Pigs Finally Fly: The Mets Get Their First No-Hitter

A popular saying to describe something very unlikely to occur is “that will happen when pigs fly.” Until last Friday night the Mets had never had one of their pitchers, a group that included such luminaries as Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, and Frank Viola,  toss one of baseball’s very special accomplishments, a no-hitter. Pigs must have been flying somewhere near Flushing on June 1 because ace pitcher Johan Santana finally ended the hex by tossing a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals, the best-hitting team in the National League no less, by a score of 8-0 at Citi Field.

While a lot was understandably made of this first in Mets history what went unsaid was that there hadn’t been a major league no-hitter thrown in Queens since the late Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, Bob Moose, threw one against the Miracle Mets on September 20, 1969 at Shea Stadium. Undaunted, the Mets went on to win the World Series less than a month later.

Mets manager Terry Collins mixed euphoria with concern at his press conference following Santana’s accomplishment. At his pre-game meeting with reporters Collins said that he wanted to limit Johan’s pitch count to around 110.

Santana missed all of the 2011 season and a great deal of the 2010 campaign recovering from shoulder surgery so the last thing that Terry Collins wanted was to have a situation where he tax his star pitcher’s harm past the 110 boundary. Collins is also well aware that Santana earns $22 million per year and the last thing that the financially troubled Mets needed was for him to lose more time out of uniform. It would have been the textbook definition of a Pyrrhic victory for Collins to have Santana pitch a no-hitter and then have him wind up on the disabled list.

The Mets manager had taken a lot of heat two weeks ago for removing David Wright from a game with the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field because he did not want to risk having his team’s star player injured after a beanball war had broken out. Mets reliever DJ Carrasco plunked Brewers slugger Ryan Braun so Collins wisely figured that the Brewers relief corps would retaliate against Wright in the bottom of the inning.

Wright was livid about Collins’ mollycoddling of him and it was clear that Terry understood David’s viewpoint. There was no way that Collins was going to take Johan Santana out of a game where he could make history unless Johan himself wanted to be removed. From his post-game demeanor it wouldn’t have been surprising if Terry Collins was secretly rooting for a Cardinals player to get a hit after Santana went past the 100-pitch mark in the game so that he wouldn’t be faced with a wrenching decision. Santana wound up throwing a very taxing 134 pitches.

The Mets manager could have been off the hook had umpire Adrian Johnson made the right call when former Mets star Carlos Beltran hit shot over the third base bag in the sixth inning that was ruled a foul ball. A replay showed that the ball did in fact hit the line and Beltran should have had a double.

The Mets may have earned some karma from the baseball gods with respect to Carlos Beltran when they saluted him with a video montage of highlights from his seven-year tenure with the Amazin’s prior to the game. The crowd roared its approval and Beltran responded in kind with a tip of his hat.

Mets outfielder and Whitestone native Mike Baxter made a sensational catch on Yadier Molina’s screeching line drive to rob him of a double in the seventh inning. Baxter smashed into the wall and was lying on the ground for some time afterwards. He was removed from the game but X-rays taken afterwards were negative. He was at his locker following the game and told the media that he had merely suffered a bad bruise.

Rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis took over for Baxter in left field and the following inning he saved the no-hitter when he raced in for a bloop fly ball hit by Cards’ second baseman Tyler Greene. Mets fans’ hearts were racing when they saw shortstop Omar Quintanilla, who was subbing for the injured Ruben Tejada, go full throttle in the other direction for Greene’s pop-up. Omar said afterwards that he heard Kirk call him off at the very last second. With so much on the line, as well as a very loud crowd, it was completely understandable how communication could have been garbled between them. In past years, Santana would have lost the no-hitter on that play and one or both of the players would have been injured in a collision. Not on this night however.

The Mets bullpen earned a rare night off but they were clearly on standby. “We tried to stay inconspicuous but we had someone ready from the sixth inning on,” revealed Mets reliever Bobby Parnell in the clubhouse following the game.

Santana clearly benefitted from the return of catcher Josh Thole who had just come off the disabled list a few hours earlier after enduring a concussion three weeks earlier. Thole certainly called a good game for Johan as the Mets pitcher did not shake off any of his signs.

As if there wasn’t enough drama, rain was working its way up the I-95 corridor Friday night. The Washington Nationals had already canceled their game while the Phillies were in a lengthy rain delay in Philadelphia. Former Mets general manager Jim Duquette who was working in the radio booth subbing for Josh Lewin said that he and Howie Rose were sharing weather forecasts with the fans as the game went on. “Everyone knew that if play was stopped even for a few minutes, Johan would be removed from the game,” he said. He went on to add that he and Howie made a conscious decision to start talking about the possibility of a no-hitter in the sixth inning.

As the late Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy used to say, “The weatherman certainly cooperated with the Mets!” After all of the Mets’ bad fortunes over the last few years their fans finally had a great memory from Citi Field.

Posted under Ace Pitcher, David Wright, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Johan Santana, Lloyd Carroll, Luminaries, Milwaukee Brewers, Miracle Mets, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pyrrhic Victory, Shea Stadium, St Louis Cardinals, Star Player, Textbook Definition, Tom Seaver, Top Story

Sportsbeat – 11/27/10

You have to laugh at the notion that new Mets manager Terry Collins is going to be able to light a fire under the collective butts of his players. The reality is that the players will perceive that Collins is little more than an inexpensive retread off the managerial scrap heap. He has never won anything and never played a game in the majors. Those are two very big strikes against a manager in a big league clubhouse.

Collins is not going to get much help this winter from the man who hired him. Sandy Alderson has made it clear that the Mets do not have any “financial flexibility” to sign any name free agents. Even worse than standing pat for the new Mets manager is the fact that ace pitcher Johan Santana will still be recovering from his latest arm surgery for at least the first half of the 2011 season.

Patriots, Shmatriots. If you want to really know if these are the same old Jets then circle December 19 on your calendar when Gang Green flies to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The Jets have never beaten the Steelers in the Iron City and we’re talking forty years of football.

The Jets, despite their fine record, have shown some troubling flaws. I bet that Rex Ryan wishes that Jay Feely was still the team’s place kicker instead of the shaky Nick Folk. The Jets pass rush, lead by Bryan Thomas and Jason Taylor, is woeful. Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub had time to finish a Subway hero as he completed 40-yard passes at will in the fourth quarter three weeks ago thanks to the sack-less pass rush.

The combination of Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton have made the Knicks fun to watch again. The fact that they went 3-1 on their recent West Coast trip (granted they didn’t play the Lakers) is an indication that things are looking up.

The Knicks played the Charlotte Bobcats in their first game back from the west. Head coach Mike D’Antoni held his usual pre-game press conference 90 minutes prior to tip-off. Reporters had only two questions for him and the conference quickly concluded. “If I had known that winning three games in a row would quiet you guys I would have told my players to have won three in a row sooner!” he said with a hearty laugh.

The likelihood of an NBA lockout this fall has not been ignored by the Knicks players. NBA veteran Roger Mason was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that he is happy to drive an old car and that his philosophy is to save now more than ever. Mason is praying that big market owners as the Knicks’ James Dolan, the Nets’ Mikhail Prokhorov, and the Lakers’ Jerry Buss will talk sense into hardline owners and tough-talking commissioner David Stern. Rookie guard Andy Rautins told me before a game that he may look into playing in Europe if things get ugly.

While the Nets are not as awful as they were a year ago, new coach Avery Johnson is quickly realizing that the talent and professionalism of his troops isn’t up to the level that he enjoyed while coaching the Dallas Mavericks. Johnson faced his first major dilemma when Terrence Williams, the Nets’ first-round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, missed a team bus and kept showing up late for practices. Johnson demoted Williams to the Springfield Armor of the NBA Development League.

The Nets may not much to write home about based on their play but their new owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, continues to intrigue even those who normally don’t cover sports. He was the subject of a cover story last month in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and was profiled as well by Matt Taibbi, best known for his Republican-bashing articles in Rolling Stone, in Men’s Journal.

Speaking before of the NBA Development League, Far Rockaway High School alum Nancy Lieberman, arguably the greatest female basketball player of all-time, will be coaching the Texas Legends. It marks the first time that a woman will be the head coach of a professional men’s basketball team. Expect Versus, which just obtained broadcast rights to the NBA D-League, to televise a number of Legends games. Lieberman incidentally has just authored Playbook for Success (John Wiley & Sons) in which she points out how the physical and mental preparation that goes into winning at hoops carries over into the boardroom.

Jimmie Johnson just won his fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint championship. That puts him in the same legendary class of athlete as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Roger Federer although his success is virtually ignored by WFAN and nearly every New York daily paper. The success of   both Jimmie Johnson, and rival Jeff Gordon (both of these guys have movie star looks), have helped popularize NASCAR in every part of the USA except here of course.

Kyle Petty who is an on-air personality for the SPEED Channel, and like his dad, Richard “The King” Petty, enjoyed a great racing career, readily agrees that both Johnson and Gordon have helped make NASCAR appealing for corporate America. “The weekly battles between Rick Mears, Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt electrified the South but they did not expand the sport outside of Dixie,” Petty told me at a New York NASCAR event to honor Johnson’s accomplishment.

ESPN Magazine and skier Lindsey Vonn showed a great sense of humor by having her reenact Sharon Stone’s famous seated pose from the 1992 stinker of a flick, “Basic Instinct” for its cover.

Do you think that the Islanders’ recent 14-game losing streak will cost the team home ice in the playoffs?  The Isles’ cold snap cost unsmiling coach Scott Gordon his job. Gordon’s humorless post-game press conferences were torture to sit through.

The Islanders finally ended their drought by beating the equally awful NJ Devils. It’s about time that Devils’ owner Jeff Vanderbeek show some balls and give media-hating, control freak general manager Lou Lamoriello the heave-ho.

Good job by Phillips-Van Heusen to allow fans a vote for the next class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The fans’ vote is non-binding but the results are sure to influence the real voters. PVH should do the same with the Baseball Hall of Fame voting.

Hollis native Russell Simmons is one of the most successful American businessmen of the last 25 years. Simmons, who founded Def Jam Records, and then later the popular clothing brand, Phat Farm, has a new clothing company, Argyleculture. Yes, Simmons has a fondness for those diamond-shaped vests and sweaters that Alfonso Ribeiro’s Carlton Banks character wore in the old Will Smith NBC ‘80s sitcom, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” but Argyleculture has solid-colored shirts and sweaters as well as he tries to compete with Ralph Lauren.

Simmons is frequently photographed wearing a Yankees baseball cap. Since Sandy Alderson isn’t going to sign any name free agents perhaps he can reach out to one of Queens’ greatest success stories to wear a Mets cap to help improve the team’s image.

The New York Rangers obviously depend on goalie Henryk Lundqvist but the road to the playoffs will be a lot easier if veteran understudy Martin Biron would have more games like the one he had last week where he allowed only one goal against the Calgary Flames in a 2-1 victory for the Blueshirts.

The needless demise of Tavern On the Green is certainly a blotch on the record of Mayor Bloomberg. Fortunately the New York Road Runners did a great job creating a PGA Tour-style media center at its old location. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the Renaissance Times Square also did a fine job hosting both the media and the NYC Marathon participants.

If you are looking to get someone a Christmas/Chanukah sports gift (and yes, you can treat yourself!) here are some ideas. Greens Professor (www.greensprofessor.com) is a putting aid that uses laser technology that tells you whether your blade is either too open ,closed, or if its properly square. You can use Green Professor in your home so that your game doesn’t atrophy over the winter. By the way, the winter is a great time to shine up those dull club heads. Shine by Colle (www.colleproducts.com) is a mousse gel that makes all metals and jewelry sparkle like new.

If you find your legs or shoulders aching after a workout or even from sitting in a car for awhile there is a marvelous product called “The Stick” (www.thestick.com) that you can use to improve blood circulation and relieve the knots that inexorably settle in various parts of your body. The Stick is a wand that is comprised of small bead-like devices that help relieve tension rather quickly.

Another vestige of my youth is gone as the Spectrum was finally razed in Philadelphia two weeks ago.

Posted under Ace Pitcher, Arm Surgery, Bryan Thomas, Charlotte Bobcats, Financial Flexibility, Houston Texans, Jason Taylor, Jay Feely, Johan Santana, League Clubhouse, Lloyd Carroll, Matt Schaub, Name Free Agents, New York Mets, Nick Folk, Place Kicker, Raymond Felton, Rex Ryan, Sandy Alderson, Scrap Heap, Subway Hero, Top Story, West Coast Trip

This post was written by Lloyd Carroll on November 27, 2010

To Compete The Mets Will Need To Get Creative

What a great week for the New York Mets. After taking Round 1 of the Subway Series, the Mets totally dismantled the Philadelphia Phillies, so much so you have to wonder if they were stealing the wrong team’s signs.

And now, this five game winning streak has put the Mets back in play. They are now two games out of first on a five game winning streak, winning six of their last seven games.

The offence played perfectly to the fury of Citi Field, manufacturing runs while getting the occasional long ball, while the pitching has been sparkling.

Besides ace No. 1 Johan Santana and ace No. 2 Mike Pelfrey, the rotation has been revamped with R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi filling in nicely for the ousted John Maine and Oliver Perez. Yet, both of those pitcher are 35 and you have to wonder how long it will take for the league to figure out the knuckleballer and control pitching lefthander.

That’s why the Mets need another arm for the rotation. Although Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee will be available over the next two months, the Mets have to show restraint and not give up too much for either player.

Oswalt requested a trade from owner Drayton McClane; he is signed through next year, due to make $16 million in 2011 with a $16 million club option 2012 (or a $2 million buyout or an opt-out with a reduced buyout). Because a team will control the right-hander, McClane, along with Astros general manager Ed Wade will ask for a king’s ransom for their ace pitcher. Expect any Met trade to begin with the name Jenrry Mejia and move down from there.

With Lee, the Mets will look at a two to three month rental, as he will be a free agent after this season. Making $9 million this season, Lee will demand a very large contract during the off-season and by virtue of  being the biggest name on the market, the Mets will have to pay up for the 2008 American League Cy Young Winner.

But Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik will still ask for the Mets top prospects in return. Remember, this is not the off-season and the Mets can’t wait it out, hoping Lee will fall into their laps with B-Level prospects. Seattle will ask for prospects like Fernando Martinez and Mejia, which may be too rich for the Mets blood.

Rather, the Mets should look for creative ways to fill out the rotation, by taking a chance on a bad contract and hoping a change of scenery will do someone well.

General manager Omar Minaya may look to San Francisco to see if the Giants will be willing to take Perez and Luis Castillo off his hands for Barry Zito, who signed one of the worst contacts in Major League history before the 2007 season. The flaky lefthander has been a total disappointment for the Giants since inking the deal and the still $76 million owed to Zito will hamstring San Francisco over the next few seasons when they try to sign Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to long term deals.

Lincecum is signed through 2011, but will command almost $20 million in arbitration for 2012, while Cain will make $15.33 million during that year. Along with Zito’s $19 million, the Giants will be on the hook for $55 million for just three starters. Since San Francisco likes to keep its payroll under $100 million, it will be tough for the Giants to compete.

So moving Zito will make some sense. With Castillo and Perez, this season and next will be a wash for both clubs. Perez may be able to re-find his form in AT&T Park, with its vast left field, while Castillo will fight for playing time with Freddy Sanchez (assuming he won’t be traded).

The Mets will get Zito, an enigmatic pitcher, who has a tremendous amount of talent. Behind Santana and Pelfrey, Zito will fit into the No. 3 slot. A fly ball pitcher, the 32 year-old could find new life in the vast canyons of Citi Field.

He had a hot start this April, going 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA, but cooled down in May, going 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA. The lefthander did make changes in his delivery and sometimes a different coaching staff can fix what has been ailing the flaky lefty.

Of course, there’s the small matter of the $57 million Zito is owed from 2012 to 2014, if the Mets plan on buying him out of his option, so the Giants may have to send some money back – say $20 million – to even out this deal.

The window is closing on these Mets as many of the “core” players will be free agents after 2011. With Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, and even Jose Reyes free agents after next year, it may be a very different Met team in 2012. If the Mets can fill some of their holes with cheaper options, then Zito’s reduced contract is something the team can deal with.

Now, Zito also has a full no-trade clause, but a trade to New York may intrigue Zito, who is known to love the big city. If all parties agree, it may be just a small hurdle to overcome.

The fact is the Mets will need to do something, but emptying the fragile farm system should not be an option. To compete the team will have to get creative.

Posted under Ace Pitcher, American League Cy Young, Club Option, Cy Young, Cy Young Winner, Drayton Mcclane, Game Winning Streak, Joe Mcdonald, Johan Santana, Knuckleballer, Last Seven Games, Lefthander, Manager Ed, Mets Top Prospects, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Oswalt, Seattle General, Subway Series, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on May 28, 2010