Feb 28, 2020

Michael Conforto: Mets Right Fielder (2015-2020)

Michael Conforto was born on March 1st, 1993 in Woodinville, Washington. He comes from a family full of athletes. His mother, Tracy Ruiz Conforto was a two time, Olympic Gold Medalist (1984 / 1988) in synchronized swimming. His father was a football, line backer at Penn. State University & his sister, Jacquekine was a college soccer player.

In 2004 he played in the Little League World Series for the North West Region. 

In high school the honor roll student played short stop on the baseball team & was a stand out safety in football. He was recruited by several Ivy League schools for football  & was also sought after for baseball. He chose to stick with baseball & play at Oregon State. 

In his first year he was voted Freshman Hitter of the Year batting .349 with 13 HRs & setting a school record with 76 RBIs. 

In his sophomore year, he was named All American, leading his Oregon Beavers to the College World Series, where he went 7-14, getting named to the All Tournament Team. In his off seasons he played for USA Collegiate National teams.

In 2013 he batted .345, named the Pac 12 Player of the Year & was named a first-team All-American. He went into 2014 as the pre season, Sporting News College Player of the Year. 

The six foot one, left hand hitting outfielder, throws right handed. He attended Oregon State University getting drafted by the New York Mets in the first round in 2014 (the #10 pick overall).  

Minor Leagues: Conforto's pro career began that same year with the Brooklyn Cyclones. That year he led his club in batting (.331) & in HRs (3) while playing in 42 games. He started 2015 with the St. Lucie Mets where he hit .283 with 7 HRs & 28 RBIs in 46 games.

He got promoted to the AA Binghamton Mets in late May where he continued his hot hitting. He batted .312 with 5 HRs & 26 RBIs in 45 games, getting named to play in the 2015 Futures Game.

With the New York Mets struggeling to score runs & an injury to Michael Cuddyer, the team decided to promote Conforto right up to the big league level. At this point in time he was the organizations best hitting prospect. He made his debut in the big leagues on July 24th, 2015 starting in left field and going 0-3 in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The young man said he got chills as the Citi Field crowd of 36,666 greeted him with a nice ovation. The next night, in his second game he collected four hits, including back to back doubles, two singles & a walk. This made his the fastest Met ever to have a four hit game.

On July 31st when the Mets traded for Yoenis Cespedes, Conforto was sent back down to the minor leagues to develop his young career. 

Four days later on August 3rd he was back in the big leagues when Kirk Nieuwenhuis went on the DL. By this time the Mets had now taken over first place. That night he hit his first career HR, in a 12-1 Mets win in Florida as the team took over sole possession of first place.

Conforto drove in runs the next two nights, including game tying single in the top of the 9th inning at Tampa, as New York came from behind to beat the Rays 4-3. Conforto scored the game winner on Wilmer Flores RBI hit. 

He hit his second HR on August 15th & another six days later in a Mets win at Colorado. On August 31st, he brought his average up over .290 and hit his fourth HR helping the Mets in a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field.

In a hot September he was a big contributor to the Mets offense & run at the NL East title. Along with the newly acquired Yoenis Cespedes the Mets outfield all of a sudden had pop & lots of hits out of their spots in the lineup.

Conforto, Cespedes and veteran new comers Kelly Johnson & Juan Uribe turned around a Mets team that struggled for hits & runs earlier in the year.

In the first seven days of September he hit two HRs & drove in five runs in five games he played in. On September 13th toward the end of the Mets eight game win streak, he hit a two run HR in a 10-7 win & sweep of a series against the Braves in Atlanta.

On September 21st, he hit another HR against the Braves helping Jon Niese & the bullpen in a 4-0 shut out at Citi.

Since his arrival in August Conforto would have 13 multi hit games, hit 9 HRs with 23 RBIs. In a total of 56 games, he had 47 hits batting .270 with 9 HRs 14 doubles & 26 RBIs. He played primarily in left field making six assists with a 1.000 fielding %.

2015 NLDS: Conforto got the start in left field at Dodger Stadium, in the Mets first post season game in nine years, batting 7th as the Mets faced the Dodgers in Game #1 of the NLDS.

In the 2nd inning, three batters after Yoenis Cespedes hit a HR, Conforto followed with a HR of his own, both coming off Zack Greinke. Conforto did not get any more hits in the NLDS or in the NLCS sweep of the Chicago Cubs.

2015 World Series: Michael Conforto was thrilled to be playing the World Series, having been in the minor leagues just two months before & playing College ball just a year earlier.

On October 27th, in Game #1 of the World Series, Conforto hit a 6th inning sac fly off Edinson Volquez driving in Yoenis Cespedes for the Mets second run.

In Game #3 at Citi Field, the game in which the Mets won 9-3 behind Noah Syndergaard, Conforto hit a 4th inning double driving in Lucas Duda with the Mets fifth run.

 In the Mets Game #4 heartbreaking loss, the game was highlighted by Confoto's two HRs, in the 3rd & 5th innings. Conforto also had two hits in the final 5th Game at Citi Field.   

Overall in the World Series, Conforto led the Mets in batting .333 (for batters with more than two at bats) and was one of four Mets to have five hits. He was second in HRs (2) & RBIs (4) in the Series for the Mets as well. 

Overall in 12 post season games, he had two six hits (6-30) batting .200 with 3 HRs & 6 RBIs.

Trivia: Conforto  became the third player in MLB history to have played in the Little League World Series, College World Series & MLB World Series.

2016: The 2016 season, started out well for Conforto as he finished April batting .365 4 HRs & 18 RBIs. On April 8th he had a three RBI day on a 7-2 Mets win over the Phillies at Citi Field. In mid April he drove in three runs with a HR as the Mets took two of three  in Cleveland against the eventual AL Champions.

On April 24th he drove in two runs in the Mets 3-2 win at Atlanta over the Braves. In a six game stretch from April 24th to April 30th he drove in ten runs during an eight game hit streak where he collected 15 hits. 

His average fell to below .300 by mid May until he had another hot streak. He would hit a HR on May7th, then hit safely in nine of eleven games. On May 17th, he hit a solo HR off Max Scherzer, in a 2-0 Mets win over the Washington Nats. On May 20th, he hit another solo HR, this one against the Milwaukee Brewers in a 3-2 Mets win.

Things weren't going well at the plate for Conforto, but there were a few highlights. On June 4th, his 8th inning hit off David Phelps in Miami put the Mets ahead in a 6-4 win. On June 8th in Pittsburgh, he drove in three runs including a game tying HR to help the Mets in a 6-5 win over the Pirates. At Citi Field he would hit another HR against the Pirates a week later.

From May 24th to June 24th, he had just eight hits in 84 plate appearances in 25 games, as his average plummeted to .222. On June 24th & he was sent down to AA Las Vegas as the Mets called up Brandon Nimmo, one of the teams top prospects. 

He returned in mid July & began to play in right & center field as well as his usual left. He was used mostly as a reserve than as a starter, without the Mets giving him an everyday chance it may have affected his play even more so.

On August 7th, he hit his first HR in nearly two months in a 3-1 win at Detroit. During the September pennant stretch, he had a two RBI game on September 18th against the Milwaukee Brewers in a 3-2 win. 

On September 23rd he hit a HR with three RBIs & two hits  in a 10-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Overall in a disappointing 2016 season, he hit .220, struggling mightily against lefties,with 12 HRs 21 doubles & 42 RBIs.

In the off season , the Mets resigned Yoenis Cespedes & could not shop Jay Bruce in the trade market as expected. That left Confoto's future uncertain. 

2017: As 2017 began, Conforto lost his starting role & was penciled in as the fourth outfielder. But a hot April had him batting .321 with 6 HRs 13 RBIs in the month. From April 9th to the 15th, he drove in runs in five of six games with a pair of HRs. On April 29th he hit two HRs & carried the Mets to a 5-3 win over the Nats in D.C.

 In May he regained his starting role as he hit seven more HRs & drove in 21 runs. From May 14th to the 25th, he hit five HRs including two in a May 23rd win over the San Diego Padres. In that game he had four RBIs in the 9-3 Mets win at Citi Field. 

All Star Appearance: As the Mets suffered injuries, Conforto became the teams best player, at the break after 70 games, he was hitting .284 with 14 HRs & 41 RBIs. He was named as the Mets only representative to the All Star Game in Miami. In the NL's 2-1 loss, Conforto got two at bats collecting a base hit.

He would match his season high four RBI game high twice, once in a July 14th, 14-2 Mets win over the Rockies & again on July 21st. In that game, at Citi Field in a Mets 7-5 win over the Oakland A's, he had one of his three multi HR games.

On August 24th, he injured himself while swinging  at a pitch and tore his shoulder. He missed the remained of the season & opted to get the surgery. 

He ended 2017 with 27 HRs & 68 RBIs (both second on the club to Jay Bruce). He had 104 hits with 20 doubles 57 walks 113 Ks & a .384 on base % in 109 games. 

In the outfield he posted a .984 fielding % with five assists. 52 games in left, 43 in center & 11 in right.

2018: To start out the 2018 season, he played his first game on April 5th in Washington D.C. hitting a HR & driving in two runs, On May 11th his two run HR helped the Mets to a 3-1 win at Philadelphia. 

He hit another HR on May 19th, helping the Mets in a 5-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, in a game where Wilmer Flores provided the walk off sac fly RBI. At the same time this week he was struggling just to keep his average over .200.

From July 14th to the 27th, Conforto had a hot streak in as he hit four HRs with a dozen RBIs & a dozen hits. In August he hit HRs in back to back games including one in the Mets subway series win. Later that week he had three hits & a HR in the Mets 24-4 romp over Philadelphia. 

The next day, although the Mets lost, Conforto had three more hits while driving in four runs. On August 28th, he matched that with four more RBIs & another three hit day, in the Mets 6-3 win over the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field.

In September he had his best offensive production of the season, in the first two weeks of the month he hit 6 HRs with 17 hits & 15 RBIs. 

On September 13th, in the second game of a double header, his solo HR off Kyle Barraclough tied the game up at 3-3. Todd Frazier's walk off HR beat the Miami Marlins 4-3, in a n exciting win. 

On September 17th, he had a season high six RBI's carrying the Mets to a 9-4 win. On the day he hit a single, double & a three run HR.

In the Mets poor 2018 season, Conforto led the team in HRs (28) walks (84) RBIs (82) & runs scored (78). He batted .243 with 132 hits  a .350 on base %. His 84 walks were 8th most in the NL & his 159 strike outs 7th most. 

He spent the most time in left field (84 games) with 58 in center & 12 in right. Overall he had five assists with a .990 fielding %.
2019: Conforto was the Mets main right fielder in 109 playing 129 games there. He also played 39 games in center.

He got off to a hot start after Opening Day, hitting safely in 14 of 16 games, with three straight games where he hit a HR. He peaked with a .372 average but that quickly fell off, as he ended April batting .269 but was second to Pete Alonso with 14 RBIs.

In late May he hit four HRs over an eight game span. On May 28th, he hit his first career grand slam. The HR came off the Dodgers, Scott Alexander in Los Angeles, Conforto drove in five runs in the Mets 7-3 win.

In June he had a ten game hit streak, as he hit 6 HRs with 14 RBIs in the month. On July 2nd, he drove in two runs, including the game winning run in the subway series. His 8th inning double came off reliever Zack Briton at Citi Field. 

As the Mets began to win, they found themselves in the play off hunt for a wild card spot. At the end of July they won seven straight, Conforto homered in three straight games from July 27-July 30th, during that  streak. On July 31st, he & Todd Frazier had 8th inning RBI singles, leading the Mets to a 4-2 win in Chicago, over the White Sox. 

On August 4th, Conforto had two hits & hit his 22nd HR, in the Mets 13-2 win over the Pirates. 

The next day, he homered in the second game of a double header, against the Marlins at Citi Field. He drove in three runs that day & then in his next game on August 6th, hit two HRs with another three RBIs. The Mets won both games in the midst of another eight game win streak. The Mets won 15 of 16 games in that stretch.

Walk Off: On Friday August 9th, the Mets went into the bottom of the 9th inning, down 6-3 to the Washington Nationals. Todd Frazier, tied the game with a three run HR off Sean Doolittle. 

The Mets, Joe Panik then singled & Juan Lagares came in as a pinch runner. With two outs, Amed Rosario singled & the stage was set for Conforto. He singled driving in Lagares with the walk off game winning, run. The exciting win had the Citi Field crowd go wild.

 On August 18th, he hit his 26th HR, a two run shot off Kansas City's Glenn Sparkman, as he drove in four runs in the Mets 11-5 win. 

On August 20th, he hit a two run HR in Cleveland, off Shane Biber, in the Mets 9-2 win as they won another five straight games. 

The Mets & Conforto both slumped as they lost five straight. On August 30th, he hit a two run HR  as the Mets beat the Phils in Philadelphia 11-5.

Conforto hit his 30th HR, on September 12th, during the Mets four game sweep of the D-backs at Citi Field. The Mets slowly fell out of the wild card race during the end of the season, but had a quality 86 win season. On September 24th, he had another multi HR game, hitting two & driving in four runs in the Mets 5-4 win over the Marlins.

Overall Conforto had his best year up to that point un his career with career highs in hits (141) runs (90) & doubles (29). His 33 HRs & 92 RBIs, were both second to Pete Alonso & also career highs. He was third on the team with a .363 on base %, & with games played 151.

Conforto met his girlfriend Heather while at Oregon State University.

He was living on the Upper East side with Noah Syndergaard until 2017 & then got a place of his own. He preferred that as one of the more quieter neighborhoods in Manhattan. 

Michael Conforto's Olympic Gold Medal Winning Mom: Tracie Ruiz Conforto

Tracie Lehuanani Ruiz Conforto was born February 4th 1963 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

She started swimming from the start & soon became a champion. She won the 1979 Team Gold championship at the Pan American Games. Then went on to solo & duet golds at the 1983 Pan American Games. She later won a 1987 Gold there as well.

In 1982 she was a World Champion in solo competition and would win six more from 1981-1986. She also won four titles in duet competition, dominating the sport.

In 1984 at the Summer Olympics held in the United States, at Los Angeles, Tracie was a two time gold medal winner in synchronized swimming, a new addition to Summer Olympics that year. She won the medals in both solo competition & in a duet with Candie Costie.

After a brief stint in body building she returned to swimming in the 1988 Olympics, only competing in solo competition, winning a Silver Medal for the US.

In 1985 she married Michael Anthony Conforto, who had helped her train for the Olympics. Conforto was a line backer at Penn State University in the late seventies. He was more of a back up player on two teams that finished in the Top Five. Conforto's teams played in Gator, Sugar & Fiesta Bowls.

After College he tried out for the Seattle Seahawks but did not make the team. He eventually went partners in opening a gym, where he met his future wife Tracie.

Their son Michael was born in 1993. He has a sister Jaqueline who played soccer at Azusa Pacific University.

Feb 27, 2020

Tony DeFrancesco: 2020 Mets First Base Coach

Anthony John DeFrancesco was born April 24th 1963 in Suffern, New York. The Italian American Rockland, County native, attended Seton Hall University & was a ninth round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 1984.

 DeFrancesco would play minor league ball for the  Red Sox & Cincinnati Reds from 1984 - 1992. He was a lifetime .232 hitter with 17 HRs & 167 RBIs in 567 career minor league games. Primarily a catcher who played briefly in the outfield, at third & first base.

He retired from playing in 1992 & by 1994 was a minor league manager, winning the Sporting News Minor League Manager of the Year Award in 2003 with the Sacramento River Cats, in the Pacific Coast League.

DeFrancesco spent one season as the Oakland A's third base coach (2008) before returning to Sacramento.

In  2012 he got his only shot at MLB managerial experience, he headed the Houston Astros for 41 games replacing Brad Mills. His first win came against the New York Mets on April 24th. His record as manager was 16-25 overall that season.

Trivia: He became the last manager of the Astros in the National League as the team transferred to the American League in 2013.

He returned to the minors, managing & leading the AAA Fresno Grizzlies to a championship, winning another Manager of the Year Award. In 2018 he replaced Wally Backman to manage the Mets AAA, Las Vegas 51's club, finishing in third place with a 71-69 record.

Overall he has been won four Pacific Coast League Championships & two AAA National Championships in his 21 years of managing.

In the 2019 Syracuse Chiefs season, the talented roster made up 6 1/2 games from August 7th to August 26th to qualify for a one game playoff against Scranton Wilkes/Barre. Syracuse blew a seven run lead in the 8th inning taking the loss & not making the playoffs.

DeFranceso interviewed for the Mets managers job in the 0ff season but the job went to Carlos Beltran. After the Astros sign stealing scandal,  in which he was part of became an issue, Beltran resigned but the job went to Luis Rojas.

DeFranceso will be the Mets first base coach in 2020.

Dan Norman: One of The Players the Mets Got In the Tom Seaver Trade (1977-1981)

Daniel Edmund Norman was born on January 11, 1955 in Los Angeles, California. The six foot two switch hitting outfielder was drafted in the 15th round of the 1974 amateur draft by the Cincinnati Reds.

He played through the Reds system next to outfielder Steve Henderson s getting promoted together through the minor leagues. In 1976 he hit 17 HRs batting .273 at AA Trois-Rivieres getting promoted to AAA Indianapolis the following year.

On June 15, 1977 he was traded along with his pal, Steve Henderson as well as Doug Flynn & Pat Zachary to the Mets for Tom Seaver in the famous “Midnight Massacre” trade. 

According to former WFAN Radio talk show host, Jody Macdonald; he thought Norman was going to be a star player. He told his dad, Joe MacDonald who was the Mets GM at the time to make sure he got Norman in the trade.

Coming to New York Henderson got promoted right away to the Mets team while Norman was sent down to AAA Tidewater. There he batted .264 with 10 HRs & a .344 on base % in 80 games. He got a late September call up, debuting in Pittsburgh against the Pirates on September 27th as a pinch hitter. He went 4-16 with four walks on the season.

He was back at AAA Tidewater in 1978 leading the team in HRs (18) RBIs (66) & batting (.281) getting another September cup of coffee. In his second game he hit his first MLB HR at Olympic Stadium against the Montreal Expos.

Two days later he had a career day, going 2-4 with a pair of HRs and three RBIs leading the Mets to a 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium. He closed out the season driving in runs in his last two games. On the year he hit .266 with 4 HRs one triple 7 runs scored& 10 RBIs.

In 1979 he was back at AAA Tidewater getting up to the Mets big league squad in July. He saw action in 44 games batting .245 with 3 HRs 11 RBIs.

 In 1980 he was on the club for the entire season, & manager Joe Torre used him mostly as a pinch hitter. This probably wasn't a good idea for a 25 year old kid, he played in 69 games overall, (19 in the outfield) but his average fell to.185 with just two HRs & 9 RBIs.

In May of 1981 he was playing at Tidewater when he was part of another big Mets trade. This time he was sent to the Montreal Expos along with Jeff Reardon for outfielder Ellis Valentine.

He spent 1981 in the minors & in 1982 played in only 53 games for the Expos batting .212 before his ending his MLB career. He would play in the minors through 1986 spending 12 years there playing in 1183 games. In five seasons he hit .227 with 79 hits 11 HRs 8 doubles 3 triples 29 runs scored 37 RBIs & a .287 on base %.

Retirement: After his playing days Norman became a coach & manager in the Florida State League (1987) the Arizona League (1995/2000) & the Canadian baseball League (2003).

Feb 26, 2020

Remembering Mets History: (1991) Howard Johnson Leads the NL in HRs & RBIs

The 1990 Mets had finished in second place once again, winning ninety games (91-71) once again as well. 

But for the second straight year & the fifth time in time in seven years they finished in second place. That cost Manager Davey Johnson his job, as he was replaced by long time Mets favorite Bud Harrelson. 

Harrelson would fare much worse as the 1991 club fell to 77-84 fifth place finish, the teams worst since 1983. Harrelson would be replaced by Mike Cubbage at the end of the season as well.

These Mets were different than the power hitting team of the mid to late eighties. Howard Johnson was the sole slugger left, as Kevin McReynolds on the down side of his career would hit 16 HRs & Hubbie Brooks, doing his second time around as a Met also hit 16 HRs. 

These three hitters would be the only Mets to hit double figures in HRs. Darryl Strawberry had left New York for Los Angeles & was the only the second Mets player who had ever led the league in HRs. Dave Kingman did it first with 37 HRs in 1982.

In 1991 Howard Johnson would be one of the few bright spots on the New York Mets. In the sixth game of the season, the last on a 4-2 Mets home stand, Hojo hit his first HR of the year. 

The next day, Hojo helped David Cone to his first win of the year, as he first  had a two run single later followed by a two run HR in the 9th inning. He would close out April with four HRs batting just .211.

In May, Johnson started out with a May 4th walk off HR against Mike Lacoss & the San Francisco Giants. Two days later, in Darryl Strawberry's debut at Shea as a Dodger, Hojo homered again helping the Mets in a close 6-5 win. Strawberry also homered in his Shea return. 

Hojo would then homer in back to back games in San Francisco as he totaled four HRs with 10 RBIs in the first two weeks of May. He would belt three more HRs that month, including a May 27th, 8th inning HR at Wrigley Field which was the game winner in a 2-1 contest.

On June 11th, he hit another game winner, this one in the top of the 11th inning off Mike Capel in Houston beating the Astros 4-3. Hojo would hit HRs in back to back games on a road trip to Cincinnati, he would hit six HRs in June.

As July began he started out the month with back to back HR games in Montreal, both Mets wins. On July 3rd he helped lead the Mets to a 4-0 shut out win, it was the last win Ron Darling would record as a Mets pitcher. 

Hojo  would enter the All Star break with 19 HRs & 63 RBIs, making his second All Star team. He went 0-2 in the game playing from the 6th inning on.

As the season rolled on, the Mets losses mounted & most of Johnson's HRs in August came during Mets losses. On August 31st he had a big day in Cincinnati, where he hit two HRs driving in three runs in the Mets 8-7 win.

September would be Hojo's biggest month of the year as he went on to win the NL Player of the Month Award. Unfortunately, the Mets were not in any pennant race, he hit ten HRs drove in 31 runs, passing the 100 RBI mark for the second time in his career. 

He closed out the Cincinnati road trip with another HR & three RBIs on September 1st. On September 4th, he had just his second multi HR game of the year, getting him to pass the 30 HR mark on the season as well. It was his third 30 plus HR season.

Hojo hit another the next day & another the next week. On September 13th he homered driving in two runs leading the Mets to a 4-2 win. He would also lead the Mets to a 3-2 win against Montreal four days later hitting a two run HR.

On October 1st, he stole his 30th base of the season , joining the 30 30 club for the third time in his career. He is just one of five players ever to accomplish that feat.

Johnson ended the year leading the league in HRs (37) RBIs (117) extra base hits (76) & sac flies (15). He was second in slugging % (.535), runs scored (108), at bats per HRs (14.8).

Back issues would haunt Howard Johnson & he would never have another season as he did in 1991. 

The next year he would play in 100 games hitting just seven HRs. The next year he hit seven more HRs but played in just 72 games. That year he was let go to free agency going to the Colorado Rockies & then the Chicago Cubs in 1995. He then retired at age 34 with 228 career HRs.