One Fan’s Take from Citi in a Year of Wonder

So far this year I’ve been to two Citi Field games. It was neither the first nor the last game of the initial homestand, so they lost both. Outscored 15-5. I sort of saw the lone Mets home run on the homestand by Yeonis Cespedes—I mean sort of because, having stumbled into the Promenade Club during Sunday’s frigid game (in the shade) against Philly, I could only see the tops of the outfielders, but I heard the cheer and picked up the crowd welcoming the ball into the stands. For one home run in 52 innings of swinging (and missing), I’m counting it. Unfortunately, I had much better sightings of Odubel Herrera, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcel Ozuna’s home runs—the latter two seen from my first visit to the Party City Deck Monday night. If they are going to name the stadium Citi Field, how about Party Citi Deck? Doesn’t matter, as they informed us it was now the M&M deck, but of all the stuff they “gave us” (after charging us $115 for all you can eat and drink) we did not get a single M&M.

All right, I am already rambling and I’m still just trying to lay the story straight on last year. The postseason threw off my ritual annual postings so I didn’t know when to do them. So how about just in time for tax day?

Favorite Nonplaying Met: Juan Uribe. I sure do miss the guy’s bat and smile. Even in the World Series, he got up just once and singled in a run—compared to three K-ABs by totally done Michael Cuddyer in Kansas City. We’ve never had a FNP Met who came midseason from another team and spent just a couple of months on the Mets roster, but he was the only guy I wanted to see play more. Though Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a chance to go back-to-back FNPs, like Nick Evans before him (2009-10). Uribe played plenty until David Wright came back and then Juan got hurt and couldn’t play again until the World Series. Still, this coveted prize will look great in an Extended Stay America suite somewhere near Cleveland. We’re thinking about you, Juan, and there’s that rendezvous at Flo Field in Cleveland!

OK, what’s next? Mets final grades. To quote newlywed Flap from Terms of Endearment, who he had more pressing concerns than giving out grades on English papers: “Oh, I’ll just give ’em all B’s.” Rarely have I ever been prouder to be a Mets fan than I was last fall. That’s better than any letter grade I can come up with.

And finally, there is the log of games at Citi Field, which I do annually so I never have to say I think I’ve been to so and so many games at the park. And for the first time since this began in 2009, I have postseason games to include. Come back a few months with me. It is magic from first to (almost) last pitch.

Captain’s Log 2015 Citi Field

Date Foe, Result Mets Rec, Pos MS Rec Win Loss Save HRs /by NYM Who hit the HRs Note
13-Ap Phi, 2-0 W 4-3, 2nd 1-0 deGrom Harang Familia 0 Only thing more perfect than Opening Day at the park was start of perfect 10-0 homestand.
15-Jun Tor, 4-3 W 35-30, 1st 2-0 Robles Cecil   2  Bautista 2 Most years this is signature win, but in ’15… Syndergaard superb,  2 Bautista bombs, Duda RBI in 11th ties, and then a Wilmer walkoff hit!
24-July LA, 7-2 L 49-48, 1st 2-1 Thomas Niese   3 Turner, Puig, Rollins Conforto debut, night of Uribe & Johnson deal, and Niese missed birth to get torched by LA. Mets 2nd, 1 game over .500, and all changed.
28-Aug Bos, 6-4 L 71-57, 1st 2-2 Layne C. Torres Breslow 3 Ortiz, Bradley, Swihart 1st place Mets kept coming back on Sox, but another great Harvey start with no decision. Scoreless Eric O’Flaherty appearance!
2-Sep Phi, 9-4 W 74-59, 1st 3-2 Harvey Nola 4/3 Tejada, Conforto, Cespedes, Sweeney Finally saw a Mets HR–3, actually! And Tejada inside-the-park job! Plus Conforto and Cespedes! And Mets got win for Harvey…just before innings gate and the big series in DC.
4-Oct. Was, 1-0 W 90-72, W 4-2 Clippard Treinen Familia 1/1 Granderson Worried this’d be for the marbles. Mets no-hit previous night. So what? Granderson HR!
12-Oct LA, 13-7 W NLDS, 2-1 5-2 Harvey Anderson 4/2 d’Arnaud, Cespedes, Gonzalez, Kendrick First postseason game at Citi. Heard ovation for Tejada a mile away–where we had to park! Mets down 3-0 and then…Ka-Boom! 10 unanswered runs! One NLDS game not duel.
17-Oct Chi, 4-2 W NLCS, 1-0 6-2 Harvey Lester Familia 3/2 Murphy, d’Arnaud, Schwarber 1973 World Series level frigid but electric at top of Citi. d’Arnaud off apple, Shawarber off Unisphere, Murph HR and nice play to end.
30-Oct KC, 9-3 W WS, 1-2 7-2 Syndergaard Ventura 2/2 Wright, Granderson Pregame atmosphere worthy of World Series. Standing room only and my spine tingles thinking of Wright’s HR–and Syndergaard!
29-Sep KC, 7-2 L WS, 1-4 7-3 Hochevar Reed 1/1 Granderson Should have quit while I was ahead. Spent last half inning in last go round for Pepsi Porch.
2015  Harvey 3 Familia 2 23/11 Grand 3, d’arnaud 2, Cespedes 2 Like everything else in 2015, the HRs came on late. As did the wins.
Since ’09 opening 280-287 46-38 Dickey & Santana 4 Pelfrey 3 K-Rod 7 126/68 Wright 8 Counting postseason, Mets are 284-290 at Citi. A winning record at the place isn’t far fetched.

 


Reflections of a Mets Life: 2015

Yes, I’m behind. Months behind in everything, and this blog has ended up at the bottom of the pile after family, finishing books, sitting at work, and what could have been the best sports year of my life. But wasn’t. It was close, though.

To be honest, I could not even put the lid on 2015 until January 2016 was almost done, with my Arizona Cardinals, but that ended in the NFC Championship Game, quickly, I might add, but they did pull out an incredible game out of the fire against the Packers. In short, the year 2015 can be summed up as absolutely superb, but a couple of game short of the ultimate goal. But it was close.

The World Series. The Mets in the World Series. Every step was as inconceivable as the villain Vizzini (Wallace Shaun) in The Princess Bride.

The Mets are getting Yeonis Cespedes at the trade deadline and it won’t cost them their best prospects.

Inconceivable.

The Mets are going to knock off the Nationals for the division title and the season-ending series against Washington won’t mean a thing.

Inconceivable!

The Mets are going to beat the Dodgers despite not having homefield advantage or, apart from one game, not hitting at all.

Bah, inconceivable!!

The Mets, who lost all seven games against the Cubs in 2015, are going to sweep them in the NLCS to reach the World Series.

As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable!!!

Inconceivable indeed. Though I was working two jobs, working on five books, and numerous pressing personal issues that are still too painful to share, the Mets, for once, were the one constant in my life. They just kept winning. I hadn’t missed a Mets postseason game in person since the last two games of 1986, but I missed one each in these three postseason series. Didn’t matter. Daniel Murphy’s heretofore up and down career was all up, stealing unoccupied bases and hitting homers at key moments. Every… single… game. And the pitching was as good as anything I’ve ever seen in a Mets uniform. Yes, anything. Even Terry Collins could not make a wrong move (until, sadly, he did). And if only for a couple more late-inning outs in the World Series, it might have all turned out like a fairy tale.

Inconceivable!!!! You keep saying that word. I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

I saw the first pitch of the year and the last from the upper deck at Citi Field. I went to eight games in between (more on that in a future post), but I saw most of the kids pitch: deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard, and of course, Jeurys Familia. I am still trying to catch up on the work, but in the coming weeks you will see how my homework came out: One-Year Dynasty, 100 Things Mets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die (third edition), Mets by the Numbers (the second edition of Jon Springer’s landmark concept). And Red Sox and Cubs by the Numbers will also be out soon, in case you think I’ve been slacking. All are available for preorder, I may add because there is room for promotion every year.

It is a new season but 2015 still seems to go on. The game goes on. Life has been moving as fast as a Matt Harvey fastball. And I’m still swinging. Let’s go Mets!

Keep the inconceivable coming.


Mets and Royals Agree to Go Double or Nothing on Series Trophy

Didn’t like how the World Series turned out? Well, here’s a chance to take the World Series trophy from the Royals… this Sunday night!

How could this happen? You know how the players from opposing teams nowadays love to fraternize before a game, no matter how important the contest. Fun-loving Mets outfielder Yeonis Cespedes hit it off with Royals catcher Salvador Perez so well during the World Series that when Perez stopped in Miami to film a commercial on his way from home in Venezuela to spring training in Arizona, the two hit the town harder than the Royals jump on a fastball. After many cervesas, Perez agreed to put the World Series trophy back in play in their rematch on Opening Night.

Wait, you ask, what are the Mets putting up if they lose? Yeonis agreed to put up his entire 2017 salary of $23.7 million. Perez was not aware that Cespedes can (and likely will) opt out of that contract after this year, leaving the Royals with a whole lot of nothing if the Mets can pull this off. But how can the suits from MLB let this happen? There has never been a World Series rematch on Opening Day (or Night), so this is new territory. And an old man in Quiggleville, PA recently found a copy of the Temple Cup agreement of 1894 that has some bearing on this issue, back when gambling was not limited to Indian-run casinos, state lotteries, and free agency.

By the time the lawyers get it all sorted out, the Mets might just have added a third trophy to the display vase at the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum. The Kansas rubes never saw this coming. They sure can hit, though. And run. And pitch. And celebrate in Flushing.

But after having the whole winter off and no two-inning saves to wear him out, maybe Jeurys Familia will be back to his pre-Series self. And Terry Collins knows to never let Matt Harvey talk him into anything. And Lucas Duda has practiced the throw from first to home 370,000 times (or, in dollars, the amount of money each World Series-winning player got).

Cespedes even convinced Perez  to put his World Series MVP on the line. (Perez really was hammied in Miami.) If Cespedes can pull of this trick, he deserves MVP even if he goes 0 for 4 in the game.

What better way to start the 30th anniversary of the 1986 season? Well, maybe pre-ordering this book is a good start.


East Coast Cardinal Survives by the Shovel

For those who don’t know, forgot, or don’t care, I pledge to be the only Arizona Cardinals fan on the East Coast. Even after that amazing win over the Packers—the second such agony and ecstasy OT playoff win over the Packers in the last six years, Saturday Night Live host Adam Driver, whose entrance was delayed almost an hour due to the late run of the game, came out and said “Congratulations to the Arizona Cardinals.” And about three people clapped. Obviously they were from out of town.

But so what? I am a Mets fan, so I know what it is like to be ignored. And as long as you keep winning, you get to laugh while others yawn and stare at their phones. I will not forget this game. Allowing two Hail Marys on one drive, on fourth-and-20, and essentially, fourth-and-45 is mind-boggling. Having a coin flip that does not count is something I have never seen. And a shovel pass from Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald, the guy who just went 75 yards and the other team has to be covering for the winning touchdown. Thats incredible.

For the second time in their 95 year NFL History, they will go the NFC Championship Game. (They did play in a couple of NFL Championship Games; even won an NFL title in 1947, but all anyone cares about the Super Bowl.) I actually missed the first half of the game, going with friends to see Brooklyn, the movie, not the borough—and if I could say Saoirse Ronan I would say she’s superb. And Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) excels as well. The movie was good, but the game will linger. No matter what happens next. Though I recall thinking something like that last October.

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Oh, and if I don’t get back on the site before next week, let me proudly say I’ll be on the book panel at the third annual Queens Baseball Convention on Saturday, January 23. By the fans, for the fans, because the Mets don’t want to do one. The lack of official team hype and BS is what makes QBC great. Do not miss it! QBC 16 will be at a new location: O’Neill’s Restaurant at 64-21 53rd Drive in Maspeth. It starts at 11:30 a.m. I go on with the panel hosted by Jason Fry at 3:30 p.m.


Fame, Thy Name Is Piazza

This is a test. If Mike Piazza is elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and you do not post an article commenting on it within a significant amount of time, you do not have what can be deemed a functioning Mets site. I have been preoccupied working on a few books and actually had to make late changes to the night of his announcement to reflect the Mets doubling their Hall of Fame representation, and, wait and see, doubling their retired player numbers as well. They have set the bar purposely high in this area.

It has been a pretty darned good year in Metsland. Sure, George Steinbrenner might classify losing the World Series as a failure, but if Mets fans thought that way they’d never be happy. Not that losing to the Royals didn’t hurt. It still hurts. With two rounds needed to win a pennant, the odds of returning to the World Series are not good. It is possible. And you can even win the second time around. Just ask the Royals. But screw them. I’m still mad and hurt. I am pretty excited about Mike Piazza getting into the Hall of Fame, though. And going in as a Met.

Piazza’s arrival in 1998 was a Keith Hernandez kind of change. It was worth the $21 for box seats and taking my three-month-old daughter to her first game and later making it one of my earliest posts on this site. The Mets went from pretty good to really good after getting him, while the post-Mex Mets started from a lower low and reached a higher high. Piazza was the focus of the offense. And I remain convinced that another year with Edgardo Alfonzo-John Olerud-Piazza middle of the order and they win a World Series. And if they hadn’t played the Yankees in 2000…

Piazza had gotten painfully close to the Hall of Fame and then blasted through this time around. All the steroids era players will probably get in one day, just like the guys who exploded offenses in the 1930s one day stopped being punished. People say, “Who cares?  everyone was doing it.” Because if everyone was jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, everyone else would follow behind. And be handed millions of dollars for the risk. If there was any.

I like the comment made by Roy Halladay: “When you use PEDs you admit your not good enough to compete fairly! Our nations past time should have higher standards! No Clemens no Bonds!” Roger threw a bat at Roy’s s head or something, but I wish a player had said that 20 years ago. The players caused this problem. The owners exacerbated it. And the writers, the low men on the prestige and pay totem polls are the ones left to administer it. Funny thing is, Halladay, who is not eligible for the Hall until 2019, may get in before Clemens does.

The Hall of Fame is a great place. I have friends who work there. I have a Hall of Fame club member T-shirt that is almost as old as Steven Matz. It is funny how this little town in upstate New York has so many quaking in their boots. What should be bothering them is their conscience.

I believe Mikey P. is clean. I just wish we knew and that someone did something about it when they could. It’s baseball. In football Peyton Manning has serious allegations leveled against him regarding HGH and barely an eye is batted. Think that will keep him out of his Hall of Fame?

But Cooperstown is what matters as is the fact that Mike Piazza is there in a Mets hat. Mets ownership went out of its way after his retirement to make it clear that they thought of him as their guy. This time the owners were right. And this time the writers were right.


Mets Gift of the Year: Take Thee to Citi

Every year at this time (or later) I toss out an idea for those looking to give the gift of Mets at holiday time. Often, the suggestion is books, because I know of no better way to say a lot about Mets for $20 or so and learn something at the same time. There are an absolute ton of Mets books due out next year, including three from your faithful servant (one new, and an update or two crammed with new material).

You could say the gifts have already been given for 2015. Mortgaging a small bit of future for a push to the postseason. The Washington Nationals not firing Matt Williams when he lost the team and lost tons of games with questionable moves. Knocking off the Dodgers in a tense NLDS. Sweeping the Cubs in the NLCS after Chicago swept the season series from the Mets. The thrill, never mind the outcome, of returning to the World Series for the first time in 15 years. You could even say that Michael Cuddyer retiring and freeing up a bunch of money for a cash strapped club is a gift under the tree. (Mike, you may not have been my favorite player, but that is a classy way to go out with your dignity in tow.)

But we are looking at something simple and even for under the tree. Getting your butt to Citi Field, or getting someone there who hasn’t gone in a few years due to some grand point. Here is the news: Your experiment has failed. The ship is leaving without you. And you are not hurting the Wilpons, you’re hurting yourself. Or your loved ones. The Wilpons will endure. So must you. We are not talking about season tickets, we are talking about a game or two. Get you back in flow, Joe.

I address all the reasons some may be reticent with a never-before-published segment to the new edition to 100 Things Mets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. This did not appear in the 2008 or 2010 versions of the book. It didn’t have to. It needs saying now.

Have the Mettiest of holidays.

Go to a Mets Home Game

The first two incarnations of this book did not include this recommendation because it seemed too obvious, but following the team’s financial miasma that took over the Mets conversation for much of the 2010s, it is worth advising now: See the Mets in person at Citi Field. If you don’t live near New York, see number 82 (Attend a Mets Road Game).

Many, many Mets fans have proclaimed that they will not attend another Mets game until the Wilpons sell the team. As of 2015, with a newly minted National League pennant and the floor of the Wrigley Field visiting locker room still sticky from the champagne from the giant bottle of bubbly Jeff Wilpon was last seen hoisting following the sweep of the Cubs, it doesn’t look like ownership is changing soon. So how many more pennants do you plan to miss? They don’t come around in Flushing too often, no matter who owns the team.

First, for those planning to raise a new generation of Mets fans, the best way for it to stick is to bring young kiddies and (if it applies) bring your wife, as the song goes. You can watch all the baseball you want on TV or buy tons of merchandise (and doesn’t that wind up in ownership’s pockets?), but it is much more likely to take hold in an environment with thousands of others with the same predisposition. If you want to raise Yankees fans, or worse, people who don’t care about baseball at all, the best way to do that is to not take them out to the ballgame. It can go a little far in the other direction, like the kids under 10 seen by the hundreds after midnight of a 13-4 lead in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the Division Series, but the Mets have been known to go long periods between sips of playoff bubbly.

Watching on TV is cheaper, but it’s not anywhere close to the shared experience of the ballpark. And here are a few hints on how to do so without costing an arm or a leg or bringing excess treasure to owners you don’t like. Here’s a five-step plan.

  1. Buy from Stub Hub or similar secondary market sources—including people you know who have extra tickets. Stub Hub is partner with almost all major league teams, including the Mets, and there is a processing fee, but it is a great way to get tickets at a reduced price (like the $6 Promenade seats overlooking the infield purchased at the last minute for the final regular season game of 2015) or an incredibly inflated price (like the sum I cannot disclose for 2015 World Series standing room tickets, should the Mrs. reads this).
  2. Take public transportation. This will keep you from paying $22 and up for parking at the ballpark, unless you are willing to get there early, park free on the street, and then walk a bit.
  3. Bring your own food. The Mets are pretty good about letting people bring in food, so long as it is not in a cooler. As for drinks, the team website says, “Guests may bring in one, soft, plastic, factory-sealed water bottles of 20 ounces or less. Guests may also bring in one sealed, soft-sided child’s juice box. Note: Water bottles and juice boxes may not be frozen.” (Also be careful of metal containers, including aerosol sun screen, bring a plastic bottle instead.)
  4. Give blood. New York Blood Center in recent years has given free Mets tickets to people giving blood during certain times of the year. Likewise, people donating to the team’s December coat drive and summer food drive (10 items or more) at the stadium receive free seat vouchers for future games at Citi.
  5. Don’t confuse laziness or cheapness with some high moral stand.

To quote Auntie Mame, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” And have you tried the Pat LaFrieda steak sandwich at Citi Field?

Bonus Paragraph Not Available in Book (or sold in stores, to use holiday speak)

If I may digress, I came from a household where baseball was not big, but I suddenly got into the game and the Mets at age 10 in 1975. That year both the Mets and Yankees played at Shea Stadium, and I first saw the Yankees play at Shea against the Indians on Oldtimers Day, with all the pomp and circumstance moved from the Bronx to Flushing. And I pulled for Cleveland the whole way. A few weeks later my father took me to the same place to see the Mets, and that beat-up old stadium was the only structure I loved as much as the house where I grew up. As bad as the Mets were in the years that followed, I cherished going to those games with my dad—mostly losses—almost as much as the postseason games I was later privileged to attend with my friends. I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Take your kid to the ballgame. Or take yourself, for your own good. You’re guaranteed to have the time of your life. (Disclaimer: Guarantee not valid in Flushing.)


Some Run There, Terry

Well, hey there! I know you were worried. Yes, I took the Mets loss in the World Series kind of hard. You get so close to the whole thing and then it comes down to a few bad plays that if they are made, maybe I’ve been on a happy bender for the last month. But we all know that didn’t happen. Though I wasn’t sitting around the house all depressed watching Mets Classics, eating Haagen Dazs, and every few minutes bawling, “Aw Murph!”

There was some business to attend to. First came the finishing touches on One-Year Dynasty: Inside the Rise and Fall of the 1986 Mets, Baseball’s Impossible One-and-Done Champions, which originally had numerous opinions stated and interviews done about how the Mets would never match ’86 and could not win with current ownership. So that needed some massaging, but not as much as if the Mets had won the whole thing. I was ready to do the work. I really was, but… “Aw, Murph!” And I know if I’d made the throw Duda made when I was in Little League, I would have spent part of every offseason day throwing the ball against the garage door until I made the perfect throw. Every time. But where are we? Oh, that’s right, plugs!

We will have some report card grades, along with the Mets Gift of the Year, Favorite Nonplaying Met, Met’s Mets Log, and other features you have come to cherish (or scroll past when they are plugged on Facebook and Twitter). Just give me some time and space to get all this done.

Since I went so long between posts I have some bonus text for you. The book I wrote in 2008 that spurred the launching of this site, 100 Things Mets Should Know and Do Before They Die, will see its third edition in March of 2016. (new edition available for pre-order or old or previous edition because Santa’ll tell you those pre-orders do not always stuff stockings to the level he likes.

Here is a piece I wrote for the new edition of 100 Things that kept me from writing on this site. I have been rather critical of Terry Collins on this site—but he is getting his due in the latest version of 100 Things. You’ll have to pick up a copy to find out where T.C. ranks among the other four pennant winning Mets managers, plus Casey Stengel, the only Mets manager older than Teflon Terry is less than a decade from surpassing as oldest Mets manager in history. But I will say with all sincerity, 2015 was a superb job, Terry. You came awfully close to The Only Thing This Mets Fan Wants to See and Experience Before I Die. And for that we thank you.

Terry Collins

Frankly, if someone had told me in July of 2015 that I would have to clear room in this latest book update for a Terry Collins entry, I would have told the person that they were crazy. Who’s crazy now?

Terry Collins became the fifth Mets manager in history to win a National League pennant. The Mets, who had the most anemic offense in the National League when July began, became overnight thumpers following the arrival of Yoenis Cespedes, the headliner among several key acquisitions by Sandy Alderson around the July 31 trading deadline. Collins, who at 66 was baseball’s oldest manager in 2015, could have remained old school and followed the path that resulted in brief tenures with the Astros and Angels in the 1990s. But he embraced new methods.

One such development was “The Matrix,” not a confusing Keanu Reeves movie but a system created by the Mets front office profiling how hitters did against comparable pitchers. It paid dividends once the Mets roster acquired enough legitimate hitters to give Collins real lineup options. Those combinations differed almost nightly through the last two months of the year, but the results were consistent: 37-17 from the day the Mets made the Cespedes deal to the weekend they clinched the NL East.

It was an odd year in many ways. The Mets, who hadn’t been no-hit in 22 years, were no-hit twice in one season for the first time. No Met had ever homered three times in a game at home—it happened twice (Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda). Queens native Steven Matz drove in a major league record (for a pitcher) four runs in his major league debut and got the win. And Collins, who in June 2015 surpassed Mets managing legend Gil Hodges for third all-time in team victories, won a career high 90 games. He joined Hodges and Yogi Berra, along with the two men ahead of him—Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine—as Mets managers to win a National League pennant.

Collins never reached the majors as a player, but the Michigan native landed in New York after managing in Japan and guiding China’s inaugural World Baseball Classic team in 2009. He served as Mets minor league field coordinator in 2010 and, after Alderson replaced Omar Minaya as GM, became the 20th manager in Mets history.

Collins was a seen as a company man who would take the long view in rebuilding, but what had felt as endless as a Department of Transportation highway project was suddenly complete. To his credit, Collins still gave answers that made reporters chuckle and the internet buzz, even as some grandstand managers scratched their heads. Should he have taken out Matt Harvey earlier in Game 5 of the World Series? It seems so in retrospect, but he had successfully rolled the dice in Game 5 of the Division Series, bringing in rookie phenom Noah Syndergaard for his first major league relief appearance in a one-run game. Collins looked brilliant when Syndergaard was perfect and the Mets won the deciding game at Dodger Stadium. Collins’s club then took on the Cubs and everyone’s favorite managing genius, Joe Maddon, winning four straight after going 0-7 against Chicago in 2015, B.C.—Before Cespedes.

Maybe the clock struck midnight on Cinderella in the World Series—two losses to Kansas City did come after midnight in extra innings. But if there was a fairy godmother/father for the 2015 Mets, it was Terry Collins. For a team that Sports Illustrated picked to finish fourth in its division, with a manager that many pundits thought would be among the first fired in ’15, Collins was the only NL manager still in a dugout when October was pulled off the calendar.

—From third edition of 100 Things Mets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die (2016)


The 2015 World Series: Just Like Starting Over

It is so much easier to think of stuff to write when all goes badly for the Mets. That is normal. This is strange. But fun.

I am used to putting Mets pennant winners in a formatted scenario in my writing, place on pedestal and watch. The most recent team was in 2000. The most recent postseason team was 2006. I had written about these and the other “special” Mets ballclubs 10 times over in books and on this site. Now, it’s like starting over. I don’t know nothin’. Except this:

  • I have been trying to come up with a name for the youth movement or the new age rotation for the update of 100 Things Mets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. I’ve got nothing as far as names go. Just call them rather successful.
  • Daniel Murphy. No Met has ever reached this level of white hot. Hell, few players ever have. Even Reggie Jackson, when he was undeservedly named MVP of the World Series by Sport Magazine in 1973—I’ve written about this before—did not hit at all during the night games in New York (1-for-12) and 8 for 14 in his last three games in the Oakland sunshine after taking the collar in the opener against Jon Matlack. Mr. October had one home run. Murph does that for daily exercise.
  • Yoenis Cespedes and Travis d’Arnaud. It is a strange pair, but when they hit, the Mets are unstoppable. Throw in Lucas Duda. Daniel Murphy can’t possibly stay that hot, but if these three can combine to bring what Murph brought during the playoffs, you’re gonna like the way you look.
  • Defense. This team has made some Amazin’ plays of late. The Murphy stop to end Game One. The Duda dives. (Say it fast and it sounds like “The Dude Abides.”)  David Wright playing third base like someone who earned his two Gold Gloves rather than receiving them as consolation prizes for the incredibly productive offense and bitter endings to his team’s 2007 and 2008 seasons.
  • And the relief pitching coming through when it was needed. Jon Niese getting the one big out needed in the series (though Bartolo Colon earned the win in Game Four by getting an out that seemed huge to Mets fans used to everything going wrong, but it was a 6-1 lead). Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed holding serve and Jeurys Familia, which is Spanish for whatever über Methead Jim Bruer says it is on a given night. And if there if there is ever a direct-to-video sequel to The Big Lebowksi (Lebo Large Dos: The Quickening?), I would actually watch it just to see him. And I promise to finally sit down and watch his classic performance in Half Baked. (The sequel he’s got to do, Twice Baked—dude….!)
  • Terry Collins has to keep being the lucky leprechaun whose every move transforms into a pot o’ gold. I never thought the Mets could win with him. Well, shut my mouth.
  • And Sandy Alderson, who some call the grandfather of Moneyball, has out Billy Beaned Billy Beane when it comes to October. Those A’s teams only made it out of the Division Series once, and that year they got smoked by a Detroit Tigers team the Mets should have smoked in the World Series. But the Mets got knocked off before they could reach the 2006 World Series. Well, here we are now.

There is one other thing I know, and this I know from experience. None of this means anything now. For the Mets to end a 29-year championship drought, they have to start from scratch and hold the Royals insert AL team here at bay, get clutch hits, prevent clutch hits, and win on  the road in a hostile environment full of people as hungry for a title as we are.

The World Series is upon us and for once we are not watching it like the dutiful fans we are, respecting the baseball gods rather than loudly ignoring it because our team isn’t there. We’d miss a lot of World Series that way. And if you haven’t ventured up late to see it lately, or endured the braying in the Fox booth—Tim McCarver retired, in case you weren’t aware—the World Series is what baseball is all about. Numbers are great, but winning ends arguments. It might even shut up a Yankees fan. But I’m not sure. It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten what that sounds like.


Dodgers Break Mets Legs? Mets Break Dodgers Hearts

Playoff baseball has been a solitary experience for me or a long time, watching other teams play and other fans celebrate while a dog slept near me and the family snoozed out of yelling range. But it never meant as much as it did Thursday night in Los Angeles. In California it was over by 8:30 p.m. Let them all hug communally in despair. Let them hold Chase Utley’s hand as he awaits sentencing 10 days after he broke lil’ Ruben Tejada’s ankle on that dirty slide. Let Utley rot.

Here it is after midnight and work first thing in the morning, but I had to put pen to paper, so to speak, to tell you about a memory. I’m not really sure how it goes, but it’s sad and it’s sweet… well, you know.

P. and I were in the upper tank at Shea Stadium, October 9, 1988. We were just so sure that the Mets were going to wipe the floor with L.A. and then beat Oakland as revenge for the 1973 World Series. Instead we saw Mike Scioscia smoke a ball into the bullpen over the head of Randy Myers, who should have been in the game pitching to the squatty body catcher not known for power. We stayed for extra innings. We sipped from a flask, poured it into Cokes in Harry M. Stevens cups. P. tumbled down the emptying rows, stopped by a couple from Commack before he reached the bottom. (P. gave me permission to retell this after finally beating L.A.–somehow 2006 does not feel like it counts because it was too easy.) We all got beat up by L.A. that week. At the time my sister and brother lived in Los Angeles and I’d spent a couple of weeks traveling around out there after graduating college, but you know what, I hate L.A. As we all sang to parody the Randy Newman song. (Don’t look for a link to “I Love L.A.,” I got your link right here.) I haven’t been back to L.A. since my siblings moved away in the 1990s. Those Dodgers fans are so disappointed they want to go to bed… but it’s only 9 o’clock. Sleep tight.

I’ll be out late Saturday night for the NLCS opener, my treat to myself for prudently ending a streak of 23 consecutive Mets home postseason games I’d attended, a streak that started the day before P. and I climbed (and barely stayed in) the upper tank in 1988 and ended Tuesday night, which was good because Monday was the worst Flushing traffic I had ever encountered at a non U.S. Open, fireworks, or Shea closing forever game. I got home at 3 a.m., another record for nights that did not involve a few bar hop stops on the way home. But they won and I did get to work at 8 the next morning. We’re all working hard this time of year.

Forcing myself to end the silly and costly streak was the best thing I could do. Like Cal Ripken, suddenly our voice of October with Ron Darling, taking himself out after proving his point 2,632 games later. It doesn’t matter how many you go to in a row. It matters how many you win. And though the Mets went 15-8 during my run, we know where it got them. The last time I had missed a postseason game was 1986, and they managed to win those last two games without me around.

What I love about now is that you don’t know what the future will bring. That’s OK. Enjoy Murph and Yoenis and Clippard and Kelly and Uribe and everyone who’s having to call the landlord and tell them they will be staying another week.

We’ve heard for years about how great it’s going to be when everything comes together for the Mets. The future is now. Who knows when it ends? Drink it in.


Same As It Ever Was

This has been a crazy time. On Wednesday I was being interviewed by John Delcos for Mets Report about the decision-making in the 1973 World Series (RIP, Yogi Berra, George Stone or George Thomas Seaver, you were still a top five Mets manager), and as Freddie Freeman came off the bench and knocked in five runs over the course of our conversation, I thought for the world the Mets and Nationals would play a do-or-die series next weekend. Three days later a tear is trickling down my face as my son and I sit in the orange seats from Shea and watch Jay Bruce strike out.

And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

No one in the clubhouse interviews thanked the people that truly helped most—and trust me, I watched ]all the champagne soaked, translator-aided interviews on SNY and had to tear myself away from the replay to write this. “First, I want to thank the Nationals for making this easier than even the people at Optimistic Mets Fan could have imagined.” Melissa, can you translate?

Scroll down a little here, on the feed. (I am permanently behind in updating the site technologically). I thought this season was over months ago. I challenged Sandy Alderson to make the moves needed. I gave some tough grades on my first half report card and said this of Terry Collins, “Players like him, but he’s outlived his usefulness here. It is time to win and he’s not the man.” Well, shut my mouth. Don’t translate that, Melissa.

The other night, coming off that terrible homestand that left me with dueling nightmares from 2007 and 2008, Gary Cohen boldly said, “Saturday might be the day.” That was, of course, after the Orioles completed a sweep of the Nationals, in D.C. The Nats looked so much like the 2007 Mets: Unfinished business arrogance, telling everyone they were better than them, in a word: complacency. And just like the 2007 Mets, these Nats didn’t win one game when it counted against the team they had to beat. That series in D.C. that began Labor Day is one of the most remarkable regular season series I have ever seen. They should have lost each game, and instead won all three. And that was coming off a horrendous series in Miami.

But I remembered ’07 and how just when it looked like they caught themselves and ran off a seven-game win streak, there was 7 games with 17 left, and, you know. Well, I don’t know about you, but that will never leave me. But it’s gone this year. It’s all gone.

I have been lucky to write a bunch of Mets books. It sometimes feels like I’ve been doing Mets books since time began. I have been fortunate. I’m editing my eight one—cover looks good!—but listen to this, when the Mets were last in the playoffs I was still writing my first book! That… is … a … long … time. I keep thinking the next one will be the big one. That’s why I write, that’s why I watch. Today the slot machine paid off. Whether it will pay off again, who knows, but there are enough quarters stored up to last me a week.

With the Mets, you know there’ll always be something new to lament. Another, woe is us. But the schneid is off. Best of luck to us all. See you in October. Yes, I said October!