Tag: darryl strawberry

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.


Adios Jose? Five Free Agents Who Left The Mets

The Mets are heading towards their first potential major free agent defection since the end of the 2000 season. In fact, throughout the entire 35 years of free agency, only a handful of key players ever left the team for greener pastures. This does not include a plethora of bad trades, bungled roster moves or the like, but players the team wanted to keep but couldn’t. Should the Mets re-sign Jose Reyes? Perhaps history will serve as a guide. For clarity the player’s last year with the Mets appears in parenthesis.

1.Darryl Strawberry (1990): Until recently the best offensive player the Mets have ever produced, Straw’s contract expired at the end of the 1990 season. At the time he was at the pinnacle of his career: at age 29 he was on pace the break the all time home run record and was coming off a 37-home run season. Darryl spurned the Mets, instead inking a lucrative five-year $22.25 million contract with his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers. He proved to be a bust in LA, hitting only only 38 home runs in three years there before being released. He drifted to San Francisco and then later to the Yankees where he enjoyed a revival of sorts, but his sure-fire Hall of Fame career when he left the Mets was lost in a haze of injuries and drug abuse. He has since reconcilled with the Mets and recently surfaced, warning Reyes to stay in New York. Hard to envision what could have happened had he stayed (many blame the influence of hometown friends on his demise in LA) but the cost of replacing him—first Vince Coleman and then Bobby Bonilla—ushered in a Mets Dark Age that lasted from 1991 to 1998 and the arrival of Mike Piazza.

2.John Olerud (1999): This one hurts. Ole revitalized his career in New York after then-GM Joe McIlvaine stole him from Toronto for Robert Person. Ole hit .354 for the Mets in 1998 and was the first baseman for “the greatest infield ever” in 1999. He departed after that season for his hometown of Seattle where his offensive revitalization continued. He also logged time with Boston and the Yankees before retiring with a .398 career OBP. To replace him, the Mets signed Todd Ziele, who did an acceptable job at first for a few years before departing via trade to Milwaukee after the 2002 season. The Mets could have used Olerud’s bat in the Subway Series and in their failed defense of the NL title in 2001.

3. Mike Hampton (2000): Mike arrived two days before Christmas in 1999 for Octavio Dotel and Roger Cedeno. He helped anchor the rotation in for 2000 NL Champion Mets, going 15–10 with a 3.12 ERA and winning the MVP of the 2000 NLCS. Then he departed for Colorado, making the infamous “the schools in Colorado are better” remark. Injuries derailed Mike’s career and his 8 year, $121 million dollar contract is widely regarded as one of the worst free-agent signings in MLB history. As compensation, the Mets received Colorado’s pick in the draft and took an infielder you may have heard of: David Wright.

4. Sid Fernandez (1993): By the end of 1993 season all of the shine was gone from the 1986 championship team. One of it’s last remaining links was El Sid, who’s pitching performance in Game Seven of the 1986 World Series is still one of the most underrated efforts in team history. McIlvaine told reporters he wanted to keep Sid, but instead the Baltimore Orioles signed him to a three year deal. Sid was clearly done by this time, lasting parts of two seasons with Baltimore and one season each in Philadelphia and Houston. As compensation, the Mets used Baltimore’s pick in the draft to get Jay Payton. One of the most enigmatic players in Met history, Payton overcame several years worth of injuries to hold the starting CF position for the 2000 champs.

5. David Cone (1992): OK this one doesn’t really count, as Cone was traded to the Blue Jays right at the end of August. But he was in the last month of his contract and it was generally assumed that he would not resign with the Mets. GM Al Harazin realizing Cone was leaving, went into panic mode and moved him quickly to the Jays. Backing up the old adage that even a blind squirrel finds a nut occassionally, part of the haul included an unknown second baseman named Jeff Kent. Unfortunately, the Mets didn’t know what they had in Jeff and watched as he fueded with teamates, the press and the fans until they shipped him to Cleveland in the ill-fated Carlos Baerga deal. Later Kent developed into a Hall of Famer with the San Francisco Giants. Cone went on to spectacular career: winning a World Series with Toronto and a Cy Young Award in Kansas City. He then went to the Yankees (they do have a fetish for ex-Mets, no?) where he won four rings, pitched a perfect game and got Mike Piazza out in a crucial spot in Game Four of the Subway Series.

Honorable Mentions: Al Leiter, John Franco and Mike Piazza. In all cases the Mets let these long-time stalwarts leave without an arbitration offer, meaning they had no intention of keeping any of them.
Epilouge: In all but one case (Olerud) the Mets guessed right in letting their big ticket players go. The haul in return was a franchise player (Wright), a useful piece (Payton) and the One That Got Away (Kent). The real lesson is the Strawberry situation. Just a hunch, but Jose Reyes’ .337 season and the NL batting crown is going to be as good as it gets with him. However, if the Mets are going to let him walk, it had best be as part of a plan for a rebuilding instead of a makeover. No trying to replace him with expensive pieces that they reward for their previous efforts with another team. They shouldn’t worry about what the fans think. The hard core fanbase will accept a rebuilding with a purpose. The good news for the Mets is that the hard core fanbase is all that is left them.


Who was Best – Beltran or Strawberry?

Loyal MetsToday visitor and commenter “Walnutz15” made me aware of an SNY poll that I had missed from a few nights ago — who was the “best” outfielder in Mets history?

An interesting poll, so I figured let’s throw it out to you, the MetsToday visitor.

By using some fancy code generously provided by Baseball-Reference.com, below are the Mets stats of Beltran and Strawberry (note: though the stats are showing years other than when they were with the Mets, the totals at the bottom reflect ONLY time with the Mets; seems to be some kind of glitch with the code).

Carlos Beltran

Darryl Strawberry

Interestingly, both players spent 8 years with the Mets, so in that way it is a fair comparison. I have to say I’m a little surprised that Strawberry’s OPS is higher than Beltran’s, because Straw played at a time when pitchers had more of an edge than they did during Beltran’s era. I guess that just goes to show how great an offensive force Strawberry really was.

So, looking at the numbers, and examining your memories, and based solely on performance on the field, which player do you deem “best”? And if you had to make a choice, who would you rather have on your team?

Answer in the poll and please explain your decision in the comments.

Who was the "best" outfielder in Mets history?

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6 DUPACR: Wally Backman

With 6 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report, I chose former #6 Wally Backman to represent the day.

Are you surprised? If so then you don’t come by here often.

Wally — like many of the ’86 Mets — was considered an “old-school” player in the 1980s … which means, in today’s game, he’d be REALLY old-school … in fact I’m not even sure that schools existed in cro-magnon times.

25-30 years ago, old school meant hustling all the time; getting the uniform dirty by sliding head-first and diving for balls; taking out the pivot man on a double play as a rule; leaning into a pitch to get on base; stealing signs; barreling the catcher; playing with injuries; and doing everything else (without cheating) to win a ballgame. This may sound similar to what “old school” means today, but there is one more factor that you rarely, if ever, see from today’s old-schooler: hatred for the opponent. There was no fraternizing back then — not before games, not during games. OK, there was an occasional chatty first baseman, but for the most part, opponents genuinely hated each other. And in 1986, NL teams genuinely hated the Mets — and vice-versa. Three players in particular — Wally Backman, Ray Knight, and Lenny Dykstra — epitomized the “old school” way, and despite not being the most gifted or highest-profile players, were driving forces of the character of the last Mets World Championship club.

There are many things I remember vividly about Wally, beginning with his distinctive, squatting batting stance. He did everything he had to do to get on base, be it by hit, by getting hit, by walking, or, my favorite, via a drag bunt. His drag bunting from the left side was spectacular; he would push it hard past the pitcher, but too far away from the first baseman and more or less at the second baseman, who was usually playing too far back to field the ball in time. Both Backman and Mookie Wilson turned that execution into an art form, and seemed to always get a hit as a result. To this day I don’t understand why the Mets haven’t sent Jose Reyes to work with Wally and/or Mookie during spring training to learn how to bunt like this; Reyes might hit .350 if he bunted for a hit more often.

But I digress …

Of course I remember Wally’s hard-nosed play and passion on the field. Though, one other incident that sticks with me was off the field: his run-in with Darryl Strawberry in 1987. For years, Straw was chronically late for games and/or would beg out after partying too much the evening before. The Straw that broke the camel’s back came in early July ’87, when Darryl recorded a rap song on a Monday night, then came up “ill” on Tuesday night before an important game against the Cardinals. He sat out that game and the next for “low-grade fever and headache”; his teammates translated that to mean, “I don’t want to face the Cards’ two tough lefty starters Joe Magrane and Mike Mathews”. Lee Mazzilli and Wally Backman called out Darryl in the press, with Backman saying, “From the stuff I heard from the trainer’s room, Straw should’ve been out there. Nobody in the world that I know of gets sick 25 times a year.” This prompted the 6’6″ Strawberry to respond, “I’ll bust that little redneck in the face”. When reporters relayed that to the 5’8″ Backman, Wally said, “If that’s the case, do you think I’m going to back down?”. Gotta love it.

There were many, many others to wear #6, so I’m sure you have your own choice to represent this day. Just a few of them: Jose Cardenal, Al Weis, Mike Vail, Alex Trevino, Daryl Boston, Joe Orsulak, Melvin Mora, Timo Perez, Mike DiFelice, Ruben Gotay. What #6 do you remember most and why? Share your memories in the comments.

We have less than a week, folks!

The countdown thus far:

#6 Wally Backman
#7 Hubie Brooks
#8 Gary Carter
#9 Gregg Jefferies
#10 Rusty Staub
#11 Lenny Randle
#12 John Stearns
#13 Edgardo Alfonzo
#14 Gil Hodges
#15 Jerry Grote
#16 Dwight Gooden
#17 Felix Millan
#18 Darryl Strawberry
#19 Anthony Young
#20 Howard Johnson
#21 Gary Rajsich
#22 Ray Knight
#23 Doug Flynn
#24 Kelvin Torve
#25 Willie Montanez (no link … sadly, didn’t have time to write a post)
#26 Dave Kingman
#27 Pete Harnisch
#28 John Milner
#29 Alex Trevino
#30 Jackson Todd


18 DUPACR: Darryl Strawberry

You were expecting Jeff McKnight, weren’t you?

I will admit, though, there was a nanosecond where I considered honoring Joel Youngblood for the 18th Day Until Pitchers And Catchers Report. But really, there was never a question, for so many reasons.

It goes back to being a Mets fan in the late 1970s to early 1980s — a dark, ugly time for the franchise (particularly after they traded The Franchise). The team was bad. The future looked bleak. The original owners sold the club to a book publisher and a real estate magnate, but it was hard to see how that was going to help. Despite the incessant commercials produced by the high-priced, well-intentioned ad agency, the “magic” most certainly was NOT back. The situation seemed hopeless — until June 1980, when


Darryl Strawberry Says Mets Should Have Hired Backman

As reported on The New York Times:

Darryl Strawberry said the Mets should have hired Wally Backman as manager instead of Terry Collins. Mr. Strawberry played with Mr. Backman on the Mets’ 1986 championship team. “Wally will be the next manager of the Mets,” Mr. Strawberry said Tuesday. “I thought he would have been the right choice for them at this point.”

Oh boy … spring training hasn’t even started and already Terry Collins’ job is being debated.

If the Mets perform as poorly as expected — i.e., not be in the running for a playoff spot — how many more times are we going to see news like this? In other words, will Terry Collins be constantly looking over his shoulder, and/or have his job publicly debated?

Loyal readers of MetsToday know that I supported Backman for manager. However, in a way I’m glad he didn’t get the job now, considering the uphill (and downhill) battle that appears ahead. With the tight budget of this year, the expected turnover / overhaul of the roster next year, and lack of young talent to count on going forward, the next 2 years are going to be difficult. And when things don’t go well, someone has to take the blame — deserved or not. What Terry Collins has ahead of him in regard to the court of public opinion is no cakewalk.


Darryl to Wally: No Comparison

In an article written last week in The Record, Bob Klapisch suggests that the makeup of the current Mets team would not respond well to the “old school” style of Wally Backman.


Today’s major-leaguers are athletic specimens, not to mention brighter, better educated and more socially enlightened than their predecessors. But that’s not to say they’re tougher or more competitive. Bay and Francoeur are two of the nicest guys around, but they would’ve never survived in the Strawberry-Keith Hernandez-Lenny Dykstra clubhouse 25 years ago.

That’s a point worth remembering when the Mets go hunting for a new manager this winter. Among the many candidates they’ll consider is Wally Backman, who, like Strawberry, is as old school and un-nuanced as they come. While that’s made him a terrific manager at the minor league level, the decidedly un-PC mentality has cost him job after job.

Jeff Wilpon is taking a gamble by installing Backman at Class-A Brooklyn, but it’s worth a shot. Wilpon, in fact, told Backman over the winter that he’ll someday manage the Mets – if he can stay out of trouble.

Backman swears he’s conquered his demons, including alcohol, but it’s his temper that’ll really be the deciding factor. The real question is whether Backman can speak the language of today’s ballplayer: can he motivate the Bays and Francoeurs of the world without trampling on their egos?

There are few problems with this series of paragraphs, and the article in whole.

First of all, the


Darryl Strawberry to Open Restaurant

Never mind the hullabaloo stirred up by the Straw Man the other day in the Mets’ clubhouse — Darryl Strawberry has much more interesting news to convey: his own restaurant.

According to Grub Street, Darryl Strawberry will be opening a restaurant in Douglaston, Queens called “Strawberry’s Sports Grill”.

If you are interested in working for Darryl, head over to CraigsList and see the ad for “GM Needed for Darryl Strawberry’s New Sports Grill“. Three years experience required at minimum.

And if you get the job, don’t slack off or overcook a burger ordered medium-rare — lest Darryl come into the kitchen and let you know you could be doing better.