NY Mets: Continuing Down the Road of Stupidity

I don’t believe for one second that those fans
on the BR who read my work would argue with anyone about how passionate
I am about this team. It’s no secret that I’m not a youngster like my
three favorite proteges Mike Kent, Nick Adamo, and Nick Carlo but each
one of them will tell you that the Mets are my first love and have been
so since 1962.

This is not a plug for my “Anatomy of a Franchise series either.

I’m just frustrated as we all are about the current status of the
Mets 2009 season. We can talk about all the injuries until we are blue
in the face and we know that we can’t change what has happened in the
past but you would think this organization could at least learn from
it. Do they? No.

The case of Gary Sheffield has me most disturbed today as I see that
after all he has accomplished this year the Mets have decided more
likely than not to cut the strings and let this guy, who virtually held
this team together for 4 months, and send him on his way.

I have been a Sheffield fan for his entire career. Sure, there are a
lot of negative comments out there about his past but no one can doubt
his competitive nature and isn’t that what every team needs to have on
and off the field?

To this day in his 40th year he is still intimidating at the plate
waving his bat and showing the bat speed of a 30 year old in his prime.

When I wrote this article
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/183888-so-gary-sheffield-to-the-mets-is-ridiculous-right-wrong
on May 20th I was so pleased that Gary was living up to his billing and
my thought even then was if we would get back our injured players he
would surely look good surrounded by Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado.

However we all know that didn’t happen so what did Gary do. He
played well, he played hurt, he mentored just about every position
player the Mets have. He provided the well needed leadership that was
lacking on this team for so long.

David Wright was instrumental in bringing Gary to the Mets. He
recognized long before our faithful fans that Gary was a perfect fit
for this team regardless of whether he played 3 games a week or 6.

So now what do the Mets do? They put him on waivers. He was claimed
by the Giants so they pulled him back. Now they have an opportunity to
lock him up and finish his stellar career in a New York Mets uniform,
his dream team since his uncle Dwight Gooden played for us in the 80’s,
and go out of here directly into the Hall of Fame.

The Mets pulled him back from waivers and now more likely than not
they will release him. He will go to a contender and help them into the
playoffs and what do the Mets get out of it? Nothing.

This is a continuous problem that the Mets organization have had
throughout their history. The make stupid impulsive decisions without
weighing the potential consequences. I have said this since they fired
Willie Randolph, for all he did was win games as the Mets manager, and
they continue to make these ridiculous moves as other teams help
themselves we go backwards under the less than stellar leadership of
the Wilpons, Omar and Jerry.

Mark my words everyone, I know this team as well or if not better
than any of us out there and I can tell you for sure that unless there
are major changes made in this off season in the Mets organization we
will be watching World Series parades down Broad Street for the next 10
years and that’s no exaggeration.

Please will someone in this organization please listen to the voice
of reason and intelligence if I don’t say so myself. Even my 3 amigos,
I expect are going to be on my side with this, maybe. I just have to
get Nick Adamo in a good mood. I’ll probably have to trade him my QB or
something like that.

 

Omar Minaya: You Should Have Listened

Of course, one game does not make a season but one must
wonder why after the struggles the Mets pitching staff have had this
year why Omar Minaya, supposedly a close personal friend of Pedro
Martinez, didn’t sign the oft injured pitcher both before or even after
the season started.

I started this bandwagon all the way back in October.
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/82617-pedro-martinez-one-of-many-reasons.
At that point looked upon all the intangibles that Pedro brings to a
team including among others, a compulsion to win, a teacher, a
motivator, a leader on and off the field, a loose fun guy that players
want to have around, and a living legend who your own stars like
Santana, Reyes, Delgado and Beltran look up to and respect.

Not to mention if Pedro was on the roster how hard do you think
Manny would have pushed Boras to sign with the Mets and if you don’t
believe that you are foolish?

As the season got closer and it looked like there was going to be a
competition for the number 5 spot on the rotation I brought it up
again.
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/132073-omar-for-the-last-time-please-re-sign-pedro.

Here I talked about the fact I didn’t think Pedro was done at all
and explained that the type of injury he had required about 18 months
to fully heal but more important was the fact that I tried to point out
that Pedro was not the type of man that would “quit” on a bad note and
his legacy to finish as a star was motivation enough to put out
credible performances game after game after game.

I pointed out in this next article
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/124549-fighting-for-the-five-spot.
that the Mets had three pitchers coming off surgeries that although
appeared to be OK anything could happen. Well it did. John Maine is off
the shelf for the year. Pelfrey has taken a step backwards from last
year, although if you remember he wasn’t the same pitcher down the
stretch last year as he was in mid-season, and Ollie is just Ollie.

The 5 spot in our rotation has given us far less than Pedro could
have done. In fact the second through 5 spot has given us some of the
worst numbers in baseball this year. Let me share.

Excluding Johan Santana (thank goodness for him) here’s some ugly
numbers for you. Those who have started games for the Mets this year
only Jon Niese and Nelson Figueroa have a better than 2-1 strike out to
walk ratio. The rest, well check out this mess, 343 strike outs to 254
walks and that includes Jon and Nelson. That’s the worst in the league.
They have won 31 games and lost 32. They have a combined ERA of 5.37.

Pedro’s numbers last night in his first appearance. He had 5 strike
outs and 1 walk. He gave up 3 runs in 5 innings and was in complete
control. He struck out both Derrick Lee and Soriano with vintage Pedro
change ups and hit 90+ on the gun when he had to. Two of the hits he
gave up were bloops and looked just as fresh when he finished as when
he started.

Now maybe he won’t go 5-1 the rest of the way but his infusion into
the already solid Phillies rotation looks like a sure bet that the
Phillies are primed for a long playoff run come October while Omar’s
band of retreads will have us fight to stay ahead of Washington’s surge
for 4th place in the NL East.

Yes, Omar, I told you so and told all those critics of Pedro that
this mans career was far from over and I already know what their
response will be. They will say two things. First, will be but he’s
only pitched one game and the second, will be of course, he will win
because the Phillies average about a trillion runs per game.

What I would like to hear is Omar come out and make a statement like
“I made a mistake, and should have signed Pedro when I had the chance”.
If he did something like that I would back him 100% and fight to see
him return. Will he do that and finally take responsibility for any of
his poor decisions? Of course he won’t and that’s why he will be gone
no more than 5 days after the season ends.

I wonder if the next guy is smart enough to sign Pedro to a two year
contract. I doubt it. Too bad, I guess some people will never learn.

“Anatomy of a Franchise” New York Mets: Part VI – Building For Greatness

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I want to dedicate this part of my self proclaimed series to
Cathy. She is wife number two and although we are no longer together, she
remains my dear friend. She gave me an incredible, bright, beautiful daughter
and she deserves to be nominated for sainthood for putting up with me for 14
truly bi-polar years. Cathy who taught me that out of every bad can become a
good, the only person whom I ever met that really put others in front of themselves,
I thank you for pointing and guiding me in the right direction. You are truly a
special one of a kind person.

 

1981 dawned bright for the Mets and me because I began to
think we were both on the same path of rebuilding for greatness. The Mets had
lost 95 games in 1980 and the “streak” and my marriage to Ellen was over. By
years end the talk of a possible player’s lockout didn’t strike me as too
serious a possibility since Cathy and I decided to tie the knot, and that we
did, on November 9th 1980.

 

I made her a promise that we would not attend any Mets games
together and she was OK with that because baseball was not anywhere near the
top of her priority list. Besides I had a ten year old son and an eight year
old daughter and they would make great partners to my many planned trips to the
Vet to see the World Champion Phillies take on my Mets.

 

I need to clarify a point about my fan hood after I received
many comments about my rooting for the Phillies during their great run from
1976-1983. I never rooted for them in any game they played against the Mets no
matter how far out of the race the Mets were and although I was rightly
disturbed at the Mets organization and the way they ran things then ( and still
do today) I could never under any circumstances change my loyalties.

 

During the next 5 years the Mets were about to change the
perception at that time from laughingstock to world champion and the team that
everybody outside Brooklyn and Queens loved to
hate.

 

Frank Cashen was brought in to be the General Manager if
February of 1980 and although the Mets still had three straight losing seasons,
one could see the handwriting on the wall and the excitement certainly found
it’s way heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike.

 

The Mets finally got it together in the amateur draft by
getting, Daryl Strawberry, Roger McDowell and Dwight Gooden. His trading for
Keith Hernandez, Howard Johnson, Gary Carter, Sid Fernandez and Ron Darling set
the nucleus for what some have called the greatest team ever for one single season
that was 1986.

 

The 1981 team was managed by Joe Torre. Nobody at the time
could have ever possibly imagined the future success that Joe would have
achieved. In 1981, he had finished a very solid career with the St. Louis
Cardinals and was entering his fourth year as manager of the Mets.

 

Here’s the 1981 starting lineup for the New York Mets.

 

Mookie Wilson   LF

Frank Taveras  SS

Dave Kingman 1B

Rusty Staub      RF
Lee Mazzilli     CF
Alex Trevino      C
Hubie Brooks  3B

Doug Flynn      2B
Pat Zachry          P

 

This was a historical year for baseball. For the first
time in Major League history there was a stoppage of play during the regular
season. This situation began what many people have called the end of baseballs
supremacy as America’s Sport and greed on both sides can, in my opinion, be
spread equally causing a real mess in what was supposed to be a great year for
baseball.

 

June 11th was the last game the Mets would
play in earnest for two full months. I could not imagine myself without
baseball. If it were not for the fact that I was managing Russ’ little league
team that year I might have gone completely nuts.

 

I did manage to go to 3 games against the Phillies that
year in June. At this point at time I’m going to bring a new character into the
series. His name is Gary.
He lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and he simply is the most
addicted Phillies fan of all times.

 

Gary
was just starting his accounting business in 1981. He had a booth in Montgomery Ward on Route 38 in Cherry
Hill and he was pimping his newly formed Tax Return business.
Cathy and I were shopping there one day when she said to me “Rich, since you
haven’t filed a tax return for the past three years don’t you think it might be
a good idea to talk to this guy?”

 

What happened next is something you can only get in Hollywood. Not only did I
make an appointment to talk to Gary in his office, (in the attic of his
Moorestown band box of a home), but it turns out, after he mentioned a letter
he got from his Grandmother, that my Grandmother and his Great Grandmother were
first cousins, or something like that. I have forgotten by now the connection.

 

So now I find that my accountant is my cousin and worse
still and avid, to say the leas,t Phillies fan and from this point forward our
lives would intertwine for the next 28+ years.

 

So it was Gary and I who went to this Phillies Mets
series at the Vet. The Phillies won two out of three; I kept looking around for
Ellen during the first two games. In the first game Larry Christenson
outpitched Pat Zachry but the dull pain I got leaving the stands that day was
that Tug McGraw got the save for the Phil’s. That pain was still festering
pretty well in 1981.

 

The usual suspects Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa
and Gary Maddox all had two hits with Gary Maddox hitting a winning two run
homer in the 8th off Neil Allen who at the time was my favorite Mets
pitcher.

 

The next day, the Phillies and Pete Rose who had 3 hits
beat up on Mike Scott, who later would become a Mets killer in 1986, and Ed
Lynch as the Phillies beat the Mets 9-7. Gary
was his usual talkative self and proclaimed the Phillies would repeat as World
Champions in 1981. I have to give him credit. He doesn’t say things like that
any more probably because it took the Phillies 28 years to win another
championship and despite the fact that this year I think they have a great
chance to repeat, Gary is still saying it’s a long season. I wonder if he
realizes it’s already August.

 

The next game I finally got a little measure of revenge.
At least we didn’t get swept and believe me Phillies fans must have pretty
dirty homes because Veterans Stadium is one place that you never ever have to
wonder about having enough brooms on hand.

 

On June 3rd we finally got to Dick Ruthven with a 4 run 8th
inning to break up a close game. Neil Allen got the save and Greg Harris who
only played one year out of 15 in a Mets uniform got the win.

 

The Mets finished the “first half” at 17-34 and in last
place, but after a two month layoff when baseball resumed on Aug 10th, The Mets
went 24- 28 the rest of the way.

 

In 1982 and 1983 the Mets lost 90+ games both years but
on June 15th 1983, the Mets traded my guy, Neil Allen and Rick
Ownbey to the Cardinals for Keith Hernandez. Keith brought to the team a
certain amount of legitimacy that would carry over for the next few years which
would culminate in four incredible seasons, 1985 through 1988.

 

Joe Torre was replaced in 1982 with George Bamberger, a
nice old guy who brought absolutely nothing to the table. Perhaps a little more
patience with Joe Torre is great 20-20 hindsight but it took the Mets to lose
127 games before Bamberger was replaced by the gentle giant Frank Howard to
finish the 1983 season.

 

In 1984 Davey Johnson was hired to lead the Mets to
greater heights. Johnson was known to Mets fans for making the final out of the
1969 World Series against the Baltimore
Orioles.

 

By 1984 the Mets had a completely new look. The starting
lineup looked like this.

 

Wally Backman      
2B

Jose Oquendo         
SS

Keith Hernandez    
1B

George Foster         
LF

Daryl Strawberry   
RF

Hubie Brooks         
3B

Mookie Wilson       
CF

Ron Hodges            
C

Mike Torrez            
P

 

Mike Torrez was certainly at the end of his career when he
stepped on the mound for the Mets on opening day. As it turned out he gave up
six runs and six his in an inning and a third and that was pretty much it for
Torrez career in the MLB.

 

Dick Tidrow another pitcher at the end of his career also
saw action with the Mets that day. I guess his 9.19 ERA was enough for the Mets
to see that his career was over as well.

 

The reason I bring this up is that this seems to be a
never ending problem with the Mets organization that has with them for the full
47 years of their existence. They have a dream that somewhere in their wildest
imagination some over the hill player will find lightning in a bottle and lead
this team to the Promised Land.

 

“Hey guy, The Natural was a MOVIE”.

 

After losing that opening game in Cincinnati the Mets
rattled off six wins, then lost three in a row, won three in row and lost three
in a row again. It sure looked like this was a team trying to find its own
identity.

 

By June 1st they were 22 – 22 and didn’t look
like a team ready to challenge anyone. June was better as they won five more
games than they lost. I had already gone to 4 out of the six games the Phillies
played the Mets at the Vet and the Phillies won both series 2 games to 1.
Unfortunately I went to the 4 losses. I spent most of those days searching the
stands for Ellen.

 

By the All-Star break the Mets had won nine out of their
next ten and were officially contending for the NL East. Right from the break
they took three out of four from the Braves in Atlanta and were right in the thick of the
race.

 

By July 28th the Mets were 59-37 in first
place and on a roll. Then all they did was drop the next seven games and wound
up finishing 2nd with a 90-72 record.

 

I managed to get to one more Mets Phillies game in
September and finally I got to see a Mets victory. They came from behind with
three in the 7th and three in the 9th to win 8-5. Daryl
hit a tremendous blast off Al Holland in the ninth inning with two out and two
on to put the cherry on top of the day. Mookie, Daryl and Hubie all had two
hits.

 

On May 5th 1983 Cathy gave me a baby girl who
I promptly named after Jamie Lee Curtis. I spelled it Jaime Leigh. To see where
she’s at take a look at

 

jldragonfly.deviantart.com

 

 

Part VII will deal with the four most exciting seasons I
witnessed as a fan of the Mets for all 47 seasons. 1985-1988 was absolutely
fantastic. I went on my own personal in game winning streak that I doubt I will
ever see again. They were truly great years. I sure hope you will share them
with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omar Minaya: Chance For Redemption

One thing has been apparent to me as a Mets fan for 47 years. The most
important thing on my mind and my most important priority is for the
team to win. I challenge every Met fan on site to disagree that
although we care about everything that is “Mets”, winning takes the
prize.

For better or worse for the past couple of years we have
discussed both the good and bad moves that Omar Minaya, the Mets
General Manager, has made. Personally I have flipped flopped so many
times I feel like a spinning dredel not knowing which side I’m going to
land on.

I loved the moves that got Pedro, both Carlos, Johan
and K-Rod to the Mets. I cringed with Castillo signing and the bringing
to the team to 40+ geriatrics to this club. I felt there were deals
that could have happened and questioned many those that did.

Along
with everyone else including Vegas Sportsbook Directors, we all thought
the Mets with there improved bullpen would certainly be able to make up
the ground to the Phillies even though they improved themselves this
winter as well.

We all know what happened and although there is
still a glimmer of hope because Jerry has finally learned, and admitted
as such, that a set lineup is the way to go, the climb back to playoff
contention does not rest on a 4 game winning streak.

Omar
certainly reached a low point in his tenure this week and all the
damage control that Wildon’s are trying to do still leaves Omar in an
untenable position of having to speak to the media on a regular basis
and try to convince them that he is sincere and righteous with them.
Author Poll

Would You Make This Deal?

* Yes
* No

This
is not a position any General Manager wants to find himself in
especially in New York where the scrutiny is 1000 times more than any
other city in the world.

OK, so is there anything that Omar can
do do redeem himself with the Mets faithful and at the same time put
his team in a better position not only to get back into the race with
60 games to go but to once gain be considered one of the favorites for
2010?

The answer is Roy Halladay. He is available for the right
price and don’t kid your self, the Mets have the goods to get him but
it’s not going to come cheap.

First it’s a well known fact what
the Blue Jays must have to get this deal done. They want a major league
pitcher who is with the big club. They want another pitcher or two, one
with the big club and one a very good prospect who within 2-3 years
would easily fit into the rotation and one regular high level prospect
who will be a quality major league hitter.

The Phillies have not
made that offer, neither have the Angels. It was once reported the Mets
did so. That wasn’t true because if that original offer was made by the
Blue Jays even Omar would have jumped all over it.

I like Mike
Pelfrey a lot. He has shown tremendous improvement over the last three
years and who really knows what his ceiling is. Could it be as high as
Roy Halladay? I believe not. Here’s the package that the Blue Jays
would not turn down. Why?, because it’s infinitely better than what any
team has offered them so far.

Along with Mike Peffrey, the Mets
would send Bobby Parnell, Brad Holt and Ike Davies to the Jays. Maybe
they will throw a minor prospect back at us in return. Frankly, I don’t
care if they do or they don’t.

Ray Halladay, as we speak is the
best pitcher in baseball. A combination of Halladay and Santana would
make CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett look pale in comparison. I would make
this offer right now before some other team like the Phillies up their
offer and give them both Happ and Drabeck plus two of their top hitting
prospects.

Omar, this is you chance for redemption. Make this
deal and 95% of the negativity you are now receiving will do an about
face. If you want to have a job next year despite your “vote of
confidence”, I would suggest you get on this immediately and while
you’re at it, I’d give your buddy Adam Rubin a call and give him this
exclusive. You owe him that much.

Taking All MLB Bets Here

A little change of pace here. There are some of us out there that
take shots about our teams, our opponents, ownership, managers and
players. How many comments have I seen where people say I could do
better than these guys.

So now living in Vegas, and being right there for the action and the
money that changes hands every second, 24 hours 7 days a week. I
stopped at a sports book this morning and grabbed a couple of betting
prop sheets. Here are some of the latest odds for baseball for the
remainder of the season.

Now if you want you can put your money where your mouth is and send
Vegas Rich all your money so I could place your bets. Of course I can
also wind up disappearing for a while after I get the dough.

I hear Cabo is very nice this time of year.

Odds to Win 2009 National League Pennant

TEAM                                         OPENING LINE                     CURRENT LINE

Dodgers                                            7/1                                     7/5

Phillies                                              4/1                                     3/1

Cubs                                                2/1                                     9/2

Cardinals                                           9/1                                     6/1

Giants                                              15/1                                    9/1

Brewers                                            15/1                                   12/1

Astros                                              15/1                                   12/1

Rockies                                            20/1                                    12/1

Marlins                                             15/1                                    16/1

Mets                                                 3/1                                    18/1

Braves                                              12/1                                   22/1

Reds                                                 17/1                                  29/1

Diamondbacks                                     8/1                                   90/1

Pirates                                              40/1                                  90/1

Padres                                              40/1                                  110/1

Nationals                                           40/1                                  500/1

The biggest disappointment by far for those who made their bets in
April are the New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks. Both teams were
solid picks in their division to go on to the playoffs and advance to
the series. Neither one right now apparently to the Las Vegas
odds-makers have a chance. The Dodgers due to their excellent play all
season long have made the biggest jump to become the overall favorite
right now but in talking to a number of bettors this morning, the sexy
pick is now the St. Louis Cardinals after their recent pick ups.

I see the Phillies heading back to the series with about 60 games to
go. They are pitching well enough but when a team steps on the field
each day and expects to score 8 runs or more each game they know they
are in pretty good shape. Vegas thinks so too.

My Longshot of longshots  – The Atlanta Braves.

Odds to win 2009 American League Pennant

TEAM                              OPENING LINE                             CURRENT LINE

Yankees                                  Even                                        2/1

Red Sox                                   5/2                                          2/1

Tigers                                     10/1                                         9/2

Angels                                     3/1                                          5/1

Rays                                       3/1                                          10/1

Rangers                                   21/1                                        11/1

White Sox                                10/1                                        14/1

Twins                                      7/1                                          15/1

Mariners                                   35/1                                        25/1

Blue Jays                                  15/1                                        35/1

A’s                                          20/1                                        90/1

Orioles                                     40/1                                        90/1

Royals                                      30/1                                       95/1

Indians                                      8/1                                       115/1

The biggest disappointment to date in the AL would be the Rays and
the Twins. People who bet on the Tigers and the Rangers are feeling
pretty good about their chances for once in the playoffs anything can
and surely will happen.

I still like my April pick of the Red Sox but I’m not ruling out the
Rays. New York is known for September collapses and this year will be
no different. This time I see the Yankees folding like a bad hand at
the World Series of poker. Sorry HBOB.

My Longshot of longshots: The Texas Rangers.

I take all types of cards except Christmas Cards.LOL.

NY Mets Help From Below: Why Not Now?

There is certainly not a
Omar Minaya who is seen as a “Dead Man Walking” if Tony B. remains in
the Mets front office, but this is not necessarily about either of them
yet it’s about both of them. Makes sense yet? I didn’t think so.

We need to set the ground rules for this discussion if you want to
take blasts at me in the comment section. First off if you believe for
one second that the Mets have a chance to go about 48 wins over the
next 65 games or so please move onto the next Mets article.

If you believe like I do, and was one of the first people to tell
you to pack it up and “Wait Til Next Year” at my mid season report, then
I would be extremely interested in your comments both pro and con.

Forget the trade deadline, the other teams don’t see the Mets being
able to help them get better and we don’t plan to give up whatever good
prospects we hope we have and totally kill a barren farm system that we
have.

OK, with that said it is customary for teams, usually the ones out
of the race, to start to make call ups from their farm systems when the
roster is expanded to 40 players on September 1st. Then the team gets a
chance to evaluate those players and see how they fare against far
superior pitching and hitters if they are pitchers.

When contenders call up these guys most of them languish on the
bench and by osmosis they are expected to “feel” like they are in the
major leagues. Once in awhile a team strikes lightening in a bottle and
someone makes a splash in September and ultimately goes on to great
things.

Author Poll Results

Who would be the first player non pitcher you would bring up?

  • Feliciano

  • Thole

  • Tejada

  • Peterson

  • Garcia

  • Other

  • None

Those guys are sure fire prospects that are supposed to succeed.

The Mets are far from loaded down on the farm considering that both
their AAA and AA teams are at the bottom of their divisions, but there
are some interesting players in there that I personally would like to
see take a swat or a pitch at today’s big leagues.

My point is, can it really hurt? Can they do any worse than those
players we have out there now? Plus if the answer is yes it would be
worse, I ask you so what? The worst thing that could happen is we move
up a couple of spots in the amateur draft.

So I ask you to look at these guys. I know you could make a case for
each of them not to come up. I can too, but again so what? Some might
say if they come up and are over matched it will hurt their confidence
for the future. NONSENSE. These guys are spending their entire life’s
existence to play this game on the highest level. I’m not worried about
their confidence and I’m sure they’re not as well.

From Buffalo. That’s an easy one.

Nelson Figueroa: 6-4 2.32 ERA 80/23 strike out to walk ratio.

Jon Niese:  5-6 3.82 ERA 2 complete games, 2 shutouts, won five of
his last six starts, and has an 86/26 SO to BB ratio. I guess he’s
worked on his fastball because his curve was already ML ready.

From Binghamton. Now this is where I say “what the heck, go for it”

Josh Thole: .341 BA .409 OBP and 858 OPS. NOOOOOOO let’s just keep Brian Schneider in there.

Ruben Tejada: .278, .350, .714. NOOOOO let’s bring back A. Reyes and Angel Berora and Ramon Martinez, yeahhhhhhhh

Josh Peterson:  .326, .409,  .851 NOOOO let’s keep having Tatis lead the world in double plays. Come on.

Emmanuel Garcia: .263, .315, .668. He only has 17 stolen bases. When
David Wright leads the team in SB’s you know you’re in trouble and when
was last time he stole a base? Thanks Jerry, you moron. Sorry, I get
carried away. Old guy that I am.

Tobi Stoner:  2-2, 2.68 ERA 28/13 SO/BB ratio and how about a 0.87 WHIP.

Believe me, these guys may just be a spark to those guys who we
don’t send down in their place just to let them know we mean business
and if you don’t produce while 10 games behind we have taken the first
steps in re-making this team which is not such a bad idea.

“Anatomy of a Franchise” New York Mets: Part V – Grants Tomb

1974 was a big transition year for me. For the first time in my 29
years I was venturing out of the safety net of the New York City,
Connecticut, and New York State area and venturing into new uncharted
Philadelphia Phillies territory down the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 4
better known to most as Cherry Hill.

We actually didn’t live
there but close enough so that when people asked me where I lived that
was the most recognizable. Later, after just a few months there, it
became simply known as South Jersey which in reality is a state all of
its own.

Unlike North Jersey that has a healthy selection of
New York Mets fans, in 1974 there was only one New York Met fan in
South Jersey. Me, and here I was starting a new job, in a new area
still only 90 miles away that seemed like another continent.

South
Jersey starts just below Trenton, goes east to the Jersey Shore to
Seaside Heights, and south to Cape May. It is completely 100%
Philadelphia fans in every sport out there and maybe some time
somewhere in the future during football season I will tell a similar
story about the Eagles, but for this series the Phillies ultimately
play a pivotal role in my life.

The Mets were coming off a
pretty surprising season ending to 1973. The won the National league
Pennant beating the Big Red Machine and went to game seven of the World
Series before losing out to the Oakland Athletics.

Hopes and
aspirations were high for the Mets and I was as excited as the rest. In
those days being a fan was just that. I believed everything I read and
I saw nothing but positives in the world around me. Are you listening
both Nick’s and Mike Kent? The Mets were good the year before so why
think they would be anything less.

Here’s their 1974 opening day line up.

1. Wayne Garrett 3B
2. Felix Millan 2B
3. Rusty Staub RF
4. Cleon Jones LF
5. John Milner 1B
6. Jerry Grote C
7. Don Hahn CF
8 Bud Harrelson SS
9. Tom Seaver P

Not
a bad lineup. Nothing scary like a Big Red Machine but pretty solid
offensively and a sound defense and the pitching staff of Seaver,
Koosman and Matlock that wasn’t too shabby. Should have made a pretty
decent year, yes? NO! The Mets finished with a 71-91 record and a 5th
place finish.

The “Big Three” were terrible. Seaver went 11-11.
Koosman went 15-11 and Matlack was 13-15. Tug McGraw went 6-11 in
relief with 3 saves. Cleon Jones had the highest batting average for
the starters at .282 and John Milner lead the team with 20 home runs
and 70 runs scored. Rusty led the team with 78 RBI’s. The team just
plain stunk.

I had the mis-fortune not to travel back to the NYC
and see Met home games at Shea and that begin a twenty year period
where I only made 5 trips to see the Mets at Shea Stadium but had the
opportunity to go to over 100 games against the Phillies and others at
Veterans Stadium which I’ll say at this point in time was one of, if
not, the worst baseball park to watch a game in that I have ever
attended.

As bad as it was, it was still a chance to watch my
team for better and mostly worse at this time as a visitor in a foreign
land.

The Mets got off to a terrible start that year and never
recovered. By June 1st they were 8 games below .500 and by the All Star
Break they were 13 games below and done for the year. I went to 2 games
that year with Ellen and I wondered if her streak would now continue on
the road as well.

The first game was on June 22nd and even then
some faithful Met fans would travel down from the city but nothing like
it would be in the mid 80’s when the Mets got back on top. The Phillies
took a 5-0 lead into the fifth inning and the game was over. Mike
Schmidt had a hit, Larry Bowa had 3 and Dave Cash had 2. I could tell
then that they had the makings of a special team but that would come
really into play during the next 5 years. The final Score was 5-2. We
didn’t talk on the way home.

The second game we went to that
year was in September, the first of a three game series. There was
virtually no one there since the Phillies would end the season going
80-82 and when the Phillies didn’t win they hardly drew big crowds. So
we sat right over the Mets dugout about 4 rows up and the Phillie
Phanatic, who was just getting hit feet wet then, was the most
entertaining part of the festivities.

Once again this time by
the 4th inning the Mets were down 4-0 but they scored two runs in the
fourth. It wasn’t enough as Steve Carlton won his then 16th game of the
year and once again Larry Bowa had three more hits and I was beginning
to wish that my team could have the likes of a Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt
and Greg Luzinski.

Little did I know or recognize at the time
that the Phillies were coming into their own and I was intrigued by
their play and the personalities on their team.

So now Ellen’s
losing streak had increased to 11 straight Mets losses and I was having
more misgivings about having such a bad luck charm waking up with me
everyday. So, was the die cast? Not quite, that wouldn’t happen until
we hit 20 but that’s just getting a little ahead of myself.

The
Mets made some changes in 1975. Joan Payson the Principal owner passed
away and since no one in the family had any interest in the team or
baseball itself, they gave control of the franchise to one M.
Donald.Grant. Grant had actually been with the Mets since its second
year in existence until 1978.

Grant was far from a baseball man.
Whitey Herzog who actually was the Director of Player Development when
the Mets won the World Series in 1969 told Grant to his face that he
didn’t know “beans about baseball”. In later years, like when I first
thought of writing this article and I stumbled on this fact, I often
wonder what could have happened back when Gil Hodges died if Whitey
Herzog could have stepped in and managed this team. But Grant and the
whole Mets organization were still so enthralled with the Dodgers,
Giants and Yankee connections, (sound familiar today?) that Yogi Berra,
Roy McMillan, Joe Frazier, and Joe Torre were the next Met Managers
that followed Gil, while Whitey was leading the St. Louis Cardinals to
championships in the 80’s.

Grant’s most famous move was the
ultimate Met blunder trading “The Franchise” Tom Seaver along with
slugger Dave Kingman on the now famous “The Midnight Massacre” on June
15th 1977. Met fans will never forgive Grant and this move set the
franchise back many years. Shea Stadium attendance was so drastically
reduced that it was common for the beat writers to refer to Shea
Stadium as “Grant’s Tomb.”

The trading of Tom Seaver was like a
dagger in my heart. The Phillies had already reached the playoffs in 76
and would do it again in 77. I rooted for the Mets but it was no secret
that I also liked the Phillies and knowing the Mets were going in the
wrong direction, once I felt they were eliminated, I openly rooted for
the Phil’s.

I took my son to his first Phillies game that year.
It wasn’t against the Mets. That was my first and very costly mistake.
All I remember is that the Phillies won and this team in red had new
young fan. What a blunder on my part that I regret to this day, but
you’ll see in part VI just how much worse that situation became when I
lost my son’s fan hood forever and ever.

In 1975 the Mets
finished 3rd with an 82-80 record and in 1976 they improved to 86-76.
Ellen and I went to 3 games in 75 against the Phil’s. They lost all
three. I went to 2 other Phillies Mets games with my son who was 5 and
my daughter who was three. We went 2-0. Her streak now stood at 14 and
she decided that maybe she was bad luck. DUH. 0-14 and she just started
to put the pieces together? OYE.

In 1976, the Phillies won the
National League East and with Dick Allen, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa,
Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone, Dave Cash, and Garry Maddox. They were a fun
team to watch and heck during the season and the off season as well a
week wouldn’t go by and you would run into one of them at the store, in
a restaurant or in a movie. They all lived in South Jersey and this was
the local team.

Ellen lost a pair of games that year moving her stellar record to 0- 16.

By
1978 Grant was gone, but he left with 2 more miserable seasons where
the Mets went 64-98 in 1977 and 66-96 in 1978. I continued to go to
most Phillies Mets games each year at the Vet but now mixed with
Phillies – Dodger games and Phillies – Reds games.

1979 and
1980 produced two more 90+ loss seasons for the Mets and with the
Phillies winning the World Series in 1980 it was no longer a secret
that the Phillies were a more enjoyable team to watch and although I
started each new season with high hopes and expectations for my Mets I
had no trouble at all rooting for the Phillies.

I hate to say
this but if this is a life story then things that happen need to be
reported. By 1979 Ellen and I had gone to 23 Mets games and they lost
all 23. Now this may sound silly to 99.9% of those people reading this
but after 12 years of this streak plus other non-mentionables we split
up. That’s life, it happens and although I have joked about the streak,
any marriage breakup where there are small children involved can never
have a happy ending.

I had soured on life. My marriage had
failed my team stunk up the joint because there was no leadership or
identity with the city I loved. By 1980 I knew that the only way the
Mets were going to be a successful franchise was to totally move in a
different direction and turn its back on its Brooklyn Dodgers and New
York Giants past. They needed to establish their own identity like the
New York Jets.

So what did they do? The Payson family sold the
Mets to Nelson Doubleday for 21.1 million dollars. Doubleday became the
Chairman of the Board and turned the team over to Brooklyn born and
bred and lifetime Brooklyn Dodger fan, Fred Wilpon and named him the
club President.

Now 28 years later we still have the New York
(Brooklyn Dodger) Mets, and you wonder why I almost left the fold to
what has now become our most feared rival since the Braves.

Stay tuned for Part VI, “The Re-Birth Theirs and Mine”

“Anatomy of a Franchise” New York Mets: Part IV – 1969 Was it a Fluke?

Bob Scheffing was promoted to Mets General Manager after the untimely
death of Johnny Murphy in January 1970. The Mets had just come off of
their “Miracle” season of 1969 with their first Playoff, World Series,
and Championship in its brief seven year history.

The two sided
answer to the question, was 1969 a fluke? would be answered in the next
coming months as the Mets prepared for yet another Spring Training in
St. Petersburg Florida, where they shared the training facilities with
the St. Louis Cardinals.

Bob Scheffing came to the Mets
organization after a career as a player with a little over 500 games
with the Cubs, Reds, and Cardinals. A rather pedestrian .263 career
lifetime average set no fires blazing in that realm.

He managed both the Cubs and the Tigers, did a little broadcasting, and some scouting before becoming the Mets GM.

I
have nothing against the man personally, and his only point of note in
Mets’ history is that it was under his tenure that Nolan Ryan was
traded to the Angels for Jim Fregosi in what has been called the most
lopsided trade in Mets’ history.

Scheffing was put in a corner
by Ryan. Nolan, clearly not a big city boy, absolutely hated New York
and wanted out of this city in the worst way.

So what did Scheffing do?

He sent him to LA.

Now that was a real small town in 1971.

Right.

Here
was a great opportunity for the Mets’ ownership to build this franchise
and make it a force to be reckoned with for the next decade. They went
with a relatively inexperienced person in a front office position where
they needed a power guy.

This, now looking back, begins the pattern of poor moves that we still see almost 40 years later.

Here is the starting lineup for the 1970 Mets.

1. Tommy Agee CF

2. Bud Harrelson SS

3. Joey Foy 3B

4. Cleon Jones LF

5. Art Shamsky 1B

6. Ron Swoboda RF

7. Wayne Garrett 2B

8. Jerry Grote C

9. Tom Seaver P

This was a pretty good team, and it was expected to be near or at the top of the National League Eastern Division.

The
Mets finished the 1970 season with an 83-79 record. They had the same
record in 1971 and 1972, and, although the pitchers did well, the lack
of hitting and run production resulted in three straight third place
finishes.

I moved to Vernon, Connecticut in August of 1970
because a good teaching job became available at a small private school
specializing in Special Education. My wife, when the Mets’ record was
now a glimmering 0-8, was pregnant with out first child.

The
house we rented had one of those huge roof top antennas, which rotated
360 degrees. So I was now able to get both New York as well as Boston
TV channels as clear as day.

Life couldn’t get better than this.

Prior
to the 1972 season, one of my boyhood heroes that I got to know
personally, who carried himself with dignity and pride, passed away.
Gil Hodges was dead at 48 years old from a massive coronary heart
attack, just like my Dad.

My memories of the years (following
the ’69 Mets until the “Ya Gotta Believe” Tug McGraw’s rallying cry in
the summer of 1973) were that of a fan who now expected his team should
and could win all the games they played.

Neither the team nor I, I’m sorry to say, had a whole lot of enthusiasm.

I had an excuse. They didn’t.

When
they started their great comeback in the summer of ’73, the Mets sat in
the cellar in the east with a 61-71 record. Yogi Berra, who was as much
fun as Casey Stengel in the sixties, made one outrageous statement
after another that kept the media close and put the spotlight on a team
that seemed to cherish the limelight they were in.

Every
baseball fan knows his best quote of that year, “It ain’t over till
it’s over.” That was Yogi’s answer when asked about the Mets’ chances
that summer.

On Sept. 3, 1970, Ellen and I drove to the city in
my 1967 Dodge Charger with more horsepower beneath the hood than in all
of General George Custer’s Seventh Cavalry.

I was so positive that “Her Streak” was going to end that day, I promised her dinner at Mama Leones in the city the next day.

The
Mets had beaten the Phillies 5-0 the previous day and had won three of
their last four, so the NL Eastern Division had five teams within six
games of first place, all of them with a losing record.

Oh the mediocrity, or oh the parity, depending on your perspective.

The Mets led 3-2 going into the fifth inning, and I was feeling good.

Craig
Swan was pitching well. He had given up a run in each of the first two
innings, but we had scored three. I figured if we win the game and end
the streak, I might even consider the request to have a third child,
which was very much on Ellen’s mind at the time.

Barbara Lynn
Marsh came to us on Jun. 25 that year, and I had her in Mets pink from
day one, while my now almost 3-year-old son, Russell Michael, was
sporting his first Gil Hodges first baseman’s glove.

My dream,
however, was short lived as Greg (The Bull) Luzinski blasted a two run
home run off Swan as the Phil’s went on to defeat the Mets 6-3.

Guess who never got to Mama Leones that next day.

She was lucky I took her to Nathans for dogs and fries.

Over
30,000 of us went home thinking that no way were the Mets going to make
it to the postseason, and her streak stood now at nine.

Of
course, wouldn’t you know it, after my trip to Shea, the Mets went on
to win 18 of their next 25 and win the pennant with an 82-79 record.

Now this was a miracle.

Every
lifelong Mets fan alive knows that these underdogs of underdogs went on
to beat up the Big Red Machine in the playoffs, and Bud Harrelson
kicked Pete Rose’s ***.

They also just missed winning their
second World Series in five years as they led the powerful Oakland A’s
three games to two, with Seaver and Koosman to pitch Game Six and Seven.

But that victory was not meant to be.

That
year ended another streak in Mets’ history. They finished over .500 for
five consecutive years. They had the opportunity to become a dynasty
with this team. The ownership made poor decisions from the GM down.

Mrs.
Payson might have been a wonderful little old lady, but she knew squat
about baseball and turned the operation over to people who knew little
more than she did. The fact that they did as well as they did, during
these five years, was because they had kept some of the talented
pitching core together with the exception of Nolan Ryan.

Plus, frankly, during this time the rest of the National League wasn’t having any breakout teams as of yet.

This
trend will only get worse during the next 10 years, which I call “The
Lost Years” coming to you in part five of the Anatomy of a Franchise.

Thanks for listening.

“Anatomy of a Franchise” New York Mets: Part III – 1969 ‘AMAZIN’

What the New York Mets achieved in 1969 was truly amazing and the world
witnessed not only mans first steps on the moon but equally remarkable,
the first World Championship by a National League team in New York in
14 years.

I had just turned 24 that April and I was unable to
attend opening day on April 8th where the Mets lost to the newly
created Montreal Expos expansion team 11-10 in front of 44,541 fans.

What
had become a tradition of sorts was to try to go to the game on April
11th, my birthday, where the St. Louis Cardinals were coming to town
and the proposed match-up was going to be Steve Carlton vs. Jerry
Koosman. I was stoked, only in those days no one ever said the word
stoked.

Jerry Koosman was a left handed pitcher who complimented
Tom Seaver at the top of the Mets staff. In 1968 he went 19-12 and
actually had one more victory than Tom Terrific. With 7 shutouts, I was
there for one of them, and a .208 ERA I couldn’t wait to see him
against Carlton.

Steve was the sharper pitcher that day and Joe
Torre hit a monster homer off Koosman as my wife Ellen and I moved from
the upper reaches of Shea Stadium down to the box seats right over the
3rd base dugout. You see it was pretty easy to do that since only
12,591 showed up for that classic pitching match-up.

Since my
wedding on August 25th 1968 my wife and I attended five Met games. We
went 0-5. Hmmm. The stirring of rumbling deep within my mind was
staring to take shape. Wait until you hear my final scorecard with
Ellen and me at Met games. You will not believe it. But you’ll have to
wait a segment or two for those results.

By the way, a step backwards a couple of days, here is the starting lineup for the 1969 opening day New York Mets.

1. Tommie Agee CF
2. Rod Gaspar RF
3. Ken Boswell 2B
4. Cleon Jones LF
5. Ed Charles 3B
6. Ed Kranepool 1B
7. Jerry Grote C
8. Bud Harrelson SS
9. Tom Seaver P

Most
sportswriters and other so-called prognosticators picked the Mets to
finish near the bottom of the newly created divisions. I thought they
had a chance to do better than expected. Maybe an 81-81 record, but I
could never foresee this team winning 100 games, sweep the powerful
Atlanta Braves team led by Hank Aaron, and then go on to beat the
“unbeatable” Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

Bing Divine
who succeeded George Weiss as General Manager left after one year to go
back to his beloved Cardinals. He was succeeded by Johnny Murphy.
Murphy had a decent career as an American League relief pitcher. He
played for the Yankees and some of his teammates included Babe Ruth,
Joe D, Lou Gehrig and Bill Dickey. He pitched along side of Lefty Gomez
and Red Ruffing. That’s some pretty good company.

Murphy’s
promotion to the top GM position came at the same time the Mets were
developing some of the best young pitchers in baseball. Unfortunately
Murph never had the chance to become a long standing GM as he died
suddenly from a massive coronary in January 1970.

In my opinion, this was the turning point in the Mets history that has haunted them for the next 40 years.

This team’s future which looked so bright as the new decade launched would soon be in disarray for years to come.

Getting
back to the 1969 season, there were so many different accounts of what
happened that I’ll only point out a few that I personally witnessed.

By
May 27th, after suffering from a five game losing streak the Mets stood
at 19-23 in 4th place and nine games behind the Chicago Cubs who by
their own accounts were already planning on what look the playoff
tickets would have. Black (cat) and blue would have been my choice.

On
May 28th I was back at Shea to see the San Diego Padres. All Jerry
Koosman did that night was pitch 10 innings of four hit ball with 15
K’s. Tug McGraw pitched a scoreless 11th as I hoped my bud (Ted
Blecher) and I wouldn’t have to sit through a 20+ inning game.

Cleon
Jones reached first base on an error by Roberto Pena who was playing
third. Billy McCool (one of the great sports names of all time) then
struck out Ed Kranepool. Frank Reberger then gave up a single to center
to Ron Swoboda. Cleon moved to third. Jerry Grote was then
intentionally passed to load the bases.

Believe it or not, and I
swear on all that’s holy, that what happened next would change not only
the Mets season but bring me immense pain and pleasure within 20
seconds of each other.

With the bases stacked, Bud Harrelson
smacked the first pitch, a screaming line drive right at us. I dove, (I
could do that then) for the ball, missed it and broke two fingers on
the railing as my friend Teddy snagged it like he was Brooks Robinson.

I was screaming so loud (what a wimp!) that I missed Buddy’s single up the middle to win the game.

The
Mets went on to have an 11 game winning streak and by the All Star
Break they were 53-39, in second place and just five games behind the
Cubs. They went 34-16 during that stretch. I went to one more game with
my wife during June. Grant Jackson shut us out and beat Don Cardwell
2-0 Hmmm.

On August 13th the Mets came staggering home from a
miserable road trip ending in Houston where the Mets were swept and
fell into 3rd place 10 games behind the Cubs. This called for drastic
measures.

August 16th is my brothers’ birthday and he had no
love lost for the Mets but never in his life had he ever turned down
free tickets to a game, especially since I was taking him to Shea as a
birthday present. I’m sure he would have rather had the cash but he
agreed to go. My wife stayed home. I wonder why.

The Mets went
on to win that game 2-1 and by the way my brother catches a foul ball
off the bat of Bud Harrelson as I was hiding under my seat.

The rest is history.

The team went on to win 38 of their next 49 games and miracles were alive and well in Flushing Meadows.

My
wife and I went to one more game that season and given the play of the
team down the stretch I knew my curse with her was over. If not maybe
well maybe, nah we didn’t think those things. Besides, my mother would
kill me dead if I came over to her place some night and I told her I
was leaving my wife because she’s bad luck for the Mets.

Anyway, the game, an 8-2 loss to Bob Veale on September 19th.

I’d
love to tell you that I attended playoff and World Series games that
year but I promised to keep this truthful with only a touch of literary
license. So, no, the best I could do was watch the games on the tube
like millions of fans across the country.

You know the story for
sure. The Mets went on to glory and I think it was in the second or
third week in November that a couple of my childhood buddies suggested
we drop in and talk to Gil. So off we went to Gil who still lived on
Bedford Avenue about three blocks from our apartment on Kings Highway
and East 23rd Street.

Sure enough, as he often did when we were
kids, Gil and Joan were home and we sat and talked baseball with him.
His house hadn’t changes a lick in almost 20 years. As we walked out
the door Gil said, “Hey guys want to see something cool?”

Like we would say no.

He
then opened a desk draw and flipped a ball to me. I didn’t drop this or
break anything. It was just a ball signed by a player whose signature I
could not read. The ball had a black smear on it. I said, “You’ve got
to be kidding me?” He just smiled as I tossed it back to him.

“Anatomy of a Franchise” New York Mets – Part II – Lost in Space

The 1960s, among many other
things, were known for the next level of television programming. If the
’50s were the “Golden Age of TV”, then the 1960s were “The Teenage
Years.” Oh my God!

I was a big Star Trek fan. I wanted to be
Lincoln Hayes from the Mod Squad and Colonel Gallagher from 12 O’clock
High. I didn’t watch the show that lent this article it’s name, however.

I
was told it was about a family that was lost in space. It had an old
guy (no interest there), a whiny kid (oh yeah, just wonderful), and a
talking robot that Spock would have said was interesting but totally
illogical.

Not for me by a long shot.

My high school
years over, I spent most of that summer watching the inaugural New York
Mets team lose game after game after game. Seriously, the best part of
really the first seven seasons was watching some of the greatest
players to have ever played the game showcase their skills at the Polo
Grounds.

Case in point, I’m really not sure if it was 1962 or
1963 and the St. Louis Cardinals were in town to play the Mets. It was
about a zillion feet to dead center field and Willie’s catch off Vic
Wertz in the 1954 World Series was still being talked about in the
stands eight or nine years later.

Lou Brock was a dead red
fastball hitter. His strike zone was from his ankles to his eyeballs
and nobody I had ever seen or even have seen to this day could actually
“tomahawk” a ball 550 feet with a swing from his eyes.

That is
exactly what Brock did that day and the ball landed about 15 rows up
just to the right of dead center field. To this day it was the hardest
hit ball I have ever seen. Awesome doesn’t describe it appropriately.

1963
to 1968 were the years that the Mets were literally “Lost in Space.”
The team totaled 51 wins in 1963, In their first year (1964) at the new
home of the Mets and New York Jets they won 53. 1965 produced 50 wins,
actually three less wins than the previous year. 1966 was the first
year that the Mets didn’t lose more than 100 games.

Wes Westrum
replaced Casey Stengel in 1965, and Bing Devine of St. Louis Cardinals
fame became the General Manger in 1967. So, now was the time to move
ahead right? Wrong. In 1967 the Mets took another step backwards and
lost 101 games again.

There were some good moments during those
years but mostly more of the same from Year One. There was a game in
Chicago that they won, 19-1, setting up the events that eventually led
to the “Black Cat” in 1969. But more on that in part three. . .

The
shiny red apple was unveiled at Shea Stadium in 1964, and every time a
Met would hit the ball out of the park, the apple would rise from
ground and the fans would go wild. It got stuck no fewer than five
times that summer, continuing the futility of this team.

My boyhood hero Duke Snider signed with the Mets in 1963. Believe me, his better days were behind him, but oh, that swing!

I
could imitate it perfectly, and in my own mind, that was the reason I
made the Freshman Baseball Team at Northeastern University in the
Spring of 1963. I played second base, had deceptive speed for a chubby
guy, and could turn a mean double play.

In a game that spring
against Boston University, in front of a rowdy crowd of about, oh, 59
fans, a guy about a foot taller and 30 pounds heavier than me tried to
break up a double play and ploughed right into my rather ample gut.

He knocked himself out cold.

I
turned the double play, we won the only game of that rain shortened
season, and it took seven teammates to carry me off the field.

This was definitely the highlight of my college career.

That
spring the Mets signed Jimmy Piersall, a true nut case whose life and
antics reached the big screen in a fine baseball movie called “Fear
Strikes Out,” starring our even more famous nut case Anthony Perkins;
Psycho anyone?

These lost years also brought to the team the
makings of, unbeknown to all of us, the Miracle Mets. Bud Harrelson and
Ron Swoboda came in ’63. In ’64, it was Tug McGraw, Jerry Koosman.

In
1965, Nolan Ryan signed, and the Mets traded Houston for Jerry Grote.
Duffy Dyer and Jim McAndrew came in 1965, along with Ken Boswell, too.

For the 1966 season, Danny Frisella, Amos Otis, Ron Hunt, Jim Hickman, and Don Cardwell came to town.

However,
the best acquisition in New York Mets history happened when The Mets’
team name was picked out of a hat, giving the Amazins the first pick in
the Amateur Draft. That pick turned into a strapping pitcher named
George Thomas Seaver.

For me to think that Tom Seaver could have
just as easily become a Brave or a Philly makes me shudder; it would
have changed the course of the Mets history, as well as mine.

In
1967, pitchers Gary Gentry, Cal Koonce, Jon Matlock arrived, and
perhaps the key to the championship season to come came with the
arrival of Tommy Agee along with Art Shamsky.

The lovable losers finally seemed to be going in the right direction.

My
life was like a roller coaster, going ahead and seemingly backwards at
the same time. In June of 1964, I lost my Dad. We had talked that
spring about going to some games that summer at the new Shea Stadium,
which had just opened a few months prior.

I had to leave Northeastern that year because my responsibilities and priorities were forced to change.

An
interesting sidelight to those events that spring: about two weeks
before my Dad succumbed to a massive heart attack on his 50th birthday,
I had talked to him about changing my major to Journalism and pursuing
as career as a sports journalist.

It never happened.

My
baseball career ended as I broke an ankle in 1964 and my world class
speed evaporated in the lobby of the Brooklyn Paramount Theater which
was the gymnasium for Long Island University, which became my home for
the next three years.

At least I was home to see many games at Shea and a couple of road games in Philly at Connie Mack Stadium.

Vietnam
and “The Draft”, and I don’t mean the baseball draft, were on the
horizon. Hippies had arrived, protests raged at college campuses, and
my heroes of the ’60s were gone.

The day after June 5, 1968, my
best friend Teddy Blecher and I camped out all night in front of St.
Patrick’s Cathedral in the city and waited for the casket of Bobby
Kennedy to arrive.

I had walked the streets of
Bedford-Stuyvesant with Bobby in 1966 when he ran for Governor of New
York. For me, it was a loss of the greatest magnitude.

On Aug.
25, 1968, at the ripe old age of 23, I got married to a beautiful
blue-eyed blonde from the city. She was not a Mets fan. She liked the
Yankees.

I should have known it wouldn’t last.