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25 October, 2012

The Bonds Homer

   At the 2002 World Series, there were some fun story lines to follow, not the least of which was "Will Barry Bonds finally have a breakout postseason?" On a lesser level was, "How big of a factor will rookie relief pitcher Francisco Rodirguez be for the Angels?"
   Bonds entered the World Series in good shape (in terms of his hitting, but yes, in terms of his physique as well, but let's not go there.)  He hit .294 with 3 homers in the LDS against Atlanta. He hit .273 with one homer and 10 walks in a five game LCS win over St. Louis.
   K-Rod had fanned 8 Yankees in 5.6 IP in the LDS and 7 Twins in 4.3 IP in the LCS.
   So the baseball world was waiting for the then 4-time MVP and his regular season numbers (.370/46/110) to face this phenom who retired thirteen of the seventeen batters he faced via the strikeout following his call-up in early September.
   The baseball world had to wait one game, as a slug fest in game 2 forced Mike Scoiscia to go to his pen early and often. K-Rod entered in the 6th. After fanning the first two batters he faced, he got Bonds to bounce out to first and retired all nine batters he faced, whiffing four.
   The two would meet again in game 4. It was tied at 3 when Bonds stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 7th, and again Bonds grounded to first. K-Rod now lead the head-to-head two-zip.
   At one point that week on Baseball Tonight, Peter Gammons commented that K-Rod's cut fastball was tough on lefties seeing it for the first time. Before game 6, Bonds saw Gammons on the field and said "You're wrong, (about that fastball) "I just missed it. If he throws it again, I'll hit it farther than the ball I hit off Percival." 
    Bonds would get his chance in the top of the 6th. With the Giants up 3-2 in the series and 3-0 in the game, K-Rod entered in the 5th to try and keep the game close. After getting 2 outs to end he fifth, the next K-Rod v Bonds showdown began the 6th. I was sitting next to Peter Gammons on our Baseball Tonight set, located in left-center field when Bonds hit the ball. He didn't just hit it far, he it F-A-A-A-A-A-A-R-R-R-R-R!!! Like 485 feet far.
   When the inning was over I watched Bonds as he walked out to his position in left field. As he came to a stop in the outfield grass, Bonds was looking up in the direction of our set. Gammons had swung his seat on the set around toward the cameras to write some notes and had his back to the field. Bonds kept looking our way. I finally tapped Gammons on the shoulder and said "Peter, I think Barry Bonds is looking at you."
    Gammons swivelled his seat around and looked in Barry's direction. Bonds pointed out toward where his moon shot traveled as a way saying, "I told you so."
    It wasn't exactly Babe Ruth calling his shot against the Cubs but it was pretty damn cool.

05 October, 2012

Speaking of the Infield Fly Rule...

 Buck Showalter tells the story of a game he managed in the minors where his team hit into a triple play without the defense touching the ball. How did it happen?

   Runners were on 1st and 2nd, none out. On a 3-2 pitch, the runners go. The ball is popped up in the infield so the batter is out because of the infield fly rule. The runner on 2nd goes back toward 2nd base, but the runner on 1st does not and he passes the runner on 2nd, so the runner on 1st is out. The runner on 2nd is then hit in the head by the ball as it falls from the sky. He's out. 3 outs and not a single defender touched the ball.
   Even funnier is Buck explaining how he had to make his nightly call to George Steinbrenner with his report on the game and explain that to Mr. Steinbrenner.

Buck explains it here on BBTN
http://awfulannouncing.blogspot.com/2008/05/buck-showalter-and-story-of-unassisted.html

04 October, 2012

The Greatest Disappoint-Mets

   I'm not going to pretend that the Mets haven't had good or great players come to their team and continue to be great. Mike Piazza, Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez are obvious cases. I also don't count unproven players like Darling, Cone and Orosco who blossomed as Mets. But ever since Richie Hebner, I've paid close attention to skilled, established players who were good when they got to the Mets and then simply misplaced those skills upon arrival.
   Why Richie Hebner you ask? In 1978 I was 11-years old and the Mets got Hebner in a deal with the Phillies. I remember my dad being kind of excited saying, "This is good pick up. He can hit and field and should be pretty good." The year before as a Phillie, Hebner hit .283 with 17 HR and 71 RBI (decent numbers in the late '70's), so I had good reason to believe my dad. As a Met, Hebner hit .268 with 10 HR and 79 RBI. Not drastically different, but as an 11-year old I expected much more. So for that reason, right or wrong, Hebner has always been my poster boy for this concept.
   With that as the backdrop, here are my biggest disappoint-Mets.


Ellis Valentine

   What a talent this guy was. 6'4", 205, 5-tool player with one of the best throwing arms ever. He was 26 when the Mets got him from Montreal for Dan Norman and Jeff Reardon. In Montreal, Valentine averaged .276, 22/75. As a young Mets fan watching Valentine play for the Expos, he was intimidating and impressive. When the Mets got him, I thought we had a superstar for the next ten years. Instead, we got 159 games out of Ellis, with 13 HR, 69 RBI only 10 walks to 76 whiffs and a Jason Bay-like .389 slugging percentage. 
Thanks for coming.


CARLOS BAERGA
   When the Mets got Baerga he was 27, in the prime of his career. A switch-hitting, slick fielding second baseman who seemed like a great pickup. In his eight years in Cleveland, Baerga was a .300 hitter averaged 13 HRs and 70 RBI and slugged .444.
   As a Met, Carlos hit just .193 in his 26 games after coming over in a trade.
  His two full seasons weren't gems either, hitting .254 with 16 HRs and 105 RBI. Sadly, Carlos would not be the worst  second baseman acquired by the Mets from the Indians. 

MO VAUGHN 
  
 Big Mo! Personally, I was excited because Mo and I played basketball, baseball and football against each other in grades 7-9. It was fun to have someone I went head-to-head with playing for my team. Mo arrived from the Angels coming off an entire missed season due to injury, but their was reason for optimism (despite his weight.) In 10 seasons in the American League, Vaughn basically averaged .300/30/100. He was 34 when the Mets got him, but the majority of Mets fans remained optimistic that Vaughn would produce and help a Mets team that was just two seasons removed from a NL pennant. What did we get?  166 games played over two seasons, a .249 average, 29 homers (one of which was a Sunday night moon shot against the Yankees) and 87 RBI. Yuck. The Mo Vaughn Era ended up being more painful than the fastball he drilled me with in 8th grade and the time he sacked me in 9th grade combined. 



Tom Glavine


   This is the God's honest truth. When the Mets signed Glavine I told anyone who would listen, "I bet the Braves let him come to the Mets so he can be a spy and at the worst possible moment, he's going to screw us over. It's gonna be like a WWE heel turn."
   Glavine was 37 when he came to New York, so the expectations bar wasn’t super high, but it wasn’t unreasonable to expect 3 good seasons. Velocity wasn’t his thing, so being older didn’t mean he could no longer get guys out. He had 242 wins under his belt and a couple of Cy Youngs. He was coming off a 3-year stretch in Atlanta where he went 55-27 and a 3.31 ERA. What did he do in N.Y.? 61-56, 3.97 era. On the surface, it doesn't look awful, but it was. His first season he served up a 9-14, 4.52 era stink bomb. If he was a Broadway play he would have been canceled.
   Two more pedestrian seasons (11-14, 13-13) didn’t do anything to restore confidence, but then Glavine found something in '06. Bolstered by a talented team, Glavine went 15-7 and helped the Mets return to October. So after 3 seasons of "I knew I hated this guy! Once a Brave, always a Brave" talk, Mets fans were finally embracing Glavine. It was classic baby face stuff. Then 2007 happened. The Mets were a game-7 win from going to the World Series the year before, but optimism was high that it was a beginning not an end. Glavine posted a 13-8, 4.45 season which was respectable for a 41-year old. I'll give him that. On September 8th of that year, Glavine beat Houston with a 7 inning, 3-hit, 1-run effort to improve to 13-6 and put the Mets 6 games up in the NL East (their lead would grow to 7 games four days later). His next three starts he went 0-1 with a 6.27 era. Uh-oh. Glavine and the rest of his teammates were collapsing. Day-by-day the lead shrunk and it didn't seem like anyone could stop the bleeding. Finally, on the penultimate day of the season, John Maine provided the tourniquet, a brilliant 1-hitter against the Marlins and the Mets entered the last die of the season tied with the Phillies. When I woke up that day it was like Christmas morning. I couldn't wait for the game to start. The thought of 2-3 hours of exciting, nail-biting baseball was overwhelming. I went into work to watch the game in my office so I wouldn't be disturbed. As Glavine took the mound, I had I forgotten my own declaration that Glavine was a Braves spy assigned to rip our hearts out. To be fair, he didn't rip it out, he pulled it out slowly, pitch-by-pitch, piece-by-piece.
   Ramirez-walk, Uggla FC, Hermida single, Cabrera single, Ross double (plus throwing error by Glavine), Jacobs single, Treanor walk, De Aza single, Willis hbp.
.1 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 7 ER.
This ranks right up there with the Redskins 35-point second quarter in the Super Bowl against my Broncos as the biggest turd in the punch bowl fan experience of my life time.


JASON BAY 
  
   By now, I should have known better, right? Bay was a real good player in Pittsburgh, averaging about .280/25/75 in his 6 years there. Then in Boston he played 200 games and hit .274 with 45 homers and 156 RBI. Bay appeared to be the righty slugger they needed to solidify a line-up featuring a maturing Jose Reyes and David Wright. I'll never knock Bay for his hustle. He always goes all out, which is part of the reason concussions have plagued his time in New York. But even before his concussion in Los Angeles, Bay was under-producing. After three seasons, Bay has a .234 average as a Met. The 23 HRs and 124 RBI in 288 games are pretty awful, but the big number is the .369 slugging percentage. This is a guy that slugged .515 in Pittsburgh and .534 in Boston. Since Bay became a Met, of all players who have at least 900 plate appearances, Bay's .369 slugging % is tied for 203rd!! That's worse than Willie Bloomquist, Alberto Callaspo and Ronny Cedeno. Not exactly the '27 Yankees.
   When Bay comes to spring training next year he ought to bring a pet albatross. 


Vince Coleman
   Like Tom Glavine, Vince Coleman was not a guy I wanted on the Mets. I hated him and I hated the Cardinals. As the Mets and Cardinals fought back and forth for the NL East crown in '85, '86, '87 and '88, Coleman was at the forefront of the rivalry. He seemingly ran at will on the Mets pitchers and Gary Carter, often to the point of embarrassment. Coleman was an astounding 64-67 against the Mets.  In his six years with the Cardinals, Coleman swiped 549 bags, cracking the 100 mark three times. If nothing else, the Mets finally had a legit stolen base threat, the likes of which they barely had previously.  Mookie Wilson had 58 in 1982, which was the club single-season record at that time. 58 stolen bases was seven fewer than Coleman's worst season in St. Louis. 
   In three seasons with the Mets, Coleman never played more than 91 games in a season, limiting his Mets stolen base total to just 99. Along the way he also found time to argue with the coaches, throw a lit firecracker into a crowd at Dodger Stadium and accidentally hit Dwight Gooden with a golf club while swinging it in the clubhouse. In short, he was an underachieving jerk that made me hate him even more. 



ROBBIE ALOMAR 

  This one is the killer. In 2001, at the age of 33, Alomar posted one of the great offensive seasons a second baseman ever recorded.
   .336 batting average, .415 on base, .541 slugging, 113 runs, 100 rbi, 20 HRs, 30 SBs. Just amazing stuff. In his three years in Cleveland, Alomar averaged .323/21/103 with 35 SBs and 120 runs. I was as excited the Mets got him as I have ever been for any acquisition one of my teams has made. I ran around the house pumping my fist. I called friends to brag. It was a great day.
   Then Alomar came to N.Y. and laid an egg the size of Shea Stadium. In his first season he hit .266 with 11 HRs and 53 RBI. He looked completely listless most of the time, rarely showing the electric bat or dazzling defense that made him an eleven time All-Star and ten time Gold Glove winner before coming to the Mets. Mid-way through his second season (.262, 2 HR, 22 RBI in 73 games) the Mets traded him to the White Sox for Andrew Salvo, Edwin Almonte and Royce Ring. 
   The Alomar Era was more depressing than a conversation with Skyler White.