Mar 26

Saluting The 1973 Mets; The Start Of A Series

mays

MAYS: ENDURING IMAGE OF A FORGOTTEN TEAM

The Mets have made four World Series appearances, with each of those seasons and Octobers giving us cherished memories.

But, only one – the nearly forgotten 1973 team, with the still memorable rallying cry of “Ya Gotta Believe,’’ – identifies with the tumultuous ride this franchise has been on since its birth as the replacement child for the kids New York really loved – the Dodgers and Giants.

Think of it, the Mets’ colors are Giant orange and Dodger blue. The early rivals, before realignment with divisions, were against the teams that fled, namely because the wounds were still fresh.

Ah, c’mon, we don’t have to think that much. Let’s not go forty years to analyze. Go back only four when the owner of this team was criticized for honoring his beloved Dodgers at the opening of Citi Field – complete with the Jackie Robinson rotunda – more than his own team.

The Summer of 69 was special in that it was the first. It was the summer of Vietnam, the year after the race riots than burned numerous cities in America, including nearby Newark, and, the close of the decade seeing a man walk on the moon.

Countless times that summer, the improbability of the Mets’ drive to the World Series was compared to the moon landing. They were the Miracle Mets, but often overlooked in that season was dominant pitching, and dominant pitching usually wins.

That team doesn’t totally identity with the franchise because of how close it was to its birth. Seven years after first pitch in the Polo Grounds and the Mets are champions? That stuff only happens in the movies, and while it was a special, sometimes the ride is still hard to believe. Then again, there are some who still can’t believe man walked on the moon.

The 1986 champions did not identify with the franchise’s personality in that it was brash, bold and overwhelming, hardly descriptors fitting the Mets. During the season it bullied the National League. Only in the playoffs and its two Game Sixes, did it show the comeback, gritty nature associated with the franchise.

The 2000 team lost to the Yankees in the “Subway Series,’’ which was a marketing salute to a past that existed before the Mets were even a gleam William Shea’s eye. Wasn’t the whole build up of that World Series just a love-fest for what baseball was in the Fifties, the Golden Age of the sport in New York?

Remember, that was age that didn’t include the Mets and the Yankees won.

The World Series run that most identifies with this franchise’s nature was the gritty season of 1973. The Mets, as usual, were underdogs to Pittsburgh and St. Louis in the division, to Cincinnati in the NLCS, and Oakland in the World Series.

When the Mets won they’ve had good pitching. Tom Seaver was still here and joined by Jon Matlack, but they didn’t have a 20-game winner that season. They also didn’t have a .300 hitter and were at the bottom in runs scored. Save the 1986 monster and a few subsequent seasons with the Darryl Strawberry-Keith Hernandez-Gary Carter core, the Mets have rarely been a masher franchise. That’s just not them.

They were in last place as late as August 26. Then came the free-for-all pennant race in September, with the Mets getting a disputed call that enabled them outlast the Pirates, Cardinals and Cubs. The Mets won the win the division with a muddied 82-79 record, the worst in baseball history for a division winner.

For the number of teams involved, it was one of the more compelling pennant races in history, but lost in the mediocrity of the combatants. The still new divisional alignment required another step, which was the expected slaughter at the hands of the Big Red Machine, which was on its own historic run.

The Mets brawled their way through the NLCS with the enduring image being Bud Harrelson going after Pete Rose on a play at second. The Mets rallied to beat the Reds and hung tough against Oakland with their arms, those on the mound and Rusty Staub’s dangling at his side.

It was a season that showed the improbable, yet resilient nature that has been the Mets. The record typifies the franchise, which has lost more than it has won in fifty years. At 3885-4237, there has been more frustration than glory. The irony is it was managed by a man, Yogi Berra, whose career was all about winning.

From start to finish, the 1973 season most typifies the ride of this franchise than any of the other pennant winners. The 1973 team tells the story, with its collection of non-descript players joined by its best player and an iconic star on his last legs. The 1973 team overachieved, which has been a Mets’ signature, but left us unsatisfied and wanting more, feelings all Mets’ fans know so well.

The story of the Mets is captured in two images.

There’s the unabashed joy of Jesse Orosco in 1986 after striking out Marty Barrett to end the World Series as champions. There’s also the pain and anguish of Willie Mays – somebody else’s star – on his knees, pleading for a call in the 1973 Series.

Now, which picture best symbolizes fifty years of Mets’ baseball?

Thoughts from Joe D.

John, I’m very excited to be working with you again on another new Mets feature. I loved the 1973 season, and as I look at the image we have on the top of this post, I can’t but notice how symbolic it is of our plight during 51 years of Mets baseball. Next week, we’ll retell the tale of how the slogan “Ya Gotta Believe” first came about. All you newbies out there pay attention.

This season me and Joe DeCaro of Metsmerized Online will be collaborating on this new feature saluting the 1973 Mets.  Both on MMO and here on New York Mets Report, each week we will highlight a game, event or player profile commemorating that unforgettable season. Hope you enjoy.

Mar 12

Chipper Jones Rejects Yankees

I was very glad to see Chipper Jones reject the Yankees’ overtures for a comeback. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to see Jones have a change of heart, but not with the Yankees … not with anybody else but the Braves.

CHIPPER: Turns down Yankees

CHIPPER: Turns down Yankees

I’ve always admired players to begin and end it with the same team. That ‘s what I want to see for David Wright. It’s one of the things I liked about Cal Ripken, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter.

It’s rare these days for a player to retire with the same team he began his career with. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that way with Pete Rose, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

The Yankees’ stream of injuries prompted WFAN to run a poll of retired players fans wanted to come back with the Yankees. Ripken was on the list. I wonder if it is more a sign of respect or just not being realistic.

Incidentally, Wright is enjoying his time at the WBC, but I can’t but wonder if his time would have been better off had he stayed in Port St. Lucie.

Think of it for a moment, he’s going to be the captain of this team, so it stands to reason his presence would be beneficial to the younger players in camp.

 

 

Mar 02

Mets Matters: Johan Santana Doubtful For Opening Day; Lucas Duda Breaks Out

It is not surprising that GM Sandy Alderson indicated today it is “less and less likely,’’ Johan Santana

would be ready for Opening Day.

mets mattersAlderson attributed that to Santana not being in good shape when he reported to spring training because he didn’t go through his normal off-season routine after extensive rehabbing the previous two winters.

“From my standpoint, his arm is fine, as far as we know,’’ Alderson told reporters. “Was he ready to pitch when he came into camp? No. Even he may have been a little surprised by that.

“So that leaves us where we are today. And where we are today is getting him ready to pitch as soon as we possibly can. We haven’t rule out Opening Day, although given when we think he might get on the mound, it becomes less and less likely. We haven’t given up on that notion yet. And we’ll see where it takes us.’’

The Mets are kidding themselves in thinking Santana has a chance to make the Opening Day start because he hasn’t thrown off the mound since Feb. 19.

Jonathan Niese will start if Santana opens the season on the disabled list. In that scenario, ESPN reports the earliest Santana could start would be the sixth game of the season.

Also expected to open the season on the disabled list is closer Frank Francisco, meaning Bobby Parnell will get that opportunity.

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Feb 20

Pete Rose Not In The Cards

There is nitpicking, there is pettiness, and there is Major League Baseball policy, which is in a category by itself. There’s no other way to explain my reaction to what I just read.

TOPPS baseball cards, of which I have tens of thousands, banned Pete Rose from its 2013 set. TOPPS not only won’t have Rose’s picture on any cards, but also won’t put his name on the back in a feature called “Career Chase,’’ where a current player is listed to how close he is to the all-time record. Since Rose has the record with 4,256 hits – his name won’t be found.

urlRose was banned from baseball for gambling on the sport, including on his own team, and because TOPPS has the exclusive right to produce MLB-licensed cards, Rose is ineligible to be listed. According to the letter of the contract, TOPPS is within its right to omit Rose, but this comes off as petty and vindictive by both the card maker and MLB.

The object of the game is to hit the ball, and nobody did it more than Rose. It’s like when Stalin had his opponents’ names and pictures stricken from the Russian history books. Stalin had them killed and names erased, but it doesn’t alter the fact they existed. MLB and TOPPS can’t issue an edict on Rose otherwise.

Rose exists and excelled at his game. In the process, he generated millions of dollars in ticket sales, memorabilia and souvenirs for MLB. If MLB wants to ban Rose from holding a baseball job I have no problems with that. However, banning Rose from all things baseball is petty and cruel spirited.

The Hall of Fame is a baseball museum, and despite its strong ties with MLB, it is still a museum. History is not neat and clean, it is messy and tumultuous, and its characters not always emblematic of the best human stock. The Hall of Fame is loaded with those who drank, cheated on their spouses, were racists who never wanted Jackie Robinson in the game, and even murdered.

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Feb 10

What I Make Of Piazza Admission

I concede disappointment in Mike Piazza’s admission in his autobiography he took androstenedione, but only because it further lends to speculation he might have used PEDs.

From andro to steroids is the logical, but unsubstantiated conclusion. Once again, Piazza denied using steroids, but this certainly won’t enhance his Hall of Fame chances. Piazza received over 50 percent of the vote, but still was far short of induction. Part of that percentage was from my vote, and for that I still have no regrets.

My criteria was there was no admission of steroid use; he never failed a drug test; was not mentioned in the Mitchell Report; and nobody accused him on the record. There was only the subject of columns pointing out his back acne. To me, Piazza had the statistical career to warrant induction and the acne is only innuendo. As a journalist, I don’t operate on speculation.

Andro was not a banned substance by MLB when Piazza claims to have used it, nor was it illegal. Steroids, however, are different in that before they were banned by MLB, they were illegal in society without a prescription.

Regarding PEDs, Piazza wrote:  “Apparently, my career was a story that nobody cared to believe. Apparently, my success was the work of steroids. Had to be. Those were the rumors. … It shouldn’t be assumed that every big hitter of the generation used steroids. I didn’t.’’

Of course, Piazza could by lying. Lance Armstrong lied. Pete Rose lied. Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa lied. It wouldn’t be a shock, but for now I believe him and do not regret giving him my Hall of Fame vote.