Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bobby V Becomes Bobby VIII

Former Met player, coach and skipper Bobby Valentine will be officially introduced as the new manager of the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.  When he takes his place in the dugout on Opening Day 2012, Valentine will become the eighth former Mets manager to take over the reins of another team after his tenure with the Mets had ended.

Since the Mets haven't exactly been giving me much to write about, I thought it would be interesting to see how the other seven managers did with their new teams after they managed their last game in Flushing.  Some have had outstanding results, while some should have stayed away from the dugout, including one manager who barely the managed the Mets, then had a shorter stay with the Mets' expansion sibling.

Enough chit-chat already!  Let's get to the Magnificent (and not-so-magnificent) Seven, shall we?

Wes Westrum

After Casey Stengel retired during the 1965 season, Wes Westrum was tabbed as the Ol' Perfessor's replacement.  Westrum, who spent his entire 11-year playing career as a member of the New York Giants, finished the 1965 season with a 19-48 record after taking over for the only manager the Mets had ever known.

In 1966, Westrum accomplished two things his predecessor couldn't do - he led the Mets out of the basement and also presided over their first non-100 loss season, which was quite an accomplishment for a team that had never lost fewer than 109 games in its short existence.  Unfortunately, even with rookie sensation Tom Seaver joining the Mets in 1967, the team regressed, losing 101 games during the Franchise's first season.  Westrum didn't stick around to see the team reach the century mark in losses, resigning as manager with 11 games to play.

In 1974, Westrum's former team, now playing in San Francisco, reached out to him to manage the team after Charlie Fox was relieved of his duties midway through the season.  Westrum fared better with the Giants than he did with the Mets, but he still could manage a winning record, going 38-48 to close out the 1974 season, followed by an 80-81 mark in 1975.

Salty Parker

After Wes Westrum resigned as manager of the Mets in 1967, Francis James Parker (better known as Salty) became the interim manager for the team's final 11 games, going 4-7 during his two week stint as Mets manager.  Parker had a tendency to do baseball-related things in 11-game stretches.  His playing career in the major leagues lasted (you guessed it) 11 games as a member of the 1936 Detroit Tigers.

Parker didn't manage the Mets again after the 1967 season.  Some guy named Gil Hodges replaced him to start the 1968 season.  However, he did manage (no pun intended) to return to the dugout as a big league skipper again in 1972 with the Houston Astros.  Unfortunately, that stint couldn't even make it to the 11-game mark, but it was never supposed to.  Parker managed the Astros for one game in 1972 after Harry Walker was unceremoniously let go despite the fact that Houston was on its way to recording its first winning season in franchise history.  (The Astros were 67-54 at the time of Walker's firing.)  Walker's replacement, Leo Durocher, could not join the Astros immediately, necessitating the one-game fill-in for Parker as Astros manager.  But at least he was victorious in his "one-and-done" with Houston.

Yogi Berra

After the sudden death of Gil Hodges in 1972, Yogi Berra was tabbed to replace the man who led the Miracle Mets to the 1969 World Series championship.  After leading the Mets to their second-best record in franchise history (83-73 in the strike-shortened 1972 season), Yogi overcame a series of boo-boos on the field in 1973 to lead the team to its second World Series appearance.  The Mets struggled again in 1974, but this time they failed to make a late season run, finishing 20 games below .500.  Berra was fired in 1975 after the team played mediocre baseball for most of the season.

Yogi did not get another chance to manage in the major leagues until the Yankees called upon their former Hall of Fame catcher to fill the vacant managerial position in 1984.  Although Berra won 87 games in his first season as Yankee manager, it represented a four-game decrease in wins from the Billy Martin-led 1983 team.  After a 6-10 start in 1985, Berra was shockingly fired by the Yankees and replaced by the man he replaced a year earlier, Billy Martin.

Joe Torre

In 1977, Joe Torre became the first and only player/manager in Mets history.  Two days after the infamous "Midnight Massacre", Torre ended his playing career to focus exclusively on managing his ragtag group of misfits.  Perhaps he should've stayed on the field.  Under Torre, the Mets never won more than 67 games in a full season, with the team finishing dead last in the NL East in three of his five seasons.

Following his stint with the Mets, Torre managed the Atlanta Braves for three seasons, leading them to the NL West title in 1982.  In 1990, Torre took over for Red Schoendienst in St. Louis and managed the Cardinals until 1995.  Although he failed to win a division title in St. Louis, he never finished lower than third place in any full season with the team.  Then came 1996 and the New York Yankees.  You probably know what happened next so I'll skip that part.

Following his time with the Mets' crosstown rivals, Torre took his final managerial job with the Los Angeles Dodgers, leading them to back-to-back NLCS appearances.  After an 80-82 finish in 2010, Torre retired from managing and is now Executive VP for Baseball Operations for MLB, which is a fancy term for "he's a pretty big kahuna now".

George Bamberger

Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  That was the case for George Bamberger not once, but twice.  Prior to managing the Mets, Bambi was the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers from 1978-1980.  The Brewers then went on to the playoffs in 1981 (as the second-half winners of the AL East) and made their first (and only) pennant in 1982.  Where was Bamberger when the Brewers were on their way to the World Series?  He was managing the Mets to a last place finish, that's where.

Then in 1983, after he "suffered enough" with the Mets through their 16-30 start, he resigned as manager.  Of course, the year after Bamberger left the Mets, they went on to post 90 wins for the first time since 1969 and began the most successful era in franchise history, which included two division titles and the 1986 World Series championship.  Where was Bamberger in 1986?  He was back in Milwaukee, managing the Brewers to their second consecutive last place finish.  Wrong place.  Wrong time.

Davey Johnson

Davey Johnson needs no introduction.  He is only the winningest manager in franchise history.  The Mets had enjoyed one 90-win season during their first 22 years of existence.  Davey Johnson managed the team to five consecutive 90-win seasons from 1984-1988.  His "worst" full season as Mets manager came in 1989, when the team won "only" 87 games.  After Johnson was fired by the Mets in 1990, he didn't wait very long to get another managerial position, taking over for the terminated Tony Perez in Cincinnati in 1993.

In Cincinnati, Johnson led the Reds to division titles in 1994 and 1995.  In 1996, he took over the reins in Baltimore, leading the Orioles to an 88-win season.  He followed that up with a 98-win season in 1997 and the AL East division crown, only to have Jeffrey Maier and the Yankees end his season early.  Due to a spat with Orioles' owner Peter Angelos (not the first time Davey dueled with the front office of a team he was managing at the time), Johnson resigned after the 1997 season.  The Orioles have not had a winning season since.

Johnson spent two uneventful season in Los Angeles in 1999 and 2000, then dropped out of the managerial spotlight until 2011, when he was hired to replace Jim Riggleman as manager of the Washington Nationals.  Although the Nationals went 40-43 after Johnson took over, they still finished in third place in the NL East.  It was the highest they had ever finished in the division since moving from Montreal prior to the 2005 season.

Jeff Torborg

Vince Coleman.  Bobby Bonilla.  Bret Saberhagen.  Jeff Kent.  Those were just some of the names associated with the team forever known as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy".  Those were also the names of players managed by Jeff Torborg during his two-year stint as Mets manager.  In 1992, the former AL Manager of the Year (1990) was brought in to bring the Mets back to contention in the NL East after they had finished the 1991 season with their first losing mark in eight years.  Torborg "led" the Mets to a 72-90 finish in 1992, which was actually quite good considering that in 1993, the Mets lost over 100 games for the first time since the days of Wes Westrum (see, it all comes full circle).  Alas, Torborg was not there to see the 1993 Mets complete their 103-loss campaign, as he was fired after beginning the season with a 13-25 record.

After doing his part to blow up the team in 1993 (Vince Coleman wasn't the only one capable of doing that), Torborg managed the Expos briefly in 2001, going 47-62 in Montreal, followed by a short stint in Florida.  After going 79-83 with the Marlins in 2002, Torborg was fired after a 16-22 start in 2003.  Florida responded to Torborg's termination by winning the World Series under new manager Jack McKeon.  Hence, Torborg went from managing "The Worst Team Money Could Buy" to being fired from "The Best Team Money Didn't Buy".  Ah, symmetry is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Experience Required (Unless If You Want To Win)

With the impending departure of Jose Reyes, the Mets will be left with David Wright and Mike Pelfrey as the only two players who have been with the team for at least five seasons, with Wright making his debut in 2004 and Pelfrey making his first major league appearance in 2006.  It would also leave David Wright as the only player left from the Art Howe era.

If Reyes has indeed played his last game as a Met, he will have played a total of nine seasons in New York, falling one year short of the decade mark.  That got me thinking.  Do you remember the last non-pitcher to play at least ten seasons for the Mets?  Would you believe it was Mookie Wilson?

Even before his famous ten-pitch at-bat in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Mookie Wilson was a beloved Met.  He was admired by the fans and respected by his teammates.  He was also a player the team wanted to have around, as he made his major league debut as a September call-up in 1980 and remained with the team until he was traded to the Blue Jays in 1989.

Mookie Wilson played for the Mets in every season in the '80s, experiencing the highs ("little roller up along first") and lows (George Foster).  He was also the last everyday player to suit up for the Mets at least once in ten consecutive seasons.  (Lee Mazzilli also played ten years for the Mets, but his time was split into two stints, from 1976-1981 and from 1986-1989.)

To find the last non-pitcher who played more than ten seasons in New York, you have to go all the way back to a player who played his first game for the Mets during their "Ya Gotta Believe" season of 1973.  Ron Hodges played 12 seasons for the Mets, ending his career in 1984.  However, despite the fact that Hodges was a non-pitcher, he was far from an everyday player, never collecting more than 250 at-bats in a single season.

How long has it been since Ron Hodges became the last non-pitcher to play more than ten years with the Mets?  Let's just say color photography didn't exist back then.

It's amazin' that the Mets haven't had an everyday player spend ten years with the team in over two decades and even more amazin' that it's been over a quarter century (more than half of their existence) since a non-pitcher surpassed the decade mark.

In fact, in addition to Wilson, Mazzilli and Hodges, the only other everyday players to play at least ten seasons for the Mets in their fifty-year history are John Stearns (1975-1984), Ed Kranepool (1962-1979), Jerry Grote (1966-1977), Bud Harrelson (1965-1977) and Cleon Jones (1963, 1965-1975).  That's a total of eight everyday players in 50 years to play at least ten years with the Mets.  Compare that with 15 such players on the Astros (who also came into existence in 1962).

Free agency has definitely changed the landscape of the game.  Since its advent in the 1970s, players have been more likely to move from team to team than they are to stay with one franchise.  However, every team has a homegrown star or exceptional player that they try to lock up for as long as possible.  Not every team can boast a Tony Gwynn (20 years in San Diego) or Cal Ripken, Jr. (21 years in Baltimore), but they can claim a Jay Buhner (14 years in Seattle) or Mike Sweeney (13 years in Kansas City).

It's not only small market teams that keep their players around.  Large market teams do it as well.  For example, that other team that plays in New York (their name escapes me at the moment) has had a number of ten-year everyday players since they started winning division titles and World Series championships.  Players such as Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada all played key roles on those teams.  None of those players was playing in the major leagues the last time the Mets had a non-pitcher play at least ten years for them.

 Don't look at us like that, Jose.  It's true.  You really would have been the first Met everyday player since 1989 to play at least ten years with the team had you decided to stay.

If Jose Reyes leaves the Mets during the offseason, he will fall one year short of reaching the decade mark, leaving it up to David Wright to try to end the streak in 2013.  Of course, he might be traded by then.  If that ends us happening, the longest-tenured everyday player on the Mets would be (get ready for this) Angel Pagan, assuming he's still on the team as well.

A good team has to have youth and a core of veterans who can share their wisdom and experiences with those novices.  Players who have seen the highs and lows (a la Mookie Wilson) are always key members of a winning team.  They've been in the clubhouse long enough and can help bring the team together in ways that can't be seen in a boxscore.

It's been almost a quarter century since the Mets have had a veteran like Mookie Wilson play at least ten years with the team.  It's also been a quarter century since the Mets last won a championship.  That's not a coincidence.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Misleading Stats On David Wright Change Everything

Since 2004, David Wright has been a fan favorite.  His name can be found all over the Mets' all-time offensive leaderboard and he has accomplished this all before his 29th birthday.  Because of this, some Mets fans would find it impossible to see the team without David Wright and would consider it sacrilege to trade him.

However, I've been doing some research on the Mets' career leaderboard and made some comparisons to another team's leaderboard.  Fans who bring up the fact that David Wright holds or is close to holding many of the club's all-time offensive records might change their minds on their favorite player once they read this.

The Mets came into existence in 1962, joining the National League with the Houston Colt .45s (who became the Astros in 1965).  Therefore, it would be fair to assume that both teams would have similar cumulative offensive statistics since they have both completed 50 seasons of play.  It would also be fair to assume that since David Wright has cemented his name at or near the top of the Mets' all-time leaderboard in many offensive categories, he'd rank just as highly in those categories had he been a member of the Astros.  Unfortunately for Wright, that is not the case.

Currently, David Wright ranks in the Mets' top ten in the following cumulative offensive categories:

  • Games played: 1,106 (8th)
  • At-bats: 4,161 (5th)
  • Plate appearances: 4,782 (4th)
  • Runs scored: 699 (2nd)
  • Hits: 1,248 (3rd)
  • Total bases: 2,112 (1st)
  • Doubles: 281 (1st)
  • Home runs: 183 (4th)
  • RBI: 725 (2nd)
  • Bases on balls: 535 (4th)
  • Stolen bases: 151 (6th)
  • Runs created: 825 (1st)
  • Extra-base hits: 481 (1st)
  • Times on base: 1,816 (2nd)
  • Sacrifice Flies: 53 (2nd)

 Wright's bat has taken him far up the Mets' all-time leaderboard, but how great does that make him?

David Wright is currently the all-time Mets leader in total bases, doubles, runs created and extra-base hits and ranks in the top five in nine other categories.  Barring injury (and the potential departure of Jose Reyes via free agency), he could break the career club records for hits, RBIs, walks, times on base and sacrifice flies in 2012.

In addition to the above categories, if Wright plays 130 games in 2012, he will move into the No. 3 spot in games played for the Mets, surpassing Darryl Strawberry, Mookie Wilson, Howard Johnson, Cleon Jones and Jerry Grote.  He can also realistically enter the top three in at-bats, plate appearances and home runs during the upcoming season.

Without question, David Wright is one of the best offensive players in Mets history.  His high ranking in many of the club's career offensive categories clearly establishes that.  However, it would be a whole different story if Wright had achieved his numbers as a member of that other expansion team from 1962.  Let's look at where Wright's numbers would rank him on the all-time Houston Astros' offensive leaderboards in the same categories listed above.

  • Games played: 1,106 (14th)
  • At-bats: 4,161 (11th)
  • Plate appearances: 4,782 (10th)
  • Runs scored: 699 (7th)
  • Hits: 1,248 (9th)
  • Total bases: 2,112 (8th)
  • Doubles: 281 (6th)
  • Home runs: 183 (5th)
  • RBI: 725 (7th)
  • Bases on balls: 535 (8th)
  • Stolen bases: 151 (12th)
  • Runs created: 825 (7th)
  • Extra-base hits: 481 (7th)
  • Times on base: 1,816 (9th)
  • Sacrifice Flies: 53 (T-5th)

 David Wright's bat wouldn't get him very far up the Houston Astros' all-time leaderboard.

If David Wright had been in Houston since 2004 and compiled the same offensive numbers he has for the Mets as an Astro, he wouldn't be considered an all-time great for that franchise.  Wright ranks in the Mets' top five in 13 different categories and is the team's all-time leader in four of them.  As an Astro, he wouldn't rank higher than fifth place in any of Houston's all-time cumulative offensive categories.  He wouldn't even rank in the top ten in three of them.

The fans who don't think Wright should be traded usually make their point by saying he's been one of the Mets' best players of all-time and he's not even 30 yet.  Yes, it's true that Wright has been one of the Mets' best offensive players of all-time.  It's also true that he's accomplished all of his accolades before age 30.

But the reason why Wright has been one of the all-time greatest Mets is because the Mets haven't had many great offensive players for him to be compared to, and when the Mets have had a game-changing offensive player, they've either traded him away (Rusty Staub), let him walk as a free agent (Darryl Strawberry and perhaps Jose Reyes) or acquired him after he established himself with another franchise (Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Mike Piazza).

Simply stated, the Mets haven't had a homegrown offensive player stay with them long enough to become a bonafide all-time great of the game.  The Astros had Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, two of the game's best players during their time in Houston and both potential Hall of Famers.  The Mets' sole Hall of Famer has been Tom Seaver, a pitcher.  Sure, the Mets have had future Hall of Famers play for them in the past, but most of those players had already locked up their ticket to Cooperstown before they became Mets (Yogi Berra, Warren Spahn, Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Richie Ashburn, Gary Carter, Eddie Murray, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Alomar).  Only Seaver and Nolan Ryan came up through the Mets' farm system, but both of them were pitchers.

It's sad to say it, but as of right now, there has never been an everyday player inducted into the Hall of Fame who was developed in the New York Mets' farm system and came into the major leagues as a member of the Mets.

David Wright will someday have his plaque displayed in the Mets' Hall of Fame and Museum to recognize him as an all-time great Met, but unfortunately, he is not an all-time great of the game.   When fans realize this instead of trying to make him bigger than what he really is, perhaps they'd realize that he'd have more value to the Mets as trade bait than he would have as a player for the team.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Song Parody: The Reyes Connection

Greetings, Mets fans!  We hope you're enjoying your long Thanksgiving weekend, even with the lack of Mets news.  The cast and crew of Studious Metsimus has been enjoying their Thanksgiving weekend.  We attended the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on Thursday morning and followed that up by catching a matinee showing of The Muppets.

While sitting through the endless amount of previews and the Toy Story short film, I couldn't help but think of the ongoing Jose Reyes contract situation.  I wasn't just thinking about whether or not the Mets should re-sign him, but why fans love him so much.

As I was daydreaming about this topic, the film finally started (approximately 25 minutes after the scheduled starting time - there must have been a rain delay in the projection booth) and the first song was sung.  Of course, at that point my thoughts of Reyes started to take melodic form and a song parody was born.

Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict with Kermit the Frog (and his demand for lots of cash - I don't understand his obsession with having as much green as possible) denied us the opportunity to have him sing this song parody for you.  For now, you'll have to use your imagination as I give you a parody of Kermit's famous song, "The Rainbow Connection".  Here is the Studious Metsimus version, entitled "The Reyes Connection" (followed by a clip of the original version of the song as seen in The Muppet Movie).  Enjoy!

Why are there so many thoughts about Reyes
On whether or not he'll sign?
Mets fans have visions
But they're all illusions
If Reyes waves us goodbye

So we've been warned about him truly leaving
I hope they're wrong; we'll just see

Sandy should buy into
The Reyes Connection
The shortstop, the fanbase and me

If Alderson heard my wish
I'd expect an answer
That he'd re-sign our All-Star
Wish he had thought of that
And that he believed it
So Reyes wouldn't play so far

Jose's Amazin'
He keeps Mets fans praisin'
That's what Reyes does to me

Sandy should buy into
The Reyes Connection
The shortstop, the fanbase and me

All Mets fans under his spell
We know Jose Reyes is magic

Have the Mets been asleep
To the Marlins' voices
I've heard them courting Jose
It was a sweet sound
That followed three-base hits
He'd run to the Hall of Fame

I've heard the cheers; Jose just can't ignore 'em
Citi Field's where he should be

I'll always buy into
The Reyes Connection
The shortstop, the fanbase and me


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The New CBA Cancels Summer Vacations For All-Stars

Earlier today, Major League Baseball and the Players Association signed off on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement that will keep the players on the field through the 2016 season.  And when I say "keep the players on the field", I mean that in every respect.  What do I mean by that?  Allow me to explain.

This past July, there was much hullabaloo over certain players who chose to skip the All-Star Game.  Some of these players, such as Mariano Rivera and David Price, were selected to play in the Midsummer Classic, but declined so they could recover from nagging injuries.  However, neither player was on the disabled list at the time and did not miss any time from their respective teams once the season resumed after the All-Star Break.

There was another player (who was not injured, mind you) who also did not make the trip to Arizona.  Instead, he chose to be with his then-girlfriend in Miami, rather than participate in the All-Star Game or the pregame festivities.  To protect the name of the guilty, let's call him Dirk Jitters.

For someone with two balls, Dirk Jitters had none when it came to his 2011 All-Star Game no-show.

Mr. Jitters had just achieved one of the most impressive milestones in baseball - collecting his 3,000th hit.  It was a feat that should have been celebrated on a national stage, the type of stage the All-Star Game could provide.  But no, Mr. Jitters decided to soak in the Florida sun rather than soak in the adulation of baseball fans all over the world who tuned in to the game or were fortunate enough to have tickets.

Needless to say, Major League Baseball was put in an uncomfortable spot with Mr. Jitters' snub.  Fortunately, that will never happen again.

If you peruse the summary of the new collective bargaining agreement, you'll notice things you already knew about, such as the move of the Houston Astros from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013, the addition of two wild card teams beginning as early as the 2012 season, and the necessity of interleague play throughout the entire season.

But scroll down to the very bottom of the summary, where it says "7 X.. Other".  Under subsection 'a', there is a new rule in place that Mr. Jitters and his fellow summer vacationers should pay attention to.  It says:

"Participation in the All-Star Game will be required unless the Player is unable to play due to injury or is otherwise excused by the Office of the Commissioner."

There was a time when players considered it an honor to be selected for the All-Star Game.  They wouldn't dream of missing the game.  Fans knew when they attended the game or tuned into it on the television or radio, they would see (or hear) the very best players in the game displaying their talents on the same field.

Since 1969, fans have punched holes through paper ballots and more recently, clicked their mouse to vote for their favorite players.  Imagine all those people spending all that time to vote for a particular player, only to have that player blow the game off.  That would tick off anyone, let alone a die-hard fan of that player.

Jose Reyes has been selected for the All-Star Game four times.  However, he has had the misfortune of being injured for three of those games.  Nevertheless, he has managed to make the trip to each game.  When asked about this, Reyes said:

"Every time I've had the opportunity to come here I'm going to come, no matter what happens...three of the last four years in the All-Star Game I've been injured, but I still come here."

Even Phillies' centerfielder Shane Victorino, who has drawn the ire of Mets fans for years, and has had his issues with how Reyes conducts himself on the field, agreed with Jose on the topic of showing up to the All-Star Game regardless of whether a player can play or not.

This past July, Victorino himself was injured and on the disabled list, but had been voted in by fans in the All-Star Game Final Vote.   Despite spraining a ligament in his right thumb, Victorino did not need to be held back from making the trek to Arizona to be with his fellow All-Stars, saying:

"My trainers and I talked about staying in Philly and getting my finger better and trying to get back healthy, but I'm like 'Well, I can do the same things here that I can do in Philly so I'd like to come and be with my teammates, being around players that are deserving.'  One, I got voted in and I want to tip my hat to the fans and say thank you and represent the National League."

Reyes and Victorino "get it".  Certain other players don't.  Players like Mr. Jitters and the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez, who turned down his All-Star invitation, will now have to get it, according to the new rules.

Players have approximately four months to take their vacations from the final pitch of the World Series to the day pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.  If they feel the need to take more vacation time, then they shouldn't be in the game to begin with.

Fans who help pay the players' salaries want to see these players for one night in July.  Is that really so much to ask for?  Fortunately, that question will never have to be asked again.  If you vote them in, they will come.  They no longer have any choice in the matter.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Joey's Small Bites: Dodgers & Padres & Bears, Oh My! (Part Two: Petco Park Tour)

Howdy doody, fellow Mets fans!  This is Joey Beartran, taking a break from dreaming about chicken nachos at Citi Field (a dream I have daily during the offseason) to share my experiences with you on our recent trip to the National League ballparks in Southern California.

In part one of this two-part series, I discussed our tour of Dodger Stadium (which you can read for yourself by clicking here), where there is plenty of love for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Fred Wilpon's high school sweetheart (Sandy Koufax) and hero (Jackie Robinson), in addition to all the Gil Hodges memorabilia that should be at Citi Field.

Part two of the Studious Metsimus Southern California tour took us to Petco Park in beautiful San Diego.  The ballpark is visually stunning from the outside, but it is inside where the beauty fully comes out to play.  Let's take a look!

Everything is beautiful in San Diego, which is why I fit in so well.

Our tour guide took us into the ballpark behind home plate, up the staircase that is adjacent to a cascading waterfall (which was not on at the time - water conservation is important everywhere, my friends).  He explained that Petco Park has some of the widest concourses for fans in the major leagues and has the most plants found in any major league ballpark.  The plants were carefully selected because San Diego doesn't get much rain (approximately 10-15" of precipitation falls in San Diego annually, according to our tour guide), so only plants that can withstand drought were planted in and around the ballpark.

One of the great things about watching a game at Petco Park is that you can purchase a Standing Room Only ticket behind the last row of seats in the field level behind home plate.  The price of the ticket is only $5.  Compare that to the last row of seats behind home plate, which are $69 and only two feet in front of the Standing Room Only section, and you have the best bargain in the ballpark.  Of course, you might not be able to see high fly balls from that area (see photo below of the view from the Standing Room Only section), but no Padre can hit high fly balls anyway.

Ryan Ludwick led the 2011 Padres with 11 HR, meaning that you probably have a better chance of catching a baseball in the Standing Room Only area than you do in the outfield seats at Petco Park.

From the Standing Room Only area, we moved along the right field side of the ballpark, taking note of the Padres dugout as we walked to one of the unique aspects of the park - the Western Metal Supply Co. building.

Construction of Petco Park was delayed for two seasons because of the building, which has been declared a historic landmark in San Diego.  After a court hearing, it was determined that only the exterior of the building was considered a landmark, so the Padres were able to incorporate it into the ballpark, change and add things to the inside of the building, as long as they kept the exterior intact.  The Western Metal Supply Co. building now provides a unique viewing perspective in the left field corner.  (Here are the pics to prove it.  Among them is a photo that features my sister (Iggy Beartran) and Ballapeño, who is the mascot of the Padres' AA team, the San Antonio Missions.)

Inside the Western Metal Supply Co. building, you will find all the San Diego baseball history you can digest.  We're not just talking about the San Diego Padres major league franchise, which came into existence in 1969.  We're also talking about the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League, which started play in 1936.

The minor league San Diego Padres team was most known for one teenaged player who went on to become one of the best hitters in the major leagues as a member of the Boston Red Sox.  Perhaps you've heard of this native San Diegan.  His name was Ted Williams.

The Splendid Splinter got his professional start in San Diego as a member of the PCL's Padres.

The Padres are very proud of their history, even though they've never won a World Series title in two trips to the Fall Classic.  The team has retired the numbers of five of their former players (Randy Jones, Steve Garvey, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman) and isn't shy to show off their love for these players.

All over the ballpark, you will see tributes to these great players, even though Winfield and Gwynn are the only two to make it to Cooperstown.  From a Tony Gwynn statue (more on that later) to a baseball jersey made out of baseball cards to glass-enclosed "lockers" dedicated to their legendary players, coaches and front office personnel, Petco Park has no shortage of tributes to those who gave their all for the Padres.

By the way, your eyes weren't deceiving you up there.  That really was Babe Ruth in a "Bustin' Babes" jersey.  When the man who never knew a hot dog he couldn't eat was a player, he was part of a barnstorming team that played a few games in San Diego.  That made the Bambino part of San Diego baseball history and got him a spot on their wall.  See, I wasn't kidding when I said San Diego is proud of their baseball history!

Speaking of "never knowing a hot dog he couldn't eat", by this point in the tour, I was getting a little hungry (like you weren't expecting me to say that eventually), but I was disappointed that just like in the Dodger Stadium tour, the concession stands weren't open for business.  It's too bad because I really wanted to try one of their famous Friar Franks.  (Keeping the concession stands closed was not suh-WEET in my book.)  At least they have all-you-can-eat seats, so I'll definitely be making a trip back to Petco Park when there are games to be played.

After the Western Metal Supply Co. building and closed concession stand tour, we went back into the ballpark to check out the press box, suites and lounges (where were large and had great menus, but not unlike any we've ever seen before).  On the way there, we stopped at the Padres Hall of Fame Bar and Grill and noticed a couple of interesting jerseys that belonged to two former Padres.  However, the two uniforms did not have "San Diego" or "Padres" written across the front.

They were the WBC jerseys of former Met (and a Padre for one season) Mike Piazza and former Padre Adrian Gonzalez.  Piazza wore No. 31 as a coach for Team Italy in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, while Gonzalez wore No. 23 for Team Mexico.  The jerseys were there because both players suited up for the Padres at one time and because several of the WBC games were played at Petco Park.  (Ballapeño clearly has a fav'rit player, according to the photos below.)

From there, it was time to get some on-field action.  The tour guide was quite informative when telling us about the special advantages the Padres have on the field.  For example, the Padres' home dugout is 57 feet long and the bench in front of the dugout fences has a back for players and coaches to lean back on while they're sitting on it.  The visiting team's dugout is only 46 feet long and the bench in front of their dugout fence has no back for leaning purposes.  I suppose a player could lean back while sitting on that bench, but then he'd risk an injury, as the bench is a few feet above the dugout floor.  Of course, if it was a Mets player, it would cause him to miss the entire season.

In addition, the Padres have heaters and coolers in their dugout, while the visiting team has none.  Also, the Padres' bullpen is situated on grass behind the left field fence.  The road team has to warm up their pitchers on a makeshift mound in foul territory along the right field foul line, where they're subjected to the wrath (or what passes for wrath in laid-back San Diego) of the fans.  More importantly, members of the visiting team can be struck by screaming line drives that curve foul at the last moment.

I'm sure all that information is keeping you wide awake, but what you really want to see are the pictures of us on the field and in the dugout, right?  Without further ado, here they are!

Most of the time, the tour of the dugout and the field represents the end of the tour.  However, at Petco Park, there is much more to see!

Just beyond the center field fence is an area called "Park at the Park", which is open from sunrise to sunset on non-game days.  From there, you can go down a flight of steps (where the Petco Park center field bleacher seats are located) to an area that resembles a beach.  This is where kids can play during the game while their parents watch the action on the field.

Behind this seating area is a small park that contains a whiffle ball field (for kids and adults) and a statue of Mr. Padre himself, Tony Gwynn.  (See, I wasn't lying when I said "more on that later" ten paragraphs and 22 photos ago.)  We didn't take a photo of the homeless man sleeping behind the statue (or was it the San Diego chapter of "Occupy Wall Street", called "Occupy Tony Gwynn Drive"?) but we did get some great shots of the statue, beach and playing field.

Well, that about does it, Mets fans.  I hope you enjoyed our recap of the Studious Metsimus Southern California ballpark tour.  Both Dodger Stadium and Petco Park should be on your list of ballparks to visit whenever you want to make a trip to the West Coast to see the Mets play.  If you can't make it out to these cities during the baseball season, then I highly recommend taking the tours that we took.

At each park, the tour guides were informative, knew their team's history (unlike the tour guides at Citi Field - isn't that right, Mr. Prince?) and they didn't try to sell you suites (a la the Citi Field tour), making it a pleasurable experience for our entire staff.

Oh, one more thing before I sign off, since I know you were wondering.  Remember how I said none of the concession stands were open at Dodger Stadium and Petco Park?  Well, that part was true, but I did make a friend inside the Petco Park Team Store.  It wasn't edible, but the slice of Padres Pizza (see photo below) was a perfect ending to a fantastic Southern California baseball trip.

On behalf of Iggy Beartran and Ballapeño, I'm Joey Beartran, reminding you that it sometimes does rain in Southern California, but it should never dampen your feelings on the New York Mets.  Let's go Mets!

Hungry bears and a Padres pepperoni pizza pillow always go hand-in-hand!