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.

 

Feb 13

Had a rough weekend.

Good afternoon folks. I was away for the weekend, but not by design as I was hospitalized.

I was in Westchester for an appointment when I fainted and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. I was crouching at the time on my cell phone, and when I stood up I got lightheaded and collapsed. When I came to, somebody had stolen my phone. There’s got to be a special section in hell for that guy.

Tests came back negative and I was released after staying overnight, but it was a wake-up call nonetheless. They couldn’t pinpoint the problem. Maybe just a freak thing, but it scared the hell out of me. When you wake up in a hallway and not know where you are, it is scary. I’m lucky they didn’t find anything serious, or it happened when I was driving.

I think about all the traveling I’ve done and how may nights I’ve been in a strange hotel. Lucky I wasn’t in some city halfway across the country.

When you’re in a hospital bed, you have time for a lot of thinking. You can’t sleep because they wake you up every two hours to take blood or test your blood pressure. And, the lights are always on and the nurses’ station is always noisy.

I thought about a lot of things, with the upcoming baseball season among them. I am working on a book I hope will be completed by the end of the season. I plan to be out at Citi Field a lot this summer working on several writing projects.  I also hope to do a lot of game stories for an Internet outlet. Looking forward to it.

Would rather be traveling full time, but I’m happy covering baseball nonetheless. It has been in my blood for a long time.

I’m also looking forward to the season with curiosity and interest. I’m trying to look past the dismal won-loss forecast and into the future. This is a tenuous period in Mets’ history with all the swirling economic and legal issues laying the groundwork for the next decade or so.

If the Wilpons fare poorly in court they could be forced to sell. Maybe they won’t be worth the $2 billion the Dodgers are reportedly valued, but the team, coupled with SNY and Citi Field will come at a high price.

If the Wilpons keep the franchise, it will be interesting to see how they dig themselves out of this hole and when will see them be viable again.

In this, the 50th anniversary of the Mets’ birth, some are writing this team could be a hapless as the 1962 team. It won’t happen.

As an expansion team, Casey Stengel’s group was a collection of veteran castoffs and lowly ranked prospects. There wasn’t a player on that team with the talent of David Wright, or the potential of Ike Davis and Jon Niese.

Today’s Mets aren’t deep in talent at the major league level and throughout the farm system, but there is talent and potential. There’s also an expanded playoff system not around in 1962, so if they catch fire, well, who knows?

People have said and written to me saying the 1969 team had low expectations and look what happened to them. True enough, and while the offensive potential of this team is greater than the 1969 team, that unit had potential based on its superior pitching. Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman gave Gil Hodges reason to believe the 1969 team would be competitive and exceed expectations.

We’re a week away from the start of spring training and over the coming days I’ll look at some of the questions and issues surrounding the Mets.

I’m anxious for another season to begin, as I am every spring and I hope you’ll share it with me.

Thanks. JD

 

Sep 27

Reyes: A parting gift?

What we’ve never seen from the Mets has been a batting title winner, and Jose Reyes is leading by micro-percentage points. Undoubtedly, a feel good story for the Mets would be for him to win the tile and announce he’s staying.

It would give us a fresh feel and sense of optimism heading into winter, which for the Mets is two days away.

But, I can’t help but think Reyes winning the title will be a paring gift before he hits free agency. For an organization whose history has been tumultuous – some would even say cursed at times – it seems fitting.

In a roundabout way it would be like Tom Seaver, David Cone, Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden throwing their no-hitters as ex-Mets.

Part of me doesn’t want to see Reyes win the title and flaunt it in another uniform, but another part of me knows Mets history well enough to think that will be the case.

 

 

Sep 09

Today in Mets’ History: The Black Cat Game

Throughout the Summer of `69, Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo celebrated each victory by clicking his heels in the air.

He clicked them often as the Cubs built a seemingly insurmountable 10-game lead by Aug. 13. However, he wouldn’t be clicking them on this day, although superstition would be the headliner.

That lead was cut to a half-game on this date as Tom Seaver, backed by homers from Donn Clendenon and Art Shamsky, beat Ferguson Jenkins and the Cubs, 7-1, in what will forever be known as “The Black Cat Game.’’

The black cat symbolized the Cubs' fall.

While the Cubs were batting, a black cat walked behind the on-deck circle where Santo was standing.

“(The cat) kept walking around their on-deck circle,’’ said Ed Kranepool in a phone interview. “The crowd kept yelling and cheering, and the cat just stayed there.’’

No, the cat wasn’t planned.

“We had a lot of cats (at Shea) because we had a lot of rats there,’’ Kranepool said.

From Aug. 14, the Mets sizzled at 39-11 while the Cubs went 21-29 during that stretch, including  8-17 in September. The Mets were 23-7 in September.

The cat is a nice story and a great piece of Mets’ lore. From the Chicago perspective, perhaps Leo Durocher burned out his team – which only played day games at home – by running out the same lineup every day. Five Cubs played in at least 150 games and two more played over 130.

Still, 92 wins for the year isn’t bad.

However, the Mets’ pitching was brilliant with 13 shutouts in August and September.

“We were playing great baseball,’’ Kranepool said. “When we came home from the West Coast (where they went 6-4) we were playing our best baseball of the season.

“The lead went from ten to six, then it kept going down.’’

BOX SCORE

The victory was the Mets’ 82nd, which assured them of their first winning season.  It was also their fourth in the midst of a stretch where they won 10 straight and 13 of 14 games to go up by 3 ½ games.

 

Sep 05

Today in Mets’ History: Seaver wins 20th.

The Mets made several runs at the Chicago Cubs in 1969 before they finally overtook, then lapped them en route to their Amazin’ championship season.

SEAVER: First Met to win 20 on this date.

Gil Hodges said in spring training he had a feeling for his team. Not that they would win it all, but he believed their pitching would be good enough to be a factor.

That pitching was highlighted by Tom Seaver, who on this date in 1969, became the first pitcher in franchise history to win 20 games with a 5-1 victory over Philadelphia in the first game of a doubleheader.

It was a typical, efficient, workmanlike effort from Seaver, who went nine innings, and gave up one run on five hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.

With the victory, the Mets pulled within 4 ½ games of the Cubs. The Mets lost the second game, 4-2.

BOX SCORE

SEAVER CAREER

Seaver was incredible that season, winning the Cy Young Award and finishing second in the MVP voting.

Going 25-7 was one thing, but he had a 2.21 ERA with 18 complete games, including five shutouts.  Seaver also worked 273.1 innings (which didn’t lead the NL) – unheard of today – with 208 strikeouts, averaging just under seven per nine innings.