It’s long been said that pinch-hitting is one of the most difficult things to do in baseball. But Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin has mastered it through his first one-plus seasons in the big leagues.
Of Valdespin’s 10 career home runs, six have come as a pinch hitter.
Howard Megdal is the Mets beat writer for The Journal News, serving as the lead writer for the paper’s Mets blog, Mets.LoHudBlogs.com. In addition, Megdal is the author of “Wilpon’s Folly: The Story of A Man, His Fortune and The New York Mets,” in which he chronicles the financial and legal difficulties of the team’s owners.
I recently had the chance to interview Megdal, where he gave his assessment of this year’s team, talked about which Met has the most upside and estimated how many wins this year’s team could have, if all goes well. You can follow Megdal on Twitter @HowardMegdal.
When the New York Mets hired Terry Collins to be the team’s manager Nov. 23, 2010, I remember the first thing I said to myself was, “Who?” Then, after doing some research, I thought to myself, “Really?” “This is who general manager Sandy Alderson has tabbed to be the team’s new skipper?”
To this day, my sentiments have not changed regarding Alderson’s decision to hire Collins. During Collins’ first two seasons as manager, his record was 151-173 with back-to-back fourth place finishes in the five-team National League East. For this reason – among others -- Collins should be put on notice.
With the exception of Jon Niese and Matt Harvey, the Mets’ rotation has been abysmal through the first two weeks of the season. So calling up Zack Wheeler, the team’s top pitching prospect, would seem like the answer to that problem, right? Not so fast.
On Wednesday, manager Terry Collins told Mike Francesa on WFAN that the team might consider calling Wheeler up to the Major Leagues if the pitching beyond Niese and Harvey continues to struggle. However, Collins backed off those comments on Thursday, saying he was uncertain when Wheeler might be called up.
Mets fans have not had much to cheer about in recent years, and it’s fairly safe to say that even the most optimistic can’t picture the boys in Flushing competing for a post-season berth this year.
But while the team’s 2013 record will probably be abysmal, there is hope down on the farm.
Excluding catcher John Buck’s scorching start to the season, Daniel Murphy has been the New York Mets’ top hitter through the team’s first 11 games.
Murphy, who is batting a team-high .381, has hit safely in all but three games. The second baseman has a team-best 16 hits, including eight extra-base hits – five doubles, two home runs and one triple – in 42 at-bats. Last season, he didn’t belt his first two home runs until June 27, when he hit both in consecutive at-bats.
Entering the 2013 season, the catcher position seemed to be a liability for the New York Mets.
During the offseason, the Mets shipped R.A. Dickey, the reigning National League Cy Young award winner, north of the border to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package centered around top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud.
The Mets teams of 1969 and 1986 were especially Amazin’, of course, but what if you could create a club combining the best players from each era? Or from any era? Here are my picks for an all-time Mets dream team, to wrap up my 15-part anniversary tribute to Queens’ hometown heroes. Miss any entries? Just hit the Mets link on qchron.com, and you can catch them all, tracing the team’s history from its genesis in the mind of Bill Shea through the end of last season. Now on to October!
Disappointment. That is, alas, the word that best captures the Mets’ last five seasons before this one. The club fielded some stellar players — David Wright, Jose Reyes and Johan Santana, to name just a few — but just couldn’t seal the deal to get into the playoffs. And the last few years the Mets haven’t even come close.
But who knows? 2012 is going better than anyone thought it would before Opening Day. When it comes to the boys from Flushing, Miracles Do Happen, and Ya Gotta Believe.
The first years of the 21st century were not kind to the Mets, but after Willie Randolph took over as manager in 2005, things started to turn around, and the next year the Amazin’s took their first division title in nearly 20 years.
In 2000 the Mets made it to the World Series for the fourth — and, so far, final — time, but were beaten by the Evil Empire in the Bronx in five games. After that the team declined, and wouldn’t see postseason play again until 2006.
The Mets really revved it up at the end of the ’90s, but kept the fans on an emotional roller coaster as they finished 1998 and 1999 in heartbreaking fashion, falling just short of the postseason in the former and losing the League Championship Series in six in the latter.
The early to mid-nineties were not good years for the Mets, as they suffered six losing seasons in a row, including, in 1993, the loss of more than 100 games for the first time since the sixties. The decade would end much better than it began for the team, but it would take a lot of work to get there.
After the great comeback World Series win of 1986, the Mets stayed a strong team for years and broke new attendance records, but a dynasty was not to be. Injuries were to blame in 1987 — sound familiar? As the eighties turned into the nineties, some of the team’s biggest stars were traded, and Manager Davey Johnson, who couldn’t get them into the Big Show again, was fired.
The Mets celebrated their 25th season with their second world championship, coming from behind to beat the Boston Red Sox in seven games. The most unforgettable highlight was the two-strike, two-out, bottom of the 10th inning moment in Game 6 when announcer Vin Scully of NBC called out, “It gets through Buckner!” as a Mookie Wilson roller got past the Boston first basemen, Bill Buckner, scoring Ray Knight to win the game and setting up Game 7.
Even with such luminaries as Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Frank Viola having stood atop the mound in Flushing over the years, the Mets had never seen one of their pitchers throw a no-hitter, one of baseball’s most special accomplishments.
Until last Friday.
It’s the Big Eighties. Ronald Reagan’s in the White House, fans are flocking to see the third Star Wars movie, “Return of the Jedi,” Cabbage Patch dolls are flying off the store shelves — and the Mets are building what will become their best team since the Miracle squad of 1969.
What can you say about the Mets between 1979 and 1982? Not much. Maybe that they avoided losing 100 games a year — though the only time they didn’t come close was 1981, when a strike canceled nearly a third of the season. But a couple signs of the future appeared: Fred Wilpon as part owner, in 1980, and Mookie Wilson as a promising rookie, in 1981.
After the ever-so-close 1973 World Series, the Mets took a dive into fifth place in ’74. Although they improved a bit in the next two seasons, and individual players posted some records, the mid- and late-’70s were not kind to the Mets. One low point was June 15, 1977, when they traded away two of their best stars in what became known as the Midnight Massacre.
After the miracle of 1969, the Mets stayed strong but were knocked out of playoff contention by untimely slumps in 1970 and ’71, and injuries in 1972. The next year they roared back into the World Series, but lost in seven games to the Oakland A’s.
The eighth season changed it all. After averaging 105 losses in each of their first seven years, the New York Mets jumped from the bottom to the top of the baseball world in 1969, proving that every underdog has his day. Although there were some hints of the magic to come in the prior two years — namely the pitching of Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and the batting of Cleon Jones and Jerry Grote — the team’s 1969 explosion and World Series win in five games seemed to come out of nowhere.
The Mets by the years: 1967
Win or lose, the New York Mets are beloved here in Queens. And lose is what they often did early on, dropping more than 100 games a year but drawing record crowds to Shea Stadium soon after it opened in 1964. Last week in Part I of my series, “Our hometown heroes for 50 years,” I recapped their first year, 1962, along with recalling some of the team’s high and low points throughout the past five decades. This week recaps the 1963 through 1966 seasons.
The Mets by the years: 1963
As the late Tug McGraw said, ya gotta believe. Yes, if you are a Mets fan ya gotta believe that in 2012, the Mets will celebrate their 50th anniversary as members of the National League, and the first of their next 50 years right here in Queens.
This is a team that has made its indelible mark on our national pastime. It is a team that came into existence only because Walter O’Malley, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Horace Stoneham, the owner of the New York Giants, decided that there was more money to be made out in California than in New York. It is a team that was created to fill the void left by the sudden and shocking departure of New York’s two National League teams. They were the brainchild of Bill Shea, the prominent New York attorney who spearheaded the committee created by Mayor Robert Wagner to bring a National League team back to New York. At the same time, they were owned at first by Joan Whitney Payson, a multi-millionaire who had been a part owner of the Giants and who had been the only board member to vote against the move to San Francisco.
All was as it should be for opening day of the baseball season at Citi Field on Thursday.
The weather was sunny, Johan Santana pitched five shutout innings in his first game in more than a year, and David Wright drove in the only run of the game as the Mets won, 1-0.
All was as it should be for opening day of the baseball season at Citi Field on Thursday.
The weather was sunny, Johan Santana pitched shutout ball in his first game in more than a year, and David Wright drove in the only run of the game as the Mets won, 1-0.