A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
Browsing All Posts By Dan Capwell

The Mets: Giving Jason Bay The Bobby Bonilla Treatment

The Mets have certainly given us some colorful terms over their history. In several cases a word or two has been coined that succinctly sums up a seminal moment in the team’s history. There’s the recently broken “Fregosi Curse” that they were infected with after they traded Nolan Ryan. (Yes I know, the term originated on The Munsters, but work with me here). There’s the “Midnight Massacre;” which refers to the infamous night of June 15, 1977 when they traded Tom Seaver to the Reds. On the plus side there’s the “Buckner Game,” aka “Game Six.” More recently there’s the “Cab Ride,” the car accident that ultimately ruined both Duaner Sanchez’ career and the Mets 2006 season. Then there is “The Collapse,” which can refer to the end of either the 2007 or 2008 seasons.
There is another term used for eating massive amounts of money remaining on the contracts of unproductive and unhappy players. The Mets have done this a few times in their history, including Vince Coleman, Luis Castillo and most recently, to southpaw Oliver Perez. I think many Mets fans wish the team would just go ahead and “Ollie Perez” outfielder Jason Bay.
Bay’s rapid decline from one of the most feared hitters in the American League to one of the worst offensive players (current BA: .151) to ever don a big league uniform is the subject of tons of conjecture. I am in the “he changed pharma—err, training methods” camp, but what do I know. Well, I do know this, he is toast. At this point I believe the Mets could bring back Dave Schneck (Go Zephyrs) and he could outhit Bay.
But here’s the rub: if everything being reported in the press is true, the Mets won’t have any additional money to spend to fill several of the gaping holes in their lineup. That means if Bay is Ollie’d, a low cost alternative like Lucas Duda is the only option they will have; while the same budget constraints are also forcing them to shop in the discount rack for relief help and some right-handed outfielders. In other words, another inspiring off-season, and poor advanced ticket sales. The downward spiral continues.
Instead, the Mets need to “Bobby Bonilla” Jason Bay. Saddled with a toxic Bonilla after the 1999 season, the Mets worked out a long term buyout of Bonilla’s horrible contract and got him out of their hair. Yes, they are paying him today but at a reasonable cost (hey it isn’t my money) and if they invested the sunk cost wisely, the interest probably covers most of their annual obligation. They need to attempt the same thing here with Bay. If the reports are true and Bay is the stand-up guy he is portrayed as, he’ll go for the deal.
Bay is owed $16 million next year, with an option for $17 million in 2014 or a $3 million buy-out. Here is my proposal: bundle the $19 million he is due into a five year buy-out of evenly spaced payments. It allows Bay to save face and hopefully gives the Mets a little extra financial leeway heading into the offseason. Suddenly having $10-$12M extra might enable GM Sandy Alderson to at least shop at the big league equivalent of Kohl’s or Target instead of Five Below for additions to the roster. The problem is that the Wilpons may be too tempted to just hold on to that money and not reinvest it in the roster
So what do you think? Does this idea have merit? Or should the Mets hold on to Bay for one more year and hope for the best, trade him for another problem contract or just cut him and eat his entire salary? Sound off below.

READ MORE +

Sandy Alderson: GM or Caretaker?

So, are the Mets expecting to contend for a playoff spot this year? I can’t fathom why they’d hold on to pieces like Tim Byrdak, Scott Hairston and Chris Young if they thought otherwise. We heard from one source that Sandy Alderson “monitored” the list of available players, while another source claimed he “had his finger on the pulse” of the trade market.

So what is he, a civil war ironclad? Or a physician’s assistant? He certainly isn’t acting like a GM. In actuality, he and his three brainy helpers (DePodesta, Ricco and Ricciardi) seem to be little more than caretakers for the increasingly moribund Wilpon Estate. Managing the day-to-day operations with a petty cash fund appears to be all that they can do (or are entrusted with).

I was not expecting Alderson to spin Byrdak, Hairston or Young into a top prospect, the way he did with the Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler deal last year. Nor did I want a swap for AAAA filler that would only clog up 40-man roster spots. I accept the fact that no one wants Jason Bay and I am opposed to moving Daniel Murphy or Ike Davis for middle-inning relief help.

What I was hoping for was a little creativity: a bundle of say Hairston and Young for one or two B/B+ prospects. In this way, something is built from nothing. Hairston, Young and Byrdak all signed as Free Agents and didn’t cost the Mets anything in terms of players or draft picks. By dealing them, Alderson could have added a little fuel to his bargaining power; building depth for the deals he will inevitably have to make to improve the 25-man roster. This may be derided in some circles as “small market philosophy,” because the Kansas City Royals do it, but it has also been effective in building winning teams in places like Minnesota, Oakland, San Francisco and Washington. You may recall circa 1998-2000 and Steve Phillips being unable to acquire either Pedro Martinez or Curt Schilling, mainly because he had already drained the cupboard bare in acquiring Al Leiter and Mike Piazza and didn’t have the equivalent of an a Carl Pavano or an Omar Daal left in prospects that Boston and Arizona respectively, had to offer.

Then there is the entertainment factor. Player moves are an important part of baseball’s appeal. Fans eat up trades and rumors of trades. Trade talk sells papers and builds traffic on websites. To stand pat during the trade deadline while your team is floundering only serves to further diminish the allure of your product. This comes after a winter of inactivity and the very likely prospect of another uneventful off-season ahead. Teams can get a lot of mileage out of deals and not just in terms of player production. Trades generate some free publicity and (sometimes) improved ticket sales. A move or two would have served as a gesture of goodwill to a discouraged and frustrated fan base that the front office feels the same way and is finally willing to do more than just talk about it. For a team having a poor season like the Mets are, the July trade deadline deals can offer a topic-changer and possibly keeps them from dropping entirely off the radar screen after football camps open.

Instead, the club is clinging stubbornly to the status quo: the final third of the 2012 Mets’ season will be done playing out the string with a mixture of semi-prospects trying to establish themselves as Major Leaguers, a few star players looking for an exit and some marginal veterans as roster filler. Meanwhile they will continue to talk out of both sides of their mouths. Yes we are building for the future and no; we aren’t giving up on this season. So please buy tickets and merchandise. In reality they aren’t doing much of either. (But they do want you to spend your money). If they planned on contending, why didn’t they add a piece or two? If they are playing for 2013 and beyond, why not move some vets for chips?
This has become distressingly familiar ground for us. I had hoped that the arrival of Alderson and his associates meant the dawn of a new age for the Mets. Instead, it’s Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss…

READ MORE +

The Next Scapegoat Is…

Well, here we go again, another year, another collapse. I had no expectations going into this season, but then the team’s invigorated play during May and June, coupled with the wave of sentiment about the geniuses in the Front Office, an improved farm system, the no-hitter, the R.A. Dickey story, the collapse of the Phillies, etc. fooled me into jumping in. Riding the wave was fun, but once again, the crash is brutal.

I think that the Mets’ failure to make a key move in June to shore up the bullpen lead to their demise. They want us to think that they stood pat based on some ill-defined organizational philosophy to build from within, but I suspect more and more that the real organizational philosophy, which is to protect the margins, was the real driver behind this decision.

As I wrote here earlier, the culture fostered by ownership is to evade the truth and to instead cast dispersion on and scapegoat others. As soon as the last pitch of the 2012 season is thrown, they will once again search for a convenient target or two.

To save them some time, here are a few likely candidates:

Ricky Bones: The Mets bullpen has been brutal and the repeated meltdowns right before and after the All-Star break killed the team’s momentum. Here’s a thought: blame the coach. Forget that probably not one Met fan in 20 could identify Bones as the BP coach. I had to Google it to find it out myself. That being said, Bones will likely find himself somewhere else next year.

Dan Warthen: Maybe the blame lies with the Mets “COO of pitching.” His funky glasses and his stumbling/bumbling ambulation towards the mound do make him an easy target. However, rumor has it that he is a “Wilpon Man,” so he very likely gets another stay of execution.

Scott Kazmir/Jim Duquette: The Mets are so dysfunctional that even two men no longer in Major League Baseball get blamed for their current woes. Everybody knows the story by now—back in 2004 (which was two GMs ago), the Mets, believing themselves to be one starting pitcher away from true contention, made a huge blunder by dealing their prized left-handed pitching prospect for Damaged Goods. The fans went nuts, the team collapsed shortly thereafter and the loss of Kazmir was felt for years. The backlash from that deal is felt today, as anytime a deal involving one of the Mets young arms is discussed (see the Michael Fulmer for Huston Street rumors) somebody in the press brings this trade up and the talk quickly dies down.

Jason Bay: Samuel Becket couldn’t have written this any better as the Mets wait, wait, wait for the pre-2009 version of Jason Bay to finally appear at Citi Field. I advocated spinning him off for another contract, but that ship has sailed as well. Instead, Bay likely gets “Ollie Perezed” out of here a few days after the season ends.

Terry Collins: Now it gets dicey. The players like Collins and he seems to get New York. He was smart enough early on to position himself as being familiar with the developing players. When the team played well in the first half, he looked like part of the long-term solution. Now, it is two second half collapses in a row, something that cost both Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel their jobs as Mets Manager. A noted firebrand, Collins looks like he is ready to explode. One ill-directed tirade at the press corps should be all that is needed to start the inevitable decline. One of the factors in Terry’s favor is that there is no obvious heir apparent. Wally Backman has lost much of his shine and there is no trendy minor league manager or current big league bench coach to pluck from someone else’s system. I guess they could call Terry Francona…

David Wright: The Mets might go for the shock value factor and trade Wright this offseason. They could claim to have been overwhelmed by the offer and that they felt a change in direction is needed. I highly doubt this will happen and instead am bracing for a long goodbye to David during the 2013 season.

Sandy Alderson: It is beginning to appear more and more like Alderson has joined the pantheon of players, managers and front office people whose reputation gets tarnished by his tenure with the Mets. Quite frankly, his track record as Mets GM sucks. OK, he doesn’t have much money to work with, but he also doesn’t have much creativity either. Remember Brad Emaus as the starting second baseman? That was about as out of the box as he has been so far. How about the DJ Carrasco, Ronny Paulino, Miguel Batista, Jon Rauch and Ronny Cedeno signings? Can we wait for Zack Wheeler to pitch a big league inning before we anoint this as The Best Trade Ever? Speaking of which, Wheeler has been bombed in two consecutive outings in Binghamton. While Sandy was killing any chance for contention last year, why didn’t he also move Jose Reyes? Instead, the Mets didn’t even make Jose an offer before he skipped off to Miami. But hey, we got the awesome draft pick of Kevin Plawecki as compensation. While other teams are making some bold moves, Alderson gives us Rob Johnston, Manny Acosta and Matt Harvey for Mike Nickeas, Lucas Duda and Pedro Beato. But then considering how poorly the Angel Pagan for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres deal has worked out, perhaps he should just turn his phone off.

On a more positive note, I do remember the vitriol that surrounded GM Frank Cashen after the 1983 season and the loss of Tom Seaver to the White Sox in a compensation draft. By then, Cashen had a four-year track record of moves that either made little sense at the time or just plain flopped. The Mets seemed to be as far away from winning as they did the day he took over. A year later, the team burst into contention and he looked like a genius. I think Alderson gets at least one more year, maybe two before it gets hot for him, after all, the Mets don’t want to embarrass their friend Bud Selig.

The Fans: Not as ridiculous as it may seem at first. There were snippets here and there by some media tools bemoaning the low attendance when the team was overachieving. Plus we’re all way too negative.

Jeff Wilpon: Here’s the problem. But he isn’t going anywhere. I am back to advocating not spending any money on his product.

BTW- I called the whole Miami Marlins fiasco back in January.

READ MORE +

Uh-Oh, Jeff is Speaking Again


Before getting to the main topic, congratulations to Johan Santana. Before the season started, I expected this Mets team to be a laughingstock and on the wrong end of at least 90, if not 95 games. Instead of bumbling through another miserable season, the Mets are perhaps serving notice that 2012 is the season they turn the corner. The clubhouse culture has changed, there are promising young players both here and in the pipeline, some key veterans are finally healthy and playing time is being doled out on merit, instead of contract status or cronyism. The best part of the season was that it had been played without a peep from either Wilpon.

Well, that streak ended last Wednesday, when Jeff Wilpon appeared behind a microphone to discuss a potential contract extension for Third Baseman David Wright. Jeff spoke nicely about how important David is to the team, the city and to him personally and how he thinks the extension talks “need time” to “see how it plays out.”

Wow, what relevancy. What’s next, he’s in favor of sunshine at day games, shorter lines at the Shake Shack and no delays on the L.I.E? This reminds me of someone who while taking shelter from a rainstorm, sticks his hand out from underneath the cover to see if it is safe to come out again. Perhaps he is following the direction of some PR firm on how to repair his mangled image. “Go out and talk nice about David Wright, Jeff; see how people react.” Consider this a thunderclap, Jeff and please go back inside. Fortunately, Wright ended this useless speculation over the weekend, stating he will not re-negotiate a contract during the 2012 season.

Back to Jeff. Remember, this man is the Chief Operating Officer of the Mets. In theory, only his father, who owns the team, has more power. Family ties apparently trump training, education or experience as qualifiers for the COO spot. Yeah, as the owners they can do whatever they want with the team, I get that. What makes it tough is how they continue to act like they think they can hoodwink perhaps the most wised-up fan base in all of the sport. Did anyone else think those comments sounded a lot like the ones GM Sandy Alderson said last year about Jose Reyes? Does anyone else get the feeling that Jeff may be taking advantage of our distraction over the team’s play to wriggle his way back into the picture?

Back in February, I was inspired to post that the Wilpons have a credibility problem. As was pointed out years ago here, even Jeff’s claim to have played minor league baseball is specious. The Wilpons are very successful in other areas, are probably very deserving of their wealth and have certainly supported some worthwhile ventures, but when it comes to the Mets, they just can’t seem to do much right. Look no further than Jeff’s signature COO project, overseeing the Citi Field construction. Notice that it has been nearly completely made over since its 2009 opening? Even worse, it was hinted anonymously that those horrific outfield dimensions were the brainchild of the since disgraced and departed Tony Bernazard. I wonder who leaked that?

Despite the improved play, recent history shows the Mets to be a very combustible element. Most of their immolations these past few years occurred in late July and early August. Avoiding another one again this year is the big challenge facing Alderson and manager Terry Collins. That gargantuan task will only be made harder if a spotlight-jonesing owner’s son is crouching in the shadows just waiting to interject himself once more back into the center of the mix.

So what to do? As Friday night showed, it is getting harder and harder to stay away from the product on the field. I have long been an advocate for a home-grown team. Well we have one now and I really like it. I can’t ignore them.

We do however, have another option. Ever since this image-conscious regime went too far and broke up 1986-1988 Mets, they have never ceased fretting over public opinion. There was a passage in The Worst Team Money Could Buy about someone (I think it was Fred) opening the Post, the News, Newsday and the Times each morning to “see what those bastards are saying about us now.” Public pressure swayed them to trade for Mike Piazza. (Just ask Mike Francessa). More recently, look at how quickly they shoe horned in a Mets Museum and other Metsian trappings at Citi Field after the collective WTF over its debut as homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

They pay attention. So, tell Jeff to shut up, sit down, and let the baseball people make the baseball decisions (there’s a concept). Sound off here, on Metsblog, the Met Home page, Twitter, WFAN, 1050, SNY, the papers, at restaurants, over beers, at the water cooler. Remind him again and again and again that we are both wise to and fed up with him.

He’ll hear it.

READ MORE +

Greetings from Coca-Cola Park!

Happy Baseball Season everyone. I was able to attend last night’s Buffalo Bison-Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs game at beautiful Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA. I bought these seats in January, hoping to get a glimpse of either Matt Harvey or Jeurys Familia. Instead, we got Dylan Owen, making an emergency start for Jeremy Hefner, who was called up that afternoon. As a “bonus” the Pigs pitcher was old friend Pat Misch. The real treat was seeing just-promoted Josh Edgin. A good outing for Edgin: 1.1 IP, 2Ks, 1 H and 0 runs. The Bisons won, I think. The frigid temps and light flurries during the 7th-inning stretch forced us to leave before the final out.

After too long of a wait (glad to be working again!) it was good to see professional baseball again. Minor league baseball is a hoot. For about $75, I got four tickets behind the Bison’s dugout, a parking pass and some warm food. The baseball is good and the Iron Pigs do a decent job of keeping the patrons entertained in between the action. There are stats aplenty for us prospect-watchers and an accurate radar gun.

But enough about me…

Matt Harvey’s start in Buffalo matches how he finished the season in Binghamton. For the record, his numbers this year in AAA read like this: 1-1 with a 6.63 ERA, 1.84 WHIP and .308 BAA. Not exactly Top of the Rotation numbers. Yes it has only been four starts, but at this juncture, Harvey appears to need plenty more seasoning before he can be rightly considered as part of the solution.

No Reese Havens last night, either on the field or on the roster. Comparisons to Fernando Martinez abound, but Havens’ injury history reminds me more of the Jay Payton saga. Like Havens, Payton was taken as a compensation pick for losing a lefty free agent pitcher (Payton: Sid Fernandez, Havens: Tom Glavine). Drafted in 1994 and highly-touted, Payton had four surgeries, three on his elbows and one on his left shoulder. After spending the better part of his first several professional baseball years on the DL rehabbing, he finally made his debut late in 1998 season, only commit to a major base running gaffe in a key loss to Atlanta. The good news is that he later rebounded to help the Mets to a World Series berth as the starting CF in 2000. Hopefully Reese’s story has a similar outcome.

The time off has got to be killing Havens. Daniel Murphy is looking less and less like the long-term answer at second base and Jordany Valdespin is apparently being groomed as a utility player. If healthy, Havens would probably be on the fast track to Citi Field. Instead, he is off on another rehab taking swings in a Port St. Lucie back lot somewhere.

Like most fans, I was pleasantly surprised by the Mets decent start. And I really enjoy rooting for a bunch of guys who came up thru the system. But let’s be real: none of these baby Mets are likely to ever become perennial All-Stars. My sense is that the ceiling for most of them is a complimentary role on a good team. That isn’t to knock them at all and hopefully, that future good team for most of them is the Mets. I just don’t see any of them developing into the centerpiece of a World Series winner. Pick any one: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Murphy, Josh Thole, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis and even the recently-extended Jon Niese. There is no consistently outstanding facet of their game and each is missing something. As the team did in the mid-80’s with Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter and then again a dozen years later with Mike Hampton and Mike Piazza, they will probably have to go outside of the system to get those missing ingredients that push them to the top.

And finally, I resist the notion proffered in some places that having half a roster comprised of homegrown players is proof that Omar Minaya wasn’t such a bad GM. Please. First off, the austerity movement imposed on/implemented by Sandy Alderson left the Mets with little choice than to give several of these players roster spots. Then there is WAR (Wins Above Replacement), a stat that works pretty well in measuring value. The WAR for each of the aforementioned players is in the 1.5 to 2.5 range. Consider that the top five or so elite players for each position typically post a WAR of 3.5 or above. A bit more subjective perhaps (and that’s one of the beauties of baseball), but pull up any of the top Mets prospects lists that came out last winter. Two of the names at the top of every list are Zack Wheeler and Brandon Nimmo, both of whom arrived after Omar left.

What do you think? Concerned about Harvey? Have a Reese Havens sighting to report? Think Omar was a good GM? Sound off in the comments section!

READ MORE +

The Mets: Opening Day High and Low Lights

Excited about the 2012 baseball season? Me neither. With one exception, about which you will read below, I have never paid less attention to the start of the season as I have with this one. Regardless of how I/we feel, The Season That Somebody Else’s Favorite Team Wins The World Series is about to begin.

Every year at this time some hapless writer or blogger will do a piece on past Opening Day highlights. At Mets Today, we pride ourselves on being the first to give you these types of insights, remember, I called the opening day roster back in January!

So without further ado, here we go with a glance at some Opening Day Met Memories.

1969: In the first game ever for that franchise, the Coco LaBoy-led Expos beat Tom Seaver and the Mets 11-10. The Mets miss the opportunity to have the first winning record in franchise history. A much bigger prize awaited them later this season. I was not following baseball at that time; my awakening would occur about a year and a half in the future.

1975: Seaver outduels Steve Carlton as the new-look Mets top the Phillies 2-1. Both future Hall of Famers hurl complete games. Joe Torre, Gene Clines and Del Unser make their Met debuts. Torre drives in the winning run, as the cameras find sign guy Karl Ehrhardt displaying a “Torre, Torre, Halleluiah” banner. That was about the highlight of Joe’s Met career.

1983: Tom Seaver returns to the Shea mound for the first time since the infamous 1977 Midnight Massacre. Turning the clock back even further, Tom’s mound opponent is Carlton. The Mets win, 2-0. Seaver hurls six innings with five strikeouts. Doug Sisk, another Met immortal (but for different reasons), gets the three inning save.

1984: The Davey Johnson-era begins with an 8-1 shellacking at the hands of the Reds. Mike Torrez lasts only an inning and a third. Johnson didn’t want any of the veteran pitchers (Torrez, Dick Tidrow and Craig Swan) on his roster. He would get his way with all three. This season was baseball’s only attempt to avoid cold-weather starts by having the Eastern Division teams all begin either on the West Coast or in the Astrodome. The Mets where the only Eastern Division team to draw a cold-weather city. Ron Hodges is the opening day catcher. What a difference a year will make.

1985: Gary Carter’s 10-inning homer off Neil Allen gives the Mets a 6-5 win. An inauspicious start for Doc Gooden, as he surrenders four runs in six innings. He would rebound.

1987: With Gooden in drug rehab, the Mets begin their defense of the 1986 World Championship by defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1. Bob Ojeda starts in Doc’s spot. Interestingly enough, the Bucs’ leadoff hitter is Barry Bonds.

1988: Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds each hit a pair of homers, while Kevin Elster and Lenny Dykstra both hit one, as the Mets beat Dennis Martinez and the Expos 10-6. It was a big start to good years for Straw and K-Mac. Showing how deep the Mets staff was that year, David Cone and Randy Myers both pitch in relief. Unfortunately, the year will end with heartbreak.

1991: In the first game of the post-Straw era, Gooden beats the Phils 2-1. One of Straw’s replacements, Hubie Brooks, steals home for the decisive run. The Vince Coleman+ Hubie Brooks >Darryl Strawberry equation proves to be incorrect, which will lead to the Mets to abandon the build from within philosophy in the coming winter. I was at this game (to date the only opener I have attended). On the way home, it only took three callers to the WFAN post-game show for the carping about the batting order to begin.

1992: Bobby Bonilla hits two home runs including a two-run tiebreaker in the 10th as the Mets beat the Cardinals. It was a nice start for the revamped Mets, who had added Bonilla, Eddie Murray and Bret Saberhagen to their roster the previous winter. Despite all of the hoopla, the Mets where headed for a bad season and then a disaster the following year. But for one night at least, it all came together.

1997: The Bobby Valentine era begins with a 12-5 loss in San Diego. Pete Harnisch goes five innings and leaves with a 4-3 lead. Showing signs of the eccentricities that would become more apparent later, Harnisch had given up chewing tobacco a few days before the game and was undergoing withdrawal come game time. After Pete gave up back to back homeruns to future and past Mets Rickey Henderson and Quilvio Veras, Valentine handed the ball over to his bullpen. Yorkis Perez, Toby Borland and Barry Manuel got torched for 11 runs in one inning. Despite the rough beginning, the Mets finished the year with their first winning record since 1990.

1998: Alberto (Babe) Castillo drives in the winning run with a 14th-inning single as the Mets top the Phils and Curt Schilling 1-0. The Mets begin the year with a desperate catching situation: Todd Hundley is hurt so the light-hitting Tim Spehr and Castillo are assigned the duties. A Memorial Day deal for Mike Piazza would alter the course of the franchise.

2000: The Mets begin the season in Japan with a 5-3 loss to the Cubs. I was traveling on business that week and the game started at about 4AM, so I missed it. If I recall correctly, newcomer Mike Hampton was the starter and loser. Mike got off to a slow start but finished the season as the NLCS MVP.

2003: The Cubs hammer hired gun Tommy Glavine and the Mets 15-2. Roger Cedeno misplays several balls in center field, to the disgust of both Glavine and the hometown crowd. My wife had suffered a near fatal brain aneurysm three weeks earlier, so this season got started without me paying much attention. Both she and the Mets would recover, she faster than them.

2005: The Pedro, Carlos and Omar era begins with a loss in Cincinnati. Braden Looper gives up consecutive inning home runs to blow the lead and then lose the game. It took the Mets five tries that year to get Willie Randolph his first major league win as a manager.

So there you have it. I do think it is worth noting that several good or great seasons (1969, 1984, 1997 and 2005) began with low expectations and a loss, but that year’s edition eventually surprised nearly everyone with how they finished. Only 1985, 1986 and perhaps 2000 came close to living up to the pre-season expectations. My sense is that while all of the gloom and doom about the 2012 season will prove to be well-founded, I am hopeful that some continued development from the young players and perhaps a good deadline deal or two will keep the Mets from being boring, which is a fate even worse than losing.

Do you have a favorite Opening Day memory? Share it below.

READ MORE +

No-cred Fred and the Amazin’ Buzzkill

NOTE: This is a post by MetsToday staffer Dan Capwell, a long-time, loyal Mets fan.

Just when I started to hope again. Johan Santana’s comeback. The future with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jennry Mejia and Jeurys Familia in the rotation. A left-right-left-right-left march through the batting order with Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Ike Davis, Jason Bay and Lucas Duda. The indication that Ruben Tejada’s 2011 OBP of .360 might make him a serviceable leadoff man. The development of Kirk Niewenhuis, Jordany Valdespin and Reese Havens in Buffalo. Hell, even the passing interest in Scott Kazmir. As Ralph Kiner says every year, “hope springs eternal in the spring.” Then came Monday and the latest devaluation of the Mets brand, a.k.a another public utterance from Fred Wilpon.
In case we’ve forgotten, Fred reminded us all that he is the owner. He then made a sarcastic quip with a few five dollar bills before launching into the spin du jour. His comments have already been dissected elsewhere, but I am stunned that Fred speaks as if he believes that any of his comments will actually help his cause. Among other things, this is an insult to the intelligence of his paying customers (that’s you and me). What really got me was his attempt to shift the blame to GM Sandy Alderson for the reduced payroll.

Sorry Fred, but the blame game is over and you’ve lost. Davey Johnson, Vince Coleman, Al Harazin, Bobby Bonilla, Doc Gooden, Joe McIlvaine, injuries to Generation K, Bonilla (again), Bobby Valentine, Steve Phillips, Mo Vaughn, Art Howe, Willie Randolph, old Shea Stadium and finally Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel have come, been blamed and are gone. The one constant over the past quarter century with this team is you. Nothing you ever say again will be believed. It’s your turn to go, why don’t you just sell out and leave?
The day got even worse with the news that Jeff Wilpon, the heir apparent, attempted to “motivate” the team with Underdog t-shirts. (Look daddy, orange). Jeffie also called in a bet he won with Wright and made David wear a Michigan jersey, which while looking like just plain fun on the surface, does carry some uncomfortable connotations of seeing the so-called Face of The Franchise being humiliated by the owner’s son.

The Wilpons’ current situation is not unlike that of a great number of Americans. We lived large from about 1992 until around 2007, with a lot of paper wealth coming from real estate equity, the stock market and near total employment. These factors, plus the keep-up-with-the Joneses mentality prevalent in our society, resulted in big purchases: exurban McMansions, huge SUVs, exotic vacations and fancy gadgets. Then came the crash. Devalued real estate. Empty 401Ks. Job loss. Escalating gas prices. Many of those glittering trappings of the now-bygone age became unwanted drains on the new financial picture. Those of us who successfully readjusted found we had to shed or greatly parse these items. Others tried desperately to finance them by other means, until overextended, stressed and broke, they crashed too.

My sense is that the Wilpons are in that second grouping. Unfortunately for them, their crash is very public and one would think, extremely humiliating. I can’t blame them for thinking that a last minute reprieve will somehow make this all right again. My counsel FWIW, is that the sooner they accept and move on, the better off both they and the Mets will be.

I suspect instead that the Wilpons are very confident about being vindicated soon in court and are down in Florida laying the groundwork for a victory lap in front of the media to celebrate. Maybe Irving Picard will toss a monkey wrench into those plans. All I know is that I am back to hopelessness as far as the Mets are concerned. And that sucks enough to make me hold onto my wallet.

READ MORE +

Gary, We Hardly Knew Ye

The passing of Gary Carter is a blow to anyone that followed the Mets in the mid-1980’s. About 24 hours after first hearing the news and after watching a tribute to Gary on The Baseball Network, I have developed the sense that Carter is/was probably the greatest Met we’ve ever underappreciated.

It could be that his career at Shea was relatively short, full seasons from 1985 thru 1988 with a 50-game 1989 finale due to injuries. He hit a combined 16 homeruns in 1988-89. It could be that he essentially dropped off the team’s radar after he retired. Other 1986 Mets including Darryl Strawberry, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, Bob Ojeda, Howard Johnson, Wally Backman, Mookie Wilson and even Tim Tuefel returned to the fold after their playing careers ended, while Dwight Gooden and Lenny Dykstra have maintained notoriety for different reasons. Maybe it’s the fact that he entered the Hall of Fame as a Montreal Expo. It could be his unabashed Christian faith. I remember his interview after Game 7 in 1986 when he thanked Jesus Christ, a remark which elicited an internal groan in my then 26-year old mind. (Life experiences have changed my opinions on that!) He seemed strangely out of place on a team of hard living hell raisers and his beliefs made him seem more seem more suited for a role in Bible-Belt city rather than in New York.

Often when people pass, it’s a time for the rest of us to put things in perspective. His teammates have been effusive in their praise for his role on the 1986 squad. While short, his Met career was very significant and I best believe can be put in perspective with just four words:

Tenth Inning Game Six.

The Mets are down to their last out and on the verge of one of the largest letdowns in baseball history at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. Gooden, having melted down in Game Five is in the dugout, unavailable. Strawberry, removed as part of a double switch earlier in the game, sulks in somewhere in the shadows. Hernandez has just flied out to deep center. That leaves Carter. Refusing to make the last out, he wills a single and then, pushed by hits from Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight, chugs around the bases, pointing prophetically at Wilson while crossing the plate. Was it Divine Intervention that saved the Mets that night? (It certainly was a miracle). Carter’s refusal to give up, his heart of a champion, kept the Mets heart beating that inning and eventually carried them to the pennant.

I was a season ticket holder in 1989. Towards the end of that dismal season, I was struck with the realization that soon Carter would no longer be a Met. I will never forget soaking in those final appearances of his from my seat in deep left field: his stance was a near perfect replica of the MLB logo, the number 8 centered down his back and his bat held the anticipation that a ball may be hit a long way at any moment. Aside from that somewhat personal moment, there are some other highlights to consider.

• His game-winning 1985 Opening Day home run off of Neil Allen in the bottom of the 10th inning.

• His game-winning NLDS Game Five hit off of Charlie Kerfield

• His two home run game in Game 4, 1986 World Series

• His torrid September 1985—Carter hits 13 home runs, including 5 in two games vs. San Francisco.

Very few players have those types of highlights on their Met resumes. For those reasons alone, I hope the Mets do the right thing and retire Carter’s number this summer (it might be a good idea to also retire #17 at the same time).

Godspeed and thank you, Gary. May the faith you readily shared with everyone be a comfort to those who mourn you here and may you enjoy eternity as a heavenly all-star.
Let’s Go Mets!

READ MORE +