Feb 28

Today In Mets History: Dave Kingman Signed

On this day in Mets’ history in 1975, the contract of outfielder and first baseman Dave Kingman was purchased from the San Francisco Giants. The 6-foot-6 Kingman, nicknamed Kong for his prodigious strength and power, was to give the Mets the fearsome hitter they had never had this early in their existence.

“He was going to make us a winner,’’ said Joe, a life-long Mets’ fan. “He had such awesome power. We had never had a guy like that before.’’

KINGMAN: Hit 154 homers at a Met.

KINGMAN: Hit 154 homers at a Met.

During his 17-year career, Kingman played six seasons with the Mets, more than any other team. He gave the Mets the power they wanted with 154 home runs. However, the all-or-nothing Kingman also hit .219 with a .287 on-base percentage, and with only 389 RBI and just 211 walks in comparison to 672 strikeouts. He had more strikeouts than hits (509) with the Mets.

In addition to the San Francisco and the Mets, Kingman played for Oakland, the Cubs, San Diego, the Angels and Yankees. Kingman had two stints with the Mets (1975-77 and 1981-83).

Kingman also struck out a lot in his interactions with fans and the media. Of all the things Kingman is known for, perhaps most disturbing was sending a live rat to Susan Fornoff, a female reporter covering the Athletics.

Kingman hit 30 or more homers seven times, including 48 in 1979 with the Cubs and 37 in 1982 with the Mets, when he lead the National League in homers.

Kingman also struck out 1,816 times – an average of 152 times a season – and in 14 years struck out at least 100 times, and eight times fanned at least 125 times. Only once, in 1985, did he draw as many as 60 walks.

History is filled with numerous all-or-nothing sluggers like Kingman, such as Adam Dunn, Greg Vaughn, Frank Howard, Rob Deer, Mark Reynolds and a case can also be made to lump former Met George Foster into that group.

Kingman’s 154 homers ranks fifth on the club’s all-time list, behind Darryl Strawberry, David Wright, Mike Piazza and Howard Johnson.

Kingman finished with 442 career homers and speaking at the closing of Shea Stadium, said if he played longer: “I’m sure I could have hit 500 (home runs). That’s all right. I’m very happy with (my career). I enjoyed my time in the big leagues.’’

Prior to the steroid era, 500 homers used to be an automatic ticket into the Hall of Fame, along with 300 pitching victories and 3,000 hits. Had Kingman played two more years and reached that milestone he would have been an interesting test case.

As a Hall of Fame voter, I wouldn’t give him my vote because his numbers other than homers were terribly weak and non-deserving.

ON DECK:  Mets Matters: Today’s news and notes.

Feb 11

Suggested Mets’ Batting Order

Spring training is for a lot of things, but I thought I’d save Terry Collins time and suggest a batting order for him. Several slots will automatically fall into place, but where Collins will do his most head scratching will be over the leadoff position.

Juan Lagares, CF: He has the speed and at the end of last season proved he could steal a base. However, he needs to get on base to utilize that speed which is why he must cut his strikeouts and raise his on-base percentage.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Willing to take a pitch, which should help Lagares. Was the Mets’ best hitter last season and his ability to drive the ball in the gap could give the Mets an early first-inning lead.

David Wright, 3B: Theoretically, third is where the best hitter should be, which is the combination of power and average. Injuries sapped Wright’s production the past few years and the Mets are hoping for a bounce back season. If he has one it will solve a lot of problems.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Gave the Mets 30 homers last year and they aren’t expecting anything less. When he gets hot he should offer Wright protection. Still strikes out too many times, but is showing improved plate discipline.

Michael Cuddyer, RF: He should hit here to separate the left-handed hitters. How sweet would it be if he returned to the form where he lead the National League in hitting.

Curtis Granderson, LF: Even with the fences moved in, nobody expects him to hit 40 homers again. But, 30 should be reasonable along with a boatload of doubles in the gap. If Lagares falters, Granderson could get another look at leadoff, but he strikes out too much to excel there in the long haul.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Another right-handed hitter to give the order balance. Showed glimpses of power, but if he masters things behind the plate the Mets will take what they can get from him offensively.

Wilmer Flores, SS: He’ll have enough pressure as it is, so dropping him to eighth to see what he can do is the best option. Hitting here ahead of |the pitcher should help improve his plate discipline. There’s nothing wrong with a walk to clear the pitcher’s spot.

Pitcher: Unless you’re in Tony La Russa’s world, pitchers bat ninth.

Things will vary according to injuries, days off and slumps. But, this offers a balanced order with the hitters providing the most protection for each other. That is, if they are hitting.

Jan 30

The Playoffs Aren’t Out Of The Question

The latest issue of Baseball Prospectus projects the Mets to finish in second place in the NL East behind Washington with an 82-80 record, which would be their first winning season since 2008.

That would be good enough to be tied with Chicago for sixth place in the National League, but not make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Here how the publication projects the National League:

Los Angeles 97-65

Washington 91-71

St. Louis 89-73

San Francisco 84-78

San Diego 83-79

METS 82-80

Chicago 82-80

Miami 81-81

Pittsburgh 80-82

Cincinnati 79-83

Milwaukee 79-83

Atlanta 74-88

Arizona 74-88

Colorado 72-90

Philadelphia 69-93

 

Last year the Mets were tied for second with Atlanta in the division at 79-83. If the publication were correct, we would be talking of an improvement of three games with a minimum of additions with offseason.

Using the publication’s figures, the Mets need to win at least 84 games to be a wild card. To do that they must improve by five games, and are banking on that happening with the healthy returns of Matt Harvey and David Wright.

When you look at it, that’s an extra five victories a month, which isn’t unrealistic.

 

Mar 25

Lannan Taking Well To New Role

Adam Rubin of ESPN NY writes that left-hander John Lannan passed another test in his transition to a relief role, he entered mid-inning and inherited runners on base, for not only the first time in his career, but also the first time working on consecutive days.

Since switching roles, Lannan, has tossed two perfect innings in relief.

“That’s exactly how I envisioned it,” Collins said. “… I was glad we had the opportunity to get John in there with guys on base to face some lefties. That’s what I wanted. He did what he did yesterday. He came right at them, threw strikes and really had a good outing.”

“The adrenaline was definitely there today, more than yesterday, just because of the situation,” Lannan said. “I was still able to throw strikes. I faced two lefties in there, so it was a good experience.”

“It’s a start. It’s back-to-back days. I mean, it’s a hard thing to do. It’s going to be work, but I’m up for the challenge. The first two days have gone pretty well. I just have got to keep on learning and figure out a routine to be able to go out there back-to-back days on a consistent basis.”

If he continues to pitch this way once the season starts, the Mets could have one of the better bullpen’s in the National League, something that will help if they’re serious about competing for a wild card.

(Photo Credit: Howard Simmons/NY Daily News)

Nov 20

Today In Mets History: Tom Seaver Win Rookie Of Year Award

In 1967, New York Mets’ icon Tom Seaver began his journey on becoming “The Franchise,’’ when he was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year, an award he said he cherished more than his All-Star appearance that summer.

SEAVER: Begins journey to greatness.

SEAVER: Begins journey to greatness.

“This is a bigger thrill to me than being named to the All-Star team,’’ Seaver said at the time. “You only get one chance to be Rookie of the Year. If you’re good you can make the All-Star team several times in your career.’’

Seaver made it a dozen times.

In winning the award, Seaver became the first Met to win a postseason honor and the first ever player from a last-place team.

The Mets lost 101 games in 1967, but the addition of Seaver was the key move in the franchise becoming a winner.

That season, Seaver set franchise at the time with 16 wins, 18 complete games, 170 strikeouts and a 2.76 ERA.

In the All-Star Game that year, won 2-1 by the National League in 15 innings, Seaver retired Tony Conigliaro on a fly ball, walked Carl Yastrzemski, got Bill Freehan on a fly ball and struck out Ken Berry.

Seaver won three Cy Young Awards and finished second two other times in a career that featured winning 311 games with a 2.86 ERA and an incomprehensible 231 complete games and 61 shutouts. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 with a record 98.8 percent of the vote.

LATER THIS MORNING: How the free agent market is shaping up.