Tag: jim fregosi

The Nolan Ryan Express Still Doesn’t Stop In Flushing

Over the last couple of weeks, ESPN has been running the film “Catching Hell” from their exquisite 30 for 30 series. Directed by Oscar winner, Alex Gibney, the made-for-television documentary details the story of one Steve Bartman. Bartman as many may recall has been labeled the most recent scapegoat for the Chicago Cubs championship drought after he ran interference for Cubs left fielder, Moises Alou; reaching out over the stands for a foul ball that Alou was destined to make a play on. The umpires quickly ruled it fan interference, gave Luis Castillo of the Marlins the base, thereby opening the floodgates for what became an eight run inning late in game six of the 2003 NLCS. The move as believed by many cost the Cubs their long warranted shot at the title.

In truth, curses are no stranger to baseball.  One need look no further than the 1986 World Series where the then perennial losers, the Boston Red Sox, had the New York Mets down to their last strikes, but thanks to Bill Buckner and a comedy of errors that followed, the Sox lost and had to wait nearly two more decades for their first World Series since 1918.  Inasmuch as hexes are familiar to baseball they are common in all walks of sports. The Detroit Lions have the Curse of Bobby Layne, whom after being traded in the 50s put a jinx on the team for 50 years (though based on their season thus far, perhaps it’s finally over).  There’s the Madden Curse. where If you end up on the cover of the Madden football video game, you’re all but guaranteed to go down in injury or failure (just ask Eddie George, Daunte Culpepper or Michael Vick).  The Buffalo Bills can’t seem catch a break once losing three Super Bowls in a row, and in the NHL . . .  no Canadian hockey team has won the Stanley Cup since the early 90s! Talk about futility.

. . . . and then there are the New York Mets. Yes, let’s move back to the matter at hand. This is a baseball blog after all. In December of 1971, the Metropolitans traded a promising young pitcher named Nolan Ryan to the California Angels as part of a four-player package for veteran infielder, Jim Fregosi. At the time, future Hall-of-Famer, Ryan was lacking control and simply didn’t fit in with the Mets long terms plans. This trade, as we know, is a decision that haunts them still some 40 years later.

Currently, the Mets and the San Diego Padres are the only teams in major league baseball not to throw a no-hitter. The Padres retain the luxury of having been around seven years less than the Amazin’s, but that’s not saying much for them either. So, what is it that’s our beloved Mets back? Have they even come close? The answer is: yes, they have; on too many occasions one might even say. Here’s a quick rundown on a few of the Mets “one-hitters” throughout their history of which there are 35!

June 22, 1962 – Al Jackson versus Houston Colt ‘45s

July 9, 1969 – Tom Seaver versus Chicago Cubs (again in ’70, ’71, ’72 and ’77)

April 18, 1970 – Nolan Ryan versus Philadelphia Philllies

October 1, 1982 – Terry Leach versus Philadelphia Phillies

September 7, 1984 – Dwight Gooden versus Chicago Cubs

October 8, 2000 – Bobby Jones versus San Francisco Giants (NLDS)

June 15 and August 18, 2003 – Steve Trachsel versus Anaheim Angels/Colorado Rockies

August 13, 2010 – R.A. Dickey versus Philadelphia Phillies

Every couple of years, the Mets get close to removing themselves from such an inauspicious club, but it never quite happens. Looking at the current Mets starting rotation, there is promise for them to land that elusive but well lauded pitching achievement. Both Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey have had recent one-hitters. Johan Santana, when healthy, is almost unstoppable. However, it’s hard to look at Mike Pelfrey , who may or may not be back, and Dillon Gee and go — these are our guys.

We also have to remember that a lot goes into a no-hitter. Of course, your pitcher having the night of his life is of great help. Fast pitches, strong control, and an even temper, but for every quality start by a pitcher he is still far reliant on his fielders to back him up and deliver not just the spectacular, over-the-fence grabs, but also that routine play up the middle. If Angel Pagan loses one in the sun, it’s no one’s fault but his, but that box score will record that hit and so will “one-hitter” history.

There’s no way to predict when, how, who, or where the Mets will get their very first no-no. Fifty years is a mighty long time to be without anything. Twenty-five years without a championship isn’t so fun either. On the bright side once a Mets pitcher leaves his Flushing confines he is wiped clean of the curse.; just ask Dwight Gooden, Mike Scott, Hideo Nomo, Tom Seaver and David Cone, all of whom pitched no-hitters AFTER leaving the Mets.

As for Jim Fregosi, remember him? He went on to his a solid .233 average for the two years he was with the Mets. it kind of balances things out when you consider Nolan Ryans’ 324 wins, 222 CG, 61 SHO, 5714 K and yes, 7 no-hitters.

Are the Mets cursed? On paper they are. Maybe they should just sacrifice a goat or something. Until then, follow Mets Today on Facebook for all the latest Mets updates, scoops and insight.

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2 DUPACR: Mackey Sasser

With only 2 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report, we honor the day with former #2 Mackey Sasser.

Why Mackey Sasser, as opposed to some other former Met who wore #2? I have to admit that this post almost honored a player I never saw, but read volumes of stories about: Marvelous Marv E. Throneberry — the player who once lost a ground ball in the sun and missed first base on a triple twice in the same inning (among other dramatics). I could have also chosen Jim Fregosi, who was traded for Nolan Ryan, but I was only one year old when that happened and therefore don’t remember much about it. Sticking to my policy of picking players I’ve seen and for some reason or another stick in my memory, the number 2s from the past weren’t particularly memorable — except for Mackey.

Unfortunately, most people remember Mackey Sasser for his interminable throwing condition that is now referred to as “Sasser Syndrome”. His inability to throw the ball back to the pitcher made him the butt of cruel jokes, endless taunting, and a synchronized crowd chant of “one! two! three!” as he pumped his arm back three times (sometimes four) before weakly lofting the ball back to the pitcher. It was painful to watch, and was not unlike viewing an adventure movie or murder mystery, in that you didn’t know a) when he was going to throw the ball; b) IF he was going to throw the ball; c) what the arc of the ball would be like; and, d) whether he was going to fall back on his butt after the throw.

It was a shame, really, because other than an inability to perform the simplest duty, Mackey Sasser was a promising catcher. Defensively, he had good skills — he moved well behind the plate, was a roadblock for opposing runners, possessed leadership ability, and had a strong, accurate arm with a quick release that was capable of throwing out runners at an average to above-average rate (the throwing issue allowed runners to delay steal, skewing the stats). I wouldn’t go so far as to say he’d have won Gold Gloves, but Sasser was a decent backstop — certainly good enough to be an everyday catcher.

And “good enough” was all he needed to be, because Mackey could rake. An overly aggressive, line-drive hitter with extra-base power, he slashed balls into the gaps and pounded wicked grounders down the lines, chasing home runners at good rates — he had 41 RBI in only 270 ABs in 1990, for example. A free swinger, he didn’t take many walks and often swung at — but made solid contact with — balls out of the strike zone, and was a particularly fond of low pitches. His quick hands allowed him to catch up to triple-digit heat, but his sweet lefty swing looked effortless.

Though his throwing problem was intermittent before, it became more pronounced and frequent after a collision at home plate in early July of 1990 resulted in injuries to his ankle and achilles tendon. He missed about a week but played with the injury for the rest of the season. At the time, Sasser was on a hot streak — he was 6 for his last 9 before the collision — and when he came back he continued on a tear at the plate. As of early August he was hitting around .350 but the throwing issue became progressively worse, to the point where he simply could not be used behind the plate. Had it not been for that, there’s no doubt that Sasser would have been the Mets’ starting catcher in ’90 and likely ’91. Instead, he was limited to a pinch-hitting role (in which he performed very well) and was used sparingly in the outfield (his natural position) and first base — where his lack of home run power made him less interesting as a ballplayer.

There is an enlightening and fascinating psychological study on Mackey Sasser and the issues in his life that contributed to the mental block, which I recommend you read if you have 10-15 minutes.

Other Mets who wore #2 include legends such as Jimmy Piersall, Phil “Harmonica” Linz, Chuck Hiller, Roy Staiger, Phil Mankowski, Larry Bowa, Billy Almon, Jose Oquendo, and Damon Buford, among others.

Which #2 do you remember best and why? Share your memories in the comments.

The countdown thus far:

#2 Mackey Sasser
#3 Bud Harrelson
#4 Ron Swoboda
#5 John Olerud
#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

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