Mets

Tom Seaver, Among the Giants of Baseball History, Has Died.

By Scott Mandel

Tom Seaver could be arrogant as a 22-year old rookie righthanded pitcher with the New York Mets in 1967. He could be curmudgeonly as a 40-year old at the end of his career with the Boston Red Sox. Tom Seaver did not suffer fools from the inquiring media or even, his own teammates.

But, Tom Seaver could pitch.

He did it so well, he was elected into the baseball Hall of Fame with 98.7% of the vote, the highest vote tabulation of all time, up to that point in 1990.

But, the most important thing Tom Seaver accomplished in his baseball career was carrying an entire franchise, the forever moribund New York Mets on his shoulders towards more than respectability. Seaver carried them always the worst team in baseball since its inception in 1962, to the championship of the world in 1969, defeating the powerful Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

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Two superstar pitchers for the Mets, Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden

Fifty-one years later, it might still be the greatest baseball story ever told. The Miracle Mets of 1969, never having finished above .500, going from ninth place in 1968 to the World Series title. The hapless, bumbling, laughingstock New York Mets, most famous for the time Marv Throneberry hit an apparent game-winning triple only to have missed first base, with the Mets instead losing the game. Those luckless, atrocious Mets, whom Casey Stengel explained had selected a certain catcher in the expansion draft because they needed somebody to prevent the ball from rolling to the backstop.

That’s how the Mets were born and, boy, were they bad. They lost 120 games that first season in 1962 and followed up with seasons of 111, 109 and 112 losses. In 1966, they climbed out of last place for the first time — all the way up from 10th place to ninth. The fans in Queens loved them nonetheless. Even though the Mets lost 95 games that year, they finished second in the major leagues in attendance.ADVERTISEMENT

The transformation from lovable losers to champions began in 1967. It began with Tom Seaver.

The story of how Seaver landed with the Mets is a little miracle in itself. The Atlanta Braves had drafted the Southern California right-hander in the secondary phase of the January draft in 1966, a part of the draft that no longer exists and was reserved for players previously drafted who didn’t sign. The Los Angeles Dodgers had drafted Seaver in the 10th round in 1965, but a Dodgers scout named Tommy Lasorda refused to meet Seaver’s $70,000 asking price. Seaver returned to school.

Seaver and the Braves reached a deal in late February for a $40,000 bonus. USC’s spring season had already started, however, and under baseball’s rules, a team couldn’t sign a player if his college season had begun. Commissioner Spike Eckert nullified the contract. Seaver then tried to return to school, but the NCAA declared him ineligible, even though he had yet to accept any money.

It was a classic Catch-22 situation. Seaver’s dad threatened a lawsuit. Eckert, in an unprecedented move, set up a special lottery. Any team willing to match Atlanta’s $40,000 bonus could participate, but the Braves were banned from signing Seaver for three years. Only three teams chose to get involved in the Seaver sweepstakes: the Philadelphia PhilliesCleveland Indians and Mets. The Mets won the lottery.

Eckert explained his decision was “for the interest of the boy and the public. The youngster previously signed a contract with another club in good faith only to learn he had been improperly contracted,” Eckert said. “It was not his fault that the contract was invalidated.”

Did the Mets know what they were getting? It’s perhaps noteworthy that only three teams thought he was worth that $40,000 bonus, though that was a sizable bonus for the time, more than most of the first-round picks would receive that June. Seaver had been lightly scouted in high school in Fresno, California, but he was just 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds as a senior in 1962. He spent the next year working in a packing plant and joined the Marine Corps Reserve. After a year at Fresno City College, he transferred to USC.

Down the stretch in 1969, when the Mets won the division title, Tom Seaver went 8-0 with eight complete games and a 1.00 ERA. Rich Pilling/Getty Images

When Seaver initially agreed to the deal with the Braves, the Fresno Bee interviewed Braves scout Johnny Moore, the team’s West Coast supervisor.

“We’re very high on Tom’s potential,” Moore said. “We have watched him since he was a small lad in Fresno, and we especially kept our eye on him as he developed at Fresno City College and Southern Cal. As far as I’m concerned, there has been only one better deal since the free-agent draft setup [came] in effect last June. That was the signing of Rick Monday by Kansas City.”

Monday had been the first pick in the first draft in 1965.

So while Seaver was only the 20th pick in the January phase, it was apparent he was an excellent prospect. The Fresno paper called him a “fireballing right-hander.” It’s possible that Seaver’s bonus demands scared some teams away. His dad also thought Seaver’s military commitment might have been an issue. “The Braves were the only club to go after him,” Charley Seaver said, “possibly because of his military status.”

But it’s also possible some teams hadn’t seen Seaver and that even though he had gone 10-2 with a 2.47 ERA for USC, his fastball didn’t impress. Years later, Baseball America quoted a veteran scout from the area who said of Seaver: “Some clubs wouldn’t give him more than $4,000 because he had a below-average fastball. But he pitched against a team called the Crosby All-Stars just before the draft and was facing active major leaguers. He struck out 12 in five innings.”

The Fresno Bee didn’t mention that game, but it did mention one outing for USC early in 1966 when Seaver threw five perfect innings against the San Diego Marines. The paper also said the Dodgers had reportedly offered Seaver $50,000 to sign in 1965.

Seaver was an immediate star in New York. He spent 1966 in the minors and reached the Mets in 1967, when he went 16-13 with a 2.76 ERA and won National League Rookie of the Year honors. He went 16-12 with a 2.20 ERA in 1968 as the Mets climbed out of the cellar. Still, after going 73-89, they weren’t expected to do much in 1969, the first year the leagues were split into divisions.

Featuring a young rotation with the 24-year-old Seaver, 26-year-old Jerry Koosman, 22-year-old Gary Gentry, 25-year-old Jim McAndrew and 22-year-old part-time starter Nolan Ryan, the Mets allowed the second-fewest runs in the league. Seaver went 25-7 with a 2.21 ERA, winning the first of his three Cy Young Awards.

The Mets were seven games behind the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 21 but went 32-10 the rest of the way to win the division by eight games. Seaver started eight games in that stretch — and went 8-0 with eight complete games and a 1.00 ERA. In Game 4 of the World Series against the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles, Seaver tossed a 10-inning complete game to win 2-1. Koosman wrapped it up the next day.

Seaver became known as Tom Terrific and rightly so. Since World War II, the only pitcher with a higher career WAR is Roger Clemens. Seaver was ahead of his time in more than his bonus demands. A 1972 profile by Pat Jordan in Sports Illustrated dug into Seaver’s dedication to his craft and to lifting weights, an exercise that most players of his era avoided.

“He believes, unlike most pitchers and coaches, that a selective program of weight lifting will add speed to a pitcher’s fastball,” Jordan wrote. Indeed, in one of his autobiographies, Ryan mentioned seeing the “doughy” bodies of his fellow Mets pitchers and he too became an early proponent of lifting weights.

“Pitching is what makes me happy,” Seaver told Jordan. “I’ve devoted my life to it. I live my life around the four days between starts. It determines what I eat, when I go to bed, what I do when I’m awake. It determines how I spend my life when I’m not pitching. If it means I have to come to Florida and can’t get tanned because I might get a burn that would keep me from throwing for a few days, then I never go shirtless in the sun. If it means when I get up in the morning I have to read the box scores to see who got two hits off Bill Singer last night instead of reading a novel, then I do it. If it means I have to remind myself to pet dogs with my left hand or throw logs on the fire with my left hand, then I do that too. If it means in the winter I eat cottage cheese instead of chocolate chip cookies in order to keep my weight down, then I eat cottage cheese. I might want those cookies, but I won’t ever eat them.”

The suggestion was that Seaver wasn’t a natural-born talent. He made himself into an all-time great. “Although he is not conscious of it, Seaver shows his disdain for men who he feels have not fulfilled their potential,” Jordan wrote. “For Seaver, a man’s talent is not just a part of the man. It is the whole man, or at the very least a mirror of the whole man.”

Of course, Seaver wasn’t without talent. I remember once talking to former ESPN baseball analyst Dave Campbell, who was in the lineup for the San Diego Padres the day Seaver fanned a record 10 batters in a row.

“He was so dominant that day, he could have told us what pitch was coming and we still wouldn’t have hit it,” Campbell said.

Now we mourn Seaver’s death at age 75, with 1969 a distant, graying memory. I scroll through Facebook and see all the tributes from those who just lost their childhood hero.

“Thank you for being such a great role model,” wrote my brother-in-law, Jeff Russo.

Geoff Reiss, the man who hired me so many years ago to work for ESPN’s website, wrote: “This is so incredibly sad. He was my Mantle, Kobe, MJ.” He posted a photo of his autographed Seaver jersey.

The legendary baseball writer John Thorn simply wrote: “Tom Seaver … hail and farewell.”

Many Mets fans say the saddest day of their youth was the day New York traded Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds. It’s time to shed another tear.

Let’s Get Wally Backman Back in a Big League Dugout

By Scott Mandel

From the “where did this come from” file, I recently listened to a Ron Gardenhire post-game presser. Gardy, a former Met, is a baseball lifer who is transforming the Tigers into a professional baseball team, again.

It reminds me of why guys like him, his buddy, Wally Backman, Bob Brenley, Jim Leyland and the rest of the “old” managers should always have a place in baseball, running a team. Players don’t care how old a manager is. The special ones, no matter their ages, relate to all players and are great at running the games.

Ron Gardenhire on Tigers' elite pitching prospects: 'I hope I don ...
Gardenhire is transforming Tigers from sad sacks to a young, competitive team

Today’s general managers, many in their 30s or 40s, think hiring a young guy who can “relate” better to today’s player, is an advantage. As I watch the new Mets manager, 16-year old Luis Rojas, I keep thinking about Wally Backman in that dugout, winning games instead of losing games, the way the Mets are doing, now. (Rojas is really 38).

Maybe, the new Mets owner will bring Wally back.

Welcome to MLB Season that Starts in the Heart of the Pennant Race

By Scott Mandel

Typically, when a major league baseball season gets to game 102, leaving only 60 games remaining to the season, we have gotten through the All-Star break in the second week of July and we are bearing down on the dog days of August. For those teams still in the pennant race, the high-pressure games of down-the-stretch baseball are about to begin.

Here, in 2020, with the condensed schedule of only 60 games instead of 162, all 30 major league teams are officially in a pennant race, with every game remaining having the impact of almost three games. If a team goes on a short losing streak while division opponents are winning games, the distance they fall behind, with fewer games remaining, puts increased pressure on every game and every pitch.

Welcome to the pennant race, from beginning to end of this unique season.

Opening day started yesterday with a Yankee win as their $324 million free agent ace, Gerrit Cole, earned part of his $36 million annual salary (pro-rated to reflect the shortened season), throwing five innings and allowing one hit and one run against the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals, in D.C. as the Bronx Bombers defeated Max Scherzer and the Nats, 4-1. In front of an empty stadium, but a huge television audience, the distinguished Dr. Anthony Fauci was unable to distinguish himself as the opening day pitcher of the First Pitch. The 79-year old Fauci, who was a high school basketball star in New York City, just missed throwing a strike by about 30 feet, with his pitch landing somewhere near the first base foul line.

Today, in front of a small crowd of smiling cardboard season ticket holders at Citi Field in New York, Jacob deGrom, the Mets ace and two-time Cy Young Award winner, threw another gem against the Atlanta Braves, allowing one hit in five innings while striking out eight Braves batters. He left the game but watched Cespedes hit a solo home run in the seventh inning as the Mets shut out the Braves, 1-0.

It sure didn’t take much time for Yoenis Cespedes to swing right into a DH role in his long-awaited return.

Cespedes came back with a bang, immediately capitalizing on the new designated hitter rule in the National League by launching a home run that sent deGrom and the Mets past the Braves in their season opener Friday.

After five dominant innings from deGrom, who was popping the catcher’s mitt with 99 mph fastballs at the start, Cespedes connected in the seventh off reliever Chris Martin (0-1) for his first long ball since his previous major league game on July 20, 2018.

“I’m very excited. It was very exciting just to be able to play again,” Cespedes said though a translator. “I don’t have words for a situation like that.”

“It proved to me that I can still be the same player that I used to be,” he added.

The 34-year-old slugger missed most of the past two seasons with a string of leg injuries, requiring surgery on both heels and then a broken ankle after a bad fall at his Florida ranch in a reported run-in with a wild boar.

“I don’t care if he took a five-year hiatus, when he gets in the batter’s box, you’re worried,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s such a presence.”

Rules changes for this shortened season delayed by the coronavirus provided a DH in NL games for the first time — giving the Mets a perfect slot for Cespedes even if left field presents a problem.

“The funny thing was I joked with him before the game, I said, `Why are you hitting for me?” deGrom said. “Really happy for him.”

With no fans at Citi Field due to the pandemic, it was easy to hear teammates exclaiming in the dugout when Cespedes sent his drive soaring into the empty left-field seats.

“They erupted. They went crazy,” rookie manager Luis Rojas said. “Obviously, it’s a big moment for Ces. He’s been waiting.”

Seth Lugo (1-0) tossed two innings, pitching out of trouble in the seventh, and Justin Wilson whiffed Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner in scoring position to end the eighth.

Edwin Diaz, who lost his job as closer during a miserable 2019 season, struck out two in a hitless ninth for the save. He worked around a one-out walk, giving the 38-year-old Rojas a victory in his debut.

Afterward, he got a game ball from his players and a celebratory shower that Rojas said was beginning to make his uniform stink.

“I don’t know what they threw on me, but they threw a lot of stuff,” Rojas said.

Coming off consecutive Cy Young Awards, deGrom fanned eight and permitted only a broken-bat single and a walk. He was pulled after 72 pitches following a back-tightness scare early last week. The right-hander extended his scoreless streak to a career-best 28 innings dating to last season, the longest active streak in the majors.

Notes:

The cardboard cutout photos occupying some seats included one of former Braves star and Mets nemesis Chipper Jones.

FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR

The Mets improved to 39-20 in openers (despite losing their first eight), the best opening day winning percentage in the majors. They’ve won 12 of their last 15 — and 23 of the past 26 at home.

SENDING A MESSAGE

Both teams wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts for batting practice and joined in holding a long, black ribbon on the field during a pregame message on the video board from many Black major leaguers about eradicating racial injustice.

PREGAME CEREMONIES

The national anthem was performed virtually on the video board by essential workers, each singing their part, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said “Let’s play ball!” It appeared all players on the field stood for the anthem.

MONEY MAN

Because he didn’t begin the season on the IL with a foot injury, Cespedes’ salary rose from $2,222,222 prorated ($6 million before the schedule was shortened) to $4,074,074 ($11 million before the change).

Mets Introduce New Manager, Luis Rojas After Beltran Fiasco

By Scott Mandel

The New York Mets today introduced their second manager of this off-season, Luis Rojas, at an afternoon press conference at Citi Field.

Rojas, the 38-year old son of former major league great, Felipe Alou, has been a member of the Mets organization since 2006, when the Mets signed him to a players’ contract in his native country, the Dominican Republic.

After 13 years in the organization, mostly working in the minor leagues, Luis Rojas realized a dream Friday, when he became the 23rd manager in Mets history — amid unusual circumstances.

“I feel like the most lucky person in the world right now as the manager of the New York Mets,” Rojas said at Citi Field, where the team announced a managerial hiring for the second time this offseason.

Rojas received a two-year contract to replace Carlos Beltran, who departed after only 77 days on the job in the fallout from the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme in 2017. Beltran, a player for that Houston team, was named in an MLB report that outlined the Astros’ use of electronic surveillance to steal catchers’ signs.

Rojas served as the Mets’ quality control coach last season and received multiple interviews for the managerial position following Mickey Callaway’s firing in October. That search yielded Beltran and also included names such as Eduardo Perez, Derek Shelton and Tim Bogar as candidates.

“I felt prepared then and I feel prepared now and I feel pretty good with what we have,” Rojas said. “We have a good team and we have a great staff. The staff is going to help me and we have already collaborated and we’re looking forward to break ground in spring training.

“I will lead this team into success.”

Rojas, whose father, Felipe Alou, managed the Expos and Giants and whose brother, Moises Alou, was an All-Star outfielder, was joined at the news conference by his wife Laura and son Louie, in addition to his mother and two of his brothers. Neither Felipe Alou nor Moises Alou was present.

In introducing the new manager, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen focused on Rojas’ consistency as a person and professional.

“Last Thursday was a tough day,” Van Wagenen said, referring to the announcement Beltran had parted ways with the Mets. “We had a number of difficult days leading into Thursday’s decision and ultimately the parting of the ways with Carlos, but this is a very good feeling today and we’re excited about that. It’s an unfortunate circumstance for baseball, but today is a good opportunity and it’s an exciting time for the Mets as we continue to charge forward.”

Though managing experience wasn’t a prerequisite when Beltran got hired, Van Wagenen pointed to Rojas’ eight seasons as manager in the minor leagues at various levels for the Mets as a positive.

“In-game decision-making is an important part of the job and when you assess people’s strengths and weaknesses, no two candidates are the same,” Van Wagenen said. “And Carlos had different traits than what Luis has, but in [Rojas’] experience and actually calling the shots and running the game and running the base running, controlling the offense and having to make decisions about which pitchers get warmed up and which pitchers come into the game, I think all of those assets will be evident for us this year.”

Rojas takes over a team expected to compete for the NL East title, led by a potentially dominant starting rotation and last season’s major league home run leader, Pete Alonso. Rojas indicated he already has spoken with Jeff McNeil, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, among others.

“It’s according to the team that you have,” Rojas said. “You have a team that can run, you run. You have a team that plays that way, you play that way, so it’s according to what we have. We have a really good roster, we have really good starting pitching, we have a really good bullpen and we can score some runs, so I feel pretty good about it right now.”

Rojas was hired as a coach at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic in 2006 and later managed in Rookie-ball, Low-A, High-A and Double-A for the Mets before becoming the quality control coach under Callaway last season. As quality control coach, Rojas brought analytical information to the players and field staff. Rojas said his loyalty to the Mets was born when he first started working for the organization.

“When I saw that the Mets were not only developing baseball players, but they were developing men, that right away we had an educational program, back then it was a complex with two fields and we got the job done,” Rojas said of his arrival at the Dominican academy in 2006. “We moved into a bigger complex afterwards and just the love for the organization started growing and then it just kept growing and growing as I went along.”

Mets’ Pete Alonso Named National League Rookie of the Year

by Scott Mandel

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso tonight was named the 2019 National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).

Alonso received 29 of 30 first-place votes and garnered 148 of a possible 150 voting points. He is the second Mets position player (also, Darryl Strawberry in 1983) and sixth player in club history overall to win the award. Four Mets pitchers have also been named Rookie of the Year: Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Dwight Gooden (1984) and Jacob deGrom (2014).

The 24-year-old put together one of the greatest offensive seasons ever by a rookie, setting numerous Mets and major league records. Most notably, he became the first Met and first rookie to lead the majors outright in home runs, swatting a major league rookie-record 53 blasts.

“I am so grateful to the Baseball Writers’ Association for their recognition,” Alonso said. “I’m truly blessed and humbled to be part of a group of some of the best to ever play the game. This season was the most special time I’ve ever had on a baseball field. I’m extremely thankful to the Mets for allowing me the opportunity to prove myself at the major league level this year. I can’t wait to get back to work in the spring and make a push for the postseason in 2020.”

Alonso was a three-time NL Rookie of the Month honoree, taking home the award in April, June and September. The only other players to win three NL Rookie of the Month awards are Jason Bay (2004) and Juan Soto (2018).

In addition to setting Mets club marks for home runs, extra-base hits (85) and total bases (348) in his first major league season, Alonso also established club rookie records for hits (155), RBI (120), runs scored (103), at-bats (597), plate appearances (693), games played (161), slugging percentage (.583), OBP (.358) and OPS (.941). He tied the club rookie record with 72 walks.

“Pete’s historic rookie season created great memories and thrilled Mets fans all year,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said. “We are very proud of how he represents our fans, teammates and the organization on and off the field with his energy, enthusiasm and passion.”

Alonso became the first rookie position player in Mets history to be named to the NL All-Star team. He was the first rookie to win the Home Run Derby outright as well, defeating fellow rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the final round. In the Midsummer Classic, he went 1-2 with a two-run single and a stolen base, making him the first rookie with multiple RBI in an All-Star Game.

“Pete was a joy to watch all season long for our passionate fans as well as all of us in the organization,” Mets Executive Vice President and General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “We’re so proud to see his on-field results match his tireless work ethic.”

Alonso led the NL in extra-base hits, was second in total bases, third in RBI, sixth in slugging and seventh in OPS. He led all qualified rookies in games played, hits, home runs, RBI, OPS, extra-base hits, runs scored, walks, total bases and slugging percentage.

Alonso will receive the award during the 97th Annual New York Baseball Writers’ Dinner on January 25, 2020 at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel.

# # #

BREAKING NEWS: Mets Fire Mickey Callaway Despite 86-76 Record

By Scott Mandel

FLUSHING, N.Y., October 3, 2019 – The New York Mets today announced that they have relieved Manager Mickey Callaway of his duties, effective immediately.

“We want to thank Mickey for his consistent work ethic and dedication over the last two seasons and I’m certain these characteristics will serve him well in his next opportunity,” Mets Executive Vice President & General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. “A decision like this is never easy, however, we believe it is in the best interest of the franchise at this time.”

Callaway posted a 163-161 (.503) record during his two seasons with the Mets. Callaway was named the Mets 21st manager in club history on October 23, 2017.

Dodgers Blow Out Mets Behind Kershaw, Syndergaard Lasts Five Innings

By Scott Mandel

This was going to be the beginning of the Mets’ stretch run towards the National League playoffs. They were two games out of the second wild card slot and facing off against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in the league, and its ace, Clayton Kershaw, who has a standing invitation to enter the Hall of Fame five years after he retires. This was the moment to prove they are an elite team.

This morning, the Mets are now three games behind instead of two. It didn’t go exactly as planned.

Kershaw worked his magic against a Mets lineup that has been producing runs at a consistently high rate since the All-Star break in July. But, all night, the Mets were flailing at Kershaw’s serves of fastballs, curves, and sliders with pinpoint control. When it was over, the Mets had lost convincingly, 9-2, with Noah Syndergaard throwing to Wilson Ramos

Before the game, Mets manager, Mickey Callaway had nearly waxed poetic in his praise of Syndergaard, making one wonder if the controversy of the past few days, in which Syndergaard was reported to have complained to management about his preference not to work with Ramos behind the plate, was much worse than initially thought.

Callaway’s agenda, as peacemaker between Syndergaard and Wilson Ramos, seemed clear.

“I think that Noah is going to go compete no matter who’s catching him,” Callaway said. “If we can get the [pitch] distribution where we want it, get the pitches where we want it, it doesn’t matter who catches him. And we’ve seen that.”

Whether the four runs Syndergaard allowed in the 9-2 loss to the Dodgers were more on him, or on Ramos, is a matter of debate. It was Ramos who called for a full-count curveball to Gavin Lux with two men on base in the fourth inning. It was Syndergaard who hung it, chest-high, in a perfect spot for Lux to crush it off Citi Field’s center-field fence. The ball cleared the orange home run line for a go-ahead, three-run shot, and the Dodgers never trailed again in a game that dropped the Mets three games behind the Cubs in the National League Wild Card race.

The pairing of Syndergaard and Ramos became notable last weekend, when Syndergaard approached Callaway and Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen to request an assignment throwing to anyone else. In those meetings, Syndergaard cited the fact that he owned a 2.22 ERA pitching to backups Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera, but a 5.09 mark working with Ramos. The Mets countered with the fact that Ramos was the National League’s leading hitter since Aug. 1.

Kershaw allowed a home run to J.D. Davis and surrendered a walk in the first inning but got stingy after that. Over the next five innings, the Mets managed two hits — consecutive singles in the fourth inning. The Mets went two for 17 during the span.

The Mets then loaded the bases and chased Kershaw with one out in the seventh inning. Joe Kelly was summoned to extinguish the situation. The right-hander got Brandon Nimmo to hit a chopper to his left. Kelly corralled it and spun for an athletic throw home for the forceout. Amed Rosario lined a run-scoring single before Davis grounded out to limit the damage. Kershaw (14-5), coming off a four-inning start, was ultimately charged with two runs on four hits as he improved to 10-0 in his career against the Mets during the regular season.

The Dodgers tallied four runs in the fourth inning to snatch the lead, capped off by Gavin Lux’s tie-breaking, three-run home run. The homer, the second of Lux’s short career, came on a hanging curveball from Noah Syndergaard (10-8), who allowed four runs in five innings. It traveled 419 feet to straightaway center field. Edwin Rios, another rookie, lofted a pinch-hit, two-home run over the wall in left field in the eighth.

Mets Breathe Deeply Behind Wilson and Alonso Ninth Inning Heroics, Frazier Drives In Three

by Scott Mandel. SportsReporters.com

It’s too bad only 20,843 baseball fans showed up tonight at Citi Field to watch Game #144, against the Arizona Diamondbacks. With only 18 games remaining to this season, and the Mets four games out of an attainable playoff berth, you would expect a greater turnout.

But, the half-empty stadium witnessed a thriller of a game, which the Mets won, 3-2 because of Zack Wheeler’s solid seven-inning effort, the ninth inning heroics of the reliever, Justin Wilson and, Pete Alonso’s defense. Yes, that’s right, his defense.

It was the ninth inning. Two outs. The game-tying run stood on third. The go-ahead run stood on second. Wilmer Flores, the longtime Mets infielder who holds the record for most walk-off RBIs at Citi Field in team history stood at the plate, facing Wilson.

“We’ve all seen him do it plenty of times,” Wheeler said. “It was a little nerve-wracking.”

“That was going through my mind. I promise you,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “I’ve seen it. He’s done it more than anybody in the history of Citi Field, so it was going through my mind. There was no doubt about it.”

This time, with the game and the Mets season on the line, Flores went down swinging on the final pitch of Wilson’s four-out save, giving the Mets a 3-2 win Tuesday night in Queens.

Callaway was asked after the game about keeping Wilson in the game instead of going to his struggling closer, Edwin Diaz.

“I just had to stick with Wilson. We all know the struggles that Diaz has had and Wilson has been really good. I felt like at that point it was Wilson’s [game],” Callaway said. “He willed it. I’m not saying we’re gonna run from Diaz. He’s gonna get his chances, too … but we called down in the eighth and asked Wilson if he could get four outs for us.

“I thought Wilson was gonna get it done. Some way, somehow.”

With Seth Lugo unavailable after pitching two innings the previous night, Callaway counted on the lefty, Wilson, the only other reliever who has earned his trust. Wilson, who has a 1.54 ERA since the All-Star break, came on to record his first four-out appearance since his only previous save of the season on April 2.

“Late in the season, everything kind of goes. Gotta win games,” Wilson said. “Clearly we’re still in a little bit of a hole. Luckily we have enough games left to make a push. Everyone’s available in any situation.”

Wilson allowed a walk and stolen base to Josh Rojas in the eighth, but kept the Mets in front by retiring Adam Jones. The ninth inning started like so many for the Mets this season.

Nick Ahmed opened with a single up the middle, and Kevin Cron added a one-out hit. With runners at the corners, Ketel Marte nearly hit into a game-ending double play, but after Pete Alonso stepped on first base — following a diving backhand stab — the rookie threw to third base, failing to notice Tim Locastro caught between first and second base.

“Young guy, you don’t know what he’s gonna do, and he kind of spazzed out,” Frazier said. “Could’ve had a double play, but your mind’s going a mile a minute.”

‘“He didn’t have his best stuff. He didn’t have his best command, but he dug deep and got through it,” Callaway said of Wilson. “He’s gonna need a day or two off, but it’s worth it for the win tonight. He was unbelievable. He kind of willed that game, that save.”

The Mets pulled to within three games of the second wild card slot with the Cubs losing in San Diego. Perhaps, Mets fans, a group that is always hoping for a pennant race, will decide to turn out tonight, with Steven Matz going for his 10th win of the season against Arizona lefty, Robbie Ray.

Mets’ Tease of a Season Was Great While It Lasted

By Scott Mandel, SportsReporters.com

This is a baseball obituary we are filing today. Obituaries are usually sad as we say goodbye to those who have left us but also, they can be happy remembrances of what was or used to be.

This will be a happy remembrance of the 2019 New York Mets. Of what was, during a four week stretch when, like our favorite uncle, the Mets made us smile and laugh and cheer with funny quips or jokes. And, we looked forward to more of the same.

Mets Success was short-lived

The Mets weren’t funny or a joke, but, like Uncle Joe, they teased and tickled us till we cried uncle. Yet, we wanted more teasing and tickling because it was fun. We knew, eventually, Uncle Joe would be putting on his coat and going back to wherever he lived, but, we enjoyed our five minutes of sheer fun with him.

That was the 2019 New York Mets. Uncle Joe.

Last night’s loss to the Chicago Cubs, their third in a row at Citi Field to the one team they could least afford to lose to, was not quite the final nail in the coffin. But, together with the previous three-game sweep they suffered at the hands of their division rivals Atlanta Braves, this current six-game home losing streak has brought Uncle, er, the Mets to the precipice of it being time to put on their coats and go home.

The next time we’ll get to see our teasing, funny Uncle Joe will be in November, at family Thanksgiving. The next time we see the Mets, with that fun-loving, teasing look in their eye will be two months after Thanksgiving, in the spring of 2020 down in Florida. We hope everyone shows up at our next family gathering in the sun but there always seems to be a missing cousin or aunt, or, even a third baseman, a pitcher, or, a manager from the gang. And, though we always miss them, we realize we must move on.

Change is inevitable, within fun-loving, teasing families and also within ballclubs. Someone always moves far away and just can’t get back for our traditional family events we so look forward to every winter.

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Joe Maddon is in final year of contract with the Cubs. Rumors are flying he will be fired if they don’t make deep playoff run

Potential New Additions to 2020

Who knows? Maybe, this winter, we will meet new friends and family. In the case of the teasing Mets, we may even rediscover new members with names like Cespedes, or Jed Lawrie, or Joe Girardi or even Joe Madden (if Girardi decides he can’t afford the trip down to Florida). In the case of the two Joes, we’ll really have an Uncle Joe to hang out with, won’t we?

Invariably, at the tail end of our northern winter season, Mother Nature can be just like the Mets and Uncle Joe, teasing us when she dumps another foot of snow on our cities in February or March. And, like the Mets 2019 season, all we can say is, “would you look at that, another tease.”

Teasing seems to be a repetitive fact of life as well as in sports.

RIP, 2019 New York Mets.

Mets Needed Thor to Come Up Big, Now Tonight is a Must-Win Game

By Scott Mandel – SportsReporters.com

Mets’ Noah Syndergaard on nightmarish start: ‘When you get your s— kicked in like that, it gives you a different perspective’

Noah reflects on bad start00:01:40Noah Syndergaard reflected on the 10-7 loss and said he let the team down and got his “S— kicked in”.

The Mets needed Noah Syndergaard at his best on Wednesday in a crucial game against the Cubs, but the right-hander’s outing was nothing but disastrous. 

Syndergaard, who had dazzled in his eight second half starts, was the victim of some poor defense and poor luck in the Cubs’ six-run first, but he also left hittable pitches in the zone. 

Jason Heyward went down swinging to start the inning, but things quickly went downhill from there. After Nicholas Castellanos was hit by a pitch and Kris Bryantsingled, Javier Baez grounded a slow-roller to short that Amed Rosario underhanded into shallow center field, allowing the first run to score.

Then, after a Kyle Schwarber RBI double, Addison Russell blooped a perfectly placed single into right, scoring two more. Ian Happ then provided the final two runs of the inning with an opposite-field two run homer.

Things didn’t get any better for Syndergaard in the second. Bryant lifted what should have been an easy out to shallow left, but miscommunication between Rosario and J.D. Davis allowed the ball to drop in for a double.

Two batters later, Schwarber slammed the Cubs’ second home run of the night, extending the Cubs’ lead to 8-1.

Through the first two innings, Syndergaard allowed eight runs (seven earned), on seven hits. He walked three and struck out two.

“They capitalized on every mistake that I made, and it just seemed like tonight when it rains it pours,” Syndergaard said after the game. “When you get your sh-t kicked in like that, it gives you a different perspective on things. Definitely a terrible feeling. I’m disappointed in myself. I had the opportunity to go out there and do something big tonight, and I let the team down.”

Mickey Callaway stuck with Syndergaard in the third, but with two away, Castellanos blasted the Cubs’ third home run, ballooning the lead to 10-1. The Mets did battle back to make things interesting, but they ultimately lost the game 10-7, dropping further back in the Wild Card race.

“Obviously a few plays weren’t made,” said Callaway afterwards. “He battled, left some pitches middle, they made him pay. They didn’t miss the ones that were big mistakes. Some of the credit has to go to their offense. It’s still hard to hit even when a Noah Syndergaard makes mistakes. But he just couldn’t get into rhythm. Off night for him. He’s been pitching so well, and we know that our rotation is one of our strengths. Just an off night for one of our starters.”

Syndergaard’s night ended after three innings, allowing a career-worst 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits. It was the first time in his career that he allowed three home runs in a start.