Feb 27, 2019

2019 Mets Bench Coach: Jim Riggleman (2019)

James David Riggleman was born November 9th 1952 in Fort Dix, New Jersey. The five foot eleven, right handed hitter played mostly as an infielder. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974, moving over to the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 1976. 

He reached the AAA level by the late seventies but never made it to the big leagues. y 1981 his playing career was over at age 28.

He immediately went to coaching & managing in the Cardinal minor leagues. He moved over to the San Diego Padres minor leagues, getting promoted to the AAA level. By 1993 he was promoted to the Padres big league managerial position, after the departure of Greg Riddoch. In his first season, his Friars finished third, then seventh in 1993. The team improved to fourth place in the strike shortened 1994 season. 

After San Diego, he moved over to the Chicago Cubs managing them for five seasons. His best finish was second in 1998, winning 90 games going 90-73. It was Riggleman who led the Cubs to the 1998 NLDS losing to the Atlanta Braves.

Riggleman went on as bench coach under Jim Tracy with the Los Angles Dodgers from 2001-2004. In 2008 he went to Seattle as bench coach under John McLaren and took over as interim manager in June, through the rest of the season. He was not hires to manage the Mariners in 2009.

He served under former Mets coach, Manny Acta as bench coach of the Washington Nationals  in 2009. When Acta was let go, Riggleman was promoted to manager in his place. His Nats finished fifth in both 2009 & 2010. In 2011 he was looking for the Nats to pick up his option on his contract. He claims they didn't acknowledge his request for a meeting. so on June 23rd he resigned., saying at 58 he was too old to be disrespected.

He then moved on to the Cincinnati Reds organization, managing at the AA level there for two seasons. 

He became the Reds third base coach in 2015 & in 2018 was named the clubs manager. The team went 64-80 finishing fifth. He was not retained for 2019.

The New York Mets hired him as a bench coach under manager Mickey Callaway.

Quotes- Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen: “Jim brings a wealth of experience to the coaching staff. His familiarity with the National League will be a great asset.”

Mets Manager Mickey Callaway: “I’m excited to have Jim’s knowledge alongside me. He’ll be a tremendous resource for me and the entire coaching staff.”

Jim Riggleman: “I look forward to getting started, Getting to Port St Lucie, mixing it up with players and getting to know the coaching staff.  I’m very excited about this opportunity.”

Current Mets Pitching Coach: Dave Eiland (2018-2019)

Dave Eiland was born on July 5th, 1966 in Dade City Florida. The six foot three right hander began his college career with the Florida Gators at the University of Florida. He then transferred to attend the University of South Florida at Tampa. The start pitcher was drafted in the seventh round of the 1987 draft by the A.L. New York club.

Eiland made his MLB debut in Milwaukee on August 3rd 1988 getting a start in a 6-5 loss to the Brewers. He pitched seven innings of three hit ball, allowing a run with no decision. 

Trivia: In that game he made MLB history, being the only player to give up a HR to the first batter he ever faced, then hit a HR in his first at bat. Eiland served up a HR to the his first batter, non other than Hall of Famer, Paul Molitor. Then Eiland himself hit his HR in his very first at bat. It would be his only HR in 22 career at bats.

Eiland would pitch between the minors & the majors for most seasons throughout his career. In 1990 he even won the International Pitcher of the Year Award while with the Columbus Clippers.

He would see limited action over the next four years with the A.L. New York club from 1988-1991 going 5-8 in that time. The journeyman pitcher would go the San Diego Padres (1992-1993) back to New York (1995) & then in Tampa with the Devil Rays from 1998-2000. 

Trivia: In 1998 Eiland acted as a double for actor Kevin Costner in the film For the Love Of The Game.

In a ten year career Eiland was 12-27 with a 5.74 ERA, striking out 153 batters while walking 118 in 373 innings of work in 92 appearances.

Retirement: After his playing days he began his coaching career, starting out in the AL New York clubs organization from 2000-2008. That year he replaced Ron Guidry as the teams pitching coach. In 2010 he took a brief leave of absence & was fired at the end of the year.

After a year in the Tampa organization, he landed the job as pitching coach with the Kansas City Royals. He would get to the World Series twice with his Royals staff under manager Ned Yost.

In 2014 his AL Champion staff was fourth in wins, ERA, runs & walks with the most saves in the AL, behind closer Greg Holland. In 2015 the World Champion Royals beat the NL Champion Mets in the World Series. That year Eiland's staff were first in wins, second in saves & HRs, third in ERA, runs & earned runs.

After two seasons of finishing .500 & lower, he was let go by the Royals. When the New York Mets named Mickey Calloway as their manager for 2018, Eiland got the job as Mets pitching coach, replacing Dan Warthen.

Quotes: “I’ve had other jobs, other opportunities in my career, but I’ve never been more excited than I am now. I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready for this position than I am now. I’m very much looking forward to it. I know the demands of New York. I know the expectations. I know the energy, the passion, and I’m looking forward to getting right back in the middle of that. I want to be held accountable for how this staff pitches. I want those responsibilities. I want those demands. I know how good it is to win there. That’s the driving force.”

An unsuccessful year for the Mets resulted in Eiland's staff coming in eleventh in wins (77) fifth in losses (85) they allowed the second most walks (484)  & were tenth in ERA (4.07). Their best stat was coming in fourth in strike outs (1446).

With an improved bullpen & hopefully a healthy staff, Eiland is expecting a much better 2019.

centerfieldmaz reports from Spring Training 2019- Mets vs Astros

a view from behind home plate @ FITTEAM Ball Park Of the Palm Beaches

Manager Mickey Callaway & the Team Line Up To Honor America

Noah Syndergaard

Michael Conforto

Pete Alonso

Jeff McNeil

Juan Lagares

Dilson Hererra

Gregor Blanco

Keon Broxton

Tomas Nido (C) & Jacob Rhame (P)

Corey Taylor

Danny Espinosa

the crew behind home plate Row 1 & 2

And from the home team Astros:
Jose Altuve
Justin Verlander
George Springer

The Shooting Stars - Astro Girls

Feb 26, 2019

Mets Bullpen Catcher: Eric Langill (2011-2019)

Eric Joseph Langill was born April 9th 1979 in Kirkland, Quebec. While growing up in Canada, he of course was huge hockey fan, his favorite player being Patrick Roy. He played childhood hockey, best as a face off specialist. He gives credit to his love of baseball to the Montreal Expos.

He attended Des Moines Area Community College, where he played more baseball than hockey. Next he was drafted by his favorite team, the Montreal Expos in the 34th round of the 1999 amatuer draft. 

The catcher would spend six years in the minor leagues with Montreal & The Los Angeles Dodgers organizations. He hit just one HR while batting a career .210 with 46 RBIs. He reached the AAA level twice (2004 & 2006) both times at Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League.

Langill had an intense passion to play the game, but wasn't the most gifted athlete. His drive made him popular with fans wherever he played.

Since 2011 he has been bullpen catcher for the Mets along with Dave Racaniello. 

Drama: During Spring Training 2011, Langill left a bowling event and was cut off by another vehicle, causing his car to overturn. He tried to get out of the car but was stuck.  He was arrested for driving under the influence, got suspended by the team & got help through the Mets Employee Assistance Program. He has moved on & has had no other issues.

Feb 25, 2019

50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: Spring Training 1969 (Part 2)

50th Anniversary of the 1969 World Champion "Amazing Mets"

After MLB & the Players Association came to an agreement, it was time for the clubs to sign their players. The Mets immediately signed their two ace pitchers, the guys Mets President Johnny Murphy called " the teams untouchables". Tom Seaver & Jerry Koosman were deemed untradeable in that years winter conversations with other clubs.

The money seems nothing by todays standards bit was pretty good for 1969. Seaver got a 40% raise taking him tp $35,000 & Koosman who was just entering his second year, jumped from league minimum ($10,000) to $25,00, a substantial 65% increase.

Mets infielder Al Weis was also signed, Ken Boswell, Ed Kranepool & Art Shamsky have all agreed to sign over the phone. In the next few days, the only unsigned Mets, Tommie Agee, J.C. Martin & Ron Swoboda signed contacts as well. 

As he signed Swoboda stressed a need to impress Gil Hodges & make up for his attitude last year. His moping in the outfield after striking out, his helmet throwing & temper tantrums, things Hodges saw as unprofessional.

The 1969 Mets seemed to open a few eyes during Spring Training. In mid March they beat the reigning, 1968 World Champion Detroit Tigers 12-0. Two days later they clobbered the 1968 N.L. Champion St. Louis Cardinals 16-6, collecting an incredible 22 hits. Al Weis along with youngsters Ken Singleton & Amos Otis all homered for New York. In that game they Mets first six batters, hit safely & they scored seven runs in the 1st inning. 

A two game exhibition series against the Minnesota Twins, was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, as the New Orleans Commission was trying to sell the idea of MLB there. After a rain out, a double header was played, where the Mets destroyed the Twins 12-4 with inside the park homers into a wooded area, by Jerry Grote & Cleon Jones. 

In a five inning, shortened game in the night cap, where the teams had planes to catch, the Mets won easily 5-1. That game featured a 250ft pop fly HR by Bud Harrelson, in the strange ballpark.

The Mets finished their 1999 Spring Training 15-10 impressing some with a few of these big victories. But still, no one but Gil Hodges actually thought the Mets would win the NL East, let alone the World Series.

Feb 24, 2019

50th Anniversary of the 1969 Mets: Spring Training 1969 (Part 1)

**this year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 World Champion Amazing Mets. centerfieldmaz will be remembering the 1969 team with posts on memorable 1969 moments & games all season long.

The Mets entered Spring Training with some hope & optimism. They had just finished up the 1968 seasons in ninth place with a 73-89 record. Obviously they had some good pitching, with their two aces having made the All Star team.

Jerry Koosman had finished his 1968 Rookie season coming in second to Johnny Bench in the Rookie of the Year voting. He  made the All Star team, finishing up with 19 wins (19-12)  a 2.08 ERA (both fourth best in the NL), 179 strike outs & seven shut outs (third best in the NL). 

Tom Seaver had gone 16-12 with a 2.20 ERA (seventh in the NL) & 205 strike outs (sixth in the NL). Young fireball throwing Nolan Ryan had struck out 143 batters in 133 innings, but had walked 75 times & went 6-9 in 21 games (18 starts). 

The Mets added youngster Gary Gentry to the starting staff, who in 1968 went 12-8 with a 2.91 ERA at AAA Jacksonville. The other two starters were Don Cardwell who was 7-13 with a 2.95 ERA & Jim McAndrew who was 4-7 with a 2.28 ERA. 

Overall the 1968 Mets  staff had the leagues fourth best ERA in 1968 at 2.72 & second in strike outs (1014) shut outs (17) & saves (33). 

Tug McGraw who spent all of 1968 at AAA Jacksonville, was brought up as the main lefty out of the bullpen to go with right hander Ron Taylor who had saved 14 games in 1968 which was fourth most in the league. Cal Koonce, Al Jackson, Danny Frisella & Bill Short were the other bullpen left overs from 1968. 

Koonce would be the only man left from the bunch, pouring champagne on his team mates, in the October 1969 Mets clubhouse. Koonce would have a solid 1969 season at 6-3 with seven saves. Short & Jackson who started 1969 with the Mets, both ended up with the Cincinnati Reds.

The hitting was certainly not as solid as the pitching. In 1968 their were only ten NL teams, the Mets finished last in batting average, on base % & slugging.  They were ninth in runs scored, Eighth in doubles, triples & hits. Their best area was HRs where they were fifth with 81 round trippers. Ed Charles led the team with 15 & Cleon Jones was next with 14.

Run production was so weak, that Ron Swoboda's 59 RBIs led the 1968 squad, Jones' 55 was second best.

Cleon Jones the teams best hitters was developing into one of the NL's best hitters as well, he batted just under .300, finishing at .297 (sixth best in the league). Jerry Grote who was the leagues best defensive catchers had hit a solid .282. Third baseman Ed Charles had hit .276 but at age 37 was winding down his career. 

Third base was a problem, for the Mets  for years, they were counting on young rookie Amos Otis to fill the spot. Otis soon to be an All Star centerfield fielder with the Royals in the 70's & early 80's, never adjusted to third base & clashed with manager Gil Hodges. 

Prior to Spring Training 1969, the Atlanta Braves had asked for Otis in exchange for Joe Torre. The Mets refused, considering Otis untouchable. The Braves got Orlando Cepeda for Torre, who went to St. Louis winning the 1971 NL MVP Award. The Mets would trade Otis to the Kansas City Royals for Joe Foy in 1970, a disaster of a deal. 

Young red headed Wayne Garrett would share time at third base with Charles in 1969.

Garrett along with Rod Gaspar had earned their spots on the 1969 roster during Spring Training. Duffy Dyer also won a spot behind Jerry Grote & J.C. Martin in the catchers role. Larry Stahl the 1968 third string catcher, had batted .235 (53 games) was lost to the new San Diego Padres in the expansion draft.

The outfield was set with Cleon Jones in left, Ron Swoboda & Art Shamsky platooning in right. Tommie Agee, a favorite of Gil Hodges had a terrible 1968 season but Hodges had faith in him & Agee would sure turn it around. After batting .217 in 1968 he upped it to .271 in 1969. He went from 5 HRs & 17 RBIs (132 games) to leading the club in both categories in 1969- 26 HRs & 76 RBIs (149 games).

Off seasons weren't as active in 1969 as they are today, with no free agency going on. So the Mets had pretty much the same regular eight guys in the line up leaving spring training camp. 

The bench was improved as Jerry Buchek (73 games) & Don Bosch (50 games) who both hit under .200 were let go, Greg Goossen & Kevin Collins who went to the expansion Montreal Expos were also gone with  Gaspar, Garrett  & Bobby Pfeil replacing them. 

The Mets took the squad North out of  St. Petersburg Florida to Queens with 100-1 odds to win the World Series. Oh what a year 1969 was to be...…………..