Sunday, December 30, 2012

Studious Metsimus Presents The Happy/Crappy Recap For 2012

The Mets packed their bags three months ago.  Now it's time for us to send 2012 packing as well.  Although the Mets finished the year with a 74-88 record - their fourth consecutive losing mark - the year did not pass without a number of memorable moments.

We got to experience R.A. Dickey in every way.  He started the year as a mountain climber.  He then morphed into a best-selling, brutally honest author.  Soon after, he was featured in a compelling documentary.  All that just served as an appetizer for the 20-course meal he served up during the regular season, which culminated with a rich and satisfying Cy Young Award for dessert.  Of course, those who want seconds will now have to find the finest Canadian restaurant to get it.

We got to see David Wright prosper without Jose Reyes by his side.  We also got to see him rewarded for his efforts by becoming the first lifelong Met since Ed Kranepool hung up his cleats and took Chico Escuela's soap.  Of course, making him the richest Met of all-time kind of helped in Wright's decision.

In addition, we also got to see the progression of Jonathon Niese from so-so pitcher to dependable middle-of-the-rotation starter.  With a 13-9 record and a 3.40 ERA, Niese became a solid No. 2 starter behind R.A. Dickey.  Now that his long-term deal is signed, Niese expects to be a key figure for the Mets for years to come.

Of course, we also saw something we had never seen before.  We got to see a zero on the Citi Field scoreboard in a place we had never seen a zero before, regardless of the Mets' home venue.

The year had a bunch of reasons to be happy.  It also had its share of crappy.  Let's go over those moments, beginning with all things happy.

Twenty wins.  230 strikeouts.  Five complete games.  Three shutouts.  Back-to-back one-hitters.  If you don't know what those numbers mean, then you weren't following the Mets in 2012.  R.A. Dickey completed one of the most memorable seasons by a Mets starting pitcher since Dwight Gooden in 1985.  But Dickey was more than just a great pitcher.  He endeared himself to Mets fans with his intelligence and candidness.  He told it like it is.  He wasn't afraid of anything.  Then again, for someone who once attempted to swim across the Missouri River, facing the New York media was probably a breath of fresh air.  Dickey began the year climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.  He ended it by reaching the top of the pitching mountain in the National League, winning an unexpected Cy Young Award.  It was certainly a wonderful year to be R.A. Dickey.

David Wright spent most of the first half of the season competing for the National League batting title.  Despite coming back to Earth in the second half, Wright still finished sixth in the National League MVP vote.  It was his highest finish since 2007, when Wright registered his only 30-30 season.  The lifelong Met will have plenty of opportunities to finish higher than sixth in the MVP race now that the Mets have signed him to an eight-year extension that will keep him in blue and orange duds through the 2020 season.

After a 16-year absence, Banner Day made its triumphant return in 2012.  Fans lined up 126th Street before the game with banners that hadn't seen the light of day since Mark Clark was the Mets' ace.  Of course, the best banner - although not the winner - made the claim that "no-hitters are overrated anyway".  I wonder what the carriers of that banner were saying a few days later when a certain Mets lefty took the mound.

That certain Mets lefty was Johan Santana.  And when he took the mound on June 1, he was pitching better than anyone could have hoped for after missing the entire 2011 season with a shoulder injury.  In his previous effort, just one day before Banner Day, Santana shut out the San Diego Padres.  Perhaps Santana saw that "overrated" banner after his shutout of the Padres.  Perhaps he had an extra bowl of Froot Loops the morning of June 1 because he liked all the "O"s in the name.  But something special was in the air at Citi Field on that Friday night, and the scoreboard reflected it with "0" after "0" after "0", and not just in the runs column.  Santana pitched the first no-hitter in team history on that magical evening, holding Carlos Beltran and his Cardinal teammates in check despite St. Louis entering the game with the highest batting average in the National League.  It was a night no Mets fan will ever forget.

As happy as those moments were, there were also some crappy moments in 2012.  Time to break out the orange and blue toilet paper to see what we can wipe up.

After finding themselves in a first place tie at the one-third mark of the season, the Mets played .500 ball through the All-Star Break.  Despite the mediocre play, the Mets found themselves only half a game behind the Atlanta Braves for the second wild card spot.  But after the Midsummer Classic, the Mets would have been happy to just play at a mediocre level.  Instead, they continued what has become an alarming annual tradition by playing poorly after the All-Star Break.  The Mets went 28-48 after their four-day summer vacation.  The only National League team with fewer wins after the break was the Houston Astros, who went on to lose a franchise-record 107 games.  The Mets didn't approach that number, but they sure played like a 107-loss team after the break.

Johan Santana provided a lot of happy on June 1.  But after that date, he was nothing but crappy.  In ten starts following his no-hitter, Santana posted an 8.27 ERA.  Opponents batted .327 against him (a far cry from the .000 batting average against him on June 1) and smoked 13 home runs in only 49 innings.  For the fourth consecutive season, Santana didn't throw a single pitch after September 2, with his 2012 season ending prematurely after allowing six runs in five innings against the Washington Nationals on August 17.

The bullpen.  Do I have to say more?  Other than Bobby Parnell, who had a 2.49 ERA in 74 appearances, the rest of the pen was constantly springing leaks.  Manny Acosta, Miguel Batista, Tim Byrdak, Robert Carson, Josh Edgin, Frank Francisco, Jeremy Hefner, Elvin Ramirez and Ramon Ramirez all made at least ten relief appearances.  None of them had an ERA under 4.24 and four of them had ERAs over 5.00.  How bad was the bullpen?  Jon Rauch allowed seven homers and lost seven games and still had the second lowest ERA of any pitcher in the bullpen.  If there were men on base and the bullpen phone rang, opposing hitters would salivate like Pavlov's dogs.  Simply stated, the three words that described the bullpen best in 2012 were stink, stank, stunk.

That's all, folks!  After this post, we'll be signing off for the year 2012.  However, we can't end this year without giving our thanks to those who have influenced us and supported us.

A big thank you goes out to you, the readers, for making this site a success.  When this site began in 2009, it averaged a few dozen page views per day.  Since then, Studious Metsimus has gotten over 200,000 page views and counting, with our high point coming this past October, when we had over 15,000 page views in that month alone.  To more experienced bloggers, that might not seem like much, but considering where we began three years ago, that's a tremendous number.  Every time someone clicks on a Studious Metsimus blog post, they have no idea what they're getting themselves into.  And that's exactly the point.  Studious Metsimus isn't supposed to be like anything else you've ever seen.  I mean, we employ a teddy bear to be our roving reporter and culinary expert.  And how many Mets sites have culinary experts anyway, whether they be warm-blooded or non-blooded?  When you're a Mets fan, you have to be a little different, and Studious Metsimus certainly takes that to another level.  So thank you once again for joining me on that ride.

I'd also like to thank our fellow bloggers for providing additional news, insight, entertainment and chicken nachos that make the blogosphere a better playground to play in.  Sites such as Mets Merized Online, Metstradamus, Remembering Shea, Kiner's Korner, The Real Dirty Mets, The Apple, Mets360, On The Black, MetsBlog, Rising Apple, Random Mets Thoughts, Kranepool Society, New York Fan In South Jersey, Metszilla, Mets Police, MetSilverman and assorted others are all worth your time.  They're all read and recommended by the Studious Metsimus staff.  And before you say "you forgot one", I have a separate shout out reserved for Faith and Fear in Flushing.  Not only do Greg Prince and Jason Fry provide us with some of the most original and thought-provoking pieces in the Mets blogosphere, but the words they use in their posts would make R.A. Dickey run for his nearest dictionary.  (And before I forget, give yourself a belated Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa present by picking up The Happiest Recap: First Base (1962-1973).  Author Greg Prince knocked it out of the park with this first of four volumes that recap 500 Mets victories over the years.  Even Endy Chavez couldn't take that homer away from him.)

Finally, I'd like to give a special thank you to my wife, Taryn Cooper, who will always be my Gal For All Seasons.  She's been a Mets fan for many years (you didn't think I'd give away her age, did you?) and an inspiration to me since before the first time we met.  I can't think of a better person who I'd want to share my Mets memories with (and hopefully create some new ones along the way).

From our family to yours, we'd like to wish you a happy and healthy New Year.  And remember, if you think you have a concussion, please take care of it.  You wouldn't want to forget that you're a Mets fan.  See you next year!

Photo by Sharon Chapman

Comeback Player of the Year? Not Ugueth Urbina!

Ugueth Urbina once had a blazing fastball and deceptive slider that made him one of the most feared closers in baseball.  The two-time All-Star is one of a handful of pitchers to record a 40-save season in both leagues, registering a league-leading 41 saves for the Expos in 1999 and 40 saves for the Red Sox in 2002.  But a once-promising career took an unexpected turn in 2005, when Urbina took the law into his own hands and got caught.

Seven years ago, Urbina was arrested and eventually convicted of attempted murder after attacking five workers on his ranch with a machete and then dousing them with gasoline.  Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the heinous act, but was recently released for good behavior.

Now Urbina, who will turn 39 in February and hasn't thrown a pitch in the major leagues since he pitched in a career-high 81 games for the Tigers and Phillies in 2005, is looking to return to the major leagues.  If there is any sense still left in a league that doles out nine-figure contracts to anyone with a pulse and an All-Star appearance that comes after a deserving All-Star bows out due to injury, then no general manager should even give Urbina the time of day, let alone an invite to spring training.

Look at the backlash when Michael Vick came back to the NFL after serving nearly two years in prison.  Now look at how poorly he's performed since he returned to the league.  Any team that would consider signing Urbina would be subject to intense scrutiny and negative press.  And that's not just because he tried to violently end the lives of multiple victims.  It's also because he hasn't pitched in the major leagues since Braden Looper was a Met.

The Mets hammered Urbina over his 11-year major league career.  Who can forget the game-tying grand slam by Carl Everett off Urbina to cap a six-run ninth inning on September 13, 1997?  Or what about Ramon Castro's go-ahead three-run homer off "Oogie" on August 30, 2005 that pushed the Mets closer to the wild card lead?  In all, the Mets hit eight homers off Urbina and pinned four losses on him in only 45⅔ innings of work.  No team in the majors hit more homers or defeated him more times than the Mets did.

As much as it would be great to see the Mets continue to send him to the showers, Urbina's major league career should be as flat as his sliders were against Everett and Castro.  As an interesting aside, his son, Juan Urbina, is a pitcher in the Mets' organization, pitching for Kingsport and Brooklyn last year.  He should be the only Urbina with a chance to pitch in the big leagues.

Urbina signed his own pinkslip when he tried to kill those five men in 2005.  He was slammed by Carl Everett in 1997 and had a jail cell door slam behind him eight years later.  Just because those doors opened for Urbina before his 14-year sentence was complete doesn't mean he should have other doors opening for him on a major league roster.

Urbina committed the crime.  He did some of the time.  But play again the majors?  Not on our dime.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Where Were You On June 1, 2012?

There are some dates that are forever etched in the memories of Mets fans.  Some of those dates bring back harsh memories (June 15, 1977) while others are far more pleasant (October 16, 1969, October 25 and 27, 1986).  The year 2012 added another date to the pleasant list.  Tell me, Mets fans.  Do you remember where you were on June 1, 2012?

The morning of June 1, 2012 started off a little soggy, as Central Park registered a quarter of an inch of rain.  The precipitation did little to wash away the sting of the Mets' previous game, a 10-6 loss to the Phillies on May 30.  In that game, the bullpen wasted a solid effort by starter Dillon Gee, allowing nine runs over the final three innings (the first of the nine runs was credited to Gee, although Bobby Parnell allowed that run to score on a home run by Carlos Ruiz).

No reliever was spared in the late inning carnage, as Parnell (one run), Jon Rauch (one run), Tim Byrdak (one run), Ramon Ramirez (three runs, retired no one) and Chris Schwinden (two runs) combined to cough up the game to the hated Phillies.

Fortunately for the Mets, the day after the bullpen meltdown was an off day, which gave the team a 24-hour respite to regroup and focus on their next opponent, the St. Louis Cardinals, who were coming to New York for a four-game wraparound series beginning Friday, June 1 and ending Monday, June 4.

Johan Santana was set to start the series opener on June 1, needing to give the team plenty of innings after the previous game's debacle.  Ironically, the back page of that day's New York Post focused on the 20-year anniversary of the Yankees signing Derek Jeter, calling the rest "hitstory".  Little did they know they would be reporting on another kind of history in less than 24 hours, although this one would involve far fewer hits.

In less than 24 hours, the Post went from "hitstory" to "no-hitstory".

The Mets entered the game with a 28-23 record, good for third place in a tightly-packed NL East, where all five teams had between 27 and 29 wins.  As a result, the standings were fluctuating daily, making every game critical.  Going into the game, the talk was not about making "hitstory", but about a former Met making his first appearance at Citi Field since his midseason trade to the Giants in 2011.

Considering that Carlos Beltran's legacy in New York always seemed to go back to that one fateful at-bat against the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, it was quite a story to not only have Beltran back in New York, but to have him return as a teammate of Wainwright in a Cardinals uniform.  Fittingly, Wainwright would be the starting pitcher against the Mets in the series opener facing Johan Santana, who was coming off a complete game shutout of the Padres just six days earlier in which he allowed four hits and walked no one.  He would allow one more baserunner against the Cardinals than he did on May 26 against the Padres, but the latter performance would end up having a more memorable ending.

By now, you've memorized all the numbers.  134 pitches.  No runs.  No hits.  Five walks.  One generous call by third base umpire Adrian Johnson.  You've also heard all the stories.  You know Mike Baxter's story and why he will never have to buy an adult beverage in New York as long as there's a Mets fan sitting at the bar.

But you've never heard our story.  You've yet to hear the Studious Metsimus account of how we spent those magical two hours and thirty-five minutes on the night of June 1, 2012.  So as 2012 winds down, we thought now would be a good time to tell that story.  After all, if you've been a Mets fan for as long as we have, it's stories like these that fuel our passion for all things blue and orange.  Enjoy!

Taryn (my Gal for All Seasons and behind-the-scenes contributor at Studious Metsimus) and I were doing laundry that night so I had to listen to the first two innings on the radio.  We got back home in time for me to notice that both Santana and Adam Wainwright had not allowed a hit through two innings.  When both pitchers got through three innings with neither team collecting a hit, that was when I first started thinking about the no-hitter for Santana.  I said to myself, "Santana might have to throw a no-hitter to beat Wainwright tonight".

In the bottom of the fourth inning, David Wright broke up Wainwright's no-hitter and started a two-run rally.  Once the Mets had the lead (and some hits), my full focus turned to Johan's attempt to make history.  After the Cardinals went down in the fifth inning and still did not have a hit, Taryn decided she was going to go to the supermarket after the next inning.  I decided I was going to stay home.

When Carlos Beltran didn't break up the no-hitter on the ball that kicked up chalk down the left field line, I really started to feel that I was watching something special.  But Johan was already approaching 100 pitches and felt there was no chance Terry Collins would leave him in the game, especially considering his injury from the previous year.

As odd as it may seem, part of me wanted Johan to give up a hit because I didn't want the team's first no-hitter to be a combined effort.  It wouldn't feel right to see a reliever celebrating the final out instead of a deserving starter.  Notice how I assumed the Mets were going to throw the no-hitter there.  I was getting very confident about it at that point.

That confidence grew in the seventh, when Mike Baxter made the play that will make him a Mets legend forever, a la Ron Swoboda for his World Series catch and Endy Chavez for his NLCS catch.  After Johan had finished his seventh hitless inning, I called Taryn (who had left for the supermarket one inning earlier), telling her to rush back from the store because Johan was taking his no-hitter into the eighth.  She made it back within a few minutes.

In the eighth, I kept thinking that I had been in attendance at Shea Stadium the last two times a Mets pitcher took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, but both Tom Glavine and John Maine fell four outs short of making history.  When Santana got the first two outs of the inning, that was the one time I felt a lack of confidence.  It was slight, but it was there.  But then he induced a harmless infield pop-up that ended the inning.  He was now only three outs away.

Only five weeks before, I had written a fairly lengthy piece on the Mets' lack of no-hitters, discussing interesting coincidences and anecdotes surrounding the topic.  I then realized that piece might be rendered obsolete if Santana could get three more outs.  I didn't mind that at all.

Taryn was sitting on the floor and I was sitting on the couch.  Neither of us moved throughout the entire ninth inning.  When Matt Holliday hit a first-pitch soft liner to center, Taryn thought for sure that the no-hitter was over.  It wasn't.  Andres Torres raced in and caught the ball in shallow center.  Then Allen Craig hit a fly ball to left field.  Although Kirk Nieuwenhuis took an odd circuitous route to it, he made the catch and Santana was one out away from baseball immortality.

David Freese came up and Santana threw him three consecutive balls.  Although he had now thrown 131 pitches, I wasn't concerned with the pitch count.  I knew that even if walked Freese, he wasn't going to be taken out of the game.  It was his no-hitter.  No one was going to share it with him.

Then came a called strike.  Two strikes away.  That was followed by a slow topper down the third base line.  As soon as Freese hit it, I thought of Paul Hoover hitting a 30-foot swinging bunt that ended John Maine's no-hitter in 2007.  That ball stayed fair. This one went foul.  Santana was now one strike away from the moment all Mets fans had been waiting for from the first time they said "Let's go Mets".

Taryn was twiddling on her phone on the floor.  I was practically hyperventilating on the couch.  Then Santana looked in, got the sign from Josh Thole and fired away.  Swing and a miss!  He had done it!  The no-hitter was complete!  I immediately leaped off the couch and into Taryn's arms, jumping up and down in place a la Billy Wagner and Paul LoDuca after the Mets had clinched the NL East title in 2006.  The tears were flowing.  Most of them were mine.   (I'm not ashamed to admit it.)

As Gary Cohen said on the air, "it has happened".  And it did.  Johan Santana had finally gotten the monkey off the team's back.  The Mets finally had their first no-hitter.  No longer did we have to keep track of the number of games the team had played without a no-hitter.  (It was at 8,019 before Game No. 8,020 ended the no-hit drought.)  After two innings, I first started thinking about it.  By the time the Mets took the lead in the fourth inning, I really started thinking about it.  By the seventh inning, I knew Santana was going to get it.  Two innings later, he did.

It was a moment I'll never forget (as you can see by this detailed recap of it).  I'm sure it's a moment all Mets fans will never forget.

It has happened.  And it will never be forgotten.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

We May See R.A. Dickey Again Sooner Than We Think

Mets fans have expressed their love for R.A. Dickey since the news of his trade to Toronto broke last week.  Although fans understand the business aspect of the game, which dictated that Dickey should be traded while his value was at its highest, it was still difficult to see such a beloved member of the team go.

Those same fans have taken to Twitter, with many of them wishing Dickey the best of luck in Toronto and hoping he wins the 2013 A.L. Cy Young Award.  But for all those fans lamenting the fact that they might not see Dickey on the field again, especially since the Mets played Toronto in 2012 and are not scheduled to play them in 2013, you may get to see him sooner than you think.

Since his renaissance as a major league pitcher began in 2010 with the Mets, Dickey is 7-0 with a 1.77 ERA against American League opponents.  Who will he facing the most as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays?  American League opponents!  So if he continues his dominance over the junior circuit, it would seem to make sense that he'd represent his new league in the 2013 All-Star Game.  And where is that All-Star Game being played?

This patch may be on R.A. Dickey's All-Star Game jersey this coming July.

R.A. Dickey was denied the start in this year's Midsummer Classic by National League manager Tony La Russa.  But if Dickey continues to pitch like he did in 2012, would Jim Leyland dare deny Dickey of the start in the 2013 All-Star Game in front of the sellout Citi Field crowd?

Imagine the outpouring of love for Dickey during the pre-game introduction.  Can you hear the roar of the crowd when he takes the mound on July 16?  It could happen.  And if Dickey continues to mow down American League lineups like he has since 2010, it should happen.

You don't have to make any special trips to Toronto or - heaven forbid - the House That Juice Built in the Bronx to see R.A. Dickey pitch in 2013.  If all goes well, you may end up seeing Dickey at the park he called home for the past three seasons this coming July.  The ovation he received after his 20th victory last September will pale in comparison to the one he'd get at next year's All-Star Game.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bill Buckner: The Forrest Gump of Baseball

You don't have to have been alive in 1986 to know who Bill Buckner is.  If you're a Mets fan of any age, you're quite familiar with that name.  But Bill Buckner was more than just a wobbly-kneed, high-top wearing error-maker.  In fact, in a career that spanned four decades (he played one game for the Dodgers in 1969 and 22 games for the Red Sox in 1990), Buckner had a very successful extended stay in the major leagues.

Bill Buckner collected 2,715 hits over his long career, falling two doubles short of 500.  He also was one of the toughest batters to strike out in the history of the game.  In over 10,000 career plate appearances (9,397 at-bats), Buckner whiffed a total of 453 times.  To put that into perspective, Buckner was more likely to get a double (he had 498 of those) than he was to strike out.  In 1980, he won the National League batting title while striking out only 18 times in 578 at-bats.  Furthermore, from 1974-1987, Buckner finished as one of the top three players in the league in AB/SO rate a whopping ten times.  That includes the forever-to-be-remembered-for-another-reason 1986 campaign, a year in which he had gimpy legs, but not a gimpy bat, as he collected 39 doubles, a career-high 18 HR, 102 RBI and struck out a mere 25 times in 629 at-bats.  But it was a swing and a miss with the glove that stands out in the memories of Mets fans and baseball fans everywhere.

The 1986 World Series wasn't the only time Bill Buckner didn't come up with the ball in a famous play.  In fact, twelve years before the little roller up along first went behind the bag and not into his glove, Buckner failed to field another ball.  However, this one had a far more historical impact than the grounder by Mookie Wilson did.

In 1974, Hank Aaron was approaching Babe Ruth's all-time home run record.  He had finished the 1973 season with 713 career home runs and was poised to break the record early in the 1974 campaign.  He wasted no time doing so, blasting his record-tying 714th home run on Opening Day  against the Cincinnati Reds.  Four days later, on April 8, Aaron broke the record with a home run off Dodger pitcher Al Downing.  The video below has footage of the home run, but I'd like to call to your attention the Dodger outfielder who gave a valiant effort by climbing the left field wall in a failed attempt to catch Aaron's historic blast.  (The wall-climbing takes place at the 0:24 mark of the video.)

The athletic outfielder who did whatever he could to catch Aaron's ball, even if it meant ripping his pants on the chain-link fence, was none other than William Joseph Buckner.  Buckner failed to come up with the ball, allowing Aaron to circle the bases (with his overexuberant bodyguards joining him between second and third base).  It was the first of two times that Buckner would be thrust into the spotlight for not catching a ball.

In essence, by failing to come up with Aaron's fly ball in 1974 and Mookie Wilson's ground ball in 1986, Buckner has become the Forrest Gump of baseball.  As any astute moviegoer would be able to tell you, Forrest Gump always seemed to find his way into memorable moments in American history.   From teaching Elvis Presley how to swing his hips to exposing the Watergate scandal to inadvertently creating the "have a nice day" t-shirt, the famous resident from fictional Greenbow, Alabama couldn't help but contribute to historical events, even if he didn't realize he was doing it at the time.  The same can be said about Bill Buckner.

Buckner was just trying to catch a high fly ball off the bat of Hank Aaron in 1974.  Instead, his body hanging on top of the left field fence became part of baseball history.  Similarly, he was just trying to field a ground ball in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  Instead, he left Red Sox fans hanging, having to wait another 18 years before the Curse of the Bambino could be lifted.

Bill Buckner was a great baseball player who played for a very long time.  His 22 years in the major leagues alone should have cemented his place in baseball history.  But Buckner carved his own place in baseball history that had nothing to do with what he did best, which was making contact with the ball and collecting hit after hit after hit.  In 1974, Buckner was on the wrong end of a historic home run.  Twelve years later, it was a ground ball that trickled under his glove and into endless video replays.  To add insult to injury, I'm sure it would surprise no one to know that Buckner played in only two World Series in his 22-year career.  Naturally, those appearances came in 1974 and 1986, with both series ending in defeats.

Perhaps it was Bill Buckner who was running alongside Forrest Gump when Gump stepped in a heaping pile of doggie doo during his multiple runs across America.  For a player who had such a wonderful career in the big leagues, "it" has certainly happened to Buckner, and "it happened" more than "sometimes".

Friday, December 21, 2012

Joey's Letter To Sandy Claus (2012)

Dear Sandy Claus,

Do you remember me?  I'm Joey Beartran.  I sent you a letter last year asking for various things, such as Johan Santana pitching an entire season, Jason Bay regaining his power stroke, and R.A. Dickey getting some run support so he could get some more wins.  That was not my entire list, but you get the idea.

Well, Johan Santana didn't pitch the entire season, but he did toss the first no-hitter in team history.  Jason Bay didn't regain his power stroke, but he did give Mets fan strokes with every strikeout, pop-up, or double play he grounded into with runners in scoring position.  ("But he hustles!!")  R.A. Dickey figured he wouldn't wait for you to grant me my Christmas wish for more run support, so he just went out and won himself the first Cy Young Award ever given to a knuckleball pitcher.  Then you traded him.

So it looks like I got some of the things I asked for in last year's letter, just not exactly in the way I wanted them.  I guess this year I'll have to be more specific with you.  I mean, I can imagine what it's like for you, doing double duty as the Mets general manager by day and gift-giver to all good girls and boys by night.  I do double duty here myself as the Studious Metsimus roving reporter and culinary expert, so I know that sometimes a detail or two might be overlooked.  Just don't do it with this year's letter, okay?  I mean it this time.

Anyway, here goes.  Pay close attention this time, will ya?

Hope I don't forget anything on my list this year.

I would like a brand-spanking new bullpen in 2013.  No, I'm not talking about the actual bullpen in right-center field where relievers warm up their arms (told you I was going to be more specific).  I'm referring to new relief pitchers who will be summoned from said bullpen.  We should not have to be subjected to the likes of Manny Acosta, Miguel Batista and Ramon Ramirez.  Were they being used because Mel Rojas wasn't available?  We need dependable relievers who can put fires out instead of the ones we employed last year, who came running in from the bullpen with their glove in one hand and a full gasoline can in the other.

I would also like a set outfield by Opening Day.  In fact I would just like one outfielder by the time pitchers (sans Dickey) and catchers (sans Thole and Nickeas) report to spring training on Bobby Valentine's Day.  Casey Stengel once said that the Mets had to draft Hobie Landrith first in the expansion draft because without a catcher, there would be plenty of passed balls.  Well, without an outfield, there will be a ton of inside-the-park homers hit against the Mets.  At least with one outfielder, the Mets will be able to keep the opposition to mostly triples.

Speaking of outfielders, I'd like you to re-sign Scott Hairston.  If it's a multi-year deal he wants, then it's a multi-year deal he should get.  Hairston was one of the team's most dependable power sources last season, hitting 20 homers in limited action.  That's an amazing number considering that no Met reached the 20-homer plateau in two of Citi Field's first three seasons.  When Daniel Murphy (Doubles Machine) leads the team in homers one year and Carlos Beltran leads the Mets in bombs another year - despite playing the final two months for another team - that should be a clear sign that the team needs a little more power in their lineup.  Scott Hairston can be paid with the money you wouldn't give to R.A. Dickey, and you'd still have some spare change left over to get yourself a Shake Shack burger or two.  Just don't touch mine.  I'm kinda attached to it.

You can have your cookies and milk, Sandy Claus.  I'll stick to my Shake Shack burger and fries.

I'd like Johan Santana to remember that this could be his final season in a Mets uniform.  Therefore, I expect him to make more than 21 starts, especially if he wants to get paid in 2014.  Santana will only be 34 on Opening Day, so he should still have plenty left in his tank.  Then again, Fred Wilpon's high school sweetheart (Sandy Koufax) was out of baseball by age 30, so you never know.  Regardless, if Santana is going to be on the active roster for all 162 games, he should not be pushed past his limit (which should be well before his 134th pitch) in any start.  With no R.A. Dickey in the rotation, Santana will once again be counted on to be the team's ace.  Aces make more than 21 starts.  Make a note of that.

As of right now, the starting rotation consists of Santana, Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee.  You don't need Dee Dee Ramone to let you know that adds up to 1-2-3-4 pitchers.  Since these are the 2013 Mets and not the 1971 Baltimore Orioles, I'm going to need a fifth starter in the rotation.  Mike Pelfrey is now a Minnesota Twin.  Unfortunately, he does not have a twin of his own that the Mets can slide into their rotation.  Speaking of former Mets, Scott Kazmir just signed with the Cleveland Indians, so he's unavailable.  And now the Mets are talking to the Dodgers about bringing back Chris Capuano.  At least they're not thinking of signing former Yankee Carl Pavano.  (Oh, wait.  Never mind.)  In 2009, the Mets needed a fifth starter and signed everyone they could.  Freddy Garcia Tim Redding and Livan Hernandez all competed for the job in spring training.  None of them fared very well.  All I'm asking for is a dependable fifth starter and not a game of musical chairs where the last one standing gets the job.  And if the last one standing is Carl Pavano, then he cheated and should be removed from consideration.

Finally, I'd like the Mets to continue to be patient with their minor league talent.  The team was right to keep Matt Harvey in the minor leagues for as long as they did.  When he was finally called up to the big leagues, he proved he was ready, striking out 70 batters in 59 innings and posting a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.  The team should do the same with Zack Wheeler and the recently acquired Noah Syndergaard.  Similarly, Travis d'Arnaud should not automatically be on the Opening Day roster just because he was the big prize in the R.A. Dickey sweepstakes.  That's what the Mets got John Buck for.  In 1979, the Mets suggested to their fanbase to "bring your kids to see our kids".  A third of a century later, it's time for that slogan to make a comeback.  But there's no rush.  The kids will be here ... eventually.  And so will I.

If only Sandy Claus checked Twitter more often, I wouldn't have to send him snail mail.

So, Sandy Claus, did you get all that?  Let's review.

I need a new bullpen.  I need Mel Rojas to be perpetually unavailable.  I would like three outfielders, but I'd especially like one of them to be Scott Hairston.  I'd like a Shake Shack burger if you're going to get one for yourself.  I'd like Johan Santana to stay healthy and pitch like an ace.  I'd also like to know what Fred Wilpon is getting Sandy Koufax for Valentine's Day.  I'd like a fifth starter, and if one of them has the DNA of one of the members of the 1971 Orioles, I wouldn't object.  I would like you to get a restraining order on Carl Pavano so he's not allowed to go anywhere near Citi Field.  And I'd like you to take it easy with your kids in the minors so that when this kid goes to Citi Field next season, they'll be ready to perform like the dependable major leaguers I expect them to be.

That's not too much, is it?  And I was very specific with my requests, unlike last year when you kinda sorta gave me what I asked for.  I'm not falling for your trickery again this year!

Thanks so much, Sandy Claus!  I was a good bear this year.  Don't you forget it!

Love and best wishes for the 2013 season,
Joey Beartran

P.S. In case you don't give me Scott Hairston as one of my outfielders, can you at least get him to come over to my house?  I really enjoyed playing with him the last time we got together on the field.

Photo by Sharon Chapman.  "O"-Face by Scott Hairston.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Final Dickeypedia Word of the Week: Steadfast

All good things must come to an end.  And with this week's news that R.A. Dickey was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, that means the non-weekly Dickeypedia Word of the Week has reached its final installment as well.

Before he left the bright lights of New York for the poutine of Toronto, Dickey left us with three heartfelt tweets:

It was a wonderful gesture by a classy pitcher like R.A. Dickey to thank his fans in New York.  It was also wonderful to see him use the word "steadfast" in one of his tweets.  As most casual baseball fans know, that word is not one that's dropped very often in cliché-filled post-game interviews.  In fact, according to our soon-to-be-put-away-for-good volume of Dickeypedia, here is the definition of the word:


  • fixed in direction; steadily directed.
  • firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment, etc., as a person.
  • unwavering, as resolution, faith, adherence, etc.
  • firmly established, as an institution or a state of affairs.
  • firmly fixed in place or position.

All I got from those definitions is that firmness has something to do with being steadfast.  Perhaps if we used the word in a sentence, it might clear things up a bit.

To do that, we did what we always do in these situations - we contacted a member of the Mets organization.  We've never showed much concern for whether or not we enlisted the services of a current Met or a former Met.  We just needed someone who was breathing and could give us a sentence or two.  That's not much to ask for, right?

So for this final Dickeypedia segment, we went to the Grand Poobah himself.  The chief cook and bottle washer.  The Big Kahuna.  That's right, loyal readers.  We went to Fred Wilpon, affectionately known around these parts as Papa Smirk.

Papa Smirk was more than happy to enlighten his paying customers with a sentence or seven using Dickey's firm word so that no one would be confused by its meaning.  He used it in his reflection of former players that have called Citi Field home:

"I did everything I could to keep players around as they were approaching free agency.  But we had to trade Carlos Beltran after some schmuck overpaid him to come to New York based on one playoff series.  We finished in fourth place with R.A. Dickey winning the Sandy Koufax Award; we can finish there without him.  And Jose Reyes thought he would get Carl Crawford money, but he's had everything go wrong with him.  Perhaps had he steadfast and healthy, we would have signed him.  I'd rather use that money to buy more Sandy Koufax autographed game-used Dodger boxers instead.  Mmmm, I love the smell of Koufax in the morning."

Uh, on that note, perhaps it's a good thing we'll never be doing another Dickeypedia Word of the Week piece.  Some of those sentences have gotten a little too personal for our tastes.

As we wrap up this final Dickeypedia segement, we'd like to thank all the former Mets who contributed with their vocabulary skills.  Players such as Gregg Jefferies, Bobby Bonilla and Victor Zambrano, to name a few, all taught us how NOT to use certain words in Dickey's lexicon, even if they thought they were showing off their linguistic skills.

Good luck to R.A. Dickey in Toronto.  And thank you for being so steadfast and loyal to your fans!

Even though he is no longer toiling for the Mets, you can still follow R.A. Dickey on Twitter by clicking here.  For more vocabulary assistance, please read the following Dickeypedia entries:

Feb. 22, 2011: Dickeypedia Word of the Week: Narrative (featuring Gregg Jefferies)
Feb. 25, 2011: A Double Dose of Dickeypedia (Rudiments, Vernacular) (featuring Armando Benitez)
Mar. 10, 2011: Dickeypedia Word of the Week: Syntax (featuring Bobby Bonilla)
Apr. 2, 2011: Dickeypedia Word of the Week: Asphyxiation (featuring Oliver Perez)
May 15, 2011: Dickeypedia Word of the Week: Fortitude (featuring Victor Zambrano)
Aug. 14, 2011: Dickeypedia Word of the Week: Fodder (featuring Jeff Kent)
Sept. 3, 2011: Dickeypedia Word of the Week: Hyperbole (featuring Lenny Dykstra)
Jan. 8, 2012: Dickeypedia Word of the Week: Acclimatize (featuring Mike Scott)

D'Arnaud Hoping To Go Where No Met Has Gone Befo'

The Mets have had a number of great catchers in their half century of existence.  Jerry Grote was behind the plate for two pennant winners, nurturing a young and dominant pitching staff.  John Stearns was a four-time All-Star who was at times the best player on his team.  Ron Hodges was always No. 2 on the depth chart but in his 12 seasons in New York, but was the perfect complement to Grote and Stearns.

Gary Carter was a tremendous leader, who molded a young staff into an elite squad and ignited a memorable World Series rally.  Todd Hundley evolved from a good-field, no-hit catcher to a two-time All-Star and one of the best power-hitting catchers the Mets had ever employed to date.  Of course, the best power-hitting catcher in team history replaced Hundley, as Mike Piazza made the position his own for eight seasons.

All six of those catchers combined to crouch behind the plate for approximately forty seasons, making the catcher's position one of the most stable in team history.  But Jerry Grote wasn't a homegrown Met, playing for the Houston Colt .45s in 1963 and 1964 before being traded to the Mets in 1965.  John Stearns played in 810 games over his major league career, but 809 of them came in a Mets uniform, as he made his major league debut as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1974 before being traded to New York in the Dave Schneck trade (although most of you might refer to it as the Tug McGraw trade).  Gary Carter and Mike Piazza were All-Stars in Montreal and Los Angeles, respectively, before going on to great things with the Mets.

Of the six main catchers in team history, only Ron Hodges and Todd Hundley made their major league debuts as members of the Mets.  But Hodges was mostly a backup catcher, surpassing 155 at-bats in a season only twice in his 12-year career.  That leaves Todd Hundley as the most productive catcher in franchise history who made his way onto the major league scene as a member of the New York Mets.  But even Hundley didn't become a star until half a decade into his Mets career.

Over his first five major league seasons, Hundley batted a mere .219 with 35 HR and 136 RBI, reaching base at a .271 clip.  Although Hundley was showing signs of having some pop in his bat, he was pretty much an automatic out when he wasn't hitting the ball over the wall.  But in 1995, Hundley started to show signs that he was about to break out, hitting a career-high .280 and showing a more selective eye at the plate, as evidenced by his .382 on-base percentage.  Sure enough, his next two seasons were some of the best produced by a catcher in team history.

In 1996, Hundley went where no Kingman or Strawberry had gone before, becoming the first player in club annals to reach and surpass the 40 HR plateau.  Hundley also set a franchise record for catchers by driving in 112 runs.  In 1997, Hundley became the first Met catcher to hit 30 or more home runs in consecutive seasons, despite collecting 123 fewer at-bats than he did in his historic 1996 campaign.  He also set a career high with a .394 on-base percentage, a far cry from the .271 mark he posted from 1990 to 1994.  For his efforts, Hundley was selected to play in the All-Star Game in both 1996 and 1997.

In nine years as a Met, Hundley hit .240 with 124 HR and 397 RBI to go with a .323 on-base percentage.  No other catcher in Mets history who began his major league career in New York has been able to approach those numbers.

Enter Travis d'Arnaud.

Although it took a Cy Young Award winner (and two catchers) to pry d'Arnaud and friends away from the Blue Jays, the 23-year-old has the credentials to become the most successful catcher to make his big league debut as a Met.  In 2011, his first season above A-ball, d'Arnaud had a .311/.371/.542 slash line.  He also collected 33 doubles, 21 HR and 78 RBI in 114 games.  In 2012, d'Arnaud improved his slash line to .333/.380/.595.  A knee injury limited him to 67 games, but not before he amassed 21 doubles, 16 HR and 52 RBI.  If you double his games to 134 (which is about average for a No. 1 catcher in the major leagues), his cumulative numbers would project to 42 doubles, 32 HR and 104 RBI.  And this is for a catcher who is still years away from entering his prime.

As a 23-year-old in 1992, Hundley hit .209 with 17 doubles, seven homers and 32 RBI in 123 games for the Mets.  At the same age, d'Arnaud surpassed all of those numbers while playing in only 67 games at AAA-Las Vegas.

It's true that playing in the altitude of Las Vegas helps a hitter's offensive numbers.  But if that's the case, then what's the explanation for d'Arnaud collecting 38 doubles, 13 HR and 71 RBI as a 20-year-old in 2009 for the Lakewood BlueClaws?  For those who do not know, Lakewood is in New Jersey, a state that's known more for its attitude than its altitude.

Lakewood's height might not have helped Travis d'Arnaud, but d'Arnaud helped Lakewood reach new heights.

Travis d'Arnaud will make his major league debut for the Mets at some point during the 2013 season.  Whether it be on Opening Day or midway through the season, d'Arnaud will bring his potent bat to Citi Field when he steps up to the plate for the first time.

The Mets have had some excellent catchers in their 50-plus seasons.  Some of them have been defensive stalwarts while others have been powerful producers at the plate.  But most of them played elsewhere before coming to the Mets.

Todd Hundley is the best hitting catcher who made his major league debut as a Met.  And that's with a .240 batting average over nine seasons in New York.  If Travis d'Arnaud can produce anything near what he has shown he's capable of doing, then he can potentially surpass all of Hundley's marks before he's out of his twenties.  If he does, d'Arnaud can indeed go where no Met catcher has gone before. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

R.A. Dickey Goes From Cy Young To C-Ya

On June 1, 2012, Gary Cohen uttered the now-famous three-word sentence, "it has happened", after Johan Santana recorded the final out of the first no-hitter in Mets history.  Those words can now be repeated, although this time the sentiment is a little bit different.

After days of speculation and hours of hammering out names and details, Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey has been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.  It has happened.

R.A. Dickey will be taking his celebrity and his knuckleball north of the border in 2013.

Dickey will now be moving to the American League East, a division he has dominated since his renaissance with the Mets began in 2010.  Over the past three seasons, Dickey has gone 4-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 42 innings against his new division rivals.  He also has a sparkling 0.74 WHIP and 45 strikeouts against the Orioles, Rays and Yankees (he never faced the Red Sox as a member of the Mets).

In return, the Mets acquired Toronto's top offensive prospect in catcher Travis d'Arnaud.  The Mets also received Toronto's top pitching prospect (Noah Syndergaard) and a second catcher, veteran John Buck.  In addition to Dickey, the Blue Jays received the man who was behind the plate on the night "it has happened" happened.  Josh Thole, who has plenty of experience catching Dickey's knuckleball, is now a Blue Jay as well, after spending the last four seasons with the Mets.  Two other mid-level prospects were swapped as well, with one going to Toronto and one coming to New York.

Dickey's departure is reminiscent of Frank Viola, but in reverse.  Viola won the Cy Young Award in 1988 as a member of the Minnesota Twins, then was traded to New York the following season.  In his first full year as a Met (1990), Viola won 20 games.  Dickey did it in reverse, winning 20 games in his last full year as a Met.  Instead of being traded to the Mets after winning the Cy Young, Dickey was dealt away from the team following his award-winning campaign.

Since Travis d'Arnaud is coming off a knee injury that limited him to 67 games at AAA-Las Vegas in 2012 (his only games above the AA level), it wouldn't come as a surprise if he began the season at Las Vegas (which is now a Mets triple-A affiliate) in 2013, with John Buck becoming this decade's Rey Sanchez.  Sanchez began the 2003 season as the Mets' shortstop before Jose Reyes was called up in June to take over the position.  Similarly, Buck would be the stopgap at catcher until d'Arnaud was deemed ready for big league action behind the plate.

Noah Syndergaard (who, coupled with Kirk Nieuwenhuis, would represent the final two names in any 2013 Mets spelling bee) would likely begin the 2013 season at AA-Binghamton.  In three professional seasons, Syndergaard has never pitched above the single-A level.  However, in 45 appearances (35 starts), he has been dominant, pitching to the tune of a 2.35 ERA and 1.085 WHIP.  He has also held opposing batters to a .211 batting average while striking out 196 batters in 176 innings.

R.A. Dickey was a beloved figure in Mets history.  But a trade for two top prospects was too hard to pass up, especially when those players could become major contributors for the Mets long after Dickey has retired from baseball.

Cy Young Award or not, the Mets did the right thing to trade Dickey when his value was at its highest.  Dickey was part of the team's past and present.  Syndergaard and d'Arnaud are part of the team's future, a future that looks much brighter now.

It's okay to be sad today.  Because if these prospects pan out, there will be plenty of happiness at Citi Field in the near future.  And then there will be plenty more of the good "it has happened" moments that we can all celebrate together.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Toronto Going Hard For Dickey

The deal for R.A. Dickey has not been consummated yet, but if you had any doubts whether or not Toronto's desires for Dickey were strong, this tweet by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports should quell those doubts.

Yes, my fellow Mets fans.  The Blue Jays have a major hard-on for Dickey and are willing to go south of the border to grab him, even offering top catching prospect Travis d'Arneau when they weren't willing to do the same for those teams who did not have a Dickey to dangle.

I'm sure I'll have more on this potential pitcher-for-catcher deal involving Dickey and a B. Jay as we go deeper into the night.  Stay tuned!

Haven't I seen you on Scott Hairston's Wikipedia page before?

Friday, December 14, 2012

I'd Trade Dickey For Travis d'Arnaud and Anthony Gose

The R.A. Dickey trade rumor machine is firing on all cylinders tonight.  Andy Martino of the Daily News tweeted earlier that Travis d'Arnaud was viewed as a "must have" for a deal to take place with Toronto.  Jon Heyman tweeted that he believed the Mets would acquire d'Arnaud.  And Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Mets would be trading Dickey with his $5 million contract looking quite attractive to other teams.

Sandy Alderson has said that he'd like two top prospects in return for Dickey in any trade, but the Blue Jays seem to be offering J.P. Arencibia and Anthony Gose in any trade involving two players going to New York.  A Dickey-for-d'Arnaud trade would be a one-for-one deal.

I do not want J.P. Arencibia.  Sure he can hit 20 HR out of the catcher position, but that power comes with a ton of strikeouts (252 Ks in 825 AB) and a miniscule .275 on-base percentage.  That's barely higher than current catcher Josh Thole's .261 career batting average.  (For the record, Thole's lifetime OBP is .331.)  But Travis d'Arnaud is another story.

Since being traded by the Phillies to the Blue Jays in the Roy Halladay trade, d'Arnaud has blossomed into a dynamic hitter, showing steady growth as he's moved up the minor league ladder.  Here are his key stats since the trade:

  • 2010: .259/.315/.411, 20 doubles, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 63 Ks in 71 games.
  • 2011: .311/.371/.542, 33 doubles, 21 HR, 78 RBI, 100 Ks in 114 games.
  • 2012: .333/.380/.595, 21 doubles, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 59 Ks in 67 games.
  • Total: .303/.358/.522, 74 doubles, 43 HR, 168 RBI, 222 Ks in 252 games.

We're looking at a .300 hitting catcher, who's good for 20+ jacks and averages less than a strikeout per game.  And that .522 slugging percentage over the past three seasons?  It fits in nicely between David Wright's career slugging percentage (.506) and Mike Piazza's slugging percentage as a Met (.542).  And d'Arnaud won't be 24 until February, so he hasn't fully developed his power yet.

Travis d'Arnaud by himself would be a fine acquisition.  But why stop there?  How about Anthony Gose, too?  Gose doesn't have the power d'Arnaud has, having hit only 30 HR in five minor league seasons, but his basestealing ability is what the Mets want, especially after last off-season's departure of Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan.

Since 2009, Gose has pilfered bases at an amazin' rate.  His 240 steals over the past four seasons (225 at the minor league level, 15 with the Blue Jays in 56 games in 2012) reminds Mets fans of the days Reyes would swipe 60+ bases per season.  Gose is also a safe bet to reach double digits in triples, as he has accumulated 42 three-base hits in four years.  Did I mention his defensive prowess in center field?  No?  Well, now I am.

In 490 minor league games as a centerfielder (the equivalent of three full major league seasons), Gose has a whopping 51 outfield assists.  Although his arm is not as strong as Alex Ochoa's (remember him?), it's deadly accurate, a la Kevin McReynolds.

The Mets need an outfielder or three.  They need a significant upgrade in the speed department.  They could also use an offensive-minded catcher.  Trading one 38-year old knuckleballer could fill all those needs for the Mets.

As much as Mets fans love R.A. Dickey, they love winning more.  Getting d'Arnaud and Gose could go a long way toward getting the team back on the right side of .500.  And at their ages - d'Arnaud is 23, Gose is 22 - the Mets could remain a winning team for more years than Dickey has left in the major leagues.  How could you not make that trade?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Song Parody: Centerfield

So far this off-season, Mets outfielders are leaving New York faster than Vince Coleman can light a firecracker.  First, we saw the departure of Jason Bay, who recently signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Mariners.  Today we didn't see a Bay leave, but we did see an outfielder leave one Bay for another, as centerfielder Andres Torres was spotted leaving on a jet plane flying over Flushing Bay on his way to the west coast and his old haunts in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Torres signed a one-year deal worth $2 million to return to the Giants, the team that traded him to New York last off-season for Angel Pagan.  Torres will become Pagan's neighbor in the outfield, playing left field alongside the newest member of the "former Mets who won a World Series ring after leaving New York" club.

With two-thirds of the Mets' 2012 outfield now playing out west and part of the remaining third (Scott Hairston) considering his options, the outfield is beginning to resemble John Rocker's brain.  Basically, it's empty.  And there's less than four months to go until the curtain rises on the 2013 campaign.

Will the Mets go with their highly flawed current cast of backups and bench players in the outfield?  Will fans clamor for the days of Benny Agbayani, Jay Payton and Derek Bell?  Will Vince Coleman and John Rocker join Mensa?

Those questions will all be answered by April 1, 2013.  (Spoiler alert: Coleman and Rocker were just seen shopping for a "Mensa For Dummies" book.)  For now, please join me as I present to you the latest Studious Metsimus song parody, based on - you guessed it - the lack of outfielders at Citi Field.  I'd like to thank John Fogerty for singing the original version of "Centerfield".  Without him, I would never be able to butcher his lyrics the way Lucas Duda butchers routine pop-ups.  Enjoy!

The season’s done, Sandy’s on the phone to see who he can trade 
To war again with new guys on the field 
He gave the word, Bay’s got a new home - it’s a part of Sandy’s plan
Andres Torres is gone as well, so here’s the deal

Oh, put me in coach – no one else can play today 
Put me in coach – the outfield’s empty at New Shea 
Look at the
In center field

Well, your fielders have to add up to nine – I’m countin’ 'em from the bench 
You got rid of some chumps when Torres and Bay skipped town 
So listen, Sandy, sign Hairston – oh, please don’t let him go 
Don’t save all the dough, it’s time to pay him now

Oh, put me in coach – no one else can play today 
Put me in coach – the outfield’s empty at New Shea 
Look at the
In center field

Hey!  Who’s got it?  Who’s got it?

Got Lucas Duda, a homegrown Bax, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis too 
You know it’s almost time for den Dekker to arrive 
Who will get the call to defend that wall – what’s our outfield become? 
(CRAP!) Pagan just won after he said goodbye!

Oh, put me in coach – no one else can play today 
Put me in coach – the outfield’s empty at New Shea 
Look at the
In center field

Oh, put me in coach – no one else can play today 
Put me in coach – the outfield’s empty at New Shea 
Look at the
In center field

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Dirty Dozen ... Dozen ... Dozen

In honor of 12/12/12, I have decided to play a little game with you, the Studious Metsimus reader.

Here are the photos of twelve players who have worn No. 12 at some point in their careers as members of the New York Mets.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it - and you will - is to identify who's behind the No. 12 in each photo.

After you've gone through the 12 photos and the accompanying helpful hints, there will also be a bonus photo for you to identify.  Call it a baker's dozen if you will.

Ready to play?  Begin!

(Answers can be found in small print underneath the final photo.  No peeking!)

Photo No. 1:

Hint: He was a very good Met, but at the same time, he wasn't good.  (He also doesn't look like a lady.)

Photo No. 2:

Hint: This No. 12 only scored 12 runs as a Met, but he's most known for a 12-pitch at-bat that took place three frames after the 12th inning.

Photo No. 3:

Hint: Trust me.  Even though you can't see his uniform number, this was a former No. 12.  I'm just happy I managed to find this photo.

Photo No. 4:

Hint: In 19 postseason at-bats for the Mets, this No. 12 had a .421 batting average.  Not bad for a guy who averaged exactly one hit every four at-bats during his eight-year stay in New York.

Photo No. 5:

Hint: He survived many boos at Shea Stadium.

Photo No. 6:

Hint: This No. 12 might be taking off his jersey in the photo, but he also took off from Brooklyn to Queens before any other Met did.

Photo No. 7:

Hint: He went from perennial All-Star to perennial boo-bird faster than you can say Jason Bay.

Photo No. 8:

Hint: Talk to this guy in his No. 12 batting practice jacket and he'll be sure to tell you about when he hit home runs in back-to-back games.

Photo No. 9:

Hint: That No. 12 hiding under this player's elbow went into hiding for good soon after this photo was taken.  Let's just say this player was more known for wearing two other numbers during his career as a Mets fan-favorite.

Photo No. 10:

Hint: What do those letters on this Mets novelty jersey spell?  They certainly don't spell OBP.

Photo No. 11:

Hint: He was traded to the Mets for one of the other players on this list.  He played for a team that went to the World Series after he was traded to the Mets, then played in the World Series after he left the Mets. I'm showing you his face in this photo.  What more can I say about him?

Photo No. 12:

Hint: He was traded to the Mets for one of the other players on this list.  He played for a team that went to the World Series the year before he came to the Mets.  I'm showing you his face in this photo.  He's not the guy in Photo No. 11.  His name rhymes with Falvaro Mespinoza.

Bonus Photo!!

Hint: There's a player wearing No. 12 in this photo, but you wouldn't know that because you're staring at that fine ass on the left, aren't you?

Thanks so much for playing 12 photos with us on this special day, 12/12/12.  Be sure to check underneath the final picture below to see if you got your answers right.

Can't see 'em?  That's because I purposely wrote them in a font as small as Jason Bay's batting average in ... you guessed it ... two-thousand-TWELVE!!  (Don't you just love it when things work out like that?) 

No, the Mets have never scored 12 runs in an inning.  But they will, probably in one of the 12 months.

Super tiny answers:    1. John "Bad Dude" Stearns      2. Shawon Dunston      3. Willie Randolph      4. Ken Boswell      5. Jeff Kent      6. Danny Garcia      7. Roberto Alomar      8. Ron Darling      9. Lee Mazzilli      10. Jeff Francoeur      11. Joaquin Arias      12. Alvaro Espinoza

Bonus photo:   Scott Hairston (duh!)

Photo of Scott Hairston taken by Sharon Chapman.
Photos of other players taken by photographers to be named later.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Is R.A. Dickey Getting (Shudder To Think) Greedy?

R.A. Dickey had a tremendous season for the Mets in 2012, winning 20 games and the Cy Young Award.  As a result, the Mets picked up his $5 million option for 2013, a team-friendly deal that's far below what most reigning Cy Young winners earn.

Now Dickey is looking for a two-year extension that would keep him in New York through the 2015 campaign.  What would it take to keep him in Flushing for the two seasons after his option year?  Approximately $26 million, give or take a few Susan B. Anthonys.  What are the Mets offering their knuckleballer?  $20 million for two years.  The $3 million per year difference might be enough to write an unwanted final chapter in Dickey's storybook career in New York.

For as much as I appreciate everything R.A. Dickey has done for the Mets, I advise him to take the money if he's smart (which he is) and doesn't want to tarnish his legacy (which he could).  Here's why.

In 2000, the Detroit Tigers offered free agent outfielder Juan Gonzalez what would have been a record eight-year, $140 million contract.  To put that into perspective, the Mets just signed David Wright to a team-record eight-year, $138 million contract.  Gonzalez was being offered his amount when David Wright was still popping pimples in high school.

Gonzalez certainly had earned that sizable contract, winning two American League Most Valuable Player Awards and averaging 43 HR and 140 RBI from 1996 to 1999 while leading the Texas Rangers to three division titles.  What did he do with the lucrative offer?

He turned the Tigers down.

At the time, Gonzalez was 30 years old.  He wasn't exactly a spry youth, but he certainly wasn't at the end of the line.  Or so he thought.

The slugger played six more seasons in the major leagues, with only one of them being All-Star caliber (2001, when he finished the year with 35 HR and 140 RBI as a member of the Cleveland Indians).  After the 2001 campaign, Gonzalez's production took a hard tumble, as he averaged nine home runs and 30 RBIs per season in each of his last four years in the big leagues.  He played one game in his second go-round with the Cleveland Indians in 2005, never playing again in the big leagues.  Had he signed the deal with the Tigers back in 2000, he still would have been paid through 2007.  Instead, he was out of baseball, carrying a much lighter wallet with him.

That brings us back to R.A. Dickey.

As stated before, Dickey is a smart man.  But that highly evolved brain of his is still 38 years old, as is his pitching arm.  If he were to sign the two year, $20 million extension that the Mets are offering him, he'd be earning $10 million in 2015, a season that would end approximately one month before his 41st birthday.  How many other pitchers who have already blown out 40 candles can say they make that type of money?  Not many.

Greg Maddux was a 40-year-old pitcher in 2006, winning 15 games for the Cubs and Dodgers.  His salary that year was $9 million.  The future Hall of Famer earned $10 million as a 41-year-old in 2007 and $10 million more as a 42-year-old in 2008.  His combined record during those final two seasons in which he earned $10 million per year was an un-Maddux-like 22-24. 

Greg Maddux was one of the best pitchers of all-time.  R.A. Dickey had a 41-50 won-loss record prior to his Cy Young-winning campaign.  It's like comparing apples and oranges.

Dickey had a great season in 2012.  He has earned the right to demand a higher salary.  But asking for a two-year, $26 million extension at his age is just plain silly, especially when Greg Maddux, a future Hall of Fame pitcher with a far more attractive résumé, was only making $10 million just four years ago at a similar age. 

In 2003, Juan Gonzalez would have been in the fourth year of his eight-year, $140 million contract.  Instead, he was missing 80 games for the Texas Rangers as a teammate of R.A. Dickey, earning a fraction of what he would have earned as a member of the Detroit Tigers.  Considering that Dickey saw firsthand what a mistake Gonzalez made when they were teammates, don't you think he wouldn't be as adamant with his contract demands, especially given his age and mediocre record prior to 2012?

Take the money, R.A.  There's no reason to roll the dice when you saw how easy it is for snake eyes to appear.