Just two days ’til the season begins now guys!!!! I hope everyone can take that Pelf outing from last night and believe that we still have a shot this year. Like Jerry said, the Met fans need to give some positive energy to this club from Day 1 at Citi this year. Anyways, I’m going to continue my Opening Day Series with my favorite manager of All-time Bobby Valentine.
Bobby was born and raised in Connecticut and was a great 2 sport athlete while also excelling in football. Bobby ended up going to USC and was the fifth overall selection by the Dodgers in 1968. After Bobby won the minor leage MVP award in 1968 he would debut with the Dodgers as a 19 year old in 1969. After not fulfulling his promise, he was dealt to the Angels in 1972. Valentine would suffer a leg injury while trying to rob a homerun that would steal his speed from him for the rest of his career. Valentine was traded to the Padres after the 1975 season and would be involved in the Midnight Massacre as he was dealt to the Mets as part of a deal that sent Kingman to the Pads, this was the same night Seaver was dealt to the Reds.
He would spend the ’78 season in NY but was released prior to the 1979 season. Bobby would catch on with the Mariners after but it wouldn’t be for long and he retired at the young age of 29. Bobby would become the 3rd base coach for the Mets during 1985 and would quickly be stolen by the Rangers for their managerial position. Valentine would hold that post until the 1992 season when he was fired. Bobby would manage in Japan in ’95 and then head back to the states to manage Norfolk in ’96 but before the season ended he was managing in Queens.
Valentine would bring the Mets back to glory in the late 90’s, after missing the playoffs by one game in 1998, the Mets would clinch the Wild Card in ’99 and the National League crown in 2000. The only manager in club history to lead the Mets to two playoff appearances in a row. After some run-ins with Steve Phillips, he was eventually fired in 2002. Bobby then would head back to Japan where he become a national icon. Bobby ended up leaving due to his team not being able to afford him anymore. Bobby now currently works for ESPN and could be on deck if the Mets decide to fire Jerry Manuel.
Derrel Harrelson or more popularily known as Bud Harrelson is my all-time #3 for the Mets. Bud’s career started with the Mets in 1965 and he was a mainstay with the club until the 1977 season. Buddy also was the 3rd base coach for the Mets in 1986, meaning he was the only player to be in a Met uniform for both titles. Bud also managed the club after Davey Johnson was fired in the 1990 season. Bud would not last long as he was fired with 7 games to go in the 1991 season. You could almost call Buddy, Mr. Met for all the time he put in uniform and was a scrappy ball player that all successful teams have.
Buddy’s accomplishments along with those 2 series titles are being a member of the 1970 and 1971 All-Star teams and well as winning the 1971 Gold Glove at shortstop. bud was also enshrined as a member of the Mets Hall of Fame after his retirement in 1982.
Buddy was traded to the Phils in 1978 and would later team with former fight victim Pete Rose. After his stint with Philly, Bud would join the Rangers in 1980, which would be his last season in baseball. Since his Met firing, Buddy managed and is the current Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Long Island Ducks. It was also very nice to see Buddy welcomed back to Shea as part of the Shea Goodbye ceremony, where he famously jumped on home plate one last time, pumped his arms, bringing the energy that he did as a player at Shea so many years before. A cheer’s to you Buddy, this Bud’s for you!!!!
When I was six years old, the first ever Met jersey I ever owned had Dykstra’s number 4 on the back of it. You probably would have also found me chewing a huge load of Big League Chew. Lenny was lefty and if you have read any of my blogs, you can notice that all of my favorite players were lefty (Keith, Straw and Nails.) You would have also found me sliding outside to get my jersey dirty just like Lenny was wearing it.
Lenny was drafted by the Mets in 1981 and would be a minor league superstar by 1983 where he recorded 105 stolen bases in the Carolina League. As the MVP in 1983, he awesome batted .358, had 107 walks and struck out under 40 times. Lenny came up in 1985 and gave the team the energy it needed as he filled in for a injured Mookie Wilson. Slated to start 1986 in a platoon with Mookie, Dykstra again saw himself in the starting lineup as Mookie suffered a spring training eye injury. Lenny’s play along with Mookie’s return caused the Mets to release George Foster.
With Lenny enjoying full-time starting time, Lenny hit 2 of the biggest homers in Mets history by blasting a game winning homer in game 3 vs Houston, which Murph’s call is still so classic. Down 2-0 in the series, Lenny blasted a homer to lead off game 3 and get the Mets righted and on their way to the Series title. Lenny would consistently help the Mets with his “tough as nails” play and be a huge fan favorite. Lenny would again be clutch in the playoffs as he batted .429 vs. LA in the playoffs.
Then it happened, the Mets looked to change up their team, Carter and Mex were declining and the rumors were abound that Darryl would head to the west coast as his free agency came closer. One of the worst days, I can remember in Met history they traded Lenny and Roger McDowell to Philly for Juan Samuel. Samuel would go on to do nothing in blue and orange and the combo of Nails and McDowell would be key contributors for Philly’s 1993 NL Champions. Lenny would also make 3 all-star teams for the Phils. Injuries however, would derail his career and he would be retired before the age of 35 as he retired in 1996.
Lenny like other Mets we know and love has suffered some setbacks off the field. At one point, he has hailed a successful business man but now has filed bankruptcy and been hailed at a financial loser. It would be nice if like other Met greats, was brought back into the fold as a coach. Lenny’s nails approach could definitely fire some people up, maybe one day he can get back together with fellow Wild Boy, Wally Backman. Wherever he goes, I wish him the best and thank him for helping us win in ’86.
13 days left ’til the season begins, 13 is a pretty popular number amongst Mets players of my era, one could think of Lee Mazzilli’s second tenure in NY, or most recently Billy Wagner’s runs from the ‘pen to the tune of Enter Sandman. However, when I think #13, I mostly think of Edgardo Alfonzo, first of all he has my name which is always a way to get to be one of my favorite players. Eddie Alfonzo was one of the lone bright spots through those mid-90’s teams that reminded us more the early 1960’s then the mid-80’s.
Edgardo came into his own in ’97 when he got his first full season as he played over 120 games for the first time. In ’97, he batted .315 and by ’99 he added 27 homers an 108 RBI’s to his .304 average. The Mets started to become competitive again in ’98 and Fonzie was big part of the Mets revival, after barely missing the ’98 playoffs the Mets would make it in ’99 largely in part to Fonzie and second year Met Mike Piazza.
Fonzie proved clutch as he hit the homer run in the Wild Card play-in game to put the Mets ahead behind Al Leiter’s complete game. Fonzie would top that with a 2 HR game vs the D-Backs in game 1 on the NLDS. He second bomb was a tie breaking grand slam which gave the Mets an 8-4 win and a 1-0 series lead. Fonzie also had a big series in the NLDS in 2000 vs the Giants. He hit a bomb before JT Snow’s homer and tied up game 3 with a clutch double, a game in which the Mets would end up winning.
Edgardo also is credited with having one the greatest games ever for a Mets, in a 17-1 blowout over Houston in 1999, Fonzie went 6 for 6. Three of those hits were home runs, one a double, as he had 6 runs scored and 5 RBI’s. Fonzie was also credited by his teammates as being a very underrated superstar during his big years of ’98-’00. Fonzie would end up suffering many injuries and was unable to ever regain the form that we had seen in ’98, ’99 and ’00.
Fonzie has several more decent years before leaving as free agent in ’03. He joined San Francisco, later moving on to Anaheim, Toronto, then Bridgeport, a minor league stint with the Mets, the Ducks, the Rangers, the Mexican leagues and lastly Eddie spent ’09 in Japan. Eddie clearly has a passion for the game and would go anywhere to play it. He is a sad case as he had such a promising career ahead of him and his injuries fizzled his career out at an age when most players are just coming into their own. Eddie Alfonzo will always have a big place in Met fan hearts for coming up through the farm systems and helping the Mets make the playoffs two consecutive years for the first and only time in history.
Yes, folks we are just two weeks from Opening Day. Fourteen days to be exact and with 14 days to go, one can only think of Mr. Gil Hodges, when they hear the number 14. Gil Hodges is one of three Mets to have their number retired joining Casey Stengel and Tom Seaver. Gil Hodges spent some time with the Mets in 1962 and 1963, but he will be foremost known for helping the Miracle Mets win the 1969 title.
Gil Hodges played for the Dodgers in 1943 but quickly went to World War II. He was gone until 1947 when he came back for part of the Dodgers seasons. Statistically he was a rookie in 1948, where he hit 11 HR’s and had 70 RBI. However in 1949, Gil would make his first All-Star team and would proceed to make 8 All-Star teams in the next 9 seasons. Gil would be drafted by the Mets in the expansion draft and hit the clubs first ever homer. Gil would be traded to the Senators in 1963, where he would become the manager until 1967.
Gil would return to New York in 1968 and led the club to its best record yet. Gil was said to have just watched the club in ’68 and observe the team. In 1969, he would put his plan together with what to do with the team. It worked, Gil took the lovable losers to the the series title, The Miracle Mets would shock the world and give hope to all losing clubs that anything was possible. The Mets would be decent over the next few years but nothing could prepare them for what happened next. In April of 1972, Gil suffered a heart attack and passed away. Gil’s spirit would live on for the team however. Gil will always be remembered for taking the team from the bottom to the top and doing what was thought to be impossible, winning the World Series.
Gil is the Keith Hernandez of his generation, good hitter, great fielder, All-Star, world champion but controversially is not in the Hall of Fame. There is a lot of people who feel that is he is a hall of fame player, sadly even if he does make it one day he will not be alive to see it. Gil did recieve the honor of having the number 14 retired for all time in the Met organization after his death. Here’s to you Gil Hodges, thanks for bringing our club out of the dumps!
I think most Met fans will acknowledge that our most talented player is Carlos Beltran. As we always here, he is a five tool player. Lets be honest he is not known to be just a home run hitter but he owns the Mets single season record for homers. Beltran is a very underappreciated player on this team but this team can only go as far as the core goes and I think Met fans were able to see the true value of Beltran last season when he was absent and the team went right off the deep end.
Beltran was also a big time volleyball player in his native of Puerto Rico but was convinced to quit playing by his father to concentrate on baseball. Carlos ended up becoming a second round pick of the Royals out of high school. Beltran came up in 1998 and became the clubs #3 hitter in his 1999 Rookie of the Year campaign in which he hit .293 with 22 HR’s, 108 RBI and 27 SB’s.
Beltran struggled with injuries and was replaced by Johnny Damon in 2000, however after Damon was dealt to Oakland, Beltran regained his spot and has a stellar 2001 season, Beltran also put up consistant seasons in ’02 and ’03. As free agency loomed, Beltran was dealt to the Astros for the pennant race in 2004. Beltran followed with one of the best postseasons ever as he mashed 8 HR’s to tie Barry Bonds for the All-time record. Beltran hit his stride just in time for a free agent windfall.
The Mets were coming off 4 losing seasons and the Wilpon’s finally opened up the piggybank for new GM Omar Minaya. Minaya signed Pedro Martinez to pair up with youngsters David Wright and Jose Reyes. Beltran finally came on board after the Yankees declined to give him as much money. Beltran finally signed for 7-years and 119 million. Beltran had a poor 2005 season as compared to his salary and Met fans let him know about it.
Early in ’06 when Beltran hit a home run to take the lead, he had to be pryed out of the dugout by Julio Franco to take a curtain call. He was affected by the crowd’s distaste for him in ’05. Beltran did play hurt in ’05 and came back early from a concussion when Mike Cameron never came back. I think some of the negatives come with making $20 mill and had to say I was disappointed that Beltran showed his distain to the fans.
Beltran moved past this incident and has a great 2006 season, he had 41 bombs and many clutch moments but most Met fans still blame him for game 7’s called strike three. I don’t, I blame the manager, if he played small ball Beltran would not have been in that position. Going to Floyd to hit a homer, basically left Beltran having to do the same thing. With the way Wainwright was pitching, having to hit a homer was a mighty tall order.
Beltran continued to have great seasons in ’07 and ’08 and was one the guys who did not completely fade down the stretch. Beltran’s homer to tie the last game art Shea, once again showed how Carlos was clutch and always could handle the big moment. Beltran’s knees caught up to him in 2009 and the Mets completely faded without him, once again proving what a valuable member he is to the team. This season we are all counting the days until Carlos can come back and help this team because Met fans have learned without him we don’t have much of a shot but with him anything could be possible for old numer #15! I think Beltran has some things in his past that might make you not like him, big salary, wanted to sign with Yanks, called strike 3, injures but face it Met fans his is a Met and we need him big time if we are ever going to make it back to the promised land, so cheer him and lets go ‘Los!!!!
Okay, I know what you are thinking, Doc Gooden? Are you going to chronical all the 1986 Mets? Well if I feel that this number is best represented by an 86 Met then Oh Hell Yeah! I don’t care if Pagan or LoDuca wear 16, it will be always make a true Met fan think of the magic that Dwight Gooden brought to the Mets in 1984.
Doc Gooden was the prized arm in the Mets farm system and newly hired Davey Johnson has managed Doc in the farm system and knew Doc would be a piece to his rebuilding puzzle in Queens. As Davey had admitted, he was the only one who knew when he was hired that Doc was going to be on the team in 84. Yes, 1984 was the year, a 19 year old phenom from Tampa, Florida was about to set the world on fire. Dwight would be paired up with the 1983 Rookie of the Year, Darryl Strawberry to form one of the most impressive 1-2 punches in major league baseball. Doc would go 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA in his rookie campaign, while recording a league high 276 K’s on his way to winning the 1984 Rookie of the Year award.
In 1985, Doc was paired up with Gary Carter, who caught him in 84 All-Star game, to become the one of the most dominant batteries in the history of baseball. Doc went an impossible 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA, while still leading the league with 268 K’s. This season goes down as one of the best ever in the history of baseball. His ERA is 2nd to Bob Gibson;s 1.12 ERA in 1968. Doc posted a 17-6 record in 86 and was on the mound for a complete game on September 17, 1986, the clincher for the Mets.
However, Doc disappeared during the playoffs and he would get beaten up especially in the World Series. Then Doc would miss the parade, and the finally straw broke when he tested positive for cocaine during Spring Training in 1987. Doc would come back to be Doc over the next couple seasons but his playoff luck did not change as he gave up the crucial blow to the Dodgers when he gave up a home run to Mike Scoscia in extras in a relief appearance. Doc also started to have injuries taking their toll, these injuries can be attributed to the overuse and innings Doc pitched early in his career.
n 1992 and 1993 Doc posted his first ever losing seasons, even though his ERA was still mid 3’s. You can attribute playing on bad teams, but unfairly in the public’s mind, he was not the pitcher he had once been. Everyone expected 20 win seasons and ERA’s under 2.00 which was unfair.Finally, early in 1994, Doc would once again be suspended for drug use after posting an over 6 ERA. Doc was let go by the Mets who had given him so many chances.
After a suspended 1995 season, the Yankees rolled the dice on both Doc and Darryl. Doc did not have a great season but did show signs of greatness including his first career no-hitter. He did post 11 wins but finished with an ERA over 5. Doc would pitch one more season with the Yanks before moving on to Cleveland, Houston and Tampa before one more look by the Yanks in 2000. Doc would finally retire after the 2000 season with a career record of 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA. It was a good career but definitely not the one we all imagined when he debuted in ’84. Overuse and drug problems derailed what should have been a Hall of Fame career. Doc and Darryl will always end up being the stories of hat can happen when one takes their focus off the field of play.
My birthday is September 17th so as I became a Met fan, I was quickly drawn to Keith Hernandez. Add being left handed and that I have the same name as a hall of fame first baseman and I quickly patterned my game as good Ol’ Mex. Keith was a coach on the field, whether he was positioning infielders or telling Straw to keep his shoulder tucked in from second base. Keith made plays on bunts that are totally extinct in baseball today.
I recently covered Mex on a blog stating that is number 17 should be retired which you can find here. If you read that article you will be a good history of what Keith did in his career with the Mets. I won’t repeat myself but to finish this article up I will throw some odds and ends in about Keith’s career.
Keith didn’t play baseball his senior year of high school due to a disagreement with his coach. Despite this Keith was still drafted after a quick stint as San Mateo Community College. He was selected in the 42nd round of the 1971 draft. No one could someone have seen a near Hall of Fame career coming from him then. Keith got off to a slow start in the minors but eventually got hot with a .351 average and got the call to St. Louis, where he debuted in 1974 in his hometown of San Francisco, California. Keith also got sent down as he struggled to his major league pitching but eventually caught on.
Keith wore 37 in St. Louis and 17 with the Mets because he wanted his number to have a 7 to honor Mickey Mantle. Keith won the 1979 NL MVP when posting a .344 average. Keith eventually wore out his welcome with Whitey Herzog and got his wish when he was traded to the Mets and took the youngsters under his wings to capture the 1986 title.
After an injury plagued 1989 season the Mets moved on and let both Keith and Carter walk. As Keith has since admitted, he was finished and should have retired. However, at the time Keith wanted to play and moved to Cleveland for the 1990 season where he only played 45 games before retiring.
Here is also a little treat for all you Keith fans out there: Seinfeld Clip.
Lastly, the best treat for all of us is we get to see Keith daily on SNY broadcasts, he was a hell of a player but is just so entertaining as a person, regardless if he is educating us about the game or just making us laugh. Keith is one of a kind and is a true Met legend.