Friday, October 03, 2008

Baseball Quarterly Report: The Mets and Another Shea-mful Ending!

First of all... let's give a shout out to our new pals at The Blog. Their September 21 column featured my column about Yankee Stadium which is kind of odd because they are a Mets blog and I'm a big Met fan! And how can a Met fan do a whole column about Yankee Stadium without doing one about Shea?? Today we will rectify that as part of our Baseball Quarterly Report.

The Yankee Stadium column was a lot easier to do because I have not been there anywhere near as often as I have been to Shea. It is hard to pin point the best memories that I witnessed in person, since many of the games I have been to have been run of the mill games or losses to the Yankees where those annoying Yankee fans booed the Mets on their own home field. The most exciting game that I ever saw in person was June 30, 2000 when the Braves took an 8-1 lead into the 8th inning only to see the Mets come up with a huge 10 run rally capped off with Mike Piazza's 3 run homer off Terry Mulholland. Otherwise the games that I ended up attending were relatively uneventful....

My first ever ball game was at Shea in the early 70s... and I think it was a day game against The St. Louis Cardinals. I went to legendary YAC Camp which has now been immortalized on Facebook. I really dont remember anything about the game... however I didn't know bubkis about baseball... my dad was not a fan so I really had no formal introduction to the sport. I did know the rules to the game and as a little 6 year old pisher I actually thought the fans bat in the game too. What did I know? Years later I was a CIT at that same camp and took a bus to the city with another Met fan who worked there. We went to the Banner Day Double header which really was a fertile ground for any pharmaceutical salesman selling ADD medication since the twinbill and the between games Banner Parade seemed to go on and on.

Back in my college days my college radio station was able to get press passes to cover games which was pretty cool. I became a Met fan in the early 70s... around 1973 but really got into the game in the late 70's during the lean years. Things started really looking up for the Mets in '83 when they called up Darryl Strawberry and after that traded for Keith Hernandez in an absolute steal of a deal. The arrival of Davey Johnson in 1984, and then Gary Carter in '85 completed the turnaround and for the first time in my generation, we Met fans had something to cheer about. That is why it was fantastic that Met PR Director Jay Horowitz was nice enough to give us press access to batting practice.. (no press box or post game locker room though), but we got a pair of tickets in the stands so who could complain? We got to chat with the players! . I actually have photos of myself on the field with my microphone asking the players questions.

I also still have a tape of an interview I did with Pete Rose that showed what a Jerk he was.... I asked him a question right after he was traded to the Reds to be their player/manager about his reaction to the idea of that transaction and he kind of twisted it around a bit just to be a shmuck. From that day forward I could see that Rose was unlikeable... and that attitude is probably why the media has not made a bigger deal about his being left out of the Hall of Fame. His arrogance seemed a bit toned down on Bob Costas fantastic HBO show at the All Star Break which also featured Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, so maybe Rose has eaten about 19 years of humble pie since he was banned from the game. I also recall Bobby Valentine was a Met coach back then and he accidentally spit some chewing tobacco right on my tape recorder. Good thing I didnt have access to the urinals!

Those early college days were the era of Darryl and Doc and believe me I would have chills going down my spine every time I got to speak to them. Doc Gooden was also the first player who was approximately my age to make the big leagues. I used to know who was the first major leaguer who was younger than me; I think it is Al Leiter but I am not 100% sure.. Now only a handful of the active players are actually older than me!

In 2003 I went to a Mets Marlins game with a buddy of mine who got awesome tickets from a friend of his - we were in the first row right behind first base. It was a late season clunker against the Marlins and Shea was rather empty that weekday afternoon. We were just a few feet away from the first base coach's box and he could hear most of the wisecracks originating from our seats. At one point he actually looked in my direction and chuckled when I yelled..."Hey down in front... you're blocking my view!" Over the last few years, we have been going with my buddy Adam and his lovely wife. He takes a notebook with him and must keep score for every game. He literally sits there the whole time with a pen and notebook jotting down every single out while I sit there gearing up for Carlos at bats so I can do my Jon Miller impression and yell out.... Beltraaaaaaaan!~

I was kind of curious what the Shea finale would be like after seeing the great show that was put on at Yankee Stadium the previous week. It was neat to see Yogi Berra who had a key role for both franchises participate at both Stadium Closing ceremonies. Perhaps Yogi should be hired for other closings.... like bank closings? Hey join us this week as we close the doors on Wachovia... with a special appearance by Yogi Berra!!

I was really hoping that if the Mets didnt make the playoffs that they would at least get eliminated before Sunday so the closing ceremonies would not be affected by a Met elimination. I just never imagined how excruciatingly sudden it would be with the late inning loss combined with the Brewers late win. But the decision to do the closing after the game.... combined with the emotionally draining game made it very tough to get excited for the ceremonies. Nonetheless, the players got their game faces on and it was quite exciting to see all the old timers and not so old timers. Although Howard Johnson who was a Met coach this year looked like a deer caught in the headlights when he was introduced because he was still numb from the results of the game...

My Met fandom stretches a little more than 30 years and it was great to see the Mets especially from the crummy years... such as Dave Kingman for example.. It was also great to see the post Kingman '86 crew including Hernandez, Gary Carter, Doc Gooden and Sid Fernandez who looked nothing like I had expected. It would have been nice to bring Bill Buckner along since that game is the consensus favorite for the most incredible game in Shea's history... but I actually think winning it all in Game 7 was more exciting!.. Even though the Yankee Stadium ceremonies were more historical.... I felt emotionally detached from it... except for when Willie Randolph came out... and for that incredibly touching moment when Mickey Mantle's son comforted the recent widow of Bobby Murcer in Center field. But the Shea ceremonies carried a lot more meaning because being a Met fan has been a big part of my life for so long,

Willie Mays was there... he really had gone downhill by the time he arrived at Shea. And George Foster was at Shea Sunday too... even though he was cut early on in '86 and wasn't on the team when they won it all... but many credit his acquisition in '82 as being the first stepping stone to the '86 season. I still cant believe Dave Kingman was there! Jesse Orosco was also on hand... but the two real stars of the day were the best hitter and best pitcher to ever put on a Met uniform... Mike Piazza and Tom Seaver. I mentioned last week I hoped the Mets would give those 2 a very prominent role and to me the way they were utilized made it a very touching evening.

Even though the Yankee Stadium event was very well choreographed.....Shea's had a much different feel.. You could tell by the numerous missed camera shots that they must have made some late changes to the way it was presented.... It appeared to be put together on the fly, and I am very curious how different the event would have been had the Mets made the playoffs. The fans would have been quite happier, but it would not have been a true farewell to Shea. But, the Mets painful end to '08 gave the ceremonies a true sense of finality to the Goodbye Shea ceremonies.

The former Mets players who were involved emerged from behind the Center Field fence and lined up along the 1st and 3rd base lines. After the intros, which seemed to move along quite quickly maybe due to rain concerns.... each player was invited to touch home plate en route to leaving the field. No current Mets were involved in the ceremonies by the way..but I think a few of them deserved to be there for it. They were probably still worn out from the game. The Mets all touched home plate until the 2 Best Mets were remaining: Seaver and Piazza. At that point it was time for the last pitch - an incredibly clever idea which Tom tossed to Mike. The two then walked to the outfield to In My Life by The Beatles... don't forget The Beatles concert was an important part of Shea's history - and strolled to the center field wall... at which point they closed the wall behind them essentially closing the Stadium.

It would have been nice if right before that, they would have tossed a grenade into the bullpen and just blow it up... but that was not meant to be.

Now it's time to revisit my preseason picks and see where I messed up and where I was right.

Obviously my Mets predictions were wrong, but before they go and break up the whole team... let's consider one player's injury - Billy Wagner. If Wagner had been pitching, the Mets post season fate would have been sealed way before the final weekend, but losing your stopper when the rest of the pen is lousy was just too much for The Mets to overcome. The starting pitchers and offense is in pretty good shape although they could still use a new second baseman and a corner outfielder. Otherwise just fix what is broken - blow up the pen - get some different arms there and get ready for 2009.

In the National League preseason preview, I was two bullpen choke jobs from hitting on all 4 predictions. Back in April, I originally had the Division Winners being the Phillies, Cubs, D-backs with the Mets as Wild Card. We also picked the Astros as our surprise team, and they almost pulled it off but their late season hot streak (which came despite a season ending injury to slugger Carlos Lee) was derailed when Hurricane Ike moved 2 "home" games against the Cubs to Milwaukee where Cubs fans got the chance to hop in a car for a short trip to root for the Cubbies on "the road". The Astros lost those games and were never the same after that.

Over in the AL I predicted the end to the Yankees post-season run picking Boston, Detroit and Seattle as the division winners with Cleveland as the wild card. Whoda thunk how far off those picks were going to be - I even picked the LA Angels as my big disappointment. I did predict the White Sox as my surprise AL team for 2008.

As for the 2008 post season, I am going to predict that the Cubs will lose to LA - The LA Angels in the World Series!

Here are my other picks

Phils-Brewers - I couldn't care less
Cubs over LA - Not to poke fun at Torre but he has blown a post season series lead in the past.
LA over Bahsten - Angels look to be the class of the AL.
Tampa over Chicago White Sox. The Chi Sox pitching could be running outta gas.

And then LA over the Cubbies in the Fall Classic

Here are my predictions for the Post Season Awards:

NL Cy Young - I gotta give it to Johan Santana just ekeing it out over Brandon Webb. Both teams had crummy bullpens and should have won more games this season, but Santana strikes me as having had a better season despite fewer wins.

NL MVP - I have come to the conclusion that if Billy Wagner had not been injured that the Mets would have won the division weeks ago. That is how valuable a bullpen stopper is... which is why I think that Brad Lidge deserves it.

NL ROOKIE - Edinson Volquez of the Reds. 17-6 3.21 ERA, 206 strikeouts. This guy was amazing on a crummy team. Do you realize the Texas Rangers traded away Volquez (for Josh Hamilton) and released Armando Gallaraga who will be a runner up for Rookie of the Year?

AL CY YOUNG - I would rather see K-Rod get it for saving more than 60 games but Cliff Lee had one of those years - another Ohio pitcher who had an outstanding season for a sub par team!

AL MVP - This is a toughie! Who really earned it? I would have given it to Carlos Quentin but he missed the last few weeks and coincidentally his team started to slump. Nonetheless, what the heck? I'll give it to him.. although that is another award K-Rod might deserve.

AL ROOKIE - Evan Longoria - he went from being an Eva Longoria pun to a baseball star!!

PUMPSTRADAMUS PICK OF THE WEEK: Pumpy won with the Jets last week improving to 3-1. This week we go to The Nation's Capitol as all eyes were on Washington as Congress passed the bailout bill...(till the next bunch of banks go under!) This week The Redskins are 6 point Road Doggies to the Eagles. Sayeth The Pump: "Thursday Night Sarah Palin kept talking about "Maverick" which starred James Garner who was also in the movie "The Last Debate" and the 1973 movie "One Little Indian" The Redskins it is!"

UNBIASED GIANTS FAN PICK OF THE WEEK: Last week we ran the table go to 3-0 for the first time ever. The record is now 6-6.

GIANTS 7 1/2 over Seattle - Not a big fan of spreads more than one td after a Giant bye.. but The Giants have been looking fantastic this season.

Bengals 17 doggies to DALLAS - Cincy played pretty well against the Giants 2 wks ago... are they really that much worse than Dallas?

Redskins 6 doggies to PHILLY - I don't know about Pumpy's logic but I like seeing The Eagles and Cowboys rack up the losses.


The most incredibly shocking moment in Shea's history recreated in a legendary 1980s video game.


From WFAN's website - The Top 25 Memories in Shea History.

Click Here to Relive these Moments

1 comment:

Nate said...

Gotta make one correction:

I stated that the first player I was older than was Al Leiter who made his debut on Sept. 15, 1987. I used to think I was older than either Jose Rijo or Jose Oquendo but it turns out they were older than me. Now thanks to the great website I have my answer... they have an amazing chart showing the youngest players for each season!

Ed Correa an American League player made his debut on 9/18/85, 1 day after my 20th birthday, making him the first player younger than myself to appear in a baseball game!