Nov 12

Mets Rookie Of The Year Winners: Seaver, Matlack, Strawberry And Gooden

SEAVER: When it all started (TOPPS)

In explaining part of the Mets’ problems over the years, consider they haven’t produced a Rookie of the Year in nearly three decades, which is a substantial drought.

(Sorry, but I can’t resist: Jason Bay won it while with Pittsburgh in 2004.)

The Mets have produced four Rookies of the Year: Dwight Gooden (1984), Darryl Strawberry (1983), Jon Matlack (1972) and Tom Seaver (1967).

All four played in a World Series for the Mets.

Seaver, of course, is the Crown Jewel of Mets rookies. After winning in 1967, Seaver went on to be a 12-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner.

Seaver is the lone Mets’ Hall of Famer and the only player to have his number retired by the team. In the karma that can only be the Mets, Seaver’s no-hitter and 300th career victory were achieved with other teams, Cincinnati and the Chicago White Sox.

Seaver remains an ambassador to the Mets and the most beloved player.

Seaver averaged 16 victories a season from 1967-1986. He ended his career with the Red Sox, but fate wasn’t too cruel to have him pitch against the Mets in the 1986 World Series.

Seaver won at least 20 games five times, three times led the National League in ERA, and finished his career at 311-205 with a 2.86 ERA.

Matlack was an underrated lefty, perhaps best known as the answer to the trivia question: Which pitcher gave up Roberto Clemente’s 3000th and final hit?

Matlack is one of those players who didn’t live up to the expectations, finishing his career at 125-126, but with a 3.18 ERA that indicates a general lack of support. He never became “the next Jerry Koosman.’’

Strawberry and Gooden personified the Mets in the 1980’s, a widely talented team that, like the two players, underperformed. Strawberry and Gooden were to dominate for years, win multiple World Series and individual awards and ride off into the Hall of Fame together.

Gooden finished at 194-11 and a 3.51 ERA, but after the 1986 World Series title, he spun out of control and tested positive for cocaine. He later developed shoulder problems, which some attribute to a heavy workload early in his career.

Labeled, “the next Ted Williams,’’ early in his career, Strawberry was one of the few players you had to stop and watch when he came to the plate. An eight-time All-Star, Strawberry was a lifetime .259 hitter with 335 homers and 1,000 RBI.

In addition to playing with the Mets and Yankees, Strawberry also played with the Dodgers and Giants, the other two teams with New York roots.

Jun 02

Johan Santana Thundered For Mets Before Rains Came

It poured last night, and even if that smudge on the left field line was rubbed out, nothing could wash away what Johan Santana did in throwing the first no-hitter in Mets’ history.

After 8,020 games, and the likes of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden and David Cone throwing magic for them the previous 50 years, Santana just missed throwing the Mets’ 36th one hitter.

SANTANA: Waving to crowd (AP)

We know the numbers because the no-hit streak became a part of franchise lore, to be announced nearly every day after the opponent’s first hit. It will be interesting to hear how the Cardinals’ first hit today will be broadcast.

Who knows, maybe the Mets will throw a few more in the coming years, but there is nothing like the first. Jon Niese, R.A. Dickey and John Maine came close in recent seasons, but it was special because it was Santana, who showed extraordinary focus against the National League’s premier offense and overcame the tendency to wander and shift into cruise control with an 8-0 lead.

He was aided by an umpire’s blown call – the streak would be alive today with instant replay – but for one night baseball karma was with the Mets, the way it was during the Summer of 69 and on that crisp October night when Mookie Wilson’s grounder snaked up the first base line and scooted underneath Bill Buckner’s glove.

Perhaps karma was with the Mets because after so many snake bites and near misses – many with Santana on the mound – they deserved to have one to go their way. Logically, it isn’t supposed to work that way in sports, but the Mets always defied logic, just as Santana’s comeback from serious surgery came against conventional medical wisdom.

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Apr 20

Tom Seaver Wins His First On This Day In Mets’ History

Where did the time go?
SEAVER: Won the first of many on this day.

Forty-five years ago today in Mets’ history (1967), Tom Seaver won the first game of his Hall of Fame career in going 7.1 innings in a 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium.

Seaver struck out five and was supported by two RBI from Bud Harrelson and one each from Ken Boyer, Tommy Davis, Ron Swoboda and Ed Kranepool.
Seaver went on to win over 300 games (his 300th was with the Chicago White Sox against the Yankees) and be inducted into the Hall of Fame, getting 98.84 percent of the vote, the highest percentage in history.
He’s the only Met in the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets’ cap and is the only player in franchise history to have his uniform number retired. Managers Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel had their numbers retired.
In the 50th anniversary of the Mets coming to being, the team will give away bobble head dolls of some of their greatest players, among them Seaver (this Sunday), Rusty Staub, Keith Hernandez, Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza.
I would have hoped they’d include Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry.

Apr 04

Good move in long-term deal with Niese

With Opening Day hours away, the Mets began the 2012 season on a positive note by agreeing to a contract with left-hander Jon Niese.

NIESE: Locked up for five years.

In agreeing to the five-year, $25.5 million deal – pending a physical – the Mets will avoid the arbitration and free-agent processes and locked up one of their most important young players.

With the Mets resolving their most stressing financial problem is reaching a settlement in the Madoff scandal, their next most important step is to achieve as much economic certainty as possible. That would be in reaching long-term obligations with their young talent.

They did it with David Wright and Jose Reyes several years ago. The next wave would be Niese, Ike Davis, and possibly Wright again.

Niese won a career-high 11game last year before it was cut short with a side injury. There’s no guarantee Niese will become the next Jerry Koosman, but his career is off to a good start and he’s caught the attention of others. Several teams have inquired into Niese and for good reason; he’s immensely talented and poised. And, hard throwing left-handers are a premium.

The Mets have taken deserved heat for their questionable decisions. They should also get credit for their good moves, and this is one.

Feb 13

Had a rough weekend.

Good afternoon folks. I was away for the weekend, but not by design as I was hospitalized.

I was in Westchester for an appointment when I fainted and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. I was crouching at the time on my cell phone, and when I stood up I got lightheaded and collapsed. When I came to, somebody had stolen my phone. There’s got to be a special section in hell for that guy.

Tests came back negative and I was released after staying overnight, but it was a wake-up call nonetheless. They couldn’t pinpoint the problem. Maybe just a freak thing, but it scared the hell out of me. When you wake up in a hallway and not know where you are, it is scary. I’m lucky they didn’t find anything serious, or it happened when I was driving.

I think about all the traveling I’ve done and how may nights I’ve been in a strange hotel. Lucky I wasn’t in some city halfway across the country.

When you’re in a hospital bed, you have time for a lot of thinking. You can’t sleep because they wake you up every two hours to take blood or test your blood pressure. And, the lights are always on and the nurses’ station is always noisy.

I thought about a lot of things, with the upcoming baseball season among them. I am working on a book I hope will be completed by the end of the season. I plan to be out at Citi Field a lot this summer working on several writing projects.  I also hope to do a lot of game stories for an Internet outlet. Looking forward to it.

Would rather be traveling full time, but I’m happy covering baseball nonetheless. It has been in my blood for a long time.

I’m also looking forward to the season with curiosity and interest. I’m trying to look past the dismal won-loss forecast and into the future. This is a tenuous period in Mets’ history with all the swirling economic and legal issues laying the groundwork for the next decade or so.

If the Wilpons fare poorly in court they could be forced to sell. Maybe they won’t be worth the $2 billion the Dodgers are reportedly valued, but the team, coupled with SNY and Citi Field will come at a high price.

If the Wilpons keep the franchise, it will be interesting to see how they dig themselves out of this hole and when will see them be viable again.

In this, the 50th anniversary of the Mets’ birth, some are writing this team could be a hapless as the 1962 team. It won’t happen.

As an expansion team, Casey Stengel’s group was a collection of veteran castoffs and lowly ranked prospects. There wasn’t a player on that team with the talent of David Wright, or the potential of Ike Davis and Jon Niese.

Today’s Mets aren’t deep in talent at the major league level and throughout the farm system, but there is talent and potential. There’s also an expanded playoff system not around in 1962, so if they catch fire, well, who knows?

People have said and written to me saying the 1969 team had low expectations and look what happened to them. True enough, and while the offensive potential of this team is greater than the 1969 team, that unit had potential based on its superior pitching. Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman gave Gil Hodges reason to believe the 1969 team would be competitive and exceed expectations.

We’re a week away from the start of spring training and over the coming days I’ll look at some of the questions and issues surrounding the Mets.

I’m anxious for another season to begin, as I am every spring and I hope you’ll share it with me.

Thanks. JD