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NY Mets: Continuing on the Road of Stupidity

August 21, 2009

I don’t believe for one second that those fans on the BR who read my work would argue with anyone about how passionate I am about this team. It’s no secret that I’m not a youngster like my three favorite proteges Mike Kent, Nick Adamo, and Nick Carlo but each one of them will tell you that the Mets are my first love and have been so since 1962.

This is not a plug for my “Anatomy of a Franchise series either.

I’m just frustrated as we all are about the current status of the Mets 2009 season. We can talk about all the injuries until we are blue in the face and we know that we can’t change what has happened in the past but you would think this organization could at least learn from it. Do they? No.

The case of Gary Sheffield has me most disturbed today as I see that after all he has accomplished this year the Mets have decided more likely than not to cut the strings and let this guy, who virtually held this team together for 4 months, and send him on his way.

I have been a Sheffield fan for his entire career. Sure, there are a lot of negative comments out there about his past but no one can doubt his competitive nature and isn’t that what every team needs to have on and off the field?

To this day in his 40th year he is still intimidating at the plate waving his bat and showing the bat speed of a 30 year old in his prime.

When I wrote this article http://bleacherreport.com/articles/183888-so-gary-sheffield-to-the-mets-is-ridiculous-right-wrong on May 20th I was so pleased that Gary was living up to his billing and my thought even then was if we would get back our injured players he would surely look good surrounded by Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado.

However we all know that didn’t happen so what did Gary do. He played well, he played hurt, he mentored just about every position player the Mets have. He provided the well needed leadership that was lacking on this team for so long.

David Wright was instrumental in bringing Gary to the Mets. He recognized long before our faithful fans that Gary was a perfect fit for this team regardless of whether he played 3 games a week or 6.

So now what do the Mets do? They put him on waivers. He was claimed by the Giants so they pulled him back. Now they have an opportunity to lock him up and finish his stellar career in a New York Mets uniform, his dream team since his uncle Dwight Gooden played for us in the 80’s, and go out of here directly into the Hall of Fame.

The Mets pulled him back from waivers and now more likely than not they will release him. He will go to a contender and help them into the playoffs and what do the Mets get out of it? Nothing.

This is a continuous problem that the Mets organization have had throughout their history. The make stupid impulsive decisions without weighing the potential consequences. I have said this since they fired Willie Randolph, for all he did was win games as the Mets manager, and they continue to make these ridiculous moves as other teams help themselves we go backwards under the less than stellar leadership of the Wilpons, Omar and Jerry.

Mark my words everyone, I know this team as well or if not better than any of us out there and I can tell you for sure that unless there are major changes made in this off season in the Mets organization we will be watching World Series parades down Broad Street for the next 10 years and that’s no exaggeration.

Please will someone in this organization please listen to the voice of reason and intelligence if I don’t say so myself. Even my 3 amigos, I expect are going to be on my side with this, maybe. I just have to get Nick Adamo in a good mood. I’ll probably have to trade him my QB or something like that.

Omar Minaya: I Told You So

August 13, 2009

Pedro 4

Of course, one game does not make a season but one must wonder why after the struggles the Mets pitching staff have had this year why Omar Minaya, supposedly a close personal friend of Pedro Martinez, didn’t sign the oft injured pitcher both before or even after the season started.

I started this bandwagon all the way back in October. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/82617-pedro-martinez-one-of-many-reasons. At that point looked upon all the intangibles that Pedro brings to a team including among others, a compulsion to win, a teacher, a motivator, a leader on and off the field, a loose fun guy that players want to have around, and a living legend who your own stars like Santana, Reyes, Delgado and Beltran look up to and respect.

Not to mention if Pedro was on the roster how hard do you think Manny would have pushed Boras to sign with the Mets and if you don’t believe that you are foolish?

As the season got closer and it looked like there was going to be a competition for the number 5 spot on the rotation I brought it up again. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/132073-omar-for-the-last-time-please-re-sign-pedro.

Here I talked about the fact I didn’t think Pedro was done at all and explained that the type of injury he had required about 18 months to fully heal but more important was the fact that I tried to point out that Pedro was not the type of man that would “quit” on a bad note and his legacy to finish as a star was motivation enough to put out credible performances game after game after game.

I pointed out in this next article http://bleacherreport.com/articles/124549-fighting-for-the-five-spot. that the Mets had three pitchers coming off surgeries that although appeared to be OK anything could happen. Well it did. John Maine is off the shelf for the year. Pelfrey has taken a step backwards from last year, although if you remember he wasn’t the same pitcher down the stretch last year as he was in mid-season, and Ollie is just Ollie.

The 5 spot in our rotation has given us far less than Pedro could have done. In fact the second through 5 spot has given us some of the worst numbers in baseball this year. Let me share.

Excluding Johan Santana (thank goodness for him) here’s some ugly numbers for you. Those who have started games for the Mets this year only Jon Niese and Nelson Figueroa have a better than 2-1 strike out to walk ratio. The rest, well check out this mess, 343 strike outs to 254 walks and that includes Jon and Nelson. That’s the worst in the league. They have won 31 games and lost 32. They have a combined ERA of 5.37.

Pedro’s numbers last night in his first appearance. He had 5 strike outs and 1 walk. He gave up 3 runs in 5 innings and was in complete control. He struck out both Derrick Lee and Soriano with vintage Pedro change ups and hit 90+ on the gun when he had to. Two of the hits he gave up were bloops and looked just as fresh when he finished as when he started.

Now maybe he won’t go 5-1 the rest of the way but his infusion into the already solid Phillies rotation looks like a sure bet that the Phillies are primed for a long playoff run come October while Omar’s band of retreads will have us fight to stay ahead of Washington’s surge for 4th place in the NL East.

Yes, Omar, I told you so and told all those critics of Pedro that this mans career was far from over and I already know what their response will be. They will say two things. First, will be but he’s only pitched one game and the second, will be of course, he will win because the Phillies average about a trillion runs per game.

What I would like to hear is Omar come out and make a statement like “I made a mistake, and should have signed Pedro when I had the chance”. If he did something like that I would back him 100% and fight to see him return. Will he do that and finally take responsibility for any of his poor decisions? Of course he won’t and that’s why he will be gone no more than 5 days after the season ends.

I wonder if the next guy is smart enough to sign Pedro to a two year contract. I doubt it. Too bad, I guess some people will never learn.

“Anatomy of a Franchise” New York Mets: Part VI – Building For Greatness

August 2, 2009

I want to dedicate this part of my self proclaimed series to Cathy. She is wife number two and although we are no longer together, she remains my dear friend. She gave me an incredible, bright, beautiful daughter and she deserves to be nominated for sainthood for putting up with me for 14 truly bi-polar years. Cathy who taught me that out of every bad can become a good, the only person whom I ever met that really put others in front of themselves, I thank you for pointing and guiding me in the right direction. You are truly a special one of a kind person.

1981 dawned bright for the Mets and me because I began to think we were both on the same path of rebuilding for greatness. The Mets had lost 95 games in 1980 and the “streak” and my marriage to Ellen was over. By years end the talk of a possible player’s lockout didn’t strike me as too serious a possibility since Cathy and I decided to tie the knot, and that we did, on November 9th 1980.

I made her a promise that we would not attend any Mets games together and she was OK with that because baseball was not anywhere near the top of her priority list. Besides I had a ten year old son and an eight year old daughter and they would make great partners to my many planned trips to the Vet to see the World Champion Phillies take on my Mets.

I need to clarify a point about my fan hood after I received many comments about my rooting for the Phillies during their great run from 1976-1983. I never rooted for them in any game they played against the Mets no matter how far out of the race the Mets were and although I was rightly disturbed at the Mets organization and the way they ran things then ( and still do today) I could never under any circumstances change my loyalties.

During the next 5 years the Mets were about to change the perception at that time from laughingstock to world champion and the team that everybody outside Brooklyn and Queens loved to hate.

Frank Cashen was brought in to be the General Manager if February of 1980 and although the Mets still had three straight losing seasons, one could see the handwriting on the wall and the excitement certainly found it’s way heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The Mets finally got it together in the amateur draft by getting, Daryl Strawberry, Roger McDowell and Dwight Gooden. His trading for Keith Hernandez, Howard Johnson, Gary Carter, Sid Fernandez and Ron Darling set the nucleus for what some have called the greatest team ever for one single season that was 1986.

The 1981 team was managed by Joe Torre. Nobody at the time could have ever possibly imagined the future success that Joe would have achieved. In 1981, he had finished a very solid career with the St. Louis Cardinals and was entering his fourth year as manager of the Mets.

Here’s the 1981 starting lineup for the New York Mets.

Mookie Wilson LF

Frank Taveras SS

Dave Kingman 1B

Rusty Staub RF
Lee Mazzilli CF
Alex Trevino C
Hubie Brooks 3B

Doug Flynn 2B
Pat Zachry P

This was a historical year for baseball. For the first time in Major League history there was a stoppage of play during the regular season. This situation began what many people have called the end of baseballs supremacy as America’s Sport and greed on both sides can, in my opinion, be spread equally causing a real mess in what was supposed to be a great year for baseball.

June 11th was the last game the Mets would play in earnest for two full months. I could not imagine myself without baseball. If it were not for the fact that I was managing Russ’ little league team that year I might have gone completely nuts.

I did manage to go to 3 games against the Phillies that year in June. At this point at time I’m going to bring a new character into the series. His name is Gary. He lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and he simply is the most addicted Phillies fan of all times.

Gary was just starting his accounting business in 1981. He had a booth in Montgomery Ward on Route 38 in Cherry Hill and he was pimping his newly formed Tax Return business. Cathy and I were shopping there one day when she said to me “Rich, since you haven’t filed a tax return for the past three years don’t you think it might be a good idea to talk to this guy?”

What happened next is something you can only get in Hollywood. Not only did I make an appointment to talk to Gary in his office, (in the attic of his Moorestown band box of a home), but it turns out, after he mentioned a letter he got from his Grandmother, that my Grandmother and his Great Grandmother were first cousins, or something like that. I have forgotten by now the connection.

So now I find that my accountant is my cousin and worse still and avid, to say the least Phillies fan and from this point forward our lives would intertwine for the next 28+ years.

So it was Gary and I who went to this Phillies Mets series at the Vet. The Phillies won two out of three; I kept looking around for Ellen during the first two games. In the first game Larry Christenson outpitched Pat Zachry but the dull pain I got leaving the stands that day was that Tug McGraw got the save for the Phil’s. That pain was still festering pretty well in 1981.

The usual suspects Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa and Gary Maddox all had two hits with Gary Maddox hitting a winning two run homer in the 8th off Neil Allen who at the time was my favorite Mets pitcher.

The next day, the Phillies and Pete Rose who had 3 hits beat up on Mike Scott, who later would become a Mets killer in 1986, and Ed Lynch as the Phillies beat the Mets 9-7. Gary was his usual talkative self and proclaimed the Phillies would repeat as World Champions in 1981. I have to give him credit. He doesn’t say things like that any more probably because it took the Phillies 28 years to win another championship and despite the fact that this year I think they have a great chance to repeat, Gary is still saying it’s a long season. I wonder if he realizes it’s already August.

The next game I finally got a little measure of revenge. At least we didn’t get swept and believe me Phillies fans must have pretty dirty homes because Veterans Stadium is one place that you never ever have to wonder about having enough brooms on hand.

On June 3rd we finally got to Dick Ruthven with a 4 run 8th inning to break up a close game. Neil Allen got the save and Greg Harris who only played one year out of 15 in a Mets uniform got the win.

The Mets finished the “first half” at 17-34 and in last place, but after a two month layoff when baseball resumed on Aug 10th, The Mets went 24- 28 the rest of the way.

In 1982 and 1983 the Mets lost 90+ games both years but on June 15th 1983, the Mets traded my guy, Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey to the Cardinals for Keith Hernandez. Keith brought to the team a certain amount of legitimacy that would carry over for the next few years which would culminate in four incredible seasons, 1985 through 1988.

Joe Torre was replaced in 1982 with George Bamberger, a nice old guy who brought absolutely nothing to the table. Perhaps a little more patience with Joe Torre is great 20-20 hindsight but it took the Mets to lose 127 games before Bamberger was replaced by the gentle giant Frank Howard to finish the 1983 season.

In 1984 Davey Johnson was hired to lead the Mets to greater heights. Johnson was known to Mets fans for making the final out of the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

By 1984 the Mets had a completely new look. The starting lineup looked like this.

Wally Backman       2B

Jose Oquendo          SS

Keith Hernandez     1B

George Foster          LF

Daryl Strawberry    RF

Hubie Brooks          3B

Mookie Wilson        CF

Ron Hodges             C

Mike Torrez             P

Mike Torrez was certainly at the end of his career when he stepped on the mound for the Mets on opening day. As it turned out he gave up six runs and six his in an inning and a third and that was pretty much it for Torrez career in the MLB.

Dick Tidrow another pitcher at the end of his career also saw action with the Mets that day. I guess his 9.19 ERA was enough for the Mets to see that his career was over as well.

The reason I bring this up is that this seems to be a never ending problem with the Mets organization that has with them for the full 47 years of their existence. They have a dream that somewhere in their wildest imagination some over the hill player will find lightning in a bottle and lead this team to the Promised Land.

“Hey guy, The Natural was a MOVIE”.

After losing that opening game in Cincinnati the Mets rattled off six wins, then lost three in a row, won three in row and lost three in a row again. It sure looked like this was a team trying to find its own identity.

By June 1st they were 22 – 22 and didn’t look like a team ready to challenge anyone. June was better as they won five more games than they lost. I had already gone to 4 out of the six games the Phillies played the Mets at the Vet and the Phillies won both series 2 games to 1. Unfortunately I went to the 4 losses. I spent most of those days searching the stands for Ellen.

By the All-Star break the Mets had won nine out of their next ten and were officially contending for the NL East. Right from the break they took three out of four from the Braves in Atlanta and were right in the thick of the race.

By July 28th the Mets were 59-37 in first place and on a roll. Then all they did was drop the next seven games and wound up finishing 2nd with a 90-72 record.

I managed to get to one more Mets Phillies game in September and finally I got to see a Mets victory. They came from behind with three in the 7th and three in the 9th to win 8-5. Daryl hit a tremendous blast off Al Holland in the ninth inning with two out and two on to put the cherry on top of the day. Mookie, Daryl and Hubie all had two hits.

On May 5th 1983 Cathy gave me a baby girl who I promptly named after Jamie Lee Curtis. I spelled it Jaime Leigh. To see where she’s at take a look at

jldragonfly.deviantart.com

Part VII will deal with the four most exciting seasons I witnessed as a fan of the Mets for all 47 seasons. 1985-1988 was absolutely fantastic. I went on my own personal in game winning streak that I doubt I will ever see again. They were truly great years. I sure hope you will share them with me.

Omar Minaya: Chance For Redemption

July 29, 2009

One thing has been apparent to me as a Mets fan for 47 years. The most important thing on my mind and my most important priority is for the team to win. I challenge every Met fan on site to disagree that although we care about everything that is “Mets”, winning takes the prize.

For better or worse for the past couple of years we have discussed both the good and bad moves that Omar Minaya, the Mets General Manager, has made. Personally I have flipped flopped so many times I feel like a spinning dredel not knowing which side I’m going to land on.

I loved the moves that got Pedro, both Carlos, Johan and K-Rod to the Mets. I cringed with Castillo signing and the bringing to the team to 40+ geriatrics to this club. I felt there were deals that could have happened and questioned many those that did.

Along with everyone else including Vegas Sportsbook Directors, we all thought the Mets with there improved bullpen would certainly be able to make up the ground to the Phillies even though they improved themselves this winter as well.

We all know what happened and although there is still a glimmer of hope because Jerry has finally learned, and admitted as such, that a set lineup is the way to go, the climb back to playoff contention does not rest on a 4 game winning streak.

Omar certainly reached a low point in his tenure this week and all the damage control that Wildon’s are trying to do still leaves Omar in an untenable position of having to speak to the media on a regular basis and try to convince them that he is sincere and righteous with them.
Author Poll

Would You Make This Deal?

* Yes
* No

This is not a position any General Manager wants to find himself in especially in New York where the scrutiny is 1000 times more than any other city in the world.

OK, so is there anything that Omar can do do redeem himself with the Mets faithful and at the same time put his team in a better position not only to get back into the race with 60 games to go but to once gain be considered one of the favorites for 2010?

The answer is Roy Halladay. He is available for the right price and don’t kid your self, the Mets have the goods to get him but it’s not going to come cheap.

First it’s a well known fact what the Blue Jays must have to get this deal done. They want a major league pitcher who is with the big club. They want another pitcher or two, one with the big club and one a very good prospect who within 2-3 years would easily fit into the rotation and one regular high level prospect who will be a quality major league hitter.

The Phillies have not made that offer, neither have the Angels. It was once reported the Mets did so. That wasn’t true because if that original offer was made by the Blue Jays even Omar would have jumped all over it.

I like Mike Pelfrey a lot. He has shown tremendous improvement over the last three years and who really knows what his ceiling is. Could it be as high as Roy Halladay? I believe not. Here’s the package that the Blue Jays would not turn down. Why?, because it’s infinitely better than what any team has offered them so far.

Along with Mike Peffrey, the Mets would send Bobby Parnell, Brad Holt and Ike Davies to the Jays. Maybe they will throw a minor prospect back at us in return. Frankly, I don’t care if they do or they don’t.

Ray Halladay, as we speak is the best pitcher in baseball. A combination of Halladay and Santana would make CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett look pale in comparison. I would make this offer right now before some other team like the Phillies up their offer and give them both Happ and Drabeck plus two of their top hitting prospects.

Omar, this is you chance for redemption. Make this deal and 95% of the negativity you are now receiving will do an about face. If you want to have a job next year despite your “vote of confidence”, I would suggest you get on this immediately and while you’re at it, I’d give your buddy Adam Rubin a call and give him this exclusive. You owe him that much.

Place Your MLB Bets

July 27, 2009

A little change of pace here. There are some of us out there that take shots about our teams, our opponents, ownership, managers and players. How many comments have I seen where people say I could do better than these guys.

So now living in Vegas, and being right there for the action and the money that changes hands every second, 24 hours 7 days a week. I stopped at a sports book this morning and grabbed a couple of betting prop sheets. Here are some of the latest odds for baseball for the remainder of the season.

Now if you want you can put your money where your mouth is and send Vegas Rich all your money so I could place your bets. Of course I can also wind up disappearing for a while after I get the dough.

I hear Cabo is very nice this time of year.

Odds to Win 2009 National League Pennant

TEAM                                         OPENING LINE                     CURRENT LINE

Dodgers                                            7/1                                     7/5

Phillies                                              4/1                                     3/1

Cubs                                                2/1                                     9/2

Cardinals                                           9/1                                     6/1

Giants                                              15/1                                    9/1

Brewers                                            15/1                                   12/1

Astros                                              15/1                                   12/1

Rockies                                            20/1                                    12/1

Marlins                                             15/1                                    16/1

Mets                                                 3/1                                    18/1

Braves                                              12/1                                   22/1

Reds                                                 17/1                                  29/1

Diamondbacks                                     8/1                                   90/1

Pirates                                              40/1                                  90/1

Padres                                              40/1                                  110/1

Nationals                                           40/1                                  500/1

The biggest disappointment by far for those who made their bets in April are the New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks. Both teams were solid picks in their division to go on to the playoffs and advance to the series. Neither one right now apparently to the Las Vegas odds-makers have a chance. The Dodgers due to their excellent play all season long have made the biggest jump to become the overall favorite right now but in talking to a number of bettors this morning, the sexy pick is now the St. Louis Cardinals after their recent pick ups.

I see the Phillies heading back to the series with about 60 games to go. They are pitching well enough but when a team steps on the field each day and expects to score 8 runs or more each game they know they are in pretty good shape. Vegas thinks so too.

My Longshot of longshots  – The Atlanta Braves.

Odds to win 2009 American League Pennant

TEAM                              OPENING LINE                             CURRENT LINE

Yankees                                  Even                                        2/1

Red Sox                                   5/2                                          2/1

Tigers                                     10/1                                         9/2

Angels                                     3/1                                          5/1

Rays                                       3/1                                          10/1

Rangers                                   21/1                                        11/1

White Sox                                10/1                                        14/1

Twins                                      7/1                                          15/1

Mariners                                   35/1                                        25/1

Blue Jays                                  15/1                                        35/1

A’s                                          20/1                                        90/1

Orioles                                     40/1                                        90/1

Royals                                      30/1                                       95/1

Indians                                      8/1                                       115/1

The biggest disappointment to date in the AL would be the Rays and the Twins. People who bet on the Tigers and the Rangers are feeling pretty good about their chances for once in the playoffs anything can and surely will happen.

I still like my April pick of the Red Sox but I’m not ruling out the Rays. New York is known for September collapses and this year will be no different. This time I see the Yankees folding like a bad hand at the World Series of poker. Sorry HBOB.

My Longshot of longshots: The Texas Rangers.

I take all types of cards except Christmas Cards.LOL.

Help From Below: Why Not Now?

July 24, 2009

Omar

That certainly is not the Omar Minaya who is seen as a “Dead Man Walking” if Tony B. remains in the Mets front office, but this is not necessarily about either of them yet it’s about both of them. Makes sense yet? I didn’t think so.

We need to set the ground rules for this discussion if you want to take blasts at me in the comment section. First off if you believe for one second that the Mets have a chance to go about 48 wins over the next 65 games or so please move onto the next Mets article.

If you believe like I do, and was one of the first people to tell you to pack it up and “Wait Til Next Year” at my midseason report, then I would be extremely interested in your comments both pro and con.

Forget the trade deadline, the other teams don’t see the Mets being able to help them get better and we don’t plan to give up whatever good prospects we hope we have and totally kill a barren farm system that we have.

OK, with that said it is customary for teams, usually the ones out of the race, to start to make call ups from their farm systems when the roster is expanded to 40 players on September 1st. Then the team gets a chance to evaluate those players and see how they fare against far superior pitching and hitters if they are pitchers.

When contenders call up these guys most of them languish on the bench and by osmosis they are expected to “feel” like they are in the major leagues. Once in awhile a team strikes lightening in a bottle and someone makes a splash in September and ultimately goes on to great things.

Author Poll Results

Who would be the first player non pitcher you would bring up?

  • Feliciano

    0.0%
  • Thole

    100.0%
  • Tejada

    0.0%
  • Peterson

    0.0%
  • Garcia

    0.0%
  • Other

    0.0%
  • None

    0.0%
  • Total votes: 2

Those guys are sure fire prospects that are supposed to succeed.

The Mets are far from loaded down on the farm considering that both their AAA and AA teams are at the bottom of their divisions, but there are some interesting players in there that I personally would like to see take a swat or a pitch at today’s big leagues.

My point is, can it really hurt? Can they do any worse than those players we have out there now? Plus if the answer is yes it would be worse, I ask you so what? The worst thing that could happen is we move up a couple of spots in the amateur draft.

So I ask you to look at these guys. I know you could make a case for each of them not to come up. I can too, but again so what? Some might say if they come up and are over matched it will hurt their confidence for the future. NONSENSE. These guys are spending their entire life’s existence to play this game on the highest level. I’m not worried about their confidence and I’m sure they’re not as well.

From Buffalo. That’s an easy one.

Nelson Figueroa: 6-4 2.32 ERA 80/23 strike out to walk ratio.

Jon Niese:  5-6 3.82 ERA 2 complete games, 2 shutouts, won five of his last six starts, and has an 86/26 SO to BB ratio. I guess he’s worked on his fastball because his curve was already ML ready.

From Binghamton. Now this is where I say “what the heck, go for it”

Josh Thole: .341 BA .409 OBP and 858 OPS. NOOOOOOO let’s just keep Brian Schneider in there.

Ruben Tejada: .278, .350, .714. NOOOOO let’s bring back A. Reyes and Angel Berora and Ramon Martinez, yeahhhhhhhh

Josh Peterson:  .326, .409,  .851 NOOOO let’s keep having Tatis lead the world in double plays. Come on.

Emmanuel Garcia: .263, .315, .668. He only has 17 stolen bases. When David Wright leads the team in SB’s you know you’re in trouble and when was last time he stole a base? Thanks Jerry, you moron. Sorry, I get carried away. Old guy that I am.

Tobi Stoner:  2-2, 2.68 ERA 28/13 SO/BB ratio and how about a 0.87 WHIP.

Believe me, these guys may just be a spark to those guys who we don’t send down in their place just to let them know we mean business and if you don’t produce while 10 games behind we have taken the first steps in re-making this team which is not such a bad idea.

“Anatomy of a Franchise” New York Mets: Part V – Grants Tomb

July 22, 2009

Anatomy of a Franchise New York Mets: Part V – “Grant’s Tomb”

1974 was a big transition year for me. For the first time in my 29 years I was venturing out of the safety net of the New York City, Connecticut, and New York State area and venturing into new uncharted Philadelphia Phillies territory down the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 4 better known to most as Cherry Hill.

We actually didn’t live there but close enough so that when people asked me where I lived that was the most recognizable. Later, after just a few months there, it became simply known as South Jersey which in reality is a state all of its own.

Unlike North Jersey that has a healthy selection of New York Mets fans, in 1974 there was only one New York Met fan in South Jersey. Me, and here I was starting a new job, in a new area still only 90 miles away that seemed like another continent.

South Jersey starts just below Trenton, goes east to the Jersey Shore to Seaside Heights, and south to Cape May. It is completely 100% Philadelphia fans in every sport out there and maybe some time somewhere in the future during football season I will tell a similar story about the Eagles, but for this series the Phillies ultimately play a pivotal role in my life.

The Mets were coming off a pretty surprising season ending to 1973. The won the National league Pennant beating the Big Red Machine and went to game seven of the World Series before losing out to the Oakland Athletics.

Hopes and aspirations were high for the Mets and I was as excited as the rest. In those days being a fan was just that. I believed everything I read and I saw nothing but positives in the world around me. Are you listening  both Nick’s and Mike Kent? The Mets were good the year before so why think they would be anything less.

Here’s their 1974 opening day line up.

1.   Wayne Garrett    3B

2.   Felix Millan        2B

3.   Rusty Staub        RF

4.   Cleon Jones        LF

5.   John Milner        1B

6.   Jerry Grote          C

7.   Don Hahn           CF

8    Bud Harrelson    SS

9.   Tom Seaver         P

Not a bad lineup. Nothing scary like a Big Red Machine but pretty solid offensively and a sound defense and the pitching staff of Seaver, Koosman and Matlock that wasn’t too shabby. Should have made a pretty decent year, yes? NO! The Mets finished with a 71-91 record and a 5th place finish.

The “Big Three” were terrible. Seaver went 11-11. Koosman went 15-11 and Matlack was 13-15. Tug McGraw went 6-11 in relief with 3 saves. Cleon Jones had the highest batting average for the starters at .282 and John Milner lead the team with 20 home runs and 70 runs scored. Rusty led the team with 78 RBI’s. The team just plain stunk.

I had the mis-fortune not to travel back to the NYC and see Met home games at Shea and that begin a twenty year period where I only made 5 trips to see the Mets at Shea Stadium but had the opportunity to go to over 100 games against the Phillies and others at Veterans Stadium which I’ll say at this point in time was one of, if not, the worst baseball park to watch a game in that I have ever attended.

As bad as it was, it was still a chance to watch my team for better and mostly worse at this time as a visitor in a foreign land.

The Mets got off to a terrible start that year and never recovered. By June 1st they were 8 games below .500 and by the All Star Break they were 13 games below and done for the year. I went to 2 games that year with Ellen and I wondered if her streak would now continue on the road as well.

The first game was on June 22nd and even then some faithful Met fans would travel down from the city but nothing like it would be in the mid 80’s when the Mets got back on top. The Phillies took a 5-0 lead into the fifth inning and the game was over. Mike Schmidt had a hit, Larry Bowa had 3 and Dave Cash had 2. I could tell then that they had the makings of a special team but that would come really into play during the next 5 years. The final Score was 5-2. We didn’t talk on the way home.

The second game we went to that year was in September, the first of a three game series. There was virtually no one there since the Phillies would end the season going 80-82 and when the Phillies didn’t win they hardly drew big crowds. So we sat right over the Mets dugout about 4 rows up and the Phillie Phanatic, who was just getting hit feet wet then, was the most entertaining part of the festivities.

Once again this time by the 4th inning the Mets were down 4-0 but they scored two runs in the fourth. It wasn’t enough as Steve Carlton won his then 16th game of the year and once again Larry Bowa had three more hits and I was beginning to wish that my team could have the likes of a Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski.

Little did I know or recognize at the time that the Phillies were coming into their own and I was intrigued by their play and the personalities on their team.

So now Ellen’s losing streak had increased to 11 straight Mets losses and I was having more misgivings about having such a bad luck charm waking up with me everyday. So, was the die cast? Not quite, that wouldn’t happen until we hit 20 but that’s just getting a little ahead of myself.

The Mets made some changes in 1975. Joan Payson the Principal owner passed away and since no one in the family had any interest in the team or baseball itself, they gave control of the franchise to one M. Donald.Grant. Grant had actually been with the Mets since its second year in existence until 1978.

Grant was far from a baseball man. Whitey Herzog who actually was the Director of Player Development when the Mets won the World Series in 1969 told Grant to his face that he didn’t know “beans about baseball”. In later years, like when I first thought of writing this article and I stumbled on this fact, I often wonder what could have happened back when Gil Hodges died if Whitey Herzog could have stepped in and managed this team. But Grant and the whole Mets organization were still so enthralled with the Dodgers, Giants and Yankee connections, (sound familiar today?) that Yogi Berra, Roy McMillan, Joe Frazier, and Joe Torre were the next Met Managers that followed Gil, while Whitey was leading the St. Louis Cardinals to championships in the 80’s.

Grant’s most famous move was the ultimate Met blunder trading “The Franchise” Tom Seaver along with slugger Dave Kingman on the now famous “The Midnight Massacre” on June 15th 1977. Met fans will never forgive Grant and this move set the franchise back many years. Shea Stadium attendance was so drastically reduced that it was common for the beat writers to refer to Shea Stadium as “Grant’s Tomb.”

The trading of Tom Seaver was like a dagger in my heart. The Phillies had already reached the playoffs in 76 and would do it again in 77. I rooted for the Mets but it was no secret that I also liked the Phillies and knowing the Mets were going in the wrong direction, once I felt they were eliminated, I openly rooted for the Phil’s.

I took my son to his first Phillies game that year. It wasn’t against the Mets. That was my first and very costly mistake. All I remember is that the Phillies won and this team in red had new young fan. What a blunder on my part that I regret to this day, but you’ll see in part VI just how much worse that situation became when I lost my son’s fan hood forever and ever.

In 1975 the Mets finished 3rd with an 82-80 record and in 1976 they improved to 86-76. Ellen and I went to 3 games in 75 against the Phil’s. They lost all three. I went to 2 other Phillies Mets games with my son who was 5 and my daughter who was three. We went 2-0. Her streak now stood at 14 and she decided that maybe she was bad luck. DUH. 0-14 and she just started to put the pieces together? OYE.

In 1976, the Phillies won the National League East and with Dick Allen, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, Dave Cash, and Garry Maddox. They were a fun team to watch and heck during the season and the off season as well a week wouldn’t go by and you would run into one of them at the store, in a restaurant or in a movie. They all lived in South Jersey and this was the local team.

Ellen lost a pair of games that year moving her stellar record to 0- 16.

By 1978 Grant was gone, but he left with 2 more miserable seasons where the Mets went 64-98 in 1977 and 66-96 in 1978. I continued to go to most Phillies Mets games each year at the Vet but now mixed with Phillies – Dodger games and Phillies – Reds games.

1979 and 1980 produced two more 90+ loss seasons for the Mets and with the Phillies winning the World Series in 1980 it was no longer a secret that the Phillies were a more enjoyable team to watch and although I started each new season with high hopes and expectations for my Mets I had no trouble at all rooting for the Phillies.

I hate to say this but if this is a life story then things that happen need to be reported. By 1979 Ellen and I had gone to 23 Mets games and they lost all 23. Now this may sound silly to 99.9% of those people reading this but after 12 years of this streak plus other non-mentionables we split up. That’s life, it happens and although I have joked about the streak, any marriage breakup where there are small children involved can never have a happy ending.

I had soured on life. My marriage had failed my team stunk up the joint because there was no leadership or identity with the city I loved. By 1980 I knew that the only way the Mets were going to be a successful franchise was to totally move in a different direction and turn its back on its Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants past. They needed to establish their own identity like the New York Jets.

So what did they do? The Payson family sold the Mets to Nelson Doubleday for 21.1 million dollars. Doubleday became the Chairman of the Board and turned the team over to Brooklyn born and bred and lifetime Brooklyn Dodger fan, Fred Wilpon and named him the club President.

Now 28 years later we still have the New York (Brooklyn Dodger) Mets, and you wonder why I almost left the fold to what has now become our most feared rival since the Braves.

Stay tuned for Part VI, “The Re-Birth Theirs and Mine”

2009 Mid-Season Report: New York Mets – Wait Til Next Year

July 13, 2009

K-Rod

There are going to be a lot of Mets fans that are not going to be too happy with me after they finish this article. In fact, I’d venture to say that there will be a few who will refuse to finish it because they will say I’m not a true fan, I am being too negative, and that I am giving up the remainder of the 2009 season.

All of the above may be so, but since this is definitely an opinion piece if you don’t mind, allow me to fire away.

The 2009 season started with so much promise it was very hard not to get caught up with the hype. For that alone, I plead guilty as charged. Omar did a credible job in the off season fixing the most glaring problem the team had in 2008. By adding Frankie Rodriguez, JJ Putz and Sean Green it certainly looked like, at least on paper, that the Mets wouldn’t blow 29 games more or less.

If in fact they only blew half that number in 2009 and continue to smash the ball as they did in the previous year, it would not be unexpected to see the Mets be able to compete with the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies for the crown in 2009.

There was some criticism that Omar had a chance to improve the teams offense with the acquisition of Orlando Hudson and Manny Ramirez but he felt that his bench of Tatis, Cora, and Reed could get the job done and money was tight.

I expressed my displeasure at this as well as not resigning Pedro Martinez since I questioned a pitching staff whose 60% of the starting rotation was coming off surgery.

Even with all that I was right there and predicted in my article of predictions that the Mets would win the NL East and go on through the playoffs and meet and beat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

So I challenge anyone reading this to say that I was not on board with this team on opening day. I was also one of the first if not the first person in our Mets community to be delighted in the acquisition of Gary Sheffield. After commenting on it through very negative articles I wrote an article, I believe in May, thanking the Mets for making Gary a Met.

Then came the injuries like flies to the flypaper. Out went 3/4 of the core. Delgado, Reyes and Beltran were all out of the line up by June. JJ Putz went down. So did Angel Pagan, Alex Cora, and a host of minor players.

Even before the slew of injuries I started questioning the moves made by Jerry Manuel. Jerry had taken over for Willie Randolph last June while the Mets were struggling early which was unacceptable to management who needed a scapegoat for the collapse of 2007 and Willie was going to be that sacrificial lamb.

It was a terrible move at the time because the Mets faults were not Willies and not only did he not need to be replaced, they did it in such a non professional way the Mets organization was an embarrassment to the entire baseball community.

The rest of 2008 is history. Jerry led the team to a 3 1/2 game lead with 17 to go and let the Phillies do their September thing and let another flag get away and to add insult to injury they lost to the Marlins again on the last day and saw their Wild Card hopes go up in flames.

A correction here. Jerry didn’t lead them anywhere. Carlos Delgado, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran led them to the heights they achieved and for the those who know and understand the game realized that the 2008 Mets were actually overachievers and Jerry got most of the credit as I cringed like I had a crystal ball to see into the future.

Jerry Manuel was NOT a good manager in Chicago. Yes he won a Manager of the Year award but with the team he inherited there Mike Kent could have got the White Sox to the World Series that year. BTW, that’s a compliment Mike.

Jerry misused his bull-pen in Chicago and had a well known, in the public eye, feud with superstar Frank Thomas. His reputation confirmed by the Chicago media was that Jerry had a problem with veteran players simply because of all his line up changes. They did not know where their place was. Ultimately the players went over Jerry’s head and as a result, there went Jerry’s head as a manager in the major leagues.

Getting back to the Mets. Almost from day 1 in Spring training Jerry had Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy on his radar. For whatever reason and he never explained it to Church, the media or anyone he was not a Ryan Church fan. Perhaps maybe when Ryan was healthy he kept the Mets in the early 2008 race until he was nailed with the concussions.

His use of Church was abominable. 10 games into the season Ryan was batting .385 so Jerry benched him. He wanted to give Reed and Pagan more playing time. He took Murphy out of the lineup when he was batting .365 because he was having defensive problems in left and was trying to keep him away from facing left handers. At the time he was 3 for 8 against lefty’s.

His constant everyday changing the line up gave whatever players he had out there no chance to get comfortable with their place in the order. He would say he was going to go with the hot bat and so what did he do? He stayed with Tatis after all he could do was hit into double play after double play ending so many Mets threats I lost count.

” No matter what, I’m going to rest Wright and Sheffield in tomorrows day game in Milwaukee because those guys are trying to carry the load by themselves”. The fact that David Wright is hitting around .220 since Beltran left the lineup didn’t seem to register with Jerry. So what happened?, Wright went 3 for 4 that night and Jerry had him in the lineup the next day. Since that game Wright is hitting under .200. Good job Jerry.

The Mets are 42-45. They are 6 1/2 games out of first place. They have lost 6 of their last 10. The Phillies are in first place. They have won 9 out of their last 10 and have put the problem of winning at home behind them.They stand at 48-38, ten games over .500.

Last year it took 92 wins to win the NL East. If the Phillies went .500 the rest of the way (doubtful) that would give them 86 wins and to beat them the Mets would have to go 45-30 the rest of the way. That is a pretty good possibility if the Mets gets their players back, but here’s the problem. More likely than not the Phillies will not go .500 the rest of the way.

If they go another 10 games over like they did the first half they will finish with with 91 wins. In order for the Mets to catch them they will have to go 50-25.

Well folks, that ain’t gonna happen. Not under Jerry Manuel. Not in a million years. That’s .667 baseball and this team doesn’t have spark or the guts to get that done.

Until A.Reyes bunted for a hit to lead off an inning the other night it was the first game it had been accomplished in the last 25 games. Until Angel Pagan stretched a double into a triple when was the last time that happened?. When was the last time you saw a hit and run attempt with a man on first or first and second? When was the last time you saw somebody move a runner by hitting to the right side? I could go on forever but I have already done that.

Despite early misgivings upon the initial announcement of the Church for Francouer trade, I decided I like it before Jeff’s first start. He is 25 and his upside is far greater than Church, but it’s not nearly enough.

If Minaya is still serious about making a run at this he must take a bold shot at Roy Halliday. You can not let the Phillies get him and Pedro to slam the door in our face. If it takes, Maine, F-Mart and Parnell and Murphy then so be it.

Will they even offer that deal to the Blue Jays? Not a chance. Why you ask? Because the Mets have pretty close to the worst ownership in baseball and a General Manager that has zero eye for future talent.

Now is the time for the Mets to be sellers for 2009 with the thought to rebuild this organization for 2010 and beyond. In my humble opinion there are only 3 untouchables on the Mets 40 man roster. They are the obvious ones to most. Jose Reyes, David Wright and Johan Santana. Everyone else, and yes Carlos( never hustle) Beltran my preseason MVP pick, has to go.

As far as 2009 is concerned, the Phillies are going to win this division by 10 to 15 games. The Mets will be battling out the Braves and the Marlins for second place.

They are, as of today, 7 games behind in the Wild Card race with 7 teams they have to climb over.

I have always hoped for best while expecting the worst. This is not negativity. This is reality. I swear to all of you reading this. I hope beyond belief that I am 100% wrong in my beliefs.

Do you really think I want to be seen wearing Phillie red on the Brooklyn Bridge replica under the sign for the ESPN Zone in front of the NEW YORK NEW YORK HOTEL AND CASINO in Las Vegas, Nevada this October and send those pictures to 30 Phillies writers on the BR? I don’t think so. Christian will use it as a dart board. I can just see it now.

My hope is that the Mets organization, who are morons at best, will look ahead to 2010 season and start making moves that don’t look like attempts at continuing to be a small market approach and be the step brother to the New York Yankees. It’s finally that time to step up and become a force to be reckoned with for years to come and the best way to get that started is threefold. First the Wildon’s need to sell the team. Second Omar needs to be replaced and third and best of all Jerry Manuel needs to go NOW!

Anatomy of a Franchise: The New York Mets – Part IV – Was 1969 a Fluke?

July 6, 2009

Gil Hodges

Bob Scheffing was promoted to the Mets General Manager after the untimely death of Johnny Murphy in January 1970. The Mets had just come off their “Miracle” season of 1969 with their first Playoff, World Series and Championship in its brief seven year history.

The two sided answer to the question, was 1969 a fluke? That would be answered in the next coming months as the Mets prepared for yet another Spring Training in St. Petersburg Florida where they shared the training facilities with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Bob Scheffing came to the Mets organization after a career as a player with a little over 500 games with the Cubs, Reds, and Cardinals. A rather pedestrian .263 career lifetime average set no fires blazing in that realm. He managed both the Cubs and the Tigers, did a little broadcasting and some scouting before becoming the Mets GM.

I have nothing against the man personally and his only point of note in Mets history that it was under his tenure that Nolan Ryan was traded to the Angels for Jim Fregosi in what has been called the most lopsided trade in Mets history. Scheffing was put in a corner by Ryan. Nolan clearly not a big city boy absolutely hated New York and wanted out of this city in the worst way. So what did Scheffing do? He sent him to LA. Now that was a real small town in 1971. Right.

Here was a great opportunity for the Mets ownership to build this franchise and make it a force to be reckoned with for the next decade. They went with a relatively inexperience person in a front office position where they needed a power guy.

This, now looking back, begins the pattern of poor moves that we still see almost 40 years later.

Here is the starting lineup for the 1970 Mets.

1.  Tommy Agee        CF

2.  Bud Harrelson       SS

3.  Joey Foy                3B

4.  Cleon Jones           LF

5.  Art Shamsky         1B

6.  Ron Swoboda        RF

7.  Wayne Garrett       2B

8.  Jerry Grote             C

9.  Tom Seaver            P

This was a pretty good team and it was expected to be near or at the top of the National League Eastern Division.

The Mets finished the 1970 season with an 83-79 record. They had the same record in 1971 and 1972 and although the pitchers did well, the lack of hitting and run production resulted in 3 straight 3rd place finishes.

I moved to Vernon Connecticut in August of 1970 because a good teaching job became available at a small private school specializing in Special Education. My wife’s, whose Mets record was now a glimmering 0-8 was pregnant with out first child and the house we rented had one of those huge roof top antennas’ which rotated 360 degrees. So I was now able to get both New York as well as Boston TV channels as clear as day. Life couldn’t get better than this.

Prior to the 1972 season, one of my boyhood heroes that I got to know personally, who by the way he carried himself with dignity and pride passed away. Gil Hodges was dead at 48 years old from a massive coronary heart attack, just like my Dad.

My memories of the years following the 69 Mets until the “Ya Gotta Believe” Tug McGraw’s rallying cry in the summer of 1973 were that of a fan who now expected his team should and could win all the games they played. Neither the team nor I, I’m sorry to say had a whole lot of enthusiasm. I had an excuse. They didn’t.

When they started their great comeback in the summer of ‘73’ the Mets sat in the cellar in the east with a 61-71 record. Yogi Berra who was as much fun as Casey Stengel was in the sixties, made one outrageous statement after another that kept the media close and put the spotlight on a team that seemed to cherish the limelight they were in. His best quote that year every fan in baseball knows, “It ain’t over till it’s over”. That was Yogi’s answer when asked about the Mets chances that summer.

On September 3rd 1970 Ellen and I drove to the city in my 1967 Dodge Charger with more horsepower beneath the hood than in all of General George Custer’s 7th Cavalry. I was so positive that “Her Streak” was going to end that day, I promised her dinner at Mama Leones in the city the next day.

The Mets had beaten the Phillies 5-0 the previous day and had won 3 of their last 4 so the NL Eastern Division had 5 teams within 6 games of 1st place all of them with a losing record. Oh the mediocrity, or oh the parity depending on your perspective.

The Mets led 3-2 going into the fifth inning and I was feeling good. Craig Swan was pitching well. He had given up a run in each of the first two innings but we had scored three. I figured if we win the game and end the streak I might even consider the request to have a third child which was very much on Ellen’s mind at the time. Barbara Lynn Marsh came to us on June 25th that year and I had her in Mets pink from day one, while my, now almost 3 year old son, Russell Michael was sporting his first Gil Hodges first baseman’s glove.

My dream however was short lived as Greg (The Bull) Luzinski blasted a 2 run homerun off Swan as the Phil’s went on to defeat the Mets 6-3.

Guess who never got to Mama Leones that next day. She was lucky I took her to Nathans for dogs and fries.

Over 30,000 of us went home thinking that no way were the Mets going to make it to the post season and her streak stood now at 9.

Of course, wouldn’t you know it, after my trip to Shea the Mets went on to win 18 of their next 25 and win the pennant with an 82-79 record. Now this was a miracle.

Every lifelong Mets fan alive knows that these underdogs of underdogs went on to beat up the Big Red Machine in the playoffs and Bud Harrelson kicked Pete Rose’s ass.

They also just missed winning their second World Series in 5 years as they led the powerful Oakland A’s 3games to 2 with Seaver and Koosman to pitch game 6 and 7. But that victory was not meant to be.

That year ended another streak in Mets history. They finished over .500 for 5 consecutive years. They had the opportunity to become a dynasty with this team. The ownership made poor decisions from the GM down. Mrs. Payson might have been a wonderful little old lady but she knew squat about baseball and turned the operation over to people who knew little more than she did. The fact that they did as well as they did during these 5 years was because they had kept some of the great talented pitching core together with the exception of Nolan Ryan. Plus frankly during this time the rest of the National League wasn’t having any breakout teams as of yet.

This trend will only get worse during the next 10 years which I call “The Lost Years” coming to you in part 5 of the Anatomy of a Franchise.

Thanks for listening.