Tag: tom seaver

Could Tom Seaver Have Been Even Better?

In the event you don’t subscribe to The Fix podcast, you may want to listen to season 2, episode 4, which, among other things explains how Tom Seaver might have been able to throw with even more velocity than he did in his career, by making one change to his stride. Find out the flaw that robbed Tom Terrific of MPH.

Also, the show goes into detail on torn flexor tendons, Gavin Floyd‘s olecranon fracture, how 38-year-old Matt Thornton can still throw 95+ MPH, and a thorough explanation of Josh Edgin‘s stretched UCL. Yes, much of this news is a week late, but all of the lessons and information contained within is timeless. If you’re a pitcher or coach or parent of a pitcher, you’ll learn something helpful.

Listen below or go directly to BlogTalkRadio.

Check Out Baseball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with On Baseball on BlogTalkRadio
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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.

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The Endy Chavez Encore and 10 Other Double-Duty Mets

A recent NYDN article indicated that the Mets have “discussed” a reunion with OF Endy Chavez. FWIW, I am in favor of this deal and hope it gets done. One of my reasons for this is that if Endy dons the orange and blue again, he becomes an interesting part of Mets History—players who have had two tours of duty with the Mets.

Technically, this would be Endy’s third go round with the Mets. First he was in their farm system from 1997-2001. He returned and played for the big club from 2006 through the end of the 2008 season before departing to Seattle in the massive three-team, twelve player deal that December.

So how have other encore performances worked out for the Mets? We’re glad you asked!
1. Rusty Staub (1972-75, 1981-85): This is the best recycled player the franchise has had to date. After a four year stint with the Mets where he hit 62 homers and drove in 307 runs, the Mets shipped Le Grande Orange to Detroit for Mickey Lolich after the 1975 season, easily one of the worst deals in franchise history. Six years later, Frank Cashen undid that move and Staub returned to the Mets as a free agent. In 1983, he tied an NL record with eight straight pinch-hits and in that same season also tied the Major League record of 25 RBIs by a pinch hitter. He lasted until 1985, providing veteran leadership for a team on the rise. One of the more beloved Mets, he was later elected into the Mets Hall of Fame.
2. Lee Mazzilli (1976-82, 1986-89): Boy, I seem to blog about Maz often and for good reason: he has a fascinating history as a Met. His first stint from 1976 through 1981 coincided with one of the worst periods in team history. He was dealt to Texas before the 1982 season for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell, a deal largely credited (by me at least) in sparking the franchise’s resurgence. In 1986 the Mets picked him back up on waivers from the Pirates and he played an important part of their championship team. He hit .306 the next year and his career with the Mets continued until 1989.
3. Dave Kingman (1975-77, 1981-83): Dave clubbed 62 home runs for the Mets, some of them legendary, during his first two and a half seasons with the club. He also struck out 344 times in 1,208 ABs, couldn’t field a lick and was a surly clubhouse presence. He was shipped to San Diego as part of the June 15 1977 “Midnight Massacre.” The Mets re-acquired him before the 1981 season for Steve Henderson, another one of the trade principles from that fateful June evening. It was more of the same: Kong hit 52 homeruns and struck out 334 times in 1,136 at bats. His personality hadn’t changed and the Mets were glad to see him go after the 1983 season.
4. Tom Seaver (1966-76, 1983): The Worst Trade in Mets History (a.k.a the Midnight Massacre) sent their Franchise Player to Cincinnati in 1977. (Kingman went to San Diego in a separate deal that same night). Cashen undid that move by trading back for him in 1983. Tom lasted a season with the Mets, going 9 and 14 before being exposed a free agent compensation draft and getting claimed by the White Sox. I will always wonder why the Mets couldn’t have traded a prospect or two to the Sox instead and kept him. Seaver later moved to Boston and created a “what if” scenario, as an injury kept him off the Bosox active roster during the 1986 World Series.
5. Kevin McReynolds (1987-1991, 1994): Forgot this one? Kevin came to symbolize all that was wrong with the late 1980’s Mets and was run out of town in 1991. His replacement was Vince Coleman, who came to symbolize all that was wrong with the early 1990’s Mets until he was run out of town after the 1993 season—to Kansas City for McReynolds. K-Mac hit .256 during the strike-shortened 1994 season and then called it a career.
6. Jason Isringhausen (1995-99, 2011): Nice story last year, but is probably moving on again. His first go round with the Mets is worth a post in itself.
7. Tim Foli (1970-71, 78-79): Ah, Crazy Horse. Traded for Staub and then had his contract purchased by the Mets from the Giants in 1978. Later traded again, this time to Pittsburgh in early 1979 for Frank Taveras; a move that I loved at the time. He helped Pittsburgh win a World Series the next year.
8. Mike Jorgensen (1970-71, 1980-83): Traded with Foli and Ken Singleton for Staub prior to the 1972 season. Came back to the Mets in 1980 with Ed Lynch in a deal for Willie Montanez (not a bad trade!) The Mets sold his contract to Atlanta in 1983 on the same day they acquired Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals. Nice Upgrade.
9. Bill Pulsipher (1995-98, 2000): Can’t miss prospect that missed. Twice.
10. Bobby Bonilla (1992-95, 1999): Hard to believe, but his second stint with the Mets was worse than his first. The Mets are now paying him a million a year until around 2025.

Honorable Mentions: Kelly Stinnett, Alex Trevino, Ray Sadecki, Al Jackson, Bob L. Miller and David Cone.

Did I miss anyone?

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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

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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

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Happy Birthday Pat Zachry

pat-zachryThe day June 15, 1977 lives in infany as the darkest day in Mets history.

For those too young to remember, it was the day that the Mets traded “The Franchise” — Tom Seaver — to the Reds in return for a gaggle of Cincinnati’s worst “top prospects”: Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn, Dan Norman, and young hurler Pat Zachry. In addition, Dave Kingman was also traded on the same day — the Mets’ only offensive force at the time.

Zachry, born on April 24, 1952, was a stringbean of a pitcher with a scruffy beard, standing 6’5″ and weighing about 180 lbs. Though he managed winning records in ’77, ’78, and ’79, he never quite escaped the shadow of that fateful day, nor the fact that he replaced Seaver in the Mets’ rotation. Though he showed promise as a 24-year-old rookie in 1976, going 14-7 for the Big Red Machine, Zachry never won more than 7 games in a season after the age of 26 — the victim of woeful run support and injuries to his foot (he kicked a dugout step after allowing Pete Rose to tie the NL record for hits in consecutive games) and, later, his elbow.

Another happy birthday shout out goes to Carlos Beltran, who ironically, was born on this date in 1977.

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