Jun 03

Johan Santana No-Hitter Fallout

Much like Red Sox fans who said, “now I can die and go to heaven (although that might be a bit presumptuous),’’ after their team finally won the World Series, so too are Mets fans saying the same thing after Johan Santana’s no-hitter Friday night.

SANTANA: Taking another bow yesterday. (AP)

You’ll start reading stories about long-time Mets fans who missed the event, just like there will be those who saw history in their first game watching the team. It’s all part of the fate when it comes to baseball. You just never know.

It does remind me of when I started covering the Yankees in 1998. I worked a month straight before my first day off – which turned out to be David Wells’ perfect game.

It’s all part of the maddening charm that is baseball.

R.A. Dickey said following Santana would be a tough act to follow, but a shutout isn’t a bad way to do it.  Dickey’s gem yesterday is part of the fallout of the no-hitter:

* The Hall of Fame will be collecting items from the game for display in Cooperstown. Sadly, he won’t be using it for a while, but a nice touch would be to show Mike Baxter’s glove. We knew Baxter was injured selling out to make that spectacular catch, but he’ll be gone at least six weeks. Ouch. Baxter’s absence hurts the Mets on several levels in that he played good defense but was also a pinch-hitting savant.

 

* From the “It Can Only Happen To the Mets Department,’’ reliever Ramon Ramirez strained a hamstring running in from the bullpen for the post-game celebration. He went from sitting for three hours to a full sprint, so it isn’t all that hard to imagine.

* Manager Terry Collins is considering bumping up Chris Young’s return date next weekend to give Santana extra rest. Wise move. Pitchers are a creature of habit, so it will be interesting to note if Santana changes his routine at all this week.

* Speaking of Collins, imagine the pressure he was under in deliberating keeping Santana in the game. The human part of him wanted to extend Santana so he’d get the no-hitter. Then, there was part of him that wanted to protect his pitcher. Coming off surgery, it was a gamble, one in which we might not know the outcome for awhile as it isn’t always the next start in which the 134 pitch-count could come into play in a negative way. Here’s hoping it never does.

Finally, a classy comment from Carlos Beltran, who had a extra-base hit taken away by a blown call from umpire Adrian Johnson, saying he was happy for Santana and was being rewarded for all his hard work in his rehab.

Apr 22

Add Phil Humber To The List

Add Phil Humber to the list of ex-Mets to throw a no-hitter. Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan seven times, David Cone and Dwight Gooden. Meanwhile, the Mets’ franchise doesn’t have any.

I liked dealing with Humber when he was with the Mets. He was always pleasant to speak with and had a good sense of humor. At the time, I was happy for him when he was traded because I knew it gave him a chance to pitch, something that wasn’t going to happen any time soon with the Mets.

The Mets, of course, shouldn’t lament the trade of Humber because it brought them Johan Santana. At the time, I know few people regretted the deal.

HUMBER: Nice thing for a nice guy.

I don’t write this to rip the Mets. Far from it. I mention it to point out how fickle baseball can be.

Here we are, watching the Mets blow a ninth-inning lead when their rising young outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis overruns a pop-up only to win the game in the bottom of the inning on a wild throw. Amazing stuff. It really was.

Of course, it paled to what happened in Fenway Park. The iconic ballpark – celebrating its 100th anniversary – has been the site of hundreds of memorable moments with dozens of Red Sox collapses. So, why not celebrate that history in grand style? Down 9-0, the Yankees stormed back to back-to-back monster innings to rout the Sox, 15-9.

If Bobby Valentine has a magic touch as a manager, now is the time to use it. Games like yesterday can carry a psychological impact. For the Mets, it could right them after a three-game losing streak. For the Red Sox, as the papers point out this morning, it could carry devastating consequences.

Then again, it could carry no impact. That’s the fickle nature of the sport and one of the reasons it drives us crazy. And, one of the reasons why we love it so.

 

Nov 21

Valentine had his time.

With Bobby Valentine interviewing with the Red Sox there’s been a lot of chatter on the blogs and message boards things would have been different with the Mets if he was still in charge.

I dealt with Valentine several times and always found him engaging and informative, but did not have the consistent dealings other NY columnists had that have them drinking the Kool-Aid suggesting he is infallible.

The chemistry was right in 1999 and 2000 when the Mets reached the postseason, but things between him and then GM Steve Phillips deteriorated, and so did his relationship with several players. There were factions in the clubhouse, as there was with Willie Randolph.

The discipline some are writing Valentine would bring to the Red Sox conveniently forget the card playing during games while on his watch. They also forget there were times when Valentine lacked discipline of his own, such as wearing a false mustache and glasses after being ejected.

The point isn’t whether Valentine should get the Red Sox job – I hope he gets it – but he had his opportunity with the Mets and did well. However, things fell apart and changes were made.

Had the Mets showed patience and stuck with Valentine he might have pulled them out of their post World Series funk. We’ll never know. But, I don’t think the odds of success with Valentine coming back for a second tenure would have been good.

The chemistry, front office, players and economics changed after Valentine left and that would have worked against him. Valentine had his time with the Mets, but a second chance after leaving wouldn’t have guaranteed he would have duplicated the success of his first tenure.

 

Oct 27

Today in Mets History: Pop the corks.

I was driving this morning when I heard Bob Murphy’s call: “He struck him out. He struck him out. The Mets win the World Series.”

It was a chilly Monday night. The Giants were at home to the Redskins, but the real show in town was Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. Game 7’s are usually always a gem, and this was no different, as for the second straight game the Mets rallied to beat the Red Sox.

Everybody remembers Game 6 for the Bill Buckner play, and the conventional wisdom was the Boston would be devastated and fold like a cheap tent. Not so.

A rainout Sunday gave the Red Sox another day to get over the lost and give Bruce Hurst another day of rest. What people forget was the Red Sox taking an early 3-0 lead on Rich Gedman’s homer.

But, the Mets scored three in the sixth and seventh, and two more in the eighth to put away Boston, 8-5.

It was after this game when The New York Times’ George Vecsey became the first to mention a Babe Ruth curse. He didn’t phrase it, “the curse of the Bambino,” but he was the first to associate a curse with the Red Sox.

This was a Mets’ team full of brass and it was supposed to win a string of World Series, but it never happened. Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry had drug problems, Mike Scioscia’s homer off Gooden in the 1988 NLCS derailed the Mets that season, Len Dykstra was traded and the team started to unravel.

What was going to be a dynasty never happened and the Mets wouldn’t reach the World Series until 2000 when they were beaten in five games by the Yankees.

Even so, Murphy’s call was the soundtrack for Jesse Orosco striking out Marty Barrett for the game’s final out. Orosco throwing his glove in the air and falling to his knees as he was mobbed by his teammates has been one of baseball’s most enduring images since.

There was no middle-of-the-road with the 86 Mets. You either loved them or hated them. That was the year I moved to New York from Ohio and started following the Mets. They were a cocky bunch which I didn’t like at first, but they grew on me. I loved how Keith Hernandez and Lenny Dykstra played, and grew to admire Gooden’s dominance. Strawberry, I remember, was a player you couldn’t take your eyes off when he came to the plate. After hitting the scoreboard clock in St. Louis, with every at-bat you wondered how far he’d hit the ball.

Some would say this was the Mets’ last great moment, but I dispute that with their pennant run in 2000 and Mike Piazza’s homer after 9-11. The Piazza homer, Endy Chavez’s catch and Carlos Beltran taking a called third strike to end the 2006 NLCS all provided enduring images.

But, 1986 was the zenith for the Mets, and it is true that they haven’t been the same way since. Makes you wonder if the Buckner play started another curse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 26

The shifting market for Reyes.

Reports out of Boston are the Red Sox are close to picking up the $6 million option on shortstop Marco Scutaro, and are content to live with him until top prospect Jose Iglesias is ready.

If the Red Sox go that route, it would preclude them from pursuing Jose Reyes.

With Iglesias at least a year away, holding on to the 35-year old Scutaro seems a prudent choice for new GM Ben Cherington.

While the Red Sox collapsed in September, Scutaro remained a productive player, hitting .387 with a .438 on-base percentage for the month. He finished the year at .299.

With the Red Sox saddled with two $100-plus million contracts in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, Cherington said they will be prudent in their off-season spending.

Boston learned yesterday it has a pitching hole to fill with John Lackey to miss the 2012 season after he undergoes Tommy John surgery.

These are all variables which would make Reyes not a fit for Boston.

The Red Sox have been speculated as a potential landing spot for Reyes, and there were reports they might be interested at the trade deadline, but that was before he went on the disabled list.

The Yankees and Chicago Cubs are two big-market teams that can afford a $100-million plus contract, but they already have shortstops, and the latter is expected to make a big play for Prince Fielder.

The Angels and Giants have the resources, but San Francisco is also expected to talk with Jimmy Rollins. Should Rollins leave, that would leave the Phillies open as they have declined the options on Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge and have an offensive need with Ryan Howard’s Achilles injury.