the-ages rival. In their infant years, they had the Dodgers and Giants for obvious reasons, then in 1969, they developed a brief rivalry with the Chicago Cubs. Later, it was the Pirates, then the Cardinals, and eventually the Braves.

I have always wanted to run a weekly Mets List feature and plan to do so on Friday.



With the Mets in Atlanta today for the start of a three-game series, I have come up with five of the most memorable Mets-Braves moments. If you have others, please share.

Post Sept. 11 homer: On Sept. 21, in the first professional sporting event in New York following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Braves were in town. Emotions ran high, but boiled over when Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead homer off Steve Karsay.

The Mets trailed by a run entering the eighth when Piazza delivered.

The 1969 NLCS: The Mets’ reward for overtaking the Cubs was to face the powerful Braves in the first year of divisional play.

The Braves were loaded with the likes of Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and Orlando Cepeda, but the Mets swept the series, winning 9-5 and 11-6 (at Atlanta) and 7-4 (at Shea Stadium).

Tom Seaver, Ron Taylor and Nolan Ryan were the winning pitchers. From there, the Mets continued to stun the sports universe by beating Baltimore in the World Series.

The Grand Slam single: The Mets trailed in the 1999 NLCS 3-to-1 in games and 3-2 entering the bottom of the 15th inning. The Mets tied it, 3-3, when Todd Pratt drew a bases-loaded walk.

Robin Ventura followed with what appeared to be a grand slam, but was only credited with a single when the Mets stormed the field to congratulate Ventura. In the process, Mets’ runners passed each other on the bases necessitating the call. VIDEO

The Mets would lose Game 6, 10-9, when Kenny Rogers issued a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth.

The Subway Series against the Yankees would have to wait another year.

Late night fireworks: On July 4 and 5, 1985, the Mets had one of those games. The Mets tied it, 8-8, in the top of the ninth on Lenny Dykstra’s RBI single off closer Bruce Sutter.

The teams slogged around for several innings before Howard Johnson’s two-run homer off Terry Forster in the 13th inning. However, Atlanta tied it, 10-10, on Terry Harper’s two-run homer off Tom Gorman. The Mets regained the lead in the 18th on Dykstra’s sacrifice fly off reliever Rick Camp, but the Braves tied it again on Camp’s homer off Gorman.

The Mets seemingly blew open the game with five runs off Camp in the 19th, but pesky Atlanta pulled within 16-13 off Ron Darling.

The game ended shortly before 4 a.m., but the Braves went ahead with their fireworks night. That prompted many calls to police claiming their neighborhood was under attack.

Double-header treat: In a night that might have symbolized the passing of the torch was near, Mets started prize pitching prospects Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler combined for a double-header sweep on June 18 in Atlanta.

Harvey, who would pitch in the All-Star Game that year but eventually wind up on the disabled list and need surgery, won the first game, 4-3. Wheeler, who grew up near Atlanta, won the second game. 6-1.

Rarely had the Mets won in Atlanta, but sweeping a double-header was unfathomable.

ON DECK: Matt Harvey Tinkers With Mechanics

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Jan 26

Yankees Ready To Spar With Rodriguez

The Yankees fired an interesting salvo in their on-going war with disgraced slugger Alex Rodriguez.

After refusing to hold a “clear-the-air’’ meeting with Rodriguez, the Yankees are reportedly bracing their legal defense to prevent him from collecting on any of the $30 million in bonuses he would get from his 2007 marketing agreement with the team.

RODRIGUEZ: Facing more legal hassles.

RODRIGUEZ: Facing more legal hassles.

Good for them, even though they are sure to lose.

With six more homers he will tie Willie Mays (660) for fourth place on the career list, which would be worth $6 million. He would also get $6 million for tying Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (762) and passing Bonds.

Naturally, the basis for their argument is Rodriguez’s involvement with steroids. It would be a worthwhile fight except for several flaws, namely the Yankees knew what they were getting into when they signed him, and then re-signed him.

However, their case would carry greater weight if they were to sue him for money already paid and to get out of the contract entirely, which has three years and $61 million remaining.

Proving they had no knowledge about steroids would be difficult because it is largely assumed Major League Baseball was aware of steroid use as far back as 1998, when we were “treated,’’ to the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Going this way would undoubtedly reopen old wounds and possibly create new ones. Personally, I would like to see them go that route regardless of the fallout because maybe all the truth would come out.


Jan 07

What Goes Through The Mind Of A Hall Of Fame Voter?

What goes through the mind of a Hall of Fame voter? I was upfront with my selections and a good number of my colleagues did the same. That’s not to say I understand the reasoning behind their votes or comprehend the logic behind their agendas, and, let’s face it, there are some with a plan or ax to grind.

I was glad my colleagues hung strong and didn’t vote for those clearly linked to steroids, and we’re talking Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

I did not vote for a player directly linked to steroids, either by a failed test; testimony from other players on the record; or mentioned in the Mitchell Report. I don’t put much stock in a player accusing another off the record. That’s gutless.

I don’t buy the argument some had Hall of Fame careers before they were linked to steroids. They still cheated, but how do you determine when the cheating began? I agree these players are part of baseball history and should be recognized. However, don’t acknowledge them in the Hall of Fame unless there is a notation on the plaque and Major League Baseball puts an asterisk by their names and numbers. Given that, I would include Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, but with the notation being their connection to gambling.

Not only did those players tarnish their names and era in which they played, but continue to do damage to the game. Yes, there are writers with agendas, and one is to eschew voting because they believe the influx of those linked to steroids provided too many qualified players. Granted, if Bonds and Clemens were already in somebody else would get those votes.

It’s a privilege to vote and I can’t understand not voting because you can’t come up with ten under the thinking there are so many candidates. What garbage! After covering baseball for at least ten years any voter should know enough to pick ten players from the list. If he or she can’t, then maybe they aren’t qualified to vote in the first place.

All of a sudden, there are grumblings about increasing the number to more than ten.

This isn’t the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where everybody seems to get in, even the groupies. If you want to vote for a cheater, by all means that’s your right. But, what I can’t grasp is one writer who voted for Bonds and Clemens – the poster children of the steroid era – but not Mike Piazza, who didn’t make it largely because of circumstantial evidence. We’re talking about the greatest hitting catcher in history.

There are other puzzling ballots.

Some writers refuse to vote for an obvious candidate, say Randy Johnson, who appeared on 97.3 percent of the ballots. How do you not vote for a 300-game winner? Then again, there were some who didn’t vote for Craig Biggio and his 3,000 hits last year.

I’ve heard several explanations, neither of them any good. Their belief is no player is worthy of being a unanimous selection and want to make sure there isn’t. What a crock. Your job as a voter is to vote for a worthy candidate and not ignore him because they don’t believe in a unanimous selection.

Yes, there are players that good. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Cal Ripken Jr., Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax to name a few. And, I’d like to ask what those handful of writers were thinking when they ignored Tom Seaver.

Another explanation I heard for the non-unanimous vote was the writer figured others would vote for that player and he or she wanted to save a vote for a personal favorite.

That’s not right, either.

However, to me the worst thing a voter can do is throw away their ballot by refusing to vote because he or she wants to make a statement about the process.

If you want to make a statement don’t forfeit your vote one time, but give it up permanently.

Oct 20

Manning’s Record Brings Baseball’s Shame To Forefront

Like many, I tuned in last night to see Peyton Manning break the career touchdown pass record, which got me to wondering which record is more impressive, the home run or the touchdown pass?

It also got me to think if Barry Bonds was as gracious as Manning was, that he might be considered beloved instead of as a churl. Manning singled out his coaches and teammates – both in Denver and Indianapolis – but with Bonds I can’t forget the image of him in the Giants’ clubhouse with a big screen television and leather recliner by his locker.

There was also the time shortly after joining the Giants he walked into a pitcher’s meeting and said to his new teammates, “I took you deep … I took you deep … I took you deep.’’

Then, there are the steroids.

There is no disputing Manning holds the NFL’s passing record, one that required help from all his teammates.

But, what is sad is baseball’s most cherished record is forever tarnished. Many won’t acknowledge Bonds is the career record holder, and instead favor Hank Aaron. I am among this group.

So, on a night when the sports world should’ve rejoiced in Manning, baseball tradition again took a beating.

And, that’s sad.

Aug 06

Legacies Of Alex Rodriguez And Bud Selig Permanently Linked

As we sift through the rubble of Major League Baseball’s Biogenesis scandal, we will find many things, including the tortured legacies of the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez and Commissioner Bud Selig.

Supremely gifted and talented, Rodriguez garnered three of the sport’s biggest contracts. The first was from the Texas Rangers, which was supposed to raise that franchise to prominence, but instead choked them to the point of having to trade him to the Yankees.

SELIG: Not smiling before Congress.

SELIG: Not smiling before Congress.

Rodriguez received two lucrative deals from the Yankees – the latter against the wishes of general manager Brian Cashman – for the intent of driving the club’s network YES with a record home run assault that could have shown us 800.

But, that was George Steinbrenner, whose high-rolling actions to get Rodriguez simply defined his place in baseball lore.

By his own admission, Rodriguez said he used steroids, but was accused of much more by Selig. Of what, we’ll know exactly in the coming months.

One thing he was accused of was attempting to purchase Biogenesis’ records. A despicable act if he had, but seemingly not so when done by MLB.

Rodriguez won’t get his 700 or 800 home runs. He will not break the career mark held by Hank Aaron. Barry Bonds does not hold the record for home runs, but for hitting balls over the fence. Real baseball fans know the difference.

Rodriguez’s memorabilia might see Cooperstown, but there won’t be a plaque of him, just as there won’t be one of Bonds, of Mark McGwire, of Rafael Palmeiro, of Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens. We will see their bats and gloves, just not their faces in bronze.

RODRIGUEZ: Not smiling either.

RODRIGUEZ: Not smiling either.

The Baseball Writers Association of America has taken some heat for its awards decisions, but should be proud of its current stand on players in the Steroids Era, the one ushered in by Selig.

Selig should be having mixed feelings today. He has to be happy with nailing 13 of 14 players, but privately must fear what will come down with Rodriguez’s appeal.

Then, he should feel angst because much of this was brought on by Selig, who as commissioner represents the owners more than he does the game.

It was Selig’s decision to play hardball with the Players Association in 1994 by demanding a salary cap and revenue sharing that forced the strike, and with it the cancellation of the World Series and advent of replacement players the following spring.

It must be remembered during this period the owners were found guilty of dealing in bad faith in court.

The sport took a severe financial hit, which it attempted to heal with the entry fees of the Tampa Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks in 1997. Attendance was down, but revived in 1998 with Cal Ripken’s honest pursuit of Lou Gehrig’s record; a dominating year by the Yankees; and, of course, the pursuit of McGwire and Sosa on Roger Maris’ honest record.

After nearly 40 years, both broke 61. Sosa did it three times. McGwire hit 70, but Bonds had 73. None of those numbers were achieved honestly, but with the tacit approval of Selig and the owners who looked the other way because the stands and their coffers were being filled again.

Selig is taking bows because baseball has sports’ toughest drug policy, but it was forced on him by Congress and the shame of the dishonest home run.

It is too much for me to expect Selig and the owners to admit their involvement, but if nothing else, I want to see a damn asterisk designating the Steroid Era.

Do that, and then take a bow.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos