Saturday, June 30, 2012

Same Old Tricks

The remarkable R.A. Dickey storyline for this season found its way back on track last night in another of what has been a string of stellar performances. Though his minor hiccup last week against the Yankees last Sunday knocked him out of the National League's ERA and strikeout lead, he still is the top winner in the Majors, and with his 12 wins prior to the All Star Break, it seems rather likely, barring injury or some unforseen run of poor luck, that Dickey will finally break this 22-year streak the Mets have had without a 20-game winner.

It's helpful, both for Dickey and the rest of the Mets, that they seem to be catching the Dodgers in the middle of a bad slump. I haven't seen much of them this season, but I know that they got off to a real fast start but it seems as though they have a massive amount of injuries to key players, among them Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. They appear hard pressed to win games with a lineup littered with the likes of Jerry Hairston, Jr, Scott Van Slyke, Dee Gordon and Tony Gwynn, Jr. Perhaps if each of their respective fathers were playing, maybe this wouldn't be a problem. But as we have seen happen to the Mets in prior seasons, sometimes these injuries can pile up and the collective stink can affect the entire team. The Dodgers are probably a much better team than they've played lately, but they're not hitting at all. This was certainly evident Thursday night when, despite some fine pitching from old friend Chris Capuano, they couldn't muster any sort of offense off Chris Young outside of a 4th inning spurt. And if they looked bad and came out on the short end of the Battle-Of-Chris's-Who-Have-Come-Back-From-Myriad-Arm-Injuries, then what sort of a chance did they have against R.A. Dickey coming off his first bad outing in 2 months? The result was obvious.

I suppose it's to the Mets benefit that they are catching the Dodgers at their thinnest. You take whatever breaks you can get, but of course, you have to take advantage of it too, and the Mets look to be in one of their periodic hot streaks right now. This, hopefully, will continue to pass for the next few days.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1978

Part 17 of our 50 year wait for the late game on the West Coast...

What is it: 1978 Topps #621, Craig Swan

What makes it interesting: From an aesthetic standpoint, not much. The '78s are pretty bland as Topps' cards go, and in many cases, the photographic composition isn't especially good either. It's also rather odd in that many cards, mostly of non-noteworthy players, were double printed due to the number of cards in the set and the number of cards on the printing sheets, so some of the cards in this set are especially plentiful.

Craig Swan, in a similar mold to John Stearns, was a fine performer on a number of really lousy Mets teams. After weaving his way in and out of the Majors for a few seasons, Swan stuck around for good in 1976 and was a mainstay in the Mets rotation for several seasons. Though he was never a big winner (a byproduct of pitching on bad teams), he always competed and his numbers generally reflected that. He peaked when the Mets were more or less at their worst, in 1978 and 1979. '78, in particular, was a signature season for Swan. Although he could muster no better than a 9-6 record, he posted a 1.67 ERA pitching at Shea Stadium and his 2.43 ERA led the National League. He posted a team leading 14 wins in '79, impressive considering the Mets won only 63 games that year. After signing what was, at the time, the richest contract the Mets ever gave to a pitcher (a show of faith from the new owners), Swan started off 1980 just as well. But, unfortunately, injuries struck Swan, just as they struck Stearns. A torn rotator cuff short-circuited his season. A freak rib injury derailed him in 1981, when he was hit by a throw from Ron Hodges attempting to throw out a basestealer. Though he would have a good rebound season in 1982, arm problems would dog him in 1983 and by 1984, he was relegated to a bullpen role, and, eventually, released on May 9th, just as the youthful Mets of the era were beginning to rise to prominence.

Swan's career is mostly overlooked. He received no mention during the Mets Top-50 countdown, though he certainly proved himself worthy of consideration. Generally, he's remembered as a good, heady pitcher who won on guts and guile as opposed to eye-popping stuff. Swan also boasts what is probably the most unique post-baseball career, as he is currently a leading practitioner of Rolfing, a rather excruciating technique of muscle manipulation.

Card back:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Forgotten Trip

Of the teams in the National League, I have gone the longest without seeing the St. Louis Cardinals in person. I've only seen them once at Citi Field, back in 2009.

For some reason, however, it seems like the team I have hardly ever seen is the Chicago Cubs. I know I was there twice in April of 2010 when the Cubs were in town (this kicked off a 9-1 homestand and featured the Major League Debut of Ike Davis), but I seem to have forgotten these games. I was under the impression that I hadn't seen them since the final week at Shea Stadium.

Part of the reason is that I think it's been at least six seasons since I remember seeing the Mets play the Cubs in Chicago. I guess it's the vicissitudes of scheduling, but every time the Mets have been in Chicago, I seem to be busy and not able to see any of the games. And some years, they blow in for a 2 game series and play one night and then the next afternoon and get out of dodge. Point is, I seem to have blocked out the Mets and Cubs playing each other at all pretty much ever since 2008. This includes games that I might have heard on the radio in my office, because I don't remember those either. I just watched some highlights of today's game, and I had no idea that all this advertising had popped up all over Wrigley Field. What's up with the soda cans on the outfield wall and the Citibank logos, and the rogue Toyota sign? When did this happen?

So I'd been out late on Monday and Tuesday nights and I didn't get home until after the game had ended, which is just as well given the way things turned out. But, today, I was in my office, and I had some downtime (at least for a few minutes) and I turned the game on in the radio. It was 1-1 at some point, and I had to take care of something outside my office, and when I came back, Daniel Murphy had homered and it was 4-1. Some time later, I had to step out again, and when I came back, Daniel Murphy had homered again. You know where this is going. I get called out, Scott Hairston hits a grand slam, and the rout was on. 17 runs and yet another sorely needed, losing streak snapping victory, which seems to be something the Mets have specialized in this season. Helpful, when you're in danger of being swept by the miserable Cubs before heading out to play the Dodgers.

But it seems I'm not the only one who forgets the Mets playing in Chicago. I was talking to a colleague during the evening, and he said to me, "We've got a lot of problems," in reference to the Mets. I told him that they scored 17 runs today. He could only laugh, dumbfounded. "That's the kind of season it's been," he said.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rude Awakening

I think it was plainly clear to everyone that R.A. Dickey's hot streak wasn't going to last forever. There was going to be a game sometime soon where he just didn't have good control of the Knuckleball, it was going to flutter a little too much, and he was going to get hit around a little bit. That's just Baseball.

It's rather unfortunate, however, that that particular outing had to come against the Yankees.

So, after a week of hearing "That Dickey's a Cheat! He's loadin' the Baseball (drool slobber slobber)!!!" Now, I have to hear, "See, that Dickey ain't so great! He beats all the lousy teams but he fell apart against a REAL TEAM (duh slobber drool)!!!" Always a great time to be a Mets fan.

Watching the Mets lose 5 of 6 to the Yankees this season definitely reaffirmed my belief that I'm over the Subway Series. And I don't think it's fair for people to say "You're just being bitter," or "If you don't like the Subway Series, you don't like Baseball." I was into all the games, or at least all the games I was able to watch. But I'm tired of the Mets breaking their asses against this team only to have something stupid happen like a pitcher suddenly lose it, or a errant throw or a booted ball, or a barrage of Home Runs, and then losing, and having to deal with the aftermath. I realize that over time, the Mets fan has come to identify with the Phillies or the Braves as more of a true enemy, since those are the teams we have to play 18 times a season, for supremacy in our own Division. And it's true. We should care more about these teams than we do about the Yankees. But we can't. And it's probably the same on the Yankee fan side. The Yankee fan, in general, is insecure enough that any mention crediting the Mets is usually enough to set off a firestorm. In fact, even their players (or, at least, their mouthier players) are even chiming in. Ultimately, I feel as though the Yankees and their fans take pride in beating us and laughing in our faces. And that's what's going on right now. They're laughing at us. They Homered us out of their ballpark, and now they Homered us out of our own. And there's not much we can do about it except dust ourselves off and go back to worrying about our own division.

But we can't worry about our own division when we've got all this crap going on right in our backyard. It's the perils of being in a Baseball-centric town that has two teams. And yes, I'm aware that things can change once again, and New York can become a Mets town like it was in the Late 80s (of course, the revisionist history of Yankee fans have just about erased this from anyone's memory, if you mention it, you're likely to be spit on and called a liar). But every time it seems like we might be close to reversing things, something like this year's Subway Series comes along to remind us just how wide that gulf really is.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1977

Part 16 of our 50-year quest for Supremacy of New York...
What is it: 1977 Topps #119, John Stearns

What makes it interesting: Not the card design, that's for sure. Some in the know seem to really like the design of the '77s. but I've never been much of a fan.

With the trade of Tom Seaver in '77, the Mets were clearly in a state of flux, and one of the team's darkest eras was ushered in. But through the years of losing, John "The Dude" Stearns was always a bright spot. Originally drafted #2 overall by the Phillies, Stearns came to the Mets in the Tug McGraw deal and eventually made the Majors before the '75 season. Although Stearns was never an offensive standout, he was always a solid line-drive hitter with great speed for a Catcher. His 25 steals in 1978 were, at the time, a record for Catchers. Stearns was a 4-time All-Star, in 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1982, and always was a fan favorite. Stearns consistently showed a deep fire and passion for the game, even when things were hopeless, which was often during his time here. Also known as a fine Defensive Back when he played College Football, Stearns often brought his gridiron intensity to the baseball diamond. He got into his share of fistfights, taking on, among others, Gary Carter, Dave Parker, Bill Gullickson and, most famously, Atlanta Braves Mascot Chief Nok-A-Homa.

Unfortunately, just as the Mets lean years were coming to an end, injuries caught up with Stearns. His fine 1980 season was derailed by a broken finger, and two years later, elbow tendonitis would ultimately derail his career. Unable to throw, he appeared in only 4 games as a Pinch Runner in 1983, and by 1984 had been surpassed on the depth chart by up-and-comer Mike Fitzgerald, and, after that, newly acquired Gary Carter.

Younger Mets fans will, of course, remember that Stearns remained active in the Mets organization. He was brought aboard as a scout in 1999, and by 2000 was named the Mets bench coach. Here, he produced one more memorable moment during the 2000 NLCS. Following a 1st Game, 1st Inning double from Mike Piazza, Stearns, who was wearing a microphone for the game, was heard screaming "HE'S OUT OF THE CAGE! HE'S OUT OF THE CAGE! THE MONSTER IS OUT OF THE CAGE! LET'S GO! THE MONSTER IS OUT OF THE CAGE!" This instantly caught on and became a rallying cry for the team as they wiped out the Cardinals in 5 games.

Card Back:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Talking Turkey

I know that the talk all day on Friday was about the Frank Francisco "Chicken" comment. At least that was the case judging from what I'd heard listening to WFAN all afternoon. It was either that, or it was Yankee fans basically behaving like Yankee fans and calling Mike Francesa to accuse R.A. Dickey of doctoring the Baseball (something Francesa, known as a chief among Yankee backers, wouldn't even entertain). But, Dickey won't pitch until Sunday, and it was only Friday, so the Chicken was the story of the day.

I have the feeling that Francisco may have meant to call the Yankees Turkeys, rather than chickens. A chicken might have implied that they were scared, and I've never known the Yankees to be scared. Turkey might imply that they are slow, or old, which is slightly closer to the truth. Then again, Francisco elaborated to say that the Yankees were "complainers," which I wouldn't have derived from chicken or turkey. So, then, I have no idea what the hell he was trying to say, and let's just all leave it alone since he managed to get his way through another sweaty 9th inning on Friday night and finish out a much-needed, for sanity's sake, Mets victory.

The game offered quite a bit in the way of breaks going the Mets way, which probably would spur a bit of complaining from Yankee-dom, but it's fine with me. Ike Davis' 3-run Home Run in the first was aided a bit by Nick Swisher catching—but not catching—and then losing the ball over the wall. Yankee fans may cry cheap, but then again, Jeffrey Maier wasn't there to knock it back, so tough crap. This, of course, spurred on a flurry of "Ike's Back!" talk, which has been going on ever since he started to hit again last week in Tampa. Nothing to complain about there. So, the Mets broke through with a 5-run inning off Pettitte, probably more runs then they've scored all week (or at least it feels that way sometimes). Jonathon Niese settled down and cruised along before Yankee-do what Yankee-do and hit a couple of Home Runs in the 6th and 7th, and another in the 8th of Miguel Batista (8th inning man Miguel Batista? Another topic worth revisiting), and a feathery 9th inning from Francisco, punctuated by a 2-out pop-up that Omar Quintanilla staggered under for a few seconds, giving every Mets fan ever a mild heart attack from flashing back to Luis Castillo, before ultimately squeezing the last out.

Phew. Good. Another plucky win for the Mets who refuse to be plucked. At least these games won't be a total washout. But let's try to do this a couple more times.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hey, Wait a Second...

I was knocking around Brooklyn a few weeks ago when I chanced upon this service advisory and did a double take.

So, the MTA wouldn't call the 7 train stop "Willets Point - Citi Field," but they have no problem re-naming the Atlantic Avenue stop in Brooklyn to "Atlantic Avenue - Barclays Center."

Back in 2009, I believe the MTA refused to re-name the Shea Stadium stop to Citi Field because they wouldn't give a station a corporate name. After some sleuthing, I found that Bruce Ratner, the man responsible for the Barclays Center and also the displacement of innumerable people through Eminent Domain for his Atlantic Yards Project that is currently still a hole in the ground, threw $200,000 a year for 20 years at the MTA in order to make this change.

So, I suppose, a station name can be bought for the right price. So, why weren't the Mets told something similar? Or were they and I've forgotten. I don't know, and I'm not particularly sure how much I care. I'm sure the MTA could use the money for something frivolous rather than making tangible improvements to the Subway system.

Just some food for thought on the eve of the 2nd Subway Series as you journey off to Mets-Willets Point.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

In Baltimore, It's 6:42!

A nod to the late, great George Carlin with today's header, apropos for this week's games because for the most part, the Orioles looked like they were just a little bit late. It was probably primarily because the Mets pitching was so good, but by time the Orioles decided to score a run, it seemed it was already a bit too late.

Though the wins were team efforts across the board, with everyone chipping in, I think the brunt of the credit has to go to the starting pitchers. This is a unit that has been the strength of the team all season long, and when they show it, they really show it. It's something like the third time since late May that the pitching staff has run off a multiple-game scoreless streak, and the starters have been the ringleaders, pretty much every time. R.A. Dickey has obviously done his part, and Johan Santana rebounded from a few rough starts quite nicely on Tuesday. Dillon Gee has been a bit of a wildcard for the Mets to this point. As with with any #4 starter or any young pitcher, Dillon Gee has been sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good and generally not very much in between. When he's been bad, he's usually gotten bombed and been out of the game sooner rather than later. When he's been good, he's been quite good, and so it's usually up to him to not run into that one bad pitch that screws everything up. Invariably, this will happen to him, though, so it's usually good if his teammates have scored a few runs for him. When this happened to him against the Yankees, it ultimately cost him the game. Last night, however, he had a 4-run lead when Wilson Betemit sent one into orbit, so the damage was somewhat minimized, and the bullpen (or, more appropriately, Frank Francisco) pulled off another escape act in the 9th to give the Mets the sweep.

So, the watchword in Metsdom today is sweep or be swept. With the Yankees coming in this weekend (joy of joys), hopefully it'll be more of the former. I don't know if a repeat of what went on in the Bronx a couple of weeks ago will go over very well with anyone.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dickeymania 2012!

I suppose I could write another long post extolling the virtues of R.A. Dickey and his incredible hot streak, and how he hasn't allowed an earned run in about a month, and how he's become the Mozart of the Knuckleball (I wanted to make the analogy that he was the Kurt Cobain of the knuckleball, but I don't know if I could adequately pull the cockamamie idea off), and how incredible it is that, in a season where the Mets threw their first No Hitter, it's been somehow overshadowed by the exploits of a pitcher who's become the first Met ever to throw back-to-back One Hitters, but what else is there to be said. Instead, here's a giant picture of the man of the hour.

It's now not simply enough to say that he's worthy of being the NL's All Star Starting pitcher next month. We may have to start thinking of him being in the discussion of Cy Young Award winner or possibly even MVP for the way he's been keeping the Mets afloat.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kitschy Weekend

Not much noteworthy went on this weekend, or at least that's a kind way of saying that the Mets looked lousy all weekend. Coming off their great series in Tampa, the Mets arrived home and continued to pitch well, but apparently left their bats in Florida. Too bad, since good performances by Jonathon Niese and Chris Young were mostly wasted.

The only good thing to report from the weekend would be Sunday's Keith Hernandez Bobblehead promotion, which I was on hand for. I'd made mention in the past of my bizarre attraction to this kitsch the Mets give out from time to time. It serves no greater purpose than to clutter up my life and my closet, I suppose. But over time, I'd pared some of that stuff down. A number of promotional items I'd accumulated over the years became eBay fodder, among them bobbleheads of Willie Randolph, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, a bunch of old caps of varied colors, and even a Dunkin Donuts gift card (the Endy Chavez Bobblehead, I have kept, along with the mini Shea Stadium replica from 2008). Nonetheless, with the Mets doing their 50th Anniversary Bobbleheads, I felt I had to try to get to at least one of these games. I would have preferred Edgardo Alfonzo, but scheduling being in my way, I had to settle for Keith Hernandez. That's not to say that this is settling much. Keith is as beloved a Met as anyone. So, when a ticket for June 17th landed in my lap, I of course ran out to Citi Field to get my Keith Bobblehead. And, with it, I got to sit through a relatively boring 2 hour, 50 minute Mets loss. But, who cares? I got a Keith Hernandez bobblehead, right!?

I feel silly, sometimes, getting quite so excited about these kinds of things. But I also know I'm not the only one. Or at least I hope I'm not.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1976

Part 15 of our 50-year Bobblehead Promotion...

What is it: 1976 Topps #120, Rusty Staub

What makes it interesting: The '76s kicked off a rather bland era of Topps cards. There's color here, but it's not quite the same wild color all as the '75s. And the animated position guys in the corner are sort of a nod to the '73's, but it's not the same.

Speaking of not the same, there was nobody quite like Rusty Staub. Staub came to the Mets in '72 as a major power threat to anchor the middle of the lineup. He didn't disappoint. Despite a hand injury that undercut his '72 season, Staub returned in '73 and played through several injuries, including a shoulder injury in the NLCS resulting from an outstanding defensive play to rob Dan Driessen of an extra inning extra base hit. This seemed to slow Staub down little, as he hit 3 Home Runs against the Reds, and hit .423 with a Home Run and 6 RBIs in the World Series against Oakland. In '75, Staub became the first Met player ever to record a 100 RBI season. Of course, as was typical of Mets Management in that era, Staub was then traded to the Detroit Tigers for aging, ineffective Mickey Lolich. But, Staub would return to the Mets in 1981. Though by this point his defensive skills had deserted him, his batting eye did not, and Staub spent several seasons as Pinch Hitter par excellence. This '76 card features Staub at his Redheaded best, Le Grande Orange is still the only player in Baseball History to register 500 hits with 4 different teams, the Mets, Astros, Expos and Tigers.

Staub also made his mark as a New York restaurateur. Rusty's, on 3rd Avenue and 73rd Street, was known for outstanding ribs, among other things, and was frequented by many of Staub's teammates, most notably Keith Hernandez. Rusty Staub's on 5th, on 5th Avenue and 47th Street, would follow in 1989, when Staub was entrenched in his other 2nd career as a Mets Broadcaster. Both of these endeavors, however, were short-lived. Currently, Staub is a Mets club ambassador, and was one of the few selected to have his own Bobblehead day in this Mets anniversary season.

Card back:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1975

Part 14 of our 50-year plan to repurpose the Iron Triangle...

What is it: 1975 Topps #264, John Milner

What makes it interesting: Color! The '75s, one of Topps most memorable issues, are loaded with them. The two-toned cards featured a different color combination for just about every card, making the set both unique and condition-sensitive.

Sideburns! Milner sported a great pair of those, probably among the best in Mets History (unlike other teams, the Mets don't seem to have much of a tradition with facial hair, Keith Hernandez notwithstanding). Additionally, Milner was a real power prospect when he debuted with the Mets in '71, something that the Mets generally were not known for. Although he could hit a baseball as far as anyone in the era (and his nickname, "The Hammer" was a nod to his boyhood idol Henry Aaron), Milner was often the subject of frustration and unfulfilled potential, chasing that breakout season that never seemed to come. Nonetheless, he led the Mets in Home Runs in '72, '73 and '74, and tied for the team lead in '77, although his career high was only 23 HRs. His total in '77 was only 12, netting him a 3-way tie with Steve Henderson and John Stearns. By that time, management had tired of Milner, despite his presence on the Pennant Winning team of '73, the team was being broken down and Milner was sent to Pittsburgh in a bizarre 4-team deal. Milner would go on to win a World Series Championship as a reserve player for the Pirates in '79. He was, then, mostly lost in the history books until his untimely passing at age 51 in 2000.

Card back:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm In My Office...

It seems as though the weekday afternoon game has been a fairly regular occurrence this season, much more than I remember it being in past seasons. I've made mention of keeping a radio in my office for just such an occasion. I'm assuming there must be some sort of stipulation in the new CBA requiring getaway games to be played in the afternoon when someone's got a long plane flight ahead of them and a game the next day. That's the only thing that makes sense to me. But I digress.

I'd barely put the radio on when Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off the game with a 2nd pitch Home Run. I'd left my office altogether when he hit his 2nd HR in the 4th. In between, the game was vaguely a blur.. I know it was rather back and forth at the beginning, but I tend to tune these things out, particularly while I'm working on whatever it is I need to work on, only drifting into the game whenever I hear a raised voice. Josh Lewin is particularly good for this; he has a certain punctuation to his calls, to the effect of "...and he LINES ONE DOWN THE LEFT FIELD LINE..." loud enough that you can't help but pay attention to him.

Howie Rose doesn't have quite the same intonation of Lewin, and since I've been listening to him for 20 or so years in one capacity or another, I'm sort of used to his vocal inflections. He will raise his voice in certain important moments, and you can really hear the despair in his voice when something goes against the Mets, and of course, he will elevate to a shout in those exceptionally big moments (like, say, the first No Hitter in Mets history). There's something about Lewin's timbre, however, that appears to catch the ears a bit more. Maybe it's because he's new. I did have some limited exposure to Lewin on Fox games, where I found him to be overly irritating, and since he voiced the Texas Rangers during their run of success, his voice would pop up on MLB Network bumpers here and there. I wasn't especially thrilled to see him as the new announcer alongside Howie Rose, but for the most part, he's done a fine job complementing Rose, and since Lewin apparently grew up a Mets fan as well, he has some accurate notes to banter with Howie on. And he hasn't been as screamy or lispy or grating as I thought he'd be.

So, at any rate, I heard Lewin raising his voice a few times in the 3rd and 4th inning, so I knew something good must have been going on, and if he got really loud, I might have even stopped what I was doing for a second or two to pay attention. At some point, someone came into my office and asked me the score and the inning, and I wasn't sure of the inning. I did know that the Mets were up 8-4, so that must have counted for something. Ultimately, things got a bit hairy in the 9th, I know that because Howie was getting a bit worked up by Frank Francisco, but the Mets did hold on and complete their sweep of the Rays. So much for the certain doom facing the Mets in Tampa.

So, home again, home again, jiggety jig for the Mets, after a rather schizophrenic road trip. The Reds are coming back this weekend, followed by more AL teams. Who knows what will happen. Another madcap weekend with the 2012 Mets awaits...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

All The

At least up until the 5th inning last night, the matchup of Smoke vs. Mirrors that was David Price vs. R.A. Dickey lived up to the hype. To that point in the game, both teams hadn't been able to muster more than a hit, and whatever rallies the Mets were able to put together were short-circuited, first by a caught stealing, and second, by a Double Play off the bat of Mike Nickeas.

Despite this, and despite the prowess of David Price, I still felt confident that the Mets would find a way to win. I had two reasons to feel this way. 1) R.A. Dickey was pitching for the Mets, and it seems that he's mastered his quest for the perfect knuckleball, since nobody seems to be able to hit him anymore. So one or two runs ought to do the trick. 2) The way this ass-backwards season has been going for the Mets, why shouldn't they be able to beat David Price? 

And, of course, the Mets proved me right, and, of course, it was kicked off by a pair of guys who were hitting under the Mendoza line, and perhaps combined. Ike Davis continued what's been a resurgent few games for him with a well-struck double, which was quickly followed by an RBI single from Mike Nickeas, whose grand slam in late May was, I believe, the only hit he'd had in the past month. That got the Mets the run they needed, which probably was a good cushion for Dickey. But, hey, why stop there? Daniel Murphy singled home a couple more runs, and in the next inning even Jason Bay woke up and joined the party in the midst of a 6-consecutive hit string that pretty much salted the game away.

That meant that the only drama of the late innings was to see just how long Dickey could keep his consecutive scoreless innings streak going. John Maine had a similarly impressive streak back in 2006, and nobody saw him or the streak coming at that particular time either. But for some reason, this streak of Dickey's has been so impressive that you figured he could keep this thing going for a while. And he probably would have, too, had he not been foiled by the maker of his success. A couple of too-lively knuckleballs bounced off of Nickeas' glove in the 9th, allowing Elliot Johnson (already aboard thanks to an error) to grab a couple of free bases and score a garbage time run. But I digress. Dickey was, by the end of the 7th, tied with Jerry Koosman for the club record for scoreless innings, and he breezed right past that in a dominant 8th inning.

Basically, the only way Dickey seems to be allowing any runs of late is purely by accident.

In fact, that one hit was fairly accidental, too. I didn't think much of it at the time, but then again, as the game progressed and it became apparent that Dickey wasn't going to allow the Rays to even sniff a hit, that little roller that Wright couldn't pick up became one of those "maybe" plays. Scored a hit, but maybe it was an error. It seems Terry Collins thought enough of it to protest the call after the game to see if it could be changed. I don't know that these protests are successful very often, and knowing Dickey, I don't think he'd want to be awarded a No Hitter after the fact (particularly one in which a run scored in rather unseemly fashion). And, of course, it's no longer a "coulda, woulda, shoulda" for the Mets, since they now have a No Hitter.  It's just another one-hitter. Or, more appropriately, another outstanding performance by the guy who's been the best pitcher for the Mets all season long.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What Troubles?

Funny game, that Baseball. That's a recycled comment.

After getting swept by the Yankees and looking rather miserable in the process, it certainly looked as though this was when the Mets would turn back into pumpkins and fall off the proverbial cliff into nowheresville and out of relevance for the Summer. Going off to Tampa, to play the Rays and their plethora of great pitching and excessively potent offense, things certainly appeared grim.

So, of course, the Mets go out and set a season high for runs in support of Chris Young, who escaped imminent disaster in the 1st and settled down afterwards in a solid 5.2 innings. Young handed things off to the much-maligned bullpen (only now are people starting to scream things like "THIS IS THE WORST BULLPEN IN THE LEAGUE!!! THEY ARE WHAT WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!!!") who kept the Rays quiet the rest of the way, while the Mets put the game away behind a 4-RBI performance from Jordany Valdespin (maligned for screwing up last week) and Ike Davis (maligned for screwing up all season) chipped in with his first Home Run in over a month. All in all, a once again unexpected lively effort from the Mets, who continue to rebound when a rebound victory is needed most.

Admittedly, I didn't get to see much of tonight's game for one reason or another, and by time I did get home and get to put the game on, things were pretty much settled at 9-2 Mets. By that point, I already knew that things had been going rather well. What I didn't know was who had been supplying the production for the Mets, and under what circumstances. First, Jordany Valdespin, who's appeared somewhat overmatched by the Majors at times, had his best performance since his HR in Philly last month. After last week's debacle of a performance at Shortstop, I feel like people were beginning to get a little fed up with him. Problem is, until the 12 injured middle infielders start to come back, we're going to have to go to the whip with him and hope for the best. I like Valdespin's energy and the talent is certainly there, but he's got an often horrible approach at the plate, to go with a general lack of polish. I suppose it will come with seasoning, but then again, he's already 24. But I digress. He could have just been getting his sea legs. He's looked markedly better with the bat over the past week, and his hits on Sunday and tonight led to some runs, so, all the better. Then, there was Ike Davis, who's been hitting .160 pretty much all season, and hasn't been able to build on anything positive. He's had to dodge rumors and fans clamoring for a platoon or a demotion, and perhaps the fact that there's really no good replacement for him has been keeping him afloat. But, tonight, in addition to his HR,  he cleverly dropped down a bunt for a hit against the overshift. Who knows what it will lead to, but sometimes, that's all it takes.

Then, there were all these 2-out runs. For years, it seems, the Mets had this annoying problem of never being able to drive in runs with 2 outs. I'm rather certain that the last time the Mets had a 2-out RBI was sometime in 2006, and that's probably not far from the truth. But for some reason, this year, the Mets seem to have the 2-out touch. Of the Mets season-high 11 runs tonight, 9 were scored with 2 out. 9! What's more, the talk after the game has been about how the Mets lead the league in 2-out RBIs.

So, yes. The Mets aren't dead quite yet. Of course, having to face David Price tomorrow night isn't exactly a favorable matchup, but then again, R.A. Dickey hasn't been a favorable matchup for anyone lately. Should be worth being home for.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Oy Vey

And after all I said Friday about being over the Subway Series, the Mets then went out this weekend and pretty much proved me right. As I've said many times over, if you play like assholes, you're going to look like assholes, and the Mets certainly managed to accomplish that.

It's a damn good thing I didn't go to any of the games this weekend. I'm sure I would have gotten smacked with a chicken or something similar, particularly after Friday night's debacle. I didn't see much of Friday's game, which I suppose is a small victory. I watched a few moments, which involved the Yankees hitting a Home Run, hitting another Home Run, and then I shut it off right before another Home Run. I certainly picked my spots. The rest of the night was spent fielding text messages from friends, many of whom wouldn't know a Baseball if it hit them in the face, yet root for the Yankees because, hey, that's what people who don't pay attention tend to do, saying things like, "HEY, AT LEAST HE'S GOT A NO HITTER, HAR HAR HAR!!!"

I probably should have known there, when the Mets couldn't generate anything against noodle-armed Hiroki Kuroda, who I only remember crying out on the Shea Stadium mound a few years ago, that they were pretty much fucked.

Nonetheless, I plodded on and watched most of Saturday's game and all of Sunday's game, sitting through one forgettable game after another. Saturday night, the Mets were short-circuited by not being able to generate enough offense to offset Dillon Gee's one bad pitch. Sunday, the Mets were short-circuited by not being able to generate enough offense to offset Jonathon Niese's one bad pitch, and in both instances, the bullpen was there to dig the Mets a deeper hole. And, of course, the result is that the Mets, who have survived and thrived to this point in the season on their ability to get key hits in big spots and grind out wins, finally had the law of averages go against them at the worst possible time, ending in a sweep that was both embarrassing and infuriating to have to be subjected to.

I've talked, in the past (don't ask me to link back because I can't remember when I said it, just humor me here) about sometimes having a premonition about the Mets being in a dead ballgame. Once the Mets didn't take the lead against Rafael Soriano in the 9th on Sunday, after being aided by a rare hit from Ike Davis to tie up the game, they were going to lose. I knew they were going to lose. At least this time, it ended quick. Francisco Cervelli or Russell Martin or whoever was catching for the Yankees (they're all basically a bunch of low-rent Paul LoDuca's) hit his walk off Home Run in the 9th instead of making me stick around to the 12th.

I suppose the talk is that with this new realignment, the Mets and Yankees may only be playing 3 times a season, rather than their usual 6. At this point, I'm fine with it. I'm fine with not playing the Yankees at all for a few seasons, if it has to come down to that. It really doesn't bother me. Let them go play Philly 6 times a year, or better yet, let them go beat up on the Marlins. But I've had enough with the Subway Series. It's bad enough having to be a Mets fan this season, with this exciting start, and this trepidatious journey of "how long can they keep this up?" I really don't need the added aggravation of being swept by the Yankees and being subjected to the cat calls from their fans to remind me that the odds are against the Mets.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1974

Part 13 of our 50-year Moustache Growth...
What is it: 1974 Topps #8, George Theodore

What makes it interesting: I had a hard time picking a suitable card from '74, mostly a lost season for the Mets following the "Ya Gotta Believe" run in '73. I arrived at George "The Stork" Theodore primarily for the cult following Theodore and this particular card seem to have.

In addition to Theodore being a generally offbeat sort of character who just happened to play baseball (Bud Harrelson once said of George, "He looks like he was put together by committee,") Theodore's lone Baseball card is rather unique, as cards go. Many of the '74 cards have little pictures on the back with a fun fact about the player (Tom Seaver "Enjoys playing Bridge," Cleon Jones "ran 100 yd dash in 9.7 seconds in high school," and John Milner "has hit some of the longest homers in Shea Stadium history" to name a few). The best thing anyone could come up with on George Theodore is that he "Likes marshmallow milk shakes." For some reason, this seems so fitting for him.

Theodore was of limited ability as a ballplayer, and had a penchant for getting hurt more often than not. His playing career was mostly short-circuited by a violent outfield collision with Don Hahn in '73 that left him with a dislocated hip. His playing career lasted all of two seasons, both with the Mets, where you could count his career totals in Home Runs AND RBIs on your fingers and toes. Nonetheless, because he was so unique in stature, so gangly and miscast on the field, with his aviator glasses and mutant sideburns, and so quotable in philosophy, Theodore became one of the more beloved figures in Mets history, one of the many odd sort of characters that Mets history seems to be dotted with.

Card Back:

Friday, June 8, 2012


It's now the 16th year of Interleague Play and the 16th year of the Mets/Yankees Subway Series matchups. Every year it seems like it sort of sneaks up on you and then, boom, here it is and you're thinking "Subway Series already?"

At the moment, it appears I won't be going to any Subway Series games this year. I didn't go to any last year, either. The only other year I missed before that was in 2003. That was by accident and poor scheduling. The past couple of years, it's mostly been by choice.

It's somewhat stressful going to these games, dealing with a bipartisan crowd that includes many fans of a team I loathe, yelling and cheering and whooping it up, holding their Pregame chicken sacrifice or whatever their bleacher bums like to do. The years that I've gone and the Mets have won, it's been great. When the Mets have lost, it's been pure, unadulterated hell.

Back in the days of the old stadiums, these games were particularly intense, to the point where I'd been known to yell myself hoarse by the national anthem (TAKE YOUR HAT OFF!!). Since Citi Field has opened, the feelings have been somewhat reduced, probably because the Mets were lousy. Or tired. Or both. I haven't been to a game at the new Yankees Stadium, and I may never go there, so I don't know what it's like over there. My guess is it's probably mostly unbearable. I don't wish to find out.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels that the Subway Series is beginning to get a little stale. I was told or maybe I heard it on WFAN, that plenty of tickets, good seats in fact, are very much still available for all games. But I just can't seem to muster up the enthusiasm to fork over $50 a seat for this. Opening Day is a different story. This is sort of like an exercise in torture or some sort of demented psychological experiment Bud Selig is trying to pull. I'm not sure. But I feel like for sanity's sake, I may as well just watch at home. I think many others agree with me, if as many tickets are available as I'm led to believe. I guess we'll all have some idea as to what the story is come tonight.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Really Awesome

Once again, at a particular moment when the Mets needed a solid pitching performance to lead them to victory, R.A. Dickey answered the call and delivered the goods.

Not to belabor the point, but this is what he's been doing all season long.

In a season where the Mets have basically been giving everyone a nice kick in the ass, R.A. Dickey seems to have emerged as the head ass-kicker. His journey to get to this point already well-documented, he now is the Major League leader in Wins after his solid effort this afternoon. Who the hell thought that was going to happen?

Shortly after Opening Day, I bought a copy of Dickey's new book, "Wherever I Wind Up." Among the more compelling sub-stories I found in his tale (I haven't said much of the book, my brief review would be that it's a good book and a quick read, a must for any Mets fan, or anyone who has been a fan of Dickey's. A bit melodramatic at times, but then, that just seems to be Dickey's style of writing so it works.) was how he learned the Knuckleball. Something that began mostly as a forcible suggestion by Texas Rangers management took on a life of its own. Not only did Dickey learn the Knuckleball, he studied it. He picked the brains of multiple Knuckleballers. He grew as a Knuckleballer, and eventually, he managed to find success with it. And now, he's begun to reinvent the Knuckleball. He can add a little juice to it and slip it past hitters. He can take something off and "Bugs Bunny" the pitch at 59mph. Whatever he's doing, he's doing it well enough to keep hitters constantly off balance. The results of his quest have, to this point, been an overwhelming success. Upon his arrival with the Mets, nobody gave him much thought. Little more than another ship passing through town. I myself predicted he'd give up 7 runs in 2.2 innings in his first start and be gone before anyone noticed.

It's over 2 years later, and he's not only still here, he's not only exceeded anyone's expectations, and now, he's on top of his game. He's the guy we find ourselves wanting out there when victory is needed. He's the guy who's delivered solid start after solid start, winning effort after winning effort. His story is emblematic of these Mets: "Quit" does not exist in their vocabulary. And that's why he leads the Major Leagues in wins, he's threatening the Mets all-time consecutive scoreless innings streak, and he's going to be rewarded with his first trip to the All Star game in a month or so. In a year that's been full of surprises for the Mets, why not?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I know that over the course of a season, every team has "games like that," where nothing seems to go right. But last night for the Mets in Washington was such a ridiculous performance that by the time things ended, the game had dissolved into one of those idiotic farce games that I'm so fond of, replete with the Mets blowing a pair of extra inning leads and ultimately frittering the game away.

This, despite some pitching efforts that bordered on the Heroic.

I sometimes wonder, in the aftermath of games like this, if it wouldn't just be easier if the Mets just faded out and lost the game in normal fashion. It would have been perfectly acceptable to say that Jordan Zimmerman shut the Mets down 3-0, they couldn't figure him out, etc etc. Chris Young came back from his shoulder injury, acquitted himself just fine over his 5 innings, didn't get much help from his defense, and lost.

But, these Mets don't know how to quit. So, they came back on Zimmermann and ultimately took the lead in the 8th inning. It was shades I the last series in Philly. The Mets seemed primed to pull off yet another in a season of improbable comeback victories. But, then, the Mets defense took over and ultimately submarines this effort. The pitchers gave up the hits, yes, but they also made the necessary pitches to get the Nationals out, only to see certain defenders kick, boot and ultimately fumble away a game that they could conceivably have won on three separate occasions.

Not that the bullpen has been especially stellar, and in the end it was Elvin Ramirez contributing to his own undoing when he walked the opposing pitcher in the 12th (in spite of Detwiler basically handing him a strikeout, bunting away a pair of balls way out of the strike zone), but if there was any justice, Bobby Parnell would have gotten a Save and a Purple Heart for the crap he had to endure just to get through the 10th. This is, of course, when the game began to get completely stupid. It was bad enough that Jordany Valdespin, miscast at Shortstop through the machinations of the game, booting an easy grounder to kick off the show. If that wasn't bad enough, Ike Davis followed that up by gagging on an easy DP ball. And a few batters later, Valdespin earned his first Blown Save by yakking on a second grounder that should have been a DP, instead allowing the tying run to score and putting the winning run on 3rd with 1 out. Somehow, Parnell managed to escape from this, probably because he wised up and struck out the next two hitters rather than letting them hit the ball and hoping for the best. If you were keeping score, Parnell essentially got 8 outs in the 10th, but only got credit for 3. Oy vey.

The rest of the game, you already know what happened. And yet somehow Ramirez was a Pitch away from escaping the 12th. Can you imagine what would have happened if this game had continued? I'd guess there would have been another blown lead, probably a ball bouncing off of Vinny Rottino's head, and maybe Kirk Nieuwenhuis coming in to pitch before Danny Espinosa's inevitable walkoff grand slam...oh, wait, that happened 3 years ago. Never mind.

Probably better it ended where it did. Hopefully the Mets got this out of their system.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pitcher Perfect

Who needs a Bullpen?

With the starting pitching that was flying around this past weekend, certainly not the Mets.

After the dust settled (although it really hasn't settled yet) from Johan Santana's No Hitter on Friday night, the Mets followed up with a pair of more conventional great pitching performances, the typical solid effort from R.A. Dickey on Saturday, and from Jonathon Niese on Sunday Night, as the Mets proved themselves not only a worthy foil for the Cardinals, but worthy of inclusion on ESPN's The Biggest Game In The Galaxy.

Saturday, Dickey took to the mound and did basically what he's done all season: Get people out and get them out with regularity. That's all he seems to do. Whatever he's been doing, he's just had that knuckleball mojo working just about every start, and now it's time to start noticing the success. At 8-1, with an ERA under 3, he's become more than worthy of All Star consideration; I think he's worthy of inclusion. But although his performances have been great, he hadn't been able to finish one off to this point in the season. That changed on Saturday, when he wiped out a Cardinals team that may have still been reeling from being No-Hit the night before. With an early lead, Dickey just cruised the rest of the way, scattering, scattering 7 hits—7 more hits than the Cardinals had the night before—in a masterful complete game shutout effort that rendered the bullpen irrelevant for the second day in a row.

Sunday brought Jonathon Niese to the mound in a game moved to ESPN because, hey, the Mets are performing well and ESPN loves to kiss the Cardinals' asses even if LaRussa and Pujols are gone. So the Mets earned their first inclusion on the often-reviled Biggest Game In The Galaxy, and had he not been felled by a rapid heartbeat after 6 innings of a game that the Mets had a comfortable lead, Niese might have finished things off himself. But, no, out he came, and in came a bullpen that certainly must have been well-rested. The only issue left to chance for the Mets then became could they shut out that vaunted Cardinals offense 3 games in a row. The answer was no, only because they managed to scrape a run across against a kid making his big league debut. But that seemed to be all the Cardinals have been able to muster at this point.

Today, the finale of  the series, with Jeremy Hefner going to the mound for the Mets to follow up his memorable effort last week against the Phillies. If Hefner's on the mound, the weather must be bad out, looks like rain today. Well, we'll see how this turns out for him. If it's anything like the rest of the Mets starting pitching the past few days, the weather may not matter much.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

50 Years in Cards: 1973

Part 12 of our 50-year quest for a No Hitter...

What is it: 1973 Topps #223, Bud Harrelson

What makes it interesting: The '73s are another of Topps' seminal efforts. The design is nice and simple, and the silhouetted position players are a nice touch, even with different silhouettes for lefty and righty pitchers. '73 was also the last year that Topps released their cards in separate small series over the course of the Baseball season. By '74, they would go to one single series, occasionally releasing a "Traded" series following the season. By the '80s, the "Traded" set would become commonplace. But it would not be until 1993 that Topps would go back to releasing their base set in more than one series (and even then, it was only in two series, not six or seven as it used to be).

Though he was never much of a hitter, Bud Harrelson came to be a Mets icon in his own right over his playing career in the '60s and '70s. His fielding was unparalleled at the time, and he was a key player on both the 1969 World Series Champions, and the 1973 National League Champions. He won a Gold Glove in 1971, and was twice elected to the NL All Star Team in 1970 and '71. He was also a coach for the 1986 World Series Champions, making him the only man to be in a Mets uniform both times they won the World Series. His stint as Mets Manager in 1990 and '91 was alternately good and rather bad, and may have left a bad taste in the mouth of some fans, but he's still welcomed with mostly open arms. Mostly, though, he's remembered for taking on Pete Rose in the infamous Game 3 brawl in the NLCS in '73.

This card also holds some significance for me personally. The first Baseball card I ever got was a Gary Carter, from the 1987 Topps Set. That's all fine and good. But that was 1987. I had to start somewhere if I was going to work backwards to get every Mets card going back to 1962, and this was where I began. The first card I got, going backwards, was this Bud Harrelson from 1973. Apparently, this created a monster. Before too long, I had got around to completing the Mets team set from '73, and then filled everything else out from there. Now, this collection is two cards short from being complete. It's only taken me 25 years.

Card back:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Curtain Call

Baseball is a funny game, isn't it.

For 50 seasons and 8,019 regular season games, the Mets never had a pitcher who threw a No-Hit game, fact that seemed to take on a life of its own. It was part of the Mets culture. I'm sure many of us thought it might never happen. But it has. Baseball  is a game of averages, and by the law of averages, everything has to happen at some point. Just like until 2004, no team had ever come back from 0-3 down to win a Playoff series, and we saw the Red Sox do that. Someone, someday, would take the mound for the Mets, the stars would align, and someone would throw that elusive No Hitter.

And last night, June 1, 2012, that day finally came, that pitcher finally took the mound, and that No Hitter was had.

4 years ago, I'd anointed Johan Santana as worth every penny the Mets would be paying him over the course of his contract. He's done nothing, ever, to make me doubt that, even when he missed all of 2011 with a shoulder injury that put the remainder of his career in jeopardy. Nonetheless, Santana never complained, he never got down on himself or his teammates when they couldn't back him up, he persevered and came back from his injury looking just as good as before he left, and now, he's been rewarded by being the man on the mound the night the stars aligned and a Mets pitcher finally threw a No Hitter.

I wasn't at last night's game, although I wish I was. Frugality deterred me from picking an innocuous blue-colored Friday Night game on the schedule (instead, I'm stuck with tickets for Monday Afternoon which I probably should just sell), and, in fact, I missed the first 6 innings of the game altogether while out to dinner. By time I returned, I was pleased with what I was seeing. I hadn't yet gotten the word that Santana was pitching a gem, but a 5-0 lead against the Cardinals is always a good thing.

So the 6th ends, and I see that the Cardinals have no hits. I notify a friend, although after 6 innings, I'm still not properly conditioned to take this seriously. I once saw Rick Reed take a Perfect Game into the 7th inning...twice. One time, he lost the game completely. I once saw Mark Clark take a No Hitter into the 8th inning. I saw R.A. Dickey hold the Phils into the 7th inning last September. It's too early to get too nervous. But Santana continued to mow the Cardinals down. Yadier Molina made a strong bid to break things up—certainly would have been fitting for him to screw us over again—but Mike Baxter saved the day at the cost of his shoulder. Those are the kind of plays you need. At that point, you could start to feel the stars aligning. I hadn't yet heard about Beltran's foul ball in the 5th, but sometimes, you just get those breaks.

By the 8th, I started getting nervous. Something just felt different this time. Maybe it was simply just the presence of Santana himself, and all he'd been through the last couple of seasons just to get to this point. He wasn't supposed to be doing THIS, was he? He wasn't supposed to be blowing through his pitch count with reckless abandon. And yet, he couldn't come out. After a 2-out walk, Terry Collins came running to the mound. There was no way he could take Santana out. Santana would have thrown him back into the dugout if he'd tried. Beltran was next, and now, I was flinching every time a Cardinal made contact. But the contact was never solid enough to scoot past the infield, or to whiz over the head of an outfielder. Beltran's swing produced a meek floater that was caught by Daniel Murphy. And all of a sudden, Santana was now in Tom Seaver territory.

I'd like to say that the 9th inning was just a mere formality. I suppose one might say that if they didn't have a pulse. I'd seen 9th innings of No Hitters before, and I wondered what it would be like if it ever happened to the Mets. Well, now I know. It's about 5-7 minutes of torturous hell. I was afraid to move or do much of anything other than stare blankly at the TV. Watching Santana deliver pitch after pitch, and hoping this wouldn't be the one that would find its way through, and wreck our shot at History once again. But it wasn't going to happen on June 1, 2012. First Holliday and then Allen Craig flew out. David Freese was the last man standing. David Freese has never done anything particularly bad to the Mets, but he certainly made a name for himself last October. And so, on a night where demons from the past were well abound, with Adam Wainwright starting—and losing— for the Cardinals, where Yadier Molina was robbed by a Mets leftfielder, David Freese completed the circle, waving at one final, signature changeup from Johan Santana, and, in the words of Gary Cohen, "IT HAS HAPPENED!!!"

It was somewhat surreal. I really couldn't believe I'd actually seen a Mets pitcher throw a No Hitter. But, there it was. We have to believe it, because we all saw it. We have to believe it, because, Johan Santana himself told his teammates to "BELIEVE IT!" after the game. Whatever Santana does the rest of his time here doesn't matter. I think I said that before. He's already cemented himself as one of the Best the Mets have ever had. He's accomplished something we never thought we'd see. And for the guy in the Promenade who always screams "THE STREAK CONTINUES!" every time the opponent gets their first hit of the game, well, this one's for you, because I never have to hear you say that again! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Streak Does Not Continue

It happened. We all just saw it.

Johan Santana just threw the first No-Hitter in Mets History.


There hasn't been much fanfare surrounding Carlos Beltran's return to Citi Field tonight, or at least not nearly as much as there was when Jose Reyes came back in April. I haven't heard anything about video tributes or whatever the Mets feel like doing for him. But I suppose it makes sense.

Looking back on what was an outstanding Met career, I can't help but feel like Carlos Beltran was really some kind of outside mercenary. He never felt like he was truly "our guy," sort of like the way a Wright or Reyes or Piazza was. We rooted for him. I always pulled for him hard, because for the majority of his tenure with the Mets, he was probably the best guy they put out there on a day-to-day basis. When he was good, which was often, he was great. He could carry the team for stretches if he needed to. There were stretches where it felt like he was the only player on the team who decided to show up for the game. He had great, shining moments. He also had some failures that came in rather glaring moments. He had his share of controversy, whether he deserved it or not. Such is the life of a star player in New York.

It's unfortunate, I think, that Beltran is remembered for the things he's remembered for, particularly his lousy season in '05, his sniping with management over his knee injury in '09, and, of course, that one perfect curveball that he didn't swing at. Many Mets fans I've spoken with also seem to have the sentiment that Beltran never really wanted to be a Met,  he wanted to be a Yankee, but the Yankees never made him an offer. This may be true, but he could have said "no" to the Mets in '05. It was an important signing for the Mets to be able to make, and although it never resulted in a Pennant or a World Series Championship, without Beltran on the team, the teams in '06, '07 and '08 probably don't get as far as they did. People got on Beltran for looking like he didn't care or wasn't trying very hard, or because he didn't say very much to the press, and I can't believe that to be true. Beltran just played the game with such a natural fluidity that maybe one might make that mistake. I can't look at any moment he had in his 6 and a half years with the Mets and think of an instance where it appeared he wasn't trying. I don't think there are too many players on the team over that time that you can say that about.

Unlike Reyes, there wasn't the big "will he stay or won't he stay" question. His departure last July was more or less a foregone conclusion, since it was clear the Mets weren't going to re-sign him, and so they were wise to get what they could for him (and Zack Wheeler looks rather good to this point). So, then, Mets fans shouldn't feel quite as jilted as they do about Jose Reyes. The Mets probably felt he was on the downside of his career, and it appeared most other teams did too, since it took a while for him to get any kind of contract offer. But with the Cardinals, of all teams, Beltran seems to have had a bit of a renaissance this season. He's returning to New York in the midst of one of those classic Beltran hot streaks that we saw so often. I really don't know how the fans will react to his return tonight. Hopefully, he'll get some appreciative cheers, which is what I would do if I were in attendance. More than likely, though, I feel like he'll get booed. He deserves better treatment. Unfortunately, he couldn't ever live the negative stuff down with most Mets fans. Hopefully, people will wise up, prove me wrong, and give the man his due for a standout 6+ years with the Mets.