Sports Beat “Self-absorbed Matt”

In yet another dreary Mets season Matt Harvey gave Mets fans a number of thrills this season such as pitching two scoreless innings as the starting pitcher in the 2013 All-Star Game played at Citi Field this past July. You would have to go back nearly 30 years to Dwight Gooden’s heyday to find a Mets pitcher who could dominate opposing hitters at will.

He was such a big story that Jimmy Fallon used him for a hilarious “man in the street” bit to see how many New Yorkers could recognize him. ESPN Magazine put him on the cover in the buff for its July “body issue” while Men’s Journal ran a feature on him that made it clear that he was thoroughly enjoying the trappings of being a handsome, young New York celebrity.

Last month Mets fans’ collective spirits took a dive when it was diagnosed that Harvey’s pitching elbow suffered a tear and that it was probable that he would miss the 2014 season. It would be a certainty if he elected to have surgery something that he understandably is hoping to avoid although it seems inevitable that he will need a procedure.

Given that Harvey has been a hero to beleaguered Mets fans, combined with the fact that his future is clearly in jeopardy, many of the media who cover the team have been reticent to report that he has been rather unapproachable in the clubhouse for a good chunk of the season and that you were lucky to get a one-word response to questions if he did deign to talk to you.

Harvey’s arrogance would certainly have gone unreported by me had he not made a jerk out of himself last Wednesday when he agreed to be a guest on Dan Patrick’s NBC Sports Network Show. Instead of answering Patrick’s questions about his pitching arm issues, Harvey insisted on shilling, rather inarticulately I might add, for the cellular telephone chip manufacturer, Qualcomm. Dan understandably skewered him after the interview was over.

In contrast, McDonald’s did things right last Tuesday when it brought in Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz for a press event at their Times Square restaurant to promote their new Mighty Wings snack. Cruz is a commercial endorser for McDonald’s but he gamely took questions about the Giants’ 0-2 start from the attending press.

The personable Cruz is one of the few Hispanic sports to land a bevy of national endorsement deals. He has done TV and magazine ads for Time Warner Cable, Gillette, and Advil as well as raking in big bucks from Nike for wearing their apparel. Even the great Mariano Rivera never landed the lucrative corporate contracts that Victor Cruz has.

New York City’s official tourism bureau, NYC and Company, owes  MLB scheduling committee and the good folks from the Bay Area a lot of thanks. Thousands of visitors from Northern California came to New York this past week for the sole purpose of seeing the Giants play the Mets at Citi Field (the Mets’ accounting department was delighted since the place would have been a ghost town otherwise) and the Yankees in the Bronx.

The Queens Economic Development Council, which had a booth at the US Open, to inform visitors of what Queens has to offer, should do the same in front of Citi Field. Queens has terrific restaurants that are just as good, if not better, and far less expensive than those in Manhattan. Yet the vast majority of out-of-town visitors attending a sporting event don’t know that. If nothing else, the QEDC should be visible when the Phillies come into play the Mets next year because a lot of fans drive in from Philadelphia and its suburbs to see their team at Citi Field. They have already paid the high parking charges so they might as well get their money’s worth by walking over the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge to Flushing and try one of its many fine dining establishments.

It wasn’t that long ago that the San Francisco Giants drew even fewer fans than the Mets do for a game. A great deal of the credit for the turnaround has to go to the team’s CEO, Lawrence Baer, who was instrumental in getting AT& T Park built in San Francisco and then putting together a team that won two World Series in the last three years. Baer is the rare baseball executive who enjoys schmoozing with the media and with fans. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon could learn a lot by observing him. Perhaps Jeff’s dad, Mets owner Fred Wilpon, could make a call to Baer to arrange for Jeff to have an internship with him.

I asked Baer about the team that plays across San Francisco Bay from his, the Oakland Athletics, and their quest to get a new stadium. Baer and the Giants are not happy that the A’s want to move south to San Jose where the Giants have a minor league team there and they consider it to be their territory. The city of San Jose is suing Major League Baseball for their attempts to prevent the A’s from moving there.

Baer could not comment on this pending litigation but he did not disagree with my assessment that the A’s would be better off building a new ballpark on Oakland’s sizable waterfront that is well-served by mass transit. The A’s would be rolling the dice moving 50 miles from their current home in the hopes of tapping into the Silicon Valley corporate world.

The Mets’ cable outlet, SNY, made a big deal in advance of Jerry Seinfeld’s guest analyst gig last Tuesday night that lasted a paltry four innings. Except for one joke about surgeon to star athletes Dr. James Andrews who gets a lot of press attention even when he just offers an opinion, Jerry did not bring much to the table. Seinfeld, a  Queens College alum, did not meet with the media and his bodyguards got him out of Citi Field as quickly as possible by interacting with as few people as possible.

Under Armour, the Baltimore-based sports apparel company, continues to chip away at Nike’s dominance in the marketplace. St. John’s University announced this week that Under

Armour will be the official supplier of uniforms for its sports teams for the next six years.

With both leisure time and disposable income becoming increasingly more difficult for Americans, destination and resorts are competing harder for attention. California’s San Luis Obispo County took out a booth at the GBK Lounge in Manhattan’s Empire Hotel during Fashion Week while the Puerto Rico Tourism Company did the same at the US Open. Last Monday, the Blue Lagoon Resort in Iceland, the European country located closest to the USA, held a reception for travel agents and the press in midtown Manhattan.

The weather is still warm and sunny but we all know that the cold weather isn’t far behind. Ski Vermont, the private consortium that markets that state’s many ski resorts, was in town Thursday week to promote the fact that nearly all of the resorts there will be offering bargain lodging and ski lessons in January to beginners. Many ski lodges, including Killington and Stowe Mountain will be making their own snow as early as November. Sugarbush is offering an unlimited ski pass without any blackout dates to those under 30 for $299. The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe (yes, the same von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame) still offers the best in cross-country skiing and they are opening an Austrian lager brewery. They hope to ship can and bottles to retailers all over the world by next year.

Consumer Reports is great when it comes to comparing high ticket items such as cars, computers, and refrigerators, and on occasion they touch smaller priced items. If you want to find out the best-rated in everyday items such as snacks, paper goods, soaps, oral care products, and cleaning supplies, log onto www.productoftheyearusa.com . A research company, TNS, surveys a scientific sampling of 50,000 consumers to get the results.

Posted under Cellular Telephone, Chip Manufacturer, Dwight Gooden, Heyday, Lloyd Carroll, Man In The Street, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Qualcomm, Scoreless Innings, Shilling, Starting Pitcher, Top Story, Trappings, Word Response

Davis Finishes Mets-Astros NL Chapter with a Bang (… and with Another)

Given the state of this year’s major league baseball standings, Sunday’s late-August meeting between the then-fourth-place New York Mets and the MLB-worst-Houston Astros at Citi Field obviously lacked the drama produced by the same two franchises during their extremely memorable 1986 National League Championship Series, but it nonetheless provided an exciting finish as the NL chapter of the all-time Mets-Astros series came to a close.

In an otherwise uneventful game involving a pair of clubs simply playing out the string, a late Houston rally, a nice play by New York to nab a runner at the plate, and two blasts over the right field wall by first baseman Ike Davis provided recollections of some thrilling moments when a lot more was once at stake – for one last time – with the Mets and Astros as NL opponents, prior to Houston becoming a member of the American League’s western division next year.

Neither the of the largely punch-less offenses – the Astros, the statistically lightest-hitting team in the majors, nor the Mets, who had been mired in their worst offensive stretch in three decades – could hit their way out of a paper bag, making a pair of non-descript, young starters – Houston’s Lucas Harrell (in his fourth season, but basically a rookie in terms of big league experience) and New York’s rookie Jeremy Hefner – look like a classic re-match of former aces Mike Scott and Dwight Gooden (who opposed each other in a classic Game 1 pitching duel in the 1986 NLCS, with Scott and the Astros edging the Mets, 1-0).

Harrell (seven innings, two hits, one run, seven strikeouts, two walks) and Hefner (eight-plus innings, five hits, one run, seven strikeouts, two walks) kept their respective non-threatening opposing lineups in check throughout a rapidly-paced contest that – because of the deficiency of offensive production – through eight innings, was on pace to finish in an unheard of (by today’s standards) two hours or less, and which still completed in a very tidy 2 hours and 19 minutes, even with a 24-minute ninth inning.

Five innings after Davis’ first home run of the afternoon – a crushing drive in the bottom of the fourth inning, just below Citi Field’s Pepsi Porch, and well into the upper deck in right field – gave the Mets a 1-0 lead that stood up until the final inning, the Astros tied the game on a run-scoring double by second baseman Marwin Gonzalez, who smacked a liner toward the left field corner.

Gonzalez’s hit glanced off of the glove of left fielder Lucas Duda, who was returning to the majors from a short stint in the minor leagues, where he was converted from a right fielder. That play forced an exit – to a standing ovation from many of the 25,071 fans in attendance (myself included) – for Hefner, who was bidding for the first shutout and first complete game of his career.

It appeared that the Astros would instead take their first lead three batters later however, when right fielder Ben Francisco singled against closer Bobby Parnell to left field, in front of Duda, until the Mets’ third-year outfielder redeemed himself with a good throw that allowed newly acquired catcher Kelly Shoppach just enough time to make a nice play of his own.

Shoppach blocked home plate with his left leg and applied a game-saving tag on Gonzalez, who was trying to score from second base. Gonzalez argued the call (which was a correct one) and was promptly tossed from the game by home plate umpire David Rackley.

That set the stage for Davis, who got just enough of a pitch from reliever Wilton Lopez to send a fly ball barely over the right field fence and just past the glove of a leaping Francisco for Davis’ second home run of the game and a walk-off 2-1 win for New York – the same score the Mets beat the Astros by, in 12 innings, in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS at Shea Stadium, just steps from where Davis and New York beat Houston in an NL contest for the final time.

Just as in that Game 5 victory, the Mets won despite mustering a mere four hits and being outhit by the Astros, but none were bigger than the two home runs from Davis, who did a jumping spin before landing on home plate, where he was mobbed by his teammates.

The win meant little for the Mets in the big picture of the 2012 season, especially when contrasted against those exhilarating October victories against the Astros 26 years earlier.

Instead of paving a way toward their first World Series title since 1986, New York simply avoided suffering what would have been their worst embarrassment of this season – a possible second home loss in three games to MLB’s most futile team, on the heels of getting swept in a four-game series at home by Colorado, the NL’s third-worst team.

And that, during a disappointing second-half swoon which has already caused New York’s season to slip away after an overachieving first half that had the Mets surprisingly in postseason contention by the all-star break, after setting a MLB offseason record for shedding payroll.

Due to those circumstances, Davis’ heroics could hardly be compared to that of ex-Met Lenny Dykstra’s ninth-inning, two-run, homer off of the Astros’ Dave Smith, inside of what is now the Citi Field parking lot, to rally the Mets to a dramatic 6-5 win and a 2-1 series lead in the 1986 NLCS.

Nor was the importance of New York’s last NL win over Houston anything like one of the greatest games in the Mets’ 51-season history – their 1986 NLCS-clinching victory in Game 6 (which led to their remarkable rally to a World Series title against the Boston Red Sox), when New York erased a 3-0 ninth-inning deficit in Houston before hanging on for a rousing 7-6 victory in a then-postseason record 16 innings (ironically, Houston broke that mark with a 2005 divisional series win in 18 innings, over the Atlanta Braves, by the same score, in a win that helped the Astros reach the only World Series in their history).

Certainly, the Mets’ rivalries with teams like the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and others have also far outweighed the intensity of what they shared with the Astros in the 26 years since.

Still, it was an exciting conclusion to a Mets-Astros NL era that included more than 600 games since the teams each joined the majors (the Astros, initially as the Colt .45’s) in 1962.

While they will meet again in interleague play, the Astros took the all-time NL series, 308-258, with the Mets going 150-132 at home (including 8-4 at Citi Field) against Houston.

What is remembered most over that time though, is that lone playoff matchup between the teams in 1986, and in another lost season for both clubs, the way the final Mets-Astros meeting as NL foes was decided, rekindled thoughts of the historic playoff magic that occurred in a pair of well-remembered NL ballparks – Shea Stadium in Queens, and the famed Astrodome in Houston.

Yet, as with the Mets and Astros moving on to new home stadiums since then, their series with each other will now similarly forge ahead with the teams continuing play in opposite leagues. If they can each turn things around in the coming years and once again meet in the postseason, they would do something they couldn’t do even as long-time NL opponents in 1986 or in any other year thus far – meet in a World Series.

Posted under Baseball Standings, Blasts, Classic Game, Dwight Gooden, First Baseman, Game 1, Houston Astros, League Championship Series, League Experience, Major League Baseball, National League Championship Series, New York Mets, Offensive Production, Recollections, Three Decades, Top Story

This post was written by Jon Wagner on August 31, 2012

Tags: , , ,

Davis Finishes Mets-Astros NL Chapter with a Bang (… and with Another)

Given the state of this year’s major league baseball standings, Sunday’s late-August meeting between the then-fourth-place New York Mets and the MLB-worst-Houston Astros at Citi Field obviously lacked the drama produced by the same two franchises during their extremely memorable 1986 National League Championship Series, but it nonetheless provided an exciting finish as the NL chapter of the all-time Mets-Astros series came to a close.

In an otherwise uneventful game involving a pair of clubs simply playing out the string, a late Houston rally, a nice play by New York to nab a runner at the plate, and two blasts over the right field wall by first baseman Ike Davis provided recollections of some thrilling moments when a lot more was once at stake – for one last time – with the Mets and Astros as NL opponents, prior to Houston becoming a member of the American League’s western division next year.

Neither the of the largely punch-less offenses – the Astros, the statistically lightest-hitting team in the majors, nor the Mets, who had been mired in their worst offensive stretch in three decades – could hit their way out of a paper bag, making a pair of non-descript, young starters – Houston’s Lucas Harrell (in his fourth season, but basically a rookie in terms of big league experience) and New York’s rookie Jeremy Hefner – look like a classic re-match of former aces Mike Scott and Dwight Gooden (who opposed each other in a classic Game 1 pitching duel in the 1986 NLCS, with Scott and the Astros edging the Mets, 1-0).

Harrell (seven innings, two hits, one run, seven strikeouts, two walks) and Hefner (eight-plus innings, five hits, one run, seven strikeouts, two walks) kept their respective non-threatening opposing lineups in check throughout a rapidly-paced contest that – because of the deficiency of offensive production – through eight innings, was on pace to finish in an unheard of (by today’s standards) two hours or less, and which still completed in a very tidy 2 hours and 19 minutes, even with a 24-minute ninth inning.

Five innings after Davis’ first home run of the afternoon – a crushing drive in the bottom of the fourth inning, just below Citi Field’s Pepsi Porch, and well into the upper deck in right field – gave the Mets a 1-0 lead that stood up until the final inning, the Astros tied the game on a run-scoring double by second baseman Marwin Gonzalez, who smacked a liner toward the left field corner.

Gonzalez’s hit glanced off of the glove of left fielder Lucas Duda, who was returning to the majors from a short stint in the minor leagues, where he was converted from a right fielder. That play forced an exit – to a standing ovation from many of the 25,071 fans in attendance (myself included) – for Hefner, who was bidding for the first shutout and first complete game of his career.

It appeared that the Astros would instead take their first lead three batters later however, when right fielder Ben Francisco singled against closer Bobby Parnell to left field, in front of Duda, until the Mets’ third-year outfielder redeemed himself with a good throw that allowed newly acquired catcher Kelly Shoppach just enough time to make a nice play of his own.

Shoppach blocked home plate with his left leg and applied a game-saving tag on Gonzalez, who was trying to score from second base. Gonzalez argued the call (which was a correct one) and was promptly tossed from the game by home plate umpire David Rackley.

That set the stage for Davis, who got just enough of a pitch from reliever Wilton Lopez to send a fly ball barely over the right field fence and just past the glove of a leaping Francisco for Davis’ second home run of the game and a walk-off 2-1 win for New York – the same score the Mets beat the Astros by, in 12 innings, in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS at Shea Stadium, just steps from where Davis and New York beat Houston in an NL contest for the final time.

Just as in that Game 5 victory, the Mets won despite mustering a mere four hits and being outhit by the Astros, but none were bigger than the two home runs from Davis, who did a jumping spin before landing on home plate, where he was mobbed by his teammates.

The win meant little for the Mets in the big picture of the 2012 season, especially when contrasted against those exhilarating October victories against the Astros 26 years earlier.

Instead of paving a way toward their first World Series title since 1986, New York simply avoided suffering what would have been their worst embarrassment of this season – a possible second home loss in three games to MLB’s most futile team, on the heels of getting swept in a four-game series at home by Colorado, the NL’s third-worst team.

And that, during a disappointing second-half swoon which has already caused New York’s season to slip away after an overachieving first half that had the Mets surprisingly in postseason contention by the all-star break, after setting a MLB offseason record for shedding payroll.

Due to those circumstances, Davis’ heroics could hardly be compared to that of ex-Met Lenny Dykstra’s ninth-inning, two-run, homer off of the Astros’ Dave Smith, inside of what is now the Citi Field parking lot, to rally the Mets to a dramatic 6-5 win and a 2-1 series lead in the 1986 NLCS.

Nor was the importance of New York’s last NL win over Houston anything like one of the greatest games in the Mets’ 51-season history – their 1986 NLCS-clinching victory in Game 6 (which led to their remarkable rally to a World Series title against the Boston Red Sox), when New York erased a 3-0 ninth-inning deficit in Houston before hanging on for a rousing 7-6 victory in a then-postseason record 16 innings (ironically, Houston broke that mark with a 2005 divisional series win in 18 innings, over the Atlanta Braves, by the same score, in a win that helped the Astros reach the only World Series in their history).

Certainly, the Mets’ rivalries with teams like the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and others have also far outweighed the intensity of what they shared with the Astros in the 26 years since.

Still, it was an exciting conclusion to a Mets-Astros NL era that included more than 600 games since the teams each joined the majors (the Astros, initially as the Colt .45’s) in 1962.

While they will meet again in interleague play, the Astros took the all-time NL series, 308-258, with the Mets going 150-132 at home (including 8-4 at Citi Field) against Houston.

What is remembered most over that time though, is that lone playoff matchup between the teams in 1986, and in another lost season for both clubs, the way the final Mets-Astros meeting as NL foes was decided, rekindled thoughts of the historic playoff magic that occurred in a pair of well-remembered NL ballparks – Shea Stadium in Queens, and the famed Astrodome in Houston.

Yet, as with the Mets and Astros moving on to new home stadiums since then, their series with each other will now similarly forge ahead with the teams continuing play in opposite leagues. If they can each turn things around in the coming years and once again meet in the postseason, they would do something they couldn’t do even as long-time NL opponents in 1986 or in any other year thus far – meet in a World Series.

Posted under Baseball Standings, Blasts, Classic Game, Dwight Gooden, First Baseman, Game 1, Houston Astros, Late August, League Championship Series, Major League Baseball, National League Championship Series, New York Mets, Offensive Production, Three Decades, Top Story

This post was written by Jon Wagner on August 31, 2012

Tags: , , ,

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

Catch The Rising Star

It was rather fitting that Channel 9 had a theme song for the Mets in 1985, called “Catch the Rising Stars.”

The country sounding tune was a intended for the young Mets like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, but in reality the Mets wanted you to catch their brightest star Gary Carter.

The Hall of Fame catcher died today after a about a nine month bout with brain cancer. Although he played on the Mets for just five years – and mainly as his prime was fading – his impact was felt throughout, not only the organization, but all of Mets Nation.

“No one loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter,” said fellow Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in a statement released by the Mets. “No one enjoyed playing the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. He wore his heart on his sleeve every inning he played. He gave you 110 percent and played the most grueling position on the field and that was something special.”

The loudest cheers at the Rangers games tonight were for Carter, who received a standing ovation from the crowd when his passing was announced, while the Montreal Canadiens paid tribute to his time playing north of the border.

All of this for one of the best catchers of his generation. Carter was the final piece to the puzzle, acquired in December, 1984 for four players, to make the Mets into a champion.

“The genesis of the trade was that we wanted to add a big bat to the lineup,” said former Mets GM Frank Cashen in a statement. “He did that right away, but perhaps more importantly was the way he handled our young pitchers. He was the perfect guy for so many reasons.”

“I relied on Gary for everything when I was on the mound including location, what pitch to throw and when,” Doc Gooden said in a statement. “Even when I didn’t have my best stuff, he found a way to get me through the game. He was just a warrior on the field.”

When he came to the Mets, he made the Mets stable of young talented pitchers into stars. He elevated Gooden’s game in 1985, so he had one of the best seasons in the history of baseball and forced Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez to pitch inside, something the young pitchers were shy to do the year before.

Then there was his presence at the plate. Carter made the Mets lineup complete. With George Foster making the Jason Bay signing look good, the team needed a right handed hitting cleanup hitter. That was Carter, who provided protection for Keith Hernandez and took pressure off of Darryl Strawberry, allowing the mercurial right fielder to develop.

With the trade, the stage was set and Carter shined on the biggest. On opening day in 1985, Carter hit a walk off homer off former Met Neil Allen to star off his career and let’s not forget his walk off hit in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS or his two home runs in Game 4 of the World Series at Fenway Park.

And let’s not forget the rally in the 10th inning of Game 6 at Shea Stadium.

“I didn’t want to make the last out and I always maintained the theory – it’s not over ‘til it’s over,” Carter would say back in 2004. “I just went up there with the feeling of confidence and doing the best I possibly could and I was able to come through. Then Kevin Mitchell followed and then Ray Knight. Before you know it the ball went through Buckner’s legs and we had won Game 6. To me, I just go up there and remember my career. It was never a grind. It was an enjoyment. It’s amazing to think 18 years and how quickly it passed. I just went up there and said there was no way we should lose this World Series. I did everything to keep us alive.”

All during that time, Carter was the Met who had the biggest smile in the biggest market. If he was on your team, you loved him and if you rooted for another club, you hated him.

Simply put he was the symbol of the Mets in the 1980s and not a rising star but the one the shined the brightest.

He will be missed.

Posted under Brain Cancer, Brightest Star, Channel 9, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Dwight Gooden, Fellow Hall, Frank Cashen, Hall Of Fame, Joe Mcdonald, Mets Gm, Montreal Canadiens, New York Mets, Pitchers, Playing The Game, Rising Star, Standing Ovation, Tom Seaver, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on February 17, 2012

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Mets Open Hall of Fame To New Members

Flushing, NY – In a belated attempt to address criticism from fans that the New York Mets have ignored the team’s history since moving into Citi Field in 2009, the Mets inducted four new members on Sunday, August 1.  Frank Cashen,  Dwight Gooden, Davey Johnson and Darryl Strawberry, into its Hall of Fame. The four all represent the resurgence of the team in the 1980′s and the club’s world championship in 1986.

This season marks the 30th anniversary of the Mets Hall of Fame. During the thirty years, the Mets have only inducted 25, including this week’s foursome, into the Hall. The most recent ceremony took place in 2002, when outfielder Tommy Agee was added. The group of four inducted on Sunday was the largest contingent added in an individual season.

A plaque of each of the newest members was added to the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, located in the Rotunda area of Citi Field. The plaques were unveiled during the ceremony, and fans were able to view them during the regularly scheduled game that afternoon. The Mets museum was opened this April in another action designed to recognize the history of the organization and salute its past heroes.

The ceremony was ably emceed by the radio voice of the Mets, Howie Rose. He began his introductions by stating, “We honor four truly iconic figures in the history of the New York Mets, men who played pivotal roles in the Mets second world championship in 1986.”

Rose introduced each who came onto the field from the outfield to receive his plaque from a previous member of the Mets HOF. A short film of the highlight of each recipient’s experiences with the Mets was shown, and then each responded with a short acceptance speech.

Although his name may be the least familiar to current Mets fans, Frank Cashen is the most responsible of the four honored guests for the success of the Mets in the 1980′s. Cashen was hired as general manager in 1980 by the team’s new owner, Nelson Doubleday.

Cashen brought success to the Mets as he previously did as an executive of the Baltimore Orioles from 1965-1975. The other three inductees were brought to the Mets through Cashen’s efforts. Godden and Strawberry were drafted by the club and Johnson was hired as manager in 1984. Cashen also obtained catcher Gary Carter, first baseman Keith Hernandez, third baseman Ray Knight and pitcher Ron Darling, all instrumental in the Mets achieving a World Series championship.

The Mets next won a division title in 1988, were competitive for several seasons, but did not become a dynasty. Cashen summarized the success of the team during his decade as general manager in a press conference at Citi Field on Saturday, “We drew three million people before anybody on the East Coast did it, did it twice. We had a great run. I appreciate it, and I appreciate going into the Mets Hall of Fame with all these distinguished gentlemen.”

After receiving his plaque from Rusty Staub, Cashen thanked all who helped him with emphasis on his wife, “The real Hall of Famer is my wife, Jean. She was the Most Valuable Player in my house.”  The 88 year-old and his wife are the parents of seven children and nine grandchildren.

Distinguished was not a word often, if ever, used to describe the 1986 Mets. The team was ranked 13th in a poll published by SI.com on Saturday of the most hated individual teams. The unpopularity reflected on many factors including the club’s success and arrogance on the field.

Davey Johnson, who Cashen knew as an outstanding second baseman in Baltimore was hired as manager in 1984. Johnson, who remained as Mets skipper throughout the decade, compiled the most wins, 595, as a manager of the team. Of 1986, he said, “I thought we really had a perfect team. We had big egos, big personalities on this ballclub, but they all loved to play baseball.” One of the 1986 Mets, Gary Carter, presented his plaque to him.

The two players enshrined, Gooden and Strawberry, have always been linked. Both began their careers in the majors with the Mets in the early 1980′s after being drafted by the organization; each earned the Rookie of the Year award in his first season in the bigs with the Mets; both showed outstanding talent on the field, and appeared to be sure bets to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame when their playing careers ended; both played with the Yankees successfully later in their careers; both were embroiled in controversies involving substance abuse and marital difficulties. Finally, both entered the Mets Hall of Fame together on Sunday.

Each of the two Mets stars spoke glowingly of entering the Mets HOF on Sunday. Strawberry dismissed the disappointment of many fans of his for  never having lived up to his initial expectations as a player and not being elected into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, “We’re going into the Mets Hall of Fame, and that’s what’s important. That’s all I really care about.”

Gooden, who later played on four other teams, admitted, “When I played on other clubs, I always called the Mets first and tried to come back here.” Gooden expressed his gratitude to the fans, “It wouldn’t have been possible without all of you [fans].”

The first Hall of Fame Achievement Award was presented to Bob Mandt. The recipient has worked for the Mets since 1962 in a variety of positions.

On a day the four men were honored for their contributions to the Mats 1985 championship, the 2010 Mets players showed how much improvement would be needed to reach that pinnacle. In describing the 14-1 drubbing by the Arizona Diamondbacks, manager Jerry Manuel remarked, “We didn’t pitch; we didn’t hit; we didn’t catch the ball.” That has been the story during too many games during the 2010 season.

Posted under Acceptance Speech, Ceremony Took Place, Darryl Strawberry, Davey Johnson, Dwight Gooden, Foursome, Frank Cashen, Hall Of Fame, Mets Fans, Nelson Doubleday, New York Mets, Outfield, Outfielder, Pivotal Roles, Radio Voice, Resurgence, Rotunda, Short Film, Th Anniversary, Tommy Agee, Top Story

This post was written by Howard Goldin on August 2, 2010