Tag Archives: shea stadium

Irish Mets

17 Mar

By Jim Walters

As the world celebrates St. Patrick’s day, I can’t help but remember two  memories of the Mets that connect to the Irish culture.

My first is an obvious one, the green hats on St. Patrick’s day. It’s a shame today’s game will not be on television, and I am not even sure if they are wearing green as they face the Red Sox at 1pm.

I remember being a kid and watching one of the late 80s teams wearing green Mets hats. It was a reminder that the season was close and soon we would be celebrating Opening Day.

My second memory is my first Irish night in August of 1998 at Shea Stadium. I went with a group of friends, and we purchased tickets to the upper deck. We moved down to the loge section and I, for the first and only time, slipped the usher $20 to sit our group together.

The usher sat us in left field, but he had to keep moving us as the crowd filled in. We ended up getting pretty good seats when all was said and done.

I also remember as if it was yesterday the feeling of excitement when the Mets turned a triple play. With the echo that you received sitting in the loge under the mezzanine, it was a great memory. To this day its the only triple play that I saw live.

I looked up this game and the NY Times story brought me right back to those exciting days. The story by Steve Popper really captures the nervousness surrounding Mike Piazza’s future.

As much as I remember from that night, I didn’t remember the fact that the Mets lost and that Lenny Harris failed in the team’s last at bat. I guess the green hat made up for it.

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Manuel, Stay of Go

16 Mar

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By Jim Walters

Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News reports this morning that Jerry Manuel should stay as  the coach of the Mets this season, despite whatever happens during the course of the season.

Lupica depicts Manuel as the product of bad luck. He also looks back to 2008 when Manuel replaced Randolph, listing other coaches who would’ve lost that final game at Shea.

The media in this town is interesting. When they love a guy, he gets more passes than he deserves. But when the media dislikes a guy, they can write him off before the season even starts.

Manuel is loved in this town, probably due to his easy demeanor and sense of humor. He is an easy guy to root for.

However, he is no different that Willie Randolph who the Mets showed the door at the early morning hours on a west coast trip.

The only difference is that the media likes Manuel, and the injuries of last year and this spring will always be included into the explanation for his failures. Yet for Randolph, the lack of starting pitching during his tenure was his fault, not Minaya’s.

Last year, in addition to the injuries, the Mets did not play fundamental baseball. This falls on the manager. You don’t see this with Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa.

Manuel and Minaya are on thin ice despite what the media says because Mets ownership is as dysfunctional as the starting rotation is.

Perhaps the winner after this season will be Manuel who may get kicked out-of-town and doesn’t have to deal with the nonsense of this franchise anymore.

Biazarro World

14 Mar

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By Jim Walters

Remember when Elaine entered bizarro world in that classic Seinfeld episode. Her new friends were complete opposites from her regular crew of Jerry, George and Kramer.

Imagine if this season for the Mets is bizarro world and everything goes right. Here’s one man’s guess of what that would  look like.

  • Jose Reyes is out for only two weeks instead of 8 and he is playing short at Citi Field on April 5th. He proves to be innocent of the hgh questions, but a certain third baseman of the Bronx can’t say the same.
  • Carlos Beltran is in centerfield by the end of April, but fans will miss the tag team efforts of Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr, who held down the fort. Beltran comes back and does for the Mets what A-Rod did for the Yankees upon his May return last year. He also reveals that his mole gives him his mojo.
  • Johan Santana wins 20 games, the Cy Young and beats Roy Halladay in the three head to head match-ups this season.
  • Daniel Murphy proves Omar right, hitting .305 with 20 home runs and 95 RBIs. He also manages to play a decent first base. Keith Hernandez reminds us that he’s responsible.
  • Benjie Molina pulls a hamstring in week three and Rod Barajas hits 20 home runs and bats .260.
  • David Wright returns to his old form, hitting 30 home runs, 120 RBIs and bats .310. Wright wins the first MVP for New York.
  • Jason Bay hits 35 home runs, bats .280 and drives in 120 runs. His legs prove to be fine as Peter Gammons offers a public apology. Unfortunately its on the MLB network and no one sees it.
  • John Maine and Mike Pelfrey each win 15 games. Oliver Perez, well, not even in bizarro world is he very good.
  • Jenrry Mejia and Francisco Rodriguez become the best 1-2 punch, making most games feel like a 7-inning game.
  • Luis Castillo doesn’t drop any pop-ups.
  • Jerry Manuel doesn’t have to foolishly say he expects any of his players to be back in a week.
  • Omar Minaya gets to lead press conferences again.
  • Citi Field lowers ticket prices so families can go to a game and not miss a mortgage payment.
  • Mets retire Mike Piazza’s number.
  • Mets win the division, go on to get revenge against the Cardinals and beat the Yankees in the World Series.
  • Mets don’t mention Phillies in their championship celebration.
  • And finally, kids throughout the city trade in their Yankees jerseys for “Don’t Mess with the Johan” t-shirts.

A guy could dream….

Can Mets Pitch Like 2006

12 Mar

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By Jim Walters

Entering the 2010 season, besides issues of health, the biggest concern for the New York Mets is their pitching staff.

Many baseball analysts already declared this as a major problem for New York, questioning what they can get out of the starting rotation. While Johan Santana is expected to have a strong year, although he is overcoming elbow surgery, the rest of the rotation is a mixed bag of question marks.

Back in 2006, New York ran away with the National League Eastern division, winning 97 games. They did it with a high-powered offense but the pitching wasn’t very solid.

Tom Glavine led the way that year, going 15-7, finally earning his contract. Steve Trachsel will always be remembered for his embarrassing performance in October, but he did go 15-8 as the Mets number two starter, pitching to a high era of 4.97.  Pedro Martinez went 9-8, Orlando Hernandez went 9-7 and John Maine was 6-5. Not very impressive.

The reason why this team was so successful, besides their high-powered offense, was their great bullpen.  Billy Wagner had a superb year with 40 saves, pitching to a record of 3-2.  Duaner Sanchez, 5-2, and Pedro Feliciano, 7-2, carried the Mets bullpen and kept games close for the offense. Darren Oliver, 4-1, stepped in many games that year when the starters failed. The bullpen also included Aaron Heilman, 4-5, and Chad Bradford, 4-2.

While the rotation was shaky, the bullpen was phenomenal. Yet as good as it was, it was certainly overworked, pitching 150 more innings in 2006 than it did in 2005. This workload hurt New York in the NLCS as the bullpen showed its wear and tear from a starting rotation that could not go deep into games.

It also didn’t help that in the closing weeks of the season, Martinez and Hernandez went down. Maine and Oliver Perez were asked to fill the void and they did, but it only added stress on to the pen.

Going into 2010, Santana needs to have a big year. The question that follows is this: can any other pitcher get to double-digits in wins? With a bullpen that has its own questions, the only promise that the Mets can give their fans going into the season is that this isn’t going to be easy.

What Could’ve Been

11 Mar

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By Jim Walters

Take yourself back to that fateful Thursday October night in 2006 when Flushing was the center of the baseball world. Shea Stadium was filled to capacity and the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals battled in the seventh and final game of the National League Championship Series.

We know about the Endy Chavez catch, the Yadier Molina home run and the Carlos Beltran strike out. We even remember Willie Randolph tapping Cliff Floyd to pinch hit and not sacrifice as well as the strong performance of an unknown starter named Oliver Perez.

What we sometimes forget is what happened in the bottom of the sixth inning when all the momentum in the world favored the home team after Chavez’ amazing catch. New York loaded the bases with the help of a Scott Rolen error, giving Jose Valentin the opportunity to come to the plate with the bases loaded and one out.

What would’ve happened to this franchise if Valentin drove in that run or if Chavez, who followed, was able to get a two-out hit. The Mets could’ve went on to win the World Series and maybe all of the September collapses that followed could’ve been different. We will never know.

On the day we heard Jose Reyes would be away from the game for as many as eight weeks, adding further panic to a beaten fan base that is still shell shocked from a snake-bitten 2009, I find myself thinking back to that October night when 55,000 fans believed there was no way that the Mets weren’t on their way to the World Series.

The Mets were on top of the world following the catch and the go ahead run was only 90 feet away with Valentin at the plate.

It’s been all down hill ever since.

Can the Mets Survive

11 Mar

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By Jim Walters

It is very possible that the Mets may play until May 15th without their star center fielder and shortstop. This makes up 37 games, almost one-fourth of their schedule. While they will play their first 16 of 22 games at home in Citi Field, can the line-up produce enough to keep up with a pitching staff that most expect to be shaky at best.

The probable line-up with Cora at short and Pagan in center will look like this:

Pagan, Castillo, Wright, Bay, Murphy, Francoeur, Cora, Barajas.

Not murders row by any sense of the imagination. This line-up will demand that the Mets  pitch well. With question marks making up the rotation from number two to five, as well as anyone’s guess for who will pitch the 8th inning, this team is in serious trouble with 24 days to go until Opening Day.

Ghost of Shea Strikes Again

11 Mar

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By Jim Walters

As news regarding Jose Reyes thyroid issue hit the press this morning, the prognosis was the Mets shortstop would miss 2-8 weeks. Fans who lived and died with this team over the past year knew it was going to be at least two months before Reyes played again.

As this bad news scattered through the news wires and twitter, you could hear the harmonious shriek of “what is going on?”

The answer, the ghost of Shea Stadium.

When Citi Field opened its doors to the public last April, 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.