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.

Jan 23

Gee Emblematic Of Difference Between Mets And Giants

It is more than talented players that separate the San Francisco Giants from the Mets. There is also an organizational philosophy. The Giants’ is about winning; the Mets is about pinching pennies.

It was simply a single line item in the transactions, that the Giants opted to re-sign pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. Here is a team with three World Series titles in the past five years that is loaded with pitching. Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Jake Peavey. That’s five starters. Vogelsong makes six, and don’t forget Yusmeiro Petit.

They all have substantial major league track records.

Meanwhile, the Mets are optimistic about their young rotation, and despite legitimate questions about every pitcher, they are determined to deal Dillon Gee, who’ll make just $5.3 million in 2015.

What the Giants realize, that although they have a glut of pitching, you can never have enough pitching. And, this is a perennial winner.

Meanwhile, the Mets, who haven’t had a winning season since 2008, are gambling they will have no pitching issues this summer and are willing to deal Gee to prove their point.

It’s not a gamble they should make.

Dec 15

Would Rather Have Germen Over Mayberry

The Mets made the signing of right-handed hitter John Mayberry Jr., official today and to make room on the 40-man roster they designated for assignment reliever Gonzalez Germen.

Personally, as the San Francisco Giants proved three times over the past five years, bullpen depth is critical for a team’s success, so I would rather have had them keep Germen. To me, a 27-year-old hard-throwing reliever with a fastball in the mid-90s has a greater upside than a 30-year-old with a lifetime .241 batting average and career .305 on-base percentage.

I don’t know what will become of Germen, but Mayberry has proven he’s about as good as he’s going to be. Yes, the Mets need right-handed hitting, but if they won’t spend to get it, then they would stand to have numerous opportunities later.

Speaking of lost opportunities, Houston signed Jed Lowrie to a three-year, $23-million contract. Considering the Mets weren’t willing to go that high in years or dollars, it wasn’t that much of a lost chance.

What this does is only reinforce what I’ve been alluding to for the past month, which is the shortstop’s job belongs to Wilmer Flores.

 

Dec 28

Going Bowling With The Mets

The Pinstripe Bowl is currently taking place at Yankee Stadium, which leads to the obvious question: Why can’t the New York Mets host their own college bowl game? Or, perhaps make a bid to host the NHL’s Winter Classic at Citi Field?

Are you telling me the NCAA can’t fit in one more bowl game, hosted by the Mets and Citi Bank? I can’t believe that for a second.

Fred Wilpon won’t get a chance to host a bowl involving the University of Michigan, because when the team is good they’ll go to a higher profile bowl game.

Wilpon is an ardent supporter of the United States Military. The Armed Forces Bowl was played the other day in Houston

Taking it a step further, the Army-Navy Game has been played in several venues. Why can’t Citi Field be one of them?

They played bowl games at Yankee Stadium, and last night there was a game at the San Francisco Giants’ park.

It can be done in Citi Field. It should be done at Citi Field.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Feb 08

Something To Look Forward To From The Mets

As I watch the snow pile up outside my window, I am thinking of three of the best words in sports, “pitchers and catchers.’’

NIESE: Needs to take the next step.

                       NIESE: Needs to take the next step.

The official deadline for the Mets is Monday, but the lockers are already being filled in Port St. Lucie. I am hoping to get down there this spring and have already started looking at flights.

Most of the prognosticators have the Mets fighting the Marlins to stay out of the NL East. Many of them have them losing close to 100 games. I think they’ll finish ahead of Miami and I don’t see them losing that many games. I’d like to see .500, but I’m not ready to go there, yet.

For those thinking the worst, and as Mets fans I know you’ve all done it one time or another, I’d like to give you several things to watch for that could make this an interesting, if not exciting summer.

If you’re already writing off this season, here’s a few things to talk you down off the ledge.

The soundest road to contention is with young pitching. For those lamenting the lack of power and a weak outfield, just remember what the San Francisco Giants did in two of the past three years. Speaking of sparse outfields, was the Mets’ 2000 outfield all that good?

Hardly. It’s all starts with pitching and the Mets have three bright spots they are developing.

Jon Niese won a career-high 13 games last season and has the potential, if he stays healthy, to possibly win 17 or more. To reach that level he needs to win four more games in six months. That’s roughly one more every five weeks. That’s not that big a stretch with his stuff.

Niese had a nearly 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and 1.17 WHIP in 2012 while working 190 innings in 30 starts. If he makes four more starts over 200 innings and maybe 17 wins are possible.

The Mets jumped from habit and signed Niese to a long-term contract way before they needed to because he throws hard, is lefthanded, pitches with guile and has experienced major league success. For those reasons, any team would want him but the Mets continually say no.

Two other rising pitching stars are Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The Mets have brought along Harvey at a good pace and he started ten games last year, showing overpowering stuff and more importantly, composure beyond his years. His is the type of arm franchises are built around.

While Harvey is in the Opening Day rotation, the timetable for Wheeler is later in the summer after more time in Triple A. There’s no rush to promote Wheeler early, but we’ll see him soon enough.

We should also see catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud before the year is out, and I like the idea he’ll get a lot of time with Wheeler. The key to the R.A. Dickey trade from the Mets’ perspective, d’Arnaud has power potential, but he’s also coming off knee and back injuries.

Should he pan out then the Mets can argue success in the trade of their Cy Young Award winner.

Also something to look forward to is Ike Davis’ power. Davis, skillful around the first base bag, clubbed 32 homers last year after a bad start. He’s healthy now and two good halves could make 40 homers a realistic possibility. That’s a little over one a month. He could get that, along with more walks and fewer strikeouts, with an improved plate presence.

Then there is David Wright, who played at a MVP clip in the first half before the pressures of carrying the Mets on his back became too great a burden.

I’m looking at .300, 30 and 100 from Wright, nothing less. He rarely talks about numbers, but he’d probably say the same if pressed.

No, I don’t know how the Mets will do this year. However, if these six players can play to what is expected of them, this has a chance to be an interesting summer.