Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Studious Metsimus Presents The Happy/Crappy Recap For 2013

It's that time of year again, Mets fans.  It's time to say goodbye to another year that didn't feature the Mets parading up the Canyon of Heroes.  But it's also time to say hello to a year that should bring us one step closer to that festive march up Broadway to City Hall.

The 2013 season had its share of memorable moments and not-so-memorable moments.  We got to see the first All-Star Game in Flushing in nearly half a century.  We also witnessed one of our own pitchers start the Midsummer Classic.  But in addition to the good, we also had to put up with Shaun Marcum becoming just the fourth pitcher in Mets history to finish a season with double-digit losses and fewer than two victories.  And of course, we saw opposing hitters get giddy whenever Aaron Laffey took the mound for the Mets.

As far as the hitters went, we saw various everyday players end up in Las Vegas.  We also saw Jordany Valdespin end the year with more selfies than base hits.  But we also got to say "Byrd is the Word" more times than we thought we would.  And if we blinked, we missed a stolen base champion wearing a Mets uniform not named Jose Reyes.

We were happy this year.  We were crappy as well.  Let's take a look at what made us happy in 2013.

The Mets traded away a Cy Young Award winner in R.A. Dickey, leaving what appeared to be a gaping hole in the rotation.  But that hole was filled quickly by Matt Harvey, who turned in a Cy Young-caliber season of his own.  Harvey took three no-hitters into the seventh inning, including a near-perfect game against the Chicago White Sox.  He also became the third Met pitcher to start an All-Star Game, doing it in front of his blue-and-orange-clad fans at Citi Field.

Another reason to be happy was the emergence of Daniel Murphy as a offensive threat.  Prior to 2013, Murphy was just known as a doubles machine.  But by hitting a career-high 13 homers and stealing 23 bases (after pilfering just 19 in his first four seasons), Murphy became a complete player on offense.  (Murphy also set new highs in runs scored and RBI.)  Oh, and he continued to rack up two-baggers, reaching 38 for the third time in his career.  Only David Wright has more seasons with that many doubles in a Mets uniform.

Zack Wheeler proved he could pitch in the major leagues.  Two seasons after coming to the Mets in a trade for Carlos Beltran, Wheeler made his debut on June 18, pitching six shutout innings against the eventual division champion Braves.  Although the Mets finished 14 games under .500, Wheeler posted a winning mark (something Harvey couldn't do in ten starts with the Mets in 2012) in his first go-round in the majors.  After posting a 5.06 ERA in his first three starts, Wheeler rebounded to post a 2.85 ERA in his next 13 starts.  The Mets won nine of those 13 starts.  Wheeler will now seek to have a Harvey-like season in a Harvey-less 2014.

There was very little fanfare when Eric Young, Jr. was acquired by the Mets in June for Collin McHugh.  But Young provided a much-needed spark at the top of the order after his acquisition.  Young displayed his versatility by playing all three outfield positions and second base for the Mets.  No matter where he played, Young ran.  And ran.  And ran some more.  The 28-year-old stole a league-leading 46 bases in 2013, with 38 of those steals coming in just 91 games with the Mets.  Meanwhile, Jose Reyes stole just 15 bases in 93 games with the Blue Jays.

Finally, Bobby Parnell became the first homegrown closer to record more than 20 saves for the Mets since Randy Myers in 1989.  Before a neck injury ended Parnell's season, the fireballer posted a superb 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and recorded 22 saves.  Opposing hitters posted a Mendozian .211/.260/.294 slash line against Parnell.  Because of Parnell's success, they felt no need to rush their $6 million man, Frank Francisco, back from his injury.

It seems like there were a lot of happy times in 2013.  But like every other year that didn't end with a victory parade, there were also plenty of crappy moments.  Time to break out the orange and blue toilet paper.

Someone in the front office must have used a monkey's paw to wish for success for Matt Harvey.  How else can you explain the Tommy John surgery that will wipe out Harvey's 2014 campaign after his tremendous 2013 season?

Isaac Benjamin Davis had a season that wasn't even worth a single Benjamin.  The Mets gave Davis $3,125,000 in 2013 to have a Jason Bay-like season.  And we're not talking about a Jason Bay in Boston type season.  Heck, the Mets would have taken a Jason Bay in Seattle type season from Davis.  After all, Bay hit two more homers for the Mariners in 2013 than Davis hit for the Mets, even though Davis had 111 more at-bats than Bay did.

Lucas Duda does two things well.  He walks and he strikes out.  Although Duda only played 100 games with the Mets in 2013, his 55 walks were just two off the team lead.  But Duda also struck out 102 times in just 318 at-bats.  David Wright, who is the team's all-time single-season leader in strikeouts, fanned 23 fewer times than Duda even though he had 112 more at-bats than the left fielder/first baseman.

The Mets pitching staff finished the year with a respectable 3.77 ERA.  (It has been over 20 years since the Mets finished a season with a team ERA under 3.70.)  But it could have been much lower if Shaun Marcum had never taken the mound.  Marcum, who had an excellent 57-36 record and 3.74 career ERA before joining the Mets, finished the year with a career-worst (and that's the understatement of the year) 1-10 mark and 5.29 ERA.  Marcum, along with Aaron Laffey, Collin McHugh, Jenrry Mejia, Aaron Harang and Jeremy Hefner (who was by far the best pitcher of the six) combined to make 47 starts for the Mets in 2013.  They won six of them, or one less than Zack Wheeler won in 30 fewer starts.

Ruben Tejada.  He had a lower batting average (.202) and on-base percentage (.259) than Jonathon Niese (.205 and .279, respectively).  Enough said.

And that's it for this year.  We hope you enjoyed all the stats and silliness which Studious Metsimus has been happy to provide for almost five years now.  Without you, we'd only have three-and-a-half readers, so your loyalty is very much appreciated.

As always, we'd also like to thank our fellow bloggers/authors for inspiring us and for giving Mets fans other outlets to get news and opinions about their favorite team.  Sites such as Mets Merized Online, Metstradamus, Remembering Shea, The Daily Stache, The Real Dirty Mets, The Apple, Mets360, On The Black, MetsBlog, Rising Apple, Kranepool Society, Metszilla, Mets Police and MetSilverman are among the best in the Mets blogosphere.  There are also two other sites that deserve their own special mention.

Studious Metsimus, and mostly every other site dedicated to the Mets, should all doff their caps to Greg Prince and Jason Fry, who are the co-authors, co-conspirators and co-ol cats behind Faith and Fear in Flushing.  If you've never read FAFIF, then you probably just never learned how to read.

The other site is one that is very special to me, and I'm not just saying that because I'm married to its author.  Taryn Cooper (or "The Coop", if you're into that brevity thing) is the mastermind behind A Gal For All Seasons.  She's not just the best female blogger/podcaster in the Mets bloggerati, but if you rub her the wrong way on anything Mets-related, she won't be afraid to rip you a new ... well ... let's just say it's another word for Cole Hamels, and you get the picture.

From Ed Leyro, Taryn Cooper and the critters of Studious Metsimus (Joey Beartran, Iggy Beartran and Ballapeño), we'd like to wish you all the best for a happy and healthy 2014.  And remember, Mets fans, if you see an elderly man waiting for the light to change to cross the street, help him across.  You may just get an autograph from Scott Atchison as a reward.  See you next year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Much Ado About Three-Homer Games At Home

If you've watched as many Mets games as I have over the years, then you've undoubtedly heard Gary Cohen make this statement whenever a Met has come up to the plate after hitting two home runs in a home game:

"You know, Keith, no Met has ever hit three home runs in a game at home."

It's true.  Nine Mets players have hit three home runs in a game.  But Jim Hickman, Dave Kingman, Claudell Washington, Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter, Edgardo Alfonzo, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Ike Davis all accomplished their prodigious displays of power on the road.

So naturally I started wondering if the Mets were the only team in baseball to not have a single player hit three home runs in a home game.  My research yielded an interesting answer.

Below is a list of the last players to pull off home run hat tricks for each major league team while wearing their home whites.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Jason Kubel
Atlanta Braves
Mark Teixeira
Baltimore Orioles
Chris Davis
Boston Red Sox
Kevin Millar
Chicago Cubs
Dioner Navarro
Chicago White Sox
Paul Konerko
Cincinnati Reds
Joey Votto
Cleveland Indians
Jim Thome
Colorado Rockies
Carlos Gonzalez
Detroit Tigers
Miguel Cabrera
Florida/Miami Marlins
Cody Ross
Houston Astros
Morgan Ensberg
Kansas City Royals
Danny Tartabull
Los Angeles Angels
Torii Hunter
Los Angeles Dodgers
Juan Uribe
Milwaukee Brewers
Prince Fielder
New York Yankees
Curtis Granderson
Oakland Athletics
Miguel Tejada
Philadelphia Phillies
Jayson Werth
Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen
San Diego Padres
Phil Nevin
San Francisco Giants
Barry Bonds
Seattle Mariners
Edgar Martinez
St. Louis Cardinals
Albert Pujols
Tampa Bay Rays
Evan Longoria
Texas Rangers
Adrian Beltre
Toronto Blue Jays
John Buck
Washington Nationals
Adam Dunn

Editor's note:  Barry Bonds was the last member of the San Francisco Giants to hit three home runs in a regular season home game, but the Giants' Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, which was played in San Francisco.

Did you notice any teams missing in the chart above?  There were two - the Minnesota Twins and the New York Mets.  But prior to 1961, the Minnesota Twins were playing ball as the Washington Senators.  And on August 31, 1956, Jim Lemon became the first and only member of the original Washington Senators to hit three home runs in a home game when he clobbered his triumvirate of taters at Griffith Stadium against the New York Yankees.

With the Senators/Twins franchise having a member in the "three homers at home" club, that leaves the Mets as the only team in the majors without a player who has hit three round-trippers in a single game in his home ballpark.

It's no wonder Gary Cohen continues to mention that fact ad nauseum in the same way he (and every other Mets broadcaster) used to discuss no-hitters before the events of June 1, 2012.


In honor of the topic at hand, here are some other bits of "three-homer at home" minutiae for you.

  • Two players have hit three homers in a home game on four separate occasions.  Both accomplished their feats for the Chicago Cubs.  Ernie Banks had his three-homer games at Wrigley Field in 1955, 1957, 1962 and 1963, while Sammy Sosa slammed his way to history at the Friendly Confines in 1996, 1998 and twice in 2001.
  • The Brooklyn Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers are the only teams to have three players accomplish the "three-homer at home" feat in the same season.  In 1950, fans at Ebbets Field saw Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and Tommy Brown go deep three times in one game.  Similarly, Miller Park season-ticket holders in 2011 witnessed Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Prince Fielder circle the bases thrice in the same game.
  • Although no Mets player has ever hit three homers in a game at home, four opposing players had three-homer games against the Mets in New York.  St. Louis' Stan Musial was the first to do so, smacking three bombs at the Polo Grounds on July 8, 1962.  Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies became the first player to hit three home runs in a game at Shea Stadium on September 29, 1968.  A decade later, Cincinnati's Pete Rose became the most unlikely candidate to have a three-homer game at Shea when he circled the bases three times on April 29, 1978.  It was the only time Rose hit three home runs in a single game in his 24-year career.  Finally, former Met Dave Kingman launched three long balls at Shea Stadium as a member of the Chicago Cubs on July 28, 1979.
  • No Mets player has ever hit three homers in a home game.  But seven players have hit three blasts in the same game against the Mets in their home ballparks, with one of the seven doing it twice.  Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants victimized the Mets at Candlestick Park in 1963 and 1966.  The next three times a player hit a trio of home runs in a home game against the Mets, those players were wearing Cubs uniforms.  Adolfo Phillips (1967), Billy Williams (1968) and Tuffy Rhodes (1994) gave a total of nine souvenirs to the Bleacher Bums at Wrigley Field, courtesy of various Mets pitchers.  The other three players to hit three homers in a home game against the Mets were Detroit's Bobby Higginson (1997 at Tiger Stadium), Arizona's Luis Gonzalez (2004 at Bank One Ballpark) and Florida's Cody Ross (2006 at Dolphins Stadium).  Ross' game remains the only time in Marlins history in which one of their own hit three home runs in a game at home.

Mets fans have always hated Cody Ross.  After reading this piece, they'll hate him even more.

Since the Mets came into existence in 1962, there have been 175 instances in which a player hit three home runs in the same regular season game at his home ballpark.  In all 175 instances, the player who circled the bases was wearing a uniform that did not say "Mets" on it.

Curtis Granderson was the last Yankee to accomplish the feat at Yankee Stadium.  Now Granderson is a member of the Mets.  Will he become the first Met to hit three homers in a game at home?  Hey, if the Mets could finally pitch a no-hitter, then anything is possible, right?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Will Jordany Valdespin Be a Met-Killer as a Marlin?

"M" is for malcontent.

Former Met clubhouse pariah Jordany Valdespin will bring his off-the-field sideshow to South Beach in 2014, as he signed a minor league deal with the Miami Marlins on Friday.

In two seasons with the Mets, Valdespin had as many big moments as a pinch-hitter as he took selfies of himself.  He also served as a human Whac-A-Mole for John Buck after hitting a walk-off grand slam to defeat the Dodgers this past April.  But he never got along with Terry Collins and was divisive in the clubhouse, complaining about his lack of playing time even as his batting average dipped below .200.

You can be sure that if Valdespin makes the Marlins team out of spring training, he will be gunning for the Mets whenever the two teams meet.  If he does, he will join a long list of former Mets who tormented the team as Marlins.  Here are five such players who were thorns in the Mets' collective sides after they left Flushing.

Chuck Carr

The dominant Mets teams of the mid-to-late '80s had plenty of speed in their lineup.  Players like Lenny Dykstra and Wally Backman were the team's table setters at the top of the lineup, striking fear in the minds of opposing pitchers whenever they reached base.  By 1990, both players were gone, and the Mets were more of a station-to-station team.  But they still had one player who could zip his way around the bases.  It's too bad they gave up on him before he got a chance to show the team what he could do.

Between 1989 and 1991, Chuck Carr stole 128 bases for the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates of the Mets' farm system.  But his blazing speed didn't get him much playing time at the major league level, as Carr could only amass 13 at-bats and two stolen bases for the Mets in 1990 and 1991.  In December 1991, the Mets traded Carr to the St. Louis Cardinals for a minor leaguer and one year later, Carr was taken in the expansion draft by the Florida Marlins.  And for the next three seasons, Carr showed the Mets what they were missing.

In 1993, Carr led the league with 58 stolen bases and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting behind future Mets Mike Piazza, Greg McMichael and Jeff Conine.  Carr was headed for another great season in 1994, stealing 32 bases in 40 attempts before the players' strike ended his quest for back-to-back 50-steal seasons.  How much did the Mets miss Carr's speed that year?  Carr's 32 steals in 1994 were seven more than the amount of thefts registered by the entire Mets team.  (They were successful in 25 of their 51 stolen base attempts in 1994.)  Carr stole 115 bases in three years with the Marlins.  The Mets didn't record another 100-steal season until 1999, the year in which they ended an 11-year playoff drought.

Bobby Bonilla

Everyone's favorite self-proclaimed Bronx tour guide really socked it to the Mets after completing three-and-a-half tumultuous seasons in New York.  As a member of the division rival Pittsburgh Pirates, Bobby Bonilla recorded three 100-RBI campaigns during a four-season stretch from 1988 to 1991.  But after signing a lucrative free agent contract (that he's still collecting) to play in front of his hometown fans, Bonilla was a pretty big disappointment with the Mets.  In his final season in the Steel City, Bonilla hit .302 and led the league with 44 doubles.  In his first year with the Mets, Bonilla's average dropped to .249 and he produced just 42 extra-base hits (23 doubles, 19 homers).

Bonilla made the All-Star team twice as a Met, but never became a star in the hearts of Mets fans.  When he got off to a terrific start in 1995 (.325, 25 doubles, 18 HR, 53 RBI in 80 games), the Mets jumped at the opportunity to trade him, shipping him off to the Baltimore Orioles.  Two years later, he became a Florida Marlin and did with them what he couldn't do in New York.

After never hitting more than 25 doubles or driving in more than 87 runs in any of his years as a Met, Bonilla rapped 39 two-baggers and had 96 RBI as a member of the Marlins in 1997.  He also hit 17 homers and led the team with a .297 batting average.  But what most Mets fans remember is that he won a World Series championship with the Marlins in 1997 and was a key contributor to their success in the postseason, hitting two homers and driving in ten runs, which was two homers and ten RBI more than he had for the Mets in five playoff games when the team re-acquired him in 1999.  Even the strongest earplugs couldn't drown out the boos he heard that year.

Preston Wilson

Prior to the start of the 1998 season, Preston Wilson was primarily known for being the stepson of Mets legend Mookie Wilson.  When he was later traded to the Florida Marlins in May of that season, he was then known for being the key piece that netted the Mets a perennial All-Star and one of the most powerful hitters in the game in catcher Mike Piazza.  But five years after the trade, Wilson was just known for being one of the most complete offensive talents in baseball.

After a short eight-game career with the Mets, Preston Wilson was dealt to the Marlins with two other players for Mike Piazza.  Piazza went on to become one of the best hitters in team history, but Preston Wilson had himself a fine career as well.  In 1999 - his first full season in the major leagues - Wilson hit .280 with 26 homers and 71 RBI, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year vote.  Wilson followed that up with a tremendous 2000 campaign, a year in which he compiled 35 doubles, 31 homers, 121 RBI and 36 stolen bases.  If you recall, when the 2000 Mets lost the World Series to the Yankees, one of their flaws was a lack of power and speed in the outfield.  No Met outfielder had more than 18 homers, 69 RBI, or stole more than eight bases.  Wilson had 19 HR, 67 RBI and 15 stolen bases by the All-Star break that year.

Wilson continued to flourish after the 2000 campaign, recording two more 20 HR/20 SB seasons in his final two years with Florida before moving on to Colorado and putting up 36 homers and a league-leading 141 RBI with the Rockies in 2003.  And although most Mets fans might remember Yadier Molina's go-ahead two-run homer in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS as the crushing blow of the series, it was Preston Wilson's go-ahead RBI double off Tom Glavine in the pivotal fifth game that sent the Mets back to Shea Stadium needing to win the final two games to advance to the World Series.  They didn't.  And Mookie's stepson got his ring, something Mike Piazza never got as a Met.

Armando Benitez

Unlike Bobby Bonilla and Preston Wilson before him, Armando Benitez never got the chance to earn a World Series ring after he left the Mets.  But he did get to exact his own personal revenge against the Mets when he became a member of the Florida Marlins in 2004, and that might have tasted sweeter to him than the best bottle of championship-clinching champagne.

Benitez actually had a great career for the Mets, as long as the stakes weren't high.  The flame-throwing right-hander saved 160 games as a Met and his 2.70 ERA is the second-lowest earned run average posted by a Met with at least 300 innings pitched behind only Tom Seaver.  But Benitez wilted under the pressure, allowing crushing hits in key September games and various postseason affairs.  By 2003, the Mets were done with Benitez, trading him to the crosstown Yankees.  One year later, Benitez became a Florida Marlin, and he made sure the Mets remembered who they parted with every chance he got.

Florida was just mediocre in 2004 after winning the World Series the previous year, going 83-79 in defense of their title.  But Benitez was one of the main reasons why they didn't finish with a losing mark, recording a league-leading 47 saves for the Marlins - a number that still stands as the team record.  In addition to his career-best 1.29 ERA, Benitez really stuck it to the Mets, posting a 0.68 ERA against his former team and recording a whopping 11 saves versus New York.  The boos may have had a negative effect on Benitez when he was a Met.  But the boos he heard as a Marlin in 2004 did nothing but make him smile.

Jose Reyes

As much as Armando Benitez was vilified as a Met, Jose Reyes was beloved.  Reyes played nine seasons in New York, leading the team in smiles and excitement, as well as triples and stolen bases.  But when Reyes approached free agency for the first time in 2011, the team decided to go the cheap route, allowing him to sign with their division rivals in Miami.  The Mets didn't offer him a $106 million box of chocolates, and have been left trying to pick up the crumbs ever since.

Since Reyes' departure two years ago, the Mets have used an assortment of players to fill in the void left by the dynamic shortstop.  Ruben Tejada, Ronny Cedeño, Omar Quintanilla and Justin Turner have all played at least 20 games at the position over the last two seasons, as the Mets have scrambled (and failed) to replace what was once a sure thing in terms of offensive production.

None of those four players had power or speed.  Meanwhile, Jose Reyes picked up his 100th career triple and 400th steal as a Marlin in 2012, while smacking his 100th lifetime home run as a member of the Blue Jays in 2013.  The quartet of Tejada, Cedeño, Quintanilla and Turner have combined for 28 triples, 58 homers and 65 stolen bases in a total of 26 big league seasons.  Reyes has made the Mets remember what they lost every time he's faced them, going 8-for-8 in stolen bases, while hitting two triples and a homer in just 18 games against his former squad.

Jordany Valdespin will need talent, determination and plenty of balls to join the five players listed above.

There have been a total of 29 players who played for the Mets before becoming members of the Marlins.  Many of them (such as the five listed above) have gone on to become better players, win championships, or just became thorns in the Mets sides for many years.

After signing a minor league deal with Miami, Jordany Valdespin is looking to become the 30th former Met to go on to play for the Marlins.  If he had his way, he'd try to become the latest Marlin to sock it to his former employers in Flushing, just like Chuck Carr, Bobby Bonilla, Preston Wilson, Armando Benitez and Jose Reyes did.  It's up to the men currently wearing the orange and blue to make sure he doesn't.

Monday, December 16, 2013

An Unexpected Interview With Daniel Murphy and Zack Wheeler

Earlier today, my Better Half (and Gal For All Seasons scribe) decided to take a walk to our neighborhood Dunkin Donuts for her morning coffee.  But she got so much more than just a quick caffeine fix. 

No, she didn't get a Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich, nor did she pick off anything plugged by Eli Manning (who knows a thing or five about getting picked off).  What she got was something completely unexpected.  It was so unexpected that I'll allow her to tell the story in her own words.  Take it away, TBH!

I would normally get my coffee fix, but I had to stop at DMV to renew my license - ah, the joys of getting a year older, and to make my Monday that much more masochistic.  Imagine my surprise when I see that Zack Wheeler is tweeting that he and Daniel Murphy are at the Dunkin Donuts, signing autographs and serving up coffee! 

Since this city has one of the most efficient DMVs I've ever been to, I got my replacement license, dropped it in my bag and rushed to eight blocks to the store.

I expected there to be a few dozen people there -- there was Murphy, Wheeler, Jay Horwitz, another Mets media person (taking videos and photos) and a Dunkin rep.  I was out of breath, and I say, "Hi! I know you, Daniel Murphy!" (Hey, I never said I wasn't a dork).  Then Zack Wheeler hands me a ticket voucher for April 2014, to which I say, "Oh my goodness!  I know you too!"

My wife had an interesting coffee break this morning.

We got some pictures, exchanged some pleasantries, and a few other fans came in. The Dunkin rep told me I could feel free to talk to the players, ask them questions, take more pictures.  This was WAY different than any other Mets event I've attended, where they guard the players.

So I asked Wheeler about his feelings on Bartolo Colon.  He said he was excited, that Colon had a tremendous year, should take some pressure off the rotation.  He went to take another picture, and I approached Daniel Murphy with a question on his aggressiveness on the base paths in 2013.  (For those keeping track at home, he stole 23 bases, and had the highest stolen base percentage of anyone in the National League).

I led in with Curtis Granderson (who is a stolen base guy), and asked him about his own SBs.  I was pleased to see Murphy is a GREAT interview, gives well thought out responses.  He credited Tom Goodwin, Mets first base coach, with the aggressive running on the team.  He said he almost scrapped his stolen base ethic because he was about one in his first four attempts, and he was wasting outs for hitters behind him, like D-Wright.  The stolen base philosophy is that if you get on base, the hitters behind you want to drive you home, and scoring from second on a single is what they aim to do.  

One thing I picked up on while talking to Murphy is that this guy LOVES baseball.  I mean, he just LOVES TO PLAY BASEBALL.  I can't express it enough.  If I wasn't already with 28, I am now.  

Also some other funny round ups: Murphy and Wheeler take a PR photo for Dunkin, and their rep says to hold the cup a certain way.  Murphy says, "Oh this is why I went to college: to learn how to hold a coffee cup!"

I guess you had to be there.  But it was great.  I just wanted to bring Murphy to my Irish grandmother and have her cook him corned beef and cabbage.  And I had a southern grandmother, I'm sure she'd make her famous chili for Wheeler, southern boy that he is. 

Well, there you have it - our unexpected interview with Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy and starting pitcher Zack Wheeler.  And by "our", I mean my Better Half's unexpected interview with the two players.  Unfortunately, I was at work eating a banana for breakfast instead of getting my mitts on one of those 10,000 calorie Glazed Donut sandwiches.

Listening to her story about Murphy and Wheeler made me miss baseball even more than I already had.  But it also made me look forward to seeing two really special players take the field for our beloved Mets in 2014.  I can't wait until it's time for them to play ball.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Joey's Letter To Sandy Claus (2013)

Dear Sandy Claus,

You're probably quite busy trying to figure out who's been naughty and who's been nice this past year (I've been the latter in case you hadn't gotten up to me yet), but I still hope you have time to read this letter.  I know you've been jetting back and forth recently after attending the Winter Meetings with all your elves, so maybe you can squeeze my letter in while you're in the air.

Anyway, in my letter to you last year, I didn't ask for much - just a new bullpen, a set outfield, a return engagement by Scott Hairston, a healthy Johan Santana, a dependable fifth starter, and patience with the kids in the minor leagues.

You were able to provide me with the new bullpen.  The new pitchers were definitely an improvement over what we had in 2012, but then again, Charlie Brown would also have been an improvement.  We didn't really have a set outfield at the beginning of the season, but by late June, the outfield of Eric Young, Jr., Juan Lagares and Marlon Byrd were far more productive than anyone could have expected, so you did a good job there.  You also didn't call up Zack Wheeler until mid-June, so your patience with him was appreciated.  Another fine job on that one.

But you weren't perfect. 

Scott Hairston didn't come back.  I know he had a subpar season and bounced around from team to team, but we were best buds.  You could have just used him as a power bat facing lefties off the bench.  Or you could have just signed him so he could play catch with me.  I miss him.

Johan Santana made as many starts for the Mets as I did in 2013.  Because of his inability to stay healthy, we had to endure Aaron Laffey at the start of the season.  I didn't find anything amusing about that.

And about that fifth starter, I have two words for you.  Shaun Marcum.  You should have left him with the Ghost of Christmas Past.

But this letter isn't about complaining.  After all, I don't want to be moved to the naughty list.  This letter is about what I want for Christmas this year.  So why don't I get to that letter before the milk I left for you near the tree gets warm.  There were cookies there as well, but I may have already had one or all of them.  Here goes!

Don't go chasing waterfalls.  Please stick to the smart free-agent signings you're used to.

I would like the Daniel Murphy trade rumors to stop.  He had a wonderful year in 2013, but not so great that he would bring back an elite prospect in a trade.  Murphy had one of the best offensive seasons by a Mets second baseman not named Edgardo Alfonzo this past year, and he became an adequate defensive player as well.  With continued faith in him, there's no reason to think he can't become one of the better players at the position in the league.  I'm with 28 and you should be with him, too.

I'm very happy with the new players that arrived before the holidays.  Chris Young and Curtis Granderson will provide good defense, outstanding power and some much-needed speed on the bases.  But the one player I'd like to discuss is Bartolo Colon.  Please put up a wall in the bullpen area so that when he's warming up before a start, he doesn't smell the food from Shake Shack, Blue Smoke and El Verano Taquería.  I'd like to be able to get food from these places without worrying that they'll all be sold out of food before the first inning.

Staying on the topic of Bartolo the Hutt, I think he should serve as Santa Claus at this year's holiday party.  It would save the team money by not having to add some extra cushioning to his costume since Colon already has plenty of his own.  That savings could turn into another arm in the bullpen or could contribute to the Bring a Quality Shortstop to Citi Field fund.

I would like to donate a dollar to that aforementioned fund, which I have enclosed in my envelope.  Please do not give that to Papa Smirk or Little Jeffy Wilpon.  I know they've been among the needy for the past five years since the Bernie made off with their money.  But Mets fans have been needy, too.  We need a shortstop.  And we need one now.  That dollar could be the one that brings Stephen Drew to Flushing.  Or at the very least, it could be used to buy Ruben Tejada an alarm clock so he can get to Spring Training on time in 2014.

Finally, I'd like Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero to be the real deal, just like Matt Harvey was in 2013 and Zack Wheeler appears to be.  The Mets haven't had a dominant young pitching staff since the mid-to-late '80s when Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez and others were taking the ball every fifth day.  Those pitchers contributed to two division titles and a World Series championship.  For now, I'd be satisfied if the new blood contributes to a winning season.  We haven't had one of those since the team moved to Citi Field five seasons ago.  We can work on division titles and championships soon enough.  Just give me a winning season in 2014.  And give it to me with the hope of seeing many more in 2015 and beyond.

If I knew I was going to be writing this letter in a snowstorm, I would have taken it to the North Pole myself.

Well, Sandy Claus.  That's all for this year's list.  Did you get all that?  And please do not get it mixed up with Brian Cashman's letter or Ruben Amaro's missive.  I'd like what I asked for this year, not what they asked for, which is probably a couple of overpaid, 30-something, way-too-many-years-on-their-contract players.  (They're so predictable when it comes to their letters.)

Just as a reminder in case there is a mix-up with their letters, I'd like Daniel Murphy to stay and play.  I'd like Bartolo Colon to pitch well and lose his sense of smell.  I also want Bartolo to go ho-ho-ho.  I'd appreciate it if my hundred cents are well spent.  And I want our young hurlers to take this team further.

Thanks so much for reading my letter, Sandy Claus!  I was good all year, so I hope I get what I want under my tree.  Say hi to your little helpers for me.

Love and best wishes for the 2014 season,
Joey Beartran

P.S. Just in case you come across the guy holding me in the photo below, give him whatever he wants for Christmas, too.  He's a good person and deserves to get everything on his wish list as well, regardless of how much it costs.  Thanks!