Saturday, July 15, 2017

Move Along, People! No Unicorn Score to See Here!


On Friday, the Mets defeated the Colorado Rockies by a final score of 14-2.  As blogfather, author and respected Unicorn Score researcher Greg Prince noted, it was the first time in the team's 56-year history that they had won a game by that exact score.  Hence, 14-2 is referred to as a Unicorn Score, which as defined by our fervent Faith and Fear friend is "a score by which the Mets win once and never again."

As of this writing, the fewest runs scored by the Mets in a Unicorn Score game is 11, which they accomplished on May 20, 1999 when they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers, 11-10.  Not only is that the only time in Mets history that the team has won a game by an 11-10 score, but that May 20 affair was the first of two games played by the Mets that day; a day in which Robin Ventura clubbed grand slams in each game, which made him the first - and still only - player in big league history to accomplish that feat.

In addition, the Mets have never won a game by a 12-11 score in franchise history.  That remains the fewest runs needed by New York to win a game by a Unicorn Score.  (They've lost two games by a 12-11 score, but like the numbers of ringzzzz the Yankees have, we don't care about those.)

But what about anti-Unicorn Scores?  Which scores are the most common in Mets history when the team has taken care of business and emerged victorious?  I'm glad you asked.  (Trust me, you asked.  I heard you through the screen.)

The most common score in a Mets victory - an anti-Unicorn Score, if you will - is not surprisingly, a low-scoring game that was decided by one run.  The Mets have won 291 games by the exact final score of 3-2.  In their 1969 championship season alone, the Mets won 11 games by that score.  Incredibly, the Mets have won at least one game by a 3-2 score in each of their first 55 seasons.  However, they have yet to win a 3-2 game in 2017.

There are two other scores that have resulted in happy recaps more than 200 times.  Those scores are 2-1 (Mets have won 247 games by that score) and 4-3 (241 of those).

Want more?  The most repeated final score in Mets victories that weren't decided by a single tally is 4-2.  New York has celebrated 182 of those identical wins.  And the team the Mets have beaten the most by the exact same final result?  That one is a surprise.  Despite never playing in the same division and thereby having fewer games scheduled against them than they would against N.L. East squads, the Mets have defeated the Cincinnati Reds 33 times by a 3-2 score.  All but one of those 3-2 victories happened from 1962 to 2002, as the Mets have only defeated the Reds once in the last 15 years by a 3-2 margin.

Blue and orange unicorns do exist.
In 2015, the Mets won a 14-9 game for the first time in team history, defeating the Rockies by that score.  That Unicorn Score lasted 24 hours, as the following day, the Mets beat Colorado by that twice-in-a-lifetime score.  Last night, the Mets put up another Unicorn Score against the Rockies in their 14-2 victory.  Perhaps this time around, they'll follow it up by winning with the most common anti-Unicorn Score of 3-2.  If they do, it would be the first time they've defeated anyone by that score this year.

As the saying goes, if you watch baseball long enough, you'll end up seeing something you've never seen before, like a Unicorn Score.  Or maybe you'll see something you've seen over 200 times before, like a 3-2 Mets victory.  I wonder what the team has in store for us tonight.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Mets Have Been BABIP'ed to Death in 2017

Steven Matz was a BABIP-buster in his first start of 2017.  (Daniel Shirley/Getty Images)

The Mets have been living in a bizarro world in 2017; a world in which their offense has been decent (third in homers, seventh in runs scored, .285 BA w/RISP) but their pitching has been suspect.  The team's 4.82 ERA is third-highest in the majors, with only the cellar-dwelling Padres (4.98 ERA) and Phillies (5.00 ERA) faring worse and all American League teams (a.k.a. the league that has to face a D.H.) faring better.

Although the Mets have allowed a ton of runs over their first 60 games of the season, it could actually be a lot worse, as the team has the highest WHIP in the National League (1.478), which is just barely better than the poorest mark in the American League, held by Baltimore (1.480).

Opposing hitters are constantly getting on base against the Mets, whether it be via base hits or one of the shockingly high number of walks allowed by the team's pitchers.  And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell you that those lofty baserunner totals will in turn lead to crooked numbers on the scoreboard.

Batting average against, WHIP and ERA tell us part of the story of the 2017 Mets' failures on the mound, but not the complete story.  In fact, something not found in the daily boxscores could be more significant in determining how the Mets will fare for the remainder of the season.  And that something is sponsored by the letters B, A, B, I and P.

Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is calculated by taking the number of hits that don't leave the yard and dividing that by at-bats minus strikeouts minus home runs plus sacrifice flies.  To the mathematically inclined, it looks a little something like this:

(Hits - HR) / (AB - SO - HR + SF)

At-bats that result in strikeouts and home runs cannot be affected by a defensive player, so those numbers are subtracted.  Sacrifice flies, on the other hand, are caught by the player on defense, but do not count as an at-bat for the hitter, hence why they are added in the denominator.  In layman's terms, BABIP measures the percentage of balls in play that result in base hits.

In general, a .300 BABIP is considered average.  Therefore, a pitcher who allows a BABIP under .300 generally has a solid defense behind him (they're good at getting to balls and converting them into outs).  Luck can also be a determining factor in a low BABIP, as the pitcher may be giving up line drive after line drive, but those liners may be headed directly at the defensive players' gloves.  Therefore, if a pitcher has a low BABIP, eventually it is to be expected that that figure will regress to the mean of .300 at some point.  Likewise, a pitcher who allows a BABIP over .300 can expect the balls that are put in play to find the gloves of his defense reasonably soon.

According to fangraphs.com, Mets pitchers have allowed the highest BABIP (.321) of any team in baseball this season.  No other National League team is even close, as the Pittsburgh Pirates have the second-worst BABIP against them at .308.

Jacob deGrom's BABIP?  It's an unsustainable .350, which means his 4.75 ERA is bound to go down once his BABIP begins to do the same.  Similarly, Robert Gsellman (.317 BABIP) and Zack Wheeler (.305) should also improve as the season progresses, with Gsellman already showing signs of his BABIP returning to the typical .300 level.  Even Noah Syndergaard, who was pitching extremely well before a lat injury sent him to the sidelines, had a .329 BABIP against him in five starts, which suggested that his best efforts were yet to come.

The BABIP bug that has affected deGrom, Gsellman and the plethora of spot starters on the team has also found its way to the bullpen, as Fernando Salas (31 appearances, .313 BABIP), Josh Smoker (21 appearances, .357 BABIP) and Paul Sewald (17 appearances, obscenely high .422 BABIP) have had difficulty with batted balls finding the outfield grass instead of their defense's gloves.

Unfortunately, most of these high BABIP figures are the fault of the Mets' subpar defense.  If the defense doesn't have the range or speed to get to ground balls in the hole or fly balls in the gaps, then more hits will result.  It is why teams like the Twins, Yankees and Rockies are in first place in their respective divisions, as all three of those teams rank in the top five in defensive efficiency, converting many of the balls put in play against them into outs.

For the record, the Mets' .664 defensive efficiency is the worst in the majors.

The unwritten laws of BABIP say that pitchers with a figure north of .300 will eventually allow fewer hits on balls put in play.  With the Mets sporting a major league-worst .321 BABIP entering today's game, the days of 7-6 and 9-8 losses could be coming to an end.  Saturday's doubleheader sweep of the Braves, in which the Mets allowed a total of two runs could become the norm in the very near future.  Of course, the defense is going to have to step up its game so that those BABIPs don't continue to be the downfall of what was supposedly one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

Oh, and while on the topic of BABIP, Matt Harvey better put on his big boy pants soon.  His 5.02 ERA may be an eyesore, but it could (and should) be far worse.  Through his first 12 starts, the BABIP against him is a ridiculously low .259.  The Dark Knight may very well be looking forward to some dark nights at Citi Field once that number starts to creep up closer to the norm.

************

Speaking of the Dark Knight, it is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of TV's Batman, Adam West.  West was anything but dark in the campy program, entertaining viewers through the show's reruns for half a century.  He also lent his voice and name to the mayor on "Family Guy".  West remained quite popular with fans and pop culture enthusiasts until his death Friday night at the age of 88.  His Family Guy character may have hated baseball cards, but baseball and non-baseball fans alike loved Adam West.  May he rest in peace.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day and My Mets Fandom

Today is Memorial Day, a day in which we honor the men and women who served in the military and gave up their lives to protect the United States and its people.  Memorial Day is also special to me as a Mets fan, for it was on the day we observed the holiday in 1981 that I became a Mets fan.

On Monday, May 25, 1981, I was off from school.  I had been looking forward to Memorial Day for weeks because my father promised we'd have a barbecue in the backyard.  Something about having burgers while fending off mosquitoes always made eight-year-old me giddy with anticipation.  But unfortunately, that outdoor food and fly-swatting fest was not to be, as my father did not feel well and was bedridden all day.

Of course, as most children my age would do, I was more upset about not having burgers and potato salad that day than I was about the condition of my father.  Instead of counting down the hours and minutes to the unveiling of the grill, I spent all morning and early afternoon moping in the living room.  Eventually, I took advantage of the fact that my father was in bed, which left his favorite recliner that no one was allowed to sit on open for the taking.  So of course, I turned on the TV and plopped myself in his comfortable chair.  Since it was 1981 and we weren't a remote control household, I didn't feel like getting up to change the channel.  The last thing anyone had watched the night before was on WOR (Channel 9), so that's what I would make myself watch to take my mind off the postponed barbecue.

Channel 9 had always been the TV home of the New York Mets, but in 1980, fledgling cable network Sportschannel began to air Mets games as well.  Fortunately, the Memorial Day game in 1981 was scheduled to be broadcast on Channel 9 and the allure of the velour prevented me from getting off the recliner to change the channel.  So it was the Mets for me on that day.  And it's been the Mets for me ever since.

The Mets played the Philadelphia Phillies in the Memorial Day matinee and they showed no brotherly love for their division rivals, defeating them in a 13-3 laugher.  Although many players performed well for the Mets that day (Hubie Brooks, Lee Mazzilli and Joel Youngblood had three hits apiece, Dave Kingman hit a grand slam and starting pitcher Greg Harris earned his first major league victory), it was Mookie Wilson who captured my attention and made me thankful that we didn't possess a remote control.  Mookie reached base four times that day (two hits, two walks).  He also scored three runs and drove in two.  After leading off the game with a walk, Mookie proceeded to swipe second and scored the first of the Mets' four runs in that inning.  It was the first time I had been exposed to Mookie's baserunning abilities, and I was utterly amazed.  Six innings later, Mookie crushed a long drive to center off former Met Tug McGraw that went for a two-run triple.  His gazzelle-like speed mesmerized eight-year-old me to the point where I checked the TV guide - I had to get off the couch eventually - for when the next Mets game was going to be aired on WOR.



Less than three weeks after discovering Mookie and the Mets, baseball went on strike.  For two months, I couldn't indulge in my new passion - my New York Mets passion, that is.  Fortunately, my father recovered from his illness and we were able to have many barbecues to pass the time during baseball's two-month hiatus.  Baseball returned to my TV screen in August, and I quickly eschewed burgers and hot dogs on the grill for Mookie and the Mets in front of my grill.

Thirty-six Memorial Days later, I'm still a Mets fan and I will be attending today's game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field.  But just think of how everything had to fall into place for my Mets fandom to begin the way it did.

Had my father not been ill, I never would have watched the Mets that day.  It would have taken longer for me to develop an interest in baseball, especially since my father wasn't a sports fan and couldn't tell me the difference between an infield fly and an unzipped fly.

Also, if someone had left the TV on a channel other than Channel 9 the previous night, I might have become a daytime soap opera fan instead of a Mets fan and this blog post would be about the wedding of Luke and Laura and not the running of Mookie Wilson.

And last, but certainly not least, had the Yankees been playing a day game rather than a night game in Baltimore, I might be bragging about ringzzzz today.  Fortunately, the Yankees had no day game on the docket and even if they had, they were blown out by the Orioles on Memorial Day 1981 so I wouldn't have looked forward to their next game as much as I was for the Mets after their philleting of the Phillies.

My father is now 81 years old.  He has taught me many things about life and love.  On May 25, 1981, he probably wanted to teach me how to make a well-done burger.  But on a day when he was too sick to gave me any instruction, he inadvertently taught me how to be a Mets fan.  And my life would not have been the same had I not developed that love and passion for the team.  I met my wife because of the Mets and I've made many new friends due to our shared love of the orange and blue.

Memorial Day will always be special to me, thanks to my now-healthy father, a chair of incredible comfort and the fleet feet of Mookie Wilson.  I still need that lesson on how to make a perfect burger, but my father can teach me whenever the Mets aren't playing.

The grill master to the left, the former eight-year-old couch potato to the right.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

How Are the Mets Scoring All These Runs?

High fives at the plate have become more prevalent for the Mets these days.  (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

On Saturday, the Mets defeated the Miami Marlins, 11-3.  The drubbing of the Fish was the ninth consecutive game in which the team scored five or more runs.  It was also just the fifth time in franchise history that such a streak had been reached, surpassed only by a 12-game stretch in 2007.

What makes this current streak all the more impressive is that the Mets are doing it without the services of disabled sluggers Yoenis Céspedes and Lucas Duda, and with middle-of-the-order hitter Curtis Granderson batting .139.  Even the healthy players have been having a rough time during the season's first five weeks, as their combined .233 batting average is tied with the San Francisco Giants for the second-lowest in the National League.  (Only the San Diego Padres are lower, at .217.  It should be noted that the Giants and Padres have the the two worst records in the N.L., as they have combined to go 23-40 through Saturday's games.)

So what exactly have the Mets been doing to produce all these runs during this recent outburst of offense?  Smoke, mirrors and the threat of Ray Ramirez paying a visit to the visitors' clubhouse can only go so far.  Let's take a look at how a depleted team has become an offensive juggernaut practically overnight.

Rk Strk Start End Games R H 2B 3B HR BB SB CS BA
1NYM2007-08-112007-08-2412831302311754272.304
2NYM2017-04-272017-05-0697191281153552.287
3NYM2006-06-062006-06-159741083041237162.319
4NYM2002-09-062002-09-139611031411529122.307
5NYM1990-06-081990-06-16985128351174024.370
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/7/2017.


In scoring nearly eight runs per game over their last nine contests, the Mets have been able to move from last place in the division to second place.  However, despite the fact that the players have been doing a conga line around the bases for the last week and a half, the team has managed to bat just .287 during those nine games.  Although this a marked improvement from their low Mendoza-like average, it's still the lowest batting average of the five Mets teams that have produced nine-game streaks of 5+ runs (see chart above).  In fact, it's the only time the Mets have had such a streak without batting over .300 or collecting 100 hits to accomplish it.

The Mets have been bunching their hits together to produce crooked numbers on the scoreboard.  During their nine-game skein, the team has come to bat in 79 innings.  They've failed to score in 50 of those frames and scored one run in ten of the innings.  For all you kids out there, that's a total of ten runs scored in 60 innings.  That means the other 61 runs during the streak have been scored in just 19 turns at bat.

In last night's game, the Mets pushed across 11 runs.  Every time they scored in an inning, they scored at least three times.  (They scored five times in the first and touched the plate three times in both the fifth and seventh.)  In their come-from-behind victory on Friday, they used another five-run seventh inning to complete their comeback.  In each of the last five games, the Mets have had at least one inning in which they scored four or more runs.  That'll certainly help a team continue a streak of 5+ runs per game.

In addition to the big innings, the Mets have also been teeing off on opposing teams' bullpens in the late innings.  The Mets have batted 25 times during the streak from the seventh inning on.  They've scored 26 runs in those 25 innings.  Included in this is Jay Bruce's grand slam with two outs in the ninth inning against the Braves on Tuesday, which pushed the Mets' run tally for the night from three runs to seven.  Yup, without the four-run blast, the 5+ run streak would have ended and I'd be writing about the sex toy in Kevin Plawecki's locker or Matt Harvey's suspension instead.  (What do you mean those would have made better topics?)

The main reason the Mets have been scoring a handful of runs a night is because they're killing it with runners in scoring position.  Prior to the streak, the Mets were doing fairly well with runners on second and/or third, batting .277 in those situations (28-for-101).  That number for the season is now up to a whopping .328 (62-for-189), as the Mets have gone 34-for-88 (.386) with runners in scoring position in their last nine games.  That would also explain why the team hasn't needed to follow their usual formula of home runs or nothing to score their runs.  The Mets failed to hit a homer in their two highest scoring games of their nine-game streak (16 runs, no homers on Wednesday; 11 runs, no homers last night).

Here's the crazy thing about this streak.  It could very well continue, or at the very least, be interrupted by no more than a game or two before a similar streak begins.  Why is that?  Because the team still has a ridiculously low .252 BABIP this season.  Eventually that number has to get closer to .300, and when it does (as it's trying to do now), the runs will light up the scoreboard.  As you can see in the chart below, over the last 14 days (ten games), the Mets have produced a slight lower-than-normal .291 BABIP and have still managed to average 7.3 runs per game.  They're averaging nearly double-digit runs per game with a .320 BABIP over the last week.

Split GS R BAbip
2017 Totals29152.252
Last 7 days549.320
Last 14 days1073.291
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/7/2017.


Hot streaks come and go.  The one the Mets are currently on could come to an end soon.  But the low BABIP over the first five weeks and the production with runners in scoring position all season leads me to believe that it won't come to a crashing halt.  In fact, the Mets might actually not have their annual June swoon next month, especially since most of their injured everyday players could be back by then.

It's not smoke.  It's not mirrors.  It's just a good baseball team finally doing what they were supposed to do when they were put together.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mets Song Parody: Everybody's Hurt

If you were a Mets fan in 1992 and 1993, then you were a follower of "The Worst Team Money Could Buy" and the only triple-digit loss Mets team in the last half century.  If you were an alternative music fan in 1992 and 1993, then you probably stayed up to watch Kennedy host Alternative Nation on MTV.  That also means you were familiar with R.E.M. and their album, "Automatic For The People".

Before the band asked Kenneth for the frequency and after they lost their religion, R.E.M. released a single called "Everybody Hurts".  The accompanying music video depicted motorists in a traffic jam, alone with their thoughts until they decided to walk away from a situation that wasn't going anywhere.

The 2017 Mets have started slowly.  Unlike the last two seasons, when the Mets rolled off long winning streaks in April, this year's model is already 4½ games behind the first-place Nationals and struggling just to make it back to .500,  That's not the team's only struggle, as the team is being forced to deal with every injury known to mankind.

A quarter century ago, people walked away from a traffic jam as a popular R.E.M. song was playing in the background.  Today, no one's walking away without a walking boot attached to whichever body part is ailing them.  That's because on the 2017 Mets, everybody's hurt.  And not even a song parody is going to get them back on the field.  If only it could, though.  If only it could...

Mets fans will never be shiny, happy people as long as Ray Ramirez is the team's head trainer.  (SNY screen shot)


When your season's long
And the Nats, the Nats are in first alone
When injuries just pile up
And the limbs won't hang on

Don't let yourself go
Or your career will die
Everybody's hurt ... all the time

Sometimes a muscle isn't strong
And your D.L. stint is long
When your hamstring feels blown (you're gone, you're gone)
Ray Ramirez makes himself known (you're gone)
If you think you've felt his touch
Or his scythe, then you're gone 

Everybody's hurt
Discomfort never ends
Everybody's hurt

Don't cut your hand, oh no
Don't cut your hand
If you see protruding bones
No, no, no, your year's postponed

If you ache and moan, here's advice
The trainer's got to go
When you've torn your rotator cuff, and he tries
To splint your toe

Yeah, everybody's hurt all the time
Every career dies
Everybody's hurt ... all the time
Yeah, everybody's hurt

You're gone, you're gone, you're gone, you're gone...
Everybody's hurt...




 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Magic 8-Ball Predicts the 2017 Mets Season

The Mets are coming off back-to-back postseason appearances for only the second time in team history.  After their first set of consecutive playoff berths in 1999 and 2000, New York barely finished above .500 in 2001.  After that, the Mets ran Bobby Valentine out of town in 2002 and then Art Howe battled his way through two lousy seasons.

Will the 2017 Mets follow the breadcrumbs left behind by their underachieving early-aughts predecessors?  Or will they actually go where no Mets team has gone before; the playoffs for a third straight season?

Only time and a 162-game campaign will tell.  But in our case, we don't have to wait for the end of a six-month season to discover the Mets' fate.  We have a Magic 8-Ball for that.  And since it usually doesn't want to be bothered, let's ask it our annual questions before it starts acting like a douche.  (Although I think the Magic 8-Ball can be quite amusing when it acts like Bryce Harper.)

So without further ado, here's your buddy and mine, the Magic 8-Ball!  It's wonderful to have you back, M8B!



Um, I'm the guy who asks you questions every year about the state of the Mets.  In fact, this is the eighth year we've done this.  Clearly, you must remember our interviews.




Sorry I don't meet your expectations.  Who did you want to interview you?  Mike Lupica?  Jared Diamond?  The late Jimmy Breslin?




Well, he's hibernating right now so you've got me!  Anyway, let's just get on to the questions.  What's your outlook on the Mets' pitching staff?  Will they carry the team to the promised land?




Not exactly?  Do you not think Noah Syndergaard is a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate?  You can't think Jacob deGrom will be inconsistent like he was last year now that he found his velocity again.  And Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo looked pretty solid at the end of the 2016 season as well.  What's missing from the staff that will prevent them from attaining late October glory?




Do you honestly think Colón is the missing link who could carry the team to a World Series title?




Ha ha.  Very funny.  Let's shift to the offense.  Will Jay Bruce ever be able to match the numbers he put up in Cincinnati?




That's good to hear.  So does that mean we should expect 30+ homers and close to 100 RBI from the Mets' right fielder?




Because of course you were.  Speaking of 30+ homers and 100 RBI...




Fine!  While I was on the subject of 30 HR and 100 RBI, what do you think are the chances of Lucas Duda recovering from the injury that caused him to miss most of last season?  Will he ever become a feared hitter who can protect Yoenis Céspedes in the lineup?




I guess carrying an okay stick is better than carrying James Loney on the 25-man roster.  Now let's talk about Asdrubal Cabrera.  Will he have another solid season like the one he had in 2016?




What's going to happen?  Is Cabrera going to get his finger stuck in a teammate's batting helmet when he takes it off his head?  Will one of his game-ending bat flips end up whacking him on the head when the bat returns to terra firma?  I need to know! 




At least?  For getting bleach in his eye just from dyeing his hair?  What could possibly be the reason for his disabled list stint being longer than 60 days?




That's a valid point.  It's probably the first one you've made all day.




Whatever.  So let's talk about something that can't possibly lead to an argument.  I'm talking about Yoenis Céspedes.  He just signed a four-year, $110 million contract to stay in New York when most people thought he would sign for more years and/or more dollars elsewhere.  What are your thoughts on the man who's turned Citi Field into his own personal playground?




How can you possibly say that?  He's become an icon in just a year and a half.  His face adorns one of the greatest Free Shirt Friday giveaways from last season.  His walk-up music is from "The Lion King".  What could he possibly have done to get that kind of reaction from you?




You have a parking spot?  How are you even able to drive a car?  Who are you?  Toonces?




I think my head's about to explode.  Before it does, just give me your prediction on the Mets' final record this year and where they will finish in the division.




Wait, they're going to finish tied for first with the Nationals?  So who wins the tiebreaker?  Is the loser of the tiebreaker the wild card team or do they miss the playoffs altogether?




Why that no good son of a...  I hope you drive off a cliff with Toonces!

Ahem.

On that note, I think it's best if we just move away from the Magic 8-Ball and move into the 2017 baseball season.  It's been a long off-season, especially after Conor Gillaspie happened.  But like Mark McGwire once said, we're not here to talk about the past.  So let's look forward to the season that's about to begin for the Mets on Monday.  There's plenty to be excited about in 2017.

There's the return of Zack Wheeler.  There's also a ton of offensive talent playing in the final years of their contracts, which means players like Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Jose Reyes will be super motivated to have great seasons so they can earn another lucrative deal.  (Jay Bruce is also playing for a new contract, but I didn't mention him because I was only talking about talented offensive players.)

I hope you're looking forward to the upcoming season as much as I am.  And I certainly hope you're more optimistic about your favorite Mets players than a certain plastic prognosticator is.

Until next time, I hope you enjoy all the Opening Day festivities on Monday.  And remember, please help control the sarcastic sphere population by having your Magic 8-Ball spayed or neutered.

LET'S GO METS!!


Hey, kids!  The Magic 8-Ball has been making predictions since 2010, the year Jason Bay first soiled us with his presence.  To see what the Magic 8-Ball said prior to each of the previous seven seasons, please click on the links below:



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Milestones Within Reach For Members of the 2017 Mets

Every year players set goals for themselves.  A hitter may want to bat .300 or hit 30 homers.  A pitcher could shoot for 20 wins or 200 strikeouts.  A bench player may try to find a voodoo doll that bears a strong resemblance to the guy who's blocking his path to an everyday job.

Reaching individual goals on a regular basis will eventually lead to players approaching certain milestones in their careers.  The Mets have no shortage of players who are set to reach some important milestones in 2017.  They even have a manager who's looking to make some history as well.

So which players are closest to making some personal history?  What huge number is the manager fast approaching?  And why does Wilmer Flores have an effigy of Neil Walker next to his Friends DVD box set?  At least two of those questions will be answered below.  Enjoy!


Attainable Individual Milestones (Position Players)

These guys need to do a lot of this in 2017.  (Kathy Willens/AP)

Jose Reyes:

  • Needs 28 hits for 2,000 in his career.
  • Needs 12 stolen bases to reach 500.
  • Needs 11 homers to reach 100 as a Met.
  • Needs 51 hits to pass Ed Kranepool into second place all-time in Mets history.
  • Needs to play every day so that the Mets aren't just a one-dimensional homer-happy team.


Yoenis Céspedes:

  • Needs 47 RBI for 500 in his career.
  • Needs to score 94 runs to also make it to 500.
  • Needs to stay on the field all year to make opposing pitchers shake in their cleats.
  • Needs to loan me five bucks.  I know he has it.


Neil Walker:

  • Needs 51 hits to reach 1,000 for his career.
  • Needs 27 RBI for half of 1,000.
  • Needs to continue to play the steady defense Daniel Murphy wasn't known for.
  • Needs to make Mets fans forget that he's earning more money this year than Murphy.


Jay Bruce:

  • Needs three homers to pass Ruben Tejada on the Mets' all-time leaderboard.
  • Needs to raise his batting average by three points to have a higher average as a Met than Eric Campbell.
  • Needs to produce in a way that'll make me stop comparing him to Tejada and Soup.


David Wright:

  • Needs 11 homers to become the Mets' all-time home run leader.
  • Needs 30 RBI to reach 1,000 for his career.
  • Needs 51 runs scored to also make it to an even 1,000.
  • Needs to slap me across the face and say...


                                                               

Attainable Individual Milestones (Pitchers)


Matt Harvey:

  • Needs 190 strikeouts to enter the Mets' all-time top ten in Ks.
  • Needs 18 starts to reach 100 for his career (and to have one more than he had all of last year).
  • Needs to stay out of hospitals and stay on the field.


Jacob deGrom:

  • Needs eight strikeouts for 500 in his career (and would also pass the legendary Nolan Ryan and the not-so-legendary Oliver Pérez on the team's career leaderboard).
  • Needs 18 or 19 wins to pass relief pitchers Jesse Orosco, Tug McGraw and John Franco in victories.
  • Needs at least 97 on the speed gun to make us forget last year's problems.


Noah Syndergaard:

  • Needs 116 strikeouts for 500 lifetime Ks.
  • Needs four homers to pass Dwight Gooden to become the No. 1 home-run hitting pitcher in team history.
  • Needs to fight Mr. Met and start an online petition to ban the wave.  (He's Thor.  He can multitask.)


Jeurys Familia:

  • Needs two saves to pass Billy Wagner into 4th place on the Mets' all-time leaderboard.
  • Needs eight saves to knock Jesse Orosco down a spot as well.
  • Needs to thank the baseball gods he only got a 15-game suspension and be super respectful of his wife for the rest of his life.  (Domestic violence is never okay.)


The Mets' starting rotation consists of a Dark Knight and two other Batmen.  (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)


Attainable Individual Milestones (The Manager)


Terry Collins:

  • Needs 75 wins for 1,000 in his career.
  • Needs to avoid 75 losses so he doesn't reach 1,000 this year.
  • Needs 56 wins to pass Bobby Valentine into second place all-time in Mets history.
  • Needs 41 games to have been at the helm for more contests than any other Mets' skipper.
  • Needs to make the playoffs to become the first Mets manager to lead his team to the postseason three times.
  • Needs a plaque in the Mets Hall of Fame if he does that.

"A plaque in the Mets Hall Fame?  Don't make me laugh! ... Oh, wait.  You were serious?"  (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)



Monday, March 27, 2017

The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of the Mets: Jerry Koosman

"We're No. 2!  We're No. 2!"

Those are words you will never hear at a sporting event.  In baseball, like in any other sport, the object is to come out on top, not ride someone else's coattails.  But for one Mets pitcher, being No. 2 became second nature.

He was the first runner-up in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1968.  Eight years later, he finished second in the Cy Young Award ballot.  And for over a decade, he was No. 2 in the starting rotation behind the team's first Hall of Famer.

But when the stakes were highest, it was this perennial second fiddle who became the team's top banana.  He was on the mound when the club won its first championship in 1969 and helped fuel a miraculous late-season run to the postseason four years later.  Just imagine how drastically different the history of the franchise would have been had it not been for the pitcher who wasn't "The Franchise".

Jerry Koosman strikes a pose at Shea Stadium.  (Bettmann/Getty Images)

Jerome Martin Koosman might never have been a Met if not for his catcher in the Army.  After he was drafted to serve in the military in 1962, Koosman went to basic training and was eventually transferred to Fort Bliss in Texas where he could play baseball.  His catcher at Fort Bliss was the son of an usher at the newly-opened Shea Stadium.  Word of Koosman's pitching prowess eventually traveled from the mouth of a catcher to the ears of an usher to the office of farm director - and future general manager - Joe McDonald, who sent scout Red Murff to watch Kooz perform on the mound.  Murff loved what he saw and offered Koosman a $2,000 bonus to sign with the Mets.  Wanting more money, Koosman rejected the offer, only to eventually sign when the amount of the offer went down by 20 percent.

Koosman's first year as a pro in 1965 was mostly forgettable, as he combined to go 5-13 with a 4.61 ERA between Single-A Greenville and Double-A Williamsport.  The southpaw was nearly released by the Mets after his subpar season, but the team decided against it.  It wasn't because they thought Koosman would turn a corner in his second professional campaign; it was because he owed the team fifty bucks.

In 1966, Koosman - with his newly-learned curveball - showed tremendous improvement on the mound (and supposedly settled his loan), going 12-7 with a brilliant 1.38 ERA at Single-A Auburn.  As Koosman was fulfilling his potential, future teammate Tom Seaver was toiling at Triple-A, completing a .500 campaign with an ERA north of 3.00.  Despite the varying degrees of success from Koosman and Seaver in the minor leagues, the dynamic duo made their major league debuts one day apart in April 1967, with Seaver starting the second game of the season for the Mets and Koosman pitching in relief the following night.

Seaver remained with the team the entire season and became the first Met to win the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award.  Koosman, on the other hand, made just three starts and six relief appearances in 1967, with the Mets losing each of Koosman's nine games.  However, because he spent most of the season in the minors (he was demoted to AAA-Jacksonville in mid-May and wasn't called back up until early September), Koosman retained his rookie status for the 1968 campaign.  And under new manager Gil Hodges, Koosman got every opportunity to shine as a full-time starting pitcher.

In 1968, Koosman was tabbed by Hodges to be the team's No. 2 starter.  After not having appeared in a Mets victory in 1967, Koosman pitched a complete-game shutout at Dodger Stadium in the team's second game of the '68 campaign.  Koosman's next start took place in the Mets' home opener on April 17.  A delighted crowd of 52,079 witnessed Koosman's second shutout in as many starts, as well as the first-ever victory by the Mets in a home opener.  Koosman went on to pitch five more shutouts in his rookie year and his ERA didn't rise above 2.00 until his next-to-last start of the season.  He also had a brilliant 12-inning performance in which he allowed no runs to the San Francisco Giants but was saddled with a no-decision because the Mets couldn't find a way to cross the plate in their 17-inning, 1-0 defeat.  The lack of run support would become a common theme for Koosman throughout his career.

Although Koosman finished the 1968 season with 19 wins, a 2.08 ERA (fourth in the N.L.) and 178 strikeouts (tenth in the league), not to mention earning a save in that summer's All-Star Game, he failed to become the Mets' second consecutive Rookie of the Year, as Johnny Bench and his just okay numbers (.275, 15 HR, 82 RBI) edged out Kooz by a single vote.  But just as Bench didn't succumb to the sophomore slump, neither did Koosman.  In fact, Koosman did far more in 1969 than anyone could have imagined.

Koosman pitches with bunting adorning the Shea Stadium walls.  And no, it wasn't Opening Day.  (Bettmann/Getty Images)

After making four starts in April, Koosman missed nearly a month of action with an injury.  But in his second start following his stint on the disabled list, Koosman became the first Met to strike out 15 batters in a game, as he pitched ten shutout innings in the Mets' 1-0, 11-inning victory over the San Diego Padres.  Koosman didn't earn the win - there goes that lack of run support again - but the team did, and that hard-fought effort kicked off a franchise-record 11-game winning streak that instantly made the Mets contenders for the first time in their brief history.  

Koosman's performance against the Padres began a six-start stretch in which he was practically unhittable and virtually unscored upon.  Kooz allowed just 32 hits and two earned runs in 53 innings, with the Mets winning five of those six starts.  (The one loss came in a game in which Koosman allowed no earned runs.)

In July, the Mets hosted the Cubs at Shea Stadium in a series remembered for Seaver's Imperfect Game (Seaver retired the first 25 batters before allowing a single to Jimmy Qualls).  But it was Koosman who provided the opening act to Seaver's headlining effort, as Kooz outdueled future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins to earn a complete-game victory.  Three months later, Koosman delivered another statement to the Cubs, one that let Chicago know that the Mets weren't going to be anyone's pushovers.

The Mets had pulled to within 2½ games of the first-place Cubs when the North Siders made their final trip to Shea Stadium in early September for a two-game series.  Once again, the memorable moment occurred in Seaver's start, as Tom Terrific was on the hill when a black cat wandered onto the field and walked in front of Chicago's dugout.  The cat may have been given credit for delivering the knockout punch on the Cubs' season, but it was actually Koosman who supplied the first blow to Chicago in the series opener.

In the bottom of the first, Cubs' manager Leo Durocher wanted to set the tone for the series and ordered pitcher Bill Hands to throw at Mets' leadoff hitter Tommie Agee.  Hands threw a fastball that was up and in to Agee, but did not hit him.  Not liking what he saw, Koosman retaliated in the top of the second, drilling Ron Santo with a pitch.  Koosman's message to Durocher kept the Cubs on their heels all game, as the lefty went on to strike out 13 batters - the second-highest total of his career - in the Mets' 3-2 victory.

Four days after Koosman's victory over the Cubs, the Mets swept a doubleheader from the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning both games, 1-0, with Koosman and fellow moundsman Don Cardwell driving in the only runs in each game.  Cardwell's feat wasn't totally unexpected, as the veteran right-hander knew how to handle a bat.  Entering the game, Cardwell had amassed 15 homers and 51 RBI in 749 career plate appearances.  But Koosman was the definition of "automatic out" at the plate, as he was just 10-for-161 with 102 strikeouts for his career up to that point.

"Kooz kept telling me he hit a line drive," Cardwell said of the rare occurrence.  "I checked with the other guys and they said, 'Cardy, he hit it off the end of the bat, it was a blooper.'"

The face of a man who doesn't hit bloopers.  (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)

Of course, Koosman was convinced the ball was hit solidly off his bat, even if it wasn't.  But no one needed to be convinced that the Mets were about to clinch their first postseason appearance.  Koosman's 1-0 win over the Pirates was the first of three complete-game shutouts he pitched in September, helping the Mets coast to the first-ever N.L. East title.  Koosman finished the regular season - his second as an All-Star - with a 17-9 record, 2.28 ERA, 180 strikeouts (despite spending most of May on the disabled list) and a career-best 1.058 WHIP.

Koosman's first postseason start didn't go according to plan, as he allowed six runs and was knocked out of the game in the fifth inning.  But the Mets bailed him out by doing what they had rarely done before in a Koosman start; score a plethora of runs.  In fact, the Mets' 11-6 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game Two of the NLCS marked the first time in Koosman's 70 career starts that the team reached double digits in runs scored.

Kooz's next playoff start was a complete turnaround from his first.  After the Mets lost Seaver's start in Game One of the World Series, Koosman carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of Game Two before Paul Blair singled to lead off the frame.  Blair later stole second and scored the tying run on a single by Brooks Robinson.  The Mets retook the lead in the eighth on a run-scoring hit by Al Weis and Koosman and closer Ron Taylor did the rest, keeping the Orioles off the scoreboard in the ninth to tie the series.

After Koosman got the Mets back on the winning track, New York returned to Shea Stadium and promptly won Games Three and Four.  Manager Gil Hodges then gave the ball to Koosman for Game Five, hoping the lefty would pitch the Mets to a championship.  Koosman got off to a rough start, allowing home runs to pitcher Dave McNally and slugger Frank Robinson.  But after Robinson's blast, which gave Baltimore a 3-0 lead, Koosman settled down, retiring 19 of the next 21 batters to face him.

In the sixth, the Mets began their rally with a little help from Koosman's foot.  Cleon Jones, who had just two hits in 18 at-bats in the World Series, led off the inning by appearing to get out of the way of a ball in the dirt.  But manager Gil Hodges convinced home plate umpire Lou DiMuro that Jones had been hit by the pitch, presenting a ball stained with shoe polish as evidence.  DiMuro agreed with Hodges, sending Jones to first.  Koosman, though, had an idea whose shoe polish was on the ball.

"(The ball) came to me," Koosman recalled.  "I wasn't sitting but a couple of yards from Gil and he says 'slide it on your shoe and throw it here' and I did it.  And he took it and he walked out to the umpire with it.  And there was shoe polish on the ball.  Whether it was mine or Cleon's is debatable.  I didn't have time to look (to see if there was shoe polish on it), it all happened so fast.  Hodges was way ahead of me.  He was a genius."

Hodges' quick thinking gave the Mets a base runner.  One batter later, it gave the Mets two runs, as Donn Clendenon followed Jones' phantom HBP with a lead-slicing home run.  As Koosman continued to mow down Orioles' hitters, the Mets proceeded to take apart the Orioles' pitchers.  Light-hitting Al Weis tied the game in the seventh with a rare home run.  The Mets then took the lead an inning later on a run-scoring double by Ron Swoboda and an an error by first baseman Boog Powell.  This time, Koosman wouldn't need relief help from Taylor, as he pitched a scoreless ninth, retiring Davey Johnson on a fly ball to Jones to end the game and give the Mets an improbable World Series victory.

The No. 2 pitcher in the Mets' rotation was No. 1 after defeating the Orioles.  (Walter Iooss Jr./Getty Images)

Alas, neither Koosman nor the team couldn't repeat the success from 1969 in subsequent seasons, as the Mets won exactly 83 games in each year from 1970 to 1972.  Koosman dealt with nagging injuries in the first two seasons following the team's championship, missing three weeks in 1970 and over a month in 1971, then was relegated to the bullpen by new manager Yogi Berra after a poor start to the 1972 campaign.  After going 36-21 with a 2.18 ERA in his first two full seasons in the majors, Koosman was a disappointing 29-30 with a 3.41 ERA from 1970 to 1972.  Koosman entered the 1973 campaign determined to turn his career around.  It nearly took him the entire season, but Koosman kept his promise and delivered one of the most memorable stretch runs in franchise history.

The 1973 season began with Koosman almost being traded to the San Francisco Giants for slugger Dave Kingman, but general manager Joe McDonald turned down the deal because the Giants wanted Jon Matlack instead.  With Koosman still on the team, the Mets got off to a great start, going 12-8 in April and ending the month on a high note, as Koosman pitched a complete-game shutout in the month's final game.  The victory earned Koosman (4-0, 1.06 ERA in April) his first N.L. Player of the Month Award.  Koosman eventually ran his record to 5-0 before losing 14 of his next 17 decisions.  Once again, Koosman was victimized by poor run support during his rough patch, more so than any of his pitching brethren.  From May 27 to August 14, the Mets scored one run or fewer 25 times; 11 of those games were started by Koosman.  So if the Mets weren't going to score for Koosman, he would have to keep opposing hitters from circling the bases.  He did just that, and in doing so, helped the Mets go from last to first in the span of six weeks.

On August 19, the Mets were 12 games under .500 and bringing up the rear in the mediocre N.L. East.  Then Koosman defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 2-1, with the Reds' only run scoring on an error.  After allowing the unearned run to cross the plate, Koosman proceeded to toss 31⅔ consecutive scoreless innings, setting a new franchise record that wouldn't be broken for nearly four decades.  As Koosman was putting up zeroes, the Mets were reeling off wins, and by the time Koosman allowed his next run on September 7, the Mets had leapfrogged over two teams and were just four games out of first place.  Incredibly, New York continued to win and chip away at the deficit.  When the Mets faced the first-place Pirates at Shea Stadium on September 20, they were just 1½ games out of first.  And that's when "The Ball on the Wall" became part of the Mets' lexicon, which of course, happened in a game started by Koosman.

Koosman pitched eight solid innings, allowing just one earned run and four hits, but got a no-decision because, you know, run support.  In the top of the 13th inning, the Mets kept the Pirates off the scoreboard when Cleon Jones fielded Dave Augustine's double off the top of the left field wall, then fired to shortstop Wayne Garrett, who made a perfect throw to catcher Ron Hodges to nail Richie Zisk at the plate.  Hodges then delivered the game-winning hit in the bottom of the frame.  A day later, the Mets completed the sweep of the Bucs to move into first place by half a game.

Once the Mets took over the lead in the N.L. East, they never gave it up, as Koosman made two starts in the season's final week and failed to allow an earned run in either of them.  For the second time in five seasons, the Mets were N.L. East champions, and Koosman was one of the main reasons why the team was playing in October again.  In his final ten starts, Koosman went 6-1 with a 1.30 ERA.  That included a start on September 11 in which he allowed six runs to the Phillies.  Take out that start - his only loss during the season's final six weeks - and his ERA was just 0.65.

The Mets' opponent in the NLCS was the Cincinnati Reds, who were attempting to win their third pennant in four seasons.  Koosman refused to be intimidated by the Big Red Machine, even after Pete Rose and Buddy Harrelson started a bench-clearing brawl at second base in the fifth inning.  Despite the long wait for the fight to settle and for the fans to stop throwing things at Rose when he took the field in the bottom of the fifth, Koosman was not rattled, allowing no runs and only two hits the rest of the way.  His complete-game victory gave him a 3-0 postseason record in four starts, with the Mets winning the game in which Koosman earned a no-decision.

The Reds could only watch from the dugout as Koosman defeated them in the NLCS.  (Focus On Sport/Getty Images)

The World Series against the Oakland A's did not have the happy ending the Mets were hoping for, as the Mets dropped the series in seven games.  Koosman started two of the three games won by New York in the series and put the Mets within a victory of the title pitching on short rest in Game Five.  The A's may have led the American League in runs scored in 1973, but none of that mattered to Koosman, who shut them out for 6⅓ innings in the critical fifth game.  Short rest clearly didn't affect Koosman in his Game Five victory.  The same could not be said for Seaver and Matlack, as both pitchers fell behind early in Games Six and Seven and the team couldn't recover.  Koosman could only watch from the bullpen, where he was warming up to come into Game Seven in relief had his manager deemed it necessary.

"I never got into that ballgame," Koosman said.  "That's the game I remember most, being in the bullpen and just so ready to come in."

The Mets needed seven wins in the 1973 postseason to win the championship.  They managed just six, with Koosman starting half of the team's victories.  In fact, between 1969 and 1973, Koosman made six postseason starts for the team.  The Mets won all six.  On a team with two former Rookie of the Year Award winners (Seaver, Matlack), it was Koosman who became their most dependable postseason pitcher.  A year later, he became the team's best pitcher.

With Seaver enduring the worst season of his eight-year career in 1974 (11-11, 3.20 ERA), it was Koosman who carried the load for the team, winning 15 games for the first time since 1969 and pitching a career-high 265 innings.  Unfortunately, the rest of the club couldn't follow Koosman's lead.  Kooz finished the year with a 15-11 record.  The team's other pitchers were a combined 56-80.  It was New York's first losing season since Koosman's rookie year.

The Mets recovered to win 82 games in 1975, winning the final game of the season to finish above .500.  Koosman had a strong finish for the team, pitching to a 2.41 ERA in his final ten appearances, which included two saves in a couple of rare relief efforts by the lefty.

In 1976, the Mets got off to a poor start and were out of contention by the middle of June.  On the morning of June 23, the Mets' record was 33-37 and they were 14½ games behind the first-place Phillies.  Koosman was also off to a mediocre start, as he was 6-6 with a 4.36 ERA.  But just as the Mets found their second wind as spring turned to summer, so did Koosman.  The Mets went 53-39 in their last 92 games, with Koosman being the team's main contributor, going 15-4 with a 1.79 ERA in 20 appearances (19 starts).  The year ended with the Mets winning 86 games - the second-highest total in franchise history at the time - and Koosman posting his first 20-win season.  Koosman finished the year with a 21-10 record, 2.69 ERA, 1.096 WHIP and a career-high 200 strikeouts.  But just as he did eight years earlier when he finished behind Johnny Bench in the Rookie of the Year vote, Koosman had to settle for second-best on the 1976 Cy Young Award ballot, as the Padres' Randy Jones took home the prize as the league's top pitcher, even though Koosman had a higher winning percentage, lower ERA and more than twice as many strikeouts as Jones had.

The 1976 season signified the last hurrah for Koosman and the Mets, as the dawn of the free agent era caused the team to count its pennies rather than use them to bring the top tier of talent to Flushing.  As a result, the team plummeted in the standings in 1977.  By the time the trade deadline arrived in mid-June, the Mets were ten games under .500 and mired in last place.  They were also a team of disgruntled players, as several veterans were becoming well aware that if they were going to continue playing in New York, they would have to do so earning far less money than if they were playing somewhere else.  Tom Seaver was the first to go.  He would be followed by Dave Kingman, who became a Met just two years earlier without the Mets having to trade Koosman or Matlack to acquire him.  Two months later, catcher Jerry Grote was dealt away, followed by Matlack and Harrelson during the off-season.  Needless to say, Koosman was not happy with the state of the Mets.

"How could they trade him?" Koosman said about his long-time pitching mate.  "Tom was one of the first, and after Tom we kept dropping like flies.  (General manager Joe) McDonald was making trades that just did not make sense.  We were not getting better.  We were getting worse.  It was like every general manager in the league was taking advantage of us."

"Pssst, Jerry.  We're trading you next."  (William N. Jacobellis/NY Post Archives)

Through all the tumult, Koosman remained, even though he had just followed up his first 20-win campaign with his first season of 20 losses.  Koosman finished the 1977 campaign with an 8-20 record, despite having a respectable 3.49 ERA and a league-leading 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings.  But on a team that finished dead last in batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored and home runs, it should come as no surprise that in 16 of Koosman's 20 losses, the Mets scored no more than two runs.

It was more of the same for Koosman in 1978, as he went 3-15 with a 3.75 ERA and watched his teammates score two runs or fewer in ten of the 15 defeats.  The pitcher who was second in the Rookie of the Year vote, second in the Cy Young balloting and second to Tom Seaver in virtually every pitching category didn't want to spend another second in New York.  At the conclusion of the 1978 campaign, Koosman demanded a trade back home to Minnesota and the Mets obliged, shipping him to the Twins for minor league pitcher Greg Field and a player to be named later, who ended up being Jesse Orosco.  Koosman's departure was bittersweet, but all parties involved ended up benefiting from the transaction.

"It was sad to leave New York, but New York was in a rebuilding process at the time," Koosman said.  "I wanted to move on and play for a club that had a chance to win."

Of course, Orosco became a mainstay in the Mets' bullpen for eight seasons and became as good a postseason pitcher for the Mets as Koosman was, winning three games in the 1986 NLCS and saving two others in that year's World Series, including the seventh and deciding game against the Boston Red Sox.  Koosman, meanwhile, had already retired before the Mets won their second championship, but not before he won 82 more games in the majors, including the second 20-win season of his career in 1979 while he was pitching for the Twins.  Koosman also made a return to the postseason in 1983 as a member of the Chicago White Sox, pitching one game in relief in the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles.

In all, Koosman won 222 games in the majors, with 140 of them coming in a Mets uniform.  Only Seaver and Dwight Gooden ended their Mets careers with more.  Seaver, Koosman and Gooden are also the answer to just about every trivia question pertaining to the top three starting pitchers in franchise history.  But Seaver and Gooden were right-handed pitchers.  No discussion about the greatest left-handed pitchers in club annals can be had without Koosman being mentioned at the top.  The pitcher who was constantly No. 2 throughout his career with the Mets has no rival among southpaws.

Jerry Koosman played his first game with the Mets on a squad that would go on to lose over 100 games.  When Koosman played his final game in New York, he was on a team that nearly reached triple digits in losses.  In between, Koosman became the greatest postseason pitcher in franchise history despite playing for a team that provided him with very little offensive support.  Koosman also provided many key late-season moments that helped the team qualify for the playoffs.  And of course, Koosman never let anyone intimidate him, always pitching with ice in his veins and a fire in his heart.

With a career that lasted nearly two decades, including a dozen seasons in a Mets uniform, Koosman lived through all the highs and lows a player can experience in baseball, but one of those moments always stood out above the others.  That's what becoming a champion tends to do to a player.

"It is no doubt the highlight of my baseball life," Koosman said.  "Winning the World Series changes your life.  There's a closeness that comes from it, you're kind of like brothers to your teammates.  You have a much different relationship with them when you have that in common."

For a player who had become accustomed to being second-best, finishing on top made it all worthwhile.

Koosman and Seaver will always be linked, especially as champions.  (Bettmann/Getty Images)



Note: The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of the Mets was a thirteen-part weekly series (that's "was" - as in the past tense of "is" - because you just read the final installment) spotlighting those Mets players and personnel who experienced the best of times and the worst of times with the team.  For previous installments, please click on the names below:

January 2, 2017: Tom Seaver
January 9, 2017: Mike Piazza
January 16, 2017: Wally Backman
January 23, 2017: Daniel Murphy
January 30, 2017: Frank Cashen
February 6, 2017: Ed Kranepool
February 13, 2017: Doug Sisk
February 20, 2017: Joan Whitney Payson 
February 27, 2017: John Franco and Armando Benitez 
March 6, 2017: Dwight Gooden
March 13, 2017: Bobby Valentine
March 20, 2017: Jesse Orosco