Tag: nolan ryan

Spilled Milk Part One: What-If Trades In Met History

First off a little brown-nosing–Joe’s article on what if the Mets hadn’t made certain moves was very entertaining and thought-provoking. Nice work boss! It got me to rummaging through the cobwebs in the corners of my brain. For reasons that are now apparent, I have stored a lot Met-related information there. I also have a copy of the revised Jack Lang’s The New York Mets: 25 Years of Baseball Magic, (which is now itself 25 years old) as the source material for this story.

As has been told and retold, the Mets have made some good trades, some bad trades and some God-awful trades. But, they have also failed to pull the trigger on several deals, deals that if made would have in all probability altered the course of the franchise. Do you remember these?

1.The Mets Don’t Get


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.


15 DUPACR: Jerry Grote

Loyal readers of MetsToday know that I’m a catcher. Do you know why I’m a catcher? Because when I first became aware of baseball (thanks to WOR and WPIX), in the mid-1970s, my two favorite players were Thurman Munson and Jerry Grote — both catchers, both wore #15. Therefore, since there are 15 Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report, we honor Jerry Grote.

Contemporary Mets fans most closely associate the number fifteen with Carlos Beltran, and that’s fine. To me, #15 on Beltran’s back is weird; it’s like seeing a single-digit number on a pitcher’s uniform, or #99 on a quarterback’s jersey. Because the number 15 (and 5, for that matter) is supposed to be a catcher’s number — but that’s my issue.

How did Jerry Grote grab my attention in my formative years? Because he was a bad ass (or a red ass, as some of his employers and teammates described him). His nasty character begins with his name — pronounced “grow-tee” — which sounds like the short name for grotesque, or gross. You didn’t need to meet him to know he was mean, you need only look at his baseball card — his grimace and threatening eyes burned through you. Grote was the catchers’ catcher, a throwback to another time. He caught with two hands, sans helmet, in a dirty uniform and with a menacing aggression.

John Strubel wrote a fitting, accurate profile of Grote earlier this winter; here is a snippet:

Grote’s desire to win led to unparalleled intensity on the field. During his 12-year career in New York, teammates labeled Grote surly, irascible, testy and moody. Then, there’s Koosman’s description: “If you looked up red-ass the dictionary, his picture would be in there. Jerry was the guy you wanted on your side, because he’d fight you tooth and nail ‘til death to win a ball game.”

Grote played with an anger and intensity that was, at times, intimidating to opponents, umpires, the media and teammates alike.

“When I came up I was scared to death of him,” said Jon Matlack, winner of the 1972 Rookie of the Year award. “If you bounced a curveball in the dirt, he’d get mad. I worried about him more than the hitter.”

Jerry Grote he had no fear, took crap from no one, and poured every last ounce of himself onto the field. Looking back at them now, his offensive numbers look underwhelming, but for the era his hitting was acceptable considering what he provided behind the plate. His first priority and main value was his ability to absolutely control the defense, call a ballgame, and properly handle a pitching staff — and his accurate, shotgun arm was lethal to would-be basestealers. In his heyday, he threw out 45-50% of basestealers and prevented many from taking off — important in the pitching-dominant NL in the late 1960s. Even into his early to mid-thirties, when his battered body was older than his age, he was able to gun down 30-35% of baserunners — which was still about average for the time.

How great was Grote behind the plate? Ask Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, both of whom included Grote in their Hall of Fame induction speeches. Intangibles may be immeasurable, but they can also be invaluable.

To this day, when I squat my creaking knees behind the dish, I channel my inner Grote — the ultimate bad ass.

Other #15s who you may remember include Claudell Washington, George Foster, Al Jackson, Rick Aguilera, Jose Vizcaino, Matt Franco, and Ron Darling (when he wasn’t wearing #12 or #44). Which #15 do you remember, and why? Post in the comments.

The countdown thus far:

#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


30 Days Until Pitchers and Catchers Report

It’s about one month before pitchers and catchers report, and it would seem that the Mets are still in the market for free agents to plug a few holes. Perhaps a reserve outfielder who can handle centerfield, for one (though they appear to have come to an agreement with the great Willie Harris), and hopefully a few more arms for the pitching staff.

Though, it’s possible the Mets don’t sign anyone of significance in the next 30 days, meaning there won’t be much to complain talk about. Let’s be serious — if the Mets “big” signings this winter are Ronny Paulino, Chris Capuano, D.J. Carrasco, and Boof Bonser, it’s unlikely they’ll acquire more exciting than that group in the final month before pitchers and catchers report. First, because there simply aren’t many interesting players available, and second, because Sandy Alderson has no threads left in his shoestring budget.

That said, what we’ll do from here on in is count down the days to spring training by remembering random players from the past who wore the uniform number of the current count. This idea was 100% inspired by reading the book Mets By The Numbers (as well as the MBTN website). So for example, today is 30, so we can remember Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Cliff Floyd, Dennis Ribant, Aaron Sele, or one of the many other once-Mets who wore uniform #30. But which one should we focus on?

Ryan and Scott represent painful memories — the two aces that “got away”. Granted, at the time he was dealt for Jim “friggin” Fregosi, Ryan had issues with blisters and bases on balls, the Mets were loaded with young pitching, but light on offense, so there was a tiny hint of logic in the move. Had Ryan stayed, the Mets’ rotation of Seaver, Koosman, Ryan, and Matlack would have compared to the 2011 Phillies’ — but for all we know, it would have simply resulted in more 2-1 losses and the same amount of third-place finishes; their offense was THAT bad.

Scott stunk as a Met — he was so bad, getting Danny Heep in return seemed like a steal. It wasn’t until Roger Craig taught Scott how to scuff the ball for more movement throw a split-fingered fastball that he became dominant.

Aaron Sele holds a special place in the Mets bullpen; for all we know, he’s still sitting down there, right now, playing cards and waiting for Willie Randolph to call him into a game.

Ribant might be a good player to focus on, since he was the very first Mets starter to finish a season with a winning record (11-9 in 1966). Such a feat represents hope.

And it is spring training that hopes eternal … er … or something, right? So for me, the perfect former #30 to focus on right now is


Mets Fans’ Dream Come True

OK, maybe seeing the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers face off in the World Series isn’t exactly a “dream” for a Mets fan. But a World Series played between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees is pretty much a Mets fan’s worst nightmare, isn’t it?

Even though the Giants used to play in the Polo Grounds, and wear the same shade of orange as the Mets, I have a hard time rooting for them — mainly because they are an NL rival. Further, I just can’t bring my self to pull for specific players on the Giants; namely, Tim Lincecum, Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, and Guillermo Mota. And I don’t find “fear the beard” to be particularly inspiring, either.

At the same time, it’s hard for me to favor a team that plays in the Adulterated League — the one that continues to experiment with the designated pinch hitter rather than engage in real baseball. But I happen to like watching some of the Rangers players (Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Jorge Cantu, Cliff Lee, Darren O’Day, Darren Oliver, and Jeff Francoer top the list), and I’m eager to see Nolan Ryan succeed — mainly because of his dedication to developing pitchers based on sound mechanics and conditioning rather than pitch counts and other inane recommendations by surgeons.

Tough call, but I’m leaning toward rooting for the Rangers.

Which team will you be rooting for, and why?


Red Murff Passes

Red Murff, the New York Mets scout who discovered Nolan Ryan, died at the age of 87 in a Tyler, Texas nursing home on Friday.

The former Milwaukee Braves pitcher had a brief Major League career in the 1950s — making his rookie debut at age 35 — before moving to coaching and scouting. He was mentioned during Ryan’s Hall of Fame induction speech:

“He thought when he saw me at 6-foot-2 and 140 pounds, he wasn’t discouraged by my build and by the way I threw the baseball as many other scouts were,” Ryan said. “And I appreciate the fact that Red spent so much time with me and worked to help me become a better pitcher. Thank you, Red.”

Murff was instrumental in creating the baseball program at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, and was named to the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Texas Scouts Association Hall of Fame in 1999.

Said James Vilade, a family friend:

“He was an amazing person,” Vilade said. “He lived a long life and was a great ambassador to the game of baseball.

“He was an inspiration to all. Even after he retired he inspired kids to be great baseball players and great citizens.”

In addition to Nolan Ryan, Murff also signed Mets standout catcher Jerry Grote, and is credited for encouraging Phil Niekro to use the knuckleball in game situations.