Thursday, October 31, 2013

Are You Ready For Some Hot Stove?

The Boston Red Sox finished off the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 Wednesday night to take the 2013 World Series crown.  In doing so, the once-cursed team won their third title in ten seasons, or one more than the Mets have won in 52 seasons.  What will the Mets have to do to win that coveted third championship?  That’s something Sandy Alderson and his Merry Men will have to address during the Hot Stove season, which is now officially underway.  It should be the most important offseason the Mets have had in nearly a decade.

The Mets need help.  Okay, let’s be honest.  They need lots of help.  They need as much help as Jaime Escalante’s students needed to master “cal-cool-us”.

First base?  According to Little Jeffy Wilpon, the Mets have a glut at first base.  Not a glut of talent at first base.  Just a glut.  I guess the next time Webster’s dictionary is updated, the word glut will be defined as “a hybrid of Lucas Duda and Ike Davis” or “the roadblock that prevents a team from pursuing a highly coveted Cuban talent”.

Second base?  Well, that’s Daniel Murphy’s position for the time being.  But now there is talk about moving Gold Glove finalist Eric Young, Jr. to second base.  For the record, Young was considered for a Gold Glove for his defensive excellence in left field, not second base.

Shortstop?  Will Ruben Tejada ever get another shot to be a starter there?  Probably not.  The Mets will have to consider trading for a shortstop that can play the position effectively on a daily basis.  Otherwise, we might see Justin Turner more than we should there.  For all I care, the Mets can trade him to the World Champion Red Sox.  His beard would fit right in.

Sorry, Justin.  Mike Napoli is not impressed.

Third base?  The Captain.  Let’s move on.

Left field?  If Eric Young doesn’t move to second base (he better not), he’ll probably stay in left to entertain the drunken Party City dwellers.  But he might be better served as a fourth outfielder, a la Endy Chavez.  The Mets need to add some pop to the lineup, and left field is one of the positions that could use some.  Lucas Duda need not apply.

Center field?  That belongs to the smooth-as-silk Juan Lagares.  Lagares proved he can handle the position, making superb catch after super catch and showing off his strong, accurate arm every time an opposing player was foolish enough to test him.  You know who else was foolish?  The people who made Andrew McCutchen and Denard Span finalists for the Gold Glove in center field over Lagares.

Right field?  Give me Choo or give me someone who’s better than whomever the Mets trotted out there last year after Byrd became the word in Pittsburgh.  Obviously, acquiring Shin-soo Choo would prove the Mets are indeed down with OBP, as his .423 on-base percentage was second in the league to teammate Joey Votto.  Choo also posted his third career 20/20 season, hitting 21 homers and stealing 20 bases.  If Eric Young, Jr. loses playing time, the Mets will have to find steals from someone other than the National League stolen base king.  Byrd was the word in 2013.  Choo should do in 2014.

Catcher?  Like it or not, the position belongs to Travis d’Arnaud.  He’ll have to perform better if he wants to be known for something other than being the Met with a large P on his back.  To back up d’Arnaud, the Mets should probably bring in a veteran player.  But if they don’t, Anthony Recker isn’t a terrible option.

Starting pitchers?  Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee form the top three.  The bottom two is where the Mets will have to be creative.  Although Rafael Montero has already made 16 starts at the Triple-A level, he will probably not get called up until June at the earliest.  And Noah Syndergaard has yet to face Triple-A hitters, so don’t expect to see him at Citi Field before the All-Star Break.  With Jenrry Mejia coming off an injury, as well as Jeremy Hefner and that Harvey guy recovering from major surgery, the Mets will need at least one and perhaps two veteran stopgaps in the rotation.  Aaron Harang did okay in his late-season tryout and so did Daisuke Matsuzaka.  If I had Wilpon blood running through my veins, I’d bring back Dice-K.  After all, how would the Mets ever sell their glut (there’s that word again) of Matsuzaka T-shirts that are left in the team store?

Dice-K's shirt is almost outselling the Sandy Koufax Brooklyn Dodgers jersey in the Mets Team Store.

Relief pitchers?  Bobby Parnell, LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Rice should stay.  Scott Atchison could also stay unless the Senior League reforms and takes him as their No. 1 overall pick.  Everyone else can fade away or join the Phillies, like every other former Met eventually does, except for Frank Francisco.  He’ll be taking advantage of his soon-to-be unemployment by petitioning the Olympic committee to add chair tossing as a medal event.

Bench?  The Mets need a well-balanced bench.  It can’t be full of .260 hitters with little power and no speed.  (The fact that Justin Turner has hit exactly .260 in his career with little power and no speed should be viewed as a coincidence.  It does not reflect my personal distaste for the pie-chucker.  Supposedly.)  The non-starters should be split evenly between left-handed and right-handed hitters, with at least one speedster that can be brought in to pinch-run, one power bat, one contact bat, one utility player and one late-inning defensive replacement.  If a player can combine two of those talents, the Mets will have a better chance to compete when they eventually play another 20-inning game.

With Matt Harvey out for the 2014 campaign and many positions still up for grabs, the Mets enter the hot stove season with many pieces needed to complete what should be an interesting puzzle.  If Papa Smirk and Little Jeffy aren’t willing to keep their promise of spending money this offseason, the only thing Mets fans will have to look forward to in 2014 is not having to subject themselves to Tim McCarver’s analysis (he put the “anal” in analysis) during Saturday FOX telecasts.  As much as a Timmy-less Saturday pleases a plethora of Mets fans, we’d like a little more than that to make us not want to jump off the Shea Bridge in a Lime-A-Rita-fueled stupor.  Besides, we won’t have Frank Francisco to break our fall this year.

Let’s get cracking, Sandy!  Put some logs in the hot stove and see if you can fire up the fan base.  End this five-year fizzle by making Citi Field sizzle.  The Red Sox shouldn’t have to have all the fun in October. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27, 1986: "The Dream Has Come True..."

Two days ago, we looked back at the twenty-seventh 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-seven 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!

The Mets Have Also Had Weird Walk-Off Losses

Photo by Elsa/GettyImages (via the NY Times)

On Saturday night, the Cardinals defeated the Red Sox in Game 3 of the World Series in bizarre fashion.  St. Louis had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning and the game tied, 4-4.  Jon Jay then hit a ground ball to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who made an outstanding diving stop before throwing home to nail Yadier Molina at the plate.  Allen Craig, who was not running at 100% because of a sprained foot, then took off slowly for third base.  Seeing Craig scrambling to reach third, Jarrod Saltamacchia attempted to throw him out.  But his throw hit Craig and caromed into foul territory, where it was picked up by left fielder Daniel Nava.  His throw back to Saltalamacchia appeared to get Craig at the plate for the third out, but umpire Jim Joyce called interference on third baseman Will Middlebrooks, allowing Craig to score the winning run.  Middlebrooks had tripped up Craig after Saltalamacchia's throw sailed down the left field line.

It was as strange an ending to a game as Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, also lost when a Red Sox corner infielder allowed the winning run to score, this time against the Mets.  Although the Mets have never lost a game on an interference call, they have lost their share of games in other weird walk-off ways.  Let's take a look at some of them.

In addition to losing hundreds of games on game-ending hits, sacrifice flies and bases loaded walks (Kenny Rogers, you will never be forgiven), the Mets have also lost three games when a runner on third scored on a balk (most recently accomplished by Collin McHugh, who balked home Miami's Donovan Solano in R.A. Dickey's last start as a Met on October 2, 2012).

Similarly, there have been three instances in Mets history in which a pitcher forced in the winning run by hitting a batter with the bases loaded.  One such hit batsman helped set in motion the firing of the team's manager.

On June 5, 2008, the Mets were opening a four-game series in San Diego after taking two of three from the Giants in San Francisco.  They entered the series against the Padres playing good baseball, having won seven of their previous nine games to go from three games under .500 (23-26) to two games over (30-28).  But in a 1-1 tie, Scott Schoeneweis walked future Met Scott Hairston to lead off the bottom of the ninth.  Schoeneweis then issued two more walks (one of which was intentional) to set up a bases loaded matchup with Paul McAnulty, who sported a Mario Mendoza-like .210 career batting average entering the game.  Schoeneweis was trying to induce an inning-ending double play from the Padres' left fielder.  But he hit McAnulty with his first pitch, forcing in the winning run.  The loss ignited a five-game losing streak for the Mets.  One week later, manager Willie Randolph was fired.

A week after Schoeneweis plunked a Padre, Willie Randolph was "schoen" the door by the Mets.

Another rare way the Mets have lost in walk-off fashion is via the groundout.  On nine occasions, a ground ball out has failed to prevent the winning run from scoring.  And once, a double play couldn't even stop a walk-off loss.  On July 21, 1973, the Mets and Pirates went to the bottom of the ninth deadlocked at one.  Mets reliever Buzz Capra loaded the bases on a single and two walks.  With no outs, Tug McGraw came into the game and induced a ground ball from Bucs first baseman Bob Robertson.  The Mets were able to get a force at home and another out at second, but Dave Cash came all the way around from second base to score the winning run while the Mets were throwing the ball all over the place.  Therefore, a 4-2-9-6 double play produced a W-A-L-K-off loss.

The Mets have lost 21 games on a walk-off error, including one by the normally sure-handed Keith Hernandez on July 2, 1983, just two and a half weeks after the Mets acquired him from St. Louis.  Doug Sisk and Francisco Rodriguez are the only two pitchers to be victimized by walk-off errors twice.  Sisk was on the mound when the Mets lost games in 1984 and 1985 on miscues by Hubie Brooks and Rafael Santana, respectively.  Similarly, K-Rod walked off the field in disgust when Daniel Murphy made an error in September 2009.  It was the second time that season that Rodriguez witnessed a walk-off error from the mound, as just three months earlier, Luis Castillo made everyone want to "Forget Lou" after he failed to use two hands on an Alex Rodriguez pop-up at Yankee Stadium.

All of the above were certainly odd ways to lose games in walk-off fashion.  But perhaps the most bizarre walk-off loss in Mets history took place on July 27, 1967, in a game the Mets lost to the Dodgers in 11 innings, 7-6.  The Mets were already shorthanded, as only 21 players suited up for the team that day.  John Sullivan started for the Mets at catcher and delivered an RBI single in the seventh inning to pull the Mets to within one run of the Dodgers.  But manager Wes Westrum then foolishly used Jerry Grote - his sole remaining catcher on the bench - as a pinch-runner for Sullivan.  When Grote came in to catch in the bottom of the seventh, he started barking at home plate umpire Bill Jackowski about his strike zone.  After the inning was over, Grote continued to voice his displeasure over balls and strikes from the dugout and was tossed from the game.  That left Westrum without a catcher on his bench.  That is, until he called upon Tommie Reynolds to put on the catcher's gear.

Tommie Reynolds
Reynolds had never played the position before in a major league game.  But he took one for the team and squatted behind the plate for what he thought would be no more than two innings.  Of course, the game went into extra innings and the inexperienced Reynolds stayed in the game as the team's catcher.  Finally, in the 11th inning, with one out and runners at the corners, Reynolds couldn't handle a Jack Fisher pitch, allowing the winning run to score for the Dodgers.  The ruling by the official scorer was a passed ball by Reynolds.  It was the only time in Mets history that the team suffered a walk-off loss on a passed ball, and it was committed by a player who never caught another game in his career.

So you see, Red Sox fans, you're not alone when it comes to weird walk-off losses.  The Mets have done it all the time, even against your team in World Series play.  After all, this is baseball, where you're always bound to see something you've never seen before, just like Tommie Reynolds never saw that Jack Fisher pitch in 1967, a year the Red Sox also played the Cardinals in the World Series.

Will Middlebrooks is now part of a weird walk-off family.  But don't worry.  He'll have new family members to keep him company before too long.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fool's Gold For Juan Lagares

Earlier today, Rawlings announced their nominees for this year's Gold Glove Awards at each position.  Two Mets were nominated for the prestigious defensive excellence award.  Two-time winner David Wright will compete with Colorado's Nolan Arenado and Los Angeles' Juan Uribe for the prize at third base, while Eric Young, Jr. will go up against fellow left field nominees Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies) and Starling Marte (Pittsburgh).

But perhaps the Mets' best defensive player was mysteriously left off the list of nominees.  Hey, Rawlings!  Where in the world is Juan Lagares?

One of these Mets outfielders was nominated for a Gold Glove Award.  It's not the one you think.

The three finalists for the Gold Glove in center field are Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers, Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Denard Span of the Washington Nationals - all worthy candidates.  But Juan Lagares may have the better defensive numbers, especially when considering the sabermetric stats, which are now part of the voting process.

Juan Lagares was second in the league behind Gomez with 26 defensive runs saved (DRS).  Meanwhile, McCutchen and Span combined to save just ten runs defensively.  (A.J. Pollock saved 15 runs for the Diamondbacks in center field and he was also snubbed as a nominee.)

Another stat used to measure a player's defensive value is UZR (ultimate zone rating).  Once again, Gomez led the league in that category with a 24.4 UZR, just slightly ahead of Lagares, who posted a 21.5 UZR.  And yup, McCutchen and Span together couldn't match what Lagares produced, as their UZR added up to 17.1.

Have you ever heard of ARM?  That's another sabermetric stat which measures the amount of runs above average an outfielder saves with his arm by preventing the advancement of base runners.  (This factors into the calculation of UZR.)  In common English, it shows how much opposing runners are afraid of running on an outfielder's arm.  Juan Lagares had a 12.3 ARM.  The three center field Gold Glove nominees (Gomez, McCutchen, Span) combined for a 9.0 ARM.

What else did Juan Lagares lead the league in?  Let's see.  There was Range Factor/9Inn, which measures putouts and assists per nine innings.  Lagares led the league with a 2.98 Range Factor/9Inn as a centerfielder.  He also led all outfielders, regardless of position, in that category.  There was also that handy, dandy assists thing.  Lagares led all centerfielders with 14 outfield assists, and added another one as a rightfielder.  His 15 total assists set a new Mets rookie record.

Not bad for a player who didn't become the team's regular centerfielder until the Rick Ankiel experiment was deemed a failure in early June.

I don't disagree that Carlos Gomez, Andrew McCutchen and Denard Span are all excellent defensive players.  But how can a list of the top three centerfielders in the National League in 2013 not include Juan Lagares?  The kid will win a Gold Glove or ten before his career is over.  He should have been considered for his first this year.

October 25, 1986: "Little Roller Up Along First..."

Every generation has its defining moment.  People who grew up in the 1960s know exactly where they were when President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated.  In the 1980s, every American knows where they were when the Space Shuttle exploded.  It's no different for Mets fans.

People who grew up rooting for the Mets remember every detail of the 1969 Miracle Mets' run to the World Series.  Fans of my generation well up with happy tears when you mention two words to them:  Game 6.  How can anyone forget the night of October 25, 1986?

The Mets were facing elimination entering Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  They fought back to tie the Series at Fenway Park after dropping the first two games of the Series at Shea Stadium.  Then Bruce Hurst shut them down in Game 5 to send the series back to New York with the Mets down three games to two.

It was up to Bob Ojeda to save the Mets' season.  He was opposed by Roger Clemens, who was on his way to his first Cy Young Award.  Ojeda was also called upon for Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS against the Astros, a game in which the Mets defeated Houston in 16 innings to claim the National League pennant.  In that game, Ojeda struggled early, giving up three runs in the first inning before settling down.  Game 6 of the 1986 World Series was no different for Ojeda.  He gave up single runs to the Red Sox in each of the first two innings, but then settled down.

When Ojeda was replaced by Roger McDowell to start the seventh inning, the Mets had come back against Roger Clemens to tie the score at 2.  Although the drama that unfolded in the tenth inning is what Game 6 is most known for, a number of interesting events occurred in the seventh inning that are often forgotten.

With one out and Marty Barrett on first base for the Red Sox, Jim Rice hit a ground ball near the third base line that barely stayed fair.  Ray Knight fielded it and threw wildly to first base, with the ball popping in and out of the glove of a leaping Keith Hernandez.  That brought up Dwight Evans with runners on the corners.  Evans hit a ground ball for the second out of the inning, but Barrett scored the go-ahead run and Rice was able to advance to second base.  That was when Mookie Wilson became a hero for the first time that night.

Roger McDowell was able to get ahead of Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman by throwing strikes on the first two pitches, but Gedman then grounded the 0-2 pitch from McDowell between short and third for a base hit that appeared to give the Red Sox an insurance run.  However, Mookie Wilson charged the ball and fired a strike to Gary Carter at home plate to cut down a sliding Jim Rice for the third out of the inning.

The defensive efforts of Wilson and Carter helped keep the Red Sox lead at one, a lead that would be erased when the Mets came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Roger Clemens had been pinch hit for in the top of the eighth inning, so the Red Sox brought in former Met Calvin Schiraldi to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning.  Schiraldi had been brilliant in relief for the Red Sox during the regular season, compiling a 4-2 record and a sparking 1.41 ERA.  However, all that changed once Lee Mazzilli led off the inning with a base hit.  Lenny Dykstra followed with a sacrifice bunt, but he reached first base safely when Schiraldi threw wildly to second base in a failed attempt to nail Lee Mazzilli.  Now the Mets had two men on with nobody out for Wally Backman, who laid down a bunt of his own.  His successful sacrifice moved Mazzilli and Dykstra into scoring position for Keith Hernandez, who was intentionally walked to load the bases.  That brought up Gary Carter.  On a 3-0 pitch, Carter had the green light and lined a sacrifice fly to left field.  The fly ball allowed Lee Mazzilli to score the tying run.  When neither team scored in the ninth inning, the stage was set for the most dramatic inning in Mets history.

The inning started with a bang, but not the one wanted by Mets fans.  Dave Henderson led off the inning with a laser beam down the left field line that just stayed fair as it cleared the wall.  The home run off Rick Aguilera silenced the Shea Stadium crowd of 55,078 and gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.  They weren't done yet.  Aguilera came back to strike out the next two batters but then proceeded to give up a double to Wade Boggs and a run-scoring single to Marty Barrett.  The latter hit gave the Sox an insurance run as the lead was now 5-3.  The next batter was hit by a pitch.  Who was the victim of Aguilera's wayward offering?  None other than Bill Buckner (more on him later).  Now there were two men on base for Jim Rice.  Rice could have redeemed himself for being thrown out at home in the seventh inning with a hit in the tenth.  However, Rice failed to add to the Red Sox lead when he flied out to Lee Mazzilli in right.  His failure to come through in two crucial spots set up the events in the bottom of the tenth inning for the Mets.

Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez were due to lead off in the bottom of the tenth inning.  However, two fly balls later and the Mets were down to their final out with no one on base.  The dream was one out away from becoming a nightmare.  108 regular season wins and a thrilling NLCS against the Astros would mean nothing if the Mets couldn't start a rally against Calvin Schiraldi and the Red Sox.  The Shea Stadium scoreboard was flashing "Congratulations Red Sox: 1986 World Champions" and NBC had already awarded its player of the game to Marty Barrett.  Then Gary Carter stepped up to the plate and something special began to happen.

On a 2-1 pitch from Schiraldi, Carter singled to left.  Then Kevin Mitchell, pinch-hitting for Rick Aguilera lined a hit to center on an 0-1 curveball.  The tying runs were now on base for Ray Knight.  If you recall, Knight had made an error in the seventh inning that led to a run for the Red Sox.  Perhaps this game would never have gone into extra innings had Knight not committed his error.  Knight didn't care.  All he cared about was getting a hit to continue the inning.  Unfortunately for him, Schiraldi threw his first two pitches for strikes.  The Mets were down to their final strike, but Ray Knight had something to say about that.

On a pitch that was headed for the inside corner of the strike zone, Knight fisted it over Marty Barrett's head into short center for another base hit.  Carter scored from second base and Mitchell went from first to third on the hit.  The tying run was 90 feet away and the winning run was at first base.  Red Sox manager John McNamara had made up his mind.  He was going to Bob Stanley to try to win the World Series.  Stanley would face one batter, Mookie Wilson, with everything on the line.

Stanley would throw six pitches to Mookie Wilson to get the count to 2-2.  Hoping for strike three with his seventh pitch, Stanley let go of the pitch and at the same time, let go of the lead.  The pitch was way inside, causing Mookie to throw himself up in the air to avoid getting hit.  Fortunately, the ball didn't hit Mookie or Rich Gedman's glove (or home plate umpire Dale Ford for that matter).  The ball went all the way to the backstop and Kevin Mitchell was able to scamper home with the tying run.  The wild pitch also allowed Ray Knight to move into scoring position with the potential winning run.  All Mookie needed to do now was get a base hit to drive him in, or perhaps he could so something else to bring him home.

During the regular season, John McNamara had always removed first baseman Bill Buckner for defensive replacement Dave Stapleton during the late innings.  However, this time Buckner was left in the game despite the fact that he was hobbling around on two gimpy legs and had just been hit by a pitch in the previous inning.  What was McNamara's reasoning for the decision?  He wanted Buckner to be on the field to celebrate their championship with his teammates.  Instead, Buckner was on the field for a different celebration.

Buckner was at first base as the count went to 3-2 on Mookie Wilson.  A mountain of pressure had been lifted off his shoulders once he went airborne to elude Stanley's pitch.  A relaxed Mookie came back to the plate to finish what he came up there to do.  After fouling off two more pitches, including a line drive that curved foul down the left field line, Wilson hit a little roller up along first, bringing Mets fans to their feet as Bill Buckner hobbled to the line in an attempt to field it.  I'll let NBC broadcaster Vin Scully describe what happened.

"Little roller up along first.  Behind the bag!  It gets through Buckner.  Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!"

A miracle had happened on the diamond.  Perhaps Mookie's grounder hit a pebble.  Perhaps Buckner took his eyes off the ball as he watched Mookie sprint down the first base line.  Perhaps God was a Mets fan.  Regardless of what caused it to happen, Mookie's grounder found its way under Buckner's glove and the Mets lived to see another day.  (Buckner later admitted in the film "Catching Hell" that his momentum as he approached the first base line caused his glove to close on its own, a split second before he would have fielded it.  With the glove closed before the ball reached it, the grounder was able to scoot by the gimpy first baseman.)

As a dejected Bill Buckner walked off the field, Shea Stadium was rocking as it never had before.  Mookie Wilson was still running towards second base because he had no idea that Ray Knight had scored the winning run.  Ron Darling, who was scheduled to start the seventh and deciding game of the World Series the following night (even though it was rained out and played two nights later), admitted that he could see dust falling from the roof of the Mets dugout because of the vibrations caused by the fans jumping up and down over it.  Keith Hernandez had left the dugout to go into Davey Johnson's office after making the second out of the inning, but never moved from the chair he was sitting in, even after the historic rally had begun because as he admitted afterwards, the chair he was sitting in had hits in it.

As the unbelievable events were flashing on the TV screen for those of us who weren't fortunate enough to have tickets to the game, Vin Scully came back on the air after a long pause to tell the viewers everything they needed to know about what they had just seen unfold at Shea Stadium on that Saturday night.  The Hall-of-Fame broadcaster said:

"If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.  But more than that, you have seen an absolutely bizarre finish to Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  The Mets are not only alive, they are well and they will play the Red Sox in Game 7 tomorrow."

Game 6 didn't give the Mets the World Championship as many baseball fans mistakenly believe.  There was still one game left to play.  Although it was scheduled for the following night, rain put a hold on Game 7 until the night of Monday, October 27.  Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, who had been scheduled to start the seventh game for the Red Sox, was scratched from his start to allow Met killer Bruce Hurst to pitch.  But I'll leave that narrative for another night.

For now, think of the memories you have of that unbelievable Game 6.  Imagine how different things would have been if Jim Rice had not been thrown out at home plate in the seventh inning, or if Bob Stanley had relieved Calvin Schiraldi before Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell or Ray Knight produced base hits in the tenth inning.  Mets fans who celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Miracle Mets three years ago might still be talking about that team as their only championship team.

A miracle happened at Shea Stadium 27 years ago today, on October 25, 1986.  It is the single greatest Mets memory I have.  I'm sure for many of you reading this, it's your favorite Mets memory as well.  Do Mets fans believe in miracles?  If you watched Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the answer is a definite yes.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Joey's Soapbox: My Unsettling 2013 World Series Pick

Hi, everyone!  I'm Joey Beartran and I'm a little unsettled at the moment.  You see, in my LCS picks, I predicted a Red Sox vs. Dodgers matchup in the World Series.  Had we gotten that matchup, I would have had an easy time picking a World Series winner.  (Red Sox in 6.)  But instead of that series, we're getting a Red Sox-Cardinals Fall Classic.  And that's why I'm torn.

As Mets fans, we're taught to hate the Yankees.  And Yankee fans are taught to hate the Red Sox.  Therefore, by some kind of math that only Jaime Escalante or Will Hunting would understand, Mets fans should root for any team that would make Yankee fans unhappy and start counting the number of rings they've bought (a number that never seems to change these days - guess rings aren't as afforable as they used to be).

That's why a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series matchup would have been easy for me to predict a winner.  But there are two things keeping me from making a quick prediction.  And I feel like I should talk about this more in depth.

World Series

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox are four wins away from giving Yankee fans nightmares for the third time in ten seasons.  Those four wins have to come at the expense of the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that rudely awakened the Mets while they were dreaming of a third World Series championship in 2006.  This should be a slam dunk of a pick.  But two players - one on each team - are causing me to pause.

Carlos Beltran was a member of the aforementioned 2006 Mets.  He had arguably the best season of his career, setting personal highs in home runs, RBI, runs scored, walks, slugging percentage and OPS.  He also won his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.  But the one award he failed to get was a team award in the shape of a World Series ring.

Prior to 2013, Beltran had come within one win of reaching the Fall Classic three times with three different teams.  But the 2004 Astros, 2006 Mets and 2012 Cardinals all lost Game 7 of the NLCS.

"Who is this Joey Beartran and why does he continue to bring up all my losses in Game 7?"

Beltran has played in six do-or-die games in the division series and league championship series.  In addition to the three Game 7s, he also participated in three Game 5s in the division series, including this year's fifth game versus Pittsburgh.  In those six games, Beltran came to the plate 28 times, reaching base safely in half of those plate appearances.  In addition to that .500 OBP, Beltran also collected three doubles, two homers, scored seven runs and drove in five.  Even without consulting those thespian mathematicians, I know that adds up to a .783 slugging percentage.  Here's one more stat about those 28 plate appearances in the six do-or-die games.  Beltran struck out just once in those 28 trips to the plate.  But of course, that one time has haunted Mets fans for the past seven years.

So do I root for Beltran to win his first ring after so many near misses?  Or do I go against him because of that one strikeout in 28 plate appearances, the same strikeout that makes many Mets fans ignore the fact that he was the greatest centerfielder and free agent acquisition in franchise history?  I'll get back to those questions later.  Now it's time to consider that other player who is causing me to think twice about my World Series pick.

I want to root for the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.  I did in 2004 and I did again in 2007.  In fact, I'd like to predict that they're going to sweep the Cardinals so that I can continue to say that the last time the Red Sox lost a World Series game was in 1986 when they dropped Game 7 of the Fall Classic to the Mets.  (Boston swept the Cardinals in '04 and the Rockies in '07.)  But I can't do that just yet.  And it's because of one "man".

Shane Victorino.

The former Phillie who once took umbrage at Jose Reyes' showboating after a home run is now a Red Sox legend after his grand slam in Game 6 of the ALCS helped Boston win the pennant.  By the way, Victorino himself showboated after his round-tripper, so much so that I expected the Rockettes to join him on his way around the bases, kicking in unison as he blew kisses to himself.  I'm sure Mets fans were saying something about him blowing something else after he touched home plate.

As great as Beltran has been in the postseason, Victorino actually has more RBI in his playoff career.  The Cryin' Hawaiian's 38 RBI in October are one moer than Beltran's 37.  That's another reason to hate Victorino.  He actually does well when we want him to do poorly.

Oh, and then there's also that hideous do-it-yourself beard he's been trying to put together.

"You're making me angry, Joey Beartran!  You wouldn't like it when I'm angry!"

I'm not afraid of Shane Victorino.  But I am afraid of just giving the World Series crown to the Red Sox because that would mean he'd have two World Series rings, or as many rings that say "New York Mets" on them.

Sigh.  I'm really torn about this,

But I do have to pick a winner.  Because that's what unbiased prognosticators such as myself do when the Mets aren't playing in October.  So do I pick the Cardinals because I want Carlos Beltran to win and Shane Victorino to lose?  Or do I pick the Red Sox because I want to see Boston go "nyah, nyah, nyah" to the Yankees yet again?

I have my decision and yes, Regis, that's my final answer.

Prediction:  The World Series will go 7 games and #MetsTwitter will be the big winner.

(Hey, if any group of fans can have a field day blaming Beltran or dissecting all that is hideous about Victorino, it's certainly the Mets fan base.)

Enjoy the World Series, everyone!  This was Joey Beartran and the only thing that's going to be torn now is the cellophane around these rainbow cookies I'm about to devour.  Hasta la vista, Mets fans!

Let's (nom) go (nom), Mets (nom)!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Walking's Dead

When Sandy Alderson came aboard as the Mets' general manager three years ago, he was known as an executive who encouraged his players to draw more walks.  More walks mean more base runners.  More base runners mean more runs.  And more runs mean more wins.  Additionally, taking more pitches causes the opposing starting pitcher to reach a high pitch count at an earlier stage of the game, causing him to exit the game earlier even if he's pitching fairly well.

But in 2013, the Mets had many more free swingers in their everyday lineup than they had in the past.  Players like Juan Lagares (20 walks in 421 plate appearances), Marlon Byrd (25 walks in 464 PA) and even Daniel Murphy (32 walks in 697 PA) spent more time trying to get four hits than four balls.  The end result was fewer big innings and fewer opposing pitchers being removed early.

Let's put this season's lack of patience at the plate in perspective.  There were only three players on the team who drew more than 40 bases on balls.  Those players were Lucas Duda (57 walks), David Wright (55 walks) and Ike Davis (55 walks).  Omar Quintanilla finished fourth on the team with 38 free passes.

Do you know when the last time was that the Mets had as little as three players draw 40 or more walks?  You'd have to go back to 2003, when Cliff Floyd (51 walks) and Ty Wigginton (46 walks) were the only two Mets to take ball four at least 40 times.  And for those who have a short memory, the Mets finished 66-95 in 2003 - the only year in the last two decades that the team finished with fewer than 70 victories (not including the strike-shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons).

Does that mean having fewer players drawing walks on a regular basis contributes to poor seasons?  Let me put on my mad statistician's cap (which is pretty much just a Mets cap with cat hair on it) and present to you some of my research.  Below is the list of seasons in which the Mets failed to have more than three players draw as many as 40 walks in a season (excluding all strike seasons).  Keep an eye on each team's final won-loss record, which is listed at the end of each line.

Players With 40+ Walks
Duke Snider (56), Jim Hickman (44), Ron Hunt (40)
Joe Christopher (48)
Johnny Lewis (59), Bobby Klaus (45)
Bud Harrelson (48), Ron Swoboda (41)
Ron Swoboda (52), Jerry Grote (44)
Rusty Staub (77), Wayne Garrett (50)
Keith Hernandez (64), Ron Hodges (49), Darryl Strawberry (47)
Bobby Bonilla (72), Howard Johnson (43), Eddie Murray (40)
Todd Hundley (79), Bernard Gilkey (73)
Cliff Floyd (51), Ty Wigginton (46)
Lucas Duda (57), David Wright (55), Ike Davis (55)

There have been eleven seasons in Mets history in which three or fewer players were able to draw at least 40 walks.  The Mets failed to win 75 games in all but one of those seasons.  Their average record in those eleven campaigns was 64-98.

In case you think other factors were involved in those teams' lack of success, let's take a look at the walk totals for players on some of the most successful teams in franchise history.

The 1969 World Series champion Mets had five players who took 40 or more free passes (Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, Bud Harrelson, Ron Swoboda, Wayne Garrett).  Seventeen years later, the 1986 champs were also able to produce five such hitters (Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter, Lenny Dykstra, Ray Knight).  In addition, seven other players on the '86 team walked 30 or more times.  But wait, there's more.

Half of the starting eight in 1988 walked 40 or more times, with three of them (Howard Johnson, Darryl Strawberry, Dave Magadan) drawing 60 or more bases on balls.

The 1999 squad had seven players with 40 or more walks.  Five of the seven reached base freely 60 times.  One year later, Benny Agbayani drew 54 walks.  That total would have led the 1964, 1967, 1968 and 2003 squads.  But in 2000, that was just the sixth-highest total on the team.

Finally, in 2006, David Wright was one of four Mets to make it to 40 walks.  His 66 bases on balls would have led most Mets teams.  But in 2006, that was only good for the bronze medal in the walk-a-lympics behind Carlos Delgado (74 walks - silver medal winner) and Carlos Beltran (95 walks - gold medal winner).

What do those six teams have in common besides having lots of players with lofty walk totals?  All six of them won 94 or more games and made it to the postseason.  And for those of you asking about the 1973 National League champion Mets - well, they also drew their share of walks, with four players reaching the 40-walk mark and three of those four surpassing 60.

Benny Agbayani showed a lot of life for someone who was a walker.

So let's recap.  Eleven teams in franchise history did not have more than three players draw 40 or more walks.  Ten of those teams finished with fewer than 75 victories and all eleven teams combined to finish 365 games under .500.

Meanwhile, the seven Mets teams to reach the postseason combined to produce a total of 35 players who walked 40 or more times.  Twenty-two of those 35 players drew 60-plus free passes.

Having many players with the capability and willingness to draw walks leads to more big innings.  If a team only has two or three players who can get on base regularly via the walk, that makes it more difficult to put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard because fewer players are drawing walks in the same inning.  That's not so hard to understand, is it?

When Sandy Alderson came on board following the 2010 season, he professed patience for his hitters.  In 2013, the Mets didn't listen to their professor, as most of the players adopted a "hack now, take pitches later" approach.  For anyone familiar with Mets history (or the chart ten paragraphs above), that approach is a recipe for disaster.  And that recipe has produced some of the worst seasons the team has ever seen.

The walking is dead at Citi Field.  And until more batters learn how to take ball four, nothing - especially pennants - will rise in Flushing.

I'm Keith Hernandez: Happy 60th Birthday To Me!

Hello, my friends.  I'm Keith Hernandez.  I've been told to call you SMFs, but I'm too sophisticated for that.  After all, I'm Keith Hernandez.  Today is the day I become a sexagenarian.  That's right kids.  I'm 60 years old.

In honor of my 60th birthday, the cast and crew at Studious Metsimus asked me to give you a brief recap of my life.  To be honest with you, I've never heard of Studious Metsimus, but the offer of unlimited Tootsie Pops was too much to refuse.

I was born in San Francisco on October 20, 1953.  Contrary to popular belief, I was not born with a mustache.  The picture you see below is one of my early pictures.  Yes, the ladies loved me even then.  Can you blame them?  I mean, look at me!  I'm Keith Hernandez!

Unfortunately, I failed in my petition to get my own name on my Little League jersey.

After my days as a Little League lothario were done, I was drafted in the 42nd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1971.  (Yes, I did go to high school between my Little League days and my high school graduation, but that was an awkward time for me, so I'd rather not talk about it.)  Clearly, the scouts back then were terrible judges of talent if they waited that long to draft me.  Unfortunately, I did nothing to earn that selection early on in my minor league career until I was promoted to Triple-A Tulsa in 1973, where I hit .333 and showed those other kids out there how a real baseball player was supposed to play the game.

In 1974, I hit .351 for Tulsa and was promoted to the big show on August 30 of that year against my hometown San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park.  I reached base three times in my first big league game, drawing two walks before collecting my first big league hit and RBI in the ninth inning off Giants' starter Mike Caldwell.  Unfortunately, we lost that game 8-2, but I let it be known to my teammates and the rest of the league that I was here to stay.

Once I settled in to the big leagues, I made my presence felt in the clubhouse and on the field.  The Cardinals just had to keep me around.  Therefore, they traded incumbent first baseman Joe Torre to the Mets after the 1974 season (more on first basemen being traded to the Mets a little later ... after a few more paragraphs and my first Tootsie Pop).  I was a Cardinal now, and St. Louis was about to see what Keith Hernandez was all about.

It was in St. Louis that I let my trademark mustache grow.  That is also where I earned my first Gold Glove in 1978 and my first MVP Award one year later.  (Okay, so it was a co-MVP award that I shared with Willie Stargell.  But in Strat-O-Matic, I kicked Willie's posterior.)  St. Louis was also the place where I claimed my first batting title (also in 1979), my first World Series championship (1982), my first line of ... umm ... baseball cards (yeah, that's the ticket) and my first comparison to adult film thespian Ron Jeremy.

If you ask me, I don't see the resemblance.   He looks more like Mike Piazza than he does me.  Also, my acting skills are far superior to his.  Was he on "Seinfeld"?  I don't think so.  That was me.  Why did they choose me over him?  Because I'm Keith Hernandez!

Ahem.  But I digress.  Let's get back to me, shall we?

Less than eight months after bringing home St. Louis' first World Series championship since 1967, I experienced one of the saddest days of my life, or so it seemed at the time.  On June 15, 1983, I was traded from the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals to the perennial cellar dweller New York Mets.  Shockingly, I wasn't even traded for future Hall of Famers.  I was shipped off to the Mets for Neil Allen, Rick Ownbey and a half-empty box of Tender Vittles.

It was already an insult to me that I was traded to the team known as "Pond Scum" and the "Stems" in St. Louis.  But come on!  Couldn't the Mets have offered some 9 Lives to the Cardinals instead of Tender Vittles?  After all, Morris the Cat was all the rage back then.  I mean, he was the O.G.  (Original Grumpy cat).   I would have accepted a trade for Allen, Ownbey and 9 Lives, not Allen, Ownbey and half-eaten Tender Vittles.  Sheesh!

I guess since the Cardinals already had the Clydesdale Horses, they didn't need another animal in the barn.

Anyway, the Mets didn't do too well after I got traded there.  We finished 68-94 in 1983, but showed some signs of life.  Old punching buddy Darryl Strawberry came up in May and future broadcast colleague R.J. (that's Ron Darling for you casual SMFs ... oh dang.  I said I wasn't going to say SMFs, didn't I?) was called up when rosters expanded in September.

Big Brother didn't come around in 1984 like he was supposed to, but we had our own little Animal Farm at Shea Stadium.  Top pitching prospect Dwight Gooden was called up in 1984 and Davey Johnson became the new Mets manager.  The team responded by going 90-72 and giving the Cubs all they could handle in the NL East.  As a result, I was no longer saddened by my trade to New York and only occasionally did I wonder if Whitey Herzog had finished what was left in the box of Tender Vittles.

After falling short again in 1985, we put it all together in 1986.  That was the year I won my second World Series championship and helped bring the first title to Flushing since the Miracle Mets did the same in 1969.  I also paired up with another Ronnie after bringing the trophy home in 1986. 

What?  No Gary?  Fine.  Then we'll just have to make do with Keith and Ron instead.

After my tenure with the Mets ended in 1989, I decided to give acting a try.  I wasn't going to tell you this, but the Tootsie Pop dangling in front of my face has convinced me to do so.

Did you know that "Seinfeld" was not my first attempt at acting?  Before TV immortality, I wanted to be a movie star.  My time with former actor Ronald Reagan in the White House showed me that if he could be President and a movie star, then I could be a baseball legend and a movie star as well, so it was off to Hollywood for me.

I first gave acting a shot when I auditioned for the movie "Major League".  However, it ended up being a bad dream and instead of playing for the Cleveland Indians in the film alongside noted actors Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Dennis Haysbert and Wesley Snipes, I ended up playing for the REAL Cleveland Indians.  It was not a good time to be Keith Hernandez.

There's no way I would've let Roger Dorn get away with not diving for ground balls.

I was injured for most of my time in Cleveland.  Because of that, I only played in 45 games for the Indians, batting .200 with one HR and eight RBI.  You know it wasn't a good season when my Studious Metsimus editor reminded me that I had to write out my home run and RBI totals in words (one and eight) instead of numbers (1 and 8).  Needless to say, I retired after the 1990 season and went back home...

...which didn't last long.  In 1992, I appeared on Episode #34 of "Seinfeld".  The special one-hour episode, named "The Boyfriend", featured me trying to date Elaine Benes, but not being able to get past first base because I used to smoke back then.  Another subplot involved me being accused of spitting a magic loogie on Kramer and Newman, when in fact it was my former Met teammate, Roger McDowell from the grassy knoll.

"That is one magic loogie."

My appearance on "Seinfeld" in 1992 and my subsequent cameo in the series finale in 1998 parlayed into several broadcasting appearances for the Mets.  When SNY debuted in 2006, I teamed up with former radio play-by-play man Gary Cohen and analyst/former teammate Ron Darling as the new broadcast team for the New York Mets.  My boothmates and I are also part of Gary, Keith & Ron, or GKR for short.  Our website has helped raise money for our favorite charities, such as the Cobble Hill Health Center (for Alzheimer's care) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (hoping to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes).  We are now focusing on helping victims of domestic abuse.  And for all you kids out there, there's nothing funny about domestic abuse.

Fans might know me for my baseball career.  Others might know me for my excellent acting on "Seinfeld".  Some of you might even know me for my Just For Men commercials with Walt "Clyde" Frazier.  Current Met fans know me for my unabashed analysis on SNY telecasts of Mets games. 

I'm all of those people. Although I'm a year older today and entering a new decade in my life, I'm still only 60 so I have plenty left to accomplish.  Maybe I'll mass produce my Mex Burgers or take on a side job as a Schick Hydro spokesperson now that my Just For Men contract has expired.  Who knows?  One thing is for sure.  No matter what job I have or what position I fill, I'll always be around.  Why wouldn't I be?  After all, I'm Keith Hernandez!

With or without a mustache, I'll always be Keith Hernandez!