Thursday, March 28, 2013

This Week in Mets History 1-11: Dr K, Conehead, Sidd Finch and Bobby V

Former Mets manager in his infamous photo after being ejected in a game, he returns to the dugout "in disguise". Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Frank Gray
MM Editor

The season is literally days away. Now is an exciting time of the year for Mets fans and baseball fans alike. This is also the time of year when major moves and decisions are usually made or announced. This week we take a look back on a few of those.

We make one more visit to the Doctor, remember a college baseball game that had major significance and we reminisce with the coneheads. All this and more, this week in Mets history.

March 26, 1979 - Two years before (in June of 1977) the New York Mets trade slugger Dave Kingman to the San Diego Padres. In that deal, they acquire Paul Siebert and a player named Bobby Valentine. On this day, the Mets released Valentine after appearing in 11 games and sporting a .222 AVG.

 He would finish his playing career the following year and get into coaching. Mets fan all remember him for guiding the team to their fourth World Series in 2000. As a Mets manager, he was fairly successful with a .534 winning percentage in 1,003 games managed in nearly seven seasons in Queens.

His outlandish comments and even crazier on the field antics won him a place in the hearts of many a fan. Today, he is rumored to be joining the staff of SNY for Mets pregames.

March 27, 1987 - After winning the World Series the year before, the Mets were looking to add to their stellar rotation. They did so by trading solid back-up catcher Ed Hearn, reliever Rick A. Anderson and prospect Mauro Gozzo for David Cone.

The former Kansas City Royals ace would pitch for six seasons in his initial stint with the Mets and go 80-48 in that span. He would rejoin the team years later for his final season in 2003. Today, he can be heard in the booth at Yankees games. (insert boos here)

March 28, 1985 - In what may be construed as the greatest April Fools joke of all time, Sport Illustrated writer George Plimpton writes an article about a Mets prospect named Sidd Finch. According to Plimpton, Finch is a phenom capable of throwing a 168 mph fastball.

He uses quotes by Mets staffing and doctored images to provide "evidence" to back up his statement. The story became so big that Plimpton ended up turning it into a novel.

March 29, 2009 - The New York Mets have a new home. After more than forty years of being associated with Shea Stadium, the team moves into Citi Field and prepares to host the San Diego Padres. On this date, the organization holds the first baseball game at their new ballpark.

The only problem is that it's not the Mets. St John's hosts Georgetown in a collegiate showdown. To further merge the event with Mets history, the team has former St John's graduate and 15 year Mets veteran John Franco throw out the first pitch.

March 30, 2001 - It is a bittersweet day today as former Mets hero and goat Dwight "Dr K" (the original Doc) Gooden announced his retirement. He does so after hurling a no-hitter and winning a World Series with the cross town rival Yankees (insert boos here).

In retrospect, Mets fans will forever remember him as the anchor of the 1986 championship team, a Cy Young winner in 1985 and Rookie of the Year in 1984. He finished his Mets career behind only Tom Seaver in wins (157) and strikeouts (1,875). Today, he can still be seen at various Mets events.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Final Predictions for Mets' Spring Training Position Battles

Shale Briskin
MM Assistant Editor

With spring training coming to an end, certain position battles will soon be decided as to who will make the Opening Day roster and who will get cut. The Mets' main battles are in the outfield, bench and bullpen. Let's see who will be most likely to win the roster spots.

- Projected Starting Left Fielder: Lucas Duda

Duda and Jordany Valdespin are battling for the starting left field job, but despite Valdespin's hot bat in spring training, left field is Duda's to lose. He should get the first crack at proving himself, and if he does not, then Valdespin will replace him. Valdespin also has more value off the bench with his speed and ability to play second base and shortstop as well.

- Projected Starting Center Fielder: Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill

Yes, this means that Nieuwenhuis and Cowgill could very likely platoon together in center field. Nieuwenhuis has potential, but is a streaky hitter, while Cowgill is more of a contact hitter that simply gets on base. Both run well and play good defense, so they should be able to compliment each other well.

- Projected Starting Right Fielder: Marlon Byrd

Byrd has been doing very well in spring training this year, while Mike Baxter has struggled a lot. The Mets could platoon Byrd and Baxter, but with Baxter's value on the bench being as large as it is, it would make more sense to have Byrd start every day for now.

- Projected Bench: Anthony Recker, Justin Turner, Zach Lutz, Mike Baxter, Jordany Valdespin

Recker will more than likely be the Mets' backup catcher, while Turner will be  the Mets' utility infielder and Lutz will be a backup corner infielder. Baxter and Valdespin will probably be the two backup outfielders, which would mean Matt Den Dekker and Andrew Brown will both not make the roster. 

- Projected Bullpen: Bobby Parnell, Brandon Lyon, Josh Edgin, Jeremy Hefner, Pedro Feliciano, Jeurys Familia, Scott Atchison

Frank Francisco's elbow injury means that Bobby Parnell will be the Opening Day closer. Parnell could hold onto that position for a long time if he pitches particularly well.

Edgin, Lyon and Hefner were all basically shoe-ins to make the roster. As for the others, Feliciano's previous time with the Mets should be enough to get him a roster spot, as long as he stays healthy. Familia's velocity and overall potential should help him get a spot, but he will have to limit the walks in order to be effective. As for the final spot, Scott Atchison's great 2012 season should help him win a spot over the likes of LaTroy Hawkins and Greg Burke, among others.

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This Week in Mets History 1-10: Jesse, Bud, Joe, Luis and Ollie

Mets pitching great, Jesse Orosco falls to his knees as he celebrates winning the 1986 World Series. Photo courtesy of NY Post

Frank Gray
MM Editor

This week, we visit with several playoff winning players. We catch up with a Big Unit killer, a player to named later, two overpaid veterans and talk about the "original" Subway Series. All that and more this week in Mets history.

March 18, 2000 - After acquiring him a second time a few months before, former Mets great Jesse Orosco was traded to the St Louis Cardinals. Orosco was a throw-in in the trade that saw Jerry Koosman part from the Mets years before. Orosco would be the last player standing on the mound in that special 1986 season.

As part of that deal, the Mets received Joe McEwing. McEwing was a platoon player deluxe for the team and an important bench player for the next few seasons. He would help lift the team into the World Series that year, much to the dismay of pitching great Randy Johnson who dominated everyone else that postseason except Joe McEwing.

Today, McEwing can be found manning the third base line as a coach for the Chicago White Sox under manager, and former teammate and Met, Robin Ventura.

March 18, 2011 - Under new GM, Sandy Alderson, the team looks to cut ties with several bad contracts. Among them is Luis Castillo, who was remembered more for his untimely error in the Subway Series and his injuries than his actual plate appearances.

On this day, Castillo was released by the team. The team would still owe him $6 million for the season after releasing him, but the message was sent that the team is going in a  younger and cheaper direction. In his four years with the Mets, he posted a .274 AVG and stole just 55 bases. Well below his averages prior to his stint in Queens. He has not played in the Majors since his release.

March 21, 2011 - In the wake of releasing Luis Castillo just days before, Mets GM Sandy Alderson continues his purging of the roster and cuts ties with southpaw Oliver Perez. Perez was signed to a $36 million deal and cutting him left the Mets owing him another $12 million for the season.

The team cited lack of command and velocity as their reasoning. Today, Perez is still pitching and with minimal success with the Seattle Mariners. In the bullpen. As a situational lefty. A role that at one time he refused to pitch in for the Mets.

March 22, 1962 - In the original Subway Series, the budding new team, the New York Mets defeated the New York Yankees in an exhibition game. Former Yankees manager and new Mets manager, Casey Stengel utilized his veteran bench in the later innings as Richie Ashburn delivered a game winning pinch-hit RBI single to lift the Mets to a dramatic 4-3 win. Despite helping them feel like they belonged in that moment, the inaugural season would be disastrous.

March 23, 1978 - In an unpopular move, the Mets traded scrappy short stop Bud Harrelson to the rival Phillies for a minor league infielder named Freddy Andrews. Harrelson would play just two years in Philly and leave just before the 1980 championship season. He proudly sports the only World Series ring he won with the Mets.

Harrelson later became the Mets manager, though not very successful in that venture. In his 13 years playing for the team, he was twice named to the All-Star game, but as a manager, he only lasted two seasons with two very bad teams.

To be fair, he followed a legendary coach in Davey Johnson and really never lived up to that. He failed to get the best out of the "worst team money could buy". He led the team to a fifth place finish in 1991 and the team would go looking for another option at the helm that off season.

Today, he can be found coaching with the minor league Long Island Ducks, a team in which he is a co-owner. He still makes appearances with the Mets organization on special occasions.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This Week in Mets History 1-9: Piazza vs Mota II and SNY

Frank Gray
MM Editor

With the Mets getting very close to playing games that count and David Wright tearing it up in the WBC, now is a good time to be a Mets fan. With that in mind, we can always take a look back at where we've come from. This week in Mets history, we remember a couple of great Mets players and a former GM.

March 12, 2003 - In response to being hit by a Guillermo Mota pitch for the second straight spring training season, Mike Piazza charges the mound in a bench-clearing brawl. Mota would escape the brawl untouched as he ran to the dugout.

Mota was obviously gun shy from the previous season where he hit Piazza leading to a shoving match between the two and Piazza waiting in for Mota to come off of the field before grabbing his jersey for the altercation. Both would eventually become teammates and subsequently bury the hatchet.

March 14, 1961 - After a successful run as GM of the New York Yankees, George Weiss comes out of a very brief retirement to oversee the brand new New York Mets team from their inception.

As the first president in team history, he hired Casey Stengel. His tenure lasted five years. He was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1982.

March 16, 2006 - The New York Mets organization officially introduce Sportnet NY by airing the show "Daily News Live". The network would come to be better known as SNY and the major source for televised Mets games and moments in the club's history.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

This Week in Mets History 1-8: Casey at the Hall and Meet the Mets

Frank Gray
MM Editor

While the Spring Training heats up, the history never stops. This week, we revisit a hit song, a one-hit wonder in the outfield, the man that was traded for Nolan Ryan and a legendary coach gets his due.

March 5, 1972 - The Mets were trying to solidify the third base spot. To do so, they traded Don Rose, Frank Estrada, Leroy Stanton and NOLAN RYAN to the Angels for Jim Fregosi. While at the time, no one could tell what Ryan would become, it seemed as if Fregosi was the answer for the Mets third base woes.

On this date, he broke his thumb in a Spring Training workout and is unable to pan out into what the Mets want. He would bat just .232 in 101 games and would be subsequently released the next season. Today, Fregosi does the occasional interview and rare public appearance as he enjoys his retirement.

March 6, 2001 - Searching for an outfielder, the Mets singed Tony Torasco in the hopes that he would help the offense. He didn't play that season. The team re-signed him the following year and he did have 105 AB with six homers and two stolen bases in 60 games in the 2002 season.

Today, he can be found on the first base line at Washington Nationals games. He was hired by former Mets manager Davey Johnson to be the Nats first base coach for the upcoming season.

March 8, 1966 - The "Old Professor", Casey Stengel, who is the known in Mets lore as being the very first manager in Mets history is told  he has been elected into the MLB Hall of Fame. The manager was elected due to a new rule for managers that allows writers to elect them in prior to the traditional five year waiting period.

The Mets announced this election prior to an exhibition game on this date. He passed in 1975, but lived long enough to see his upstart Mets shock the baseball world by winning the 1969 World Series and return to the World Series again in 1973 until the tutelage of Gil Hodges.

The new ballpark has an entrance dedicated to Stengel and the team retired his number 37 in 1965 prior to his Hall of Fame induction announcement..

March 9, 1963 - In order to increase their popularity and reach out to a wider audience, the Mets introduced a new fight song on this date. "Meet the Mets" was written by Ruth Roberts and Bill Katz. It has appeared in commercials and TV shows.

 It can be heard on WFAN pregame and postgame shows. It has taken on a life of its own since it was first introduced. It was given two musical makeovers, in 1984 and 2008. The original was considered sexist with the use of the line "bring your kiddies, bring the wife, guaranteed to have the time of your life". Raunchy lyrics for the time. For further memories, click here for the original version.