Tag Archives: 2000

A Look Back at the 2000 Mets

10 Mar

Share

By Jim Walters

Ten years ago, the New York Mets entered Spring Training confident after a remarkable run in the 1999 postseason. Led by Bobby Valentine, Mike Piazza and Al Leiter, the Mets added Mike Hampton to solidify the rotation, bringing high hopes to Port St. Lucie.

During the offseason, New York bid farewell to John Olerud but welcomed fan favorite Todd Zeile to play first. Derek Bell also joined the team, quickly capturing the hearts of the New York fans with an Opening Day at Shea home run.

New York won 94 games that year, finishing with the Wild Card and their first pennant in 14 years.. Their rotation featured Hampton, Leiter, Rick Reed, Bobby Jones and Glendon Rusch. Their bullpen included Armando Benitez, John Franco, Rick White, Turk Wendell, Dennis Cook and Pat Mahomes.

It feels like yesterday when the Mets rallied from 8-1 down in the bottom of the 8th at Shea Stadium against the rival Atlanta Braves. With John Rocker sidelined and the crowd packed for the post-game fireworks show, the Mets mounted one of the more remarkable comebacks in team history, scoring 10 runs, capped by a Mike Piazza laser off the retired numbers in left field.

Who could forget the Roger Clemens- Mike Piazza rivalry that started with the beaning of Piazza in July and ended with Clemens throwing a piece of ┬áPiazza’s broken bat at the Mets catcher in the World Series. It was a bizarre rivalry that has been debated ever since. Was Clemens using illegal substances that caused the rage and should have Piazza stormed the mound remain “what ifs” that have been debated for a decade.

The year 2000 also brought us the Benny Agbayani home run to kick off the season in game two against the Chicago Cubs in Japan. Agbayani went full circle, hitting another late-inning blast six months later to give the Mets the pivotal game three win against the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS.

It has been ten years since the Mets brought the National League pennant to New York. While the years since have been frustrating and more recently heartbreaking, the 2000 Mets were a feisty team that was easy to root for.

While the season ended in disappointment as the Yankees celebrated their 26th World Championship on the field of Shea, it was a special year for the Mets and their faithful fans.

Ghost of Shea

8 Mar

By Jim Walters

When Citi Field opened its doors to the public, the outcry from Mets fans came flowing in. While the new park in Queens showed off its shiny new apple and perfectly angled seats, fans were left asking, where are the Mets colors and Mets decor. While nice gestures like a new apple and keeping the old one, as well as the iconic skyline, connected the old and new chapters of Mets history, ownership did not do enough to make this park feel like the home stadium of the Mets.

During the season, adjustments were made. The team decided to no longer hide the few championship banners they possessed and they plastered images of old and current Mets in the inside and outside of Citi Field.

Besides the retired “Shea” that stood tall next to the numbers of Casey Stengal, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver and Jackie Robinson, memories of Shea Stadium, the home of the Mets from 1964-2009, were noticeably absent. The memory of beloved Shea was left in the team’s past.

While the Yankees designed their new cathedral as an upgrade of  their old stadium, the Mets went for a completely new look. While many will say this was a smart move as the cookie-cutter design of the 1960s and 1970s was no longer fashionable or fan-friendly, the designers did forget to bring over the orange and blue that Shea so appropriately provided.

While the Mets played their first season at home in a ball park other than Shea Stadium for the first time since 1963, the team struggled for most of the year. After the first month, the injury bug hit this team as hard as it has ever hit a ball club in the history of this game. As the stars fell, so did the Mets in the standings. By September, Citi Field’s empty seats finally resembled the many empty Fall nights at old Shea.

Those connected to the spiritual world started to question if there was something or someone behind this sudden streak of bad luck. Sure the Mets would never be considered a winning franchise, with more losing seasons that winning ones. But, the bloating disabled list, as well as a defensive performance that had little leaguers laughing, started to reveal that someone or something had a score to settle.

Perhaps, the ghost of Shea Stadium, or maybe it was the baseball gods, who were trying to even the score, playing a part in the 2009 season. Maybe the proper tribute was not displayed to the stadium next door, as ownership continued to express how Citi Field was a great improvement, treating old Shea as the ex who was used and abused until something better came along.

Maybe 2009 was Shea’s revenge.

During the offseason, steps were taken to calm this ghost. Orange walls and a bridge named after beloved Shea were offered as peace offerings. The question left to be answered is, will it be enough?

Many fans pleaded with the Mets to change the outfield wall colors to blue. This simple move would remind the fans of Shea in its later years. While it is probably a pretty penny to replace the material, it may be the sacrifice this team needs to make to please the past so there can be a future.

Down in Florida, the injuries are starting to pile up. Jose Reyes and his thyroid, Carlos Beltran and his knee. Francisco Rodriguez can’t see and Kelvim Escobar can’t throw. Is this a simple hiccup in March or a repeat performance of last year’s plague?

It’s time the Mets make peace with old Shea.

Memories of Shea

4 Mar

By Jim Walters

Is it just me, but when the city was covered in deep freeze, didn’t memories of a sun-soaked Shea warm your hearts like a hot cup of cocoa after shoveling 2-feet of snow.

While Citi Field is beautiful, and in desperate need of a winning team on the field, it is not Shea. It never will be.

Perhaps Shea holds a special place in my heart because of 26 years of memories. I think of those crazy nights in 1999 and 2000, as well as those memorable moments in 2006 when we felt destined to take back this town.

Of course there’s those memories of who I went with. Those rain delays in a packed Casey’s, plus the endless memories of begging players and ballgirls for foul balls, while walking out of Shea as a kid with a big foam finger and a full stomach of hot dogs and soda.

Citi is still a ballpark that is growing on me like a substitute teacher in elementary school. I need to get to know her better, spend more time learning how this field of dreams will be the background of my future baseball days. Citi will likely be my Mets home for the rest of my life, so for better or for worse, its home.

As spring slowly enters our life, share your memories of Shea and those amazing days that made up the fabric of our lives.