Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Soria-NO! Soria-YES!

Hey, Mr. Alderson!  Need to retool your bullpen?  I've got your relievers right here!

Twitter has been abuzz this afternoon with the news that former Yankees closer Rafael Soriano and Royals closer Joakim Soria are available for the taking, with Soriano opting out of his contract and Soria having his option declined by the Royals.

As far as my own thoughts on the topic go, I can sum it up in two words.  (Or is it four?)  And those words are: Soria-NO!  Soria-YES!

Rafael Soriano is coming off a fantastic season with the Yankees, saving 42 games after taking over for the injured Mariano Rivera.  His 2.26 ERA was also stellar, as were his 69 strikeouts in 67⅔ innings.  But Soriano will be 33 in December and made $11 million last year.  Those are big no-nos in the Sandy Alderson School of Business.

Meanwhile, Joakim Soria is coming off a disappointing season in 2011, a season that ended with Tommy John surgery.  In 2012, Soria didn't throw a pitch, but made $6 million in the final year of a four-year deal he signed prior to the 2009 season.  Prior to his surgery, Soria finished 2011 with 28 saves and a 4.03 ERA, allowing nearly one hit per inning.  Despite his unspectacular ERA, the 27-year-old's numbers in other categories were fairly similar to what they had been in previous seasons.

From 2007 to 2010, Soria was one of the most dominant closers in baseball who toiled in obscurity as a member of the Royals.  In those four seasons, Soria saved 132 games for a Kansas City team that finished a combined 96 games below .500.  Soria also was the proud owner of a 2.01 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and averaged nearly ten strikeouts per nine innings (281 Ks in 255 IP).  That wasn't over one season.  That was over FOUR YEARS!

Although his 4.03 ERA and 1.28 WHIP were departures from his 2007-2010 numbers, he kept his walks low (17 BB in 60⅓ innings) and still struck out approximately one batter per inning.  And let me remind you again that Soria is only 27 years old!

Considering that Soriano had a great year filling in for the man considered to be the greatest closer of all time, it would probably not be a stretch to say he will command a raise from his $11 million salary in 2012.  Meanwhile, Soria is coming off Tommy John surgery and the worst season of his career, although it was still better than the one Frank Francisco gave the Mets in 2012.  After making $6 million for the Royals in the final year of his contract, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that he will make a similar amount in 2013.

Frank Francisco is due to make $6 million in 2013.  Joakim Soria is younger and has a better track record than Francisco.  Plus, he achieved his success pitching for a team that has won fewer games than the Mets over the past four seasons.  And of course, he won't turn 28 until next May, whereas Francisco, like Soriano, is already 33.

The Mets are committed to signing David Wright to a long-term deal.  But their other big need they need to address is their bullpen.  Statistically speaking, the Mets had the worst bullpen in the majors in 2012.  That needs to change in 2013.  And Joakim Soria, who is already throwing and should be ready for spring training, could be the first piece in what should be a very different bullpen in 2013.

It's time to stop adding relievers who are already in their 30s (Francisco, Byrdak, Rauch) and start getting younger in the bullpen.  Joakim Soria would be a step in the right direction for this team.  Let's see if Sandy Alderson will get it right this time when it comes to putting together a solid bullpen.

Dickey or Santana: Who Gets The Opening Day Nod?

Since becoming a Met in 2008, Johan Santana has been the team's Opening Day starting pitcher when he's been healthy enough to do so.  Despite missing the last month of the 2010 season and all of the 2011 season, Santana was given the ball on Opening Day 2012, albeit with a strict pitch count.  Santana pitched five scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves, helping the Mets to a 1-0 Opening Day victory.

But after a strong start, capped by his historic no-hitter against the Cardinals, Santana struggled mightily.  After pitching his gem on June 1, Santana made ten starts.  In those ten starts, the southpaw had an 8.27 ERA and 1.76 WHIP, with opponents hitting .327 against him.  Compare that to his first 11 starts, which culminated with the no-hitter.  In those games, Santana was superb (2.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .200 batting average against).

R.A. Dickey, on the other hand, was consistently good all year, and at times was absolutely phenomenal.

The Mets' resident knuckleballer and first-time All-Star became the team's first 20-game winner since Frank Viola in 1990.  Dickey finished at or near the top of the league in wins (20), ERA (2.73), WHIP (1.05), strikeouts (230), innings pitched (233), games started (33), complete games (5) and shutouts (3).  You name it, Dickey led it.  Or he came close to leading it.  But does that get him an Opening Day start from Terry Collins in 2013?

In the past, teams have given the ball to the pitcher with the reputation, and in some cases, the big-dollar contract.  When healthy, Johan Santana has been one of the top pitchers in the game for the better part of the last decade.  Meanwhile, Dickey had his first dominant season in 2012, although his previous two seasons in New York were quite good.

Given that bit of information, it would seem as if Johan Santana should get the ball on April 1, with Dickey taking the hill on Opening Day II.  However, if the Mets want to truly reward Dickey, who was denied the honor of starting the All-Star Game in 2012, then Terry Collins should write his name on the lineup card on Opening Day.

Let's face it.  Santana gave us one of the biggest thrills in 2012 by pitching the franchise's first no-hitter.  No Mets fan will ever forget where he or she was when David Freese swung through Santana's 134th pitch that night.  But considering how "un-Santana-like" he was after that game and the fact that he was shut down in the middle of August, the Mets shouldn't take a chance on starting Santana on Opening Day.  Santana has already gotten the ball four times on the season's first day.  He's gotten his respect.  Now it's time for him and team management to respect the team's new ace and give R.A. Dickey the ball on Opening Day.

Dickey's story has been a tremendous one to follow.  He's literally been through hell and back to make it to where he is today.  Although he is only due to make $5 million in 2013, which is less than 20% of Santana's $25.5 million salary for the year, Dickey has earned the right to be the Mets' Opening Day starting pitcher.

By giving the ball to Dickey on April 1, it allows Santana to face opponents' non-aces, giving the Mets a better opportunity to win, especially if Santana cannot go deep into games or pitches as ineffectively as he did after his no-hitter.  Dickey fared extremely well against the best of the best in the National League, defeating the likes of Cliff Lee, Mark Buehrle, Lance Lynn, Gio Gonzalez, Josh Johnson and Adam Wainwright, to name a few.  He also defeated Tampa Bay's David Price by tossing a one-hitter against the Rays, the first of his two consecutive one-hitters in 2012.

When healthy, Johan Santana has been an incredible pitcher, one who is more than deserving of an Opening Day start.  But the torch has now been passed.

R.A. Dickey is the new ace of the squad, and deserves to get the ball on Opening Day.  Dickey set a franchise record by earning 27.0% of the team's wins in 2012.  Without question, he'll give the Mets their best chance to start the 2013 campaign with a 1-0 record.

Dickey has climbed over many hills to get to where he is today.  He should be allowed to climb one more hill on Opening Day.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Ring Is The Thing ... Just Not In Flushing

Marco Scutaro (left) and Angel Pagan (right) traded in their orange and blue for some orange and champagne.

Last night, the San Francisco Giants swept their way to their second World Series title in three years.  Meanwhile, it's been 26 years (and counting) since the Mets won their last championship.

Mets fans have proudly been wearing their team colors year after year hoping to see the team claim what has eluded them for over a quarter century.  But some players who have worn those same colors during their time at Shea Stadium and Citi Field have traded them in for another team's colors, winning World Series rings for their new teams while their former fans in New York continue to wait ... and wait ... and wait some more.

Here is a list of players who played for the Mets after the team won its last World Series in 1986 (meaning those players never won a title wearing orange and blue), then left New York to became part of a world championship team elsewhere.  You'll see the player's name, followed by the year or years he played for the Mets, and capped off by when he won a World Series ring for another team.  The list, unfortunately, is longer than we'd like.

Player Name
Years With Mets
World Series Championships Won With Other Teams
Tom Edens
1991 Twins
David West
1991 Twins
Kevin Tapani
1991 Twins
David Cone
1987-92, 2003
1992 Jays, '96-'98, '00 Yankees
Pat Tabler
1992 Jays
Tony Castillo
1993 Jays
Dick Schofield
1993 Jays
Tony Fernandez
1993 Jays
Alejandro Peña
1995 Braves
Charlie O’Brien
1995 Braves
Bobby Bonilla
1992-95, 1999
1997 Marlins
John Cangelosi
1997 Marlins
Allen Watson
1999, 2000 Yankees
Ryan Thompson
2000 Yankees
Jose Vizcaino
2000 Yankees, 2006 Cardinals
Lance Johnson
2000 Yankees
Armando Reynoso
2001 Diamondbacks
Alex Ochoa
2002 Angels
Jorge Fabregas
2002 Angels
Dennis Cook
2002 Angels
Kevin Appier
2002 Angels
Carl Everett
2005 White Sox
Timo Perez
2005 White Sox, 2006 Cardinals
Jason Isringhausen
1995-99, 2011
2006 Cardinals
Preston Wilson
2006 Cardinals
Braden Looper
2006 Cardinals
Xavier Nady
2009 Yankees, 2012 Giants
Guillermo Mota
2010, 2012 Giants
Octavio Dotel
2011 Cardinals
Marco Scutaro
2012 Giants
Angel Pagan
2012 Giants
Joaquin Arias
2012 Giants

But wait, there's more!  Here are four additional notes on former Mets and the World Series rings they won (or in some cases, didn't win) after they left New York.

Note #1:  Darrin Jackson began the 1993 season in Toronto, but was traded to the Mets during the season.  He still received a World Series ring from the Blue Jays even though he finished the 1993 campaign in New York.  Similarly, Miguel Batista started the 2011 season in St. Louis, but was released by the Cardinals and finished the season with the Mets.  Batista was still given a World Series ring by St. Louis for his contributions to the team.

Note #2:  Wally Whitehurst (a Met from 1989 to 1992), and Paul Gibson (a Met in 1992 and 1993) played for the 1996 Yankees, but were never given World Series rings.  Stay classy, Yankee brass.

Note #3:  Bobby M. Jones (a Met in 2000 and 2002; no relation to Bobby J. Jones, who pitched a one-hitter to clinch the 2000 NLDS for the Mets) pitched three games for Boston in April 2004, but was not given a World Series ring when the Red Sox won the championship.  Despite the oversight, they're still classier than the Yankee brass.

Note #4:  Dennis Cook and Braden Looper share the unique distinction of being the only two players since 1986 to win a World Series ring the year before joining the Mets and the year after they moved on to another team.  Cook was part of the Florida Marlins world championship team in 1997, then played for the Mets from 1998 to 2001, before winning his second title as a member of the Anaheim Angels in 2002.  Similarly, Looper also won a title with the Marlins, although his came in 2003.  He then closed (or tried to close) for the Mets in 2004 and 2005, before signing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 and becoming a part of their championship team.  This is yet another reason to always hate Braden Looper.

For My Grandfather, Who Taught Me Love And Baseball

My grandparents moved to Puerto Rico when I was three years old.  After they moved to San Juan, I would only see them for a few weeks at a time when my parents and I would visit them during my summer vacation from school.  Because those trips would coincide with the middle of baseball season, my grandfather would always want to talk to me about baseball.

When I was eight years old, I discovered that Abuelo (that's Spanish for "grandfather") was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan.  He, my grandmother and their four children (one of which is my father) moved from the Island of Enchantment to New York in 1947, the same year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.  Robinson wasn't the only reason he became a Dodger fan, as 1947 was also the year Gil Hodges and Duke Snider came up to the major leagues to stay.  The Dodgers won the pennant in 1947, making only their second trip to the World Series since 1920.  They would make many more over the next few decades.  Abuelo was hooked for life.

The summer of 1981 was special for both Abuelo and I.  It was the year I became a Mets fan, but it was also the year of Fernandomania.  That summer, when my parents and I went to visit my grandparents in Puerto Rico, the players' strike was nearing its conclusion.  But just because there was no baseball to watch didn't mean there were no baseball stories to share. 

Any time I wanted to talk about Mookie Wilson, my grandfather would remind me that he wasn't as fast as Maury Wills.  (Wills was the first major league player to steal 100 bases in a season, swiping 104 bags for the Dodgers in 1962, which was 45 more than the entire Mets team stole in their inaugural season.)  I knew better than to argue with him.

After a few minutes, the conversation would always turn to Fernando Valenzuela, who had taken the country by storm during his rookie season.  Abuelo would normally be in bed by 10 PM every night, but if Valenzuela was pitching and the game just happened to be broadcast on the local television channel, he'd always stay up to watch the game on the 13-inch black and white TV.  He'd keep the volume low so as not to wake my grandmother, telling me that he didn't need to hear the game because Fernando's pitching would tell the story.  In the summer of 1981, he was absolutely right.

I'll always remember talking to him on the phone after the Mets won the World Series in 1986.  He was thrilled that I was finally able to celebrate a championship, but he was also quick to remind me that despite the Mets boasting a pitching staff that included Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda and Sid Fernandez, it was Fernando Valenzuela who led the National League in wins.  (Valenzuela won 21 games for the Dodgers in 1986, his only 20-win campaign in 17 years in the big leagues.)

Oh, Abuelo.  He really loved his Dodgers.

Two years after the Mets won the World Series, they played for the right to appear in another.  But this time it was different.  This time, the Mets were playing the Dodgers for the pennant.  A member of the Leyro family was going to see his favorite team play in the World Series in 1988.  But for that to happen, another member of the Leyro family was going to be disappointed that his team failed to reach the Fall Classic.  It was about as awkward as it was ever going to get between me and Abuelo when it came to our shared love of the national pastime.  In the end, it became one of the most important times in our relationship.

The Dodgers defeated the Mets in the 1988 NLCS, upsetting them in seven games.  The Mets weren't the only ones upset by that result.  The day after Game 7, the phone rang in our house.  My mother picked it up, spoke for a few seconds, then called me over to the phone.  It was for me, she said.  It was Abuelo.

I thought it was strange that Abuelo would call me.  After all, any time I'd speak to him on the phone, it would be my grandmother who called us and then she'd pass the phone over to Abuelo.  (The men in the Leyro family have never been known as "phone people".)  But this time, my grandfather let his fingers do the walking and he called me directly.  Although almost a quarter century has passed, I'll never forget that conversation.

Not once did he mention the Dodgers in the conversation.  Nor did he mention the Mets.  Instead, he reminded me that there would be times in life when we'd question why things happened the way they did.  He told me that he once went on a date with a girl when he was 18.  She was his definition of "the perfect girl".  She was smart, beautiful and came from a great family.  He was sure after one date that he was going to marry her.  Two dates later, she decided she didn't want to see him anymore.  He was crushed.

After two years of wondering where he went wrong, he made the acquaintance of another girl.  He wasn't attracted to her at first, but she listened to his story of lost love and gave him words of encouragement.  They continued to talk as friends for nearly a year until he realized something.

He was falling in love.  And this time, the girl he loved felt the same way about him.

The year was 1933.  In 1934, they were married.

When Abuelo finished telling me the story of how he and Abuela met and fell in love, I thanked him for making me smile.  I thought that was the reason he was sharing his story with me, because I was upset that my Mets had lost to his Dodgers and I would need some cheering up.  But that wasn't why he told me the story.  He then went back to the beginning of our conversation, the part where he said there would be times in life when we'd question why things happened the way they did.

For two years, he wondered to himself why the love of his life didn't love him back.  But without that unexpected breakup, he never would have met my grandmother, a woman he would be married to until her death in 2001.  He then told me to think about his words and to "never stop believing" before hanging up.

It took me until that evening, but as I was getting ready for bed, it finally hit me.  Abuelo was using his story as an analogy.  I was questioning how the Mets could lose to the Dodgers in the playoffs after defeating them 10 of 11 times during the regular season, just like he had questioned why the girl he loved couldn't reciprocate those feelings for him.  He had to wait two years after suffering through a devastating heartbreak, but in the end, it netted him the love of his life.  Therefore, what Abuelo was telling me was that he knew I was heartbroken because of the Mets' loss to the Dodgers, but before long, they'd be back and I'd love them more than ever.

You know what?  He was right.

Sure, it took 11 years for the Mets to make it back to the postseason, but when they did, they went to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and made their first trip to the World Series since 1986.  And when they did, Abuelo was the first person who called me to offer a congratulatory message.

Abuelo didn't make it to see the next Mets/Dodgers postseason matchup in 2006, as he passed away five days after his 90th birthday in 2002.  But when the Mets swept the Dodgers to advance to the NLCS in that magical season, the first person I thought of was him.  What did I think of?  That he didn't have to feel sad because the team he loved would be back.  And they did, winning back-to-back division titles in 2008 and 2009.  Somewhere in Heaven, I knew Abuelo was smiling.

There is a point to this personal story.  You see, Abuelo was born on October 29, 1912.  That means today would have been his 100th birthday.  He and I never went to a Mets/Dodgers game together, but we didn't have to.  The stories took us there.

When I was eight years old, Abuelo shared his love of the Dodgers with me at the same time I was trying to share my love of the Mets with him.  He never became a Mets fan, just as I never became a Dodgers fan.  But we shared that love of baseball that no rivalry can break.  That love brought us together and provided me with some of my most wonderful childhood memories - memories that I continue to cherish as an adult.

Sometimes we question why things happen the way they do.  I never have to question why I loved my grandfather.  He was the most important man I've ever known.

Happy 100th birthday, Abuelo.  And thank you for always taking me out to the ballgame.

Dedicated to Horacio Leyro (October 29, 1912 - November 3, 2002)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wishing Ralph Kiner A Happy Father's Day Today

Earlier today, I published a recap of Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, which took place 26 years ago today.  In the recap, I included Bob Murphy's famous "the dream has come true" call from Jesse Orosco's final pitch of the game.  Well, Bob Murphy's long-time partner in the broadcast booth is also celebrating a special anniversary today - the 90th anniversary of his birth.

Ralph Kiner (born October 27, 1922) has been broadcasting Mets games since their inaugural season in 1962.  As he has gotten older, he has only been able to make it to the booth for a few select games per season.  But when he does, he always has tremendous stories to share with the viewing audience.

One particular story involves a famous malapropism.  You see, in addition to achieving fame as a Hall of Fame player and dater of Hollywood stars, Kiner was also known for his "fun with words" in the broadcast booth.  Over the years, the Mets legend has uttered gems like "solo homers usually come with no one on base" and "if Casey Stengel were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave".  But perhaps his most famous line came on a day reserved for celebrating dads, when Kiner shared this special greeting with his television viewers:

"It's Father's Day today, so to all you fathers out there, happy birthday!"

Ralph Kiner is celebrating his 90th birthday today.  He has outlived broadcast partners Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy to become the sole member of the Mets' original broadcast team who is still with us.  He has also been one of the most gracious and most recognizable persons associated with the Mets in their 50 years of existence.

So on this special day, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a special birthday greeting to a man all Mets fans grew up with.  Here's to you, Ralph.  Since it's your birthday today, I'd like to wish you a happy Father's Day!

What, did you think I was going to say something else?

"The Dream Has Come True..."

Two days ago, we looked back at the twenty-sixth anniversary of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  Miraculous as that game was, the Mets did not win their second championship that night.  The improbable comeback only forced a seventh and deciding game.

Do you remember seeing the replay of Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk waving for the ball to stay fair in the 1975 World Series?  That home run gave the Red Sox a thrilling 12-inning victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 6.

That's right.  It happened in Game 6.  Just like the Mets' dramatic Game 6 victory in the 1986 World Series, the home run by Fisk did not give the Red Sox the World Series trophy.  All it did was force a seventh game, a game won by the Reds to give Cincinnati the championship.

Had the Mets followed up their Game 6 heroics with a loss the following night, the miracle comeback would have been for naught.  The Mets had to win Game 7 to validate their season.  The stage was set at Shea Stadium for the final game of the 1986 baseball season.  It was up to the Mets to make the dream come true for their fans.

Game 7 was originally scheduled for Sunday, October 26.  However, a steady rain forced the postponement of the game until the following night.  Red Sox starter Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd was supposed to start the seventh game against Ron Darling.  However, with an extra day of rest, the Red Sox chose to bypass Boyd (who had given up six runs to the Mets in his Game 3 loss) and gave the ball to Bruce Hurst.

Hurst had already defeated the Mets in Game 1 and notched a complete game victory against them in Game 5.  Although he was pitching Game 7 on three days rest, the Mets were still wary about Hurst.  His performances against the Mets in the World Series were reminiscent of Mike Scott's outings in the NLCS.  If the Mets were going to beat Hurst, Ron Darling was going to have to match him pitch for pitch.  Unfortunately, that was not the case in the early innings.

Bruce Hurst was his usual strong self in the early innings, keeping the Mets off the scoreboard.  Ron Darling?  Not so much.  After a scoreless first inning, he gave up three runs in the second inning, including back-to-back home runs by Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman.  By the time the fourth inning rolled around, Darling had already given up six hits and walked a batter.  He then hit Dave Henderson with a pitch to lead off the fourth inning.  After facing two more batters, Darling was relieved by fellow starter turned reliever Sid Fernandez.  The score was still 3-0 in favor of the Red Sox and the game was slipping away from the Mets.  It was up to El Sid to stop the fire from spreading.

In perhaps the guttiest (no pun intended) performance by Fernandez in his Mets career, he shut down the Red Sox.  After walking his first batter (Wade Boggs), Sid retired the next seven batters he faced, with four of them coming via the strikeout.  Fernandez did everything he could to keep his team in the game, but his efforts would go in vain unless the Mets could finally solve the puzzle that was Bruce Hurst.

With time running out on the Mets and their dream season, Davey Johnson was forced to make a difficult move in the bottom of the sixth inning.  After Rafael Santana grounded out to start the inning, the Mets were down to Sid Fernandez's spot in the batting order.  Would Johnson take Sid out for a pinch hitter, hoping that the Mets would start a rally or would he leave him in the game, possibly giving up on another inning in which to mount a comeback against Bruce Hurst?  Johnson chose to pinch hit for Fernandez and it ended up being one of the best managerial decisions he ever made.

Lee Mazzilli stepped up to the plate in lieu of Fernandez.  He greeted Hurst with a single to left.  Game 6 hero Mookie Wilson followed Mazzilli with a hit of his own, followed by a walk to Tim Teufel.  The base on balls loaded the bases for Keith Hernandez and brought the crowd of 55,032 to its feet.  The cheering rose to a crescendo when Hernandez delivered a two-run single to center, scoring Mazzilli and Wilson and sending Teufel to third.  Since Teufel represented the tying run, Davey Johnson sent in the speedier Wally Backman to pinch run for him as Gary Carter stepped up to the plate.  Carter came through as he drove in Backman with a ball that would have been a base hit to right had a confused Hernandez not been forced out at second base when rightfielder Dwight Evans rolled over the ball.  Hernandez had to freeze between first and second until he knew that the ball had not been caught.  Despite the out being recorded, the Mets had tied the game at 3.  They had finally gotten to Bruce Hurst and hope was alive at Shea.  That hope became greater when Ray Knight came to bat in the seventh inning against a familiar face.

Calvin Schiraldi had been brought in by the Red Sox to start the seventh inning.  Schiraldi was the losing pitcher in Game 6, having allowed Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight to deliver hits off him in the tenth inning.  This time, he was facing Knight with no one on base, trying to erase the bitter memories of his previous outing.  Knight would not provide him with the eraser.  On a 2-1 pitch from Schiraldi, Knight got under a pitch and launched it to deep left-center, barely clearing the outfield wall.  A jubilant Knight celebrated as he rounded the bases.  The Mets finally had their first lead of the game and they were going to make sure that they weren't going to give it back.  The hit parade continued in the seventh inning, as an RBI single by Rafael Santana and a sacrifice fly by Keith Hernandez gave the Mets a 6-3 lead.  The Mets were in front, but the Red Sox weren't going to go away quietly.

Roger McDowell had come into the game in the seventh inning once Sid Fernandez had been pinch hit for.  He continued where Sid had left off by retiring the Red Sox in order in the seventh.  However, things went a little differently for McDowell in the eighth inning.  Bill Buckner led off the inning with a single.  Jim Rice followed Buckner with a single of his own.  After Dwight Evans doubled into the gap in right field, scoring both Buckner and Rice, the lead had been cut to a single run.  The Red Sox were down 6-5 with the tying run on second base and nobody out.  It was time for Davey Johnson to make one last move, with the World Series on the line.

Jesse Orosco came in from the bullpen, hoping to shut down the Red Sox to preserve the lead for the Mets.  His first batter, Rich Gedman, had homered earlier off starting pitcher Ron Darling.  This time, he hit the ball hard again, but in the direction of second baseman Wally Backman.  Backman caught the line drive in the air, holding Evans at second base.  The next batter was Dave Henderson.  He had given the Red Sox the lead with a home run in the tenth inning of Game 6.  Now he had a chance to duplicate the feat, as a home run would have given Boston the lead.  This time, the only thing he made contact with was the air.  Orosco struck him out on four pitches and then induced Don Baylor to ground out to short to end the threat.  The Mets were now three outs away from a championship, but they weren't finished scoring yet.

The Red Sox called upon Al Nipper to face Darryl Strawberry to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning.  Nipper was trying to keep the Mets' lead at one so that the Red Sox could make one last attempt in the ninth inning to tie the game or take the lead.  It didn't take long for that one run lead to grow.  Strawberry greeted Nipper with a towering home run to right field that almost took as long to come down as it did for Strawberry to round the bases.  After Darryl finally finished his home run "trot" (To call it a trot would be putting it mildly.  It was more like a stroll and it led to a bench-clearing brawl the following season in spring training when Nipper and the Red Sox faced Darryl Strawberry and the Mets again.), the Mets had a 7-5 lead.  After a hit, a walk and an RBI single by Jesse Orosco on a 47-hopper up the middle (how appropriate since 47 was Jesse's number), the Mets had regained their three-run lead.  After being held scoreless by Bruce Hurst for the first five innings of the game, the Mets had exploded for eight runs in the last three innings to take an 8-5 lead into the ninth inning.  Orosco was still on the mound, hoping to throw the season's final pitch.

With the champagne ready to be uncorked in the Mets clubhouse, Orosco went to work on the Red Sox batters.  Ed Romero popped up to first base in foul territory for the first out.  That was followed by Wade Boggs grounding out to second base for the second out.  The Mets were one out away from a championship.  Nothing was going to stop them from winning this game.  Well, nothing except for the pink smoke bomb that was thrown onto the field.

That did not matter to Jesse Orosco or the Mets.  After the smoke cleared, Marty Barrett stepped up to the plate.  Barrett had already collected a World Series record-tying 13 hits, trying to set the record and keep the season alive for the Red Sox.  However, that was not to be.  We now turn the microphone over to the late Bob Murphy for the final pitch.

"He struck him out!  Struck him out!  The Mets have won the World Series!  And they're jamming and crowding all over Jesse Orosco!  He's somewhere at the bottom of that pile!  He struck out Marty Barrett!  The dream has come true!"  The Mets have won the World Series, coming from behind to win the seventh ballgame!"

The Mets had completed their dream season with a World Series championship.  After 108 regular season victories and a hard-fought six-game NLCS against the Houston Astros, the Mets were able to bring the trophy home.  At times, it seemed as if the season was going to come to a screeching halt, but through determination, perseverance and perhaps an extra pebble or two around the first base area during Game 6, the Mets came through for themselves, for their fans and for the city of New York.

In 1986, the Mets owned New York.  They were a blue (and orange) collar team for a blue-collar city.  Twenty-six years ago today, the Mets became the World Champions of baseball.  Victory never tasted so sweet.

One final postscript on the whereabouts of Jesse Orosco's glove:  I'm sure many of you who watched Game 7 remember Jesse Orosco flinging his glove up in the air after striking out Marty Barrett to end the World Series.  Have any of you wondered what happened to that glove?  Now it can be told!

If you have the 1986 World Series DVDs, watch the final out of Game 7.  After Orosco throws the glove up in the air and falls to his knees, he gets up just as Gary Carter and the rest of his teammates mob him at the pitcher's mound.  Now hit the "slow" button on your remote and watch closely as Bud Harrelson (wearing #23) runs around the crowd of players to the left of them.  He has nothing in his hands as he goes around the pile of ecstatic players.  Right before he goes off-camera, you can see him start to bend over.  When he comes back a split second later to celebrate with the team on the mound, he has a glove in his left hand.  That's Jesse Orosco's glove.

The Studious Metsimus staff and friends of the staff had the pleasure of meeting both Bud Harrelson and Jesse Orosco (see photo, below right). 

During 2012's 50th anniversary conference at Hofstra University, staff member Taryn Cooper and friend of the staff, Jason Bornstein (who remembers Shea very well), met the former Mets shortstop, third base coach and manager and confirmed with Harrelson that he was the one who picked up the famously thrown glove.

We also ran into Orosco at Darryl Strawberry's restaurant (an eatery which sadly is no longer with us) and asked him if he knew who retrieved the glove for him after he recorded the final out of the 1986 World Series.  For a quarter century, he was under the impression that it was bullpen coach Vern Hoscheit, but wasn't sure.  When we informed him that it was Bud Harrelson and explained how he retrieved it, he was surprised to hear the news and thanked us for finally giving him confirmation.  Hey, it was the least we could do for the man who gave us one of our fondest Mets memories!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sandy vs. Sandy: A Tale of The Tape

Hurricane Sandy is churning its way up the Eastern seaboard.  No, I'm not talking about Mets' general manager Sandy Alderson.  I'm talking about an actual meteorological event here.  But now that I think of it, the Mets' Sandy has a few things in common with Mother Nature's Sandy.

Let's take a look at the tale of the tape between Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Alderson to see how similar they are and how slow a news day it is when there's no World Series game to watch and discuss.  Enjoy and please do your best to stay safe during the coming storm - the one that's not currently in the Mets' front office!

Hurricane Sandy
Sandy Alderson
Churning its way up the Eastern seaboard
Hoping to move up in the Eastern division
Expected to cause widespread power outages
Is used to seeing team-wide power outages
Barometric pressure continues to lower
Pressure from the fans continues to rise
Continues to push its way forth
Continues to watch his team finish fourth
Flushing Bay might overflow its banks
Would have more bank if not for Jason Bay
100 million wish to be spared
Wishes the Wilpons could spare $100 million