All-Time Team For All-Time

It feels like we’ve been down this road before, and that’s cause we have, but last June, the Mets announced, in recognition of the team’s 50th Anniversary, their All-Time Team. Twelve players and a manager were named to this all-time grouping, and the roster looked a lot like the roster that was named in 2002 as the club’s All-Amazin’ Team in honor of their 40th Anniversary.

But there were interesting differences, arguably in deference to time. A decade of play on the field will do that. There’s also the likelihood that when the team names an all-time roster for their 75th Anniversary a quarter of a century from now, many of the same names might also find their way onto that team as well.

Let the debates/arguing begin!

Where the All-Amazin’ Team was named based on fan voting, this year’s All-Timers were named from a six-man panel appointed by the club. The judges included: broadcasters Gary Cohen and Howie Rose, NY Daily News sportswriters Mike Lupica, and John Harper (and you’ll recall that it was Harper who co-wrote that “epic” about the Jeff Torborg era Mets – “The Worst Team Money Can Buy”), plus NY Post columnist Mike Vaccaro, and longtime Mets beat writer Marty Noble.

And they compiled the following team:

MANAGER: In 2002, the fans selected Gil Hodges as their all-time manager. The new panel went for Davey Johnson.

Hard to argue either way. Both won Championships. Both led their clubs for a significant amount of time. Both had a hard time repeating, but Davey did get his teams to a second NLCS, so maybe that tipped the scale.

In a Post column announcing the team, Vaccaro admitted his vote went to Hodges. “All due respect to Davey, but Hodges took a team that had never finished higher than ninth. The ’86 Mets were fun. The ’69 Mets were forever.”

FIRST BASE: Same then as now. In both instances, Keith Hernandez was the overwhelming choice. No argument here. Vaccaro: “The ’86 Mets never happen if the 1983 trade for Hernandez doesn’t happen.”

And unless Ike Davis proves to be an all-timer, banging out hundreds of homers, and leading this or some other future Mets club to a ring, the 75th Anniversary team likely will name Mex once more.

SECOND BASE: Another repeat. Welcome back to the all-timers, Edgardo Alfonzo. Again, hard to argue, although former second-sackers such as Al Weis, Wally Backman, and Tim Teufel were the right guys at the right time for their squads.

And names such as Carlos Baerga and Roberto Alomar will never find their way onto a Mets all-time anything positive, even if Sandy’s kid does own that shiny plaque from Cooperstown.

THIRD BASE: Here’s where the sands of time felt the earth move. David Wright, who has evolved to be at or near the top of nearly every offensive category in Mets history, was properly named to his hot corner, supplanting Howard Johnson.

And Joe Foy wasn’t even considered!

SHORTSTOP: Here’s where sentiment could have played a role. Jose Reyes was named ahead of longtime Mets stalwart Bud Harrelson, who was properly named in ‘02. Both produced dramatically for their franchise. And you can make the case that Buddy owns a ring, and Jose-Jose-Jose does not, but Reyes was the catalyst for this team through last year, and even though he has gone on to greener money pastures, he certainly was a game-changer, when healthy, here in New York.

But no one will give a second thought if you’d prefer to keep No. 3 in the six hole.

LEFT FIELD: History prevailed as Cleon Jones was named to the new all-time list, but surprise, he wasn’t part of the All-Amazin’ Team. Two centerfielders and a rightfielder – Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, and Darryl Strawberry were the outfielders a decade ago, but this year’s crowning only retained Straw.

You could also make a case for original leftfielder Frank Thomas, who led the ’62 club with 34 home runs, or Dave Kingman, who was one-dimensional – but what a dimension! – or maybe Kevin McReynolds, who came close to being named MVP in 1988, but in truth, Jones is a great choice (he led the club with a .340 mark in ’69), and a major factor in the first Championship run.

And what’s Al Luplow been up to lately?

CENTERFIELD: Here you could debate Mookie or Lenny to get the nod again, but the 2012 panel went for Carlos Beltran. His 2011 castoff trade aside, Beltran also was a major force for the team when healthy. He still shares the franchise record for home runs in a season with Mike Piazza (41 in ’06), shares the team mark for extra-base hits in a season (80 in ’06), is the leader in runs scored (127 in ’06), owns the sixth highest RBI total for a season, and finds his name on other Top Ten lists.

Yes, he couldn’t lift his bat off his shoulder against his current teammate, Adam Wainright, and seems to have discovered the fountain of youth in St. Louis, but Beltran gets the call here.

Another way to look at it. Tommie Agee, Lenny and Mookie have rings. Carlos does not.

RIGHTFIELD: Ah, the strawberry patch again was harvested with that tall skinny – and powerful – right fielder, Darryl Strawberry. It’ll take a lot of production, and likely a ring or two, to uproot the Straw man from this honor, now, as ten years ago, and likely 25 years from now.

In fairness, Rusty Staub, Ron Swoboda, and Art Shamsky deserve honorable mentions for their contributions to Met lore, but the team’s all-time leader in home runs (252) – Straw Man – still takes ‘em deep.

CATCHER: Now here’s where the debates can get sticky. Piazza was named again, as he was ten years ago, and with valid credentials. But longtime fans still have a fondness for Jerry Grote, about whom it was said that if he and Hall of Famer Johnny Bench were on the same team, Grote would catch, and Bench would play third!

And the guy who said that was Bench’s Hall of Fame manager, Sparky Anderson!

And then there’s Hall of Famer Gary Carter, who we lost early in 2012 to brain cancer. Without Carter, ’86 doesn’t happen either, as well as hundreds of other great Mets moments.

This is a tough one, kids. We love Piazza, but we love Kid Carter and Grote as well. Go with your instinct on this one.

PITCHERS:

RIGHTHANDED: Do we even have to say it? Of course, Tom Seaver. Then, now, and maybe forever. He’ll always be the Franchise, Tom Terrific, and some future righthander is going to have to best Seaver’s 198 wins as a Met, his contributions to a Championship and another World Series run, and maybe then, he still won’t even be considered.

LEFTHANDED: Again, it’s Jerry Koosman then and now. Koos is third in wins (140, behind Seaver and Dwight Gooden), second in innings pitched (2,545), fifth in ERA (3.09), third in strikeouts (1,799), second in shutouts (26…guess who’s first? No. 41, of course), second to Seaver again in quality starts, and first in pickoffs (45).

Koos also is first in losses (137), second in hits allowed (2,281…yup, to Seaver in the first slot), second to 41 in walks allowed(847-820), and second to you-know-who in home runs allowed (212-187), but shhhh…..we won’t belabor these numbers.

RIGHTHANDED RELIEVER: Here, Roger McDowell got the pick, then and now (cause Doug Sisk wasn’t around for the voting, no doubt). McDowell was the right half of Davey Johnson’s two-headed closer in the mid-80s, along with Jesse Orosco, and between the two of them, teams couldn’t beat both. And Roger Mac is one of the funniest humans in the baseball universe.

LEFTHANDED RELIEVER: Here’s where it gets touchy again. Tug McGraw got the consensus vote, and deservedly so, but in 2002, it was Go-Johnny-Go Johnny Franco who received the vote of the people, and deservedly so. What to do, what to do?

Franco likely will own the team saves mark for quite some time (276), but McGraw got us to ’69. And what about Jesse? (see Righthanded reliever).

Again, ignore the numbers, go with your heart. The All-Time Team is yours for all-time, until the next time they name a new team…for all-time!

Posted under 40th Anniversary, 75th Anniversary, Amazin Team, Columnist Mike, Davey Johnson, Gary Cohen, Gil Hodges, Jeff Torborg, John Harper, Marty Noble, Mike Lupica, Mike Vaccaro, New York Mets, Overwhelming Choice, Team Money, Time Manager, Time Roster, Top Story

Sports Beat “Dickey deserved it”

Mets pitcher RA Dickey was a silver lining in yet another dark cloud of a season for our Flushing heroes. With little else to cheer for, Mets fans and the local media spent most of the second half of the 2012 season obsessing over Dickey’s chances winning the Cy Young Award, the honored bestowed by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to the best pitcher in the National and American Leagues.

Despite winning 20 games, Dickey faced formidable obstacles with respect to receiving baseball’s highest pitching honor. The BBWAA is a conservative body and they traditionally give out their season-ending prizes to personnel from winning teams. In addition, no  knuckleball pitcher had ever won the Cy Young Award. Too many sportswriters in the past believed that the knuckleball was a gimmick and that only traditional pitchers should be recipients of the Cy Young trophy.

It’s a credit to the BBWAA that they were able to overcome those old biases and come to the realization that RA Dickey winning 20 games for the Mets was the equivalent of a pitcher winning 30 games on a decent team.

RA not only helped his contract negotiations with the award but his publishing career as well. Last winter his autobiography, “Wherever I Wind Up” (Blue Rider Press) received great reviews and wound up on the New York Times best sellers list. In September I saw Dickey and his co-author, New York Daily News sportswriter Wayne Coffey, chatting by the Gil Hodges entrance of Citi Field. Dickey told me that they were discussing additional material for the paperback release slated for this coming March. Dickey’s 2012 dream season should make for a good addendum.

It wasn’t a pleasant homecoming for Indiana Pacers point guard Lance Stephenson and not just because he scored only four points and turned the ball over three times last Sunday at Madison Square Garden as the Knicks easily beat his team 88-76.

Lance was a high school star at Coney Island’s Abraham Lincoln High School and he led his team to a couple of PSAL titles. Coney Island sadly was not spared from Superstorm Sandy. “Yesterday I went to my aunt’s house where I grew up. Although the house sustained serious damage, it is habitable. I spent the day talking with FEMA officials and filling out paperwork with her,” he told me somberly in the Pacers locker room before the game.

Is it my imagination or does it seem as if Linsanity took place a decade ago? The Knicks 7-1 start certainly has quelled the consternation among the Knicks’ faithful about the team’s decision not to re-sign last season’s folk hero, Harvard alum Jeremy Lin. By the same token, whatever happened to the concern about the Knicks losing their star forward, Amar’e Stoudemire, for two months as he recovers from knee surgery?

Mets pitcher Johan Santana and team chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon were in Coney Island a few days before Lance Stephenson got there handing out supplies and food as part of the Sandy relief effort. The Mets’ NY-Penn League team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, play at Coney Island’s MCU Park. While there was significant flooding, the ballpark is structurally sound and should be ready for the 2013 season.

Nearly every New York sports team has contributed to relief and recovery efforts in our area. The Yankees made a $500,000 donation last week. Cablevision and Madison Square Garden Entertainment CEO James Dolan doubled that amount.

On a smaller yet still significant effort, the New York Islanders opened up the Nassau Coliseum and allowed fans to skate on the ice if they donated cash and/or food and supplies. The Islanders also held online auctions of memorabilia and fan experience packages (assuming the National Hockey League lockout gets resolved). Former Knicks public relations director Sammy Steinlight, who now his own PR firm in Manalapan, New Jersey, has started a website, www.jerseyshorerelief.com, whose mission is to help restore the Garden State’s coastal towns that were devastated by Sandy.

The Major League Baseball Alumni Association held their annual fund-rasing event to benefit youth baseball programs last week at the Marriott Marquis. Hall of Famer and Yankees great Dave Winfield reminisced about singing Rodgers and Hart’s “Manhattan” at the 1981 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “I grew up in Minnesota but standing on that float lip-synching the lyrics was as cold as I’ve ever felt in my life,” said Winfield.

Dale Murphy was one of baseball’s most feared hitters in the 1980s and he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1982 and 1983. Murphy finished his career with 398 home runs. I asked him if he ever thought of trying to make a comeback to get two more home runs. “It did cross my mind for a second! The sportswriters do look to benchmarks for electing players to the Hall of Fame and 400 does have a nice ring to it. I am hoping that the Veterans Committee will select me in the future,” said the always upbeat Murphy.

“The hardest part of an athlete’s life comes after he retires and is looking for direction. My company helps athletes cope when their playing careers come to an end. It’s a rough adjustment for many who don’t know what it’s like to earn a living outside of sports or to now have to spend more time than they’re used to with their families,” onetime Mets pitcher and Dartmouth alum Mike Remlinger told me.

Yes, there have been countless stories about athletes who wind up blowing their fortunes. Last month ESPN broadcast “Broke,” a documentary that had its debut at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival that featured NFL wide receiver Andre Rison and others who couldn’t manage their money. Athletes who take their education as seriously as they do their sports can prosper when their careers are over.

A pair of former Mets, first baseman Mark Johnson and pitcher Frank Seminara, are making more money in the world of finance than they did as major leaguers. Johnson, like Remlinger is a Dartmouth grad, and is a securities broker in tony Greenwich, Connecticut for Weeden & Company after having worked for Goldman Sachs after being released by the Mets in 2002. Seminara, a Columbia alumnus, is a financial adviser for Morgan Stanley’s private wealth division in Florham Park, New Jersey located just a stone’s throw from the Jets training facilities. Seminara went to work for Smith Barney after getting released by Cubs at the end of spring training in 1996. The Mets ownership would have been wise to have turned to their former players for investing advice instead of a certain infamous Far Rockaway-born financier.

Nearly all of us will be stocking up on bottled water in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. According to Anthony Fiorello, a marketing manager for Hint Water, a zero calorie-flavored

water brand, bottled water can be stored for up to five years without any health worries. “If it’s in a glass bottle it can stay for 20 years,” he added.

Now that the holiday season is upon us, look for the major department stores to launch television ad blitzes that will make us nostalgic for the political campaign ads of the just concluded election season. A recent marketing tactic for retail stores is to have celebrities front house clothing and jewelry lines. Kohl’s is using the former husband and wife team of Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez as well as former MTV reality star Lauren Conrad while Kmart is countering with “Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara and former Disney star Selena Gomez. Kmart is still using one of the first actresses to lend her name to clothing line, Jaclyn Smith of “Charlie’s Angels” fame. Not to be outdone, Macy’s has Jessica Simpson and Madonna and her daughter, Lourdes, for a dress line called, what else, Material Girl.

These days, shoes seem to be the new celebrities as Macy’s has spent a fortune in ads touting that it has the world’s largest shoe floor.

Jose Reyes must be glad that he rented an apartment in Miami instead of buying a place. Reyes was one of the big names traded from the Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays last week as Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, decided to dump every big contract that he could after the Marlins’ horrible 2012 season. The Marlins were so awful that they finished behind the Mets in the NL East standings.

New York’s Carlton Hotel, located on Madison Avenue & 29th Street, has just renovated a number of their suites to attract high rollers. Its penthouse suite has a Texas-sized biggest pool. The late Minnesota Fats would be proud.

At the annual International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Show held at the Javits Center last week, the two major satellite television providers, DIRECTV and DISH Network, were competing for the business of lodging chains. The former was promoting its NFL Sunday Ticket package that allows a viewer to see every out-of-market game while the latter was playing up its extensive movie library.

Posted under Abraham Lincoln, Baseball Writers Association Of America, Bbwaa, Best Sellers List, Contract Negotiations, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Decent Team, Dream Season, Gil Hodges, Indiana Pacers, Knuckleball Pitcher, Lance Stephenson, Lloyd Carroll, Madison Square Garden, Mets Fans, New York Mets, New York Times Best Sellers, New York Times Best Sellers List, Paperback Release, Ra Dickey, Top Story

Johan’s Masterpiece Is For All Of Met Nation

Somewhere in the great sports bar in the sky, Tug McGraw is screaming, “Ya Gotta Believe!” Gary Carter is acting like a maniac. Gil Hodges is nodding silently in approval.

And Casey Stengel is rubbing his leathery face, winking his eye and uttering, “Amazin’!”

When all is said and done, this was just a regular season game. One that put the Mets six games over the .500 mark, helping them to continue on with their surprising 2012.

Yet, this game meant more than that. This was the Mets last ghost exorcized. With 8,019 games played and no no-nos, you had to wonder if this was ever going to happen. The no-hitter is one of the hardest accomplishments in baseball, but with the slew of great pitchers that have come through the Met organization, just by sheer luck, someone would have thrown one by now.

On game 8,020 it happened. Johan Santana’s no-hitter gave the Flushing Faithful a moment in Mets history that will last a lifetime. This was the Miracle Mets, Game 6, and the Grand Slam Single. This was a moment you shared with your children or called your father as it was happening.

And just like those other great events in Mets history, you will remember where you were years from now and will share it with your children and grandchildren when other Mets throw their no-hitters.

It’s the type of event that binds Met fans together. Disillusioned over the past few seasons, this one game will probably bring back the fans, hoping that another glimpse of history will happen at Citi Field.

And if it wasn’t Tom Seaver or Doc Gooden or Jerry Koosman, it is perfect that Santana is the one to break the curse.

“Short of Tom Seaver, I can’t think of a better person to pitch the first one,” said third baseman David Wright. “The type of guy he is, the type of person he is, and what he’s been through last year – to come back and have that type of performance, that’s incredible and was glad to be a part of that. … I am thrilled I could be a part of it. It couldn’t happen to a better guy.

“It’s just an amazing story. I can let you know firsthand. I was there with him in Florida throughout some of his rehab last year. The work he put in, the time he put in to get himself back to this point. I thought his last start was special, but this start was just…I guess once every 51 years.”

When the Mets acquired Santana in 2008, he was supposed to lead the team back to the playoffs. It hasn’t happened yet. His shoulder surgery was supposed to end his career or at least make him a shell of his former self.

Instead, we are seeing the Johan of old – competing every game and fighting against every batter.

Of course like any no-hitter he had help. A fortunate foul ball at third base in the sixth and then a miracle-like catch by Mike Baxter, who grew up in the shadow of Shea Stadium,  in the seventh.

After that, you knew that it could happen. However, there were 8,019 reasons to believe the other shoe was going to drop.  But he continued to mow the Cardinals down, one by one until David Freese – last year’s World Series hero – became the answer to a Met trivia question by fishing for the signature changeup for strike three.

All of Met Nation rose to its feet in almost utter disbelief. Tears were coming out Terry Collins eyes, standing at the dugout just enjoying the moment, as the Mets celebrated on the field.

And the same cheers came throughout New York. From houses to sports bars a certain relief was felt. You could hear it in the voices of the announcers – Gary Cohen and Howie Rose – Met fans from their youth and the voices of this generation.  And the 27,69 who actually were at the game, went into a frenzy.

Somewhere in the great sports bar in the sky, Bob Murphy is giving his happy recap, while Mrs. Payson was  in her usual seat watching the Mets. Lindsey Nelson was in his sports coat getting reaction from Tommie Agee and Donn Clendenon.

It was a night for all Met fans to celebrate, because on game 8,020 the curse was broken.

Amazin’!

Posted under Amazin, Better Person, David Wright, Doc Gooden, Game One, Gil Hodges, Great Sports, Jerry Koosman, Joe Mcdonald, Johan Santana, Leathery Face, New York Mets, Sheer Luck, Six Games, Tom Seaver, Top Story, Tug Mcgraw

This post was written by Joe McDonald on June 2, 2012

Tags: , , , , ,