Saturday, September 24, 2016

Curtis Granderson Has Become an RBI Machine

There have been plenty of happy moments for Curtis Granderson and the Mets in the month of September.  (AP Photo)

About a month ago, I wrote a piece entitled "Curtis Granderson Chases Unwanted History One RBI at a Time".  When the post was published, Granderson had 20 homers and just 34 RBI.  Each of his last 17 homers had been of the solo variety (that streak eventually reached 18).  Because of his inability to drive in runs without the ball leaving the park and his propensity for not doing anything positive when there were runners on base, I surmised that Granderson would set the record for fewest runs batted in per home run of any player who hit 20+ HR.

But just like former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's scoring guarantee in a playoff game against the Packers, I may have been a little premature with my prediction about Granderson.

After driving in a total of 16 runs in July and August, a two-month stretch in which he had 195 plate appearances, Granderson has notched a team-leading 17 RBI in the month of September in just 83 plate appearances - an average of one RBI every 4.88 PA.  Furthermore, Granderson has picked some huge moments in which to drive in those runs, and although he's still hitting plenty of homers (his seven homers in September are tied for the N.L. lead), he's finally found a way to drive in his teammates when they've been on base in front of him.

In Friday night's win over the Phillies, Granderson drove in the first run in the Mets' game-changing six-run rally in the fifth inning.  Last Saturday, he became the first Met to hit two home runs in extra innings, producing the tying home run in the 11th inning against the Twins and the game-winning blast an inning later.  Four days before that, Granderson's RBI triple gave the Mets the lead in a game they eventually won in extra innings.  On September 9, he crushed a two-run homer off Met killer Julio Teheran when the Mets were trailing the Braves by four runs in the sixth inning, then delivered a game-tying single in the eighth frame.  The Mets went on to win to complete the rally from a four-run deficit to win the game, 6-4.  And finally, On September 3, Granderson turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead with a two-run single off Nationals starter Tanner Roark in a game eventually won by the Mets, 3-1.

After hitting 18 consecutive solo homers earlier in the season, four of Granderson's last eight home runs have come with at least one man on base.  In addition, five of Granderson's last seven homers have either tied the game or given the Mets the lead.  It should be added that none of those home runs came with Granderson batting in the leadoff spot, where hitting a home run in the first inning would usually give the Mets an early lead.

On the morning of August 20, the Mets were 60-62 and Curtis Granderson had 20 HR and 34 RBI.  Since then, the Mets are 22-10 and Granderson has produced nine homers and 21 RBI.  His lack of run production was close to becoming historically bad in the annals of baseball.  Now his 55 RBI for the season have Granderson tied for second on the Mets behind only Yoenis Céspedes.  Simply stated, Granderson's RBI turnaround has been nothing short of Amazin'.

Maybe it was the acquisition of Reds' right fielder Jay Bruce that got Mets' right fielder Curtis Granderson to start driving in runs.  Or perhaps the Grandy Man has been drinking some of current Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's "miracle water".  Whatever the reason, there's no denying the fact that not only has Granderson become an RBI machine for the Mets, he's driven in most of those runs in key moments of game, with many of those runs batted in contributing greatly to Mets victories.

Without question, Granderson's hunger for run production has certainly made all the critics (myself included) eat their words.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Pitching Wins Don't Matter ... Tell That to Bartolo Colón

It's been very difficult to cool down Bartolo Colón recently.  (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Decades ago, pitching victories were viewed as the standard by which to judge a pitcher's success.  If he won a lot of games, he was considered to be a good pitcher.  That was then, this is now.  And wins don't mean what they used to.  Just ask Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2010 despite finishing the season with a mediocre 13-12 won-loss record.

In the days of yore, the man known as King Felix wouldn't have been considered a candidate for the ultimate pitching honor with that record, but Hernandez led the American League during the 2010 campaign in innings pitched, ERA and fewest hits per nine innings, while also finishing high among the league leaders in the new stats of the day, like ERA+ (174; 2nd in A.L.), FIP (3.04; 4th in A.L.) and WAR for pitchers (7.1; 1st in A.L.).

Not only did Hernandez win the Cy Young over 19-game winner David Price and 21-game winner CC Sabathia, but the voting wasn't particularly close, as Hernandez earned 21 of the 28 first-place votes cast for the award in 2010.

Voters for regular season awards already know that there is more to determine the value of a pitcher than pitching wins.  But Mets pitcher Bartolo Colón doesn't have time for that talk.  He's too busy helping the Mets inch closer to an unlikely postseason berth by racking up win after win.  And in doing so, he finds himself just one victory away from joining an exclusive Mets pitching club.

Most of the time, when a player becomes "one of only so-and-so players to do something in club history", he's joined by a hodgepodge of players.  Some of these players are usually among the better players to suit up for the team, while others can sometimes be of the "what's he doing on this list?" variety.

For example, when you think of the top home run hitters in Mets history, your thoughts usually turn to guys like Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza and Dave Kingman - three guys who were known for their prodigious power.  But rounding out the top ten on the team's all-time home run list is Ed Kranepool, who never hit more than 16 home runs in any season and averaged a long ball every 50.8 plate appearances in his career.  Longevity had more to do with him appearing on this list than anything else.

Similarly, when one thinks of the top strikeout pitchers to put on the orange and blue, immediately visions of the Seavers, Koosmans and Goodens of the Mets universe come to mind.  No one would ever think of including a player like Jonathon Niese in the conversation, but there he is, sitting at No. 9 among the top strikeout pitchers in team history.  That's more a testament to how few great strikeout pitchers have managed to stick around with the Mets than it is of Niese's ability to throw strike three by an opposing batter.

That brings us back to Bartolo Colón, who currently sports a 13-7 won-loss record.  His excellent 2016 campaign comes on the heels of a 14-win season in 2015 and a 15-victory campaign in his inaugural season as a Met in 2014.  A win on Saturday against the Atlanta Braves would give him his third consecutive year with 14 or more victories and would put him on the short list of players who have accomplished that feat in a Mets uniform.  And believe me when I say that the players he'd be joining are not of the Ed Kranepool and Jonathon Niese ilk.

Steve Trachsel (Getty Images)
Entering 2016, a total of 27 pitchers (including Colón) had won 14 or more games for the Mets in a single season.  By accomplishing the feat in each of his first two seasons with the team, Colón had become one of ten Mets hurlers to post multiple seasons of 14+ victories.  However, one of the other nine was Steve Trachsel, which suggests that the company wasn't really that exclusive.  But should Colón win his 14th game of the season tonight or in any of his subsequent starts over the final three weeks of the season, he'd join pitchers like Jon Matlack, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez and Al Leiter as three-time 14-game winners.  It's a slightly more impressive list, but none of those guys would ever appear on the Mount Rushmore of Mets starting pitchers.

Matlack, Darling, Fernandez and Leiter all had varying degrees of success with the Mets, but none of them put together at least three consecutive seasons of 14 or more victories while they were on the team.  Only four pitchers have ever done that.  You may have heard of them.  Those players are:

  • Tom Seaver (1967-73)
  • Jerry Koosman (1973-76)
  • Dwight Gooden (1984-88)
  • David Cone (1988-91)

If you were going to sculpt a Mets-style Mount Rushmore using the top four starting pitchers in Mets history, the noggins of those four players would more than likely be permanently chiseled in granite.  Basically, any positive pitching records in team history will feature most, if not all of those pitchers.  Their constant success from year to year made them aces or co-aces of the staffs they pitched for and resulted in lots of wins for the team and themselves.

And to think, Bartolo Colón is just one victory away from joining them.

Over the years, the importance of the pitching victory has been lessened.  A leaky pen can cost a starting pitcher a well-deserved win just as easily as an explosive offense can help a starter earn an ugly "W".  But a win is a win is a win, and pitchers still love getting them.  (Just ask Rick Porcello.)

Bartolo Colón has been in baseball long enough that he remembers when pitching victories were still used to determine how valuable a pitcher was.  But you don't have to tell anyone in this day and age just how valuable Colón has been to the Mets.  And should he earn a victory tonight over the Braves, his value as a winning pitcher will elevate him into the pantheon that includes the best starting pitchers in the history of the franchise.

Yeah, wins for pitchers don't matter as much as they used to.  But I don't think anyone is complaining  that Bartolo Colón is still racking up that "meaningless stat" for the Mets.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Wilmer Flores' Friends Want Him to Play Every Day


Wilmer Flores' new walk-up music is "I'll Be There For You", the theme to the long-running television show, "Friends".  That story seems to have taken over social media for the past 24 hours.  But the real story should be how Flores is making a push to be in the everyday lineup.

Flores had a fine season at the plate in 2015, collecting 22 doubles, 16 homers and 59 RBI to go with a .263 batting average and .408 slugging percentage.  He also made solid contact, striking out just 63 times in 510 plate appearances.  That made him the eighth-toughest person to strike out in the National League.

However, with the Mets' acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera and the trade for Neil Walker, Flores was a man without a position at the start of the 2016 campaign, and his performance suffered as a result of his sporadic play.  On the morning of June 24, Flores was batting .226 with a .357 slugging percentage and a .648 OPS.  He had also started just 31 of the team's first 71 games, and most of those starts came as a result of David Wright's annual injury.  But something clicked as the summer got underway, and Flores has been one of the team's most productive hitters since then.

On June 24, Flores began a four-game stretch in which he reached base eight times and drove in four runs.  A week later, he became the second Met in team history to collect six hits in a game.  That Alfonzian effort kicked off an 11-game stretch in which Flores batted .412 with seven homers and 13 RBI.  And Flores hasn't stopped producing.

Since the middle of June, Flores has hit 14 homers and has 42 RBI.  That production has come in a mere 216 plate appearances.  To put that into perspective, that's more pop and run production than Yoenis Céspedes has had in the same time period with a similar number of plate appearances (Céspedes has 11 HR and 28 RBI in 205 PA).  And since June 24, Flores is batting .296 with a .536 slugging percentage and an .880 OPS.  Even more crazy is the fact that Flores has a .264 BABIP since mid-June and he's still become one of the team's top run producers.  Eventually that low BABIP (an average BABIP is around .300) will even itself out, which means the potential to drive in more runs exists for Flores.

One of the reasons why Flores wasn't starting many games early on was his inability to hit right-handed pitching.  He was mashing left-handed pitching to the tune of a .340 batting average but was struggling to get to the Mendoza Line against right-handed pitchers.  But that lack of success against RHP has begun to change.

In today's game against the Reds, Flores had three hits against Cincinnati right-handed starter Robert Stephenson.  This came less than 24 hours after Flores went 2-for-4 versus the Nationals, collecting a double off starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez and a single off reliever Mat Latos, both of whom are right-handed.  Four days earlier, Flores turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead by clubbing a two-run homer off Marlins starter Jake Esch - also a right-handed pitcher.  The night before that, Flores picked up a double and an RBI single off Miami pitcher Tom Koehler.  And what do you know?  He throws with his right hand as well.

(Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
In fact, Flores hasn't had a hit off a southpaw since August 26, when he hit a grand slam against Phillies starter Adam Morgan.  Since that salami, Flores has reached base 13 times (ten hits, three walks) in eight starts.  All 13 times he's gotten on base, a right-handed pitcher was on the mound.

With Neil Walker out for the season, Asdrubal Cabrera playing through an injury and James Loney struggling to the tune of a .174/.195/.187 slash line since August 9, Flores was bound to get more at-bats.  But even without the less-than-100% infield, Flores has 100% earned the opportunity to start every game for the Mets, regardless of whether the pitcher is a lefty or a righty.

His BABIP is low even with the high production.  His inability to hit right-handed pitchers appears to be a thing of the past.  And his teammates are dropping like flies.  The reason to sit Flores is gone.

Wilmer Flores wants everyone to know that his favorite TV show is "Friends".  Flores should know that he has his own friends in Mets fans who feel his bat should be in the lineup every day.  After all, Flores' bat has certainly been there for us since the beginning of summer.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Yoenis Céspedes vs. Other Mets in Their First 162 Games

Yoenis Cespedes's 162-game start gets a big thumbs up!  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Yoenis Céspedes has meant everything to the Mets since he was acquired at the trade deadline last July.  But because of nagging injuries and a trip to the disabled list earlier this season, Céspedes didn't get to play in his 162nd career game with the team until Wednesday, as he has missed 28 games during the 2016 campaign after resting for only two games with the Mets in 2015, both of which came after the team had clinched the division title.

Céspedes's numbers with the team in those 162 games are astounding, as he has produced 34 doubles, 44 homers, 112 RBI and has compiled a .583 slugging percentage and .941 OPS in a full season's worth of games.  Those five categories are traditionally recognized as categories in which sluggers generally excel, and Céspedes ranks favorably with the team's all-time greats in all five.

In doing research for hot starts by Mets players to see where Céspedes ranked, I found some interesting names that I did not expect to find among those franchise legends.  For every time Mike Piazza was in the top ten - he's the only player to be ranked in the top five in all five categories within his first 162 games with the team - there were a handful of "did they really have that type of start?" players.

Here are five lists, one each for doubles, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage, that show just how good Céspedes has been in his first 162 games with the Mets and how fortunate some other players were in their first full season's worth of contests with the club.


Doubles:

Bernard Gilkey
Mike Piazza - 46
Bernard Gilkey - 45
Paul Lo Duca - 44
David Wright - 41
Mike Cameron - 40
Rusty Staub - 39
Eddie Murray - 38
Robin Ventura - 38
Todd Zeile - 38
Ike Davis - 37



Home Runs:

Kevin McReynolds
Dave Kingman - 48
Yoenis Céspedes - 44
Carlos Delgado - 39
Mike Piazza - 38
Mike Cameron - 35
Gary Carter - 34
Frank Thomas - 34
Robin Ventura - 32
Cliff Floyd - 31
Bernard Gilkey - 31
Kevin McReynolds - 31
Darryl Strawberry - 31



Runs Batted In:

John Olerud
Carlos Delgado - 126
Bernard Gilkey - 124
Robin Ventura - 120
Mike Piazza - 119
Dave Kingman - 118
Gary Carter - 116
Yoenis Céspedes - 112
Donn Clendenon - 108
John Olerud - 107
Kevin McReynolds - 102




Slugging Percentage:

Mike Cameron
Mike Piazza - .604
Yoenis Céspedes - .583
Bernard Gilkey - .544
Rico Brogna - .529
Robin Ventura - .525
Cliff Floyd - .523
Carlos Delgado - .518
Donn Clendenon - .512
Dave Kingman - .511
Mike Cameron - .510



On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage:

Rico Brogna
Mike Piazza - 1.005
Yoenis Céspedes - .941
Bernard Gilkey - .930
Robin Ventura - .902
Cliff Floyd - .890
John Olerud - .889
Rico Brogna - .880
Carlos Delgado - .870
Benny Agbayani - .867
David Wright - .865



As you can see, there are several players whose names you would expect to see in multiple categories.  Power hitters such as Céspedes, Piazza, Carlos Delgado, Dave Kingman and others can be found in at least three of the five top-ten lists.  But did you really expect to see a guy like Rico Brogna appear on as many lists as David Wright?  What about Cliff Floyd and Mike Cameron showing up three times?  Or most surprisingly, what do you think of Bernard Gilkey and Robin Ventura joining Piazza as the only three players to rank in the top ten in all five categories?

Those unexpected players (Brogna, Floyd, Cameron, Gilkey, Ventura) all had sensational starts to their careers in Flushing, but they also suffered injuries (Brogna, Floyd and Cameron come to mind) or faded quickly (Gilkey and Ventura were both one-season wonders).

Meanwhile, a number of all-time team greats were absent from a number of these top-tens.  The late, great Gary Carter made it to the Hall of Fame and began a miraculous World Series rally that fueled the Mets to a championship.  But his excellent .490 slugging percentage and .861 OPS in his first 162 games with the team were both not high enough to appear on either category's respective top-ten list.  Darryl Strawberry may have won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1983, but his only appearance on any of the above lists is a ninth-place tie in the homer department.  And Carlos Beltran may be the greatest free agent signing in Mets history, but a poor start to his career in New York kept him off every list.

It remains to be seen whether Céspedes will go down the road traveled by the great sluggers in Mets history or if the nagging injuries continue to increase and he will just be remembered for the incredible 162-game start to his Mets career, which included helping the team reach the 2015 World Series.

For now, Céspedes is one of only three Mets to have at least 30 doubles, 35 homers and 100 RBI in his first 162 games with the team, joining Carlos Delgado and Hall of Famer Mike Piazza.  Whether or not Céspedes joins Piazza in Cooperstown or even in the Mets Hall of Fame won't be known for years, but one thing's for certain.

Yoenis Céspedes has been gotten off to one of the best starts of any hitter in franchise history.  And there's nothing fluky about that.



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Curtis Granderson Chases Unwanted History One RBI at a Time

On Friday, the Mets' leaky bullpen turned a 1-1 tie into an 8-1 blowout loss in a matter of minutes.  Gone was Seth Lugo's valiant effort , in which he allowed one run in six and two-thirds innings while he was in the game and two additional runs after he was taken out of the game, no thanks to Jerry Blevins' craptastic performance.

The sole run for the Mets came in the second inning, when Curtis Granderson bashed and splashed his 20th home run of the season into McCovey Cove.  Obviously, Grandy's tater came with no one on base, something Mets fans have become accustomed to, as it was the 17th consecutive solo homer for Granderson this season.  And for those who would say that Granderson has so many solo shots because he's been used mostly as a leadoff hitter this season, you should be reminded that the only time Granderson is guaranteed to bat with no one on base as a No. 1 hitter is in inning No. 1 and that last year, he was used mostly as a leadoff hitter and still managed to knock eight balls out of the park with men on base.  Oh, and last night's four-base hit came as the Mets' sixth-place hitter, as did his previous solo homer two nights before that.

For the season, Granderson has 20 home runs and just 34 RBI.  You read that correctly, kids.  Thirty-four runs batted in for a 20-homer hitter.  And it's because of the paltry RBI figure that Granderson is chasing unwanted history.

The forever-smiling Curtis Granderson finally has something to frown about.  (Photo by Paul J. Bereswill)

Curtis Granderson is on pace to hit 27 homers and drive in 45 runs this season.  Only nine players in big league history have hit 20 or more homers while producing no more than 45 RBI in the same season.  But none of the players hit more than 22 home runs, as Chris Duncan (22 HR, 43 RBI in 2006) and Mark Reynolds (22 HR, 45 RBI in 2014) are tied for the most homers in a 45-RBI-or-fewer campaign.  With Granderson on pace for 27 homers, he stands a good chance to have the fewest runs batted in of any player with that home run total.  In fact, he could have fewer RBI than any player who hit at least 23 HR.

Here is the list of the fewest RBI recorded by players who hit 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 homers.

  • 23 HR, 48 RBI - Ruben Rivera (1999)
  • 24 HR, 51 RBI - Ken Phelps (1984)
  • 25 HR, 56 RBI - Fred Lynn (1988), Marcus Thames (2008), Luis Valbuena (2015)
  • 26 HR, 54 RBI - Ron Gant (2000), Joc Pederson (2015)
  • 27 HR, 56 RBI - Mark Bellhorn (2002)

Ruben Rivera is the only player in baseball history to hit 23 or more homers who failed to drive in 50 runs in that campaign.  Granderson, who has driven in 34 runs in the Mets' first 122 games, stands to join Rivera in this exclusive club while hitting more homers than Rivera and driving in fewer runs.  It should be noted that Rivera drove in his 34th run in 1999 on July 19 in his team's 92nd game of the season, while Granderson collected RBI No. 34 exactly one full month and 30 games later in his team's schedule.

With 20 homers and 34 RBI, Granderson has fewer then two runs batted in for every home run he has hit, or more precisely, 1.7 RBI/HR.  Only two other players with 20+ homers in a single season had RBI totals that failed to be at least twice the number of their home run output.  That gruesome twosome is:

  • Kevin Maas (1990) - 21 HR, 41 RBI
  • Chris Duncan (2006) - 22 HR, 43 RBI

Unlike Granderson, both Maas and Duncan needed just one additional RBI to have twice as many runs batted in as they had home runs.  They averaged 1.95 RBI/HR, compared to Granderson's 1.7 RBI/HR ratio, which means Granderson is on pace to shatter the mark for fewest RBI per home run among those players who hit 20 or more home runs.  But what if the bar was lowered from 20 HR to just reaching double digits in homers?  Surely, there should be many players who averaged fewer than 1.7 RBI per home run when they didn't hit too many homers to begin with, right?

Wrong.

In fact, here is the complete list of players who hit ten or more homers and failed to drive in 1.7 runs for every homer they hit:

  • Wayne Gross (1985) - 11 HR, 18 RBI (1.64 RBI/HR)
  • Russell Branyan (2008) - 12 HR, 20 RBI (1.67 RBI/HR)

That's it.  I'm sure Curtis Granderson is pleased to be in their company.

So let's look at one last thing before you start the process of buying Granderson a one-way plane ticket out of town.  Let's review all the names we've mentioned above.  I'm talking about Chris Duncan, Matt Reynolds, Ruben Rivera, Ken Phelps, Fred Lynn, Marcus Thames, Luis Valbuena, Ron Gant, Joc Pederson, Mark Bellhorn, Kevin Maas, Wayne Gross and Russell Branyan, for those of you whose attention span is smaller than the difference between Granderson's home run and RBI totals.

Those 13 players averaged just 343 at-bats in their RBI-starved seasons, with Pederson (480 AB) being the only one to surpass 450 at-bats.  Therefore, it could be reasonably argued that because most of them didn't come up to the plate as often as an everyday player, they had fewer RBI opportunities.  Granderson already has 424 at-bats this season.  Barring injury or benching, he's on pace to rack up 563 at-bats.  And yet he's still not driving in runs.

It makes you wonder if that paltry .123 batting average with runners in scoring position (10-for-81) and that almost inconceivable .050 mark in two-out/RISP situations (2-for-40) has something to do with Granderson's low RBI total with all those home runs.  (Spoiler alert:  It does.)

When the Mets signed Curtis Granderson as a free agent prior to the 2014 campaign, they expected him to be a run-producer.  Instead, he became the team's leadoff hitter.  In 2015, Granderson produced 70 RBI, with 64 of those runs driven in from the leadoff spot.  This year, he's not even halfway to his 2015 RBI total even though the season is more than three-quarters complete.  And now, he's not even in the leadoff spot where he could use the excuse that No. 1 hitters aren't expected to drive in runs.

It's not unusual for a big-time free agent signing to make history.  It is unusual, however, for one to chase the kind of unwanted history Curtis Granderson is approaching - history he's about to make one well-spaced RBI at a time.

 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Dog Days of Summer Seem to Only Affect the Mets


If you've been living in the New York metropolitan area the last few weeks, you know it's been a hot summer, especially recently when temperatures have been in the 90s with heat indices soaring into triple digits.  In between breaths of hot and sticky air, you've probably heard someone mention that we're in the dog days of summer.  But what exactly are those canine 24-hour periods?

The dictionary definition of dog days is as follows:

  • The sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period that Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3 to August 11.
  • A period marked by lethargy, inactivity or indolence.

Clearly, the second definition was created with the 2016 New York Mets in mind.

Just a few days after the astrological beginning of the dog days of summer, the Mets' record stood at 47-38 and they held a firm grip on the National League's top wild card spot.  Since then, the Mets have gone 10-20 and their players have developed those dreaded summer allergies - the ones that make them allergic to winning streaks longer than one game.

Since July 7, when the Mets were three games ahead of the Cardinals and Marlins, New York has the worst record in baseball.  Don't believe me?  Here, see for yourself.  Can't find the Mets?  Just look all the way down in the lower right hand corner - the spot usually reserved for last place teams.



The dog days have affected other competitive teams as well, as the Marlins and Cardinals have only been one game above .500 since July 7.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, who had the eighth-best record in the National League on July 7, are also just one game over the break-even point since that date.  But even that's been good enough to put them ahead of the Mets on the morning of August 13.  It should be noted that the Mets had the fourth-best record in the Senior Circuit five weeks ago, which means the Pirates only needed to be barely better than mediocre to leapfrog over four teams on their way to passing the defending National League champions in the wild card race.

The Mets have done nothing but fall apart since Sirius started to rise at the same time as the sun.  I mean that figuratively and literally, as Matt Harvey, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera and probably some other players you never realized were on the team (Justin Ruggiano, anyone?) have all been felled by the injury bug.  Still, even with the plethora of boo-boos, no one could have expected that this team would ever be the worst out of 30 teams for a period of just over a month.

Summer doldrums have affected the Mets in the past as well.  Just six years ago, the Mets' record stood at 45-35 on the morning of July 3, the date in which the dog days of summer begin in the astrological sense.  The team had the wild card lead and was only two games behind the first-place Braves in the N.L. East and three games ahead of the eventual division champion Phillies.  Five weeks later, they were below .500, behind the Phillies, and on the outside of the playoff race looking in.

Do you remember the 2002 season, when general manager Steve Phillips brought in a bunch of former All-Stars in Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz and Roberto Alomar to help the team go for its sixth straight winning season and third playoff trip in four years?  That team was 53-49 in late July and within striking distance of the wild card-leading Dodgers.  Then ... KABOOM!  That's the sound a Flushing Free Fall makes when the team proceeds to go 8-25 in its next 33 games, which included a 12-game losing streak in mid-August and the loss of every home game in the entire month.  For all you kids out there, that's an 0-13 record in August.

And what about the 1992 Mets, also known as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy"?  That team was actually just four games out of first place on July 24 and appearing to be worth every penny invested in it.  But less than a month later, the team was 15 games off the pace in the division after losing 19 of 24 games.

The dog days of summer affect every major league team.  Players get tired over a long season and especially when the weather is hot and humid.  But over the years, those days have been particularly rough on the Mets.  This season has been no exception.

Last night's loss to the Padres was the Mets' 20th defeat in their last 30 games.  If you believe in astrological definitions, the dog days of summer ended two days ago.  Perhaps someone should tell the Mets that the Dog Star is no longer rising with the sun and hope that this information can help the team rise in the wild card standings.  The Mets could certainly use all the help they can get.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Joey's World Tour: Motor City Beartran

Metsies and tigers and bears, oh my!  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

What's shaking, everyone?  This is your friendly neighborhood Studious Metsimus roving reporter and culinary expert, Joey Beartran.  In this installment of my world baseball tour, I'm going to talk about Comerica Park and the city of Detroit.  Here's my tip to you.

Don't go to Detroit.  Like, ever.

Seriously, if you want to visit the city and the surrounding areas that gave us Motown, Axel Foley and the dude who starred in "Magnum P.I.", just play some Stevie Wonder records while you watch "Beverly Hills Cop".  There's a reason why Tom Selleck took himself and his Detroit Tigers cap to Hawaii.  It's because he didn't want to be in Detroit.  He was the smart one.  I wasn't.

You see, every year I like to visit an American League park since the Mets don't visit too many of them over the course of a season.  I had already been to eight of the 15 A.L. stadiums prior to this year and needed to cross Comerica Park off my list.  So I hopped on a plane and embarked on my journey.  The flight was short, just a few minutes over an hour.  Alas, I wish my stay in the Motor City had been as short.

After the 20+ mile cab ride from the airport to downtown Detroit (the airport is in a city called Romulus - it's not actually in Detroit), I was a little hungry, so I decided to feast on a coney.  For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a hot dog with chili, shredded cheese and onions.  Well, at least that's what it's supposed to be, as I had several of these delicacies last year in Cincinnati, the coney capital of the country.  In Detroit, the hot dog just had a glop of chili, a few pieces of onions, no cheese and a generous helping of mustard.  Just like Indiana Jones hates snakes, I hate mustard.  And that should have been a warning to me that Detroit was not going be my favorite world tour destination.

The Cincinnati coney (left) is a work of art.  The Detroit version?  It's a work of fart.  (EL/SM)

I attended two games at Comerica Park with my crew.  The first game featured a classic pitching matchup, as Noah Syndergaard faced Justin Verlander.  The second game was whatever the opposite of "classic pitching matchup" is, as Logan Verrett squared off against southpaw Matt Boyd.  Both games featured what's become a sad routine for the Mets, as they dropped a pair of one-run decisions to the Tigers.  The first game saw the Mets score a meaningless run in the ninth, while the second contest had a very meaningful run cut down at the plate in the final frame.

Second verse, same as the first.

At least I was able to walk around the park during the games to keep me from viewing the carnage.  And I saw some interesting features at Comerica Park that I hadn't seen at other ballparks.

Since the builders of the ballpark knew that no one really wanted to be in Detroit, they constructed a Ferris Wheel and a carousel inside the stadium.  The Ferris Wheel has a dozen baseball-shaped cars while the carousel has a streak of tigers to ride.  (See, you learned something today.  I'll bet you didn't know that a group of tigers was called a streak.)  I didn't get on either ride because I was too busy wondering why SNY roving reporter Steve Gelbs passed me by without saying hello.

O where, o where has Steve Gelbs gone?  O where, o where can he be?  (EL/SM)

But all was not lost, as my Studious Metsimus colleague sent Steve a tweet the following day and got an honest response (see below).

As a roving reporter myself, I should have known that Steve would be busy.  Plus, he had his mind on other things, like riding the tiger carousel while feasting on ice cream.  Looks like I'm not the only roving reporter/culinary expert around.


I forgive you, Steve.  Just keep doing what you do best, even if it doesn't involve a carousel or Ferris Wheel.

In case you were wondering, it was fairly easy for Steve to get ice cream near the carousel, as the ride is located in the center of an area called the Big Cat Court.

The food court with the Big name features everything from Greek fare to Mexican street tacos to something called elephant ears.  No, seriously.  They have elephant ears.  And apparently, they're edible.

Dogs and elephants?  I think I'll stick to gyros and tacos, or maybe some of Steve Gelbs' ice cream.  (EL/SM)

It's clear that Tigers fans really love their food.  Perhaps the only thing they love more is their tigers.  No, not "Tigers" with a capital "T", but lower-case tigers, as in the ones that adorn the outside of Comerica Park.

There are tiger statues, tiger tiles, tiger gargoyle thingies.  If there is an open space on the outside of the stadium, there is probably a tiger on it.  Here, see for yourself.

You don't look so big to me!  You're all roar and no bite!  (EL/SM)

Finally, Comerica Park has statues.  Lots and lots of statues.  There are also kiosk-like areas with displays devoted to various decades of Detroit Tigers baseball.

My photographer gravitated towards the 1980s and 1990s displays since that was the era of baseball he grew up with.  While he was doing that, I checked out the statues behind the center field wall, featuring players such as Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline and Willie Horton.  There is also a statue dedicated to the late broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who called Tigers games for over four decades until his retirement following the 2002 campaign, or one year before Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy hung up his microphone.

All photos of inanimate objects by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus

So let's recap what happened during my 48-hour jaunt to Detroit.  My cab ride from the airport to downtown Detroit took longer than my flight from New York to the D.  My coney was a faux coney.  Steve Gelbs didn't notice a fellow roving reporter/culinary expert because he was having too much fun on the job.  I saw tigers (and elephant ears) in my sleep as well as on the stadium.  And of course, the Mets lost both games I attended by the smallest of margins.

Some things I didn't already tell you that added to my misery included my photographer getting attacked by his bed in our hotel room (there was a jagged edge that wasn't visible that he backed into, causing his leg to bleed as if it were Matt Harvey's nose).  For a city known as the Motor City, there was road construction and detours everywhere, pretty much preventing people from motoring around.  And most importantly, there were no convenience stores anywhere, which presented quite an inconvenience for post-game snack seekers such as myself.

Thomas Magnum was right when he left Detroit to become a private investigator in Hawaii.  And I would have been right had I gone to another American League park instead of one that required me to stay in Detroit.  But at least Comerica Park is off my list of ballparks that I needed to visit as part of my world tour.  And I'm so glad I never have to go there again.

Until next time, when I visit a stadium in a city that won't be Detroit, this is Joey Beartran wishing you a pleasant evening and wishing the Mets can finally produce a winning streak longer than one game.  This month-long slump they're in is almost as bad as going to the Motor City.  Almost.

See you soon!

My sister, Iggy, and I are glad we don't have to go back to Detroit, even if the tiger behind us has other ideas.  (EL/SM)



For previous installments of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago (NL)
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)
World Tour Stop #13: Baltimore (again) and Pittsburgh (part deux)
World Tour Stop #14: Cincinnati
World Tour Stop #15: Colorado
World Tour Stop #16: Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame)

 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Joey's World Tour: Won't You Take Me To ... Cooperstown?

My sister, Bee, joined me as Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. entered the Hall of Fame.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Hi, everyone!  This is your fav'rit roving reporter, Joey Beartran.  And this edition of my baseball world tour took me to a place where there is no major league baseball team, but there's certainly no shortage of baseball.

With Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. being elected into the Hall of Fame this year, it seemed like a perfect time for me (a Mets fan) and my sister, Bee (a Mariners fan), to venture 200 miles northwest of Citi Field to Cooperstown.  The Hall is located on Main Street, in an area full of baseball themed stores.  And during Hall of Fame weekend, those stores hosted many former athletes, including several Mets players of days gone by.

My photographer took several photos of these former players, but he failed to inform me that two members of the 1969 World Champion Mets found it amusing that among the many websites covering Hall of Fame weekend, one of them sent a bear instead of a human.  Needless to say, they smiled a little too much for the camera.

It's almost as if Art Shamsky and Ed Kranepool had never seen a roving reporter that's also a bear.  (EL/SM)

In addition to members of the Mets' first championship squad, there were also players from their second title team, such as Mookie Wilson, Howard Johnson and Lenny Dykstra.  I heard Jesse Orosco was also signing autographs and posing for photos with fans, but I was eating a hot dog at the time and didn't want mustard to accidentally appear on the side of my mouth in the photo.  If Shamsky and Kranepool were laughing when my face was mustard-free, how would Messy Jesse have reacted at the sight of Messy Joey?

At least Mookie, Lenny and HoJo didn't make fun of me.  (EL/SM)

Soon after meeting the Mets, meeting the Mets (again), stepping right up and greeting the Mets (for a small fee), the Hall of Fame parade began.

Thousands of people lined up on Main Street to see their favorite former players go by in the back of a Ford pickup truck.  Because who doesn't want to see Tom Glavine being taken hostage hanging out in the back of a moving pickup truck?  Missing among the living Hall of Famers were three former Mets (Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Roberto Alomar), but hey, at least we got Glavine to make up for them.

No comment.  (EL/SM)

Other Hall of Famers who took part in the parade included Jim Bunning, Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Eddie Murray, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, to name a few.  They were all smiles throughout the route.  (Even Eddie Murray!)  But of course, my photographer captured players like Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Dennis Eckersley at their surliest.  Because his sense of timing is awful.

Smile!  You're on Candid Studious Metsimus Camera!  (EL/SM)

The parade ended at the Hall of Fame building, which is the crown jewel of Cooperstown.  We entered the Hall three and a half hours before closing time.  By the time we got around to the gift shop, the employees were getting ready to kick us out.  (Not literally.  They were actually very polite.)  There was so much to see and do in the Hall, we could have easily spent more than three and a half hours there.

Exhibits included Women In Baseball, The African-American Baseball Experience and Viva Baseball (Latin-American baseball).  There were also wings devoted to baseball by the decades and baseball records, as well as a locker room featuring memorabilia from every team.  The area devoted to the 1970s was particularly interesting to me, even though that era was way before my time.  Two objects that stood out for me were the Andy Warhol painting of Tom Seaver (circa 1977 - not the happiest time to be Tom Seaver or a Mets fan) and the full costume of the San Diego Chicken, who entertained Padres fans at a time when the team wore brown and mustard colored uniforms and still didn't have a no-hitter.  (Well, at least they no longer wear those uniforms.)

The Chicken was lucky he didn't end up inside a Campbell's Soup can that was eventually painted by Warhol.  (EL/SM)

Once I left the '70s behind, I wish I hadn't.  You see, there was also a wing in the Hall of Fame devoted to the 2015 World Series, which I was not too keen on seeing.  (Yes, I took a photo there, but I'm not very happy about it.  If you absolutely must see it, just click here.  If the link doesn't take you to the photo, consider it a good thing.)

But enough about last year.  You want to see the Hall of Fame plaques, right?  Of course you do.  Well, you can always Google those.  There's an abundance of those photos on the interwebs.  At the time I went to see the plaques, the spots were still open for Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr.  But at least both players were well-represented in the gift shop.

By the time you read this, the plaques will be there.  Please buy a jersey while you wait.  (EL/SM)

Another place they were well-represented was in their special wings.  Both Piazza and Griffey had their own section in the Hall featuring memorabilia and photos taken at various points of their distinguished careers.

Bee and I enjoyed this section very much, although I was disappointed that Piazza's area had too much focus on the other teams he played for compared to Griffey.  Griffey was a member of the Cincinnati Reds longer than Piazza was a Met, but Mariners fans like Bee will be happy to know that his wing almost exclusively features him as a Seattle Mariner.   With Piazza, it was as if the Mets were just a stop on his baseball journey.  Take a look at the photos to see what I mean.

At least Bee got what our petty cash tin paid for in the Griffey wing.  (EL/SM)

Finally, on Sunday we attended the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center, which is about a one mile trudge from the Hall of Fame building.  We had left our blankets and lawn chairs there overnight just to reserve a spot.  By the time we got there Sunday morning, there were nearly 50,000 other people who had claimed spots around us.  That's more people than the capacity at Citi Field, even when they're selling standing room only tickets!

We were sitting too far away for my photographer to get any clear shots of the dozens of Hall of Famers sitting on the stage and the two new ones standing at the podium, but all you need to know about the ceremony can be summed up in this one photo taken off the big screen after both Piazza and Griffey had given their spectacular tear-filled speeches.

During the ceremony, Mets fans gave Piazza lots of TLC, while Griffey wore his hat 2 da back.  (EL/SM)

So that's all for this special edition of Joey's World Tour.  The next installment will come sooner than you expect, as we are planning on following the Mets to Detroit's Comerica Park next weekend.  I wonder what food options they have there...

Oh, before I forget, I have one more anecdote to share with you.  You see, a week after Mike Piazza entered the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Mets had a special ceremony of their own at Citi Field to retire Piazza's No. 31.  And about that plaque I mentioned before that wasn't at Cooperstown when I was there - well, it made the trip to Citi Field, and I was fortunate enough to get a photo with it before it made its return trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  (You don't have to Google it like I said before.  I'll be kind enough to share it with you here.)  My photographer also took lovely photos (for a change) of Piazza's former Mets teammates - Cliff Floyd, Edgardo Alfonzo and Al Leiter - who attended the Citi Field ceremony, as well as the new retired No. 31 that now sits atop the ballpark.

The Piazza celebration is complete now that the No. 31 has been retired at Citi Field.  (EL/SM)

Mike Piazza was very special to me.  You see, on the day I was "born" at Shea Stadium in 2004, Piazza was being celebrated in an on-field celebration (which seems to be a common theme in this blog post).  A dozen years ago, the Mets were celebrating the fact that he had just become the game's top home run hitting catcher.  They invited Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench to attend the ceremony, and Ivan Rodriguez was also there in uniform as a member of the Detroit Tigers, the Mets' opponent that day.  That was my first baseball experience - seeing a celebration of Mike Piazza.  So it's fitting that I got to see him receive the ultimate honors of being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and having his number retired by the Mets.

So on that note, now that I'm done with Cooperstown and the two-weekend celebration of Mike Piazza, I think I'm going to rest up to make sure I'm fully awake for next weekend's getaway to Michigan to see the Mets play the Tigers, which is a rematch of that first Mets game I saw in person back in 2004.  Got any suggestions where I can hibernate for the week?  Maybe a large place where a bear can feel like home?


This place on the way back from Cooperstown seems like a good place for a bear to crash.  (EL/SM)

Take care, Mets fans.  I hope to talk to you again once I've completed the next leg of my baseball world tour!



For previous installments of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago (NL)
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)
World Tour Stop #13: Baltimore (again) and Pittsburgh (part deux)
World Tour Stop #14: Cincinnati
World Tour Stop #15: Colorado

 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jonathan Lucroy Isn't Yoenis Céspedes, Or Is He?

Jonathan Lucroy may not be Yoenis Cespedes, but he sure looks a lot like Daniel Murphy.  (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

No one is going to confuse Jonathan Lucroy with Yoenis Céspedes.  Céspedes is a slugger who has never hit fewer than 22 homers in any of his five seasons in the majors, averaging 31 homers and 103 RBI for every 162 games played, while Lucroy's career high in home runs is 18.  Céspedes is also a left fielder, while Lucroy squats behind the plate.

But despite the obvious differences, Lucroy has the potential to be an impact player just like Céspedes was last year for the Mets.  Allow me to explain.

The Mets have two problems.  When they're on offense, especially with runners in scoring position, they turn into a Mario Mendoza cover band.  And believe me, they've covered him very well, batting .202 (148-for-732) with runners in scoring position.

The team's other problem occurs when they're on defense.  They allow too many [expletive deleted] stolen bases!  New York has allowed 84 steals in 111 attempts, allowing opposing base runners to steal at a 76% success rate.  The average major league team has allowed just 52 stolen bases and a 71% success rate, so yeah, I'd call this a problem for the Mets.

So how do the Mets fix these two problems with just one player?  All they have to do is make a trade for Jonathan Lucroy.

For the season, Lucroy is batting .300 with 17 doubles, 13 homers and 50 RBI.  He also has a .360 on-base percentage and a .484 slugging percentage to give him an .844 OPS.  Now consider this.  Lucroy's .300 batting average and .844 OPS are both higher than the marks Céspedes was producing at the time the Mets acquired him last year.  (La Potencia was batting .293 and had an .829 OPS when he was traded to New York.)

It's true that Céspedes had driven in more runs at the time of the swap, as Yoenis had amassed 61 RBI before coming to the Mets, or 11 more than Lucroy has now.  But remember that Lucroy is a catcher and therefore did not have all the plate appearances that an outfielder like Céspedes would have.  Lucroy's 50 RBI in 324 at-bats this year (an RBI every 6.5 AB) is comparable to the 61 RBI produced by Céspedes last year in 403 at-bats prior to becoming a Met (an RBI every 6.6 AB).

Lucroy also excels at driving in runners in scoring position when there are two outs, batting .289 in those situations.  That would be a marked improvement over the paltry .164 batting average the Mets currently have under those circumstances, which includes the .308 mark put up by Céspedes.  (Take out Céspedes and the team would have a .152 batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position.  Yeah, it's really that bad.)  Imagine a lineup with two players hitting back-to-back who can produce when the team is down to its last out in an inning!  That's what Lucroy would bring to the Mets.

Now, as great as Céspedes was with the bat both last year and in 2016, there's nothing he can do about the plethora of stolen bases being registered against the Mets.  If you recall, earlier this week Céspedes hit a home run against the Cardinals that gave the Mets a late-inning lead.  However, a two-run rally by the Cardinals in the ninth inning, which included a stolen base by Jeremy Hazelbaker to set up the tie-breaking hit by Kolten Wong, caused a potential wonderful win by the Mets to turn into a devastating defeat.

Céspedes couldn't do it all in that game against St. Louis.  That's where Jonathan Lucroy comes in.

Do you know which catcher is leading the league in most base runners caught stealing?  That would be one Jonathan Charles Lucroy.  Lucroy has gunned down 32 would-be base stealers, or five more than Travis d'Arnaud, Rene Rivera and Kevin Plawecki have been able to throw out ... combined!  In addition, Lucroy has thrown out 40% of the runners trying to steal a base against him.  The National League average is just 28%.

So let's review.

Have bat, will travel - hopefully to New York.  (Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

Jonathan Lucroy has produced just as much with the bat this year with the Brewers as Céspedes did last year with the Tigers prior to Yoenis being traded to the Mets.  Lucroy is just as likely to drive in a run as Céspedes is.  It just doesn't show up in the cumulative numbers because Lucroy plays fewer games due to the fact that he is a catcher.

Lucroy is batting 125 points higher than the Mets are in two out/RISP situations, meaning that he is much more likely to collect the two-out hit needed to drive in a runner from second or third base than your typical Met is.  This would put an end to those frustrating innings when the Mets put multiple men on base but don't bring them home.

And finally, Lucroy would cause the running at will against Mets pitchers to slow down a bit once opposing base runners realize that he's actually quite adept at throwing them out.  That would thwart potential rallies and keep runs off the board.

When Rene Rivera is leading Mets catchers in home runs and RBI with four and 17, respectively, and there is the potential to acquire another catcher with a 13 and 50 in those categories, you know the Mets have to pull the trigger on this deal.

Jonathan Lucroy isn't the sexy name that Yoenis Céspedes was last year and he probably can't hit balls into the third deck at Citi Field like the Mets' outfielder has, but Lucroy can help the Mets in so many ways that even Céspedes can't.  And he could be the difference between the Mets playing meaningful games in October again or the Mets watching other teams doing the same.


Friday, July 22, 2016

30 Years Ago: The Game That Epitomized the 1986 Mets

Ray Knight tried to take Eric Davis's face clean off his face.  (MLB screen shot)

The 1986 Mets were a fighting team, both literally and figuratively.  They always fought back when faced with adversity and they never backed down from a fight (or four).  This never-say-die attitude carried the Mets to a team-record 108 victories and a world championship in October.

The team's 62nd win of the year probably epitomized the Mets more than any other game they played in 1986.  Their game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati had it all.

It had Darryl Strawberry being ejected by home plate umpire Gerry Davis for arguing a questionable strikeout call.

It had a brawl that cleared both benches (except for George Foster, who was thinking about what kids' impressions of him would be had he joined the fracas - he should have thought what they would think of his awful "Get Metsmerized" album instead).

It had Gary Carter participating in a double play as the 80th third baseman in team history.  (Since then, there have been 81 additional players to man the hot corner for the Mets, giving the team 161 third sackers, or 96 fewer players than have played left field.  Funny how everyone talks about all the third basemen in club history, but no one ever talks about the 257 left fielders.)

It had one of those 257 left fielders - Roger McDowell - playing musical chairs with his lefthanded pitching counterpart, Jesse Orosco, as manager Davey Johnson rotated McDowell and Orosco between the pitching mound and the outfield when the team ran out of players due to ejections and other substitutions.

It had a tie-breaking three-run homer by Howard Johnson - playing shortstop at the time - to give the Mets a hard-fought (pun very much intended) victory in the 14th inning.  It was the team's second five-hour game in three days after they dropped the finale in Houston in 15 innings two days earlier on a controversial call at the plate by umpire Greg Bonin.  (And that 15-inning affair came two days after four Mets players were famously arrested for - what else - fighting some crooked cops at Cooter's.)

The game in Cincinnati on July 22, 1986 - thirty years ago today - most definitely had it all.  And almost all of it would never have happened had three-time Gold Glove winner Dave Parker not enraged then-Reds closer John Franco by dropping what should have been the final out of the game in the ninth inning...

I hope you enjoy the video, courtesy of ClassicMLB11 on YouTube, which shows the entire game (including commercials!!).  For those not interested in sitting through five hours of sometimes grainy video, the Strawberry at-bat and subsequent ejection happen around the 1 hour, 36 minute mark.  The Parker gaffe occurred at 2 hour and 56 minutes.  The fight began around 3 hours and 29 minutes, then continues for many minutes after that.  Gary Carter playing third base and turning two happens at 4 hours, 20 minutes.  HoJo's homer occurs at 4 hours, 53 minutes.  And Orosco and McDowell rotate throughout extra innings.  Enjoy!

Shoutout to ClassicMLB11 for posting this video of the Reds' TV broadcast from 7/22/86.