Saturday, May 4, 2013

May 4- New York Mets

It’s no real surprise to baseball fans that the New York Mets have been an ongoing joke since their first year in 1962. Even though the team won two World Series titles in 1969 and 1986, they’ll always be the punch-line of any joke, tasteful or not, that the sport has to offer. Having not been alive for the season between 1962 and 1982 I really have no basis of comparison to really validate any of the jokes from that time period. I merely have Ken Burns Baseball and almanacs to assist me with that. The jokes that I can vouch for; however, all take place after the 1989 season.

For those of you who don’t know, or don’t remember, the very first game I can recall ever watching is Game six of the 1986 World Series; probably one of the greatest games in baseball history and a fantastic one for an up-and-coming baseball fan to cut his teeth on. Outside of winning the Series the Mets had gone 108-54 on the season under then manager Davey Johnson, a record that still stands as their best in franchise history. In 1988 he led the team to the National League Championship Series behind a 100-62 record, tied for the second best record in Mets history. The Mets lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games; and the Dodgers would move on to with the World Series that year. In 1989 the Mets finished in second place (87-75) and in 1990 Johnson was fired after starting the season 20-22, paving the way for Bud Harrelson who went 71-49 as Johnson’s replacement. Despite producing the two greatest years in Mets history, including a World Series trophy, Johnson was canned for a ridiculous reason; the Mets’ brass wasn’t exactly fond of his coaching methods.  Years later, Johnson summed up his approach to managing by saying, "I treated my players like men. As long as they won for me on the field, I didn't give a flying fuck what they did otherwise."

With a solid finish of the 1990 season in his pocket, Harrelson began his first full season as a manager in the Majors in 1991. He wouldn’t even finish the season. Harrelson would only manage 154 of those games, going 74-80 before getting the axe as Mike Cubbage went 3-4 to finish the season out. The Jeff Torborg era lasted one-and-a-quarter season from 1992-1993, ushering in the Dallas Green era which turned out to be a four-year pile of suck as Green replaced Torborg part-way into the ’93 season to finish 46-78. Green was fired near the end of the 1996 season after going 229-283 during his time. Green’s replacement, Bobby Valentine, finished out the ’96 season with a 12-19 record, but was allowed to keep the job as skipper going into the 1997 season. So let’s break it down for all of you playing at home; Johnson, the most successful manager in Mets history was canned despite his results, three more unsuccessful managers came and went and now we have Bobby V in the ranks. Yah, this all makes perfect sense why the Mets are a laughing stock. But I’m not done yet.

With yet another changing of the guard it only med sense that the Mets would make a few changes to their uniforms as well. I mean why not? The Mets had only been using the same hat for every game since their debut in 1962. Yah, this is kind of a big deal. You would kind of think that the Mets, always competing with their cross-town counter part New York Yankees, would unveil something totally badass. Weeeeellllll… no. They brought out the ice cream hat.

Seriously, that’s what the media called it. What made it even worse is that the Mets introduced new white uniforms as well. And by white, I mean all white. They cut out the pinstripes, thus leaving something that looked like everyone who wore it should be working in a malt shop circa 1955. Might be a good time to run for mayor.

I will say one thing for the Mets; they made a smart move by bringing Valentine on as their skipper. He went 536-467 from the end of 1996-2002 including a trip to the World Series in 2000. But, like every other manager in Mets history, if you have one bad season you’re done… unless you’re Dallas Green.

When I first marked this cap up I had put “’97” on it as a mere reminder to Mets fans of how things could always be worse than it looks. I then looked through a few of the players’ numbers and made an interesting observation as to how this cap and uniform set may have actually helped two players improve their career. So, without further ado, here you go!

#0- Most people won’t remember him as #0; however, that was how Rey Ordonez started his Major League career out. He wore #0 from 1996-1997 and switched it to #10 for the remainder for his stint with the Mets and the one year he played with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  While many historians and Mets fans would contest that ’97 was nothing to brag about for Ordonez, I say you’re looking at the wrong numbers. Yes, offensively he had the worst full year of his career; batting .216 with one home run and 33 RBI. The numbers I’m looking at are his defensive numbers. In 1997 Ordonez won his first of three consecutive Gold Gloves at shortstop, an impressive feat considering that Cincinnati Reds shortstop and Hall of Famer had cleaned house on the previous three. Not bad Rey, not bad at all.

#28- Unless you’re a hardcore Mets fan, I doubt very few of you remember a pitcher named Bobby Jones. No, I’m not talking about the Hall of Fame golfer whom Hollywood made a movie about staring Jim Caviezel in 2004. I’m talking about the guy who pitched for the Mets from 1993-2000.

Jones was a first round pick by the Mets in the 1991 amateur draft out of Fresno State. He made his debut on August 14, 1993, but was still noted as a rookie throughout the 1994 season in which he finished eighth in the NL Rookie of the Year vote with a 12-7 record and a 3.15 ERA. In 1995 and 1996 he put up some decent numbers, but nothing of real notoriety. In 1997; however, he had a career season. He went 15-9 with a 3.63 ERA and 125 strikeouts. His performance on the season would help him make his first and only All-Star Game of his career. After that his career took a downturn until the 2000 season which would be his only year after ’97 that he would have a win/loss record over .500.

So I guess there were a few diamonds in the rough amongst all the bad play and decisions that were the ’97 season. You just have to know where to look and what you’re looking for.

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