Monday, September 21, 2015

One Lifelong Mets Fan Plays the Numbers Game

The following is a guest post from fellow Mets Lifer, Bruce Kallner.

When I was 9 years old, in 1969, the Mets, Knicks and Jets all won World Championships. This rooting for New York sports teams-thing was easy!

I'll spare everyone my whining about the subsequent 46 years which has netted just one championship, the Mets dominating, pulsating 1986 season and post-season. You all know the pain and suffering only too well.

The residual effect however is much greater than the number of titles my teams have collected (yes, I'm talking to Yankee and Giant fans) because the successful teams of my youth are so powerfully and uniquely ensconced in my sports psyche. It all really hit home when I was running laps at my local gym. During this mind-numbing act of repetitive cardio work I had to find ways to remind myself what lap I was on. The first thing that came to mind was an uniform number association game based on my childhood sports heroes. Try this some time, pick a number and let your brain spit out the first player who comes to mind.

Before you read my list play this mind game yourself. Go 1 through 21 and name the first sports figure, past or current, who comes to mind. Don't dwell, think number, blurt name.

Ok then, here's mine;

I started my run slowly (and sort of ended slowly but that's another matter) with #1 belonging to , who else, Mookie.
#2 Why I know that Kevin Elster wore this number and came to mind, unprompted, before that guy who just retired from the Yankees, is beyond me.
#3, Duh, Bud Harrelson (Babe who?)
#4  La Grand Orange, Rusty Staub - class of '73
#5  The Glider, Ed Charles
#6  Al Weiss (If you have to ask, just please move on)
#7 Ed Kranepool (1962-79) our longest tenured Met
#8 Yogi Berra (sorry Kid, Yogi was around so long it's just burned in my brain but at least he was a Mets Manager)
#9 JC Martin (I swear this one even troubles me)
#10 Walt "Clyde" Frazier
#11 Wayne Garrett
#12 Joe Willie Namath
#13 Wilt Chamberlain (only non-NYer to penetrate my sub-conscious, but the guy did score 100 points in one game!
#14 Ron Swoboda (with great apologies to Gil Hodges but the Catch was THE CATCH)
#15 Jerry Grote
#16 Doc Gooden
#17 Keith Hernandez
#18 Daryl Strawberry
#19 Bryan Trottier
#20 Tommie Agee
#21 Cleon Jones (My favorite Met of all time)

The 1969 and 1986 Mets gave us our only two championships. Perhaps this group of DeGrom, Cespedes, Familia, Harvey, d'Arnaud will someday own the subconscious of Met fans born sometime after 1980. But for this 55 year old these are my guys, my teams and my wonderful memories.

Lets Go Mets!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Most Stunning Stat of the 2015 Mets Season

With Walkoff Wilmer carrying the Mets to another W last night, Gary Apple remarked on the SNY Post Game this most incredible stat for the 2015 Mets:

"Last night was the 17th come from behind victory of the season."

That's basically half of the Mets wins have been come from behind victories. With this lineup.

That's unbelievable given the offensive struggles and deep rooted problems this team has at the plate. But somehow, they are winning ball games. Somehow they are in first place. Somehow that are above .500. Somehow they are treating the NL East like a punching bag.

Can this team be relevant in September? Somehow, I think they will.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Welcome Back Dillon Gee

Dillon Gee hasn't pitched for the Mets in what feels like a century. But tonight the guy who has probably been their most consistent pitcher for the last 3 seasons heads back to the mound tonight.

I personally really like Gee. I don't think he'll ever be a dominant starter, but he's a guy who can eat up innings and be a reliable option in any pitching staff. His return may force Dice-K back to the bullpen, which actually could be a really good thing as Dice-K has shown some better stuff his last few outings.

While Gee has been on the DL he's no doubt been spending a lot of time at home. Check out this video from Coldwell Banker where they sat down with Dillon Gee to see how his home has changed from his life growing up in Texas to now in the Big Apple.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Can't the Mets Succeed at Home?

The Mets return to Citi Field tonight after what I would call a surprising road trip. Not only did they manage to get themselves over .500, but even in the games that they lost there seemed to be good baseball being played (except for the one game against the Angels).

The Mets are getting contribution from surprising places including Brown, Lagares (until he went on the DL) and Recker  while some of the more reliable players like Wright, Granderson & Murphy have struggled to find their swing. Even the bullpen proved it could close out a few games.

But that was on the road. For some reason things change as soon as that plane lands in LaGuardia.

Citi Field, while being one of the nicest looking ballparks in the National League, is still far from being home to the Mets. I'm not talking about the history and heritage of the park following in the footsteps of the beloved Shea Stadium, but rather the Mets rarely play at ease within the friendly confines of Flushing.

Why? There should be a comfort level there. They know the field. The pitcher's mound has the familiar spots for pitchers to push off the rubber. There are no surprises. But the Mets have yet to play well there.

The recent West Coast swing proves that the issue is purely psychological. To use an analogy from another sport it's like a 20 point per game scorer in basketball who can't hit free throws. His shot mechanics are the same, but something isn't setting right mentally when he steps to the line.

I'm no psychotherapist, nor do I have a degree in anything remotely close to it, but the evidence seems to be clear. The culture at Citi Field is lacking the confidence this team needs to perform at its highest level.

Can culture impact on field performance? Absolutely. Anyone who's played sports can tell you that. It has nothing to do with the players liking each other or the clubhouse being loose. It's when they step out on the field there isn't a confidence that teams should fear the fact they have to play at Citi Field.

We all know that feeling is absolutely true in parks in Atlanta, St. Louis and even San Francisco. I'll even throw Philadelphia in there. But definitely not Queens. Not yet at least.

I don't have the answer for what needs to change. All I know is that it has less to do with the skills of the players and more with the mindset of the organization. Sounds like psycho babble, but somehow the facts support it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

An All Star Experience

The 2013 Major League Baseball All Star Game might have been the most boring game I've ever attended. Zero hitting. Minimal run scoring. Even the runs that were scored were on lame sac flies or fielder's choice plays. It was also one of the most amazing sports experiences I've ever seen.

This was my first All Star Game. I've watched every All Start for the last 28 years on television and when the opportunity came to see it first hand in my favorite team's stadium I had to do it. Price gouging aside, this is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Not only was this my first All Star Game, it was the first All Star Game my son has been to. In fact, yesterday was the first baseball game he's ever been to in person. I will now accept my Father of the Year trophy. My son is 8 years old. He's not a huge baseball fan. He knows daddy loves the Mets. He knows David Wright and every so often asks where is Jose Reyes. I got him a Matt Harvey shirt and he thinks Kevin James on the jumbotron is fat, foolish and pretty hilarious. I didn't expect him to appreciate the significance of this game now, but I know he will down the road.

Explaining to my son what the All Star Game exactly is was interesting. He kept asking why aren't there more Mets players playing if it's in their stadium? He's starting to learn the game of baseball and a steady flow of junk food being passed his way helped him endure 9 innings of lackluster play from the game's top players.

But the sentimental father/son moments aside, the All Star Game being at Citi Field for a Mets Lifer was remarkable. Mets fans have lacked a packed house brimming with energy for quite a few years. What was interesting was just how few Yankees fans were in the building. This truly was a night for Mets fans.

The ovation for Wright and Harvey during the starting the lineups was raucous. David Wright may have worked harder the last two days than he will the remainder of the season. The guy did every interview. He was in almost every promo on the scoreboard. He was a PR machine for the Mets and after seeing him do all that I came to realize that it's really hard not to like David Wright. Is there a more clean cut, likeable, quality player in the majors than Wright? I'm not sure there is.

Then you have Harvey. The flashbacks to the hopes and dreams of Doc Gooden come flooding back every time I see Harvey take the mound. When he had 2 outs and 2 strikes in the first inning, the "Harvey! Harvey" chants started up organically as Citi Field just wanted to explode with a strikeout. I can't wait for more of those types of moments in regular season and hopefully postseason games in the future.

And Harvey plunking Cano was a bit entertaining as well.

Even as a Mets fan, I could appreciate the moment that was Mariano Rivera's final All Star Game. How could you not applaud this guy who might be the best pitcher we'll ever see. Rivera standing alone on the mound for a good 3 minutes amongst cheers and revelry was a moment I'll never forget.

So the National League lost and won't have home field advantage in the World Series. And yes the game was ridiculously boring for the most part. It didn't matter. This was an amazing experience, especially for Mets fans. If I liked the Dodgers or the Orioles or even the Reds, I probably would have walked away without that much of an impression. But for Mets fans, the All Star Game might very well have been the beginning of a new chapter. Changes are happening. An inkling of that was felt last night and I can't wait for what's to come.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Why the Mets Sweeping the Yankees Means Nothing and Everything at the Same Time

The Mets swept the Subway Series from the Yankees this week. It's never happened before and who knows if it will happen again. The fact that the Mets were able to win every game in the series isn't as surprising as who they won it with. To call the Mets lineup fearsome is as laughable as calling Tom Green an actor.

In the grand scheme of things this series win means nothing in 2013. The Mets will most likely still finish the season under .500. They won't be going to the playoffs and there isn't an expectation of them winning any division titles. It was just a nice winning streak in the second month of the season that will just be a blip on the radar come the off season.

But then this series also means quite a bit.

The Mets were on the precipice of losing their entire fan base for the rest of the 2013 season. No one wanted to watch the product on the field, let alone go to the ballpark. This mini winning streak and the fact that it came against the cockiest fan base of them all, Yankees fans, makes it all that much more sweet.

The even bigger reason this sweep meant so much is because it switched the discussion from the litany of problems with the Mets to the positives. From Valdespin to Ike to Terry Collins, there have been enough of negative headlines and minutia discussed online and radio about the circus that is the 2013 Mets. Winning solves most problems and this was a huge one. While Ike Davis still deserves to be demoted to the minors, for one week Terry Collins hasn't had to deal with the same questions over and over and over.

You have to also give credit to what The 7 Line is doing for Mets fans. Sure it's a business, but honestly The 7 Line has done more to energize the fan base than the Mets organization has done in the last decade. The idea of bringing a contingency of Mets fans to Chicago and then to the Bronx to occupy the home team's ballpark is just genius. I wasn't able to go in person to either of those venues, but not only was I aware of it but was excited by it as well.

I guess The 7 Line is capitalism and free enterprise at its best and it's probably the best thing to happen to the Mets fan base in a long time. Darren Meenan deserves a lot of credit and our thanks even if you've never bought one of his t-shirts (but you probably should because they're pretty great).

So where do the Mets go from here? Who knows. Maybe they'll continue to win and surprise us. Maybe they'll quickly return to their irrelevant status, but whether you want to mock it or not this series has meant a lot for the Mets and especially for their fans.

Wining makes baseball so much more fun...especially at the expense of the Yankees.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trustless in Flushing

Some Mets fans and especially vocal ones on social media will try and call you out for criticizing this team. They may say you're not a "true fan" or spout how they love this team regardless of the record. They are well within their rights to do so.

But as a fan of this team for the better part of 30 years this is the most faithless I've been in a long time. While the last half decade has been anything but ideal, there have been injuries that prevented players from succeeding or stop-gap players were the core of the lineup that you knew was just a placeholder for the current season.

Look at the names in the current Mets lineup and in the starting rotation and what you'll see is that the majority of them are the homegrown players the organization has been hoping to build around. Names like Duda, Davis and Tejada. Pitchers like Gee, Niese and Hefner. These were pieces we did not trade because the Mets saw them as being more valuable in the future than what they could get for them right now.

So here the Mets sit. 10 games under .500 and it's not even June. Ike Davis is about to slump further into oblivion. Duda can only drive in runs with a solo homer. Tejada who made us forget Reyes last year is now reminding us of Rey Ordonez except without the SportsCenter highlights in the field. Jon Niese looks lost. Dillon Gee is on the John Maine path to success.

Fortunately Murphy and Wright are pulling their weight, and of course Matt Harvey is living up to expectations.

What is my point here? Besides just needing to vent, it's that how can anyone trust the idea that the Mets are planning for future success? The future of 2009 is on the field right now and looking like a Double A lineup. You want to give them more time? I say it only gives them more rope with which to hang themselves.

I can't point the finger at any one person because I honestly believe the entire culture of the organization is poisoned from the front office to the bullpen to the hitting coach.It has become a culture where losing is acceptable because our investment lies in the ever elusive "future."

I'm emotionally invested in this team. I have been for 3 decades, but that doesn't mean I'm blinded to the ineptitude and the false hope that's unraveling before our very eyes.

Trust is the most valuable commodity on the planet earth. It's invaluable when you have it and will make you broke if you don't. Once trust is loss it's a long and arduous road to get it back.

Why would anyone trust the Mets at this point? A culture change has to happen. Not in the future. Not at some point. It has to happen now before trust is gone for good.