Jun 13

These Mets Made You Watch

Yoenis Cespedes has turned out to be one of those hitters, the kind that grab your attention and keep your eyes transfixed to the plate, whether you’re at the ballpark or watching on television. When he steps up, whether you’re heading to the concession stand or the refrigerator your heads turn to him like a rubber necker staring at a highway accident.

STRAWBERRY: Stirred us. (AP)

STRAWBERRY: Stirred us. (AP)

Everything can wait until you see what Cespedes does. It could be another home run; a line drive into the gap; or he could screw himself into the ground striking out. It doesn’t matter because it was an event.

Cespedes is one of four Mets that I believe who mesmerized us with their power.

Dave Kingman was the first. He was long and lean, once a pitcher. But, strong and launched 154 homers in his six years in two stints with the Mets, most of them high, arching moonshots.

Kingman came to the Mets from San Francisco, purchased for merely $150,000. He was the total all-or-nothing slugger with 442 career homers and 1,816 strikeouts.

Another was Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, who hit 220 homers eight years with the Mets. Piazza came to the Mets from the Dodgers – after a week layover in Miami – and lead them to the 2000 World Series. Piazza’s swing uncoiled, almost in slow motion, but the ball jumped off his bat.

Piazza authored arguably the most memorable homer in franchise history with his game-winner over the Braves in the first pro sports event in New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Others hit longer or higher home runs. Others hit them in October. But, Piazza’s was undoubtedly the most emotional and will never be forgotten,

Finally, there was Darryl Strawberry, the only one of the group who was home grown. He hit 252 homers in eight years with the Mets, and things froze at Shea when he came to the plate. Strawberry played for the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Giants – all four of New York’s baseball teams.

If there was one Strawberry blast that defined his power and strength, it was his blast off the scoreboard clock in old Busch Stadium.

There were other Mets who hit significant, if not dramatic, home runs. David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Lenny Dykstra, Rod Swoboda and Tommie Agee also hit memorable home runs for the Mets.

But, Strawberry, Piazza, Kingman and Cespedes made us stop and watch.

 

May 12

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Does It All

SYNDERGAARD: Dream game. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Dream game. (AP)

Noah Syndergaard was still dealing in the eighth inning, but maybe it wasn’t because his pitch count was low. I’m thinking Terry Collins kept him in the game because Syndergaard was the only Met who was hitting.

Syndergaard drove in all four Mets’ runs with a pair of homers – including a three-run drive in the fifth after failing to put down a bunt – in Wednesday night’s 4-3 victory over the Dodgers.

Maybe it’s something in the water in Southern California.

“I don’t think I ever hit two home runs in Little League,’’ Syndergaard told reporters. “To hit two home runs in a big league game, especially with a pitcher like Kenta Maeta out there, it was an ultimate experience.’’

And, he wasn’t too bad at what he is paid to do, either, giving up two runs on six hits with six strikeouts. Syndergaard gave up five hits in the first four innings, but settled down and retired 11 straight.

Syndergaard amazed everybody.

“He’s throwing 100 (mph) and he’s hitting home runs to the opposite field in Dodger Stadium. It’s legendary,” Mets second baseman Neil Walker said.“He’s a big strong kid. He’s Thor.”

And he put the hammer down.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #33, May 11   Record: 21-12   Streak: W 1

Standings: First, NL East

Runs: 141     Average per game: 4.3    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 13

SUMMARY:  Syndergaard pitched eight stellar innings and supported his own cause by driving in all the Mets’ runs with a pair of homers.

KEY MOMENT:  Syndergaard’s three-run homer in the fifth.

THUMBS UP: Walker broke a 0-for-22 slide with a double in the second. … Two hits each by Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Syndergaard. … No stolen bases by the Dodgers.

THUMBS DOWN: Just joking, but Syndergaard’s error in the second. … Ouch! Curtis Granderson went 0-for-5 as did Asdrubal Cabrera.

EXTRA INNINGS: Steven Matz will miss his next start with soreness in his left forearm. I’ll have more on that later. … David Wright did not play. It was a scheduled day off, but he’s nursing a sore shoulder. … Walker was back in the lineup after missing three games with a bruised shin. … Syndergaard had his elbow checked after his May 1 start against San Francisco. … Wilmer Flores is expected to go on the disabled list today with lefty reliever Sean Gilmartin being brought up.

QUOTEBOOK: When you’re supposed to bunt, you’d like to see him get the bunt down. But, if you don’t get the bunt down, you might as well hit a homer.’’ – Collins on taking off the bunt sign before Syndergaard’s second homer.

BY THE NUMBERS: 14: Groundball outs by Syndergaard, proof his slider was working well.

NEXT FOR METS:  Tonight: Bartolo Colon (3-1, 2.82) vs. Clayton Kershaw (4-1, 2.02). Kershaw has given up two earned runs in 16 innings over his previous two starts, with 24 strikeouts and no walks.

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May 06

Today In Mets’ History: Happy Birthday Willie Mays

In 1969, the 100th Anniversary of Baseball, Joe DiMaggio was voted the game’s greatest player. That was wrong then and certainly was for the next 30 years of DiMaggio’s career. The voters slighted Mays.

You could make valid arguments for Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Hank Aaron. You might also lobby on behalf of Willie Mays, who on this day in 1931 was born in Westfield, Ala.

My vote goes to Babe Ruth as the greatest player in history, with Mays second. In addition to his prodigious power and five tools, Mays will always be remembered for his catch in the 1954 World Series (video) against Cleveland.

Mays’ professional career began in 1947, the same year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. His major league in 1951, the year DiMaggio retired. They faced each other in the World Series that season.

Mays is first, and foremost, a Giant. He became a Met in 1972 when he was traded for Charlie Williams (perhaps the ultimate trivia question answer) and $50,000 in cash. The driving force behind the trade was, of course, money.

MAYS: Not the best memory. (AP)

MAYS: Not the best memory. (AP)

Giants owner Horace Stoneham, who moved the Giants to San Francisco, was operating a team hemorrhaging money. Mays was nearing retirement and the Giants could not guarantee a job when he stopped playing. The Mets could and brought the icon back to New York.

/a>Mays played a year-and-a-half with the Mets, appearing in only 133 games, but played in the 1973 World Series, in which in went 2-for-7, but is best remembered for falling down in the outfield and his plea after being called out at the plate.

Mays looked like he was playing hurt, and later said, “growing old is a helpless hurt.’’

Mays’ last at-bat was grounding into a force play in Game 3. He retired after the season with a career .302 average with 660 home runs. He appeared in a record 24 All-Star Games. He was a 12-time Gold Glover and three-time MVP.

Mays was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, the first year of his eligibility, but amazingly didn’t appear on 23 ballots.

Apr 09

Today In Mets’ HIstory: Carter Hits OD Game-Winning Homer

On this date in 1985, the Mets’ drive to, as manager Davey Johnson said, “to dominate,” began with Gary Carter‘s 10th-inning Opening Day homer gave them a 6-5 victory over St. Louis at Shea Stadium.

Carter Gary Plaque_NBL_0The Mets acquired Carter in an offseason trade with Montreal for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans.

The Mets’ championship team of 1986 was built around draft picks Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, but the trades for Carter and Keith Hernandez were largely regarded as the final pieces of the puzzle.

The Mets finished second to St. Louis in 1985, but the die had been cast. During spring training in 1986, Johnson said the Mets would “dominate,” that year. The Mets cruised through the regular season, outlasted Houston to win the NLCS with a dramatic win in extra-innings. That was a crucial win because Mike Scott – who was clearly in the Mets’ head – was the Astros’ Game 7 starter.

The Mets rallied to win Game 6 of the World Series in another epic game, to set up Game 7. The Mets came from behind to win that game, also. Carter hit .276 in the World Series with two homers and nine RBI.

Carter played only five years with the Mets and released after the 1989 season. He played three more years in the majors with San Francisco (1990), Los Angeles (1991) and retired after the 1992 season with a farewell tour with Montreal.

After falling short in several votes, Carter was finally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Carter died, February 16, 2012.

ON DECK: Mets Should Skip DeGrom’s Next Start

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Mar 07

The Telling Distinctions Between Colon And Pelfrey

The unveiling of the 2016 Mets’ starting rotation this week unveils an interesting match-up Monday when Bartolo Colon goes against former Mets Ace of the Future Mike Pelfrey in a split-squad game against Detroit.

In the other split-squad game, Steven Matz starts against St. Louis. Matt Harvey starts Tuesday, followed by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. No, you can’t determine from this who will be the Opening Day starter.

But, there’s intrigue with Colon vs. Pelfrey in it shows a contrast of styles and expectations. It also explains why one is a Met and another is not.

PELFREY: What could Wright say that would help? (Getty)

PELFREY: What could Wright say that would help? (Getty)

Colon was signed as a two-year stopgap when Harvey went down. However, he exceeded all expectations, kept the team afloat at times and even proved his worthiness working out of the bullpen. And, there was never any shortage of comic relief.Colon exceeded all expectations by mostly doing two things: 1) throwing strikes, and 2) minimizing the damage when things got dicey.

Colon exceeded all expectations by mostly doing two things: 1) throwing strikes, and 2) minimizing the damage when things got dicey.

For the most part, Colon cut off big innings before they developed. Had Pelfrey done those things with any consistency, he might still be with the Mets.

What do you remember most about Pelfrey? For me, it was his habit of letting little things get to him which eventually turned into big innings. This was never more apparent than three balks in one inning against San Francisco. Most pitchers don’t balk three times in one year. Guess how many career balks Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard have in their careers?

Yup, zero.

All three, while not perfect, have the ability to maintain their composure while under pressure and to throw strikes. There were times Pelfrey resembled a right-handed Oliver Perez. Enough said.

I always liked Pelfrey, but he drove me crazy to watch him at times. And, you could see it coming. If he didn’t get a strike call, or there was an error, or a broken-bat blooper, or any of a half-dozen other things.

When something went wrong Pelfrey would start chewing on that damned mouth guard and the strike zone would disappear. One walk would become two would become three and before you knew it the Braves or Phillies or whoever would have three runs.

Those were long days.

Meanwhile, nothing seems to bother Colon, who is always full of surprises, such as that behind the back flip in Miami.