Aug 27, 2014

Remembering Mets History: (1993) Jeromy Burnitz's Seven RBI Day

Thursday August 5th 1993: Dallas Green's Mets (38-70) were in seventh place 30 1/2 games back going no where. They came into Montreal to face a good Expo team (58-51) that was in third place under Manager Felipe Alou. 

On this day the Mets would have one of their biggest run production outputs of the year, mostly due to a rookie named Jeromy Burnitz. Burnitz was a slugger who had just been brought up from the minor leagues at the end of June.

Burnitz was inserted in the 5th spot in the order & in the 1st inning delivered his first RBI with a single off Dennis Martinez. In the 5th inning the Mets were already ahead 4-1, as pitcher Eric Hillman doubled,  Joe Orsulak singled & Bobby Bonilla was intentionally walked. Burnitz stepped in & hit a grand slam HR, again off Martinez into the right field seats of Stade Olympique. It was already the young Burnitz's sixth HR of the year since arriving in late June. 

The Mets were now ahead 9-1. But the Expos got to Mets pitchers Eric Hillman, Pete Schourek & Jeff Innis tying up the game at nine by the end of the 6th inning.

Stade Olympique- Montreal
The game went to extra innings, in the 13th inning the Mets did rally back against pitcher John Wetteland. Jeff McKnight singled & Ryan Thompson reached on an error. Joe Orsulak came through with an RBI single. 

Jeromy Burnitz came up & completed his big day with a double bringing in Thompson & Orsulak making it 12-9. Anthony Young came in to close out the Met win.

Burnitz finished the day with four hits, a HR, seven RBIs & two walks.

Late Seventies / Early Eighties Mets All Star: Joel Youngblood (1977-1982)

Joel Randolph Youngblood III was born on August 28, 1951 in Houston, Texas. The versatile six foot right hand hitting Youngblood, was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds right out of high school, in 1970.

He spent five years in the Reds minors not seeing much hope with all the talent on the Big Red Machines big league club. He the Reds team out of Spring Training 1976 in their second straight World Series Championship season. He only hit .193 in 55 games as a utility man & did not play in the post season.

He was soon to be traded twice in 1977, first to the St. Louis Cardinals for Bill Caudill during the spring. In St. Louis he hit only .185 in 25 games, and was sent to the New York Mets for short stop Mike Phillips. The trade happened on June 15th 1977, the same day Tom Seaver was traded away in what is known as The Midnight Massacre. Also that night the Mets traded away slugger, Dave Kingman. The Youngblood for Phillips deal didn’t get many headlines behind those two stories.

Youngblood proved to be a pretty good all around player for the Mets, playing all over the diamond at every position except catcher & first base. He would also become a reliable pinch hitter through the years. When Youngblood arrived in New York, it marked the end of Joe Torre’s playing career. Torre removed himself from the active roster to open a spot for Youngblood.

He made his Mets debut at Wrigley Field on June 24th going 1-4 in a 5-0 Mets loss to the Cubs. Youngblood got hits in his first three Mets games, but fell to .217 by the end of July. On August 1st he singled off the Los Angeles Dodgers Mike Garman, driving in the walk off game winning run in the bottom of the 9th inning.

On September 11th he had a three hit day at Wrigley Field, driving in three Mets runs in their 7-3 win. On the last day of the season he had another three hit day, driving in two runs in the Mets 6-4 win over his old Cardinal team mates in St. Louis. After his arrival in New York in 1977 he got into 70 games, batting hit .253 with no HRs 11 doubles a .296 on base % & 11 RBIs.

Starting out in 1978 he was used as a defensive replacement & pinch runner for the month of April. He slowly began to get inserted in the lineup, & by August had earned a regular job in the outfield.

In late June he helped fuel a 9th inning Mets come from behind rally with a single & runs scored in a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. In July he hit HRs in back to back games against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. The first HR came against Tom Seaver as Jerry Koosman beat out his old tem mate in a 4-2 Mets Reds classic.

On July 20th he doubled off Joe Sambito in the bottom of the 9th inning for a game winning hit against the Houston Astros. On July 26th Youngblood had a big five RBI game against the Reds at Shea Stadium. In the 3rd inning he tripled with the bases loaded scoring Steve Henderson, Willie Montanez & John Stearns. In the 5th he then hit a two run HR, all the hits came off Mike Lacoss. On August 9th he had a big five hit day, with two doubles, two singles & a triple, driving in one run, while scoring two more runs as well in a 10-3 Mets win at Montreal.

For the year, he hit .252 with 7 HRs, 12 doubles 8 triples (10th in the NL) & 30 RBIs. In the outfield he only made one error in 50 games there, posting a .989 fielding percentage, with eight assists. He went to arbitration in February of 1979 looking for $91,000 but settled for $78,000, from the Mets tight organization.

He started out 1979 as a backup player, but when Eliot Maddox injured his foot, Youngblood got the outfield job and stole the show. In the last week of April he went on a tear, hitting four HRs while driving in runs in six straight games. He finished April batting .350 & was hitting over .300 into early June. On May 6th his 8th inning fielder's choice tied the game in which the Mets went to win 5-4 over the Giants in San Francisco.

In the final two weeks of May he hit three HRs drove in seven runs & had a seven game hit streak. He began June with a HR in Atlanta in a 5-4 Mets win & a HR in Cincinnati three days later on a 6-2 Mets win. In August he was still hitting .290 & drove in 15 runs on a weak hitting team. He was one of the better players on a bad ball club, as the Mets finished last again at 63-99 thirty five games behind the Pirates who went on to win the World Series.

Youngblood tied for the team lead with 158 games played and led the club with HRs (16) doubles (37) which were 7th most in the league, runs scored (90) & intentional walks (7). He hit .275 and stole 18 bases although he certainly was not known for his speed. He only stole 60 bases in his career spanning 1408 games. The Mets liked what they saw and gave him a deal worth just under a million dollars.

In April of 1980 he played in 15 games, driving in a dozen runs in ten of those games. He drove in runs in seven straight games and was hitting over .350. On May 6th he hit a two run HR in the bottom of the 9th inning off the Reds Mario Soto, bringing the Mets within a run in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Mets would tie it up but lose in the 14th inning. On June 7th the Mets fell behind the Pirates 5-4 in the 11th inning of a game at Shea. Youngblood tied it up with a double off Bert Blyleven, as the Mets went on to win it with a Ron Hodges pinch hit single.

In June had six straight multiple hit games, & in the next two and a half weeks drove in 13 runs. He began August hitting safely in 14 of 15 games, getting over the .290 mark. He finished out the year with 16 RBIs in the last month. On September 29th he gave the Shea crowd of 1800 people a thrill by hitting a walk off two run HR against Grant Jackson & the Pittsburgh Pirates. Youngblood finished the year with a .276 average, stealing 14 bases, hitting 8 HRs with 69 RBIs, & 26 doubles. All in all he was still a bright spot on a bad team; he only struck out 69 times in 514 at bats. He led the club with nine sacrifice hits & was walked intentionally seven times.

In 1981 Youngblood was off to a terrific start, on an early May home stand he had 13 hits over four games including two four hit days. By June he was among the league leaders in hitting, batting .359, with 10 doubles and a .398 on base percentage.

Then he injured his knee sliding into second base at the Astrodome, when he returned healthy, the players went on strike. When it was settled almost two months later, Youngblood was picked to represent the Mets in the All Star Game, going 0-1 as a pinch hitter at Cleveland Stadium in the NL’s 5-4 victory. By now the Mets were even running subway ads featuring Youngblood as the teams star with their new campaign "The Magic Is Back". 

When he returned to Shea he was so valuable with his ability to play all different positions, it hurt his chances at being an everyday outfielder like he wanted to be. He ended up reinjuring his knee and only played in 43 games all season, batting a career best .350 in 143 at bats with 4 HRs 10 doubles & 25 RBIs.

In 1982 the Mets had a new manager in George Bamberger. A young speedy outfielder named Mookie Wilson was on the scene as well as veterans George Foster & Ellis Valentine. Youngblood was playing but not seeing as much time as he would have liked. In May he had a seven game hit streak, and drove in runs in each game of a series with the Dodgers. On May 15th he hit a three run HR off Ted Power to lead New York to a 6-4 win. As the season went on he became more of a pinch hitter & was unhappy with his playing time. Youngblood soon wanted to be traded. He was hitting .257 with 12 doubles 3 HRs & 21 RBIs in early August.

Record Setting Day (A Tale of Two Cities): On August 4th the Mets were playing a day game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Bamberger knew a trade was being disused but put Youngblood in the line up anyway. He struck out in his first at bat then drove in two runs with a base hit in the 3rd inning off Ferguson Jenkins putting the Mets ahead 3-1. Then strangely the manager took Youngblood out of the game, he was surprised and went over to talk to him. Bamberger informed Joel he had just been traded to the Montreal Expos.

Montreal were short players and wanted Youngblood to join the ball club as soon as he could, hoping he could make it to the night game scheduled that night in Philadelphia. He left the dugout showered, packed his bags and got a cab to the airport. Then he realized he forgot his glove, and had to go back to the ballpark, then eventually caught the next flight to Philly. He arrived at Veterans Stadium just as the game began; there the Expos already had a uniform with his long name spelled out on the back.

He got dressed and walked into his new team’s dugout getting greeted by Montreal manager Jim Fanning. Fanning inserted him in right field to replace Jerry White in the sixth inning. He came to bat in the top of the 7th and singled off the Phillies Steve Carlton making baseball history. He became the first player to get two hits on the same day for two different teams. He also accomplished the feat, against two future Hall of Fame pitchers, not a bad day for Mr. Youngblood.

He finished the season hitting only .200 for Montreal (.240 overall) and became a free agent signing with San Francisco in the off season. The Giants made him an everyday infielder and he had his best year at the plate in 1983. He batted a career high .292 with 17 HRs 20 doubles a .356 on base % & 53 RBIs. He struggled on the field in 1984 making a league leading 36 errors at third base. He played in 95 games and hit .270.

By 1986 he became one of the league’s best pinch hitters, gathering 16 pinch hits. Overall he batted .255 with 5 HRs & 28 RBIs. In 1987 he had 13 pinch hits & broke his wrist chasing a foul ball in September. That year he missed a chance at playing in the post season as the Giants won the Western Division. In 1988 he had 15 pinch hits and hit .252 overall as utility player. He went back where he started, finishing his career in Cincinnati after the 1989 season.

In his 14 year career, Youngblood hit .265, with 969 hits 80 HRs, 180 doubles, 23 triples, 422 RBIs, a.329 on base % & 60 stolen bases. In his career the versatile all around player played 745 games in the outfield, 218 games at third base, 173 games at second base, 7 games at first base, 3 at short & one at catcher.

Retirement: Joel became a roving batting instructor for the Baltimore Orioles in 1991. He then managed the Kane County Cougars and went on to coach for the Cincinnati Reds & Milwaukee Brewers in the minor leagues.

From 2009 - 2012 he was the outfield & base running minor league coach for the Arizona D-backs. In 2010 he also was the Diamondbacks third base coach.

Early Eighties Mets Pitcher: Mike Torrez (1983-1984)

Michael Augustine Torrez was born on August 28th 1946 in Topeka Kansas. The tall six foot five right hander was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964 at age 17.

Torrez went 10-10 at AAA Tulsa & would make his MLB debut as a September call up for the 1967 World Champion Cardinals. 

On September 10th, he pitched to one batter & struck him out in a 8-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The next year he began the year with the Cardinals & went 2-1 but was sent down in late May. He went 8-2 at AAA Tulsa in the Pacific Coast League as the Cards won another pennant & lost to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

In 1969 the Cards fell to fourth place & Torrez filled in on a staff of Bob Gibson (20-13) Steve Carlton (17-11) & Nelson Briles (15-13) going 10-4 with the best winning percentage on the staff. He fell to 8-10 in 1970 & in June of 1971 was traded to the Montreal Expos for Bob Reynolds. Torrez would spend four years in Montreal, having two 15 win seasons.

In 1972 he Balor Moore & Bill Stoneman made a good rotation, but the team had no offense. Torrez won 16 games (9th most wins in the NL) going 16-12 with a 3.33 ERA. He struck out 112 batters, but also walked 103 in 243 innings of work. Torrez would be among the league leaders in walks allowed through most of his career.

He would also give up lots of hits & runs as well, although he was a work horse pitcher. Ten times in his career he pitched over 200 innings. He also walked 100 batters or more six times (leading the league three times) & gave up over 100 runs seven times (leading the league twice). He was known as a nibbler, not having the best stuff but a guy who would nibble away at the corners of the strike zone.

In 1974 he won 15 games, tying Steve Rogers for the Expos team lead & went on a seven year stretch where he won double figures. That year Torrez married a girl from Montreal & was hoping to stay put to raise a family. But it was not to be, manager Gene Mauch was tired of his walking too many batters & a trade was made. 

In 1975 he went to the Baltimore Orioles in a big traded that sent he & Ken Singleton to the Orioles for Dave McNally, Rich Coggins & a Bill Kirkpatrick.

 The deal was terrible for Montreal, as McNally retired in May, Coggins got very sick & was released & Kirkpatrick never pitched for the team. The trade was great for Baltimore, Single became an All Star outfielder & Torrez a top hurler.

He won twenty games (20-9) fourth most wins in the AL, posting a 3.06 ERA in 270 innings (9th in the AL) , while leading the league with 133 walks. He was part of another talented staff that included Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar & Ross Grimsley, but the O's finished second to the Boston Red Sox ending their six year run as AL East champs.

That off season Torrez was traded to the Oakland A's who had just won five straight AL West Division titles & three World Series (1972-1974). It was a monster trade at the time, sending Reggie Jackson & Ken Holtzman to the Orioles for Torrez & Don Baylor.

Torrez had another good year there, going 16-12 with a 2.50 ERA. He tossed four shut outs as well (4th in the AL). The only other starting pitcher left from the A's Championship years was Vida Blue who went 18-13.

After starting out 1977 3-1 in April he was traded to the AL New York team for Doc Ellis, Marty Perez & Larry Murray. There he went 14-12 helping the club to a world championship. It was his only post season appearance of his long career. In the ALCS he took a loss to the Kansas City Royals in Game #3 at Kansas City. In the World Series he was the winning pitcher in Game #3 at Los Angeles & the winner in Game #6 at New York.

That winter he signed on as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox. He would spend seven seasons in Boston winning 16 games in each of his first two seasons. His 16 wins were 8th best in the league in 1979. He would finish second on the Red Sox staff to Dennis Ekersley both seasons. Also on the staff were Luis Tiant & Bill Lee, making up one of the league's best.

But it was a heartbreaking season in 1978 for the Sox, They fell apart, losing 17 games in the standings after holding a big lead in the AL East. They rebounded to come back & force a one game playoff after being down 3 1/2 games with 14 to go.

Torrez capped off the season, with one of the biggest blows against the Red Sox in modern history. It was Torrez who gave up the 7th inning, three HR, deep to left field over the Green Monster, to weak hitting short stop; Bucky Dent. Boston had been up 2-0 but were now behind & never came back. The Sox lost a heart breaker finished second & then third the next year.

In 1979 Torrez led the league once again in walks & earned runs. In 1980 he fell to 9-16 the worst record he had since 1973. In the strike shortened 1981 season he rebounded to a 10-3 record posting a 3.68 ERA. After going 9-9 in 1982 he was traded to the New York Mets for a player to be named later.

Torrez joined the 83' Mets staff that included the return of Mets legend Tom Seaver, Craig Swan & youngsters Walt Terrell & Ed Lynch. Torrez made his Mets debut on April 9th, in the third game of the season, at Shea Stadium. Torrez gave up five runs in six innings, taking a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. He lost to the Cardinals in St. Louis in his second start, beginning the year at 0-2. 

Torrez then made three relief appearances before getting a start on April 27th in Cincinnati. He went eight innings allowing just one run on three hits, earning his first win 2-1 over the Reds. In his next start he went nine innings, but without run support took a 3-1 loss to the Houston Astros. Torrez was 2-6 by the end of May with an ERA over five. He had a good stretch at the end of June winning three straight games, including a three hit one run victory against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium on June 26th.

Torrez was a streaky pitcher that season, after three straight wins he lost four straight dropped six of seven. But at the end of August, Torrez won another three straight, beating the San Francisco Giants twice & the Los Angeles Dodgers. On August 31st, he pitched a complete game one run victory beating the Dodgers Fernando Valenzuela.

In September he went 1-3 to finish the year at 10-17, the most losses in the National League. He also topped the league in earned runs allowed (108) & walks (113). He pitched 22 innings struck out 94 & posted a 4.37 ERA.

Torrez began the year with Mets in 1984 but this was a completely different team, the pitching staff now had Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling & Sid Fernandez on board. Torrez actually got the nod to make the Opening Day start that season, taking a loss at Cincinnati. He was shelled for six runs on six hits, exiting in the second inning.

Torrez pitched into the six inning allowing no runs in his next start, but got no decision in the Mets 3-1 win. In that game, Torrez hit the Houston Astros young All Star short stop; Dicke Thon in the face with a fastball, fracturing his orbital bone almost ending his career. Thon recovered but was never the same player.

On April 21st Torrez made the start but was gone after allowing three runs in the 1st inning. On May 13th the Dodgers tagged him for four runs at Dodger Stadium, as he exited in the 5th inning taking a 5-3 loss. On June 3d, he pitched 8 innings & although he gave up ten hits, only allowed one run to The St. Louis Cardinals. But that day Dave LaPoint was better shutting out the Mets & Torrez 1-0.

On June 9th, Torrez got his only win of the year, beating the Expos in Montreal. By the end of June he 1-5 with a 6.30 ERA when the Mets gave him his release.

Torrez signed with the Oakland Athletics, pitched in two games ending his career at age 38. In his long 18 year career he was 185-160 (150th all time in wins / 119th in losses).

He had 1404 strike outs, 1371 walks (23rd all time), 1340 earned runs (69th all time most) allowed in 3042 innings (126th all time) over 494 games. He threw 15 shut outs, 117 complete games as well as 103 wild pitches in 458 starts (76th all time) & posted a 3.96 ERA.

Retirement: In 2011 he was named General Manager of the Newark Bears as they began play in the Canadian American Association, but was fired that summer.

Former Italian / American Pitcher Turned Broadcaster: Tom Candiotti (1983-1999)

Thomas Caesar Candiotti was born August 31, 1957 in Walnut Creek, California. The six foot three right hander was a knuckle ball pitcher that would pitch 16 seasons in the major leagues.

He was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1980 but was claimed in the Rule 5 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. An injury had him miss the entire 1982 season.

He debuted in August of 1983 making a relief appearance against his old Royals team. On August 17th he made his first start & pitched a complete game victory over the Boston Red Sox. He won his first four games & then lost his next four, going 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA in his first season. 

After two seasons in Milwaukee he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. In 1986 he had a breakthrough season, leading the league with 17 complete games, posting a 16-12 (9th most wins in the AL) record with 167 strike outs a 3.57 ERA (10th in the AL) .

He had an off season the next year losing 18 games, for the Indians team that lost 101. Candiotti then went on to win 13 games or more for the next four years. In 1992 he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent, and spent the next seven years in their rotation.

In 1992 he had the second best ERA in the league at 2.65, but lost a league leading 15 games. He then posted four losing seasons in five years, going 7-7 in 1994 for a .500 season. In 1996 he made one relief appearance in the NLDS loss to the Atlanta Braves.

In the final year of his contract he went 10-7 & that off season signed on with Oakland Athletics. In 1998 Candiotti once again led the league in losses, going 11-16 and then retired after the 1999 season at age 42.

Candiotti was a better pitcher than his stats show, he was a work horse who put in a lot of innings with quality starts & low earned run averages. His knuckle ball gave him longevity, pitching over 200 innings nine times, giving him 2725 over his 16 year career.

He went 151-164 with a 3.73 ERA in 410 starts (111th all time) in 451 games. He struck out 1735 (108th all time) including five seasons of 140 or more. He threw 68 complete games & 11 shut outs, walked 883 (172nd all time) & allowed 250 HRs (107th all time).

Retirement: Candiotti is an accomplished bowler averaging over 200 in Arizona Bowling leagues. He has earned himself a spot in the Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis & is only the second pro athlete to be inducted.

After baseball he worked as a special assistant to the GM in Cleveland, then went in to broadcasting. He did games for ESPN, worked on Baseball Tonight & covered the Little League World Series. He is currently a broadcaster for Arizona Diamondbacks games.

His ex-wife Donna, is a successful realtor & did a tell all interview about being a baseball wife, that can be found on line. 

Aug 26, 2014

Remembering Mets History: (1996) Mets Fire Dallas Green & Hire Bobby Valentine As Manager

August 26th, 1996: On this day the Mets VP Joe McIlvane fired Mets manager; the 62 year old Dallas Green.
Quotes: Joe McIlvane: ''We haven't done as well as we anticipated. Progress has been slower than expected. Our hope with this change is the younger players will begin to blossom some more, to come up to that major league level, to begin to make more significant contributions."

Green had taken over as manager of the New York Mets, in May 1993 replacing Jeff Torborg who had taken the club to a 13-25 record. When Green took over the Mets went 46-78 the rest of the way finishing in last place. In the strike shortened 1994 season, the Mets finished third (55-58) in the newly aligned division. In 1995 they finished below .500 once again (69-75) but did end up in second place. In 1996 the club was in fourth place (59-72) at the time of Dallas Green's firing. 

Green, the oldest manager in the NL at the time, was an harsh old school type of manager who was labled as having with no patience for young players. He criticized young Mets "Generation K" pitchers Jason Isringhausen & Paul Wilson publicly saying he didn't feel they even belonged in the major leagues. This was looked at by the players & organization as a betrayal to the team.

Quotes: Green said the next day: ''We got rid of all the bad stuff and truthfully that's what I've been. I've been the damage-control guy. I go in their and clean up the bad stuff and then I get fired. That's just where I am in baseball and I understand that. That's the way the game is. I'm proud to have helped the Mets through some troubled times and get them on what I think is the right track.''

Green had been in baseball for over forty years, starting out with the Philadelphia Phillies as a pitcher. He would manage the Phils (1979-1981)  taking them to their first World Series title in 1980. He served as the clubs GM after that & then did one year as manager of the A.L. New York club.

The Mets hired Bobby Valentine as the new manager ushering in the "Bobby V" Era. Valentine would be the teams fifth manager in the past seven seasons. The Valentine era would certainly be a successful, as the club went to two straight post seasons for the first & only time in team history in 199 & 2000. Valentine brought the Mets to their first World Series since 1986 & the first New York Subway World Series since 1956. He also took the club to it's first Wild Card title as well.

On this date the Mets also promoted Bob Apodaca to pitching coach. Apodaca had pitched for the Mets in the 1970's but had a bright career ruined by arm troubles. He had been pitching coach at AAA Norfolk under Manager Bobby Valentine.

Remembering Mets History: (1988) David Cone Tosses One Hitter

Monday August 29th, 1988: Davey Johnson's first place New York Mets (77-53) were looking to soon clinch their second NL East title in three years. 

Tonight they hosted  Jack McKeon's fifth place San Diego Padres (64-66)  in front of a small Shea crowd of 16,444.

The Mets top pitcher that year was a young David Cone in just his second season, on this day he went chasing his 14th win of the year against just three losses, his opponent was Eric Show. Cone had a shaky second inning, allowing a walk & then had John Kruk reach on an error. He got out of the jam & settled in. 

In the 4th, Tony Gwynn doubled off the right field wall and got the only Padre hit of the day. Cone would allow just one more base runner, a walk to Roberto Alomar in the 6th inning.

Cone struck out eight on the day, easily earning his 14th win while tossing the 17th one hitter in Mets history. Cone would go on to toss two more one hitters for the Mets, both in 1991. One was a combined effort with Jeff Innis. 

Cone would go to win twenty games in 1988 (third most in the NL) leading the club in wins (20) ERA (2.22) & strike outs (213). He would be second to Orel Hershiser in those departments, as well as the Cy Young voting.

The Mets offense took care of Show early that day, in the 1st Darryl Stawberry had an RBI single. In the 3rd, Greg Jefferies hit a solo HR. Straw then doubled & was brought in by Gary Carter, 3-0 Mets. 

In the 5th Keith Hernandez added a solo HR as well. In the 6th Lee Mazzilli got on with an infield single, stole second & scored on a Mookie Wilson hit. Greg Jefferies then tripled scoring Wilson, as the Mets had a 6-0 win.

Late Nineties Mets Centerfielder: Brian McRae (1997-1999)

Brian Wesley McRae was born August 27, 1967 in Avon Park, Florida, the son of former MLB player

Hal McRae. Hal McRae was born on July 10, 1945 in Avon Park, Florida. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1965 making it to the big leagues in 1968 for brief 17 games. He would spend three more seasons with the Reds, winning two pennants in the early days of the Big Red Machine, playing as a reserve outfielder.

McRae hit .248 with 8 HRs & 23 RBIs for the 1970 NL Champion Reds, playing in 70 games. He had a great World Series that year against the Baltimore Orioles batting .455 (5-11). In Game #2 he had two hits including an RBI double, then had another double driving in two more runs in Game #5.

McRae hit .278 with 5 HRs & 26 RBIs in the 1972 season, having another good World Series batting .444 (4-9) with two RBIs against the Oakland A’s. In November 1972 he was Traded by the Cincinnati Reds along with Wayne Simpson to the Kansas City Royals for Roger Nelson and Richie Scheinblum. McRae arrived in Kansas City just as the Royals were entering their best days.

He spent fifteen seasons there, winning a World Series in 1985, an AL Pennant in 1980 & six AL West titles. He would bat over .300 seven times, including a career best .332 in 1976 coming in second to team mate George Brett.

He would make three All Star teams, lead the league in doubles twice (1977 & 1982) RBIs once (1982) on base % once (1976) & hit by pitches once (1977). In the 1980 World Series he hit .375 against the Phillies & went 0-1 in the 1985 World Series against the Cardinals. In his 19 year career McRae batted .290 with 2091 hits 484 doubles 66 triples 191 HRs 1097 RBIs & a .351 on base %.

As a young kid, Brian McRae became a big fan of his dad’s teammate, Pete Rose during his years in Cincinnati. He was a good athlete in high school, playing football as well as baseball. He decided if he wasn’t chosen as a first round draft pick, he would go to college. He wasn’t even around on draft day, not expecting anything, when he got a phone call that he was actually was drafted in the first round, by the Kansas City Royals.

He was originally a second baseman getting converted to an outfielder in the minor leagues. His MLB career certainly wasn’t as good as his father’s, the switch hitting McRae never made the playoffs & was predominantly a singles hitter.

He was the Royals everyday centerfielder from 1990-1994, playing for his father, Hal McRae who was the teams manager. He had his best season there in 1993, batting .282 with 177 hits, 12 HRs, 9 triples, 14 stolen bases, & 69 RBIs. In 1994 he hit .273, then as the 1995 season was about to start, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for future Met, Derek Wallace. McRae hit well in his first season at Wrigley Field leading the NL in at bats (580) batting a career high .288 with 167 hits (4th in the league) with 12 HRs 48 RBIs & 38 doubles.

McRae would hit 30 or more doubles for the next three seasons. In the outfield he posted a .992 fielding % (4th in the NL) leading all outfielders with 345 out outs. The next year he hit 17 HRs with 66 RBIs batting .276. His numbers dropped during the 1997 season, & that August he was traded to the New York Mets along with Turk Wendell & Mel Rojas for Lance Johnson, Mark Clark & Manny Alexander.

In his first game as a Met he went 3-4 with a triple, a walk and RBI against the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium. On August 23rd he hit his first Mets HR coming against the Padres at Shea Stadium.

On the home stand he hit three more including two against the San Francisco Giants in the Mets 15-6 win on August 27th. He closed out 1997 hitting .248 with 5 HRs 4 doubles & 15 RBIs for the Mets in 45 games. During his days with the Mets Brian’s favorite rock band was Metallica.

In 1998 after missing Opening Day he went on to play in 159 games, as the clubs centerfielder. In the final week of June he hit four HRs driving in six runs gathering up seven hits. In mid July McRae hit HRs in back to back games in a home series against the Montreal Expos, leading New York to wins in both games. At the end of the month he once again homered in back to back games, this time in Chicago & at home against the San Diego Padres.

In September '98 the Mets made a run for the wild card race into late September. On September 19th McRae hit a 9th inning game tying two run HR off the Astros Billy Wagner in Houston. Later in the top of the 13th he put the Mets ahead with a double scoring Mike Piazza & Edgardo Alfonzo. He ended the year leading the Mets in doubles (36) triples (5) & stolen bases (20). Personally he posted career highs in HRs (21) & RBIs (79) while batting .264 with 80 walks & a .360 on base percentage.

In 1999 the Mets were a better team with more players who could play the outfield. He struggled in April batting just .197. In May he hit safely in 15 of 19 games & at the start of June drove in a run in all three games of the Subway series. On June 13th he hit a two run HR against the Boston Red Sox leading to a 5-4 Mets win. Three days later he broke a 6th inning tie with a two run single in Cincinnati, driving in three rusn in the Mets 5-2 win over the Reds.

On July 31st after playing in 96 games he was only batting .220 with 8 HRs 36 RBIs & 320 on base % . He was carrying a $3.5 million salary and the Mets decided he wasn’t in their future. McRae was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Daryl Hamilton. Hamilton would be a key role player in the Mets Wild Card run as well in the post season.

A week later McRae was shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he was their centerfielder but eventually lost his position to Vernon Wells. He was released and his career was over by 2000 at the age of 32. McRae played ten seasons batting a lifetime .261 average, with 1336 hits, 103 HRs, 264 doubles, 37 triples, 493 walks, a .360 on base %, 532 RBIs, & 196 steals. As a Met in parts of three seasons, he hit .249 with 34 HRs, 130 RBIS & 53 doubles in 300 games.

Retirement: After his playing days he moved into the booth, first as a Chicago Cubs studio analyst. He then went to ESPN as a Baseball Tonight analyst & to MLB radio as well.  He is also part owner of Radio station WHB 810 AM in Kansas City

McRae works closely with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation charities

Mid 2000's Mets Pitcher: Victor Zambrano (2004-2006)

Victor Manuel Zambrano was born August 6, 1975 in Los Teques, Venezuela. The six foot right hander began his career as an infielder before converting over to a pitcher. He was originally signed by the A.L. New York team in 1993. He was eventually released and signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1996.

In Tampa he pitched well enough to establish himself as the ace of their weak pitching staff. He had a good sinking fastball, to go along with a decent change up but suffered with control issues. He was good at holding runners on base and was a solid defensive player, due to the fact he was a former infielder. He debuted in June 2001 as a relief pitcher going 6-2 with two saves & a 3.16 ERA. He may have had the best control of his career at this point, striking out 58 batters while only walking 18.

In 2002 he posted a 8-8 record & was beginning to get used in a starting role. In 2003 he won a career high 12 games, leading manager Lou Pinella's staff as the only picher to win in double figures. On the year he went 12-10 with a 4.21 ERA but had big control issues. He led the American league in walks (106), wild pitches (15) & hit batters (20). Zambrano pitched 188 innings & had 135 strike outs as well. In 2004 he was having a decent year going 9-7 although he was leading the AL in walks & had posted an ERA over four, when he was involved in a big trade that was terrible for the New York Mets. Overall in three and a half seasons in Tampa, he went 35-27 with an ERA well above four.

On July 30, 2004 Zambrano was traded along with Bartolome Fortunato to the New York Mets for highly touted prospect Scott Kazmir. The deal became highly publicized as the Mets fans & the New York media were outraged about giving up the Mets top pitching prospect. Zambrano was never a proven ace & certainly wasn’t going to help the Mets get to the playoffs, despite what upper management thought.

The deal still haunted the Mets for years; the Kazmir/ Zambrabo trade goes down with the likes of the Joe Foy, Jim Fregosi, Juan Samuel & Bobby Bonilla deals. Kazmir became the ace of the young Tampa Rays staff, and pitched in the 2008 World Series, while Zambrano pitched in New York for parts of three seasons & was finished by 2007.

Zambrano made his Mets debut on August 5th in Milwaukee and gave up six runs over five innings of work to the Brewers. But even with such a bad outing, he earned a win that day, as David Wright drove in six runs leading the team to victory. Zambrano won his next start as well, allowing just one run over seven innings pitched in Houston against the Astros. He was then shut down for the rest of the year with an injury, finishing with a 2-0 Mets record by August 17th.

In 2005 he lost his first start to the Atlanta Braves pitching five innings allowing just two earned runs in the 4th game of the year. He then beat the Phillies for his first win on April 19th and was 1-3 by the end of April. But by the All Star break he was 4-8 with a 3.51 ERA. He would allow at least one earned run in every start he made & allowed four or more earned runs in seven different outings on the season.

By September he was in the bullpen pitching in relief, as he finished the year at 7-12 with a 4.17 ERA. He allowed 77 earned runs with 77 walks in 166 innings pitched, giving up 170 hits while striking out 112 batters. He wasn’t the most popular guy at Shea Stadium especially from there on as he never got any better.

In 2006 the Mets had a much better team, he earned a win in his first outing even though he allowed three runs. The Mets won the game beating the Nationals in D.C 13-4, it was his only win of the year. On May 6th after just five appearances, Zambrano suffered a torn elbow tendon and needed his second Tommy John surgery. He was done for the most of the next two seasons and the Mets released him.

He tried brief comebacks with Baltimore & Toronto going 0-3 in that time but his career over. In a seven year career Zambrano went 45-44 with three saves, 529 strikeouts 404 walks and a 4.64 ERA in 706.3 innings pitched in 187 games.

Drama: In October of 2009 his mother was kidnapped in Venezuela, but was luckily rescued three days later by the national police. Three of the four suspects were arrested for the crime.

In 2009 Zambrano pitched in the Taiwan baseball league. He also pitched for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, pitching two games against Team USA. In his second outing he threw three scoreless innings.

Aug 25, 2014

Remembering Mets History: (1985) Doc Gooden Wins 14 Straight While Reaching the Twenty Win Mark

Sunday August 25th, 1985: The incredible Cy Young Award season for 20 year old Dwight Gooden reached another mile stone on this day as Gooden earned his 20th win of the season.

Centerfieldmaz, along with 37,350 Mets fans filled Shea Stadium as Davey Johnson's second place Mets (just one game out) hosted Dick Williams second place San Diego Padres. The Padres were the Reigning NL Champions as well.  

It certainly wasn't Goodens most dominating performance of the year, but it was good enough for win #20. He pitched six innings, allowing three runs on five hits, striking out four while walking one.

The Mets gave him run support in the 1st  inning, Len Dykstra singled, & Keith Hernandez reached on an error. Darryl Strawberry doubled bringing in both runners making it 2-0. Howard Johnson followed with an RBI base hit making it 3-0. Strawberry would add a HR later in the 5th inning & an RBI base hit in the 8th inning.

In the home 7th, the Mets got Keith Hernandez to lead off with a single, Gary Carter doubled & Strawberry walked. With the bases loaded George Foster singled, bringing in two runs, Rusty Staub singled bringing in a run & Roger McDowell doubled bringing in a run as well. The Mets won it  for Dwight Gooden. Gooden became the first Met since Jerry Koosman in 1976 (eight years prior) to win twenty games.

The win marked 14 straight victories for Dwight Gooden, dating back to May 30th. Along the way he had pitched ten complete games, and had six games with ten or more strike outs. It was truly an amazing stretch for us lucky Mets fans to watch, as pitching at that level doesn't come along too often.

In his prior start on Tuesday August 20th 1985, Gooden and the first place Mets (72-45) hosted Jim Davenport's last place San Francisco Giants (45-72). Jim Gott went up against Gooden but it was no contest. Dr. K was certainly on his mark that evening. His fastball was overpowering & his curve just as sharp.

In the 1st inning, he allowed two walks & two hits but gave up no runs. In the 2nd & 3rd innings, he struck out two of the three outs both times. In the 4th & the 5th innings, Dr. K struck out the side.  He allowed two hits but no runs in the 6th & then struck out two more in the 7th. The K korner in the left field stands was busy hanging up the K cards hat night.

In the 9th Doc struck out Bob Brenly to start out the inning. After Jose Uribe grounded out, he struck out Rod Deer for K#16, a season high for Gooden. The 16 strike outs would also match his carrer high set back in 1984. Gooden finished up the seven hit 3-0  shut out, another gem in his 1985 spectacular season.

1986 World Champion Mets Forgotten Pitcher: Bruce Berenyi (1984-1986)

Bruce Michael Berenyi was born August 21, 1954 in Bryan, Ohio. Berenyi was the nephew of MLB pitcher Ned Garver (1948-1961) who once won 20 games for the St. Louis Browns. Garver a lifetime 129-157 pitcher with a 3.73 ERA also pitched for the Detroit Tigers & Kansas City A’s.

Bruce Berenyi attended Northeast Missouri State University and once tied a college record by striking out 21 batters in a game. The six foot two inch, right hander was the Cincinnati Reds first round draft pick (third pick overall in the secondary draft) in 1976.

He went on to lead the American Association pitchers in strikeouts & ERA, getting a Reds, September 1980 call up. He went 2-2 in Cincinnati although he had a rather high 7.81 ERA pitching in six games. In 1981 he was 9-6 with 157 strikeouts (6th in the NL) & a 3.50 ERA. He also threw a pair of two hitters that season but had some control issues as well.

He led the league in walks with 77, and in one game against the Los Angeles Dodgers threw 15 straight balls. In that game he walked seven batters over 3.3 innings. The next week he came back to tossed a one hitter against a strong Montreal Expo team that made it to the post season. The next season things fell apart as he led the league in losses (18) but pitched better than his record showed. He was best in the league in giving up fewest HRs, as his HRs allowed per nine innings (0.324) was tops in the NL. He went 9-18 but put up a solid 3.36 ERA, striking out 157 batters (9th in the NL).

In 1983 he once again had a decent ERA (3.86) but had a poor 9-14 record. In 186 innings, he allowed 102 walks & gave up 80 earned runs, striking out 151 batters (10th in the NL). In June 1984 he was 3-4 with an ERA of 6.00 when he was traded to the New York Mets for Jay Tibbs & Eddie Williams, two players who never suited up in Mets uniforms.

Berenyi debuted for New York on June 17th 1983, although he lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing four runs over seven innings. In July he won three straight starts including a seven inning shutout performance in Atlanta, beating the Braves 7-0. He was 5-1 from mid August to the end of the season, pitching into the 7th inning four of those times. He finished up the 1984 season at 9-6 with 134 strike outs 95 walks & a 3.76 ERA.

In 1985 he started the third game of the season on April 12th at Shea Stadium. In that game he pitched seven innings of one hit baseball, allowing no runs earning a win in the 1-0 shutout of the Reds. The only run of the game came on a Gary Carter HR. He had pitched with shoulder pain throughout his career and in his third start of the 1985 season he had to leave the game in pain. He found out he had a torn rotator cuff and was done for the year. He had the surgery and returned to the Mets for the start of the 1986 Championship season.

On April 29th he earned his first win since the injury of the previous year. He got the win in relief of Ron Darling in a 10-5 win in Atlanta against the Braves. He was put back in the rotation by May, going 2-2 posting an ERA of 6.35, but there wasn’t much room for him on the staff with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, & Bob Ojeda.

Berenyi was demoted to AAA Tidewater, where he went 2-6 but never returned to the big leagues. He did sign a deal with the Montreal Expos but his arm acted up in pain when he pitched forcing him to retire.
In a seven year career he was 44-55 with a 4.03 ERA, 607 strikeouts 425 walks in 781 innings pitched in 142 games.