Nov 25

Mets Give Us Many Reasons To Be Thankful

As Mets fans, we have had a lot to be thankful for over the years. First and foremost, we have a team we care about deeply. They give us a release from our daily trials and pressures.

If you’re a shut-in, they give you entertainment and a sense of belonging to a greater entity. They make your day.

MARVELOUS MARV

MARVELOUS MARV

They are our team, unlike any other, and we are thankful for the passion in our hearts whenever we find our seat at Citi Field or turn on the television. For the next three hours, they entertain and sometimes frustrate us. But, we’ll always watch.

I don’t believe in the term “die hard Mets fan,’’ because dying means you eventually turn away from them. If you’re a fan, you always stay. Once you give your heart to them, you don’t take it back.

I also don’t believe in “long suffering Mets fan.” They might frustrate us, but we don’t watch to suffer. We watch in hope.

It’s why, on the day after Thanksgiving, you’re reading Mets blogs, you’re waiting for the Winter Meetings and the hope they’ll do something big, and you’re waiting for spring training.

Quite frankly, the Wilpons and GM Sandy Alderson, from their lofty perches, don’t understand what we do about the team they run.

It’s the holiday season and the order is Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Opening Day. Aren’t they the ones that really matter?

As a Mets fan, what are you most thankful for?

How about William Shea, who when the Dodgers and Giants left the city, fought to bring National League baseball back to New York?

You’re thankful for:

Catcher Hobie Landrith, the first player taken by the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft.

Casey Stengel, the Old Professor was the Mets’ first manager. His words made us dizzy as we watched that 120-loss team in 1962.

Don Zimmer, a Brooklyn Dodger who became an original Met.

Frank Thomas, the Mets’ first star and Ron Hunt, the first All-Star.

We’re thankful for the legends of Marvelous Marv Throneberry; Choo Choo Coleman; Al Jackson; Roger Craig; Jim Hickman; Roy McMillan and his specs; Jay Hook, the winning pitcher in the club’s first victory.

We’re thankful for the former stars who became Mets for a brief time: Richie Ashburn, Gus Bell, Duke Snider, Yogi Berra, and, of course, Gil Hodges.

We’re thankful the Mets let us watch baseball once again in the Polo Grounds. And, we’re thankful for Shea Stadium, that when it opened in 1964 brought a bright and shiny toy for our team to play in.

Once state-of-the-art, even when Shea Stadium became cold, drafty and leaky, we’re thankful because it was our home.

We’re thankful for Hodges’ steadying hand that brought us the Miracle Mets of 1969, with the celebration at Shea Stadium. We’re thankful the Mets became baseball’s best “worst-to-first story.’’

We’re thankful for 1969, and the brilliance that was Tom Seaver, a future Hall of Famer and the franchise’s greatest player.

SEAVER: The Franchise. (Mets)

SEAVER: The Franchise. (Mets)

We’re thankful that season also showcased Jerry Koosman’s guile; Jerry Grote’s toughness; Bud Harrelson’s steadiness at shortstop; Ed Kranepool, who struggled through the hard times to taste champagne; for Tommie Agee’s glove and power; for the addition of Donn Clendenon; and for the steady bat of Cleon Jones.

We’re thankful Hodges had the backbone to publicly discipline Jones, a turning point to that season.

We’re thankful we saw a real team in 1969, with many non-descript players had their moments. Al Weis, Ron Swoboda, Don Cardwell, Ken Boswell, J.C. Martin, Joe Foy, and so many others.

We’re thankful we got to see Nolan Ryan in his Hall of Fame infancy that year.

We’re thankful for organist Jane Jarvis, sign-man Karl Ehrhardt, Banner Day, and the guy we sit next to for nine innings and talk Mets.

We’re also thankful for the second championship season, 1986, when victory was expected and featured one of the game’s greatest comebacks.

We’re thankful the immense talent that wooed us that summer: the brashness of manager Davey Johnson who predicted domination; Keith Hernandez’s leadership, a nifty glove and timely bat; the captaincy of Gary Carter that put the team over the top; the grit and toughness of Len Dykstra, Wally Backman and Ray Knight; the prodigious power of Darryl Strawberry; and, of course, Mookie Wilson.

We’re thankful for Dwight Gooden’s mastery and the K Corner; Sid Fernandez’s overpowering stuff; and the calmness of Ron Darling and Bob Ojeda. We’re thankful for the deepest rotation in franchise history.

We’re thankful the “ball got through Buckner.”

WRIGHT: The Captain. (AP)

WRIGHT: The Captain. (AP)

Although they didn’t win, we’re thankful for the World Series runs in 1973, 2000 and 2015. Because, even in defeat, those teams brought thrills, joy and pride.

We’re thankful for so many more stars thrilled us, even if it was for a brief time: Lee Mazzilli and Rusty Staub; Jon Matlack and Al Leiter; John Milner and Carlos Delgado; Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco; John Stearns and Felix Millan; Tug McGraw and David Cone; Howard Johnson and Edgardo Alfonzo; Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy; Hubie Brooks and Jon Olerud; Rey Ordonez and John Franco; Dave Kingman and Rickey Henderson.

There are so many. You think of one and another comes to mind.

We’re thankful we got to see Willie Mays one more time in a New York uniform. He wasn’t vintage, but the memories of him were.

We’re thankful Carlos Beltran always busted his butt for us, even playing with a fractured face.

We’re thankful for Johan Santana’s willingness to take the ball and the might he finally gave us a no-hitter.

We’re thankful to have a player who embodies the word “class,’’ and that is David Wright. We’re thankful we saw his development from prospect to All-Star. He means so much to us that we hurt when he hurts.

We’re thankful the game’s greatest hitting catcher, Mike Piazza, thought so much of his time here that he chose to wear a Mets’ cap into the Hall of Fame. There’s no greater honor a player can give to his city and fan base.

We’re thankful for the great rotations we’ve had, and for the future of the rotation we have now: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. They give us dreams.

We’re thankful for scintillating moments veteran journeymen pitchers R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon gave us. They gave us a chance to win every fifth day.

We’re thankful for Citi Field, one of baseball’s jewel stadiums. Hopefully, it will bring us the great moments Shea Stadium did.

We’re thankful for so many great plays, from Jones’ catch to end the `69 Series to the plays made by Agee and Swoboda that year. … For Staub playing with a busted shoulder in `73, and, Endy Chavez’s catch in the 2006 NLCS.

We’re thankful for the summer Yoenis Cespedes gave us in 2015 and wonder if he’ll be back for more.

We’re thankful for the enduring pictures and images spun by the words of Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner and Lindsey Nelson. We’re thankful for Kiner’s stories and malapropos; Nelson’s sports coats and the soothing voice of Murph, especially after that win over the Phillies: “and the Mets win it … They win the damn thing.”

We’re thankful for that great broadcasting team, and the one we have now in Gary, Keith and Ron. We’re thankful Gary Cohen is staying.

We’re thankful for the voices when we’re in our cars or grilling on the deck: Howie Rose and Josh Lewin bring us to the game.

We’re thankful for so many memories and for the memories to come.

Yes, with Thanksgiving gone and Christmas approaching, the Mets give us so many reasons to be thankful. Not the least of which is hope for 2017.

Please follow me on Twitter

Nov 08

Amazing Alderson Still Needs Clarity On Cespedes

I do not accept the term “undecided,” whether it be at the voting booth today or Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s stance on whether to bring back Yoenis Cespedes.

After all this time, you can’t honestly say you flipped a coin at the voting booth. Just the same, I don’t buy for a second Alderson needs more clarity on whether the Mets should bring back the high maintenance Cespedes.

ALDERSON: Needs to take control of Cespedes talks. (AP)

ALDERSON: Needs to take control of Cespedes talks. (AP)

The Mets didn’t reach an agreement with Cespedes last year until Jan. 26, and that resolution meant giving him an opt-out after one season.

Here’s what Alderson told reporters at the start of the general manager’s meetings in Arizona: “I think realistically, from our standpoint this year, things will probably have to resolve themselves a lot sooner than they did last year.

“But it’s hard to predict where things will go. Things could go quickly. Things could linger. But certainly, from our standpoint, between now and the winter meetings, and through the end of the winter meetings, would be the right time to get some of these issues resolved. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.”

What Alderson is saying is so far all the leverage in these negotiations belongs to Cespedes. These meetings will linger if Alderson doesn’t take control of the negotiations.

Alderson admitted he long thought Cespedes would opt out of the contract and test the market. Hell, he should have figured it when he signed him in January. Alderson is a smart guy. If he knew Cespedes was leaving, then he could also forecast the financial market for him and what teams might be interested. Above all, he should know by now whether the Mets can live with Cespedes’ antics and if they can afford him.

Alderson should already know the answers to the following questions:

* One, do the Mets want Cespedes back?

* Two, are they willing to put up with the negatives Cespedes brings to the table, which includes stunting the opportunity for Michael Conforto?

* Three, how much money are they willing to throw at him at the expense of their other issues?

If Alderson doesn’t know the answers by now, he’s not doing a good job. It’s not all that hard to figure out.

Alderson met with Cespedes’ representatives last week, but said salary was not discussed. Why the hell not? Alderson said the meeting was to inform Cespedes’ agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, of the Mets’ interest.

Reportedly, the Mets are concerned about giving a contract of more than four seasons because, 1) they aren’t sure Cespedes will give maximum effort after getting the security blanket, and 2) Cespedes’ injury history last year (only 132 games played).

If they are worried about injury and effort, they why are they going through this? Those are serious red flags.

If the Mets really want Cespedes back they have to assume control of the negotiations. They have to play hardball. The $17.2 million qualifying offer given Cespedes and Neil Walker was to assure receiving a compensatory draft pick. That’s the first step and it was to protect themselves.

The key to is for Alderson to get Cespedes’ demands now and not wait for the market to develop. Don’t dance with this guy. Alderson needs to set a deadline, tell the Cespedes camp what his best offer is, and other issues, such as playing center field, receiving rehab and golfing.

The Mets have a myriad of issues to address this winter and dancing with Cespedes into the new year will hamper those efforts. Fixing their bullpen which they must assume will not include Jeurys Familia for at least the season’s first 30 games; upgrading their catching; and ascertaining the health of their young rotation are all more important issues than Cespedes. They can always get a cheaper right-handed bat in the market and figure a refreshed Jay Bruce will fill the offensive void left by Cespedes leaving. That void can also be further filled with Conforto playing more.

Frankly, Alderson’s most important offseason decision is to decide just how good are the Mets. Was the World Series in 2015 a fluke or are they an 87-win team, capable of contending but not going much further than the wild card?

If you think the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, think again.

Cespedes was hot in August of 2015 and surely the Mets wouldn’t have reached the playoffs without him. However, it was Daniel Murphy and solid pitching that took them to the World Series.

Cespedes disappeared that posteason, much as he did for much of this September when he hit .214 with a .297 on-base percentage, four homers and 18 RBI. Unquestionably Cespedes had glittering moments, but it must be remembered in the second half of the season, with every game important, he hit .246 with ten homers and 34 RBI.

If you believe the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, ask yourself what have they really won with him? Is getting to the World Series and losing that big of a deal?

So, if Cespedes still is a Met priority, Alderson has to set the financial parameters early, making sure the numbers – both money and years – is in the form of a take-it-or-leave-it format. And, when the deadline date is reached – perhaps at the end of the Winter Meetings – walk away.

Like I said, the Mets have a lot of work to do and they can’t afford to let Cespedes impede what must be done.

Please follow me on Twitter

Nov 05

Cespedes To Opt Out Today

By midnight today, Yoenis Cespedes will tell the Mets he is opting out of his contract to pursue the riches of free agency.

The Mets have expected him to leave since they gave him the opt-out clause after one season of a three-year, $75-million contract. In reality, they never him to come back after he was close to signing a five-year, $110-million deal with Washington.

CESPEDES: Where is he running to? (AP)

    CESPEDES: Where is he running to? (AP)

Somehow, Cespedes eschewed that contract for the Mets. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by the World Series experience.

I’ve written several times how the Mets would be better off letting Cespedes go and spend the money elsewhere. I know that it is an unpopular position because we’re supposed to be enamored with Cespedes’ power, but frankly, he’s too high-maintenance for the money.

I’m annoyed he hustles when the mood strikes; that he played golf when he should have been rehabbing his quad; and he couldn’t play centerfield, which pretty much ended Michael Conforto’s play in left field.

If he comes back and has to play left, it stunts Conforto’s development. I certainly don’t want the Mets to fool around with Conforto at first base just to placate Cespedes.

The Mets will make a qualifying offer, which Cespedes will reject to accept a $100-million package with somebody else.

There are a handful of teams Cespedes where could land, but remember the Nationals were the only team to make an offer last year.

The Nationals could go after Cespedes again, which would entail Bryce Harper moving to center and Jayson Werth going to right. An outfield of Cespedes, Harper and Werth could be imposing.

San Francisco, which needs offense and with left fielder Angel Pagan to become a free agent, could be a player. Another possibility is Toronto, which might lose Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders, will certainly have the money.

Another option could be the Yankees. They have long-term outfield commitments to Jacoby Ellsbury and Bret Gardner, but with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez gone, they have a designated-hitter opening.

Conventional wisdom has Cespedes seeking a five-year contract, but last year’s leg problems must concern the Mets, and a DH position has to be appealing to him.

Nov 03

Mets Take Step Away From Cespedes; Pick Up Bruce’s Option

The Mets took their first step in moving away from Yoenis Cespedes when they picked up Jay Bruce’s $13-million option Thursday afternoon. Cespedes has until midnight Saturday to inform the Mets he will opt out of his contract to become a free agent.

CESPEDES: Will opt out. (AP)

    CESPEDES: Will opt out. (AP)

The Mets fully expect Cespedes to opt out and have thought that for months. Reportedly their plan is to wait out the process, much like they did with him last winter and Johan Santana years ago.

They took their time last year and Cespedes was on the verge of signing a five-year, $110-million package with Washington before changing his mind and going back to the Mets. Based on such history, figure that’s where the bidding will start, but considering his 31 homers in 2016, it could be higher.

The Mets have been enamored with Cespedes since he powered them to the 2015 World Series. Although he had a flat Series against the Royals, the Mets were hot to bring him back. Cespedes was an electric hitter for the Mets this year, but there were also long dry stretches, injuries, and his high maintenance persona.

They traded for Bruce when Cespedes as hurting and struggling with the hope he would ignite their offense. He did not and clearly disappointed Mets’ fans until the last two weeks of the season.

When the Mets acquired Cespedes from Cincinnati, they said at the time their control over Bruce’s contract was a crucial variable as it was their hedge on Cespedes leaving. That means they’ve been counting on Cespedes – who is at least two years older than Bruce by the way – leaving. Hell, I thought he would opt out when I first learned of his contract.

Reportedly the Mets will offer Cespedes a qualifying offer of roughly $17 million as to acquire a compensatory draft pick. That’s just good business. Cespedes, of course, is expected to decline, which is good business on his part.

Is Cespedes worth $110 million over five years? I don’t think so, but then again it’s not my money.

There are a lot of things $110 can buy, including:

* Adding a closer, an unforeseen need with Jeurys Familia expected to be suspended for at least 30 games after being arrested on domestic abuse charges.

* Signing one or more of their young pitchers to a long-term deal. That is if they are physically able.

* Bringing back Neil Walkers, who filed for free agency today

* Bringing back set-up reliever Addison Reed, who’ll cost them at least $11 million a season.

* Picking up a variety of pieces around the Mets, including patching the bullpen; Lucas Duda; improving their catching; bringing back Curtis Granderson for another year if they desire; and a myriad of other possibilities.

They can do all that, plus extend Bruce, if they move on from Cespedes.

Nov 01

Looking For Game 6 History

Whatever happens tonight, I won’t pull a Keith Hernandez and leave before the last out the way he did thirty years ago in Game 6 of the Mets-Red Sox World Series.

I’ll stay to the very end, hoping all the time the Cleveland Indians – the team I grew up rooting for watching on a black-and-white TV set or going to that drafty old barn of a stadium – will hold on to win their first World Series since 1948.

FISK: Historic moment. (FOX)

FISK: Historic moment. (FOX)

There will be unmistakable tension tonight in Cleveland emanating from both dugouts. If the Indians are losing, well, you can read the script running through their players’ minds: “Are we about to blow this?”

Of course, in the Cubs’ dugout, if they are losing and the stadium gets louder and louder, there will be the obvious thoughts of a 103-win season going down the toilet.

For a World Series to be a true classic, it has to go seven games. However, for there to be a Game 7 there has to be a Game 6 first and many of baseball’s greatest games have been a Game 6.

As much as I savor tight, tension-filled baseball, I’d be happy if the Indians did what Kansas City did in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series, which was to rout San Francisco, 10-0.

That night, the Royals were fighting to stay alive, but ran into the buzzsaw otherwise known as Madison Bumgarner, who came back from a Game 5, complete-game shutout to throw five scoreless innings in relief in Game 7.

There have been many memorable Game Sixes, but I’ve chosen five I’ve witnessed personally.

THE GREATEST GAME EVER: To me, this was the best game I’ve seen. I was going to college in Ohio in 1975 and watched the game in the student union. As the game moved into extra innings they kept the building open so we could watch. I was one of the few watching that pulled for the Red Sox in a room full of Reds’ fans.

This game had numerous electrifying moments and produced one of baseball’s most enduring images Carlton Fisk waiving his game-winning, home run ball fair in the 12th inning. That homer was made possible by Bernie Carbo’s three-run, two-strike, pinch-hit game-tying homer in the eighth inning.

Fisk’s moment delayed what Red Sox fans would call the inevitable, as Boston lost Game 7 at Fenway Park.

THE CARDINALS STAY ALIVE: Pitch for pitch, this one compared to the Fisk game as the Cardinals were twice one strike away from elimination in 2011, but rallied to tie with a two-run ninth and two-run tenth to stun the Texas Rangers, 10-9, and force a Game 7, which they won.

The title iced a remarkable season in which the Cardinals overcame a 10 ½-game deficit to reach the playoffs. All too often when a team makes a dramatic run at the postseason, like the Bobby Thomson Giants in 1951 and the Bucky Dent Yankees of 1978, it is emotionally spent by the World Series.

Local boy, David Freese tied it with a two-run triple in the ninth and won it with a homer in the 11thinning.

The game-turned-heavyweight fight featured five ties and six lead changes, and nobody complained that it lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes. That’s one of the beauties of baseball. When it’s compelling and dramatic like these Game Sixes, the games can last indefinitely and will leave you wanting more.

Game 7 was a dud, with the Cardinals wrapping it up, 6-2, the next night.

HAVE ONE FOR KEITH: It will be part of Mets’ lore forever. The Mets steamrolled through the National League, winning 108 games, but their destiny seemed to be derailed when Dave Henderson homered to lead off the tenth and Marty Barrett added a RBI single later that inning.

The Red Sox took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the inning. The first two Mets, Wally Backman and Hernandez flied out. After getting back to the dugout, Hernandez retreated to manager Davey Johnson’s office where he popped open a beer to watch the Mets’ dreams slip away.

I was watching in my late father-in-law’s den. He was a Mets’ fan and we saw a game at Shea Stadium that summer. Speaking too soon, I told him, “well, it has been a great season for them.’’

But, Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight singled off reliever Calvin Schiraldi to pull the Mets a run closer. Bob Stanley threw a wild-pitch that allowed Mitchell to score.

By this time, we knew the outcome was inevitable. We just didn’t know it would happen in one of the most incredible endings in history when Mookie Wilson’s slow roller squirted through Bill Buckner’s legs for a 6-5 victory.

The Mets went on to win Game 7, 8-5. and overcame a three-run deficit to do it.

That game was made possible because the Mets prevailed against Houston over 16 innings in Game 6 of the NLCS. Hernandez called it a crucial victory as it kept the Mets from facing Mike Scott, who beat them in Games 1 and 4.

MAYBE THE WORST CALL EVER:  One of the game’s most infamous calls came in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series that might have kept St. Louis from winning. Facing elimination and down 1-0 going into the ninth inning, umpire Don Denkinger ruled Kansas City’s Jorge Orta safe at first on a play in which he was clearly out.

The Royals went on to win that game, 2-1, then routed the Cardinals, 11-0, in Game 7.

WE’LL SEE YOU TOMORROW:  That was Jack Buck’s great call after Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett homered in the 11th inning off Atlanta’s Charlie Leibrandt to keep the Series alive for the Twins with a 4-3 victory in the Metrodome.

Puckett’s drive set up Jack Morris’ ten-inning shutout, 1-0, in arguably, outside of Don Larsen’s perfect game, might have been the greatest Series game pitched.

HAIL, THE RALLY MONKEY: I saw this one live, covering the game in Anaheim. I loved the Angels’ rally monkey, which began with a famous movie clip where the monkey was interjected at the critical spot. My favorite was the Animal House screen where John Belushi was on the ladder and instead of the girl undressing you see the monkey.

Often forgotten, perhaps because the game wasn’t decided on a game-ending hit, Anaheim rallied from five runs down in the seventh inning to beat San Francisco, 6-5. The Angels scored three in the seventh and three in the eighth to win.

There as no suspense in Game 7, won 4-1 by the Angels with all the runs scored in the first three innings.

ORIOLES STAY ALIVE:  The Orioles were on the cusp of a championship when they returned home for Game 6 of the 1971 World Series. The Pirates started reliever Bob Moose, who took a 2-0 lead into the sixth. The Orioles chipped away to send the game into extra innings.

The Pirates loaded the bases in the tenth inning, but Dave McNally came out of the bullpen to snuff the threat, and Brooks Robinson won it, 3-2, with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.

However, was Roberto Clemente’s World Series. He homered in Game 7 (he had two overall with four RBI while hitting .414 to be named MVP) as the Pirates won, 2-1.

This Series was noted for playing games at night for the first time and the game has never been the same since.