Jun 17

Scioscia’s trip to Citi Field brings back painful memories to Mets fans.

There’s no interleague drama between the Mets and Angels, as is the case with most interleague match-ups.

SCIOSCIA: Hit infamous HR vs. Mets.

To me, the most interesting hook to this series is the return of Mike Scioscia against the Mets, the team during the 1980s that was supposed to be a dynasty, but won only one World Series.

There might have been another if not for Scioscia, then the catcher of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was Scioscia who turned around the 1988 NLCS, and subsequently might have derailed those Mets, who had won 10 of 11 games against the Dodgers during the regular season.

The Mets were up 2-1 and cruising behind Dwight Gooden in Game 4, taking a 4-2 lead into the ninth. John Shelby led off the inning with a walk, then Scioscia crushed a Gooden deliver to deep right to force the game into extra innings.

The Dodgers eventually won it in the 12th on Kirk Gibson’s homer off Roger McDowell. Without Scioscia, Gibson doesn’t hit that homer, and likely not the one against Dennis Eckersley in the World Series.

 

Jun 12

Today in Mets History: Mets sign Tug McGraw.

One of the most popular players in team history is signed on this day in 1964 when scout Roy Parlee gets the signature of 19-year-old lefthanded pitcher Tug McGraw on a contract.

MCGRAW: An original.

Once a starter, McGraw carved out his niche as a reliever with the Mets. McGraw filled in when Jerry Koosman was injured in May of 1969, but returned to the pen with the latter returned. With a rotation that also included Tom Seaver, Don Cardwell, Jim McAndrew and at times Nolan Ryan, there was no place for McGraw.

McGraw, the last player to play for Casey Stengel, pitched in the NLCS against Atlanta, but did not pitch in the World Series against Baltimore. However, his role now set, McGraw emerged as a premier closer in the early 1970s, and was an emotional leader who coined the “Ya Gotta Believe,’’ slogan for the 1973 pennant-winning Mets.

In December of 1974, the Mets dealt McGraw to Philadelphia in a package deal that saw pitcher Mac Scarce, outfielder Del Unser and catcher John Stearns come to New York.

McGraw continued on as a top reliever and was a central figure during the Phillies’ 1980 World Series season.

When asked what he spent his money on during the World Series, McGraw answered: “Ninety percent I’ll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other ten percent I’ll probably waste.’’

McGraw was always a popular visitor to Shea Stadium after his retirement, although he worked for the Phillies as a guest instructor during spring training, when he was hospitalized with a brain tumor in 2003. Less than a year later, he died.

The Mets wore a “Ya Gotta Believe,’’ arm patch in honor of McGraw during the 2004 season, and McGraw’s son Tim, a country music star, recorded the song, “Live Like You Were Dying,’’ later that year.

Tim McGraw spread his father’s ashes on the pitcher’s mound at Citizen’s Bank Park prior to Game 3 of the 2008 World Series.

McGRAW’S CAREER NUMBERS

 

 

May 24

Looking at Wilpon’s criticism of Beltran.

It’s not like Fred Wilpon wasn’t telling the truth.

Let’s face it, Carlos Beltran isn’t the player he thought he signed after the 2004 season. It’s true, injuries sapped his talent and forced him to move to right field in the final season of his $119 million contract, and the last two years have been a waste.

THE STRIKEOUT: Nobody forgets.

The contract and signing have looked more and more a bust as the team slid out of competitive status.

Wilpon called himself a schmuck for signing Beltran based on a strong playoff series while with Houston in 2004. Beltran had problems his first year getting acclimated to New York, but there was a toughness to him. Afterall, this is guy who played with a broken face after a gruesome collision with Mike Cameron in late 2005.

Beltran played hurt and for the next three seasons produced numbers, but no, they weren’t the numbers Wilpon had hoped for when opening his checkbook.

Beltran rebounded from his first year in New York to hit 41 homers with 116 RBI in 2006, but never reached that height again and slid to 33 homers and 112 RBI and 27 homer and 112 RBI in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Decent numbers, but more was expected for that kind of money.

And, as with most Mets, there was criticism about hitting in the clutch.

Continue reading

May 24

Today in Mets History: Cone hurls second straight shutout.

David Cone was always one of my favorites. He’s one of the few players who chatted with you on the days he pitched. A lot of guys are basket cases, but not Cone. He was always great to deal with, win, lose or draw.

CONE: Always a straight shooter.

And, if you saw him later in the hotel lobby, he’ll visit with you over a beer. And, funny, too. Glib and smart is a great combination.

Just like his fastball and nasty curve, when mixed with guile made him hard to beat. You wanted him in the clutch. Cone just would not give into hitters with the game on the line, and it wasn’t uncommon for him to get himself in and out of jams. It is why he became a hired gun with Toronto and later the Yankees.

On this date in 1992, Cone was at his unbeatable best, throwing his second straight complete-game shutout, defeating the Giants, 6-0. Five days before, he beat the Padres, 8-0. Cone went 81-51 with a 3.13 ERA and 15 shutouts in his seven years with the Mets, and finished his career at 194-126 with a 3.46 ERA.

CAREER NUMBERS

Cone was traded to the Mets prior to the 1987 season along with Chris Jelic for Ed Hearn, Rick Anderson and Mauro Gozzo. He went 5-6 in 21 appearances (13 starts) that year. He began the next season in the bullpen, but was in the rotation by the first week of May and went 9-2 in the first half to earn his first All-Star appearance.

Cone went on to win 20 games, but what is remembered most about that season about him was the controversy he stirred as a guest columnist for The New York Daily News when, among other things, he called the Dodgers’ Jay Howell, “a high school pitcher.’’

The Mets lost that NLCS to Los Angeles and the dynasty fizzled, although Cone stayed on until 1992 when he represented the Mets in the All-Star Game, but was traded as a mercenary to Toronto.

Cone currently does Yankees games for the YES Network.

 

ON DECK: Looking at Wilpon’s criticism of Beltran.

Oct 21

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Dodgers try to stay alive in NLCS.

Two nights ago the Dodgers were one out away from tying their NLCS at two games each with Philadelphia until Jimmy Rollins did what money players do.

Down by a run in the ninth with two outs, Rollins lined a two-run double off All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton into the right-center gap to push the Dodgers onto the brink of winter.

Hamels vs. Padilla

Hamels vs. Padilla


“This is big,” Rollins said. “The pressure’s all on them. … We understand we still have a job to do. We look forward to trying to close it out.”

With a win tonight, Dodgers manager Joe Torre said the pressure reverts back to Philadelphia because the series would return to Los Angeles. Torre knows it is possible. While managing the Yankees in 2001, New York lost its first two games against Oakland in the ALDS, but ran the table to advance. Then, in 2004, his Yankees blew a 3-0 series lead and lost to Boston in the ALCS.

Game 6 Friday in LA is contingent on the Dodgers beating Cole Hamels, who has given up eight runs in 10 1/3 innings this postseason.

“Any time you hand him the ball, I think he’s capable of going out there and shutting the other team out,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Hamels, who is 5-0 with a 2.19 ERA in seven career starts against Los Angeles.

Vicente Padilla starts for Los Angeles, and his biggest obstacle is Ryan Howard, who has driven in at least one run in eight straight postseason games, and is 5-for-13 (.385) with two home runs, eight RBI in this series.