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 21

The makings of a great World Series.

Two games in and I have the feeling this could be the makings of a great World Series. Could it be because we have two teams playing and we’re not caught up in a traveling circus of the Red Sox or Yankees?

Even without them playing, the Red Sox are always in the news. The Yankees have been pretty quiet, but there is the underlying assumption – perhaps coming from their fans’ sense of entitlement – CJ Wilson will come running to them.

He’s a No. 2 starter, but being the premier arm on the market he will make his money. However, he won’t be cashing any checks bearing Fred Wilpon’s signature.

If the Rangers go on to win, it could come down to a defensive misplay by by Albert Pujols in the ninth inning when he failed to field a cutoff throw which enabled Elvis Andrus to take to second and eventually scored what proved to be the winning run on back-to-back sacrifice flies by Josh Hamilton and Michael Young.

Had Pujols cut off the ball, the Cardinals could be up 2-0.

The first two games have been a study in pitching and fundamentals, and that’s what it takes to win. We should see more scoring when the Series moves to Arlington, where the weather will be warmer.

Close, tense games are only part of what makes a great World Series. There are the compelling story lines of the Rangers trying to win for the first time and the Cardinals attempting to come all the way back from a 10 1/2-game deficit on Aug. 25. It would be one of the greatest comebacks of all time.

Of course, the definitive great World Series has to go seven games. Really, outside of the 69 Mets, whose rise was one of the great baseball stories of the ages, there aren’t many Series considered great that run short.

Football season is in full swing, but I’m not ready to let go of the summer. Here’s hoping this one goes seven.

Oct 12

Interesting how October is shaping up.

The networks must be loving baseball’s final four of Milwaukee, St. Louis, Texas and Detroit. Their thinking, of course, is any LCS without the Yankees and Red Sox, or a Chicago or Los Angeles team, can’t be worth watching.

Actually, I tend to root for the match-ups the networks least want to see.

FIELDER: Looking out the door.

I don’t care either way that the Yankees and Phillies are done. I realize many Mets’ fans were thrilled to see them lose, and I understand the initial burst of joy, but does it really matter? Is that what you’re going to take from the season?

Who cares what those teams do? Savoring them lose is admitting to an inferiority complex. The Mets have enough on their plate for their fans to worry about what the Yankees did.

After all, it doesn’t change what happened to the Mets. For a while, it looked as if the Mets would overachieve, but they finished as expected. I was thinking .500, which would have represented significant improvement – I never imagined the playoffs – and for a period they were fun to watch.

But, talent seeks its level and the Mets did what most of us thought they would.

Continue reading

Oct 04

Quit the charade and say good-bye to Reyes.

If the Mets are to become the team hoped for them, general manager Sandy Alderson has some tough decisions to make in the coming months and years, and it begins with Jose Reyes.

REYES: Let him slide on out of here.

And, that decision is to say good-bye to Reyes now and quit the charade.

If history is an indicator this process will get drawn out by Reyes and his agents to drive up the bidding price the Mets already know they won’t meet.

The Mets know what their price is – Alderson calls it “our choking point,’’ – and it is no where the money offered Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, players who wilted this summer under the weight of their wallets.

Unless they are counting on a hometown discount from Reyes – which won’t happen – the Mets already know their shortstop is gone. For public relations purposes Alderson won’t say so, at least not before the Mets’ exclusive negotiating window opens five days after the World Series.

But, we know it is true and Alderson is posturing. We know the Mets will offer a credible offer in comparison to Reyes’ past performance, injury history and prospect he’ll break down long before his contract expires.

We also know Reyes is in it for the money and about himself – his self-serving act of backing out of the batting race at .337 tells you what you need to know – and he will jump at somebody else’s through-the-roof offer.

San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia (assuming Jimmy Rollins leaves) will be in need of a shortstop and have the money. San Francisco and Boston, particularly, are desperate to make splashes after their disappointing seasons.

The Mets won’t compete financially with them, and can’t compete with them as far as immediate postseason prospects are concerned.

The way Reyes left the season finale was reminiscent of how LeBron James stripped off his Cleveland Cavaliers’ jersey before getting into the locker room. James was gone and the free-agent process was for show. It’s the same with Reyes and the Mets should make a take-it-or-leave-it proposal with a deadline and move on.

They don’t need to dance with Reyes; don’t need to let him hold all the cards.

Reyes can be a dynamic player when he wants to be, which he was at times during his walk year. No surprise there, is it?

Even so, Reyes missed 36 games with two stints on the disabled list. He hasn’t played a full season in the last three. In nine seasons, he’s played in at least 150 games just four times.

Reyes is a speed player, yet hasn’t stolen 50 bases in three years. He barely made an attempt when he came off the DL, and that was to stay healthy for the market. His career on-base percentage is .341, mediocre at best for a leadoff hitter with his projected production. He still strikes out more than he should, walks less than the prolific leadoff hitters, gives away too many at-bats and has lapses in the field and on the bases.

Reyes has always been more about potential than production, and you have to wonder if this year was all about the contract and he’ll regress again after he gets what he wants. Based on his history, it isn’t hard to project he’ll break down during this next contract, whether it be seven, six or five years, all which have been speculated and are all too excessive.

He should get no more than $85 million over four years, which will be denied. The Mets already have $55 million in salary commitments in 2012 to Johan Santana, David Wright and Jason Bay. Add $20 million for Reyes and you have $75 million of the Mets’ projected budget of $110 million tied into four players.

Never mind winning, you can’t compete with such an unbalanced payroll.

For all those Reyes apologists out there that say the Mets will be nothing without him, ask yourself where they are now. What have the Mets won with Reyes?

The Mets are five years removed from their last playoff appearance. They are a sub-.500 team over the last three seasons and have been below .500 in five of Reyes’ nine years with the team. Sure, he’s been injured much of those five years, but that’s not an argument for him as much as it is one that he’ll break down again.

Alderson does have some tough decisions to make, but come to think of it, keeping Reyes isn’t one of them.

It is time to say good-bye. Time to quit fooling around and start rebuilding this team for good.

Sep 03

Today in Mets’ History: Remembering Bob Ojeda.

Much of the greatness of the Mets’ 1986 rotation was in its depth, personified by Bob Ojeda. One first thinks of Doc Gooden and Ron Darling, then Sid Fernandez, but some would stumble on Ojeda.

OJEDA: Underrated straight shooter.

Ojeda, originally signed by Boston, was more than just the stereotypical “crafty lefthander.’’ He knew how to set up hitters, spot his pitches and climb the latter with them.

On this date in 1986, Ojeda gave up two runs on three hits in a complete-game 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium to increase his record to 16-4 at the time. He finished the season at 18-5 with a 2.57 ERA.

The Mets acquired Ojeda from the Red Sox after the 1985 season for reliever Calvin Schiraldi, and both would end up playing key roles the following season and in the 1986 World Series when New York beat Boston in seven games.

Ojeda had a critical, yet often forgotten part in the Mets’ 1986 postseason run when he won Game 2 of the NLCS against Houston after the Astros won the first game, and Game 3 of the World Series at Boston after the Mets lost the first two games.

Ojeda started Game 6 in both the NLCS and World Series, each won by the Mets in dramatic fashion, although he didn’t earn a decision.

Ojeda later pitched for Los Angeles, Cleveland and the Yankees before retiring early in the 1994 season.

Tragically, Ojeda was remembered for being the sole survivor in a 1993 spring training boating accident that killed fellow Cleveland teammates Steve Olin and Tim Crews.

Ojeda is currently a studio analyst on SNY and has proven to be a remarkable straight shooter, perceptive and not afraid to call somebody out.

Ojeda saw things clearly as a player, too, with this quote about raucous fans: “The fans throw different things. Rock stars have stuff like flowers and underwear. We get batteries and knives.’’

BOX SCORE

OJEDA CAREER