Apr 29, 2017

Remembering Mets History (2017) Mets Take First Two in D.C. End Skid

The 2017 Mets were in a place no one expected them to be at. They had fallen to last place struggling through a six game losing streak, dropping ten of their last eleven. Injuries, an MLB suspension to their closer & bad breaks got them here. But it is only April, their manager Terry Collins told them to look ahead, be aggressive & a weekend series against the first place, rival Nationals may be just what they needed to turn things around.

Friday April 28th, 2017: A large crowd of 34,532 including a contingent of Mets fans, making the journey, filed in to Nationals Park to see the Nats ace Matt Scherzer take in Mets star, Jacob deGrom.

In the 2nd inning, Travis d'Arnaud started off his big night with a two run HR off Scherzer giving the Mets a 2-0 lead. In the bottom frame, the hot hitting Ryan Zimmerman as well as Matt Wieders both homered putting Washington ahead 3-2.

In the 4th, after Jose Reyes singled & T.J. Rivera walked, Travis d'Arnaud became the first catcher since Hall of Famers; Mike Piazza & Gary Carter to have a multiple HR game. d'Arnaud's HR put New York up 5-3.

Jacob deGrom got the Mets to the 8th inning, settling in after allowing the two long balls, by striking out a total of 12 Nats, while walking just one. It was his third straight game with double digit strike out totals, as he became the NL Leader in strike outs (44) as well as strike outs per nine innings (12.5) on his way to his second win of the year (2-3) lowering his ERA to 2.84.

In a wacky 8th inning, Jose Reyes doubled, T.J., Rivera then reached on an error & stole second. Travis d'Arnaud then walked to load the bases. After a pitching change, Kevin Plawecki connected with a pinch hit RBI single. Michael Conforto then drew a bases loaded walk to make it 7-3.

In the home 8th, Addison Reed came in to relieve Jerry Blevins with a runner on second & the hot Zimmerman at the plate. Reed, who has not been the Reed of 2016 served up a two run HR making it a 7-5 game.

In the 9th, a rusty Mets closer Jeurys Familia, still looking for his first save of the year, quickly loaded the bases with no one out. He reared back to strike out Trea Turner for the first out.

Then in a surprising turn of events, Manager Terry Collins came out of the dugout & took the ball from an upset Jeurys Familia. He brought in Josh Edgin to face Bryce Harper, whom he had never faced before. Daniel Murphy tried to give some insight to Harper about Edgin but it certainly didn't help.

Edgin got Harper to ground out to the mound, Edgin threw to the plate, d'Arnaud caught it & stepped on the plate. He then threw to first nailing Harper for the game ending double play. The Mets had a much needed win.

Saturday April 29th, 2017: The Mets regrouped & sent Zack Wheeler to the mound to face Steven Strasburg in front of 36, 501 including lots of Mets fans.

In the 1st, Ryan Zimmerman continued his hot streak with an RBI base hit making it 1-0. In the 5th inning, Jose Reyes who is slowly staring to break out of his hitting funk, led off with a base hit. T.J. Rivera who is also hitting well in this series, doubled to left field. Travis d'Arnaud then reached on a fielders choice scoring Reyes to tie it. Then todays hero, the hot hitting Michael Conforto blasted a two run HR to right center field making it 3-1 Mets.

In the bottom of the 5th, the Nats scrapped another run after a Reyes error, a single & an infield hit. Terry Collins then pulled Wheeler bringing in Josh Edgin, who got Murphy to fly out to right field to end the inning.

In 4.2 innings Wheeler allowed two runs on five hits, with four strike outs & four walks. Hansel Robles would pitch 1.2 innings of hitless ball.

In the 8th inning, Michael Conforto hit his 6th HR of the year, his second of the day making it 4-2 Mets. In the bottom of the 8th Addison Reed allowed another HR  to Ryan Zimmerman, making it a one run game once again. In the top of the 9th Jose Reyes blasted his second HR of the year, topping off his multi hit game.

In the bottom of the 9th, Jeurys Familia earned his first save of the year with a 1-2-3 inning, closing out the game with a strike out. The Mets took the first two in D.C hopefully turning their season around.

Apr 25, 2017

2000 NL Champion Mets Coach: Cookie Rojas (1997-2000)

Octavio Victor Rojas Rivas was born on March 6, 1939 in Havana Cuba. His father wanted him to be a doctor, but Cookie wanted to play baseball for the Havana Sugar Kings instead. He was eventually signed as a second baseman by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956 at the age of 17. 

He got out of Cuba as it was going into political turmoil, debuting as the Reds starting second baseman in the first game ever played at the new Dodger Stadium in 1962. A week later he got his first career hit off the great Sandy Koufax.

After one season with the Reds he was traded to the Phillies as rookie Pete Rose was in the Reds plan as the second baseman of their future. Rojas earned the starting second base job in Philly, leading the league in fielding percentage three straight seasons. He batted over .290 twice, including .a 303 average (8th in the league) in 1965 as he made his first All Star team. He would spend seven seasons in Philadelphia being amongst the league’s top ten in singles & sacrifice hits twice. In 1967 he led the league with 16 sac hits batting .259.

In October 1969 he was part of the famous Curt Flood trade, as he, Dick Allen and Jerry Johnson went to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Tim McCarver, Curt Flood, Joe Hoerner & Byrone Browne. Flood refused the trade and challenged the reserve clause, but was soon forced out of the game since no one really backed him that early on. Rojas will forever be remembered for sporting thick frame eye glasses during his playing days.

Rojas struggled mightily in St. Louis & by June he was sent to the Kansas City Royals for Fred Rico. In K.C. he became one of the American League’s best second baseman of the early seventies. In 1971 he batted .300 with a .357 on base % & posted a .991 fielding percentage quickly becoming a Royals fan favorite.

He made four straight All Star teams from 1971-1974, making history as well. In the 1972 Mid Summer Classic at Atlanta he became the first AL player born outside of the United States to hit a HR in an All Star Game. The HR came in the 8th inning off Montreal's Bill Stoneman, it was a two run shot (scoring Carlton Fisk) putting the AL ahead. The NL would tie it & win the game in the bottom of the 10th on a Joe Morgan base hit.

Rojas posted fielding percentages over .980% through the 1975 season & never made more than 13 errors in a season during his A.L. years.

Rojas was a good contact hitter, who didn’t strike out too often, only going down on strikes fifty times or more twice in his entire career. He was a pure singles hitter, who didn’t hit for power, (like most second baseman of his era) never hitting more than 9 HRs in a season. 

In 1973 he had career highs in RBIs (69) & doubles (69) while batting .276. He played in two ALCS with the Royals, batting .333 overall with an RBI in the 1976 series.

He was eventually released by the Royals after the 1977 season, at the age of 38, with the arrival of long time Royal second baseman Frank White. In his 16 year playing career Rojas would play 1833 MLB games with 1660 hits, 254 doubles, 25 triples, 54 HRs & 593 RBIs while batting .263 lifetime.

Retirement: After his playing days he became a coach & major league scout. Rojas had two brief stints as manager; first with the California Angeles (1988) & second with the Florida Marlins (1996) for just one game after Rene Lachemann was fired. He was only the third Cuban born manager to ever manage in the major leagues.

Rojas joined the New York Mets, as the team's third base coach under Bobby Valentine from 1997-2000. During the 1999 post season Rojas came down the coaching line and argued a foul ball call with umpire Charlie Williams. He then got into a shoving match and was suspended for five games.

He returned as the third base coach during the Mets 2000 Mets pennant season, before leaving the organization. He went on to serve as bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2001-2002.

Broadcaster: Rojas currently does Spanish television broadcasts for the Florida Marlins. He is the father of former MLB player Victor Rojas who currently works on the MLB Network.

Family: His son Victor Rojas is a Los Angeles Angels  TV broadcaster & his son Mike Rojas is the Detroit Tigers bullpen coach.

Apr 24, 2017

Remembering Mets History (2015) Matt Harvey Shines In Subway Series WIn

Saturday April 25th 2105: The new version of the New York Mets were riding high coming into this years early version of the subway series, they were fresh off an eleven game win streak & were in first place by 4 1/2 games.

On the first night of the series the streak was ended, but these Mets proved they would over come. Maybe more importantly, to the team, Matt Harvey, fresh off Tommy John surgery last season, in the big spot light took the ball & showed everybody how tough & serious he was.

A large Saturday afternoon crowd of 47,909 came to the Bronx to see the A.L. New York club (10-8) host Terry Collins' Mets (14-4) aired as the FOX game of the week telecast. Matt Harvey (3-0) for the Mets against a struggling CC Sabbathia (0-2).

Starting Lineups

Lucas Duda started out the Mets 1st inning with a solo HR to make it 1-0. The game was tied in the 4th inning when the Mets had a big four run rally. Michael Cuddyer started out with a base hit, then with two outs the hits came.

Juan Lagares tripled to straight away center making it 2-0. He easily scored on Wilmer Flores base hit to make it 3-1. Rookie catcher Kevin Plawecki then made his mark on the subway series with a two run HR off Sabbathia making it 5-1. Plawecki would add an RBI single in the 8th as well.

The Mets back up third baseman, filling in for an injured David Wright hit a solo HR to start out the 6th inning. Juan Lagares singled knock Sabbathia out after giving up a dreadful seven runs on nine hits. Lagares would eventually score on an Esmil Rogers wild pitch.

With all that offense Matt Harvey had an easy time of the AL New York club. In one of his longest outings of the year he pitched into the 9h inning, not wanting the Terry Collins to take the ball from him.

It wasn't until the 9th inning after getting the first two outs, that he allowed a single & a walk where Collins decided he had enough. He left the field to a huge ovation & had earned a lot of respect for his valiant effort.

Harvey went 8.2 innings, allowing two runs on just five hits, he struck out seven & walked two to get to 4-0 on the season with a 3.04 ERA.

The Mets had now won 12 of 13 games.

Apr 19, 2017

Former Mets Hitting Coach: Denny Walling (2003-2004)

Dennis Martin Walling was born April 17th 1954 in Neptune, New Jersey on the Jersey Shore. He grew up in Farmingdale going to high school at Howell. Walling first attended Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey & then Clemson University where he was a star baseball player.

Walling was first drafted by the St. Louis Cards in the 8th round of the 1974 draft but chose to stay at Clemson. He then was the overall first pick in the 1975 secondary phase of the June amateur draft for the Oakland Athletics. He made his MLB debut three months later without playing in the minor leagues. He then did time in the minors getting some callus before getting traded to the Houston Astros in 1977 for Willie Crawford.

Walling began a long 13 year career in Houston playing mostly in the outfield & at third base. He was also known as a fantastic pinch hitter. He has 108 career pinch hits, in the all time top twenty in that category. He would bat over .290 four times with Houston having very good seasons in two of the three years he got to the post season with them. In 1980 he hit .299 in 100 games with the NL West Champions but batted just .111 (1-9) in the NLCS.

In 1986 he had his best season batting .312 with career highs in HRs (13) doubles (23) RBIs (58) hits (119) & games played (130). In the 1986 NLCS he drove in two runs with a hit off Bobby Ojeda in the Mets Game #2 win at the Astrodome. Walling had hits in the next two games as well, over all going 3-19 playing in five games. He played the 8th inning on to the 16th in the Mets epic Game #6 win at the Astrodome. In his time at Houston he played & became friends with Art Howe.

In 1988 he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Bob Forsch, he played there until 1991. He then played 1991 in Texas with the Rangers, returning to Houston for his final season in 1992.

In his 18 year career batted .271 with 799 hits 49 HRs 142 doubles 380 RBIs 372 runs scored & a .345 on base %.

Post Playing Career: In 1996 he became a coach for the Oakland Athletics under manager Art Howe. He remained as an Oakland coach for three seasons. In 2003 he moved to the New York Mets as hitting coach, once again under manager & friend Art Howe. 

He remained in that position for two seasons. The Mets finished last in 2003, moving to fourth the next year, both years they were finished 14th of 16 in batting average. In 2005 he was replaced by Rick Down after Howe was dismissed.

He later became a roving coach for the Baltimore Orioles (2007-2011) & then a hitting coach for the AAA Norfolk Tides 2012-2014.

Apr 18, 2017

Two Time Cy Young Award Winner & Mets Pitcher: Bret Saberhagen (1992-1995)

Bret William Saberhagen was born on April 11, 1964 in Chicago, Illinois. His family moved to Reseda, California where he grew up playing baseball & basketball.

The tall six foot one right hander was drafted out of high school by the Kansas City Royals in the 19th round of the 1982 draft. He was brought up quickly & made his debut in 1984. He went 10-11 with a 3.48 ERA in his rookie year, showing great promise for the future on a good Royals team.

In the 1985 season, the Royals won the World Series & Bret Saberhagen was outstanding. He won the A.L. Cy Young Award going 20-6 (second most wins in the AL) with a 2.87 ERA (third in the league) pitching ten complete games (8th in the AL) with one shut out, 158 strikeouts (9th in the AL) & just 38 walks. He had the best walks per nine innings & strike out to walk ratios in the league.

Post Season: In the ALCS, he earned two no decisions against the Toronto Blue Jays posting an ERA of 6.14 allowing five runs on twelve hits in seven innings of work.

He then shined in the World Series earning the MVP honors to finish off his fantastic season. He pitched a complete game, one run six hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game #3. He then returned for a complete game five hit shutout in Game #7 at Kansas City in the Royals 11-0 victory.

In the Series he allowed only one run, one walk, on eleven hits, in 18 innings of work with two complete games.

Bret was famous for having a great year followed by an average to poor season following it. In 1986 he fell to 7-12 with a 4.15 ERA almost two runs higher than the previous year. But he rebounded in 1987 going 18-10 (4th most wins in the AL) with a 3.37 ERA, striking out 163 batters with 53 walks (a career high) in 257 innings pitched (9th in the AL). He made the All Star team but then suffered a shoulder injury which limited his second half.

In 1988 he had a down year going 14-16 but followed with another Cy Young Award season in 1989. He was 9-5 in July of 1989 but went on to an incredible 14-1 finish. He led the league in wins going 20-6, he led the AL in ERA (2.16) complete games (12) and innings pitched (261) as well.

In 1990 injuries limited him to just twenty games, going only 5-9 but he still made the All Star team. In 1991 he was 13-8 with a 3.07 ERA & seven complete games (6th in the AL). On August 26th he pitched a no hitter at Royals Stadium against the Chicago White Sox, the last Royals no hitter to date.

In the offseason he came to the New York Mets along with Bill Pecota in a block buster trade in exchange for Kevin McReynolds, Greg Jefferies &; Keith Miller.

In New York he joined a pitching staff of Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez & David Cone. They all were at the end or down points of their careers, and the Mets finished in fifth place 72-90. Saberhagen debuted pitching the second game of the season, but was beat up for seven earned runs on hits in a 9-2 loss at St. Louis. He lost his next start as well, another seven run debacle in just 4.2 innings pitched. On April 29th he earned his first Mets win, a beautiful three hit shutout, with nine strike outs against the Houston Astros at Shea Stadium.

In May he went 2-0 before suffering an injury on May 15th putting him out for two months. He made a brief three game comeback before missing another month of action. Overall his first season in New York was a huge disappointment, he was 3-5 with a 3.50 ERA pitching only 17 games.

1993 was no better, he pitched in only 19 games going 7-7. He began that season beating the Colorado Rockies pitching eight innings of one run baseball at Shea Stadium. He was 2-0 before losing three straight games to finish off April.

In May he tossed a three hitter against the Florida Marlins, striking out eight batters in a 1-0 Mets victory beating Ryan Bowen in the pitcher's duel. Sabs struggled from there losing four straight games but then turned around to win four straight decisions before injuries got him again. He bested his record to 7-7 after two straight wins where he pitched into the 8th inning, beating the Marlins at home & the Expos in Montreal.

Drama: Those wacky early nineties Mets were bad on the field & couldn’t win many games, but they sure pulled some stupid stunts off the field. Sabs joined that bandwagon when he sprayed bleach into a crowd of reporters after a loss that season.

Saberhagen apologized to the fans & medi for the stupid action. He then donated one day's pay to a various charity. With that behind him, and a bad name after two poor seasons in New York, he rebounded to have his best Mets season in the strike shortened 1994 campaign.

In the fifth game of the season, he threw a five hit complete game against the Astros in Houston. After a 3-1 April, he tossed a one run five hit, complete game in St. Louis to beat the Cradinals to start out May to put him at 4-1. By the end of June he was 7-4 and then was spectacular until the season ended in mid August. Sabs won seven straight games, pitching eight innings or better five times. In three of those outing he didn't allow an earned run, he pitched two complete games, including a seven hit shutout in St. Louis on July 25th.

He may have went on to have another Cy Young season at that rate, going 14-4 on the year with (third most wins in the NL). He was second in the league in ERA (2.74) third in innings (177) & fourth in complete games (4).

That season he became the first pitcher since 1919 to have more wins (14) than walks allowed (13) while pitching in 150 innings or more. His walks per nine innings 0.6 was the best in baseball as were his strike outs to walks ratio (11.00) the third time he had topped the league in that category. That year he made the All Star team representing the Mets, was third in the Cy Young voting & received votes for the MVP Award as well.

In 1995 he had a rough start not winning his first game until the end of May. He won four straight games in late May finishing the month with a complete game ten hit, three run victory performance against the Florida Marlins on June 28th. It would be his last Mets victory, as Sabs lost his next three decisions and was traded at the end of July.

In his last outing he pitched eight inning so f three hit shutout baseball against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium. Saberhagen was 5-5 with a 3.16 ERA in 16 games for the Mets that season when he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for Juan Acevedo & Arnold Gooch. In his four year Mets career, he was 29-21 with 388 strikeouts, just 77 walks & a 3.16 ERA in 76 appearances.

He was 2-1 in Colorado as the Rockies went to the post season that year. Sabs lost to the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS & then signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox the following season.

In 1998 he revived his career winning 15 games (15-8) behind Pedro Martinez (19 wins) & Tim Wakefield (17 wins) on a good Red Sox pitching staff. He posted a 3.96 ERA with 100 strikeouts & 33 walks in 33 games, 175 innings pitched.

In the ALDS he lost Game #3 to Charles Nagy & the Cleveland Indians. He won ten games the next year going 10-6 with a 2.95 ERA in Boston getting to another post season. He lost a game in each round of the post season as Boston was eliminated in the ALCS.

He did not pitch at the big league level in 2000 but returned to finish his career in three games (2-1) in 2001.

Lifetime in his 16 year career he was 167-117 (194th most wins all time) with a 3.34 ERA, 1715 strikeouts (126th all time) 471 walks, 16 shut outs & 76 complete games in 2562 innings pitched (227th all time) in 399 games. His 371 starts are 168th most all time. He earned two Cy Young Awards & made three All Star teams. His 1.6 walks per nine innings are 35th best all time & his strike outs to walks ration 18th best all time.

Retirement: After his playing days he was a high school baseball coach, & then a technical director for the Dennis Miller Radio Show in 2007. He produced the sound bites and operated the mixing board there.

At one time he owned Bret Saberhagen’s Hit & Fun sports center in West Babylon, New York out on Long Island. The facility was shaped like Brooklyn's legendary ballpark- Ebbets Field.

Family: Bret & his first wife Jeanine have three children & divorced in 1991. While in New York, he married Long Island's own Lynne Critelli, who was a singer in the local bands Pajama Party & Full House. Pajama Party had released an album in 1989 called Up All Night. Lynn also helped run their Sports complex in West Babylon.

In their time together, the couple were famous for turning their big front yard into a Haunted House every Halloween.

While married, Brett made Lynn quit singing while she was singing in the Long Island band Full House. But the two soon divorced, and Lynn took up singing once again. She now sings with the band The Mystic.