Friday, April 8, 2016

Home Opening Day

This is another re-post, this one from 2011. I always like to celebrate Opening Day. Today, I'm heading to it for the 4th time (twice for real Opening Day - both in March; twice now for the home opener - both times after winning the division). This, as always, includes Bob Murphy sound bytes.
It's Opening Day at Shea. I can just hear Howie "Dr. Metropolitan" Rose saying that as he walks into Citi Field on Thursday morning (if he's not camping out there overnight).

I've been to Opening Day in person only twice in 25 years. I was at Shea for the home opener in 2007 when the Mets were coming off of an NL East championship and all was right in Mets-land. And I was at a real Opening Day in 2003 (Bob Murphy's last and Art Howe's first). Tom Glavine started for the Mets and got trounced by the Cubbies, 15-2 (though Glavine wasn't the worst that the Mets threw out there).


I remember cutting class during my sophomore year in college to watch Opening Day 1998 (like 2003, also a March 31 opener, and like 2007, against the Phillies) when Bobby Jones started for the Mets.

Here's how the game started.


And this is how that game ended.



And who can forget Opening Day from 25 years ago, when the Mets were called out one-by-one and received really big rings
<insert video here> - ok, you can actually see the ring ceremony on the 1986 World Series DVD box set bonus disc.


Or Opening Day 1985 when Gary Carter made an impression on New York (or to be more literal, he made an impression on a baseball that went over the LF bleachers in the bottom of the 10th inning) and Opening Day 1983 when George Thomas Seaver came home.


And of course, the first Opening Day for the New York Mets, 50 years ago...



Happy Opening Day!


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Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Pennant Winning Call

Just getting my mindset ready for Opening Day, I present a breakdown of Howie Rose's (first) Pennant Winning call. I should note that Bob Murphy only got one of these and Gary Cohen only got one of these. I think Lindsey Nelson was lucky to have two. You never know how things will turn out, and Howie might only ever get this one.

Here it is, courtesy of wor710.com:

You can read WOR's recap of Game 4 against the Cubs and hear other highlights of the game here:

Let's break it down line-by-line. I tried to capture the inflections in Howie Rose's call with larger text and bold/bolder text.

Here's the payoff pitch from Familia...to Fowler. On the way.
So far, as basic radio call of a pitch. You can sense something in his voice that this is bigger than a 3rd inning pitch.

And it's...in there, strike three called!
The pause at the start of this line is because the umpire made a delayed call, thus not allowing Howie to say something right away. His voice rose quite a bit. But it's the nuts and bolts of a good radio call, to say what happened with the pitch.

The Mets win the Pennant!!!
Okay, this is getting serious. These are words that Howie Rose has probably dreamed of saying ever since he went into broadcasting. Punctuate the word "Pennant".

The New York Mets have won the National League Pennant!!
Clarify the situation. Probably a good idea. Just in case what he said before wasn't clear. Or just say it again because he can. And again, punctuate the word "Pennant".

Put it in the books!
His trademark phrase after a Mets victory. The moment was so big, it was the third thing he said after calling the final pitch. I wasn't sure if his inflection of this line was because he almost forgot to say it or he was questioning if what he's just seen and described was real.

The New York Mets, for the first time in 15 years, are champions of the National League. And they are mobbing each other out behind the pitchers mound. They have completed a 4 game sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. They win Game 4 eight-to-three. And now the disappointed crowd here at Wrigley Field begin to salute their Cubs, whose long streak, 70 years without a Pennant, and back to 1908 without a World Series, will continue. But all of the focus now on the New York Mets. They're headed to the World Series, against either Toronto or Kansas City, we won't know until at least Friday, and right now, Josh, I guarantee you, New York Mets don't care.
This is all good radio. There are no pictures and no graphics to show the final score, the series standings, the celebrations of both the Mets players and Cubs fans, or the upcoming schedule. So Howie needs to describe it all. Josh, who he refers to at the end, is his broadcast partner Josh Lewin.


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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Piazza

I got into the Mets in the mid-80s. 1987 was my first full season. That group represented my youngest youth. Turn the page into the 1990s and both the Mets and I were finding our respective ways. They sucked, and I was in those awkward early pre-teen and teenage years. There was a player strike just weeks before I left for boarding school. Sounds about right.

There was a resurgence in the team when I was back in the neighborhood and in college. Seems right, doesn't it? They were having fun on the field and I was having fun in college. Games were also more accessible to me, both in person and on TV. 8 games at Shea in 1999 for me was a record back then. It might not seem like much to some of you now (and seems low to me today). They swooned as I left college and entered the real world. Then as I was establishing myself as an adult on my own, they bounced back too. These were the Mike Piazza years.

He's a bridge into the modern era for me. I started vacationing in Port St. Lucie every March in 2004, and Piazza was still with the team. That autograph before my last game that trip was the highlight. I started going to games about once a month, on and off with ticket plans, in 2006. He wasn't there for the payoff though, marking a new era in Mets history. And a new era for me, growing with the Mets again.

In 2016, he's a Hall of Famer.


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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Winning In Spite Of Things

A real baseball historian will need to tell me if other pennant winning teams (there's 2 of these per season) are able to win in spite of the things that the Mets won the 2015 NL Pennant in spite of.

They won the Pennant in spite of their owners. Their owners who mismanaged their money outside of giving money to an enormous ponzi scheme, have enormous debt against the team, the ballpark, and their team-majority-owned television network. Debt so big that they need to spend a MLB payroll paying off that debt each season before they can spend a dime on payroll. In spite of their owners who don't get that the only way for the team to be successful (or maybe I'm now wrong) is for them to sell and move aside.

They won the Pennant in spite of their manager. Their manager, who despite being in consideration for Manager of the Year, has made some truly bonehead decisions. To be fair, he's also rolled the dice and had critical decisions pay off. But I wouldn't trust him to manage a bullpen and an OF platoon to win a championship. Playing the players who got you there doesn't work when they're not playing well at all. Or sometimes it does. He flips a coin.

They won the Pennant in spite of having no consistent offense. Offense that was so dead at times that they got no-hit twice (including once in the same calendar month as most of the postseason), and there were many other times during the season, including Game 2 of the World Series, where it almost happened again. I get that a good pitcher, or even an average one, can be dominant in any single game, but the No Hitter is still such a rare feat because even a dominant pitcher will give up one or two hits per game. There were so many games, and even stretches of games, where so much of the lineup had an 0-fer. Most of these players are the players that a team would upgrade to make themselves a Pennant winning or Championship winning team.

They won the Pennant in spite of having no bench. Really, no bench or no backup plans. So much so that trading for 2 non-starters and calling up a kid from AA a week before the trade deadline were considered to be "a catalyst" for this club because it meant they wouldn't have to ride with never-should-be players filling in on a makeshift infield and outfield. There was no protection, players moving around, and just no coverage for injured players for almost 4 months of the season. Looking at what the team looks like on the first of November, I'm not sure if it's much better than it was in late July, or if it just seems that way.

They won the Pennant in spite of having a highly inconsistent bullpen. Outside of the closer (who, remember, was never supposed to be the closer and probably should be regular season team MVP for what he did), was there anyone the Mets could rely on? There were some injuries early in the season that set the path, along with the Mejia suspension, but look at who they're riding now and remember that these guys weren't Mets for most of the season. And one of them, the 8th inning guy (who remember got skipped over in favor of Familia so many times recently), was one of the goats in the game that turned the World Series. I don't even remember who was in the bullpen (which I think was considered a strength early on, but that's such a long time ago) for most of the season besides Familia.

They won the Pennant in spite of big injuries. I don't mean Murphy being on the DL for a couple of weeks. A young, highly regarded starting pitcher, a returning (and maybe even proven) lefty reliever both went down in the same week in Spring Training for Tommy John surgery. The veteran leader in the lineup and on the field was out for most of the season for, basically, a new chronic and debilitating ailment. Other injuries along the way, including an early-season ultimately season-ending injury for a new lefty reliever, arm issues for the former Gold Glove CF, the catcher going down twice during the season. I get that every team has injuries, and that usually makes every Pennant winner look even more impressive because there are a lot of teams who faced similar (in at least some cases) issues that didn't win the Pennant.

It's truly amazin' that they won the NL Pennant in spite of all of these things. This was a team that had 3 hot stretches - a homestand in April, the month of August, and about 2 weeks of October, where it might be fair to say they had good matchups in most of theses games - and basically played like a .500 team for the rest of the season. They had so many problems that they had no business winning 90 games, the division, and the NL Pennant. But somehow, they did. They have the starting pitching to give them 100 wins. Maybe even more. And knowing all of their faults, I predicted 81 wins based on what I saw in Spring Training (and that was with Wheeler and Edgin as factors).


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A Tough Series

Right now I'm a bit numb. A few minutes ago, the Mets blew an 8th inning lead in a game they had lead throughout that would have tied the World Series at 2 games apiece. Now, they're down 3-1 in the series and facing elimination at home in Game 5 tomorrow night. I'm going tomorrow night.

The Mets also blew Game 1 in the 9th inning and again in the 14th inning. They had that one in their grasp. Familia gave up a tying HR in the 9th, and Wright committed an error in the 14th leading to hits and the winning run for the Royals. They had at least a split in KC in their grasp and they blew it. The ending of that game, from the 9th inning on, goes on the list of Mets playoff failures.

Tonight, another bad loss on this list. Maybe this is enough to be a Greek tragedy. They held just enough of a lead until Terry Collins (somehow candidate for manager of the year) decided to go with his unreliable 8th inning guy for the 8th inning, and after back-to-back 1 out walks, decided it was time to pull him. Familia again (who should be the team MVP, and Game 1 was his first blown save since the turnaround started July 30) blows the save, this time, with an error by Murphy at 2B and then another hit through Murphy opens the door for a 3 run inning before Familia got a double play ball (to Murphy) to get out of the inning.

Now, there were other reasons why the Mets ultimate (and now expected) loss in this World Series is considered a failure. They had trouble hitting all season, and a better offense would have bailed them out in each of these cases. But it didn't. That's not quite the point of this post.

What scares me is that these 2 blown games absolutely have the potential of fitting into a franchise pattern that, in 2009, I called "A pattern of bad behavior" (revisited here after the 2009 season had ended. Basically to summarize, there were Mets teams in the playoffs, they failed on the playoffs, one or two moments in that final series was responsible for not only not winning the World Series that year, but having the franchise fall down and not be able to sustain the level of success that got them there. There was one exception to that, and that was 1999, because the team returned and moved upward in 2000. They just weren't the better team in 1999, and there wasn't a chance that they had and blew. It didn't hurt them then, and they did better the following year.

So the question, which probably can't be answered until at least next summer or September, is, where does the 2015 Mets fit in to this pattern?
Do they fit into this pattern, and the 2015 World Series becomes the chance that got away, with 2016 and beyond coming up short until most of these guys are long gone? Or do they break this pattern (or at least go against it) by returning next year (Any playoff appearance is still considered successful because in this narrative, they would basically fall apart because of these blown chances)?


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Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Mets Win the Pennant

Holy shit!

I'll have more to say after the season ultimately ends. Now isn't the time to reflect on the season and that was my only thought on the NLCS.



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Friday, October 9, 2015

Playoff Preview

First ever Mets playoff preview for Remembering Shea! It's a milestone day indeed.

Mets-Dodgers in the NLDS, best of 5, with the Dodgers getting home field advantage for the series.

Here's my prediction. They split the 2 games at Dodger Stadium in two pitching duels for the ages. Each game is ultimately won by a pitcher making a mistake at the wrong time. The Mets take the series at home in 4 games because their starting pitching is deeper (though the game 1 starters could come back in game 4 on short rest if needed). Obviously any new injuries would turn the table, Matz will be okay, and the Mets are able to overcome the Uribe injury in this round.

Citi Field will be rocking on Monday and Tuesday nights.

But I wouldn't lay money down on this. Just look at how many no decisions the young Mets starters had this season. Anything can happen in a 5 game series. But my non-monetary prediction is Mets in 4.


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